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Throwing modus tollens around like it was confetti

Cornelius Hunter, is, as usual, ridiculous, most recently in his commentary on a review of TGSOE.

After all, there are no fossil rabbits in the ancient strata. That’s right, no rabbits before the Cambrian era. Astonishing, evolution must be true.

For a start, the Precambrian rabbits are an example: anything so out of place would falsify evolution. The fact that nothing is out of place is not a “proof” of evolution, but it is a sign that this particular falsification test has been passed. With flying colours.

This was criticised in the comments (on UD), and Cornelius replied:

The very title of this blog post [No Precambrian Rabbits: Evolution Must Be True] is a complete and utter non sequitur, which no evolutionary biologist (least of all Richard Dawkins) has ever espoused.

I know it sounds absurd, but the Precambrian rabbit, and others like it, are precisely what evolutionists have seriously set for as falsification criteria / creation refuter.

Apparently, giving any falsification criteria is a modus tollens. Karl Popper must be rolling in his grave.

Testimony to our shared origins? Grand family tree? Evolutionists in the know are abandoning the venerable evolutionary tree, but don’t tell the people.

This section, specifically, was referring to “bats, monkeys, horses and humans”. These are all not only multi-cellular, but all mammals! Yes, the tree of life is tangled amongst single-celled organisms where lateral gene transfer is common, but unless he is seriously claiming that lateral gene transfer is common amongst mammals, or heck, even vertebrates, this is just a sign that he’s either blatantly misunderstood whatever magazine article he got his information about the tree of life from, or is deliberately being disingenuous.

There are multitudes of examples of similarities amongst the species that do not fit the evolutionary pattern. It is a glaring example of selecting the evidences that fit the theory, and ignoring the plethora of contradictions.

This was attacked in the comments, and his response was to post links to sections 4.2 and 4.3 here. These argue that new alleles can be created quickly and that there are ultra-conserved regions – true, but irrelevant, but it doesn’t come even close to addressing the point he was responding to – or even the claim he was attempting to make. The speed of genetic change can vary wildly – heck, that’s exactly what natural selection (for example) does – but it doesn’t change the simple fact that the similarities between genes conforms to the evolutionary predictions.

But it just wouldn’t be Cornelius Hunter without insisting that evolution was primarily religious. He picks out the following examples:

Glitches, like the laryngeal nerves that are so neatly laid out in fish but that must detour in animals with necks—by a crazy 15 feet (4.6m) in the case of giraffes—demonstrate the incremental, undirected business of evolution in touching detail.

Recurrent laryngeal nerveIn a shark, for example, branches from the vagus nerve are connected to the last three gills, passing behind the arteries as they do so. This is the simplest arrangement. However, if, for example, a giraffe had evolved from an organism with this arrangement, well, the gills would probably have been modified into things like thyroid or parathyroid glands, or the larynx, sharing the same nerve connections.

Although the larynx is now high in the neck, the recurrent laryngeal nerve still passes behind an artery in the torso! This goes well beyond mere theodicy. The picture on the right shows the path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in a human neck – this is taken to extreme proportions in a giraffe, as the loop is repeated for the entire length of the neck. And why? Because, of course, humans and giraffes share a common ancestor with an organism in which putting the nerve behind the artery was the simplest way of doing it.

… among the many puzzles that evolution explains so well are the futility and suffering that are ubiquitous in the natural world. All trees would benefit from sticking to a pact to stay small, but natural selection drives them ever upward in search of the light that their competitors also seek. Surely an intelligent designer would have put the rainforest canopy somewhat lower, and saved on tree trunks? The cheetah is perfectly honed to hunt gazelles—but the gazelle is equally well equipped to escape cheetahs. So whose side is the designer on?

Cornelius Hunter comments:

With religious arguments like these who needs scientific evidence?

Apparently, now evolution isn’t allowed to answer questions about the natural world. But again, this is part of the nature of evolutionary arms races – a mutant cheetah which can run faster will catch more gazelles than non-mutants, and so be more likely to reproduce. As the population of cheetahs becomes faster, there is now a selective pressure on gazelles to become faster.

Theological attacks on evolution are common nowadays, and given this, it is hardly surprising that a defense of evolution would respond to these attacks. But the case for evolution can be made without this, obviously: Chris Colby’s article Introduction to Evolutionary Biology article on talk.origins is an excellent example of this.

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September 13, 2009 at 2:46 pm
6 comments »
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