email - January 2012

Comparative Anatomy Vindicated

An evolutionist, critical of our Comparative Anatomy essay, actually proved our point.

We received this email from John.

Hello Jones!

Looks like one of your [expletive deleted] disciples has been getting into online arguments, with scienceagainstevolution as his only source! Thought you might be interested in some of the criticism YOU receive from user "WorkingMouse." This thread seems to continue forever!

http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/mwgvy/we_win/c34go2a

Sincerely,

John

Yes, it is a long, pointless, thread. As we have repeatedly said before, it is a waste of time to get involved in these threads, unless you really enjoy pointless arguments.

But this is one of those rare times when following a thread can be interesting and informative.

A creationist with a vulgar screen name quoted one of our essays to try to make his point. In that essay we quoted a popular college textbook’s section on Comparative Anatomy and said,

Notice that if things are similar, it is evidence of evolution. It shows they have a common origin. But, if things are different, it is evidence of evolution. It shows that they have changed over time. Since similarity is evidence of evolution, and difference is evidence of evolution, everything is evidence of evolution! 1

The other correspondent in this thread, who calls himself (or herself), WorkingMouse, defended the evolutionary position by writing,

This is at once an oversimplification as well as ironically truer then he would expect. The theory of evolution is the culmination of all the biological evidence we have; by definition, everything we've seen in biology so far has contributed to it. The power of a scientific theory is measured by its predictive and explanatory ability - and as evolution covers the full scope of biology, it is quite powerful. Not only that, but it remains predictive, for example, of ring species. Divergence and convergence both are expected in the evolutionary model, though under different circumstances. This is exactly what we see in nature. Despite, there remain quite a few ways to disprove the theory - but lo and behold, we've found nothing that would do so.

The evolutionist actually agrees with us! He admits that both similarity and difference are cited as proof of evolution, which was precisely our point.

However, he plays the Intellectual Superiority card. He has the intellectual ability to see how this could be, even though simpletons like us don’t understand.

Then he plays the Boldface Bluff card. He says, “there remain quite a few ways to disprove the theory,” but he doesn’t say what they are.

Then he plays the Post-prediction Card. They haven’t found anything that disproves the theory because every difference and every similarity is “predicted” by the theory (after the fact).

It is the “explanatory ability” of the evolutionists to explain away every obvious error in the theory, not the power of the theory itself, which keeps it alive.

Our 2004 essay said,

If you ask an evolutionist why we don’t see evidence of evolution today, he will probably say that creatures no longer evolve because they are just about ideally suited to the environment. There isn’t any more evolution because there isn’t any more room for improvement. But then, in point 4 above, the argument is that creatures are so badly designed that they could not be the product of any competent designer. (This is the classic “Panda’s Thumb” argument.) They can’t have it both ways. Creatures are either well-suited to the environment or they are not. 2

WorkingMouse responded,

Actually, we can. Many species have reached a point where they are well-adapted to their environment. That does not mean that they are maximally adapted. The prime example of this is the recurrent laryngeal nerve. The nerve originally followed a simple path, as it does in fish; in further diverged animals (notably mammals), it takes an overly long path down into the chest and back up into the neck. This is because it still works, and it is genetically easier to keep the flawed component then to correct the distended path. It's a good example of a trait that remains because it is evolutionarily neutral (or neutral enough), but no engineer, no designer would logically include.

Also, they make a massive mischaracterization - evolution continues to occur; this is at the same time rather evident. It occurs slowly, however we still witness it. When an environment changes, different traits become favored, different alleles move to fixation, and different mutations become able to provide increased fitness. Be it with peppered moths, E. coli that can uptake and digest citrate in oxidative environments, crabs with shells resemble samurai masks, or sweet, yellow, seedless bananas, it still occurs, and can be made to occur.

Again, he agrees with us. We said they want to “have it both ways,” and his response was, “Actually, we can.”

His “proof” is mere speculation and opinion about the recurrent laryngeal nerve. He does not know what path the nerve originally followed. He assumes mammals evolved from fish, so the nerve must have changed its path. A more reasonable conclusion is that since the nerve follows a different path in mammals and fish, mammals must not have evolved from fish.

The different nerve path is cited as proof of evolution. We have no doubt that if the nerve had followed the same path, then it would have been “proof” that mammals evolved from fish. As we said in 2004, every similarity, and every difference, can be viewed as proof of evolution if you have the explanatory power to spin it skillfully.

He also uses the, “God would not have done it that way” argument. As he admits, the nerve works perfectly well, so it isn’t really “flawed.” But, somehow he knows that God could have done it better if He really existed. A creationist, however, might disagree and say that God created the nerve path perfectly to begin with, but the flawed path is evidence of degradation due to sin.

3 (+1) Explanations

If the nerve originally did have a simple, straight path, and later changed to a less optimal path, there are three possible explanations for why it changed.

The evolutionists’ explanation is, “It just happened, and it wasn’t bad enough for natural selection to prevent it.”

The creationists’ explanation is, “It is a result of the curse for sin.”

An Intelligent Design proponent might say, “It is just the second law of thermodynamics in action.” Some intelligent force (not the God of Abraham) originally created a straight nerve path, but a random mutation (not related to sin) caused it to change for the worse. Every time information is copied, there is an opportunity that information can be lost. Genetic information necessary for the simple nerve path was lost because of a copying mistake during reproduction. Natural selection wasn’t strong enough to prevent the harmful mutation from becoming established in the population. (This really isn’t much different from the evolutionists’ explanation. The subtle difference is that evolutionists would say it is bad luck; ID proponents say it is natural law that things degrade over time.)

Another explanation is that the path didn’t change at all, leading to a fourth explanation. The path might actually be optimal, but scientists don’t realize it.

There is no scientific way to determine which explanation is correct. Was it bad luck, bad karma, natural tendency to degrade, or the best solution? You make the call.

WorkingMouse also claimed that the slow microevolution which really does occur today is evidence that macroevolution occurred in the past, confirming our statements about what evolutionists claim.

The thread goes on and on. We’ve given you the link to it so you can read it all for yourself, if you are a glutton for punishment. But let us save you trouble with this summary In general, every time we said that evolutionists try to spin something using a particular argument, the evolutionist proved us right by trying to spin it exactly the way we said he would.

Michael responded to this email in the February newsletter.

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Footnotes:

1 Disclosure, March 2004, Comparative Anatomy
2 ibid.