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Re: science or non-science?


On Mon, 19 Apr 1999 18:31:32 +0100 Richard Keatinge 
<richard@keatinge.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> In article <SIMEON.9904191347.J@muahost.auckland.ac.nz>, Kendall
> Clements <k.clements@auckland.ac.nz> writes
> >Is Darwinism testable? No,
> Um, that sort of thing does tend to give aid and comfort to
> Creationists. What do you regard as Darwinism, and which bit isn't
> testable? And what do you think of the following:
> The following observations could  disprove the idea that all life has
> originated slowly by separate descent from a common primitive 
ancestor. > Those in the first part of the list have already been shown 
to be wrong: > > Failure to produce a valid hierarchical nesting of 
groups of organisms > (the separate descent bit is important here, it 
doesn't apply to > organisms that can easily share genes - plasmids 
etc).  This would lead > to total disagreement of phylogenies 
reconstructed by different methods > - including all methods not 
available in 1859, so this heading does > includes predictions too. > > 
Organic perfection - i.e. no panda's thumbs, vertebrate retinas, etc. > 
No > useless organs such as (possibly) human appendices, etc > > Fossil 
record - if unchanging, or organisms not relatable to modern > forms, 
i.e. no transitionals.  (i.e. if ET turns up, he'll have to be > 
excluded from our ideas of common descent. ) > > Young earth proven 
from geology.  For example,  fossil remains of most > of the world's 
extant and extinct fauna together in the same general > strata of the 
same geological region of the Middle East, all dating to > the same 
general period of time, and all sitting on top of a geological > strata 
depicting a cataclysmic flood. > > DNA unchangeable / perfectly 
fixable, that is able to be, or is, fixed > in one non-mutable state so 
that no beneficial mutations are possible > or are too improbable to be 
reasonable.  Remember Larry Niven's > bandersnatchi - unchanged while 
we evolved from food yeast :-) - you'd > need a machine gun to mutate 
those chromosomes. > > Failure to find common "handedness" of organic 
molecules, use of common > genetic materials and codes, among all 
organisms. > > Failure to observe natural selection in situations where 
it can be > expected.  See Weiner's The Beak of the Finch for examples. 
> > > > Possible new discoveries which would disprove or be strong 
evidence > against the common ancestry of all living things (i.e. shut 
up, get out > there, and make the observations): > > Discovery of human 
artefacts or remains in rocks more than (my inexpert > and arbitrary 
guess) 30 million years old - or just in the middle of a > nice fauna 
full of trilobites.  See Ed Conrad's rantings for one > attempt, the 
multiple creationist allegations to this effect for others. > > A 
biological boundary that prevents animals from evolving beyond a > 
particular point.  That is, a dinosaur to a bird transition impossible. 
> > Nonhuman modern organisms, or convincing traces, turning up in 
rocks > long before they were supposed to. > > Direct information from 
the superpowerful (with or without supernatural) > being of your choice 
(Slartibartfast would be mine) that it was all a > big joke, combined 
with clear and obvious demonstration of said being's > power to play 
jokes on this scale and to provide an alternative > explanation for 
living things.  Try all Christians being lifted into the > air and 
raptured simultaneously, to the accompaniment of heavenly > choirs. > > 
Appearance of new life forms without the signs of common descent > 
mentioned above, and not deliberately synthesized.  If ET turns up it > 
shouldn't be too hard to prove he isn't related.... doesn't test the 
God > hypothesis of course. > > Appearance of new life forms that 
cannot reasonably be postulated to > have evolved by gradual steps from 
others. Genuinely "irreducible" > complexity - not as per Behe's silly 
description.  However, it has > correctly been pointed out that 
recognizing such an organism would be > rather difficult. > > As Darwin 
and others suggested - the discovery of a feature of a non- > domestic 
organism of use only to other species, and harmful to the > organism 
itself.   More specifically, altruistic behaviour not > accountable for 
by the following natural selection mechanisms: > > Non-reproductive 
castes > saving relatives so as to allow greater genetic success > 
extensions of the limited degree of altruism which are advantageous to 
> social animals, such as ourselves. > (Such extensions can generate 
self-sacrificial behaviour of truly > remarkable degree - kamikazes.) > 
> > -- > Richard Keatinge > > homepage http://www.keatinge.demon.co.uk

I'm not going to buy into any argument concerning creationism. I teach 
evolution, and as far as I'm concerned, creationism is not science and 
has no place on this list.

I have no idea how to respond to the above. I am not sure what Richard 
is trying to argue. I do not believe that the case against creationism 
is helped by pretending that evolutionary theory is something that it 
is not. Rather than clouding the issue in my own clumsy prose I refer 
you to some literature:

Brady, R.H. (1982)  Dogma and doubt.  Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 17: 79-96
Gould, S.J. (1980)  Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging? 
Paleobiology 6: 119-130 
Gould, S.J. (1982)  Darwinism and the expansion of evolutionary theory. 
Science 216: 380-387 
Naylor, B.G., and P. Handford (1985)  In defense of Darwin's theory. 
BioScience 35(8): 478-483


Kendall Clements