Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'll continue with Kent Hovind's infamous dissertation, but first...

I can't believe how busy I've become that I've forgotten all about blogging! Luckily, quarter's almost over and I'm getting okay grades, plus I have The Best Roommate Ever -- a mad science-type like me! -- to whom I am also teaching Spanish!

Next post will be the next part of my Kent Hovind analysis, but first, a few words from the YEC who started this mad studying of mine, as well as my response.

Technically I started this incident, on a Facebook message, thusly:

...One other thing, though, seeing as this just happened as I got online. Just one video in on YouTube and I slipped upon and cracked my head open over this one:

I'm rubbing my scalp right now. Hurts like hell, and I wanted to share the pain.

Reason is, it's this guy who is asking Richard Dawkins a question that makes absolutely no sense at all, hence my cranium is still throbbing.

I started to think to myself, though, "[AR] would know what the big deal here is, wouldn't he? I should show him this."

I just wanted you to hear this question and tell me, in two or three sentences, why I would have a facepalm print.

Why I would ask you to do this, I don't know. Maybe because it's the first video I've seen with the word 'creationist' in the title for a long time, and because I was just thinking of you beforehand.

In any case, I'm not trying to belittle you or anything, I really think this is a good question to ask since I know you can do this.

He wrote me back, and I responded, although I needed to post so many additional clarifications and such afterward ("...also, I forgot to mention...") that not long after, I re-edited the entire thing, incorporating all my corrections into the original text.

In doing so, I also copied and pasted his message into my message, and responded to each of his points so that we start with a part of his response, then follow with my answer to it. This is literally my message to him, not modified in any way other than my own text is green:

"Okay, okay, we get that evolutionary theory teaches continual improvement - the idea being, that these complex organs and systems developed in less-evolved creatures, which led to the creatures themselves becoming more and more complex, etc. It's not that we think Darwinists believed the first humans or humanoids were blind - that WOULD be silly, and a blatant misinterpretation of the theory."
Indeed! Although what do you mean by 'we'? So many creationism proponents also say things that you wouldn't agree with, and many of them are disparaging towards Intelligent Design for various reasons, so it's not as though 'creationists' are a coherent group.

"So I believe the guy who wrote all the little captions for this video didn't quite understand what this cat was really asking here."
Actually, I often have heard some creationists literally say things like, "Evolutionists are so stupid because they think their ancestors were stumbling around without eyes and had to wait millions of years for eyes to evolve. Imagine! People unable to find food or make shelter, and they would have fallen off cliffs! Obviously, since that's impossible, then evolution is impossible, and that's why anyone who believes it is an idiot!"
` I'm not joking -- this is a very prominent view, which is why I would think the interviewer had the same idea.

"What he's asking, in essence, is how creatures were supposed to function WHILE these systems were coming into being in the first place - which, okay, Darwinists have a perfectly feasible explanation for, from their point of view."
Well, what do you think their point of view IS? I'm interested to know.

"The idea of irreducibility, simply put, is that these systems are too complex to function with any one part of them missing or incomplete - that these systems must be whole and in proper order to function and sustain the life they are part of."
I know the concept; the problem is is that exactly none of the systems ever proposed are actually irreducibly complex; simpler versions exist, which instead of being non-functional have a different function. Also, their various components also have other functions in other structures -- the same parts are used over and over for different things.

It's only a matter of combining components that already exist which can make more complex structures, which are far from irreducible. Which example would you like me to give you?

"An eye may be a bundle of nerves, but it is a very specifically oriented one, unlike any other in the body."
Do you think biologists aren't aware of this?

"Moreover, creationists observe patterns - we see that the eye is not really a unique system, and that, though other creatures possess variations on this theme, the eyes of most creatures are quite similar, both in their function and complexity."
That's not true: When you look all over the animal kingdom, you see eyes of various 'stages' of complexity.

That's because some animals have very simple eyes because they don't need, or are not able to use, more complex ones.

For example, the snail-like limpet only needs simple eyes for detecting the shadow of a predator. While it is feeding underwater, it pokes its eyes out from under its shell and turns them upward. When a shadow appears overhead, the limpet clamps down and cannot be pried up. Just seeing the shadow is the difference between life and death, so even crummy vision is a life-saving trait.

The nautilus is a more complex mollusc, also with a spiral shell, although it's more complex than a snail and has a modified foot that we call tentacles. It also has a hollow eye with no lens and seawater actually flows in and out of it. It can make out blurry images at best, and often clunks into things because its eyes don't point forwards as it swims, but this is certainly better than no vision at all.

This also applies to you -- when you take off your glasses, you may not be able to see everything clearly, but surely this is not the same as being blind! This is why only having 'half an eye' is very valuable.

Interestingly, the box jellyfish has many eyes, some simple and others are complex, with a retina, lens, etc. Yet, its complex eyes are out-of-focus because it does not have a brain that can process complex information:

It is a predator of small fish, but if it could see clearly, it would confuse the motion of bits of debris with small animals, so it would be completely confused and perhaps suffer a sensory overload. So, even with complex eyes, clear vision is not always the most beneficial!

Here, this 3-minute video will visually show you what these eyes LOOK LIKE, on the inside, and how they can improve in a fairly straightforward manner to become more effective. It is this that biologists actually see is going on with the evolution of eyes (or any other system you can think of, including immune systems, which are at least as variable as eyes).

So, now you've seen with your OWN eyes -- they are not irreducibly complex!

Some animals, as you've seen, only have an eye that tells them of the presence of light, and the cells of their 'eyes', if you can call them that, are scarcely different from other types of nerve cells, and among other things, allows them to figure out which way is up or down.

If a nerve cell reacts to light, rather than another stimulus, then it can be an enormous advantage. Even the simplest organisms can learn to associate one stimulus with another, such as good food and light.

If the first microorganism with a light-sensitive cell could associate, say, feeding on photosynthesizing organisms floating on the surface of the water with this new stimulus, it wouldn't get lost if it should drift farther underwater where it's darker because it could see light coming from where it needs to go.

So, how do biologists think that OUR complex eyes evolved in the first place?

I'm not an expert, so I can't describe this in great detail, but the gist of it is that since we're vertebrates, our first vertebrate ancestors had rudimentary, very simple 'half'-eyes (which are seen in simple vertebrates and vertebrate relatives).

Our first vertebrate ancestors to have something more like an eyeball were jawless animals that might be called 'fish', for lack of a better term. In modern vertebrate embryos, this is the kind of eye that develops first before going on to develop into the type of eye characteristic of their species.

An octopus, whose eyes are as complex as ours, is on a different branch of life's family tree, one that begins with molluscs that have simple eyes, so it could not have evolved its complex eyes from vertebrates. If you look at an octopus' eye, as it is developing, you can see that it forms in an entirely different way from that of a vertebrate's:

Vertebrate eyes develop from our brains extending to become a retina surrounded by specialized tissues, whereas an octopus' eye develops from a light-sensitive patch of skin that pockets inwards to become a retina and other structures. In other words, similar-functioning complex structures of an octopus' eyes are not homologous to ours.

Even more, the octopus' retina points forwards, whereas our retinae face the backs of our eyes so that incoming light has to pass through networks of nerves and blood vessels with the optical nerve 'in the way', creating a blind spot. This is one of countless things in the human body that biologists can point to as an example of the inefficiency of evolution.

Also unlike vertebrates, the octopus focuses by moving its lens back and forth, rather than changing the shape of the lens. Clearly, their eyes are similar to ours, but these complex structures could not have evolved in the same way; they evolved in parallel, one from an octopus common ancestor (something more like a nautilus), the other from a vertebrate common ancestor (which had a spine and breathed underwater).

The significance is, a vertebrate's eye may be able to become more complex or super-acute in certain ways, but it can never develop like an octopus' eye because our eyes are constrained by the eyes our ancestors had.

Insects, who belong to a completely different branch of the animal 'family tree' all have compound eyes, and why? Because they had a common ancestor that developed a cluster of tiny eyes that evolved into compound eyes, and that's what they have to work with. So on and so forth with different branches.

This same pattern of common ancestry is found for every organ and every gene in every organism ever studied, showing the same relationships no matter what you look at; the eye is just one example out of all examples.

Here's a twist: the same gene that triggers eye development in the first place is the same gene across different branches! Implant this gene from a mouse in a fruit fly and the fruit fly's eyes develop normally. This is one of the many clues that have led biologists to deduce that animals with eyes have a common ancestor that must have had simple eyespots, without the complexities of later eyes.

As different branches on the 'family tree' evolved their own kinds of more complex eyes, they still used the same gene to 'turn on' eye development, even though they use other patterns of genes to make the different forms of eyes.

So, various branches have eyes which are analogous (superficial resemblance), but largely not homologous (using the same corresponding body parts). Molluscs may have a particular homology of eye, although their eyes' level of complexity largely depends on the needs of the species, whether it be scallop, snail or octopus.

"On a side note, think about xenotransplantation - how doctors are able to implant organs from other creatures into humans. While these systems are themselves markedly different from the same systems found in humans, they are often similar enough to use in place of those systems within the human body. I dunno if that really has anything to do with this, I'm just throwing it out there..."
Since scientists once predicted that we can use organs from other animals because we share a common ancestor with other species and share similar cell types and functions -- similar to what I've described with the eye example -- I cannot think of why you would say that would contradict evolution in any way. Is there a specific reason?

"Anyway, the idea being, we see these systems as having complexity similar to machines, such as a watch or a computer. Even as you couldn't get a watch to form by leaving a lump of metal lying around, with nothing but the elements and time to work on it, so we believe that a system as complex as the life we see on earth could not have come about by random circumstances, but by design, the action and direction of an intelligent force of will."
Of course we do not see watches build themselves -- they are not alive. They are inert material that does nothing on its own. And yet, we built ourselves in nine months, with the help of our parents, and continued to develop into adults. No one put us together.

Thus, comparing things that -- by definition -- eat, grow, repair themselves and build offspring, to something which cannot do any of these things, is a false analogy. Left to themselves, buildings fall apart, but organisms continue taking in energy, which ultimately comes from the sun, and utilize it to continue building new life. (This is how they thwart the second law of thermodynamics, thus organisms as a whole will cheat death until entropy kills the sun.)

Where do we see organisms come from? We don't see anything building them; we see that their parents spawn them. Organisms 'know how to' make offspring -- they are literally a creative force, whereas pieces of metal simply oxidize.

So, if everything today came from its ancestor, and each of those ancestors came from its ancestor, all the way back to the first ancestor, then how did that ancestor come to be? What process created the creative force?

Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with 'lightning striking a mud puddle' or 'spontaneous generation' or other completely whacked-out ideas that nobody believes. This is ridicule, pure and simple; it has nothing to do with anyone's work in abiogenesis.

Luckily, I happen to know a video that I really think is wonderful for visually just showing you what the origin of life could look like, through the the first lipid spheres and nucleic acids to a living thing much simpler than a modern cell.

I do recall trying to give you some idea of this before, but this SHOWS you the kinds of processes that happen in conditions more similar to lifeless planets (such as Venus or Mars, but with a more agreeable climate!):

Also, there are other, partly distinct hypothetical ways that life could originate -- the biggest problem that scientists who study abiogenesis have is figuring out which one is correct. This one is still in the running, however, since it has been experimentally verified to a fairly high degree.

"While we are able to observe similarities in nature, and understand how various systems tend to be similar to one another, we do not interpret this as pointing to a common ancestry - rather, we see a unity in essence, in being, and in function."
Well then, are there explanations for the fact that the family tree of common descent is always seen in nature and never broken? In other words, why is it that EVERYTHING can be classified as being some twig or other on one big tree of life, no matter what evidence you look at?

For example, why can't God make a vertebrate with six limbs? Or a vertebrate whose eye (or anything else) develops like that of an octopus? Would God be able to make something that is half bird and half mammal, or any other impossible chimera, by combining two distant twigs into one organism?

It amuses me that some creationism proponents say that the existence of exactly these non-classifiable organisms such as the 'crocoduck' or 'rhinopus' or Hovind's 'banana dragonfly' and 'pine cone man' would prove evolution, when in fact they go against all evolutionary rules and would actually disprove common descent.

What about a fly that uses the mouse version of the gene that 'turns on' eye development instead of the fly version? Such things have never -- I repeat, NEVER -- been found, but if they were, common ancestry wouldn't make sense. If such 'signatures' were found all around us, we'd have reason to believe something besides evolution is going on.

I've also found some great videos which explain this visually, giving many specific examples for illustrations, but as that would take a while, I'll skip it for now.

"We see similarities exist for the sake of life being able to function together in the collective biosphere of the planet; indeed, this collective biosphere, in all its complexity and intricacy, we consider a system far too complex to be left to chance. If everything works together, in such incredible harmony, how are we supposed to believe it simply happened with no one to orchestrate that harmony?"
No biologist thinks that the world's ecosystems were left to chance, at least not random chance. Evolution is not up to chance -- the environment is the designer in nature. This also means that organisms sculpt and define one another in complex ways just by interacting, which cannot be avoided. Once you understand how this works, it is easy to see how it can create the harmony in earth's ecosystems.

Sure, mutations are random, and very common, and the individual life path of each life form is partly due to chance, and partly due to genetics. This is only a small part of evolution. What else were you under the impression was left to chance? (There are statistical patterns, yes, but this isn't what you mean by 'chance', is it?)

"In particular, how are we to believe that this came out of a system predicated on the idea of competition, of the weak being trampled under by the strong - particularly when we see that the "weak" and "strong" are co-dependent?"
I don't understand what you mean by this: Natural selection can work to increasingly change an organism BECAUSE the "weak" and "strong" are co-dependent. How? Simply put, today's "strong" is tomorrow's "weak": When something that can survive better than the previous 'best' of its species, it's going to raise the bar on survival standards.

Once raised, these standards can only 'ratchet up' because while species can go for a long time without changing much, they also cannot take a step back because the least fit members of each generation are the ones that die off. Organisms with harmful traits don't generally factor into the gene pool.

On the other hand, individuals with better survival traits, for better fighting off a particular disease, better able to outrun predators, better camouflage, etc. will consistently survive and one day be all that is left. With their new traits combined, you have a species that is better adapted to its environment.

Yet, because of the continuous stream of mutations, there will always be some born that have more/enhanced beneficial traits, and thus will have a higher reproductive fitness and replace the ones that were previously the fittest. On and on it goes like this.

When you factor in organism interactions, you can see that species ratchet one another along. Take for example the early cheetahs of North America. Looking at their skeletal structure, they were clearly not as fast as modern species. However, as their pronghorn prey became better at escaping, only the fastest cheetahs could survive.

In turn, only the fastest pronghorns could outrun these faster cheetahs, thus selecting even faster cheetahs for survival. They co-evolved in this way, forcing one another to run faster and faster. This is the reason why modern pronghorns can run as fast as a cheetah, and even keep it up for longer!

The North American cheetahs, however, did not survive past the last ice age and human colonization -- although some of them followed herds across Beringia when sea levels permitted it, and made their home in the Old World. Nevertheless, ancient North American species of antelope-like animals can be seen as 'creating' cheetahs in this way, and vice-versa.

Invoking Lewis Carroll, this concept can be thought of as the Red Queen's dilemma; running as fast as you can to stay in the same place. Although this is just an example, the same kind of thing can be seen happening across all species to this day, not only in competition but also in cooperation and symbiosis.

Does that answer your question?

"Anyway, I dunno if that answers your question or not, or if I missed something you presented that would have addressed my points."
I'm not sure it does, but it seems to have raised more questions.

"If I dig up any videos of Darwinists being made to look dumb, I'll kick them your way, but actively pursuing such things just isn't my style."

Thanks, but don't worry about it -- I've seen hundreds of them, it would seem, even without actively pursuing them! ;D

"I try to have a little more respect for my opponents; at the end of the day, they're humans too, and while I may not agree with them, my God still loves them. Hey. He puts up with me... :P"

While it is good to have respect for your opponents, it is not good when someone slams you for holding an argument you don't hold. THEY are the ones who have no respect, and if I've misrepresented what YOU think, just tell me.

Anyway, that's exactly what I wrote, and I even told him, in person, that I'd re-edited my original response to him for orderliness' sake, so that it would be easier for him to respond.

This was at the beginning of November and he's never responded, and probably hasn't read it. And that's why I'm posting it here -- I want SOMEone to read it!


KB said...

Glad your grades are good.

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