email - October 2019

Extinction and Speciation

George repeated the same old arguments, which gave us this excuse to refute them all.

The conversation began with this brief email from George:

Without evolution how can you explain that the vast majority of species that ever lived are extinct? God comes down and wipes them out and puts new ones in their place?

This appeared to be an honest question, so I gave him this short answer, which I hoped would point him in the right direction so that he could find the answer for himself:

Extinction happens, regardless of whether there is a god or not. Some species have gone extinct. Some new breeds of dogs, corn, and horses have been developed in historic times. Those are facts. If those new breeds are sufficiently different, some people might choose to call them new species. The concept of a species is purely arbitrary.

The issue isn’t whether or not new species go extinct or arise; the question is whether or not new classes, orders, families, phyla, or kingdoms arise. Of course, new breed of dogs and horses have arisen through breeding. That’s not the issue. Species are just slight variations of existing creatures. The issue is where the first dog, and the first horse came from. Some breeds of dogs and horses might go extinct, and perhaps some day every breed of horse will be extinct, so there will be no more horses at all. That doesn’t explain where the first horse came from.

The idea that a badger with five toes is the ancestor of a horse with one toe (hoof) is without scientific proof.

Admittedly, this was not an exhaustive answer. It was just intended to stimulate him to realize that dividing an existing group into smaller subdivisions is different from creating a remarkably different new group. The insufficiency of my answer turned out to be irrelevant because George didn’t really want to know the answer. He just wanted to start an argument. Here is how he responded:

A badger and a horse have more than 99% DNA in common. All animals, that is living things that do not have cell walls have an immense amount of DNA in common, more than 50%, so how can a tube worm give rise to a pterodactyl? You have to be able to observe that for several hundred million years or so.

Fossils have been found for dinosaurs that have feathers. What else can explain this but evolution? I know to the casual eye that the abundance of life and its inherent complexity leave one to think it could not be an accident, hence the popular belief in Intelligent Design or God.

However, 500 hundred million years of increasingly complex life can only be reconciled by chemical evolution that is genes and DNA. Moths changed color when England begun to burn coal is [sic] copious amounts such that soot was everywhere. When they stopped burning coal leaving soot everywhere the moths went back to their previous color. The existence of mitochondria and what it does shows that creatures can merge where the result is different from where it came from.

Interstellar travel will never occur, it requires the complex infrastructure of a water world, with a moon and a magnetic field to make the planet stable. So life could only occur if it bootstrapped itself. Viruses and single cell creatures came first and on this planet they held sway for over 2 billion years, but that provided the seed material for the life explosion that happened 500 million years or so ago.

Environmental stress lead to evolution. Individuals don’t evolve populations do. DNA is the only common link, it can be no other way. Science has shown that the simplest explanation is almost always the correct one. You can measure evolution in the laboratory will simple creatures via many different methods.

Arguing against evolution is like arguing for a flat earth.

Don’t feel too bad if you had some trouble understanding his poorly written email. His statement, “All animals, that is living things that do not have cell walls,” shows his ignorance right off the bat. Even if he meant to write, “All animals, that is living things that DO have cell walls,” his understanding of the difference between plants and animals is clearly wrong. Both plants and animals have cells with walls. The difference is that plants can make their own food, but animals have to eat plants or other animals for nourishment.

Since we’ve heard these old, worn-out evolutionary arguments many times before, we know what he meant and will explain his invalid arguments to you.

Let’s start with his last sentence first. “Arguing against evolution is like arguing for a flat earth.” It is a baseless assertion because it is a false comparison. It is a cheap attempt at guilt by association. The idea is that people who don’t believe the world is round are stupid, therefore people who don’t believe in evolution are stupid. The reason the comparison is false is that science has proved the world is round—but science hasn’t proved that evolution is responsible for the origin and diversity of life on Earth.

About 200 years before Christ, Eratosthenes of Cyrene accurately calculated the circumference of the Earth by measuring the noonday shadows in two Egyptian cities which were a known distance apart. Measurements and geometry proved the world is round. But, if you don’t believe in geometry, in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan began the first circumnavigation of the world. It took about 3 years to do it, but he did prove the world is round by sailing completely around it. If you think Magellan’s journey was fake news, you have to explain how Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites work.

If I had not written the previous paragraph, and simply written “everybody knows the world is round,” it would have been an unfounded assertion—not a scientific statement. It is a scientific statement that the world is round because (unlike the theory of evolution) there really are scientific arguments that prove it, and I presented them.

For the comparison with evolution to be valid, one would have to have as much scientific evidence for evolution as there is that the world is round. There isn’t any valid scientific evidence for evolution. If there were any valid scientific arguments, George would have presented them. Instead, he presented fallacious speculation. First, he said:

A badger and a horse have more than 99% DNA in common. All animals, that is living things that do not have cell walls have an immense amount of DNA in common, more than 50%, so how can a tube worm give rise to a pterodactyl? You have to be able to observe that for several hundred million years or so.

George mentioned the badger and horse because I used that example in my initial response to him. I used that example because evolutionists formerly claimed that horses evolved from a badger-like animal. As we explained 17 years ago, 1 that idea was first proposed in 1874 and was refuted in 1951. In 2001, we reported my field trip to the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History and showed a photograph of the display in which they admitted that they “once told the horse story wrong.”2

We tried to find a scientific article reporting that “A badger and a horse have more than 99% DNA in common.” It was a fascinating search. We found out that some scientists had used dogs with a keen sense of smell to distinguish badger poop from fox poop and coyote poop, and analyzed “DNA extracted from the sloughed intestinal cells contained in feces.” 3 It seems to us that it would have been easier to take DNA from a badger in a zoo, than to trust the nose of a dog, but that was their choice. In any case, they didn’t compare badger DNA to the DNA of a horse. So, we could not find any actual proof that badgers and horses have more than 99% DNA in common—but it could be true, depending upon how you choose to make the comparison. We showed how to manipulate computed percentages in a previous newsletter. 4 Even so, 99% commonality doesn’t prove common descent any more than it proves common design. It is an irrelevant “fact,” whether it is true or not.

George ended the quote above by asking how a tube worm could give rise to a pterodactyl. That’s a good question, for which evolutionists don’t really have an answer. They make the excuse that they haven’t had several hundred million years to observe how it happened—but that doesn’t prove it did happen. It only proves they believe something that cannot, by their own admission, be observed. If it has never been observed, it isn’t scientific.

George’s next point was,

Fossils have been found for dinosaurs that have feathers. What else can explain this but evolution? I know to the casual eye that the abundance of life and its inherent complexity leave one to think it could not be an accident, hence the popular belief in Intelligent Design or God.

The dinosaurs with feathers argument just points out how arbitrary scientific classification is. It used to be, if a creature had feathers it was a bird. So, in the past, if someone found a fossil with feathers, it would have been a bird, not a dinosaur.

What’s the difference between a bird and a dinosaur? There isn’t any difference, according to some evolutionists. For example, Patrick’s “Paleocave Blog” (which has a title graphic proclaiming, “Trust us, we’re scientists”) says,

T. rex and the pelican are more closely related to each other than T. rex is to Triceratops. … Bird[s] are dinosaurs not just because they evolved from dinosaurs, but because they are more closely related to some of the extinct dinosaurs than those dinosaurs are to each other! So next time that someone tells you that dinosaurs are extinct, you can tell them that, actually, there are probably more species of dinosaur alive today than there were in the Mesozoic! 5

It must be true that Tyrannosaurus rex and the pelican are more closely related to each other than Tyrannosaurus rex is to Triceratops because Patrick is a scientist, and he has a cladogram to prove the relationship!

How can you argue with a diagram like that? Actually, you can do it very easily. You ask, ”What is the basis for the diagram?” We don’t know what data was used in this specific example—but we know how all cladograms are produced. Every species is characterized by a list of important, distinctive, diagnostic attributes. For example, does a particular species of tree have leaves or needles? If it has needles, are they long or short? Do the needles come from the stem individually, or are they in clumps of two, three, or more needles? If it has leaves, do the leaves have lobes? If so, how many lobes? The lists of attributes for all the studied species are fed into an unbiased computer which compares attributes to see which species are most similar. Computers are unbiased, but the outcome is completely determined by the attributes the biased programmer tells the computer to compare. If the cladogram isn’t satisfactory to the programmer, the programmer can change the list of attributes to get a more acceptable answer.

We’ve given examples of why cladograms don’t work in previous newsletters, 6 7 8 9 including one which showed why the method could not possibly correctly represent the relationships in the British Royal Family. 10

George asked, “What else can explain this but evolution?” Then he answered his own question, “I know to the casual eye that the abundance of life and its inherent complexity leave one to think it could not be an accident, hence the popular belief in Intelligent Design or God.”

Let’s go on to George’s next paragraph.

However, 500 hundred million years of increasingly complex life can only be reconciled by chemical evolution that is genes and DNA. Moths changed color when England begun to burn coal is [we think he meant, “in”] copious amounts such that soot was everywhere. When they stopped burning coal leaving soot everywhere the moths went back to their previous color. The existence of mitochondria and what it does shows that creatures can merge where the result is different from where it came from.

His first sentence is nothing more than a baseless assertion. It is just as baseless as saying, “complex life can only be explained by creation.” Saying something doesn’t make it true.

The peppered moth argument has been refuted so many times by creationists that we are surprised George would fall back on such a weak argument. There were black and white peppered moths before the English burned any coal, and there were black and white peppered moths while the English burned lots of coal, and there are still black and white peppered moths today. No evolution happened. The demographics just shifted back and forth. Furthermore, the methodology was flawed, as we pointed out seventeen years ago. 11

The statement, “The existence of mitochondria and what it does shows that creatures can merge where the result is different from where it came from,” makes no sense, so we can’t address it. Let’s go on to George’s next paragraph.

Interstellar travel will never occur, it requires the complex infrastructure of a water world, with a moon and a magnetic field to make the planet stable. So life could only occur if it bootstrapped itself. Viruses and single cell creatures came first and on this planet they held sway for over 2 billion years, but that provided the seed material for the life explosion that happened 500 million years or so ago.

His first sentence makes no sense. Because we are familiar with the evolutionists’ arguments, we know he meant to say that interstellar travel of life from another planet to Earth could not be the origin of life on Earth. Some evolutionists, who correctly recognize the fact that life could not have originated spontaneously on Earth, believe that life came from outer space. This concept is called, “panspermia,” which you can search for on the Internet if you want more details. George apparently disagrees with the concept of panspermia because it would require, “the complex infrastructure of a water world, with a moon and a magnetic field to make the planet stable.” George apparently believes Earth is the only planet in the Universe that meets his arbitrary criteria. He is just repeating an evolutionary argument he doesn’t really understand.

The statement, “life could only occur if it bootstrapped itself,” shows that George doesn’t understand bootstrapping because bootstrapping is impossible.

This gives me an excuse to tell an interesting, self-indulgent, personal story which may not appear to have anything to do with evolution—but trust me, it does.

Bootstrapping

The origin of this descriptive phrase isn't known. It refers of course to boots and the straps that some boots have attached to help the wearer pull them on and to the imagined feat of a lifting oneself off the ground by pulling on one's bootstraps. This impossible task is supposed to exemplify the achievement in getting out of a difficult situation by one's own efforts. 12

If you are wearing boots, you cannot lift yourself up off the floor no matter how strong you are because, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That is, if you pull up on your bootstraps with 400 pounds of force, your boots will pull your hands down with 400 pounds of force, so the net force on your body is zero, and you won’t budge an inch off the ground.

When your computer stops working, often you can fix it by turning it off, and then turning it back on again. This is called, “booting the computer.” This has nothing to do with kicking the computer, despite how much satisfaction that might give you. It has to do with running the bootstrap program.

In 1975, my boss bought our branch a brand new PDP-11/20 computer, for which we had no need, and nobody knew how to use. (I worked for the government at the time.) So, it just sat in a corner, unused. At the time, I was way ahead of schedule on my part of the project, and was waiting for others to get their parts of the project to get to a point where I could proceed. So, I decided to teach myself how to use the PDP-11/20. (It turned out not to be a waste of taxpayer dollars because I soon used it to develop a signal processing algorithm for the FOLPEN radar and was awarded U.S. Patent 332,397 for it.)

A computer works by executing a sequence of instructions (a “program”) that is stored in the computer’s memory. The PDP-11/20 used a paper tape reader program to read an application program from a punched paper tape and copy the instructions from the paper tape into the computer memory. But, how do you get the program that reads the paper tapes into the computer’s memory without a program already in the memory to read a paper tape? The computer would have to pull itself up by its own bootstraps, which is impossible. Since the computer could not do it all by itself, someone had to manually enter a “bootstrap program” into memory.

On the front panel of the PDP-11/20 there was a group of 18 address/data switches, then a group of 6 control switches, and one switch all by itself in the lower right corner.

When a switch was down, it represented 0. When a switch was up, it represented 1. To enter the first instruction of the bootstrap program into the computer memory, I had to set the switches to 000001010111000001 and press the switch in the lower right corner of control panel. Then, to enter the second instruction, I had to set the switches to 000000000000010110 and press the switch in the lower right corner. Then, to enter the third instruction, I had to set the switches to 000001010111000010, and press the switch in the lower right corner. Fourteen instructions had to be entered this way. Fourteen times eighteen switches is 252 switches, which all had to be set in exactly the right position in order to enter the bootstrap program into memory. Then I had to press the start swtich (one of the six control switches ) to run the Bootstrap Program, which would do nothing but read the Absolute Loader program from paper tape into a particular location in memory. The Absolute Loader program was a longer program which would read any program from paper tape and put that program in the proper place in memory and run it.

Modern computers have a small bootstrap program stored in memory. When power is turned on, it runs the bootstrap program which reads the operating system into memory, which loads all the other programs.

Here’s what this has to do with evolution: A living cell is like a computer. It has the machinery to read instructions from memory (that is, the DNA molecule) and execute those instructions to build proteins, and do other stuff necessary for life to function. How did the cell get the machinery to read instructions from the DNA molecule? It built that machinery from instructions it got from the DNA molecule. But without the machinery to read the DNA, how could it know how to read the DNA to know how to build the machinery? And how did the billions of toggle switches in the DNA get set to the proper values which represent the instructions to make all the machinery in a living cell?

It might not surprise you to know that on one occasion (or maybe more than one occasion ) I did not set all the 252 switches to exactly the correct values, and the Bootstrap program did not run properly (and I had to try to set all 252 switches to the correct values again). If I could not set just 252 switches to the right values on purpose, how likely is it that the billions of genetic switches in the DNA molecule got set to the right values by accident?

This brings us back to George’s assertion that “life could only occur if it bootstrapped itself.” Life could not have bootstrapped itself any more than someone randomly setting the 252 switches on the front panel of a PDP-11/20 computer could enter a functional Bootstrap program.

The Final Four

George’s final four arguments were packed in a single paragraph.

[1]Environmental stress lead [sic] to evolution. [2]Individuals don’t evolve populations do. DNA is the only common link, it can be no other way. Science has shown that [3] the simplest explanation is almost always the correct one. [4] You can measure evolution in the laboratory will simple creatures via many different methods.

1. The notion that environment stress led to evolution is a baseless assertion. If it were true, we should do everything humanly possible to cause climate change, which would increase environmental stress, which would cause plants and animals to evolve into better species.

2. George is correct to say, “Individuals don’t evolve[,] populations do.” We first stated that demographics do change in the July, 1997, newsletter,13 and have said so multiple times since. 14 Changes in the ratios of existing species have nothing to do with the origin of new species.

3. The simplest explanation isn’t necessarily correct. “God said it, and it happened” is a much simpler explanation than descent with modification—but George clearly does not believe that science has proved that creation (the simplest explanation) is probably correct.

4. His final statement (that evolution has been measured in the laboratory) is misleading (to be charitable). Yes, microevolution (minor variations) has been observed. Creationists agree. In fact, creationists say that the two individuals of the “horse kind” on Noah’s Ark begat all the different breeds of horses, which is why Noah’s Ark was big enough to hold all the animals necessary to repopulate the Earth. There is no controversy about microevolution. Macroevolution (the origin of a fundamentally different species) is what the controversy is about. Macroevolution has never been observed in the laboratory, or in nature.

We were sad to learn that these old evolutionary arguments are still around, and sad that George was taken in by them—but we are glad for the opportunity to refute them (again).

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Footnotes:

1 Disclosure, February 2002, “Horses and Peppered Moths”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i5f.htm
2 Disclosure, December 2001, “A Field Trip to the Field Museum”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i3f.htm
3 Deborah A. Smith, et al., Science, 19 Jan 2001, “Canine Assistants for Conservationists”, https://science.sciencemag.org/content/291/5503/435.2
4 Disclosure, January 2003, “98% Chimp”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v7i4f.htm
5 Originally posted in June, 2013, at http://paleocave.sciencesortof.com/2013/06/why-are-birds-dinosaurs/ and quoted on April, 2017, at https://sharerudition.com/2017/04/23/birds-are-dinosaurs/
6 Disclosure, March 1998, “Dinobirds”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v2i6f.htm
7 Disclosure, June 2011, “Fishy Cladistics”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v15i9f.htm
8 Disclosure, September 2016, “Guitar Cladistics”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v20i12f.htm
9 Disclosure, April 2017, “Foolish Email 2017”, http://www.scienceagainstevolution.info/v21i7e1.htm
10 Disclosure, October 2015, “Caffeine and Insects”, http://www.scienceagainstevolution.info/v20i1e1.htm
11 Disclosure, February 2002, “Horses and Peppered Moths”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i5f.htm
12 https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps.html
13 Disclosure, July 1997, “Pigeons and Sparrows”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v1i10f.htm
14 Disclosure, July 2002, “No Nonsense”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v6i10f.htm and Disclosure, June 2003, “Allele Frequency”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v7i9e.htm