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The Bad News of Intelligent Design

All Things Examined

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Darwinian evolution is the creation story of atheism. It is the tale of nothing becoming everything through an incremental, unguided process of random change and adaptation.

Yet despite its many logical and technical difficulties—not the least of which is explaining how nothing became a “something” to get the whole process started—the narrative has captured the imaginations of a wide spectrum of individuals, religious and non-religious alike.

Today nearly any article or television program, covering any aspect of the natural world, from the eating habits of chimpanzees to the dreams of humans, is sure to make mention of “our evolutionary heritage.” What’s more, phenomena as counterproductive to Darwinian fitness as homosexuality and altruism are increasingly being traced to some evolutionary advantage. It is as if to be taken seriously as a researcher, writer or thinker, one must pay homage to Darwin, no matter how tenuous the connection to the subject matter, or fatuous.

The charm of the tale comes not only in what it has to say about history, but in what it has to say about the future—the eternal struggle for survival will lead to change; change will lead to progress, and progress to perfection.

As the story gained currency, faith in a caring Superintendent began to be displaced by hope in an indifferent, impersonal mechanism of change—“Change we can believe in,” change we must believe in, if we reject the antediluvian myth and its Author.

It is no wonder that few phrases in recent memory have provoked as much comment, criticism and derision as “intelligent design.”

The fear

Since its introduction into modern lexicons, intelligent design (ID) has been called everything from “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” to a “Trojan horse” to a “sham.” And those are some of the kinder put-downs.

And ID opprobrium has not been restricted to the fever swamps of atheism. Educators, judges, politicians, scientists, journalists, and even Christians have logged withering comments about the science of design. But why the invectives over a non-sectarian enterprise that makes no claims about the identity of the Designer?

Although the proposition of intelligent design is modest—that certain features of the universe are best explained as the products of intelligence—there is fear that ID and science are mortally locked into a zero-sum game: For ID to win, science must fail. The fear is not unfounded.

Science, properly understood, is a systematic method of empirical investigation, philosophically open, for the acquisition of knowledge. It is the science, modern science, mid-wifed by individuals—Bacon, Ockham, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton—whose openness to an external Source of order, beauty and harmony made possible the game-changing discoveries that led to the scientific revolution.

Science, as it has become today, is an investigative enterprise ideologically confined to naturalism, which holds that the material world is a brute fact fully explicable in terms of matter and motion, without appeal to external causes.

For that science, ID is bad news.

Bad news for science

Like the pioneers of modern science, the ID investigator is not committed to rules of play and conventions of “good form” aimed at protecting the consensus view. He is free to follow the phenomena wherever they point, whether to chance, law, or intelligence, whether of the material world or beyond it.

Unfettered by the groupthink of the scientific establishment, he represents a threat to those for whom Oxford cardiovascular physiologist Denis Noble writes, “[Materialistic science] functions as a security blanket.” The security of their paradigm, Noble continues, is that “It avoids the need to ask too many questions, to stare into the abyss of fundamental uncertainty.” Yet sooner or later, that abyss will be encountered.

Over the last several decades, discoveries of the functional elegance and integrated complexity of the universe have made the materialistic underpinning of science increasingly untenable, leaving those so-committed to cede it all to luck or to some yet to be discovered final Law which, if found, would itself beg an explanation.

For instance, should an ultimate law be unearthed down that ever-receding shaft of exploration, it would not account for immaterial phenomena like thought, free will, creativity, and aspirations, except as illusions created by the chemical firings of neurons. Likewise, a meta-Law of the universe would neither provide, nor explain, the moral “oughtness” pressing upon the conscience of man.

If it could, humans could no more choose to violate it than they could choose to change their height or blood type. Yet not only do we violate it, we have feelings of guilt when we do, suggesting something behind Law, a teleology, a concern about humans and their social dealings—an intelligence. And that is bad news for another group.

Bad news for social engineers

Products of intelligence are engineered to satisfy the functional requirements of the designer. And like any engineered product, they provide optimum benefits when used according to their design and minimum benefits, to detrimental effects, if twisted and pressed into the service of personal desires or popular fashions.

Consider sexuality. According to the theories popularized by Freud, Kinsey and Hefner, sex exists for the fulfillment of personal happiness through the satisfaction of sensual desire, with pregnancy as a byproduct.

Even a cursory consideration of design shows that this popular conception has it exactly backwards. Since sexual satisfaction could be realized on a mono-sex planet and only on a heterosexual one could civilization survive past the first generation, it is evident, even through the prism of Darwinism, that reproduction is the purpose of sex, with sensual satisfaction as a byproduct.

Design suggests that the “machine” is not infinitely malleable as Darwinian theories would have it, but fixed with an in-built limit of “flex.” And that is bad news for social engineers who view humanity as an intermediary life form in the march to our utopian, transhuman future.

Bad news for the culture of death

Although the outward, visible features of design can tell us important things about an object’s purpose, they are not always the whole story.

Imagine a native of a primitive culture happening upon a DVD loaded with Microsoft Office left by a modern-day explorer. The thin, flexible, perfectly circular disc of foreign construction would lead the native to conclude it was of unnatural, maybe supernatural origin. Yet nothing about the appearance of the DVD would reveal its rich information content, much less the purpose for which the information was intended.

The same is true of human beings. Although outward appearances may tell us a lot about human nature, there is much more than meets the eye.

Giving consideration only to the material dimension, humans share a genetic code that, while variable from person to person, is distinct from all other living creatures, both in its internal structure and in its external, visible expression. It is the recognition of human exceptionality that inclines most people to acknowledge the superior worth of a person over everything else; even another product of design, like a priceless work of art.

Yet many folks who would never think of discarding an irreparably damaged Monet, have few qualms “discarding” a person who is unborn and unwanted or who has been irreparably damaged through injury or impaired through the onset of age.

The design inference suggests that all persons—even the least-developed and most-infirmed among us—have intrinsic value, worthy of vigorous protections against forces that would threaten their lives and welfare. And that is bad news for the culture of death.

For those who have built careers, labs, and reputations on the shoulders of Darwin; for those whose investigative quest is driven by an ideological commitment; for those who want to make peace with “science” and appear reasonable to their peers; for those who are more concerned about protecting orthodoxy than in the pursuit of truth; for those whose hopes for the planet lie in evolution’s inexorable march of progress; for those who would litter the road to Utopia with carcasses of the unwanted, the disabled, the aged, and infirmed; and for those who seek escape from the deeper implications of human existence—intelligent design is bad news. It is very bad news.

Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. His "All Things Examined" column appears on BreakPoint every other Friday. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at: centurion51@aol.com.


Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.

Comments:

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Endogenous retroviruses as evidence for common anc
Regis Nichol suggests possible explanations for shared ERVs:

"1) ERVs came factory-equipped in the genome of separate species to carry out similar physiological functions. (This is especially provocative given the fact that an increasing number of so-called ERV’s and “junk DNA” are being found to have essential functions in gene expression, gene regulation, DNA repair and replication, and more);"

First, homologous ERVs at the same locus are often different between species, and these differences fall into the same nested hierarchy as other traits. That is, homologous ERVs will be more similar in sequence between a human and a chimp than between a human and an orangutan, and more similar between human or chimp and orangutan than between any of them and a monkey. Likewise, the very presence of shared ERVs falls into this same nested hierarchy: humans and chimps share more ERVs than humans or chimps and orangutans, and great apes in general share more ERVs with one another than with monkeys.

That ERVs are sometimes functional is not more contrary to "Darwinist" expectations than the idea that some of well-nigh any sort of mutation can be beneficial or functional. But one might expect that if different "kinds" had homologous ERVs installed at creation, then differences among homologous ERVs would be randomly distributed (having arisen through random mutations in unrelated lines), and that shared ERVs would reflect similar diets or habits (so, e.g. chimps and orangutans would share more of them than either does with humans).

"2) Due the common design in the genome across a wide spectrum of life forms, ERVs result from common vulnerabilities to outside agents or common susceptibilities to internal corruption;"

Some ERVs are especially prone to insert themselves in particular sorts of regions of the genome: e.g. next to genes, or in "gene deserts," etc. But there is no evidence yet that they preferentially insert themselves in particular loci (as opposed to particular classes of loci). So this hypothesis explains homologous ERVs in homologous loci less well than inheritance from a common ancestor.

"3) A Designer used a highly transmissible retrovirus for delivering genetic modifications to germ lines in order to direct phylogenesis within the physical laws of nature. In the computing world this is done all the time. The Microsoft geeks, through Windows automatic update feature, can make any program change they want to millions of computers around the globe without so much as leaving their comfy cubicle in Delhi. Using viral vectors would be an extremely effective way for a Designer to front-load or deliver his marching instructions."

This suffers, as far as I can tell, from the same objections listed to possibilities {1} and {2}. If you want to argue that the Designer allowed common descent with modification to take its Darwinian course, then {3} fits the data, but it seems rather superfluous. And are you entirely comfortable arguing for such an apparently natural and finite designer? An all-powerful, all-knowing designer should have to issue periodic updates and revisions.
Evolution and Fossils
Regis Nicoll argued against the relevance of Lenski's _E. coli_ experiments:

"'Macroevolution'” refers to the origin of new species, organs and body plans, not changes within existing species."

So it does, though there's no sharp dividing line. Instances of speciation -- a new population unable or unwilling to interbreed with the ancestral group -- have been observed in the lab (e.g. in fruit flies). Most of these represent changes in appearance and behavior smaller than those seen in Lenski's bacteria. There likewise isn't that sharp a distinction between "new body plans" and mere modifications of older ones: we have no major organs or structures that aren't present in monkeys, and most of our parts are clearly homologous with those of lungfish. The "species" _E. coli_ shows more genetic variety than exists between humans and gorillas.

Did you borrow your kitten analogy from Denyse O'Leary, or did she get it from you? There is a difference between development (changes in a single individual over a lifetime) and evolution (changes in the typical individual, which can include changes in what is typical for adults or infants). No single bacterium in Lenksi's experiments went from not being able to digest citrate to feeding off it; rather, some newly-fissed mutants were able to feed off it from their start, and those without the relevant mutations never were able to do so.

As for the Cambrian explosion, some phyla are known from fossils from the preCambrian (indeed, our own phylum, Chordata, is now so known), and others are known only from much later strata (this is thought to be an artifact of the rarity of fossilization rather than an indication that they actually arose only after the Cambrian). Some phyla have no fossil record at all. The earliest Cambrian is marked by the "small shelly fauna," fragments of body coverings that are widely interpreted as the beginning of the exoskeletons of arthropods and molluscs. Earlier species are much rarer and poorly known, not only because such ancient fossils have had much more time to become deeply buried or otherwise lost, but because they didn't have the hard parts that are so conducive to fossilization.

Note that we don't, in fact, see fully-formed body plans arising: the earliest chordates didn't yet have bones, the earliest vertebrates didn't have jaws, the earliest birds didn't have the alula found on modern bird wings (and had skeletons that were purely dinosaurian beneath those flight feathers), the earliest whales had small heads and hind limbs. The human body plan appears in the fossil record in drips and drabs: the australopiths had human-like lower limbs but primitive, apelike upper bodies (except for the position of the foramen magnum, where the spinal cord enters the brain), skulls exist that straddle any dividing line you might wish to draw between "fully-formed humans" and "mere apes."
Defining a species
Heya again, Regis. Hope the church plant is going well! So, we both agree on the paucity of transitional fossils at the species level, although where you see Punctuated Equilibrium as an excuse concocted by Gould/Eldridge to explain away the lack of fossils, I look at the evidence they gathered for this new theory and see it as probable (said evidence is *not* just a lack of fossils, which would be no evidence indeed).

On Lenski's E. coli work - I'm not sure you're aware of this, but delineating species for single-celled bacteria is not quite as easy as it is for multicellular life forms. This is because there are few morphological characteristics that can be used to distinguish cells, and moreover these cells are able to pass snippets of DNA back and forth, even across different species. However, in Lenski's experiments, the E coli cells gained the ability to metabolize citrate in oxygenated conditions, which was one of the main ways scientists differentiated E coli from Salmonella. For a bacterium, this is a big change, almost the equivalent of changing species.

You really shouldn't let your cat eat Kibbles 'n Bits. Unlike dogs, cats lack the ability to make taurine, one of the amino acids. Dog food usually doesn't contain taurine, so a cat who eats dog food will end up malnourished.

But anyways, I don't get what point you're making. Because your cat changed size and shape so quickly, evolution is trival? Hmm.. somehow I think you're just muddying the waters with bad analogies. Do you really understand your own arguments? All of the quotes you give (most of them indeed properly "quote mined") don't do anything to tear down evolution, as they deal with non-issues. Your first one, for instance, addresses the lack of pre-Cambrian fossils, even though (a) the "Cambrian explosion" was accompanied by a great increase in hard-bodied creatures, who are much more likely to leave fossils behind when they die, and (b) in the last 10-15 years, we've started finding pre-Cambrian fossils from soft-bodied animals that show the Cambrian explosion was more of a sizzle than a boom.

And what would it matter, anyway, if all of the phyla we see today emerged in the Cambrian Explosion? *All* vertebrates are in only one subphylum, from fish to birds, from snakes to salamanders to humans.

Your second quote just supports Punctuated Equilibrium. The data in these quotes is old hat to evolutionary biologists, which is why you find famous scientists saying them. They aren't "admitting" a problem with evolution, they're usually trying to elaborate a point well in agreement with modern evolutionary theory, but you take those quotes out of context, trying to make it look like they're pointing out big flaws in evolution. You're misrepresenting their views to further your agenda. Doesn't this *bother* you? How can you possibly see this as honest?
There are possibilities AND there are possibilitie
From consideration of quantum uncertainty in the collapse of wave-function states, it is theoretically possible for a bike to morph into a SUV: however, from any practical standpoint it is impossible; as it is for a pre-biotic swill of molecules to self-organize into a gene (the smallest thing that natural selection can select!) or for unintelligent mechanism to create functional information. (see: http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/tp-home/blog-archives/blog-archives/entry/4/2490)

The suggestion that ERV’s are “exhibit A” for Darwinism is making the unsupported leap from observation to causation.

It ignores the possibilities that:

1) ERVs came factory-equipped in the genome of separate species to carry out similar physiological functions. (This is especially provocative given the fact that an increasing number of so-called ERV’s and “junk DNA” are being found to have essential functions in gene expression, gene regulation, DNA repair and replication, and more);

2) Due the common design in the genome across a wide spectrum of life forms, ERVs result from common vulnerabilities to outside agents or common susceptibilities to internal corruption;

3) A Designer used a highly transmissible retrovirus for delivering genetic modifications to germ lines in order to direct phylogenesis within the physical laws of nature. In the computing world this is done all the time. The Microsoft geeks, through Windows automatic update feature, can make any program change they want to millions of computers around the globe without so much as leaving their comfy cubicle in Delhi. Using viral vectors would be an extremely effective way for a Designer to front-load or deliver his marching instructions.

As for the suggestion that Lenski’s E. coli is evidence for macro-evolution because it “changed shape, changed size, changed metabolism and changed food source”: Hmm. As I recall, I had a kitten once that changed shape by growing into its large paws; changed size from a few ounces to a few pounds in a few weeks; changed metabolism from mother’s milk to Tasty Choice; and finally preferred eating birds to Kibbles ‘n Bits.

Rick, for future reference you might want to make the following note to self: “Macroevolution” refers to the origin of new species, organs and body plans, not changes within existing species.

Finally, concerning the fossil record: Considering the Cambrian explosion, where most of the major animal groups appear in the fossil record in a geological instant of time without clear evolutionary precursors, one college textbook acknowledges, “Most of the animal phyla that are represented in the fossil record first appear, 'fully formed,' in the Cambrian ... The fossil record is therefore of no help with respect to the origin and early diversification of the various animal phyla.” (see R.S.K. Barnes, P. Calow & P.J.W. Olive, The Invertebrates: A New Synthesis, 2001).

And, contrary to a popular Darwinist criticism, one doesn’t need to “mine” such quotes from obscure caves of off-guarded musings of proponents, one need only scan the 150-year landscape cluttered with the descriptions of inconvenient facts and evolutionary embarrassments by evolutionists.

For example, the rarity of potential transitional forms is a widely recognized problem, as the late evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mayr, admitted in 2001: "When we look at the living biota, whether at the level of the higher taxa or even at that of the species, discontinuities are overwhelmingly frequent. . . . The discontinuities are even more striking in the fossil record. New species usually appear in the fossil record suddenly, not connected with their ancestors by a series of intermediates."

To concect “punctuated equilibrium” is merely putting a label on something that otherwise cannot be accounted for in the materialistic narrative -- the encyclopedic increase in biological information which is better explained as a product of intelligence.

Because we know EMPIRICALLY that intelligent agents CAN infuse vast amounts of functional information into the biosphere (and that unintelligent “explanations” are mere conjecture), sudden bursts of fully formed body plans are precisely what would be expected of intelligently-designed organisms… and, not surprisingly, that is exactly what is found!
"The design inference suggests that all persons—even the least-developed and most-infirmed among us—have intrinsic value, worthy of vigorous protections against forces that would threaten their lives and welfare."

Then how do you explain higher rates of incarceration and divorce among evangelicals than among atheists, Regis?

"And that is bad news for the culture of death."

How many innocent children has the US killed in Iraq? Did you support that culture of death?

"For those who have built careers, labs, and reputations on the shoulders of Darwin;…"

How do those who have described non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms fit this category?

"... for those whose investigative quest is driven by an ideological commitment;…"

You're projecting, because the ID movement does zero investigation producing new data. Your repeated misrepresentations of the evidence and your conflations of evidence with hearsay scream that you are afraid to investigate.

BTW, what does the Bible say about hearsay?

"... for those who want to make peace with “science” and appear reasonable to their peers; for those who are more concerned about protecting orthodoxy than in the pursuit of truth; …"

The reality is that way to become a famous scientist and win a Nobel Prize is to overturn orthodoxy. One does that with data, not with rhetoric. The truth is the polar opposite of your claim.
Regis
"Given the fact that bacteria replicate on the order of minutes rather than years, the rate of evolutionary change is accelerated over 100,000-fold over most life forms."

False.

"Added to the fact that random mutations have, at any one time, trillions of subjects on which to work their evolutionary magic,…"

False again. Mutations (which are only random wrt fitness, not location, direction, etc.) don't work much evolutionary magic without selection. I do realize that you are eager to misrepresent evolutionary theory with the adjective "random," though.

"... they have had more than amble opportunity to show their mettle by producing a multi-celled organism under the microscope."

Why? Please show your math and cite the primary scientific literature. You won't, because you know that this is false too.

"As your so-called 29 evidences for macro-evolution, let’s examine one that you’ve mentioned several times now: DNA similarities."

You haven't examined it, Regis. If you had, you'd know that it's not merely about similarity; the differences are just as important. You can't explain nested hierarchies that are congruent for organisms, parts of organisms, and even protein families across phyla, so you deliberately misrepresent this evidence as mere "similarity." Why do you claim to be examining something you clearly have no intention of ever examining?

"True, there is a lot of common DNA between humans and chimps; anywhere between 90 and 99%, depending on which study is cited."

Utterly false. "DNA" is not synonymous with "genes" is not synonymous with "percent identity." Your misrepresentation just demonstrates (at best) your unwillingness to examine evidence.

"As it so happens, there’s also around 80% similarity between the DNA of humans and a banana!"

False again. You've made nothing but false claims in your comment. Why not start with the truth?

"Come to think of it, my mountain bike shares many similarities with my Ford Escape: both have wheels, brakes and gears and are made of a metal frame."

Neither reproduce. Do you realize that analogies are explanatory devices? Do you realize that analogies invariably break down when used in biology?

"Yet, who would dare suggest that given enough time, the creative effects of quantum jitters, cosmic rays and wind erosion could morph my bike into an SUV? "

Only a complete idiot would. Only a profoundly ignorant and/or dishonest person would try to portray evolutionary theory as one organism morphing into another, btw. Do you realize that populations SPLIT into separate species, which is nothing at all like your false representation of evolution?

"No, common DNA is no more evidence of common descent than it is of common design (by an intelligent designer)."

That's why you ignore the mathematical nature of the DIFFERENCES.

"Neither does it illustrate how evolution best explains the noted similarities and differences in the phenotypes."

No, the differences, which you ignore because you can't explain, explain the differences.

"At the same time, the genetic differences are far too meager to explain why chimps lack the uniquely human traits of complex language, math, self-consciousness, moral and transcendent awareness, true altruism, creativity, and logical thought."

No, they aren't, but then you lack sufficient faith to examine real evidence for yourself. That's why you falsely present what people say about the evidence as a substitute:

"As Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the Max Planck Institute, opines, "I'm still amazed, when I see how special humans are ... that we don't find stronger evidence for a huge difference in our genomes.""

Yes, it is amazing. That's why we study biology to find new evidence and you don't while deliberately misrepresenting the extant evidence. That's why everyone who embraces ID, even if he has done actual science in the past, quits doing science.

"Rather than demonstrating "evolution in action," our genetic similarity with chimps suggests that what separates them from us is something much more than the sum total of our genes."

You haven't looked at the differences. You have so little faith that you are afraid to. What evidence has been found since Paabo wrote what you quotemined, Regis?
RickK
First, your bicycle analogy is as stupid as the watchmaker analogy. Tell me, Regis - do your bicycles get together in your garage and reproduce? Do they make little bicycles that are similar but different than themselves?

Are bicycles, Ford SUVs, 747s or pocket watches alive, Regis? Do they reproduce?

If NOT, then your analogy comparing your bicycle to living things is tired, trite hogwash.

You completely missed the point about the evolution of single-celled organisms. They don't change any faster in a lab than they do in nature. They are just as evolved and specialized to their environments as you or I. So expecting them to make the same jump in a few years in a lab that apparently took hundreds of millions of years in nature is a bit of a stretch.

That's like insisting that nobody be convicted of a crime that the jury didn't witness.

But you did dodge my question - if a single celled organism DID evolve into a multi-celled organism in a laboratory, would that convince you that species evolve without supernatural intervention? Would you drop your insistence on the direct intervention of a divine designer? Or would you simply move the goalposts?

And, I didn't argue just "DNA similarities", I argued that there are unique markers that can only be inherited, and you share them with chimps. Do you understand the difference? There is no other way for these unique markers from ancestral retrovirus infections to get into both your DNA and that of other great apes. And nothing but common descent explains the pattern of those inheritances.

As for the 29 evidences, that was in response to your absolutely false assertion that evolution wasn't "falsifiable" (you made that assertion at 4:14pm on April 1). The link I gave you has many many ways that macroevolution could be falsified.

So your statement that macroevolution is an "unfalsifiable theory" is provably and demonstrably hogwash.

Or were you simply making an April Fool's joke?

You didn't respond on the transitional fossil challenge, so we can assume your original assertion that transitional forms are "few, far between and controversial" was also hogwash.

Why are you so comfortable spouting things that are demonstrably untrue? Doesn't it bother you when you repeat false statements?

Isn't being repeatedly proved wrong rather limiting to a writer?

Finally, quoting Paabo to support intelligent design is like quoting Dawkins to support going to church on Easter. Why don't you write to him and ASK him if he agrees with your interpretation of his statement? Ask him if he believes humans evolved naturally, or with the help of divine intervention.

You're a "freelance writer" - go do some research. Ask Paabo what he thinks of this topic.

Regis, you are very keen to use snippets of people's quotes to present a point of view unintended by the author. Gould called this "willful misquotation", and he said people who use such tactics in the name of creationism "debase religion even more than they misconstrue science."

Great job, Regis!
The banana and the mountain bike
Rick – Given the fact that bacteria replicate on the order of minutes rather than years, the rate of evolutionary change is accelerated over 100,000-fold over most life forms. Added to the fact that random mutations have, at any one time, trillions of subjects on which to work their evolutionary magic, they have had more than amble opportunity to show their mettle by producing a multi-celled organism under the microscope.
As your so-called 29 evidences for macro-evolution, let’s examine one that you’ve mentioned several times now: DNA similarities. True, there is a lot of common DNA between humans and chimps; anywhere between 90 and 99%, depending on which study is cited. As it so happens, there’s also around 80% similarity between the DNA of humans and a banana!
Come to think of it, my mountain bike shares many similarities with my Ford Escape: both have wheels, brakes and gears and are made of a metal frame. Yet, who would dare suggest that given enough time, the creative effects of quantum jitters, cosmic rays and wind erosion could morph my bike into an SUV?

No, common DNA is no more evidence of common descent than it is of common design (by an intelligent designer). Neither does it illustrate how evolution best explains the noted similarities and differences in the phenotypes.
At the same time, the genetic differences are far too meager to explain why chimps lack the uniquely human traits of complex language, math, self-consciousness, moral and transcendent awareness, true altruism, creativity, and logical thought. As Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the Max Planck Institute, opines, "I'm still amazed, when I see how special humans are ... that we don't find stronger evidence for a huge difference in our genomes."
Rather than demonstrating "evolution in action," our genetic similarity with chimps suggests that what separates them from us is something much more than the sum total of our genes.
A reply to Steven J. Thompson
I posted a lengthy response at an ID site:

http://telicthoughts.com/meaning-transcends-how-it-works/
Going off the Gould Standard
Regis, Darwinian evolution has to do with biology; fossil preservation has to do with taphonomy (what happens to dead organisms) and geology. Nothing in evolutionary theory predicts that fossils will exist at all. Given that in fact they do, what sort of fossils we should expect depends both on how common fossilization is and the circumstances under which it occurs, and how evolutionary transitions occur.

Darwin's 19th century conclusion that fossilization is a rare fate for a carcass stands. Most things that die are quickly scavanged, or rot and are scattered. Those that are buried and gradually permineralized may be lost in various ways -- buried inaccessibly under later sediments, or conversely, exposed on the surface and eroded away before anyone finds them. Now, despite this, there seem to be a lot of fossils: based on extrapolation from sampling, for example, the Karoo formation in South Africa is estimated to contain approximately 800 billion Permian fossils, with a average size roughly that of a modern fox. There's obviously a lot out there that hasn't been discovered and described. Transitional forms aren't actually that rare compared to the actual number of fossils recovered. The problem is, first, that most of them aren't particularly famous (who cares about transitional fossil hyenas, or fossils showing intermediate stages in the evolution of nostrils for breathing rather than just smelling?), and ID proponents, of course, will insist that their refusal to accept a transitional makes it "controversial."

C.R.C. Paul's article doesn't imply that there are few or no transitional fossils. The only way one could conclude that changes over time in populations were mostly random fluctuations rather than sustained changes in a single direction would be if there were numerous transitional forms.

Back in the 1960s, the geneticist Motoo Kimura argued that at the genetic level, most change is random drift rather than adaption. His views were widely adopted because they explained why, e.g. crocodiles are genetically more similar to birds than they are to lizards, despite sharing the scaly skin and cold blooded metabolism of lizards (it's been accepted among evolutionists since the late 19th century that crocodilians are more closely related to birds than to lizards -- both are archosaur). That this should hold true of phenotypic as well as genetic traits is somewhat surprising but not really a revolution in biology.
Missing link
I think I left off the link to the 29 sets of evidence of macro-evolution. Here it is:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/
Wrong again
Regis:

1) You don't have to witness an event to know that it happened. The judge and jury don't have to SEE the crime to know beyond reasonable doubt that it happened.

You've not answered my question - should we let all criminals out of jail who were convicted on DNA evidence? Should we invalidate all paternity tests? Because it is DNA that proves you are a blood relative of all other mammals.

2) Your malaria example is silly. Single-celled organisms don't allow you to "speed up time". They've evolved over geologic timescales just like multi-celled creatures. So you're not creating a billion years of evolution by watching malaria for 20 years - you're only watching 20 years worth of evolution.

What you CAN see with small, easily observed creatures like Lenski's E. coli is evolution in action - new features evolving through random mutation and natural selection. Regardless of what you wish to state about the malaria plasmodia, the best example of evolution in action is the Lenski experiments because he retains the entire record of every genetic event that leads to every change.

Now, Lenski's E. coli changed shape, changed size, changed metabolism and changed food source. How much more MACRO do you expect an organism to evolve?

Or will you, like most creationists, just keep moving the goalposts?

If Lenski's E. coli evolved into a 2-celled organism tomorrow, would you suddenly accept evolution?

3) Returning to the "evidence of the crime" analogy - if macro evolution doesn't happen (as you assert), how do you explain the irrefutable DNA evidence that you share common ancestors with chimps and orangutans?

4) You were the person raising quotes that indicate there are few transitional fossils in the fossil record. I gave you long lists of transitional fossils, and you dismissed them as not proving evolution.

What my lists DO prove is that your assertion that the fossil record has few transitional fossils is hogwash.

5) Finally, you claimed evolution was "unfalsifiable". Here are 29 different sets of evidence for macroevolution, and descriptions of how you would falsify each of them. All are backed with citations to peer-reviewed scientific research. Each of the arguments are completely consistent with proper scientific method and argument.

Tell me - what evidence would falsify your concept of "intelligent design"?
To the microbiology lab
Rick--To the controversy over which examples are, or are not, transitional there is no end. None have been directly observed or replicated. And because of the geological timescales involved, none are likely to be. The best cases for “evolution in action” are drug-resistant bacteria and pesticide-resistant insects. Yet, even in these cases, the survival benefit is the result, not of increased functionality or information content, but of the loss of information and functionality, as the more “fit” strains lost the ability to digest the drug/pesticide.

In fact, as I have suggested elsewhere, if macro-evolution is true one place where it should be; no, must be demonstrable is in the microbiology lab. There researchers have access to zillions of organisms whose rapid replication allows follow-up for many thousands of generations. One such organism is the single-celled bacterium responsible for malaria.

For several decades, researchers have been studying it by applying various environmental pressures to see how it responds. Yet after trillions upon trillions of replications—many more than occurred in the evolution of fish to mammals—the bacterium never evolved into a multi-celled organism, much less a novel life form. Although it developed a resistance to antibiotic drugs, it remained what it had always been: a single-celled parasite. Similar results have been obtained with other microbes and drosophila. While none of these studies disprove Darwinism, they are strongly contraindicative of its macro-evolutionary claims.
Human Evolution
Just for kicks, let's look at the evidence for common descent between humans an the other great apes.

Here we can set the fossil record aside, and look instead at DNA.

DNA is considered very good evidence for things like paternity tests and criminal trials. The same DNA that we use to determine you are related to your cousin is also used to determine you are related to chimpanzees, more distantly related to gorillas, and even more distantly related to orangutans.

But can we really tell that these genetic similarities were inherited? What if the Divine Designer just happened to use the same patterns when making humans and other apes?

Well, it turns out we CAN prove inheritance.

Retroviruses have this nasty habit of inserting unique bits of DNA in their hosts. In rare cases, the retrovirus can infect the host's reproductive cells (sperm or egg). In such cases, the marker can be passed to any offspring resulting from those reproductive cells.

So if a common ancestor of humans and chimps, for example, got a retrovirus infection in his/her reproductive cells, we should see the genetic marker in both humans and chimps.

And, we do!

So if common descent among the apes is true, then an analysis of retrovirus insertions between humans and the other apes should show a very definitive pattern. Humans will share insertions with orangutans, those and more insertions with gorillas, and those and more with chimps.

That's exactly what we find.

http://www.evolutionarymodel.com/ervs.htm

The DNA doesn't lie.

So, either you accept the power of DNA evidence and agree that humans and other apes evolved from common ancestors, or you let all criminals convicted based on DNA evidence out of jail.

Which is it?
Transitional Species
Regis - the realization that large populations are stable and small populations are more likely to experience evolutionary change was not a "concoction". It was a discovery born out of research utilizing the science you apparently dislike and dismiss.

Instead of quote mining Gould and others, why not look at the actual fossil record:

In fact the fossil record is more rich than almost anyone outside of paleontology realizes. So, here's proof:

An exhaustive (and exhausting) list of text descriptions of transitional fossils between many different major classes of vertebrates:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

Nice readable document about the fossil evidence of continuous transformations from one species to the next:
http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/c.bkgrnd.html

Powerful video on "transitional species denial" by creationists, and how utterly ridiculous it is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfoje7jVJpU&feature=PlayList&p=258CAE2F4546AA95&index=8

Additional links, with pictures:
Reptile to Mammal Transition:
http://www.gcssepm.org/special/cuffey_05.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynodonthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThrinaxodonReptile to Bird Transition:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feathered_dinosaurhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeopteryx

And my personal favorite. Because of evolutionary theory, we're able to look at gaps in the fossil record of transitional species and predict when an undiscovered species lived, and where it lived. We can then go out and find it, thus proving again that evolution WORKS:
http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/searching4Tik.html
(click the 'next' button to page through this easy-to-follow story)

This is a tiny fraction of the available information on the countless transitional species that provide inescapable and unrelenting proof that species evolved over time. There is so much more information to be found in books and research papers, all backed by tangible, physical evidence analyzed under the light of rational thought.

You seem eager to spend your time and effort to deny of one of nature's greatest features - the ability for life to evolve. Instead of "transmitting ignorance", why don't you seek out some of the clergy in the list I cited earlier and ask them how you might use your energies in some way that actually helps people?
Hi Ben!
Long time since we’ve chatted, huh? A few months back I “stumbled” into leading a new Anglican church plant, and the time demands of that has kept me from doing much over at the Point. But it is good to hear from you again!

I want to thank you for making my original point about the transitional forms. When it could no longer be ignored that the actual fossil record stubbornly refused to support gradualism, Gould & Co. concocted “punctuated equilibrium.” Consequently the lines of common descent that adorn the evolutionary trees, shrubs, bushes found in textbooks are based on inference, presuppositions and groupthink; not the evidence itself.

And, yes, from thousands of years of observation, data, and experience, we know, empirically, a designed object when we see it (Mt Rushmore, the Great Pyramid, etc.). A product of evolution (of the macro variety), on the other hand, can only be conjectured from an unproven and unfalsifiable(!) theory.
An attempt at a reply
So.. to put it simply, creatures are designed because they look designed, but where they look like like products of evolution, it's because we don't understand the Designer's intent? Hmm.

To answer Regis' question to Steven: no, modern evolutionary theory does not predict many transitional forms between species. Indeed, from the Palaeontology paper you cited, "Eldredge and Gould presented an alternative view that most morphological change occurs at speciation events, with long periods of stasis (ie, no morphological change) in between. Although the idea generated considerable debate at the time, it is now widely accepted."
The Gould Standard and the Honda
In "The Fidelity of The Fossil Record: The Improbability of Preservation" (Palaeontology, May 2009), C. R. C. Paul writes, concerning the work of G. Hunt published in the Proceeding of the NAS: "Hunt (2007) analysed the frequency of the three patterns in a large sample (251 characters in 51 taxa), covering benthonic and planktonic microfossils and macrofossils (mammals, fish and molluscs), as well as size, shape and other characters. He found that in only 13 characters (5.2%) was directional change (trends) best supported, whereas unbiased random walks and stasis were best supported in 123 (49%) and 115 (45.8%) cases. Hunt commented that since there was an historical bias in favour of trends, 5% was probably an overestimate."

Steven, if Darwinian evolution is true, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect there to be many more examples of transitional forms (if not just as many as final forms), rather than the few, far between, and highly controversial ones purported?

Concerning your question about a defective Honda, the issue is not what a front-office exec thinks, but what the designer thinks about it. And as to your point about the throat, et al, I’ll repeat my earlier response that “an apparently ill-conceived feature or imperfection may reflect our lack of understanding in how it works for the greater benefit of the whole.”
Gould and Morals
Regis:

I have a sharply limited number of skeptical eyebrows to raise about Gould's late declaration that transitional fossils exist.

Still, I've read enough of Gould's popular works to note that, when he speaks of the paucity of transitional forms, he's almost always speaking of transitions between species. He first proposed "stasis" and "punctuated equilibria" in evolution and the fossil record after studying trilobite fossils: one species within a genus would contain individuals with features remniscent of an earlier species in the genus, or of a later one, but the former did not become rarer, or the latter more common, during the trilobite species' stay on Earth, when it was abruptly replaced by another trilobite species in the same genus (i.e. as similar as, say, a coyote is to a wolf, or a robin to a blackbird).

Eldredge, likewise, has said that actual transitional fossils exist: he's defended, e.g. the relevance of _Homo erectus_, or the horse series. In any case, I'm curious as to what you'd expect a transitional form to look like, or why, with respect to our own species, the australopithecines, or KNM-ER1470, or the Dmanisi skulls, or _Homo erectus_, etc. don't count, or why whales with proportionately small heads and hind limbs don't count, or why feathered theropod fossils don't count, etc.

I'm not sure your comment on design and morality makes your point. On the one hand, how does a Honda executive feel about a Honda that for some reason was poorly manufactured, with parts missing or made to substandard specifications? On the other, between the design of the throat that makes it impossible for us to swallow and breathe at the same time (hence the danger of choking at mealtimes) and the design of the prostate gland, human anatomy, however exquisitely complex, reflects some rather dubious design decisions.
Morality
Steven – The features of a designed object reveal a great deal about the value the designer places it. Consider the Honda line of automobiles: the painstaking engineering and craftsmanship evident from bump to bumper on each model reflect the high concern and regard the designers have for the final product.

And although some tort lawyer is probably arguing that the current raft of recalls in the Toyota fleet reflect the maker’s lack of care for the product, it is much more likely that the defects are due to human error or some manufacturing problem.
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