Punctuated Equilibrium

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Gelin_

Punctuated Equilibrium

Post by Gelin_ » Thu Dec 16, 2004 10:30 am

The transformation of one life-form into another requires some transition or intermediary stage. These intermediary stages of development (required by evolution) constitute what has been referred to as the 'missing links' in the whole evolution vs. creation debate. Here is how Darwin discussed the issue:
...On this doctrine of the extermination of an infinitude of connecting links, between the living and extinct inhabitants of the world, and at each successive period between the extinct and still older species, <U>why</U> is not every geological formation charged with such links? <U>Why</U> does not every collection of fossil remains afford plain evidence of the gradation and mutation of the forms of life? <U>We meet with no such evidence</U>, and this is the most obvious and forcible of the many objections which may be urged against my theory...</B>

Source: Darwin, C. 1859. The Origin of Species. Chap. 14. Available at: http://www.literature.org/authors/darwi ... er-14.html

After accumulating and examining tens of thousands of fossil records, evolutionists could hardly answer the critical questions raised by Darwin himself regarding his theory. That's why prominent evolutionists such as S.J. Gould (from Harvard) came with the concept of 'Punctuated Equilibrium", a view according to which species were formed more or less abruptly in time, and not gradually as Darwin thought. A good description of the concept can be found at: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/PUNCTUEQ.html

In other words, evolution (as generally understood) is too slow to be observed by us currently, but was too quick to leave the 'missing links' in the fossil records.....


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Post by admin » Thu Dec 16, 2004 11:56 pm

Gelin, as I am sure you know, Stephen Jay Gould, in his lifetime, used to have epic battles against creationism (which you stated as your credo). So, the fact that you cite S.J.Gould, the most well-known evolutionist after Charles Darwin himself, to defend your beliefs is an irony that has not been lost on me. For many years, I subscribed to Natural History Magazine, and the first thing I always did was to look for and read Steven Jay Gould's column, because it was always oh so interesting! Now, if you trust Stephen Jay Gould's theory of Punctuated Equilibrium (I do not), then this would make you at best a "reformed evolutionist", and not a creationist as you previously stated.

I am trying to understand your dilemma. You are a creationist in the sense that you dearly wish that God would intervene somewhere and sometimes, because you truly do not want to abandon the fanciful stories of the Genesis, and also because you are so deeply attracted to mysticism (comment le sais-je... eh bien, mon vieux, je suis un clairvoyant). On the other hand, you are also a rational man, and you can clearly see that there are way too many holes in the Biblical account of the Creation (but will not come out and say it in the open, so God the Father will not strike you dead!).

Yet, you can clearly appreciate the undeniable elegance of "evolution", but at the same time, you know that Darwin himself took great care to consider every challenge that would be raised against his theory. So obsessive was Darwin in doing so, that it makes his narrative less readable in that it seems to continually argue against self before boldly asserting its main tenets again. The dialectic in Darwin's writing is simply remarkable! However, what you have attempted to do here, Gelin, with the selections that you have made, is to exploit these expressions of scientific doubt to your advantage, that is in favor of creationism. Never mind the fact that Darwin himself resolved them in a fashion that is decidedly opposed to creationism. Never mind that Stephen Jay Gould was possibly even more at odds with creationism than Darwin himself!

So before we discuss S.J.Gould's Punctuated Equilibrium further, let us review some additional selections of Darwin's writings from the very same source that you cited. These quotes are both very interesting and relevant.
... we ought to be extremely cautious in saying that any organ or instinct, or any whole being, could not have arrived at its present state by many graduated steps.

... It cannot be denied that we are as yet very ignorant of the full extent of the various climatic and geographical changes which have affected the earth during modern periods; and such changes will obviously have greatly facilitated migration.

... The belief that species were immutable productions was almost unavoidable as long as the history of the world was thought to be of short duration; and now that we have acquired some idea of the lapse of time, we are too apt to assume, without proof, that the geological record is so perfect that it would have afforded us plain evidence of the mutation of species, if they had undergone mutation.

... But the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and distinct species, is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps.

... The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations.

... from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
OK, I hope that everyone has gained some new insights from those precious writings.

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Fri Dec 17, 2004 9:54 am

Now, if you trust Stephen Jay Gould's theory of Punctuated Equilibrium (I do not)...
What are your specific objections against the PE theory...? - and please don't be tooooooo long...:-)

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Post by admin » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:04 am

O.K... touché! I'll try to sum up my thoughts quickly this time.

I submit first of all that S.J.Gould might be right with respect to his Punctuated Equilibrium description of the Theory of Evolution. He certainly is several orders more qualified than me in scientific matters. What causes my mistrust mostly is the manner in which others have jumped in to take advantage of what they have perceived as a breach between Darwin and Gould. In my mind, it's more like "La montagne a accouché d'unse souris."

"Punctuated Equilibrium" is not a theory in fact, it's merely an observation that goes against the grain of Darwin's insitence that all evolutionary changes happened in a very slow and deliberate manner. But Darwin was taking the long view of things. Gould just took a closer look.

It's really like a child growing up, and if you are a parent (or even if you are not) you will know what I mean. There are several growth spurts as a child develops from baby to adult size. On one hand, who can deny that there are very slow changes happening every single day in that child's life (or anyone else for that matter) ? Those changes usually go unnoticed, except that the accumulation of such small variations will one day surprise you because it will darn on you that you are looking at a more mature person than the mental image you had made of that child you lived with every single day. On the other hand, who can deny the growth spurts, the months when the shoes you bought just a month or two ago no longer fit, and you have to buy new shirts (or new bras), new pants, and everything for that child that is almost literally bursting through right in front of your eyes. Yet, even in those stages, your brain does not have the power to observe the changes that are happening the minute they happen. All you can attest about is that the pace of change is greatly accelerated during those growth spurts.

When I said that I do not trust the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, I was suggesting that I do not trust it "as a theory", that is as a body of ideas that depart fundamentally from Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It's actually more like I do not trust what other people, like a certain creationist on this forum ;-), want to make of it. That Darwin did not describe those growth spurts is not sufficient to invalidate his theory, which still stands tall and even taller today.

Due to the fragility of life forms, due to the cataclysmic events in weather and geological patterns, every paleontologist knows that it is not at all surprising (except to the Creationists of course who insist that God created everything in 7 days, sorry in 6) that the fossil record on Earth could not be anything but fragile. Great discoveries have been made to support Darwin's theory since it was first advanced. In fact, these days, hardly a month goes by that I do not read about an extinct species being discovered or a missing link found and therefore no longer "missing". Why are the creationists so darn impatient instead of looking at the story of Life on Earth whose mysteries are being peeled off every day? If you believe in God, then greater the Glory to the Lord who reveals how far more imaginative he really is than the cranky, stubborn, vengeful, punishing, forgetful, old Geezer depicted in the Old Testament. If you do not believe in God, then you simply have to marvel at the ways of Nature. Who knows? Perhaps it's all one and the same thing. But in any case, your faith or lack of faith is yours alone to determine.

The creationists are simply making a bad scene which simply dishonors the very God they claim to believe in.

I promised to be short. Likely, I failed the test again. :-(
... sorry, Gelin.

Guy

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:37 am

What causes my mistrust mostly is the manner in which others have jumped in to take advantage of what they have perceived as a breach between Darwin and Gould.
This kind of dissent exists also among creationists. Not all creationists agree that Genesis actually talks about 6 or 7 literal days (of 24 h). Some see those days as periods of time, others argue for the 24-h days. Due to the complexity of the subject itsel, there are variations in both creationism and evolution.

The real problem all of us have is the question of the beginning. Creationists generally say that an intelligent and eternal being is the cause; most evolutionists state that the original cause of the universe is "eternal enery itself" - as some like to say, 'energy has always been there, it's eternal'. Both groups agree that something eternal is the source of what we have, what we are and what we see. The fundamental
difference is that creationists believe that ultimate cause is an inteligent being, while evolutionists see that same cause as simply pure eternal energy (not a person).
"Punctuated Equilibrium" is not a theory in fact, it's merely an observation that goes against the grain of Darwin's insitence that all evolutionary changes happened in a very slow and deliberate manner.
You may be right. That's an observation of the status of the fossil record. When you look at the record, you see that different "kinds" of life-forms seem to have always existed - as different from one another.
Great discoveries have been made to support Darwin's theory since it was first advanced. In fact, these days, hardly a month goes by that I do not read about an extinct species being discovered or a missing link found and therefore no longer "missing".
I think the problem of the missing links still exists today and has not been solved yet.

Guy monchèè, pa jwe bosal avè-m tande....ann amize nou...

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Post by admin » Fri Dec 17, 2004 1:45 pm

Tande koze! Ki kote ou wè mwen jwe bosal la papa?? Jisteman se amize m ap amize mwen. Men an menm tan tou, nou tou 2 ap met bon bèt sou fowòm lan pou tout moun aprann yon bagay nan inivèsite popilè sa.
The real problem all of us have is the question of the beginning. Creationists generally say that an intelligent and eternal being is the cause; most evolutionists state that the original cause of the universe is "eternal energy itself" - as some like to say, 'energy has always been there, it's eternal'. Both groups agree that something eternal is the source of what we have, what we are and what we see. The fundamental difference is that creationists believe that ultimate cause is an inteligent being, while evolutionists see that same cause as simply pure eternal energy (not a person).
Gelin, I have to clear up one thing. We both have read a lot about "creationists" and "evolutionists", but obviously it must have been in very different contexts. I have read a lot about the Theory of Evolution and the Life sciences in general, from books of science, from authors like Stephen Jay Gould himself, the French biologist Jean Rostand, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, etc. I often go to Barnes and Noble just to read their magazines because I could not afford to be subscribed to them all. I keep up with magazines on science, such as Discover, Natural History, etc. Granted, I do very, very little reading about mysticism, theology, and the world's religions. But I do follow closely the debate between Creationists and Evolutionists in the context of public school education in the United States, where I live. In this context, I have rarely, if ever, seen "evolutionists" and "creationists" presented in the manner of which you speak. The way you present it, it sounds more like a debate between "believers" and "non-believers or atheists", where your creationists are the believers and the evolutionists are not. This is very, very, very strange to me, because in all the years that I have followed the debate on the Theory of Evolution, the words "creationist" and "evolutionis" have been discussed in a narrower context. It is not a theological or existential debate. It is simply a debate on how life in its various and nearly infinite forms appeared and evolved on this planet (and perhaps, secondarily in the Universe, but there is so precious little data about even the possibility of life forms outside of Earth).

Furthermore, you cite Darwin and Gould, two scientists that I am familiar with. I remain convinced that in their writings, they did not refer to creationists and evolutionists in the way that you explained it in the above quote.

So, perhaps a lot of our disagreement resides simply in the fact that our concepts of the words "creationist" and "evolutionist" are fundamentally different. You seem to carry what appears more like a theological interpretation of those words. Mine is non-theological. In fact, it's more historical and biological than anything else.
When you look at the record, you see that different "kinds" of life-forms seem to have always existed - as different from one another.

Well? The different kinds of life-forms did not always exist, but they may have evolved in parallel and distinct fashion from the same primordial soup. Even Darwin readily admitted to the likely origination of a few organisms from which all current higher life forms on Earth have descended. So what you said is nothing new, not even to Darwin.
I think the problem of the missing links still exists today and has not been solved yet.
Of course, the problem of missing links still exists. It will exist until the last of the missing links will be found, and that very likely will be n-e-v-e-r. So, you see creationism (in my concept of the word) will always exist because someone somewhere will always point to a missing link and say "AHA!"

So, I say, let them have a field day... as long as they do not interfere with my kids' education. Science will continue to progress. One day perhaps, a more comprehensive theory than Darwin's will emerge. But it surely will not be creationism.

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:40 am

...One day perhaps, a more comprehensive theory than Darwin's will emerge. But it surely will not be creationism.</B>
What a statement of faith ! Of great faith indeed !

gelin

Post by » Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:43 am

Yes, I believe in real science, not in Biblical science.

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Tue Dec 21, 2004 2:32 pm

Real science teaches us that living things do not evolve from non-living things but require 'outside information' to organise the various non-living parts into a living system (even the most simple).

Real science starts with 'observation'. What can we observe?

<U>Above ground</U>: No evidence of ongoing evolution because (as Darwin put it), the process is too ssssslow.

<U>Underground</U>: No evidence of the slow process because of Punctuated Equilibrium (as Gould put it), i.e. the process of evolution was too f'st to leave sufficient evidence.

Then, what do we do?.....We need to go back to real science and make the difference between 'scientific observable facts' and the interpretations of those facts by the scientists. The two are not the same. The fact reported by the scientist is independent from the scientist's possibly biased view.

Se pou nou kontinye fouye...

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Post by admin » Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:06 pm

Above ground: No evidence of ongoing evolution because (as Darwin put it), the process is too ssssslow.

Underground: No evidence of the slow process because of Punctuated Equilibrium (as Gould put it), i.e. the process of evolution was too f'st to leave sufficient evidence.
Gelin, the above statements are so factually wrong in so many ways that only a mad creationist would utter them.
Then, what do we do?.....We need to go back to real science and make the difference between 'scientific observable facts' and the interpretations of those facts by the scientists. The two are not the same. The fact reported by the scientist is independent from the scientist's possibly biased view.

Se pou nou kontinye fouye...
I don't ave any problem with your conclusion, and I do not know any real scientist who would have a problem with it either. Even long established scientific theories, such as Newton's gravitational laws are constantly being tested and re-evaluated in new unconventional settings. The problem really is with all the mad creationists out there who readily discard a ton of scientific findings in order to create a world view that conforms to their favorite biblical tale.

Please go back and read Darwin and Gould again. Let's discuss their specific writings, phrase by phrase if necessary. You are using a very peculiar technique indeed, citing the names of two leading evolutionists, to draw "holy" (that is, full of holes) conclusions that, as they say, would cause Darwin and Gould to turn in their graves.

Evolution, my friend, is evolution, whether you think the process was linear (as Darwin did) or punctuated (as Gould did). By the way, contrary to what you think, Gould defended the theory of evolution more strongly than Darwin himself. I wonder if you realize that "Punctuated Equilibrium" is not the antithesis of Darwin's theory, but a refinement (or correction, if you will) of the same body of ideas and observations, just like modern gravitational theories explain that massive bodies do not necessarily attract each other as Newton thought. Of course, Newton knew nothing about the presumption of dark energy and dark matter in our physical universe. Let alone anti-matter and parallel universes. Setting Gould against Darwin is like setting Einstein against Newton. You will show differences in thoughts, but those differences tend to push the scientific process further (rather than invalidate it, as all those mad creationists would wish).

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Wed Dec 22, 2004 10:03 am

Ann kontinye amize nou...
...Evolution, my friend, is evolution, whether you think the process was linear (as Darwin did) or punctuated (as Gould did)...
You are right....evolution is what it is, evolution. But, as real science starts with observation before any hypothesis can be built, don't we have the right to ask ourselves this simple and fundamental question: "has evolution ever been observed?". I guess we have that right, right? And we all know the answer to that. The answer is NO, it's never been observed. So, do we have the right - from a purely scientific standpoint - to question something that's never been observed? Absolutely! And that's what I have attempted to do here, but.....:-(

Now, how do you do real science without any observable fact? You have to go to the philosophy of science itself, drifting away slowly and surely from the well established "scientific method"... And you are no longer doing real science if you are not using the scientific method.

gelin

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Wed Dec 22, 2004 10:47 am

I don't ave any problem with your conclusion, and I do not know any real scientist who would have a problem with it either. Even long established scientific theories, such as Newton's gravitational laws are constantly being tested and re-evaluated</B> in new unconventional settings.
Can we say the same thing about the theory of evolution?

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Post by admin » Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:31 pm

Of course. We simulate evolution in some ways through breeding. How do you think all those breeds of cats and dogs and horses developed? Breeding is the "evolution" laboratory that is accessible to us in the span of a lifetime. Man had a big hand in "evolving" dogs from wolves, and domestic cats from small wild cats. Furthermore, man is also responsible for the "creation" of some viruses and new forms of bacteria. (In fact, some of these can only be found growing on our nuclear wastes and nowhere else in our natural world. I can get you information on these new life forms, if you like.)

What about the AIDS virus? Did it always exist or did man have a hand in its creation? I don't know... I am not affirming that this is the case, but it's worth thinking about...

Finally, it is simply unreasonable to expect that what happened over the course of millions of years, and for which we have amassed an extraordinary number of findings under the umbrella of what some refer to as the "fossil record", can be tested at will in some scientist's laboratory, just so Gelin can observe it with his own eyes. "Scientific observation" is no longer what it was in the 17th century, in which you still appear to live in, Gelin. We no longer observe with just our own eyes. Scientific instruments have to do it for us in many instances. Carbon dating plays a big role, Gelin, in recording evolutionary data. Just because you don't see a new species evolve from another species, sort of "in your face", does not invalidate the scientific findings about evolution, Gelin. I think that you need to refine your ideas about "observable facts". They are a bit outdated.

But you know what? I am scared about the idea of man "evolving" new forms of life. The reason is our intelligence (in the technical sense) far exceeds our wisdom. We may well set things in motion that might result in our devolution, if we are not too careful.

[On the other hand, Haitians might lead the way in showing how human beings can evolve into spirits or devolve into mosquitoes, cows, goats, werewolves, etc. Just kidding...I think.]

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Thu Dec 23, 2004 10:22 am

Of course. We simulate evolution in some ways through breeding. How do you think all those breeds of cats and dogs and horses developed? Breeding is the "evolution" laboratory that is accessible to us in the span of a lifetime.
Nope. Breeding is not evolution. Breeding is the application of artificial selection (man made selection) to already existing living types. We simulate natural selection with our different breeding techniques, but the 'stock' with which we we work is already there. We merely modify it to suit or goals/needs.
Furthermore, man is also responsible for the "creation"</B> of some viruses and new forms of bacteria....What about the AIDS virus? Did it always exist or did man have a hand in its creation</B>?
You see, you are getting closer to me...a few more steps...
"Scientific observation" is no longer what it was in the 17th century...
Says who....?
On the other hand, Haitians might lead the way in showing how human beings can evolve into spirits or devolve into mosquitoes, cows, goats, werewolves, etc. Just kidding...I think.]
Guy my friend, look what I found... http://www.grioo.com/info3058.html

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Post by admin » Thu Dec 23, 2004 11:33 am

Nope. Breeding is not evolution. Breeding is the application of artificial selection (man made selection) to already existing living types. We simulate natural selection with our different breeding techniques, but the 'stock' with which we we work is already there. We merely modify it to suit or goals/needs.
Go back to what I said. I did not claim that breeding was evolution, as in EVOLUTION, the History of Life on Planet Earth. I claimed that it simulates evolution in some ways.

As for "the 'stock' with which we work is already there," what's the difference with evolution?? The stock with which Nature works is already there too. Life begets life. That is the very essence of the Theory of Evolution. I keep telling you, but you stubbornly refuse to understand. You have your guns pointed in the wrong place. Darwin, too, believed in God, the Creator. [However, the existence of God, while in no way denied by the Theory of Evolution, is neither essential nor necessary to the theory itself.] Science is not out to prove the existence or non-existence of God. If you wish to believe in God, the Creator, as Darwin did (and you know it), then no one, except free-thinking atheists maybe, are standing in your way. But not the Theory of Evolution.

What you understand to be the Theory of Evolution is what it is not (at least not in the commonly used application of the phrase in scientific circles!) You think that the Theory of Evolution is seeking to prove that life evolved from non-living materials, natural elements like hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and other types of atoms forming molecules that assemble spontaneously and one day plainly assume living and intelligent properties.

1. That is not what "The Theory of Evolution" is about. Let's go back to reading Darwin, Gould, and other leading scientists on Evolution!

2. Yes, there are scientists who DO investigate the chemical processes that lead to the formation of living forms. So, from a purely scientific viewpoint, they do treat life, not as something divine and magical, but essentially as a bio-chemical process. I suppose those are the scientists you really want to wind up, sit them down on school benches, and read the Bible to them.

3. But consider for a minute that somehow those scientists were able to create LIFE from INERT matter in the laboratory. Suppose that they demonstrate, again and again, that life is a chemical process. Suppose further that from those rudimentary living forms they create in the laboratory (once we more and less settle on the distinct properties of life) that they are able to either combine them in certain ways - or - influence their environment to stimulate them to combine in certain ways to form more complex and higher forms of life. Science is nowhere near that point (whether they ever will, I do not claim to know), but for the sake of argumentation, suppose all of this becomes a reality in today's or tomorrow's scientific labs. THEN, WHAT WOULD THIS PROVE?

a) To some, it would say that God does not exist.

b) To others, it would just show the greater glory of God, because he would have imparted the possibility of life formation in the very rudiments of matter, which would then argue for the increased possibility of life all over the universe.

c) This would in no way solve the mystery of the existence of the Universe or what happened at the instant of the Big Bang ( not a mere billionths of second after it ) or what even preceded the Big Bang [ if we are not too far off to conceive of an antecedent to the Big Bang, since Time itself is a relative concept, not independent from the Universe but just one dimension of a multidimensional model, far more complex than I, for one, could ever hope to understand. ]

Finally, we would be back to the same point where we are today: the impossibility to demonstrate scientifically the existence or non-existence of God. Believing in God the Creator, is a matter of personal faith. You cannot legislate it. Attacking the Theory of Evolution is fine to do, if you were to do it from a scientific standpoint, but you will achieve nothing if your aim is to demonstrate the existence of God the Creator. If what you want to believe in is the Tale of the Genesis in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, then by all means, be my guest!

I remain convinced that we cannot fruitfully discuss scientific matters by interjecting God into our scientific analysis. I also remain convinced, from everything that I have read on the matter, that the scientific Theory of Evolution, which I never described as infallible in its known formulation, has not concerned itself with proving or disproving questions of faith. True, scientists themselves can be great philosophers, just like they can be "believers", "non-believers", "politically minded", "ideologists", etc. Of course, they can be, because they are all human. However science itself, strictly speaking, is above believing or non-believing. Science itself is above political and ideological considerations. Science is neutral when it comes to that. However, as humans, we can use science as an affirmation of our faith in God, if we please, or not! That is our choice as individual human beings, but science can never dictate the choice for us all. That is not its nature.

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