Darwinism or Directed Mutations?

That would seem to be directed mutation if it was ever to be of any utility.

Right now science appears to know less about Designer "directed mutations" than about Darwinism, and, by the very nature of each view, it appears likely to stay that way. Vis a vis Darwinism and the moth/orchid question: Beak size (and beak length) changes occur in finches in a variety of directions, not simply one direction; while in moths, tongue lengths change in a variety of directions, not just one. I don't know how many eggs a moth lays and what the alleles and variances are of tongue-length in each moth that survives long enough to lick nectar and breed more moths, but I do know that among flies, if all the eggs from one mother housefly lived, she would produce more than five trillion offspring in just one season. We're not up to our eyeballs in flies because of the huge percentage of young flies that die. A sunfish sometimes lays three hundred million eggs. A single bacterial cell that divides every twenty minutes, could multiply to a mass four thousand times greater than the earth's in just two days. [That figure is from a letter sent to CRSQ by a creationist, involving 144 bacterial doublings in 48 hours. I'm not sure what the final number is after 144 consecutive divisions but it's astronomically huge. That doesn't happen, because of the inconceivably huge death rate of bacteria.] A single oyster, left to its own devices, produces more than one-hundred-twenty-five million eggs in a season. That's more than enough oysters, if none died in eight years [10 to the 89th power number of oysters] to crowd the water out of the oceans and make it cover the earth. A female sea turtle lays a hundred or more eggs, but after they hatch in a nest buried beneath the sand on the beach, only a handful of baby sea turtles make it to the safety of the ocean. And of those still fewer survive to breed. A recent study showed that one-third of adult birds and four-fifths of their offspring die of starvation every year (David Lack, "Of Birds and Men," New Scientist, Jan., 1996). Not surprising, since birds have to eat from one-quarter to one-half their body weight daily, so starvation is a common killer of birds.

Concerning the evolution of moths with longer tongues, there may not need to be that much Designer "direction" in a species evolving a longer tongue since all of the rest die out. (Likewise in long term evolution, think of all the cousin species that have died out.) The death and extinction of many seems to be the heavy price of continued change for the few.

Also, nature is filled with escalating "arms races." Look at the way the AIDS virus mutates, or any bacteria mutates. And the way that our immune system works via natural selection, sending out a host of antibodies of differently mutated forms until one of them gains a small purchase or foothold on the invaders in our body, then we produce more antibodies in a range of mutated shapes and sizes but only like the ones that gained a little foothold, and of those, some grab on tighter while the rest die out, and then our immune system sends out more mutated antibodies like the ones that grabbed on tighter, until even a tighter grip is discovered, but ALL THE REST OF THE ANTIBODIES WITH LESSER GRIPS are no longer produced and die out, while the ones that kept grabbing on tighter and tighter grow more abundant. That happens every time we fight off a cold in a few days. It's Darwinism inside out own bodies. And this same Darwinian method is now used by pharmaceutical companies, and by computer companies to solve complex mathematical problems, and by metal alloy companies to make firmer metals. Darwinism apparently works.

One of the most recent examples in bacteria was the "nylon-eating bacteria" that evolved recently. Nylon is a new man-made polymer, maybe 50-60 years old. But some nylon that had grown sticky and gooey was found in a bin in one nylon factory. The bacteria were examined and compared with others of their species and it was discovered that a particular frame shift mutation (which means that a gene got read at a slightly different starting point and slightly different ending point) allowed that bacteria to break down the nylon and obtain energy from that process. But not a LOT of energy. It wasn't a highly competent design because the bacteria weren't extracting a lot of energy from the process, just enough to get by. And it was based on a simply frame shift reading of a gene that had other uses. But with a simple frame shift of a gene that was already there, it could now "eat" nylon. Future mutations, perhaps point mutations inside that gene, could conceivably heighten the energy gain of the nylon decomp process, and allow the bacteria to truly feast and reproduce faster and more plentifully on just nylon, thus leading perhaps in time to an irreducibly complex arrangement between bacteria who live solely on nylon and a man-made fiber produced only by man.

GETTING BACK TO ORCHIDS, they have a survival strategy that appears well suited in a Darwinian fashion to eventually produce specific relationships between them and whatever species pollinates them. The orchid seed is smaller than the mustard seed, dust-like, and each orchid produces tens to hundreds of thousands of these seeds. They are also naturally rare flowers, living high in trees or in widely dispersed strands on the ground. So just one successful cross-pollination event of the same insect reaching two of the same species of orchid and cross pollinating them is like winning the jackpot for orchids -- especially since orchids have few natural enemies and live long lives. So they would be expected to Darwinially evolve the most complex and specified relationships with their few successful pollinators, narrowing them down to eventually specializing in a single pollinator. See article below:

The orchid family is the largest of all plant groups, representing upward of thirty thousand species. The flowers are also among the most artfully deceptive, and they have acquired such an extravagant repertory of disguises in color, odor, shape, and overall engineering that for botanists and evolutionary biologists they continue to yield a bounty of surprises. Charles Darwin was so enraptured by orchids that he wrote an entire book about their reproductive strategies.

Yet only now are biologists learning why the flowers are such great pretenders...
Some orchids look and smell like female bees, presenting irresistible decoys to male bees on the prowl. Others so closely resemble female wasps that the males of the species will molest them time and again, alternately picking up and depositing pollen sacs with each new act of what is called pseudo-copulation...helping to pass the equivalent of sperm from one orchid flower to the ovary-like structure of a second flower, allowing orchid fertilization to occur.

Another type of orchid has the aroma of rotting meat, coaxing any carrion flies in the neighborhood to come hither. Some orchids mimic the splendor and fragrance of other types of flowers that, in the tradition of floral courtesy, persuade insects to visit them by offering a sung of nectar. But the skinflint orchids do not bother to generate the precious liqueur; instead, they reward any bee foolish enough to fall for the ploy with nothing more than a sticky pat of pollen. Some bees come out of an orchid with such a load of pollen stuck to their backs that they can hardly fly.

The details of the resemblance between orchids and whatever plant or animal they happen to be aping offer a bird's-or bug's-eye view of how other creatures perceive the world around them and what their sensory capacities may be like. Thus, an orchid will evolve a striking pattern if its pollinator focuses on patterns, a chemical if the pollinator is chemo-sensitive, a shape if that's what turns on the desired visitor.

Some orchids do offer a nectar bonus to a pollinator needed to transfer pollen from one plant to another. But the flowers are finicky and concentrate their efforts on beckoning a specific emissary. One type of orchid, the Angraecum sesquipedale, a native of Africa and Madagascar, will release a waft of jasmine like perfume in the evening hours to attract a moth that emerges only after dark.
The moth happens to have a proboscis, or tongue, that is twelve inches long, just the length needed to reach down into the deep tube of the flower, where its nectar and its pollen can be found.

A similarly magnanimous orchid, found in Central and South America, generates an aromatic oil that the males of a particular bee species need if they are to woo females. After landing on the orchids, the males use little brushes on their front legs to sop up droplets of the precious substance, which they store in their hollow hind legs, releasing it later as an enticement to females. Their
close contact with the orchids result in pollen transfer.

But such loving synchrony of purpose is rare, and most orchids are shameless charlatans...
Many orchids are named after what their flowers resemble: spiders, butterflies, baskets, shoes, peas, and donkeys.
But all orchids have a few detail in common: notably, a protruding lip, which tempts insects to land on it as on an airport runway, and an internal column, which contains both the anther cap and the ovaries. Any given flower can either send sperm like pollen to another plant or serve as the recipient for a second orchid's pollen, but few species are capable of self-fertilization. They need a pollinator to pass their genes around. After pollination, a fertile seed pod grows out of the stalk of the flower.

Orchids also are somewhat parasitic. Their seeds are tiny, the size of dust particles, and therefore can carry no protein or nutrients. Once released from the pod and blown to the ground, an orchid seed must gain its nutrition from a fungus growing nearby. Different species of orchid rely on different fungal helpers to germinate. The flower's entire modus operandi seems to be getting something for nothing. Many species are epiphytes, tree dwellers that let their roots dangle slothfully to catch vitamins from bird droppings, rotting leaves, and other material washed down from above by the rain.

But laziness alone does not explain the orchid. Many seem to have about them a touch of self-destructiveness. They can be so mean and deceptive toward their potential pollinators that insects avoid them. Some orchids for example, use a slingshot system to shoot their pollen capsules at bees that have alighted on their petals; they hurl out the packets with such force that the bees are often
knocked long distances. These bees quickly lean to shun the floral snipers.

The pink lady's-slipper orchid, a particularly flamboyant example found in pockets around the United States, has a flower that looks and smells as though it were engorged with nectar, yet not only is it utterly dry inside; it's also a nasty trap. When a bee alights on the lower lip of the lady's-slipper, hoping for a treat, the flower's hinged upper lid closes down, caging the creature inside. The only escape route is through a passageway out the rear. As the bee fights its way to freedom, it must pass by the anther stem, where it inadvertently picks up a cap of pollen. So unpleasant is the encounter that the creature will be unlikely ever to venture near another lady's-slipper. For the orchid, the bee's wariness is dangerous, because it takes two acts of insect gullibility to complete a fertilization: the first to pick up the pollen, the second to smear it on another flower.

In fifteen years of study in a Maryland national forest, one naturalist, who followed the fates of a thousand lady's-slippers, found that only twenty-three managed to be pollinated, presumably by the dunces of the local bee population.

A new theory of orchid strategy explains such apparently counterproductive behavior. It holds that the flowers are nature's quintessential gamblers, willing to bank everything on a potentially enormous payoff. Most flower plants have a high annual rate of fertilization, but when they are fertilized, each produces only one seed or a handful of them. By contrast, although few orchid plants will breed during any given year, when one is fertilized, it hits pay dirt. "They work on the lottery system," said Dr. Richard B. Primack, a professor of biology at Boston University. "The chances of any flower being visited are very low, but when the flower is fertilized, it produces tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of seeds."

A win-or-lose strategy seems to benefit many orchid species. Most of the thirty thousand different orchid species count few members among them. They are naturally rare flowers, living high in trees or in widely dispersed strands on the ground. As a rule, rare species evolve exaggerated, risky, and highly specific reproductive strategies; they are custom-designed to survive in their niches. Many orchids target all their efforts at attracting one type of pollinator. That is why one orchid evolves the shape of a species of female wasp or emits a pungency of interest to one type of fly, or will ensnare one kind of bee and even manage to catch a dimwit twice. Orchids can afford to wait for the perfect pollinator. They are among the longest-lived of all flowering plants, and they have very few natural enemies. As a result, far more orchids survive from one year to the next than do most plants.

Suckers may come and suckers may go, but the fakers of the world are built to last. [Natalie Angier, "The Grand Strategy of Orchids," The Beauty of the Beastly: New Views on The Nature of Life (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1995)]

Why bother, when the result cannot be tested. But, nonetheless the Enthusiasts claim credit for having found the secret.

Scientists bother to tackle the most difficult intractable problems. People at one point said, "why bother" trying to explain the difference between organic and inorganic chemicals, because "I.D.-like" scientists back then taught that a special vital force, found only in living creatures, was necessary in order to produce organic chemicals. Then a chemist discovered how to produce an organic chemical in his lab without any vital force being involved, just acid and a rock (he produced "urea" I believe). And look at all that has happened since then in the field of organic chemistry, even bio organic chemistry. People used to look up at the stars and think "why bother" trying to explain them and their courses, they are far away and certainly moved by supernatural forces. But Newton took a crack at it, and look where astrophysics has gotten since then. It was only during this century that the structure of DNA was discovered, and only in the past few years that biologists were able to map the entire human genome and began work on a comparative primate genome database project, the Silver Project, available on the web. And now computers are searching through the genomes of a slowly increasingly number of different species to track similarities and differences, but we still have to learn how segments of the genome function as well to understand it. It's a lot of work, an endless project. But evolutionary scientists are bothering about it. Because such comparisons of genomes are like peering into the "geologic column" of all living things via layers of historic genetic changes (for instance, non-functioning genetic segments accumulate more mutations over time than functioning segments, so they provide another method of comparison between species).

In the last two decades scientists have also uncovered a few answers concerning how a few major developmental genes function, like the HOX genes that make embryos produce eyes in both invertebrates and vertebrates.

Darwinist claims are vast, and IDers must calculate the improbabilities for all their scenarios, including your Hollywood-bound version.

Calculating improbabilities only tells us what we don't know. Evolutionists are working on increasing what we can know about connections between the inorganic, organic and bio organic worlds, connections between species, etc.

And even if it's highly improbable that you or anyone else on this planet will ever be hit by lightning, such an equation does nothing to comfort one particular gentleman I read about who has been struck by lightning five times in his life so far.

The Darwinian scenarios have no utility in the modern science enterprise.

Calculating improbabilities has less utility than Darwinism does. Darwinism presently applies to immunology, pharmacology, problem solving in computers and mathematics, metallurgy. And to studies in biology, botany, even astrophysics (the "natural selection" of the early evolution of galaxies and sub-atomic particles).

Do you think he has a coherent position?

I don't think I have a "coherent" position if you are speaking of an idealistic notion of absolute coherency. It seems to me at the moment that Darwinistic ideas have some measurable functional value and importance in science and may explain more things than a "perfect Designer" hypothesis appears to explain, but I don't know everything. Though my intuition is that at the moment the Designer hypothesis stresses things we don't know. It might even help elucidate gaps in knowledge. But scientists don't deal in gaps, they deal in extending our knowledge into areas where we were ignorant. And I do not consider the "miraculous explanation" to be an extension of scientific knowledge, just of theological knowledge. The I.D. explanation "solves" the mystery of "design" by positing an even great mystery, a "Designer." You can solve ANY mystery that way. Darwinistic evolution at least has limitations, like if you found a human skull in Precambrian strata. Or if man's chromosomal and genomic components were absolutely unlike his nearest living cousins, the primates. Instead we can see the chromosomal number line up b/w man and chimp with evidence of two chromosomes that became one inside chromosome #2 in man, and the chromosomal bands line up per chromosome, and the overall genomic differences between chimp and man are only 1.4%, less than that between sibling species of nearly identical fruit flies. And the genomic differences between man and chimp's common ancestor would have been even LESS that for each of them backward to a common ancestor. Not that much of a "jump" for a "Designer" to have to make. Perhaps some large scale embryonic genes made the proper changes. In fact I read in U.S. NEWS, July 29, 2002 that in the journal Science the week before, a single mutation in a regulatory gene as enough to produce mice with brains that had an unusually large, wrinkled cerebral cortex resembling out own. (No word, though, on whether the mutant mice gained smarts.)

Can't you leave God to do what he chooses, when he chooses? Must you assume you are his equal and thus should have an equivalent understanding--and perhaps an input, even voting on the preferred route to follow?

God could have made everything a second ago with our memories intact; the fossils in the ground; sunlight created in transit, even made to look like it had passed through clouds of gas a billion light years away and some of its spectrum having been absorbed by that cloud of gas along the way. Can you or anyone argue against that hypothesis? No, it's as plausible as I.D., let's call it "instant D."

I am saying nothing about being God's equal, I am saying nothing about having the understanding of God. But I do agree with Galileo and Voltaire's sentiments when they wrote, "I do not believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use." (Galileo) "The silly fanatic repeats to me that it is not for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the divine Being. That His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our justice. Eh? How, you mad demoniac, shall we judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions we have of them? Do you want us to walk otherwise than with our feet, and speak otherwise than with our mouths?" (Voltaire)

Ed Babinski: So what if Darwinism gives atheists solace. Are the atheists to be denied solace?

No, of course not. But, should they have dominion over us?

The question of dominion is a political one. I mean, the first commandment in the Bible says, "Thou shalt have not gods before me." Yet America's First Amendment says, "You have the right to worship as you please." Exactly how you can give everyone solace has been an ongoing concern of governments and nations since governments and nations began. In most cases the type of solace anyone may have has been decided by those in power, either Christian power or Islamic power, or communist power. And Christians vie for dominion over each other, just as Muslims do and communists do too. In America, Christians want reverence for God taught in school, in a morning prayer and in biology class apparently as well. Some would bring God up in math class too, as some conservative Christian colleges do today. And of course, these same people would be aghast at having a Darwinian evolutionary Christian speak in their churches, let alone teach and discuss evolution in a church. Call me old fashioned but I think schools are for learning and churches are for praying. And the more done in both, the better and happier most people will be. Of course the fact that Gen. 1-2 can be interpreted so many different ways, from young to old-earth concordist to sacred myth (C. S. Lewis's version), means that those who revere the Bible are going to remain in tension with each other as well as with Darwinian evolution. It's the same tension with ANY two people who have deeply held but different beliefs. Atheist evolutionists are going to continue to write books and argue for their points as are anthropic principle philosophers, as are theistic evolutionists, as are I.D.ers, as are old-earth creationists, as are young-earth creationists, as are geocentric creationists. The distribution is not going to be equal by any means, and who knows which way society as a whole will be swayed in the end? All we can each do is talk about it, and learn to deal with each other's differences of opinion in a fashion that doesn't involve bombs and tanks. To everyone who believes you can't have a difference of opinion without getting angry irrational and punchy, I say, "Bosnia!"

Ed Babinski: I originally brought up the "irreducible long-tongued moth and long-nectary orchid" because it seemed pretty straightforward: Lengthening nectary, lengthening tongue over time. Seems like it could happen, knowing other moths with longish tongues and orchids with longish nectaries.
Seems simple enough--provided you do not understand the chemical alterations required. Ignorance is an absolute requirement for that belief.

Nobody knows all the chemical alterations involved. But we can see long, longer, longest-tongued moth species pollinating orchids with nectaries of different lengths. And we know that tongue lengths can vary over generations in different directions, with the longest getting the longest nectaries and their offspring continuing to suck the nectar in the longest nectaries -- and the rest dying out, or cousin species growing extinct. Studying the genomes of that moth and those orchids, along with the genomes of all their cousin species would shed more light on what was involved in the process. But right now the focus is on man and chimp and the Silver comparative genome project.

Philosophe it is! You do know everything. Well, at least a little about everything.

Aside from not having your fabulous memory, and considering my other limitations, it is well that I only was tempted to discover the details about a few things.

Thanks. (Compliments are among the few things that leave me speechless.)

You just wont give God a moment of peace, will you.

God only knows if I'm giving him peace or joy by using the brain he gave me to wonder about stuff. Does God prefer silence and reverence, is that why he made the world? Well, maybe he does on the seventh day each week, the Sabbath, Saturday. But what about the other six days of the week? Maybe he delights in us using our minds to question things Monday through Sunday? And who knows what God thinks of I.D. or Darwinism? Even Christian men of science disagree on such matters.

Personally, I can't find much in the way of reverence in my soul when I study the tapeworm, or bedbugs stab raping each other, or sea slugs having penis duels in which one's sperm eats away a third of the inseminated victim's body, or the way the bee's penis explodes after insemination.

Why are the earliest birds more like ancient reptiles than modern day birds?

What makes you so confident of that scenario?

I've seen diagrams and photos of the skeletons of ancient reptiles, early birds, and modern day birds, and the comparisons are strikingly different between the earliest known bird fossils and modern day birds, while the earliest known bird fossils are all more similar to ancient reptiles. I'd also heard in a letter somebody sent me (dubious source perhaps) that Archeopteryx languished in a museum for a while and was considered another reptile fossil until somebody noticed the faint feather markings extending from its limbs. Probably true since the Archie fossils were only recognized as bird fossils after Darwin's shot was fired. Then somebody noticed the feather markings. (The hypothesis that the feather markings were added later was disproven, fresh slabs were broken open much later that contained the same markings.)

The shape of Archie's skull and the sutures of each bone in Archie's skull, compared with all known modern birds and their smooth helmet shaped skulls and their bone sutures is very different. Looking at pics of Archie's whole body you can see striking similarities between Archie and ancient reptiles and striking differences between Archie and modern day birds. You don't have to know anatomy to see them.

The few birds that have been found and dated earlier than Archie are also like Archie and like ancient reptiles in many more respects than they are like modern birds.

The same is true of whale fossils. The earliest whales found throughout the Eocene are unlike modern whales. In the Eocene there are varieties with long jaws and rows of teeth that still contained resemblances to the jaws and teeth of land mammals. There are many varieties with far more distinct necks and even diminished limbs as compared with modern day whales. The nostrils have moved at most about halfway up the long nose, not become a blowhole yet. The faces haven't become as shortened as in modern day whales, they are sill long. There's no room for a large echolocation bump of fat in the skulls of even later Eocene whales like Basilosaurus. And the ears show increasing modification for underwater hearing and underwater sense of balance (the semi-circular canals shortening). So ALL of these Eocene whales, in whatever order you want to put them, exhibit characteristics more "primitive" than modern whales.

Ed Babinski: I mean if we found a hummingbird (the only one that can fly backwards) among the earliest birds, I'd be surprised, but we don't. We find birds with reptilian shaped triangular skulls with the same shaped individual skull bones as reptiles, and other features that label them as "birds in progress."
Is it possible they were reptiles, and not birds????

Hoyle tried that, suggesting that the feathers on Archeopteryx had been added as a forgery, turning a reptile into an "early bird." But further examinations dismissed that hypothesis, though Hoyle tried to hang on to it for a while. Another slab from the same quarry that was in the same museum was split open much later, and revealed feather markings. And other ancient birds are now known, though none of their feather markings are preserved as beautifully as Archie's, their bone structure is definitely that of Archie's close cousins, and there are faint feather markings. Now we know of a few species of dinosaurs that also had feathers. I've even seen a diagram of a fossilized "feather-scale" based on an original fossil find. Not a feather, not a scale, but something in between. Not really surprising since in some birds even today, their scales turn into feathers, and they are both formed from the same embryonic layer and by a similar process. I could check into some good books on bird evolution and mail you copies of pages with pics of what I'm talking about. I haven't checked the web under "bird evolution" yet. I was busy a month ago getting together website info on whale evolution.

(How competent a Designer are we talking about?) And then once the progress has been achieved every early birds is wiped out. In this case the early bird did not catch the worm, it caught the grave.
And all the chimp ancestors vanished too????

If chimps or their ancestors lived in forests (or moved to forests) the chances of finding their remains are close to nil. Land animals leave the fewest fossilized remains, especially animals living in forests with a fair abundance of life: Flies and beetles reach a corpse quickly, lay their eggs on it and the worm-like young hatch and eat it, worms and tiny insects reach it, bacteria and fungal spores travel quickly by air and digest the skin and bone, the sun dries it out making it brittle, the wind and rain separate and carry pieces away, water may get into dry bones during some days of the year and expand and freeze, cracking them further. Olduvai Gorge is quite a find, a gorge where floods occurred every so often, burying some early apes and early hominids (that lived on a savanna). Some cousins of the early ancestors of chimps and man might be found in Olduvai. But those that became chimps apparently split for the forests and trees. No one knows every species that was evolving at that time, just the ones that left fossilized remains. Hence the debates over the exact branching of man's family tree, which is more like a bush in which many species simply died out. But prior to that bush there were just apes, and prior to those, just monkeys. There's an order to the progression and many extinct species along the way. Naturally the exact order is difficult to determine the more you try to narrow the period you want to look at. A million years is a blink of an eye, geologically, and some fossils can get slightly remixed during that period, oh, not intermixed with say, Cretaceous or Cambrian fossils, but it's more difficult to determine absolute dates the finer the period you are looking at. And we have but a small scattering of fossils from the many species that may have lived during any one period.

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