Thursday, February 08, 2007

`WE have traced the evolution of man up from the fishes ... It looks like a succession of very fortunate accidents' (Broom)

I have decided to alternate my series on Keosian's paper, "The Crisis in the Problem of the Origin of Life" (1978), with a short series on a book, "The Coming of Man: Was It Accident or Design?" (1933) by Robert Broom (1866-1951).

[Above: Robert Broom & Mrs Ples, Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa, About.com]

Broom was a South African medical doctor-turned paleontologist, who became a world authority on mammal-like reptiles, and then became even more eminent as a paleoanthropologist after his discovery in 1947 at Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg, of Mrs Ples (i.e. Plesianthropus transvaalensis), the skull of an Australopithecus africanus (as it was later renamed).

Science writer Roger Lewin notes that, like Alfred Russel Wallace, "Broom argued that divine intervention was the only explanation for the origin of the qualities that made Homo sapiens so special" and argued that (as we shall see) "Much of evolution looks as if it had been planned to result in man" (my emphasis):

"The job of evolutionary theory was to explain the origin of such a gulf. How did the very special qualities of humanity-our intelligence, our moral sense, and so on-that set us upon Huxley's mountaintop come about as the result of naturalistic, rather than divine, forces? Some scientific authorities simply failed to see how it could be done. Most notable among these was Alfred Russel Wallace, who, along with Charles Darwin, was the coinventor of the theory of natural selection. Another was Robert Broom, a pioneer in the recovery of early human fossils from South Africa during the 1930s and 1940s. Although both Wallace and Broom argued that divine intervention was the only explanation for the origin of the qualities that made Homo sapiens so special, their reasons were different. .... Robert Broom, who greatly admired Wallace, certainly believed this, and expressed it clearly in his 1933 book, The Coming of Man: Was It Accident or Design? He wrote, `Much of evolution looks as if it had been planned to result in man, and in other animals and plants to make the world a suitable place for him to dwell in.' Like Wallace, Broom also saw a spiritual guiding hand behind the whole process." (Lewin, R., "In the Age of Mankind: A Smithsonian Book of Human Evolution," Smithsonian Books: Washington DC, 1988, p.26. Emphasis original).

UCSD Biology Professor Christopher Wills points out that Broom had already stated in his 1932 book on the mammal-like reptiles that, "Apart from minor modifications evolution is finished. ... man is the final product; and ... some intelligent controlling power has specially guided one line to result in man" (my emphasis):

"Many others were as puzzled as Wallace about how the huge and obvious differences between humans and other animals could have arisen. Robert Broom, the remarkable paleontologist who discovered the Australopithecines of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai, and whose life and work we will examine in more detail in the next section, embraced theology with only the slightest hesitation at the end of his book The Mammal-like Reptiles of South Africa and the Origin of Mammals (1932): `We seem almost driven to assume that there is some controlling power which modifies the animal according to its needs, and that the changes are inherited. Apart from minor modifications evolution is finished. From which we may perhaps conclude that man is the final product; and that amid all the thousands of apparently useless types of animals that have been formed some intelligent controlling power has specially guided one line to result in man.'" (Wills, C.J., "The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness," [1993], HarperCollins: London, Reprinted, 1994, pp.77-78).

In his 1933 book on man, Broom "suggest[s] the possibility of a spiritual agency in evolution" pointing out that "those who believe in mutations ... know nothing of what may have produced them; and Darwin had to admit that what was behind variations was quite unknown":

"To suggest the possibility of a spiritual agency in evolution will of course evoke a vigorous protest from most scientists ; but if physicists and philosophers are considering the possibility of a spiritual view of the physical universe a biologist may perhaps be excused for considering whether some spiritual agency or agencies may not be largely concerned in the processes of evolution. When we have a very definite effect we may claim the right to consider all possible causes even though at first sight they may appear improbable. Even those who believe in mutations great or small have to admit that they know nothing of what may have produced them; and Darwin had to admit that what was behind variations was quite unknown." (Broom, R., "The Coming of Man: Was it Accident or Design?," H. F. & G. Witherby: London, 1933, pp.210-211).

Broom thus put his finger on what I have, in a previous post called, "the Achilles heel of Darwinism, the unproven (and unprovable) claim that all mutations in the entire ~4 billion year history of life have been random (in the sense of unguided)."

In the concluding chapter Broom observes that "the evolution of man up from the fishes ... looks like a succession of very fortunate accidents" such that "it can hardly be wondered at if doubts arise as to their being accidents at all" (my emphasis):

"WE have traced the evolution of man up from the fishes, and have seen that it has been a very slow, steady progress, with never any going back and with rarely any specialisation till we come to the last stage, when man gets his large brain. The history has been a most remarkable one. It looks like a succession of very fortunate accidents; but as the apparent accidents have always given rise to higher and higher types of organisation, it can hardly be wondered at if doubts arise as to their being accidents at all." (Broom, Ibid, p.212).

Continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).


Exodus 4:10-17. 10Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." 11The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? 12Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." 13But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." 14Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. 15You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it."

2 comments:

Unguided said...

I was just wondering about the following:

"Even those who believe in mutations great or small have to admit that they know nothing of what may have produced them; and Darwin had to admit that what was behind variations was quite unknown." (Broom, R., "The Coming of Man: Was it Accident or Design?," H. F. & G. Witherby: London, 1933, pp.210-211).

Broom thus put his finger on what I have, in a previous post called, "the Achilles heel of Darwinism, the unproven (and unprovable) claim that all mutations in the entire ~4 billion year history of life have been random (in the sense of unguided)."

1. Don't you think it is a bit hard on Broom to hold him to this statement given he has not had the opportunity to see the fair amount of scientific research and discovery in genetics and mutation that has happened since 1951. For example the discovery of the structure of DNA. Is it not like holding Newton to his thoughts about physics knowing he was unaware of the works of Einstein.

2. It is not correct to say that modern evolutionary theory is random and therefore unguided. Changes occur using a combination of random mutation and non-random selection. The process as a whole is most definitley guided by the ability or an organism to survive and reproduce.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Unguided

[...]

>1. Don't you think it is a bit hard on Broom to hold him to this statement given he has not had the opportunity to see the fair amount of scientific research and discovery in genetics and mutation that has happened since 1951. For example the discovery of the structure of DNA. Is it not like holding Newton to his thoughts about physics knowing he was unaware of the works of Einstein.

On that basis Darwin would also be invalidated, because he did not know of Mendelian genetics, let alone not just "the structure of DNA" but the *existence* of DNA!

But Crick & Watson discovering "the structure of DNA" in 1953 did not make much (if any) difference to the understanding of genetics, given that the Neo-Darwinian synthesis of classical Darwinism and Mendelian genetics began in *1929* with R.A. Fisher's "The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection."

Anyway, Broom was a paleontologist, specialising in the origin of mammals and humans, and so he based his argument (as shall be seen in subsequent posts in this series) on the fossil record.

His argument was simply that since "Much of evolution *looks* as if it had been planned to result in man" (my emphasis), therefore it is reasonable to assume that it *was*.

I agree with him, and in fact it had occurred to me, as stated in my "Construction Project Argument from Design" [see http://tinyurl.com/2nvcqa ; http://tinyurl.com/327dgv & http://tinyurl.com/2no32z] before I had heard of Broom's argument.

Broom's reference to "mutations" (which I assume he means *directed* mutations), is his suggested *mechanisms* that "some intelligent controlling power" brought about his (or its) plan.

My point was that it is just an *assumption* of Darwinism (both unproven and *unprovable*), that *all* mutations in the ~4 billion year history of life have been random (in the sense of *undirected*).

This has been pointed out by others (e.g. Denton), that just because "some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous" in the sense of *undirected* "does not necessarily mean that *all* mutations in *all* organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution *have all been entirely spontaneous*" (his emphasis):

"The idea of the spontaneity of mutation is taken as a proven fact by a great many biologists today. And this is the fundamental assumption upon which the whole Darwinian model of nature is based. If it could be shown that some mutations, even a small proportion, are occurring by direction or are adaptive in some sense, then quite literally the whole contingent biology collapses at once. What is very remarkable about this whole issue is that, as is typical of any `unquestioned article of faith,' evidence for the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation is hardly ever presented. Its truth is nearly always assumed. In nearly all the texts on genetics and evolution published over the past four decades, whenever the author attempts to justify the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation, he refers back to a series of crucial experiments carried out in the late forties and early fifties on the bacterium _E. coli_ that were associated with the names of Salvador Luria, Max Delbruck, and Joshua Lederberg. But the fact that some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous does not necessarily mean that *all* mutations in *all* organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution *have all been entirely spontaneous*. ... During the course of the past 4 billion years of evolution, countless trillions of changes have occurred in the DNA sequences of living organisms. There is simply no experimental means of demonstrating that they were all spontaneous." (Denton, M.J., "Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe," Free Press: New York NY, 1998, pp.285-286. Emphasis original)

>2. It is not correct to say that modern evolutionary theory is random and therefore unguided.

I did not say that "modern evolutionary theory is random and therefore unguided." But I do say that "modern evolutionary theory" *claims* (as an implicit starting *assumption*) that all mutations in the ~4 billion year history of life have been "random" in the sense of "unguided".

>Changes occur using a combination of random mutation and non-random selection.

Thanks for making my point that "modern evolutionary theory" only considers "*random* mutation" and then *assumes* that "selection" must be "non-random"!

But (apart from yours being a fallacy of equivocation on the word "random", in that it means *undirected* in respect of "mutation" but it does not mean *directed* in respect of natural "selection"), it is merely a question-begging *assumption* (which is unoproven and indeed *unprovable*), that there cannot be "non-random" mutations, in the sense of *directed*.

Richard Dawkins makes this point in asserting that "no mechanism is known" (i.e. once an Intelligent Designer is ruled out in advance as a possible "mechanism") "that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random":

"There is a fifth respect in which mutation *might* have been nonrandom. We can imagine (just) a form of mutation that was systematically biased in the direction of improving the animal's adaptedness to its life. But although we can imagine it, nobody has ever come close to suggesting any means by which this bias could come about. It is only in this fifth respect, the 'mutationist' respect, that the true, real-life Darwinian insists that mutation is random. Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random in this fifth sense. Mutation is random with respect to adaptive advantage, although it is non- random in all sorts of other respects. It is selection, and only selection, that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom with respect to advantage." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.312. Emphasis original).

This explains why Dawkins is so fanatical in attacking the existence of God as a "Delusion." If an interventionist God like the God of the Bible exists, then this *fundamental* assumption of Darwinism that *all* mutations must have been random, in the sense of undirected, because there is nothing which (or who) could have directed them, *collapses*!

>The process as a whole is most definitley guided by the ability or an organism to survive and reproduce.

See above. This is just a play on the word "guided."

It is *not* the meaning of "guided" that Broom is using it (as quoted by Lewin), in the sense of "some intelligent controlling power has specially *guided* one line to result in man" (my emphasis).

Stephen E. Jones