Uh-oh, I’ve defected to the other side

Yep, I finally did it: I have revealed to the creationists the secret we have held so long: how to destroy evolution.

Forgive me.


  1. outis says

    Perfesser, you devil you!
    You were laughing in your sleeves all the time when suggesting “read the books, go to classes, and publish!”. You know very well they don’t roll that way… nonetheless, nice vid.
    (Should such a thing happen even once it would be momentous indeed – not for any discovery made, but because you would actually have gotten someone off their ass and into serious activity).

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Rob Dreher in an earlier thread thought a friend’s wife was possessed by a demon.
    That’s it! You convince the demon to take biology classes -most creationists would never do that left to their own devices.

  3. Dennis K says

    This is beautiful. I guess I expected some clever, anti-creationist zinger-flinging — instead, you presented a concise, correct series of steps for destroying evolution that anyone, creationist or otherwise, can refer to in their quest for fame or book sales.

  4. lpetrich says

    There’s an aspect of creationism that I find interesting. It’s only a few of the creation stories that humanity has invented, while ignoring all the others. To streamline our look at them, I use Marta Weigle’s classification of creation-story motifs into 9 categories:
    1. disturbance of primordial matter
    2. secretion (some body product)
    3. sacrifice of some deity to produce our universe
    4. hatching of a cosmic egg, primordial-couple sex, or splitting of something
    5. earth diver, who collects raw materials from a primordial ocean
    6. emergence from an earlier world, which is often very cramped
    7. two creators, who either cooperate or compete
    8. manufacture from existing materials
    9. creation by command, often from nothing.

    Familiar creation stories: Genesis 1: 3, 9; Genesis 2: 2, 8; Greek mythology: 1, 2, 4, 8; Norse mythology: 1, 3, 8

    Evolution fits right in as a 2 (secretion), and abiogenesis is more-or-less 1.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Ipetrich @ 4
    That is pretty clever. Unfortunately, now evolution is in the same category as some of the Sumerian stuff (things getting created from semen). Aaargggh.

  6. lpetrich says

    Descent with modification involves organism reproduction, and that is a form of secretion. One’s children are a product of one’s body, aren’t they?

    Some creation stories do indeed involve biological reproduction, like in Greek mythology.

  7. cartomancer says

    Ah yes, the famous medieval Parsnip Road from London to Kaifeng. We know it well.

  8. Alan G. Humphrey says

    Ipetrich @ 4 & 6
    DNA , RNA and their precursor’s replication is a kind of splitting and single celled organisms reproduce by splitting as do fertilized egg cells in sexual reproduction. So, I propose adding 4 to the creation story of biological evolution.

  9. lpetrich says

    Returning to the issue of trying to disprove evolution, there are actually two issues. Did descent with modification happen? If it did, then what made it happen? I’ll discuss DwM first.

    The alternatives are miraculous poof-poof-poofing, inhabitants of our Universe constructing organisms from scratch, and separate spontaneous generation. The first of them is a very poorly-defined hypothesis, because a big enough miracle can explain anything.

    The second of them has the problem that it is very difficult to do. That has been done for some viruses, using sequence data in sequence databases to assemble genomes and proteins for them. But doing that for a cellular organism is much more difficult, since one has to assemble a lot of components. One needs genomes, ribosomes, transfer RNA, metabolic enzymes, and cell-surface components. To date, the most that has been done is to make a synthetic genome using existing sequences and then inject it into some existing bacterium. That organism then supplied transcription, translation, metabolism, and cell surface. Multicellular organisms are even more difficult.

    The third one requires some spontaneous-generation mechanism that makes very complicated organism features, and makes lots of different organisms with such features. However, there is absolutely zero evidence of spontaneous generation of full-scale organisms, and most recent origin-of-life hypotheses are of spontaneous generation of much simpler organisms.

  10. lpetrich says

    Further evidence is from biogeography. Organisms are in places that their putative ancestors could have gotten to, and there are a lot of places that many organisms can live but don’t, as is evident from the success of invasive species, like rabbits in Australia. So whatever creates new species is very limited by traveling ability. Why are kangaroos only in Australia? Rattlesnakes and cactus plants only in North America? Polar bears only in the Arctic? Penguins only in the Antarctic and nearby?

    Turning to mechanisms, a lot of features of organisms do indeed look designed. But for human designers, we accept that we can learn about them from studying their designs. In particular, human designers are multiple, they have finite capabilities, and they are fallible. So if any bits or features of our planet’s biota were designed, then we must consider as an initial hypothesis that those designers were multiple, finite, and fallible.

    Biogeographical features are an obvious indicator of very limited capability of these possible designers, and so is the treelike structure of similarity and what one finds in the fossil record. There are also numerous cases of reuse of pre-existing features and also of vestigial features — and also of workarounds for features that have become awkward. Like stomach and intestinal fermentation as a way to get around the poor nutritional quality of a lot of plant materials.

    This points to natural selection as a pseudo-design mechanism, because it easily satisfies biogeographical constraints.

  11. lpetrich says

    There are other proposed mechanisms of evolution, like inheritance of acquired characters, direct induction by the environment, and orthogenesis (evolution driven by internal forces, whatever those might be). Evolution can also be done by genetic engineering. That would be much easier for the engineers than trying to create a whole organism from scratch.

    It must be pointed out that these mechanisms and natural selection are not mutually exclusive, and it must be noted that aside from genetic engineering, these mechanisms easily satisfy the biogeographical and similar constraints that natural selection easily satisfies.

    Of these, “epigenetic” effects are now recognized to exist, like inheritance of gene editing, but for the most part, acquired characters don’t get inherited. Mutilations don’t get inherited, for instance, and “the effects of use and disuse” (Darwin’s phrase) don’t get inherited either.

    A quasi-orthogenetic effect is neutral selection, a form of genetic drift. That is a statistical effect, and it makes related gene sequences diverge over time. It’s a sort of corollary of natural selection, a result of many variations being selectively neutral.

  12. lpetrich says

    Now to the issue of scientific revolutions. There have been some big ones over the history of science, and we can look at what happened in them.

    In physics, Newtonian mechanics displaced earlier theories like Aristotelian physics, theories that were often not much more than hand-waving. Newtonian mechanics was an enormous success, especially in predicting the motions of the celestial bodies. But in the early 20th cy., difficulties with it led to the rise of relativity and quantum mechanics. But instead of displacing Newtonian mechanics, they incorporated it as a special case.

    For L = length scale, T = time scale, M = mass scale, one gets Newtonian mechanics from relativity when L/T << c, the speed of light in a vacuum, and one gets it from quantum mechanics when M*L^2/T >> h, Planck’s constant. Relativity and quantum mechanics are rather difficult to combine, but that combination is relativistic quantum field theory, and the Standard Model of particle physics is a special case of it.

    In chemistry, Lavoisier’s table of chemical elements replaced four-elements theory, but later developments elaborated on his table and corrected it. The law of definite proportions. Atomism. Valence-bond theory. Ions. Atoms as electrons orbiting nuclei in standing-wave fashion, with chemical bonds from electrons shared between atoms.


    So I think that evolutionary biology would be included in some larger theory, whatever that theory might be, instead of being outright disproved. Descent with modification is likely to stay, but with improved understanding of what modifications happened and what can happen.