Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PoE: 1.1 What is "evolution"?

Here belatedly, is the next installment of my book outline, "Problems of Evolution," section, 1.1 What is evolution? I will from

[Above (click to enlarge): "Evolution," Wikipedia. As we shall see, common descent (as represented by this "tree of life" diagram or cladogram) is not necessarily "evolution." ]

now on abbreviate the subject line from "Problems of Evolution" to "PoE" so as to better fit the Blog Archive panel on the right.

I hope to post a new subsection page every few days, which will be linked to the section page above it. To avoid getting bogged down in documenting each point, I will in the first instance write each subsection `off the top of my head' with no, or minimal, documentation, and I will then later in the background `flesh out' each page, complete with documentation. These online pages will then be the basis of a future book, "Problems of Evolution".

I am going to do the same over on my other blog, TheShroudofTurin where I will write in parallel the outline of another future book, "The Shroud of Turin: Burial Sheet of Jesus?"

I am setting no time-frame on the completion of these two books, except to say that I expect they will take several years. Basically I am channelling my blogging into a format where I will over time comprehensively cover most of the major points in each major subject (the major problems of the theory of evolution, and the evidence for and against the Shroud of Turin being the very burial sheet of Jesus) and at the end of each I will have something tangible to show for my blogging!


PROBLEMS OF EVOLUTION
© Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology)

CONTENTS

1. INTRODUCTION
1.1. What is evolution?
1.1.1. No standard definition of "evolution"
1.1.2. The original meaning of "evolution"
1.1.3. Herbert Spencer's meaning of "evolution"
1.1.4. Charles Darwin's takeover of "evolution"
1.1.5. Not merely change over time
1.1.6. Not merely change of gene frequency in a population
1.1.7. Not merely common descent
1.1.8. Not merely speciation
1.1.9. Not merely mechanisms
1.1.10. God had no part in this process

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biol).
My other blog: TheShroudofTurin


"BY MR. ROTHSCHILD: Q It says there, `The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming.' And then it says, `Those opposed to the teaching of evolution sometimes use quotations from prominent scientists out of context to claim that scientists do not support evolution.' Do you agree that that's a problem, Professor Behe? A Well, I have a couple things to say about that, those sentences that you just read. First of all, this is another wonderful illustration of the confusion of the different senses of the word `evolution.' `The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming.' What is evolution? Is it Darwin's mechanism of random mutation and natural selection? Do they cite any writings by, say, Stuart Kauffman or the complexity theorists who object to that? I don't see anything there." (Behe, M.J., "Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.," Transcript, Day 11, October 17, 2005, Afternoon session, part 1. Emphasis original)

"What is evolution? Evolution in the broadest sense explains that what we see today is different from what existed in the past. Galaxies, stars, the solar system, and Earth have changed through time, and so has life on Earth. Biological evolution concerns changes in living things during the history of life on Earth. It explains that living things share common ancestors. Over time, biological processes such as natural selection give rise to new species. Darwin called this process `descent with modification,' which remains a good definition of biological evolution today." ("Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences," National Academy Press: Washington DC, Second Edition, 1999, p.27. Emphasis original).

"WHAT IS EVOLUTION? The term 'evolution', as Mayr (1982) points out, has had many meanings. In its loosest sense, it is used to describe any change in any thing. In a much stricter biological sense, to modern geneticists it is 'any change in genetic makeup in populations of organisms'. This definition of biological evolution, while strictly correct, does not include any of the particular processes or products now accepted as being implicit in the concept. Accordingly, evolution can be defined more fully as: 'The origin of life from prebiotic substances and the subsequent differentiation through time of all species from preexisting species, this ongoing process being the result of changes produced by natural selection and/or mutation in the genetic makeup of populations'. Although Charles Darwin's basic concept of evolution, as set out in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (Darwin, 1859), still survives among contemporary evolutionists, it has undergone considerable modification. Many additional concepts have resulted from modern evolutionary studies (e.g. Curtis, 1983; Luria et al., 1981; Mayr, 1982; Nei and Koehn, 1983; Stebbins and Ayala, 1985). For example, we now understand the basic genetic mechanisms of evolution that were unknown to Darwin and as a consequence we realise that there are many more ways in which populations change and species arise and survive than he visualised in 1859 (Gould, 1977; Stebbins and Ayala, 1985; White, 1978). Biologists who use this wider 'synthetic' array of concepts to solve evolutionary problems have been referred to as 'neo-Darwinists'." (Selkirk, D.R. & Burrows, F.J., eds., "Confronting Creationism: Defending Darwin," New South Wales University Press: Kensington NSW, Australia, 1988, p.19. Emphasis original)

"What Is Evolution? Before reviewing creationists' arguments against evolution, a brief summary of the theory itself might be useful. Darwin's theory, outlined in his 1859 On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, can be summarized as follows (Gould 1987a; Mayr 1982, 1988): Evolution*: Organisms change through time. Both the fossil record and nature today make this obvious. .... The debate rages, while creationists sit on the sidelines hoping for a double knockout. They will not get it. These scientists are not arguing about whether evolution happened; they are debating the rate and mechanism of evolutionary change. When it all shakes down, the theory of evolution will be stronger than ever." (Shermer, M.B., "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time," W.H. Freeman & Co: New York NY, 1997, pp.140-141. Emphasis original).

"What is evolution? Biological evolution is the theory that all living things are modified descendants of a common ancestor that lived in the distant past. It claims that you and I are descendants of ape-like ancestors, and that they in turn came from still more primitive animals. This is the primary meaning of `evolution' among biologists. `Biological evolution,' according to the National Academy's booklet, `explains that living things share common ancestors. Over time, evolutionary change gives rise to new species. Darwin called this process `descent with modification,' and it remains a good definition of biological evolution today.' ["Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences," National Academy Press: Washington DC, Second edition, 1999, p.27] For Charles Darwin, descent with modification was the origin of all living things after the first organisms. He wrote in The Origin of Species: `I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings' [Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species," John Murray: London, Sixth Edition, 1872, p.428] that lived in the distant past. The reason living things are now so different from each other, Darwin believed, is that they have been modified by natural selection, or survival of the fittest: `I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive, means of modification.' [Ibid, p.421] When proponents of Darwin's theory are responding to critics, they sometimes claim that `evolution' means simply change over time. But this is clearly an evasion. No rational person denies the reality of change, and we did not need Charles Darwin to convince us of it. If `evolution' meant only this, it would be utterly uncontroversial. Nobody believes that biological evolution is simply change over time." (Wells, J., "Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?: Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong," Regnery: Washington DC, 2000, pp.4-5. Emphasis original).

2 comments:

Karmyn Tyler said...

My aunt pointed me to your site. I am also a Creationist believer. I am currently reading the book "The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution" by A.E. Wilder-Smith. It's quite fascinating! I've had to remember what I learned in my chemistry and science classes, but so far he has done a fantastic job explaining the science behind both creationism and evolution!

Stephen E. Jones said...

Karmyn

>My aunt pointed me to your site. I am also a Creationist believer.

Thanks for your comment. Apologies for the delay but my wife and I have just returned from a week in Melbourne, celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary.

>I am currently reading the book "The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution" by A.E. Wilder-Smith. It's quite fascinating!

Wilder-Smith was a forerunner of the ID movement. He was one of the first to point out that biological information must have an intelligent source.

His critique of the naturalistic origin of life theory (see TNSKNoE chs 2-5).

>I've had to remember what I learned in my chemistry and science classes, but so far he has done a fantastic job explaining the science behind both creationism and evolution!

I hope to get back to writing here on my CED blog my book outline, Problems of Evolution. I have been caught up with more urgent issues on my Jesus *is* Jehovah! and The Shroud of Turin blogs.

Stephen E. Jones