Evolutionary Anthropology Literature

When it comes to evolutionary anthropology nothing ever stands the test of time, one discovery after another ends up with conclusions that you were taught wrong in school, and revisions are required but these revisions are not necessarily revealing the light of understanding on the subject, rather it invokes more confusion within the evolutionary story.

Lee Berger  continues to create a sensational story about the Australopithecus sediba fossils. Does it really reveal evolution? Soft tissue was discovered from these fossils, which was a first and certainly not the last. They date the soft tissues a whopping two million years old!

It doesn’t stop there, hair was removed, as well as proteins and DNA being a possibly of being preserved, calling into question about our species. Even though past hype about how close we are to understanding human evolution had been falsified, this discovery keeps with up religiously with tradition of claiming we are on the verge of discovering exactly how the ancients evolved.

It gets better, in Israel a fossil known as, “Man The Fat Hunter” was published. The story tells us about overweight humans have starved to death when fat elephants became instinct.  How did does one come up with such a conclusion about the unobserved past? It’s elementary my dear Watson!  “We employ a bio-energetic model to present a hypothesis that the disappearance of the elephants…”  –PLoS 

There still remains a deep mystery that alludes evolutionary scientists which is a mechanism for the term “emergence.” Also there seems to be confusion about the evolutionary timeline, a new paper in Nature says 43,000 years for  modern humans but evolutionary dating for modern humans is 60,000 in South Africa according to Paul Mellars in the same paper.

What does that mean? Well Watson, let me put it this way. Ancient humans in Africa (Homo erectus) who were able to hunt elephants, cook, and make tools with the possibility of being able to sail were unable for some strange reason to find Europe for 17,000 years. Wait a minute! Sue O’Conner told us that humans sailed to Australia 50,000 years ago!

Also Avi Gopher told us slimmer ancients (humans) were cognitively-capable ancestors and were already in the Levant 400,000 years ago while telling us something factual about Neanderthals inter-breeding with modern humans.  Hollywood couldn’t have come up with this kind of story!  Such confusion! More includes fishing 35,000 years before agriculture. Isn’t planting food easier than trying to catch a fish?

When you take away the conclusions of evolutionary literature, it all makes sense, humans have always been what they are which includes variants and they haven’t been around that long.

Two million years is an illogical assumption that things like soft tissue should remain intact for that length of time. It also makes stories more sensational than Hollywood could ever make but it useless to what really happened in the past. The best eyewitness account comes from the Bible where it makes sense!

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36 thoughts on “Evolutionary Anthropology Literature

  1. I would think planting food takes more knowledge and skill than fishing. Bears fish but don’t plant food. Probably for them is is indeed easier to fish. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a point. I just had to respond to that comment. Indeed fishing can and probably did precede agriculture. Regardless, I think the point that most of this evolutionary anthropology is mere conjecture/opinion. There is very little real data to go on to have hard proof of anything. Biblically, it appears that gardening came first (makes sense), followed by herding and planting together and yet prior to wine making. I don’t see that that sequence violates what we know from the anthropological data.

  2. blockquote>
    More includes fishing 35,000 years before agriculture. Isn’t planting food easier than trying to catch a fish?

    This is at least a tie for the dumbest statement this year on this blog. Not only does it show abysmmal ignorance, but it also evinces a complete lack of insight.

    How does one catch a fish for the first time? (a) See fish in stream; (b) Throw spear at fish — and occasionally hit it. (c) Take fish home, cook and eat it.

    How does one plant a crop—say, wheat—for the first time? (a) Figure out that plants grow from seeds. (b) Observe that seeds breed true to their parents, yet occasionally have some differences. (c) Choose an almost inedible grass and plant it. (d) Save the seeds, rather than eating them right away. (d) Continually replant the primitive wheat FOR 800 YEARS until the kernels can be easily separated from the husks. (e) Figure out how to thresh the wheat to extract the kernels efficiently. (f) Figure out that you can make a flour from the kernels by grinding them between two stones. (g) Figure out that heating the flour IN AN ENCLOSED OVEN, ADDING OIL, and ADDING YEAST, will make it rise into a tasty food.

    Anyone who has tried to eat grass will understand how edible the precursor of wheat was. Anyone who has tried to eat raw wheat before it has been threshed will at once determine that he does no\t wish to repeat the experience unless very hungry. Even unmilled flour is not a gustatory delight. Bread made without yeast is edible (matzoh), but not preferred by most of us,

    Now, Michael, tell us again in what way planting crops is easier than catching fish?

    What a laugh! Michael must have spent his hiatus from this blog in dulling his mental faculties.

    But welcome back anyway, Michael. We missed you.

  3. @Michael,

    What does that mean? Well Watson, let me put it this way. Ancient humans in Africa (Homo erectus) who were able to hunt elephants, cook, and make tools with the possibility of being able to sail were unable for some strange reason to find Europe for 17,000 years. Wait a minute! Sue O’Conner told us that humans sailed to Australia 50,000 years ago!

    First of all, it was not Homo erectus, it was Homo sapiens.

    Second of all, Homo sapiens appeared in Australia between 60,000 and 70,000 years ago. This is really not so difficult as it may seem. Back then, most of the islands around Australasia were mostly connected by land because of the lower sea levels. Since we know the continental plate of Australia moves faster than most other plates, it also would have been closer to the then-connected islands than it is today.

    The reason why Homo sapiens did not appear in Europe until much later was because the passage way was blocked by an unforgiving dessert. Climate change did away with that barrier allowing animals to cross over, and our species crossed to follow them…. And Michael, you got the date wrong. Our species, the Cro Magnon, appears in Europe over 30,000 years ago.

    More includes fishing 35,000 years before agriculture. Isn’t planting food easier than trying to catch a fish?

    Michael….for the love of…. — Here we go: Michael, it does not matter if you think that planting is easier. It means nothing if man did not figure out how to domesticate crops. Planting is a sign of putting down roots and therefore one of the causes of villages, and also civilization; that did not start to happen until around 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. Until you figure out how to plant, you will live however you can….even if it is a hard life.

  4. Lee Berger continues to create a sensational story about the Australopithecus sediba fossils. Does it really reveal evolution? Soft tissue was discovered from these fossils, which was a first and certainly not the last. They date the soft tissues a whopping two million years old!

    This is another illustration of how creationist thinking differs from science.

    Science:
    (a) Discover soft tissue in fossils.
    (b) Date the fossils by several different methods and determine error bounds.
    (c) Hypothesize environmental conditions under which soft tissue can persist for such a long time,
    (d) Search for other fossils deposited under those conditions.
    (e1) If successful, use this new knowledge in future related efforts.
    (e2) If unsuccessful, form another hypothesis and repeat step (d).

    Creationism:
    (a) Discover soft tissue in fossils,
    (b) Assume that soft tissue can never be found in ancient fossils.
    (c) Ignore all contrary evidence as to age of fossils.
    (d) Ignore all evidence as to how much time fossilization requires.
    (d) Conclude from (a) and (b) that fossils are in fact only 180 years old.
    (e) Successfully quash any new knowledge from this experience.

    So we see that major difference between creationism and science is that the former starts with an unalterable explanation, and always reasons back to it, while science alters its explanations to accommodate new evidence. The practical effect of this difference is that science increases the store of knowledge about the world, whereas creationism not only does not produce any new knowlw3dge, but is intrinsically incapable of doing so. The only creationist explanation is “God did it.” Which explains nothing.

  5. Also Avi Gopher told us slimmer ancients (humans) were cognitively-capable ancestors and were already in the Levant 400,000 years ago while telling us something factual about Neanderthals inter-breeding with modern humans.

    No, Michael. Avi Gopher claims that homo sapiens inhabited the Levant 400,000 years ago. Many ot6her anthropologists disagree. For example, Sir Paul Mellars of Cambridge University—

    “Based on the evidence they’ve sited, [sic] it’s a very tenuous and frankly rather remote possibility,” Mellars said. He said the remains are more likely related to modern man’s ancient relatives, the Neanderthals.

    According to today’s accepted scientific theories, modern humans and Neanderthals stemmed from a common ancestor who lived in Africa about 700,000 years ago. One group of descendants migrated to Europe and developed into Neanderthals, later becoming extinct. Another group stayed in Africa and evolved into Homo sapiens – modern humans.

    Teeth are often unreliable indicators of origin, and analyses of skull remains would more definitively identify the species found in the Israeli cave, Mellars said.

    To date, 8 years later, no skulls or bones have been found. If the remains turn out to be Neanderthals, then we already knew that Neanderthals were in the Levant during that period.

    .

    Another quibble: The popular news stories date the cave at 400,000 years old. However, this is the upper bound of a range of dates. The actual dating goes from 200,000 to 400,000 years. Now, 200,000 years is the age of the oldest other homo sapiens bones that have been found elsewhere, So this find might not be remarkable as to age., even if the teeth do turn out to be homo sapiens.

    But, regardless, either 400,000 or 200,000 years would falsify a young earth. You have two choices—
    (a) Admit the 200-400,000 year date, which falsifies creationism on the age question; or
    (b) Claim that the dates are actually only 6,000 years old, which destroys the value of this find as any kind of evidence for creationism

    Your choice….

  6. Even though past hype about how close we are to understanding human evolution had been falsified,

    Michael throws the word “falsified ” around continually. He needs to understand what it means.

    For example, falsifying an opinion as to how close we are to understanding evolution does not falsify evolution. Got that? Michael conflates two entirely separate beasts here, hoping that no one will notice.

  7. Quoth Walt—

    Regardless, I think the point [is] that most of this evolutionary anthropology is mere conjecture/opinion. There is very little real data to go on to have hard proof of anything.

    Evolutionary anthropology is based upon thousands of field excavations, analysis by experienced scientists, hundreds of reviewed papers every year, critical reviews by peers, and revision when new evidence appears.

    The biblical account, on the other hand, is based upon a single sacred text of unknown provenance, no independent research whatever, and zero physical evidence. It is static, allowing no changes for new information. In fact, the biblical account is totally inconsistent with not only anthropology, but also geology, atomic physics, astronomy, and a number of other well-established fields of knowledge.

    Under those conditions, denigrating the research results of evolutionary anthropology as mere “conjectures/opinions” is the height of chutzpah.

    Walt “thinks” he is qualified to assess the state of anthropological evidence. We’d like to know what he thinks his his qualifications are?

    .

    Biblically, it appears that gardening came first (makes sense), followed by herding and planting together and yet prior to wine making. I don’t see that that sequence violates what we know from the anthropological data.

    If this is an example of Walt’s thought process and grasp of anthropology, then we have every reason to question Walt’s qualifications. In what way does this sequence not violate anthropological knowledge?

    In addition to the technological factors, I mentioned earlier, there are undisputed social aspects. It is incontrovertible that anatomically modern humans lived as wandering hunter-gatherer bands of 50-150 individuals for untold thousands of years, without agriculture, domestication, or metal-working.[1] Gardening, like planting cereal crops, requires a stable society that can remain in one place for an entire crop cycle of many months—in fact, it is impractical without a settled location for many years at a time. This entails constructed dwellings,[2] a means to defend territory from marauders, and an advanced social structure.

    On the other hand, Walt places domestication last; Yet, commonly known facts contradict this. Even some modern hunter-gatherers, without agriculture of any kind, maintain herds of cattle, sheep,,yak, and horses. Herds can easily migrate with their keepers, and need not be tied to a single location.

    So Walt’s sequence not only does not “make sense,” but violates well-established fact and logical reasoning. But of course this is typical of creationists. They can’t think through the implications of what they propose.

    =====================

    [1] And yet Genesis claims that the first humans, Adam and Eve, possessed all of these technologies. That alone should cast a lot of doubt on the biblical account.

    [2] How many caves does one find in wide flat areas suitable for agriculture? Not many.

  8. For what it’s worth Olorin, my background is in physics. A field that is less speculative, but still has varied opinions surround the facts. I’d say there is as much “scholarship” on the Bible, that is still on going uncovering new information, as there is in anthropology. Whether you want to call biblical scholarship speculative, for the most part, I wouldn’t disagree. That anthropology is treated as science does not change the fact that it is primarily of an historical nature – thus why there are so many varied opinions. Most of the theories cannot be reproduced in a laboratory. Most of the field is based on inductive reasoning on very limited data. I don’t know how you can honestly deny that. Having peer reviewed papers and lots of archeological artifacts only means that there is a lot of work. It doesn’t mean that the conclusions can ever be more than opinion.

    If you would reread my statements more carefully – no where did I say I was a creationist in the sense you are attributing to me! You’d be quite surprised at how much I agree with anthropological theories, yet am reasonable to note that they are ultimately opinions, even if they are educated collective opinions – like biblical scholarship. Oh, also, “zero physical evidence” is quite an overstatement.

  9. Walt, I also have a background in physics, although my half-century old graduate degree would today be called “systems theory.” The half-decade before retirement, I applied this to work in bioinformatics–having had to learn biology from the ground up as an old codger.

    If you think the soi-disant “historical sciences” are inherently more speculative than physics, then you should read “Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method” (Geology 29:987-990, Nov. 2001. Geology largely falls under the heading of “historical”—and yet it seems capable of reliably find oil fields and mineral deposits.. Astronomy is not an experimental science; we can’t bring stars into the lab for analysis. Cosmologists have recently refined the age of the universe down to plus or minus a couple million years, out of 14 billion, without any experiments on the universe.

    Even physics is not nearly as “experimental” as you might think. How many inferences do you have to pile on top of each other to detect a neutrino? How can we be sure that the Sun runs on nuclear fusion, when we can’t reproduce it in the lab?

    On the other hand, many archeological, anthropological\, and evolutionary hypotheses can be checked by multiple lines of evidence. When they all point the same place, we can be quite confident they are correct. For example, humans are closely related to chimpanzees, from gross anatomical evidence. Yet chimps have a different number of chromosomes. A prediction was made, and evidence was found that human chromosome 2 is a fused version of two different chimp chromosomes. Although humans have color vision, almost all other primates do not. A hypotheses was proposed as to its evolution. The hypothesis entailed a prediction that a few female chimps would be found to have color vision—but only a few, and all of them female. Bingo. Paleontological evidence pointed to the ascent of tetrapods about 375 million years ago. Several years ago, Neil Shubin (“Your Inner Fish”) tested that by exploring what had been a tropical estuary at that time. And he found Tiktaalik, a smack-dab transitional species almost exactly halfway between aquatic lobed fish and land-based tetrapods.

    So, in atomic physics, we “speculate” that a neutrino collision will happen at a certain rate, that this will produce other particles, which will then decay several times. When we find the ultimate decay particles, we say that we have found a neutrino. In like manner, we hypothesize how the Americas were populated. We find evidence from dating of campsites, then confirm it with DNA LINE/SINE analysis, and—more recently—with linguistic analysis of native tongues. Several independent lines of inquiry converge; this is no longer mere speculation nor opinion.

    The distinction between “experimental” and “historical” science is not nearly as sharp as you have been led to believer.

    And speculation is never entirely guesswork. Some evidentiary basis must be present. For example, your statement that the anthropological sequence is compatuible4 with the biblical sequence is pure hogwash. It falls apart with a few seconds thought into the natter. No one would mistake it for a scientific speculation of any order.

  10. Olorin,

    “my half-century old graduate degree would today be called ‘systems theory.’” Even though my degree is in physics and my earlier career was spent in nonlinear optics, most of my career was in “systems.” In that I studied complexity and methodologies for determining within highly complex systems where pitfalls might exist in design and development. That puts a bit of insight into understanding the historical science methodologies.

    “Geology largely falls under the heading of ‘historical’—and yet it seems capable of reliably find oil fields and mineral deposits.” Finding oil and mineral despots depends on modern technology and methods, not on a strict interpretation of what “the rocks say” about their history (in other words, consistency of interpretations is all that matters).

    “Astronomy is not an experimental science; we can’t bring stars into the lab for analysis.” I beg to differ. Astronomy involves repeatable experimentation using telescopes of various types and instruments to analysis the signals. The theories within astronomy, for the most part, fit very nicely within the physics framework. They actually can be tested.

    “Cosmologists have recently refined the age of the universe down to plus or minus a couple million years, out of 14 billion, without any experiments on the universe.” Cosmology is a speculative extrapolation of astronomy and physics. I think we can indeed infer that the universe is likely 14b years old, but it is still inference and there is no way to absolutely prove it.

    “Even physics is not nearly as “experimental” as you might think. How many inferences do you have to pile on top of each other to detect a neutrino? How can we be sure that the Sun runs on nuclear fusion, when we can’t reproduce it in the lab?” The inferences with regard to neutrinos (or even Higgs bosons) are based on theory and detection. Nuclear fusion was produced years ago – it just has not been reliably turned into a useful power source. I worked at Oak Ridge when work was being done in that area. Equations in the experimental world are approximations to data in the realm of observation. It is always a concern when they are extrapolated beyond the verifiable realms. The historical sciences, by definition, work outside the verifiable realm.

    “On the other hand, many archeological, anthropological\, and evolutionary hypotheses can be checked by multiple lines of evidence. When they all point the same place, we can be quite confident they are correct.” That is true as long as there is not an error in the basic theories which cause wrong conclusions across the board. The problem is those theories cannot really be proved out. Most of the evidence you speak of are pieces. Hardly anything is complete. The theory is used to connect the pieces and then project explanations. That is circular. Just like when someone is accused of using the Bible to justify the reliability of the Bible. I would guess you would agree with that statement about the Bible. It is not much different in the historical sciences.

    Your evidences are not complete. The genetic variation of chimp and human DNA is broader than the separation of the means. It is not impossible in the absence of evolution to have a few chimps with color vision. Yet, where are these few chimps? Nearly every supposed transitional species is bits and pieces or a combo of multiple fossils fused together. The only reason anyone thinks they are transitional is because they are expecting them from the theory, not because they obviously are.

    “in atomic physics, we ‘speculate’ … In like manner, we hypothesize how the Americas were populated.” Sorry, but atomic physics might be indirect, but is not quite speculative – it follows the theory without holes and consistently. The hypotheses about the populations of the entire planet are many and based on speculation. Yes, there are tools. Yet, there are clues, but much has to be added to the story! I’m not saying that some of those theories aren’t close to what actually happened. Just making the point that it is speculative because the data is scarce and can lead to several theories.

    “The distinction between ‘experimental’ and ‘historical’ science is not nearly as sharp as you have been led to believer.” I’m still not convinced. It is circular, high subjective, and very fuzzy. That is why there are so many competing theories in the historical sciences. Cosmology is a historical science as far as I’m concerned. Particle physics is much more objective and repeatable. There are subjective areas, but not as much as in the historical areas.

    “your statement that the anthropological sequence is compatuible4 with the biblical sequence is pure hogwash. It falls apart with a few seconds thought into the natter. No one would mistake it for a scientific speculation of any order.” I don’t think I EVER claimed it to be a scientific speculation. I did said it is compatible. Nothing you said proved otherwise. Sure it doesn’t fit in a nice absolute mathematical way, but in general terms, I don’t see anything out of line.

    Thanks for attempting to show where I was wrong. I hope I have at least shown that nothing you said counters my original statements. Do not think though that I don’t respect the historical sciences. I do respect them. But, I know what they do and I stand be my original statements.

  11. Walt:
    “Nearly every supposed transitional species is bits and pieces or a combo of multiple fossils fused together.”

    Dear Walt.

    Prove it.

    Seriously. Please demonstrate the truth of this outlandish claim. Please show that you understand how fossils are determined to be transitional, how they are documented in situ, how they are excavated, how they are prepared, and how they are reconstructed. Because right now it looks like you’re talking out of your anus.

  12. Nullifidian, sounds like you do that work. So describe for me how you prove a fossil to be a transitional species without speculation. What you asked me to describe (the process of excavation and so forth) does not answer that question and that was what I was talking to. If you can show us one “transitional” fossil that is truly transitional, proven and verifiable, then I grant you that I am misinformed.

  13. krissmith777,
    I think the following gives as good a text book definition as any: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitional_fossil
    Besides that, the term is in widespread use. I’m not claiming it to be anything different. If, however, those claiming I don’t know what I’m talking about have a different definition, then there might lie the confusion.

    As I see it, any transitional fossil is assumed to be a transitional fossil when there is no way to prove it is. That any fossil has features of two species does not mean that it isn’t its own species that never was a transition. Generally, there are so many parts missing, it is difficult to say what it is and what the thing looks like is significantly extrapolated where there could be significant error.

  14. Walt:

    . If you can show us one “transitional” fossil that is truly transitional, proven and verifiable, then I grant you that I am misinformed.

    Walt is grossly misinformed.

    The most recent blockbuster transitional fossil is Tiktaalik, discovered as predicted by Neil Shubin. It has most of the anatomical features of ancient lobe-fin fish. But it has wrist bones and a neck, which every tetrapod has, but no other taxa have. These features are key to animal life on land. A lobe fin cannot support any weight, unless it has a wrist. So Tiktaalik can move on land, whereas lobe-fin fish cannot. Tiktaalik has a neck that allows it to “face” in different directions without turning its entire body, as a fish does. This is essential for success on land, but is not for aquatic life.

    Shubin’s book, Your Inner Fish (Pantheon 2008) outlines transitions among a number of body parts.

    Even a cursory Google search reveals numerous lonmg lists of transitional fossils. “A Few Selected Transitional Fosiils” organizes some between specific taxa.

    Walt has probably been misled by the creationist conception of a transitional fossil, which requites that we find a fossil that is halfway between a crocodile and a duck. This crocoduck would be entirely a reptile from its bellybutton to its tail, and entirely a bird from bellybutton to beak. But of course this is not at all what transitions look like. In fact, such a hybrid would necessarily be the product of design, not of evolution. (This is why no such fossil has ever been found.

    This also goes to Walt’s outrageous claim that “Nearly every supposed transitional species is bits and pieces or a combo of multiple fossils fused together.” Only if transitions occurred in the crocoduck mode would this be possible.But to say that Tiktaalik’s wrist bone could be the wrist of a frog placed exactly between the fin bones of a coelacanth so that they fit move together—not even the most rabid creationist has claimed that this is possible.

  15. Olorin, thanks for informing me about this well known fossil. There are many more just like it. So, as I asked for, how do you know it is a transitional animal? I think you are presuming it to be. Even Wikipedia says “Paleontologists suggest that it is representative of the transition”.
    So, you say all kinds of stupid things like “Walt is grossly misinformed” like I’m an idiot, and you don’t even know me. I’m not the idiot you think I am. I am quite informed. You have not shown this fossil to be without a doubt a TRANSITIONAL fossil. I am not saying it may not be. (That is the mistake you are making with me, thinking I wouldn’t agree with you.) But you are not making your case because you don’t know what you really know. All I’m saying is that historical sciences have A LOT of speculation. I’m not saying it isn’t informed, but still speculation nevertheless.

  16. Olorin,

    Here is a link to a short article that refers to an article in the journal Nature published last year of a discovery that shows Tiktaalik cannot be a transitional fossil since tetrapods were leaving footprints at least 10 million years earlier.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107114420.htm

    The fossil of any true transitional animal would have to predate those footprints. What happens is folks jump to conclusions in excitement of seeing their theories proved out only to find out that more evidence comes a long and ruins the day. It has happened to me on more than one occasion in my career and it happens practically every week in the historical sciences. Why? Because they draw conclusions based on limited data. The new data that keeps showing up proves the point. Things are the nice neat little packages why like to think they are.

  17. Olorin,
    One last point – I couldn’t possibly have been influenced by the creationist concept of a transitional fossil, because I’ve never heard of the crocoduck you mentioned. Again, you assume to much. It is best to stick to the discussion of the facts rather than creating strawman caricatures. Thanks.

  18. Here is a link to a short article that refers to an article in the journal Nature published last year of a discovery that shows Tiktaalik cannot be a transitional fossil since tetrapods were leaving footprints at least 10 million years earlier.

    Walt wishes us to define a transitional fossil as one having significant features of two different taxa. Then, he asks wonderingly how I know Tiktaalkik is a transitional fossil. I know it because IT HAS SEVERAL FEATURES FOUND ONLY IN THE FISH TAXON< AND SEVERAL OTHERS THAT ARE FOUND ONLY IN THE TETRAPOD TAXON.

    How do i know it is transitional? Because it meets the definition you provided.

    Here is a link to a short article that refers to an article in the journal Nature published last year of a discovery that shows Tiktaalik cannot be a transitional fossil since tetrapods were leaving footprints at least 10 million years earlier.

    .

    Now that one really is risible. Walt again uses the creationist model, wherein evolution is not a tree but a single chain, leading from microbe to man, with only one ancestor at each stage. Under this strawman, Walt’s father could not have been a transition from his great-grandfather to Walt, because Walt’s grandfather was tramping the earth before his father was even born.

    One does not have to have heard of the creationist crocoduck and chain models in order to use them; it is entirely possible to think them up for oneself.They did, so it can’t be too hard.

    Am I saying that Walt has no idea how paleontologists work, and how they classify fossils? Yes, that would be a fair summary.

  19. Sorry. The first quoted graf above should have been—

    So, as I asked for, how do you know it is a transitional animal? I think you are presuming it to be

  20. Olorin, I don’t believe I ever defined what a transitional fossil is. The definition comes from those in the field and it isn’t so difficult to understand. I’ve tried to tell you several times I am not a creationist of the sort you label me to be. It is clear to me that you have more joy in ridiculing people and falsely labeling them to justify your points than in trying to discuss something on its own merit. It is also clear you don’t understand paleontology nor evolution and in order to make up for it, throw the accusation over on me. It doesn’t win you any points if you were actually trying to sway someone to your thinking. It is you who have supplied the strawmen, putting words in my mouth, assuming my motives (wrongly in every case by the way), and then knocking them down. And the grandfather thing didn’t even make sense for the point you were trying to make. Maybe you made a typo? I’m not sure why some folks use character assassination as their method of debate rather than sticking to the topic of discussion. For most people, it is because there is not much below the surface. That is why I am surprised at you Olorin. Surely you can do better?

    By the way, a transition is a transition, not a derivative of a transition. A true transition would predate the footprints. So, it is inaccurate to call the Tiktaalik a transitional animal. That does not prove there are no transitional animals. As some creationists do, of the camp you accuse me of being, they will use this as evidence that evolution is wrong. I don’t think this proves that. But what it does prove, and was my point all along, one can be easily mislead by the presuppositions and assumptions within their knowledge framework. The work in the historical fields is more sound than some creationists would have you believe, but is also more tentative and subjective than anti-creationists would have you believe. Both need to be less dogmatic and be sensible about what we really do and don’t know.

  21. By the way, a transition is a transition, not a derivative of a transition. A true transition would predate the footprints. So, it is inaccurate to call the Tiktaalik a transitional animal

    Wal,the reason I compare you to a creationist is that you think like a creationist—whether or not you would apply that label to yourself.

    The statement above evidences a continuing misunderstanding of evolution. Only a creationist would think of a “transition” as being a sudden, all-at-once event. Ernst Mayr said it best: “Individuals do not evolve. Populations evolve.” The transition between a species of lobe-fin fish and proto-tetrapods occupied tens of millions of years. A mutation in a homeobox gene added a third cycle to the growth of the pectoral lobes. This change spread to a significant fraction of the population. The bones of the wrist were produced by the same genes as those of the lobe, so no novelty was required at that point. The new bones were supported by muscles and then innervated—because that is what happens any time that new bones form.[1] So we have a progression that occurs over thousands—millions–of generations.

    The neck follows the same process, although it seems to be a separate adaptation. Did the neck appear at the same time, or in the same individuals, as the wrist? Probably not. Did the earlier transitional fossil have a neck? We don’t know. But it too spread through the population—altho perhaps not the same population as the wrist—over thousands or millions of generations, each somewhat more adapted to land foraging that the previous one.

    So the “transition” between fish and tetrapod did not happen quickly, nor in a single linear chain of individuals. Whether or not you call yourself a creationist, you are using their mindset. And it does not represent anyone’s idea of evolution.

    ===================

    [1] This is a well known result of developmental biology,altho it often surprises laymen.

  22. Olorin,

    No slander this time. I appreciate it.

    “Only a creationist would think of a “transition” as being a sudden, all-at-once event. ”

    I didn’t say that. But the fact is you can’t prove any fossil to be of a transitional species without assuming it already.

  23. Another error. Species are not divided into “transitional”: and “static.” When you come right down to it, every species represents a transition between the one that preceded it and the one(s)—if any—that followed it. You may wish to restrict the name “transitional” to organisms that represent a progression to an entirely new taxon, but that species itself does not differ from any other species because we choose to give it that name..

    If humans’ best efforts do not succeed in destroying the world, then some species today may be transitional forms. We can’t tell which ones, because we don’t know what these new taxa might look like, so cannot recognize their new features, If you’d like an educated guess, read Dougal Dixon’s “After Man: A Zoology of the Future” (St Martin’s 1998). Dixon’s dominant taxon 50 million years from now, is a diverse family of giant rats. Of course, this is entirely—ahem—speculative.

    ———————–

    Homo sapiens, on the other hand, have been notoriously unsuccessful, except for our own single species. The popular view, of course, is that one humanoid ancestor followed another in a linear progression to us. As depicted in the cliche line of stooped-over ape to internet-savvy marketing executive. However, the reality is that many hominid and hominin species coexisted with each other for millions of years. So many that it is difficult to tell which ones were our direct ancestors and which others were only shirttail relatives. But, unlike other genera,all but a single species failed. The horse has extant cousins in donkeys, zebras, and many more. The equidae family includes almost three dozen separate genera. The cetacea family of marine mammals includes a fleet of dozens of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. But we are all alone—again, giving the false impression that there is a single line of descent. Yet another error.

  24. The study of evolutionary populations can have some surprising aspects. Try this one on for size—

    “Mitochondrial Eve,” the single female from whom all living humans descended on their mother’s side, is estimated to have lived about 200,000 years ago. But, 50,000 years ago, a different female was mitochondrial Eve. Understanding how this happens will go a long way toward explaining the evolution of populations.

  25. But the fact is you can’t prove any fossil to be of a transitional species without assuming it already.

    In the same way, I suppose, that you can’t prove a subatomic particle is a neutrino without assuming it already. Every detection of a neutrino requires several intermediate reactions, which are not directly observed. Physicists have a theory—a model—of particles that includes neutrinos. ASSUMING the model is correct, then observing a certain end reaction tells you that you have seen a neutrino. IF the theory is not correct, then you observed something else.

    This did happe4n once. But physicists added to the theory by ASSUMING that neutrinos could have some tiny amount of mass. So now we can detect neutrinos again. Whew! What a relief!

    .

    Philosophers of science refer to this as the “telescope problem.” The telescope and the slide rule were invented about the same time. If you make a calculation on the slide rule, you can always verify the result with a hand calculation. If you see a spot on Jupiter through a telescope, you can never be sure that it was not an artifact produced by the instrument itself, or by a hitherto-unknown property of light. Philosophers maintain that all observations are “theory laden.” It is not possible to eliminate all assumptions from any act of observation. The best we can hope for is that our assumptions lead to repeatable observations under a wide range of conditions. We then consider them to be “facts.” Yet we can never prove them 100%.

    Actually, the most basic current question in the philosophy of science, which is hotly debated, is whether or not an objective reality exists. Or is everything a ultimately construct of our models.[1]

    ==================

    [1] If you are absolutely sure that there is a single, unvarnished reality. try playing the quantum mechanics version of “Twenty Questions.” In this version, it is not the one who asks the questions who wins or loses—it is the person who answers them. After you have answered “yes” or “no” randomly to all 20 questions, you win the game if you can name an object for which all of the answers turn out to have been correct. This ought to appeal to a physicist.

  26. “Actually, the most basic current question in the philosophy of science, which is hotly debated, is whether or not an objective reality exists. Or is everything a ultimately construct of our models.”

    Which is the most absurd idea ever. (When Hawking states things like this, he loses credibility!) That would say reality didn’t exist until the models came along. That sure would throw evolution out the window! The only way to correctly state that is, “reality as we known it is determined by our models, and might not exactly represent the reality that is.”

    “Philosophers maintain that all observations are “theory laden.” It is not possible to eliminate all assumptions from any act of observation.”

    My point all along!!!!!

    “the reality is that many hominid and hominin species coexisted with each other for millions of years.” I remember one of my daughters coming home from school saying we came from apes. I corrected her and said the correct view in evolutionary theory is that apes and humans descended from a common ancestor, not one from the other. She went back and told the teacher, who was impressed. Why was he impressed and was not teaching the theory correctly? It is not creationists doing that, but the ones writing the text books!

    On the neutrino theory, you are right, however, there is more assurance that when an experiment precisely fits the prediction time and time again, and predictions derived from that precisely predict (yes I know probabilities are involved) correctly, and much else is accurately described by the same theory, you have described the process as well as it needs to be described for further predictions. It is a different matter, less assurance, when you take fragments (disconnected points), construct a theory to fill in the gaps, and you have no experiments to verify any of it (the experiments use the interpretation for the validation – which is circular, i.e. data, to interpretation, to theory, to interpretation of more data randomly found; whereas with neutrino, you have a model, you construct a new prediction, look for it, and find it). Is it possible the neutrino theory is wrong? It is possible, but not likely. Fact is, it predicts what it needs to. With historical sciences you have a theory that drives itself and there is no way to determine if it is false (it has to stand to reason and contemporary knowledge, but no one can go back in time and show without a doubt things truly happen the way the theory says.). The fossil record is not complete. FIndings keep pushing events further and further back in time. You have confusion, like the mitochondrial Eve (which I thought had an answer). You have conflicts between different evolutionary study methods (the tree versus the DNA, etc.). The problem is, whether evolution is true or not, it is tenuous and far from a complete and reliable theory in the sense that the neutrino theory is!

  27. On the neutrino theory, you are right, however, there is more assurance that when an experiment precisely fits the prediction time and time again, and predictions derived from that precisely predict

    So how does this give paleontology less assurance than physics? Paleontology is replete with experiments and independent verifications. You seem unaware of the breadth and depth of this work—or are deliberately denigrating it for other reasons.

    With historical sciences you have a theory that drives itself and there is no way to determine if it is false (it has to stand to reason and contemporary knowledge, but no one can go back in time and show without a doubt things truly happen the way the theory says.)

    You can’t do that in physics, either. Creationists argue, for example, that the speed of light was thousands of times faster in the past, which explains their young universe. Exercise for the reader: Prove that this is wrong. See it now?

    The problem is, whether evolution is true or not, it is tenuous and far from a complete and reliable theory in the sense that the neutrino theory is![1]

    A lot of Americans (but few others) would agree. In their case, the reason is abysmal ignorance. If you claim to have read and judged the evidence, and still doubt evolution from a common ancestry, then you are delusional.[2] In fact, the evidence has grown exponentially in the past 20 years or so, with DNA confirmation of the fossil trees, laboratory reconstruction of ancestral proteins from modern fragments, verification of evolutionary change mechanisms from developmental biology, long-term studies of bacteria evolution (Lenski), and many other lines of inquiry..

    One thing you should stop doing is getting your opinions from newspapers and popular science mags, which carry provocative titles such as “Was Darwin Wrong??” and “New Discovery Overturns Human Ancestry,” reporting new advances as though they conflict with everything that had been previously known.[2] They do that to increase sales, not to inform their readers. Reading the news reports and original papers in actual journals, such as Science, Nature, PNAS, and PLoS gives one an entirely different perspective.

    There are about 484,000 researchers in the biological fields today. Outside the tame PhDs at the Institute for Creation Research, let me know if you can find one who doubts the basic fact of evolution. Science is not done by popular vote, but the numbers ought to give pause. Even most of the people at intelligent design’s Discovery Instutute accept common descent. The evidence forces them to.

    ==============

    [1] It takes some chutzpah to say this, despite the fact that the Standard Model of particle physics underwent a significant change only a decade ago with the discovery that neutrinos have mass. And physicists still have no idea what that mass is, or how it might fit in with other particle masses.

    [2] Just when we thought that all flat-earthers had gone extinct, we read about a conference at Notre Dame University last year: “Galileo Was Wrong!” (They meant Copernicus, but let it go.) They were, and are, serious: The earth is flat, just as the Bible says. Don’t confuse them with evidence.

    [3] Here’s an analogy. I have developed t theory that colored lights at street intersections control the flow of vehicles. Cars and trucks stop for red lights, go for green lights, and speed up for yellow lights. Later observations, however, reveal that many vehicles in fact slow down when approaching a yellow light. The popular press reports that this falsifies the theory that colored lights control vehicle flow. (Creationists go farther, and claim that the new data prove that these lights are instructions for UFOs.)

  28. “Creationists argue, for example, that the speed of light was thousands of times faster in the past, which explains their young universe. Exercise for the reader: Prove that this is wrong. See it now?”

    Light happens to be my specialty. I know for a fact they point to experiments where it is said light has been slowed down, practically stopped, for publicity. The theory of light is about as solid as any. It is the phase of a pulse of light that was effected, not the speed of light itself. If the universe is younger than it appears, it is not because of any foolishness surrounding the speed of light.

    I am aware of the breath and depth of the work in paleontology. But given your statement about light, I think you are starting to get my point. Yet, I don’t think the experiments done to validate Einstein’s general theory of relativity had to be interpreted by the theory itself to validate it. That an amphibian has fins and wrists, a flexible neck, etc., can only be assumed to be a transitional species if one has theorized there are such things. In other words, it is ambiguous. If one hadn’t theorized it, it might just look like another extinct species. The same data can validate multiple theories. In the sense of fitting a curve to the data, given the sparseness of the data, any number of functions could be fit, especially given the huge error bars.

    To your popular journals point, you see my point about light slowing down. The reporting misrepresented the facts to make it sound like something truly fascinating was discovered. But I don’t blame the reporters, I blame the researchers who used plays on words to make it sound exciting. This happens frequently in the science world (much to my disappointment).

    Lastly, and this is it for me, because we just have a ping pong match with no worthy movement in either direction (although I do like that your tone has changed – I hope you apply it to others as well and it doesn’t stop after I’m gone), I never denied common descent, I never denied evolution, I never denied that there are transitional species; I’ve merely been trying to wake you up to the reality of the state of the science you think is so complete. I’m not denigrating, I’m expressing reality. It is more possible for the historical sciences to be off track than the experimental sciences (that doesn’t mean necessarily that they are off track). I’ve tried to make the point that one finds things never expected out of the theory. The other finds what is expected because the theory assumes it is true (hard to prove wrong that way – the theory interprets the data instead of the data answering the interpretation).

    That the evolutionary tree from the fossil record and the DNA tree have been brought into agreement is news to me. I’ll have to check it out.

  29. Walt, yiour initial position was that “historical” sciences are inherently unreliable as compared to “experimental” sciences, because the ;former merely assume hypotheses without support, whereas the latter can test them.

    I have attempted to demonstrate that this is wrong, by demonstrating (a) that even physics relies a lot more upon “assumptions” and “theory” thaqt one would think, and (b) that paleontology uses the same kinds of experiments, tests, and verifications as physics. To the point where there is no essential difference between the two categories either in methodology or results.

    Even now, however, you seem to have missed the point—

    The theory of light is about as solid as any…..

    You still seem unwilling to entertain even the idea that, say, “historical” common descent is as solidly supported as the theory of light. Because it has been verified in so many thousands of times in so many different ways. The elements of evolution, variation and natural selection, are observed in thousands of different situations, and the mathematical theory of population genetics that lead to new species have been verified over and over again since the 1930s.

    Your background is in physics, and you believe the evidence shows many physical theories are rock-solid. A biology researcher, however, might say that the theories of evolution are more solid—as he reads accounts of light unaccountably slowing down, of the futile search for a so-called Higgs boson, that neutrinos all of a sudden have mass, and that quantum mechanics cannot be reconciled with relativity. He would see evolutionary theory as progressing steadily, while physics is in turmoil as to a number of basic questions.

    If you can admit that paleontology and anthropology possess verified theories that are as solid as the physical theories you compare them to, then we have no significant difference..

  30. Olorin, I’d say your understanding of physics is as poor as you think my understanding of paleontology is. So we’re in the same boat.

  31. Upon what do you base that opinion? My MS degree? My 50 years of experience in technologies from, bolometers to bioinformatics? Something else?

    You may understand the technical content of your field very well, but you seem to have naive views as to how science works.

    .
    Happy new year.

  32. Olorin, I assume your response was to me, Walt. The statement was based on your last comment. Light does not “unaccountably” slow down. The Higgs search is worse then looking for a needle in a haystack (a big one), but it is more straight forward than searching for something in piles of dirt that has less of an obvious signature than the boson. You can only find what you happen to find and then it can’t be tied down to anything as concrete. Neutrinos oscillate – some things show up to put monkey wrenches into theories. At least that shows the theory can be challenged. And who says QM and relativity can’t be reconciled? If there is anyplace in the physics community that is is similar to what you’ve been talking about, it is that problem. Theories in that realm are subjective and right now have no way to be verified. Most physicists will admit that. But that doesn’t mean they are not reconcilable in some abstract theoretical way.

    I don’t know about being naive. I’ve spent more time in the last three years or so specifically looking at the philosophy of science and epistemology.

    Happy New Year to you too!

  33. Walt, you again miss the point.

    I did not say that paleontology is easier than physics; I said it is inherently no less rigorous, that its hypotheses can be supported by the same type and quality of evidence as physics. You choose to dismiss that as a bunch of codswallop.., claiming that paleontologists are assuming all these things and bruiting them about as proven.

    What can I say? That’s wrong.

    Too bad. You’re missing a lot of interesting stuff., things that are more and miore relevant to biology and medicine, and to the future of our planet.

  34. Olorin,

    I didn’t misunderstand you. I understand you are saying it is as rigorous. I’m not saying it isn’t rigorous. It is clear, though, I’m not getting my point across. Rigorous is not the same as true. But don’t put words in my mouth again and say that I’m saying it isn’t true. I’m just saying you can’t know. One can devise a very elaborate rational argument for somethings that appears to match what one thinks they know .Yet, what they think they know is what is wrong, the initial conditions, and they don’t know because the theory matches the assumptions. The theory is circular. The one who believes the argument believes in it. The one who is skeptical, doesn’t, even if it is true.

    This is a lame example compared to the rigor you are talking about, but I suppose the only way to make my point is with some sort of simple example. At one time, people thought the sun went around the earth and that the earth was stationary. From the vantage point of the people of the time, it made sense. It wasn’t until the motion of the planets was examined more closely that it was discovered that the earth rotated and went around the sun. Then later, something like General relativity was not understood, but Einstein figure it out and experiments since have proven it correct. Prior to 1900, no one would have ever thought of quantum mechanics. But eventually it was determined to be the reality at the subatomic level. What caused people to think incorrectly was their own experiences interfering with their interpretations. There is a lot more interpretation that cannot be validated except with complex arguments that might be coherent, but not founded in truth, in the historical sciences. Maybe, since it is coherent, it is true, but if there is no outside standard to check against, you would never know! This is not being naive, This is the way it is. One immersed in their own work sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.

    So, again, I’m not saying the rigor is not coming up with profitable work that might yield results for medicine and such, I’m saying you might be standing in mid air as far as the theories are concerned and you wouldn’t know it. I may be biased, but I think much of experimental science has more foundation to it in contrast to historical sciences where all you can do is examine what you have today and extrapolate complex arguments into the past. Rigor surely improves your odds, but doesn’t automatically make everything correct.

  35. I’m just saying you can’t know. One can devise a very elaborate rational argument for somethings that appears to match what one thinks they know .Yet, what they think they know is what is wrong, the initial conditions, and they don’t know because the theory matches the assumptions.

    So how is this different from physics? Your example of geocentrism establishes my point, not yours. The difference seem to be that physicists spend billions of taxpayer dollars in order to manufacture their own evidence, while paleontologists must look for evidence that already exists.

    In 1953, a couple of high-school friends and I built a cyclotron. (Like all teenagers, we enjoyed smashing things together to see what would happen.) When some of our initial results failed to match predictions, we looked for something wrong with the machine. Atomic theory was not wrong; oh, no. The machine was malfunctioning. So we tweaked it until it agreed with theory.

    Is there a lesson in there somewhere?[1]

    .

    And, if paleontological theories are circular, why are they modified when contrary evidence shows up? By definition, a circular argument cannot be falsified.

    I may be biased, but I think much of experimental science has more foundation to it in contrast to historical sciences where all you can do is examine what you have today and extrapolate complex arguments into the past

    Yes, you are biased. Even your examples tend to disprove your view, not reinforce it.

    With a background in physics, I used to share that view. Then, in connection with my work in bioinformatics, I started looking into evolution, since it is such an integral part of biology and employs a lot of arcane mathematics. As you may have noticed, my outlook has changed. And that what it was: an outlook, a weltanschaung, not an observation from facts.

    ==================

    [1] What was the reaction when predicted solar neutrinos failed to show up? The detectors wern’t working. What is the prevalent reaction to faster-then-light neutrinos? Systematic errors. Must be.

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