Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Jonathan M. reviews Jerry Coyne’s pro-evolution book

Jonathan M. is breaking it down chapter by chapter at Evolution News. Chapter 2 is on fossils. In his response to chapter 2, he covers fish/amphibian evolution, bird/dinosaur evolution and whale evolution.

Here’s a snippet about the whale series:

The next transitional series alluded to by Coyne is the whale series. One of the most notable problems with the evolution of the whale is the extremely abrupt timescale over which it is supposed to have occurred. The sheer force of this conundrum is only properly appreciated when one considers the multiple feats of anatomical novelty, innovative engineering and genetic rewiring necessary to change a terrestrial mammal like Pakicetus into a fully aquatic whale. Indeed, evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg has argued that even many of the relatively minor changes are extremely unlikely to have occurred in the time-frame allowed. Consider the following small sample of necessary modifications:

  • Counter-current heat exchanger for intra-abdominal testes
  • Ball vertebra
  • Tail flukes and musculature
  • Blubber for temperature insulation
  • Ability to drink sea water (reorganization of kidney tissues)
  • Fetus in breech position (for labor underwater)
  • Nurse young underwater (modified mammae)
  • Forelimbs transformed into flippers
  • Reduction of hindlimbs
  • Reduction/loss of pelvis and sacral vertebrae
  • Reorganization of the musculature for the reproductive organs
  • Hydrodynamic properties of the skin
  • Special lung surfactants
  • Novel muscle systems for the blowhole
  • Modification of the teeth
  • Modification of the eye for underwater vision
  • Emergence and expansion of the mandibular fat pad with complex lipid distribution
  • Reorganization of skull bones and musculature
  • Modification of the ear bones
  • Decoupling of esophagus and trachea
  • Synthesis and metabolism of isovaleric acid (toxic to terrestrial mammals)
  • Emergence of blowhole musculature and their neurological control

According to Richard Sternberg’s calculations, and based on the equations of population genetics applied in a 2008 paper by Durrett and Schmidt in the Journal of Genetics, one may reasonably expect to see two coordinated mutations achieve fixation in the timeframe of around 43.3 million years. When one considers the magnitude of the engineering feat, such a scenario can only be ruled incredible. The problem is accentuated further when one considers that the majority of anatomical novelties unique to aquatic cetaceans (Pelagiceti) appeared during just a few million years — probably within 1-3 million years.

[...]More recently, however, a jawbone was discovered that belonged to a fully aquatic whale dating to 49 million years ago, only four million years afterPakicetus! This means that the first fully aquatic whales now date to around the time when walking whales (Ambulocetus) first appear. This substantially reduces the time window — to 4 or 5 million years, perhaps even less — that may be allotted to the Darwinian mechanism to accomplish truly radical engineering innovations and genetic rewiring. It also suggests that this fully aquatic whale existed before its previously presumed semi-aquatic archaeocetid ancestors.

If you missed chapter 1, it’s here. And chapter 3 is out soon.

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Video of William Lane Craig’s opening speech from his debate on ID with Ayala

Provided by ChristianJR4. If you have a youtube account, please subscribe to his channel

Here is his full opening speech in 3 parts:

You can get the full audio here at Apologetics 315. There’s a good discussion going on in the comments.

You can read more about the debate over on Bradley Monton’s blog. He is an atheist professor who served as moderator during the debate.

Here are Craig’s post-debate comments.

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William Lane Craig’s after-action report on the debate with Francisco Ayala

Here is his after-action report. I think it may be behind the registration firewall, so I’ll quote some of it for you.

Excerpt:

I had heard Ayala lecture on Intelligent Design last year in China and was dismayed by the caricatures and misrepresentations he gave to the Chinese students. So even though I had never debated intelligent design in biology before, I decided to take on this debate to try at least to set the record straight.

The last few months I prepared diligently for this debate, reading Ayala’s work, familiarizing myself with relevant new developments in biology, studying the recent works of ID proponents, conferring with colleagues who work in this field, and formulating the best strategy for the debate.

[...]Since the question we were debating was not whether intelligent design is true but merely whether it is viable, it was up to Ayala to disqualify ID as a live option. In his published work, he tries to disqualify ID both scientifically and theologically, so my opening response fell neatly into two parts. First, I argued that Ayala fails to disqualify ID scientifically because he cannot show that the Darwinian mechanisms are capable of producing the sort of biological complexity we see on earth. Then I argued that the theological arguments he presents against the designer’s being all-powerful and all-good are simply irrelevant to drawing a design inference (however interesting and important they may be for theology) because the design argument doesn’t aspire to show that the designer is all-powerful or all-good.

The debate turned out to be virtually one-sided! Ayala utterly failed to engage with my arguments. It was almost as if I wasn’t even there. It was pretty obvious to everyone that he was just presenting canned arguments which had already been refuted in my opening statement. I responded to all his points and even went beyond them to tackle the theological problem of natural evil as well. I was also able to call him to account for his misrepresentation of Michael Behe’s work. Ayala likes to indict Behe for saying that the human eye is irreducibly complex, even though it isn’t. Holding up Behe’s book and reading aloud the relevant passage, I responded that this allegation was surprising in light of the fact that Behe says on pages 37-38 that the eye is NOT irreducibly complex and therefore he does not use it as one of his examples of irreducible complexity!

Another interesting feature of this debate was the moderator, a young philosopher from the University of Colorado, Boulder, named Bradley Monton. Though a self-confessed atheist, Monton is convinced that the typical refutations of ID that pass muster today are in fact fallacious, and so he has written a book defending not only the scientific status of ID but even its being taught as an option in public schools! Having read his remarkable book in preparation for the debate, I was able to quote “our esteemed moderator” to good effect during the debate itself to counter Ayala’s assertion that ID was not science.

I note that Reasonable Faith has secured a $65000 matching grant for all donations between now and December 31st. Please contribute generously. There is no one on the planet who does more to defend Biblical Christianity than William Lane Craig. No Christian is more feared by atheists. Atheists laugh at Bible-thumping, hand-wringing fundamentalists who preach only to the choir – but they fear William Lane Craig.

You can listen to the MP3 recording of the debate here at Apologetics 315.

Video of Craig’s opening speech is here.

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Craig-Ayala debate may be streamed live over the Internet

Check it out! (H/T Brian Auten of Apolgetics 315)

We are working on streaming the event live.

The event, assuming everything works at the Auditorium, will be from ustream.tv.

If the link does not work, here is the address: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/indiana-university—november-5-2009

UPDATE: The audio for the debate is posted here. (MP3)

You can read Craig’s post-debate comments here.

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How long will it take to sort a deck of cards by trial and error?

Inside the cell, things like proteins and DNA are formed by sequencing parts together in just the right way so that the sequence will have biological function. If the sequence is wrong, because some component of the sequence is the wrong piece or is in the wrong place, the sequence has no function. It’s just like writing English or computer instructions.

To calculate the probabilities, you have to use a rule called “The Product Rule”, because the order of the parts in the sequence (“permutation”) is important. For example, the odds of getting the sequence “ABC” just by choosing three random letters is 1/26 x 1/26 x 1/26 = 1/17576. Things get very unlikely quite quickly, don’t they?

So, take a look at Neil Simpson’s latest post, where he uses cards instead of letters or amino acids, but the principle is exactly the same. His calculation is a little different because the odds actually go down a little each time you choose a card. So, for the first card, it’s 1/52, but the second card is only 1/51, and so on…

Excerpt:

This is by no means a definitive argument against evolution, but I offer it to put the “time, chance and random mutation” theory in perspective.

Everyone knows that micro-evolution occurs, such as dog breeding and bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.  But macro-evolutionists believe that with enough time an amazingly complex single cell of unknown origin could make lots and lots of small changes, develop reproductive capacities and eventually become humans, elephants, caterpillar/butterflies, chameleons and so much more.

Let’s consider something very simple.  Imagine that you shuffle a deck of cards.  If you shuffled it one time per second, how often would all the cards go back into their original order? (Ace of spades, King of spades, etc.)  The math is simply 1/52 (the odds of the Ace of spades being on top) times 1/51 times 1/50, etc. I left out the Jokers to make it easier.

Guess how many years it takes?

Click through to see his calculations, or do them yourself! It’s easy and fun! Neil has a pretty fun discussion going on with the angry atheists who frequent his site, too.

This is everyone should learn probabilities in school, because then we can really talk about these things with our neighbor. Shalini can even do biochemistry, so she can actually explain it even better than I can!

Remember, we are looking for a specific sequence of cards – the sequence that the cards originally came in. In this example, it’s that sequence and that sequence alone that has biological function. The other sequences are just junk – they have no biological function. And most importantly, you don’t get to save any of the cards that are in the right spots because the sequence as a whole has no present function that would allow it to be “saved” for later. You have to re-select all 52 cards each time at random!

A typical protein isn’t made of 52 parts, it’s made of around 200, and there are 80 possible amino acids, not just 26! And in the case of proteins,the vast majority of the possible sequences that you can make won’t have any biological function at all! (And there are many more problems besides, such as chirality, cross reactions, and bonding type). Even if you filled the whole universe with reactants and reacted it all at Planck time, for the entire history of the universe, you still wouldn’t be likely to get even one protein!

You can read more about the origin of life in this post.

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