Sean, I’m glad to see you concede that profound adaptations involving …

Comment on Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit by Professor Kent.


I’m glad to see you concede that profound adaptations involving qualitatively new traits–such as toxin systems–can indeed evolve via mutations and natural selection, regardless of how substantial the “fairly specified” specificity is. The remarkable, novel, unquestionably evolved lifestyles of parasitic and predatory animals amply illustrate this. I personally agree with you that God created the original lifeforms that have become parasites and predators (e.g., bacteria, nematodes, mosquitos, snakes).

Your argument about 1,000 fsaars, however, still falls short of invoking God for two reasons that come to my mind:

1. As some have suggested, the original life forms containing complex structures like flagellar motility systems, ATPsynthases, and TTSS toxin injectors could have arrived on our planet having evolved originally elsewhere in the universe. Your arguments of probability that require “trillions upon trillions” of years suffer when vast numbers of potential locations and vast numbers of replicating entities can be invoked. (Again, I agree with you on the basic faith-based premise that God, instead, created these life forms instantaneously.)

2. I’m not convinced that, once the basic machinery is in place, mutations and natural selection cannot build indefinitely on existing systems. You argue that systems are winding down, but regardless of whether you are right, and whether the improvements cannot exceed 1000 fsaars, selection continues to refine and improve and create novel solutions to new challenges. We see evidence almost everywhere we look for the ongoing creativity of natural selection among both slow- and fast-reproducing life forms. The remarkable biodiversity that has evolved following the flood, with terrestrial animals in particular having become highly adapted to ever-changing niches, testifies to this.

You could help me better understand your arguments for the limited creativity of RM/NS if you could describe some traits that, according to your theory, illustrate why it is impossible for the following transitions to occur because to do so would require >1,000 fsaars:

– fishes to amphibians
– amphibians to reptiles
– reptiles to mammals

In other words, what trait(s), precisely, would block the gradual evolution of a fish to an amphibian, an amphibian to a reptile, or a reptile to a mammal?

Professor Kent Also Commented

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit
Regarding the possible evolution of feathers in birds, information for producing feathers exists in the genes of the American Alligator, but the instructions are suppressed during embryological development, causing alligator hatchlings to produce only scales. Again, I don’t see a single huge step to go from featherless to feathered.

When one considers the dramatic variation in feather types that exists today–from simple (single filament) to complex (with barbs and barbules), I don’t see a single 1,000-fsaar step as being necessary for this transition.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit

Sean Pitman: [@ Pauluc] I’ve given you numerous examples already of systems that require a minimum of far more than 1000 specifically arranged residues. How many more examples do you need?

Disregarding bacterial examples (which could have arrived from another galaxy), here are the examples Sean provided earlier to argue that transitions between major animal groups (e.g., amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to mammals or birds) would be impossible:

Sean Pitman in a prior post: Anything novel between these groups that requires a minimum of more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid parts would qualify (or an equivalent number of codons of DNA) – like the middle ear with tympanic membrane and ear bone in amphibians as well as the amphibian ability to metamorphosize to the adult stage (vs. no such middle ears with in fish or the ability to metamorphosize legs, lungs, etc.), or the amniotic eggs of reptiles with a tough leathery shell (vs. the soft watery gel that surrounds the eggs of amphibians), or the hair and sweat glands of mammals (compared to a lack of such in reptiles), or the true flight feathers of birds with their interlocking Velcro-like features (compared to a lack of such in true reptiles).

I’d like to know how many specifically arranged amino acid parts would be necessary for each these traits. I see no reason why smaller baby steps can’t accomplish these transitions.

Very dramatic mutations can result in entire supernumery limbs appearing out of place in both invertebrates and vertebrates, so I don’t see any difficulty with extra bones showing up in the ear.

Regarding the evolution of hair, a prior study found chickens, lizards, and humans all possessed a similar set of genes that was involved in the production of alpha keratin. In chickens and lizards, the α-keratin produced was found in their claws, but in mammals it was used to produce hair.

Speaking of the leathery eggs of reptiles, there are individual species which exhibit vivipary (live birth), ovovivipary (egg retained internally until birth), or ovipary (egg-laying) depending on where they live. And many embryologists no longer recognize these three categories, as there appears to be a continuum from live-bearing to egg-laying. Doesn’t seem to me the differences are all that insurmountable.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit

Sean Pitman: Certainly all variation at lower levels of functional complexity could easily be realized in this period of time.

This faith-based claim simply cannot be demonstrated.

Sean Pitman: Humans and apes are quite different in various respects, to include brain structure and function – which is thought to be based on numerous differences in genetic regions that code for miRNAs (around 8% of which are human specific).

You failed to indicate where the 1,000-fsaar gap would be. Where is the evidence these changes could not occur via gradual stepwise change? You’ve argued vociferously that all dog breeds could be derived from a single pair within 4,000 years (you’ve made a case for most occuring in 300 years), why couldn’t these closely-related apes evolve over millions of years?

Sean Pitman: A study published by Nature in early 2010 showed many striking differences between human and chimp chromosome structure, gene content, and even qualitatively unique genes between the two species.

Where are the 1,000-fsaar gaps?

Recent Comments by Professor Kent

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: Science isn’t about “cold hard facts.” Science is about interpreting the “facts” as best as one can given limited background experiences and information. Such interpretations can be wrong and when shown to be wrong, the honest will in fact change to follow where the “weight of evidence” seems to be leading.

Much of science is based on highly technical data that few other than those who generate it can understand. For most questions, science yields data insufficient to support a single interpretation. And much of science leads to contradictory interpretations. Honest individuals will admit that they have a limited understanding of the science, and base their opinions on an extremely limited subset of information which they happen to find compelling whether or not the overall body of science backs it up.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: The process of detecting artefacts as true artefacts is a real science based on prior experience, experimentation, and testing with the potential of future falsification. Oh, and I do happen to own a bona fide polished granite cube.

Not from Mars. Finding the cube on Mars is the basis of your cubical caricature of science, not some artefact under your roof.

Sean Pitman:
Professor Kent: If you think my brother-in-law who loves to fish in the Sea of Cortez is a scientist because he is trying to catch a wee little fish in a big vast sea, then I guess I need to view fishermen in a different light. I thought they were hobbyists.

The question is not if one will catch a fish, but if one will recognize a fish as a fish if one ever did catch a fish. That’s the scientific question here. And, yet again, the clear answer to this question is – Yes.

I think I’m going to spend the afternoon with my favorite scientist–my 8-year-old nephew. We’re going to go fishing at Lake Elsinore. He wants to know if we might catch a shark there. Brilliant scientist, that lad. He already grasps the importance of potentially falsifiable empirical evidence. I’m doubtful we’ll catch a fish, but I think he’ll recognize a fish if we do catch one.

While fishing, we’ll be scanning the skies to catch a glimpse of archaeopteryx flying by. He believes they might exist, and why not? Like the SETI scientist, he’s doing science to find the elusive evidence.

He scratched himself with a fish hook the other day and asked whether he was going to bleed. A few moments later, some blood emerged from the scratched. Talk about potentilly falsifiable data derived from a brilliant experiment. I’m telling you, the kid’s a brilliant scientist.

What’s really cool about science is that he doesn’t have to publish his observations (or lack thereof) to be doing very meaningful science. He doesn’t even need formal training or a brilliant mind. Did I mention he’s the only autistic scientist I’ve ever met?

As most everyone here knows, I have a poor understanding of science. But I’m pretty sure this nephew of mine will never lecture me or Pauluc on what constitutes science. He’s the most humble, polite, and soft-spoken scientist I’ve ever met.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: I don’t think you understand the science or rational arguments behind the detection of an artefact as a true artefact. In fact, I don’t think you understand the basis of science in general.

I’m amused by this response. I don’t think you understand the limits of a philosophical argument based on a hypothetical situation, which is all that your convoluted cube story comprises, and nothing more. Whether the artefact is an artefact is immaterial to an argument that is philosophical and does not even consider an actual, bona fide artefact.

Sean Pitman: You argue that such conclusions aren’t “scientific”. If true, you’ve just removed forensic science, anthropology, history in general, and even SETI science from the realm of true fields of scientific study and investigation.

Forensic science, anthropology, and history in general all assume that humans exist and are responsible for the phenomenon examined. Authorities in these disciplines can devise hypotheses to explain the phenomenon they observe and can test them.

SETI assumes there might be non-human life elsewhere in the universe and is nothing more than an expensive fishing expedition. If you think my brother-in-law who loves to fish in the Sea of Cortez is a scientist because he is trying to catch a wee little fish in a big vast sea, then I guess I need to view fishermen in a different light. I thought they were hobbyists.

The search for a granite cube on Mars is nothing more than an exercise in hypotheticals. Call it science if you insist; I don’t see how it is different than a child waiting breathlessly all night beside the fireplace hoping to find Santa coming down the chimney.

I guess the number of science colleagues I acknowledge needs to grow exponentially. I apologize to those I have failed to recognize before as scientists.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes

Sean Pitman: The observation alone, of the granite cube on an alien planet, informs us that the creator of the cube was intelligent on at least the human level of intelligence – that’s it. You are correct that this observation, alone, would not inform us as to the identity or anything else about the creator beyond the fact that the creator of this particular granite cube was intelligent and deliberate in the creation of the cube.

Your frank admission concedes that the creator of the cube could itself be an evolved being, and therefore you’re back to square one. Thus, your hypothetical argument offers no support for either evolutionism or creationism, and cannot distinguish between them.

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
I have taken much abuse by pointing out the simple fact that SDAs have specific interpretations of origins that originate from scripture and cannot be supported by science (if science is “potentially falsifiable empirical evidence”). The beliefs include:

o fiat creation by voice command from a supernatural being
o all major life forms created in a 6-day period
o original creation of major life forms approximately 6,000 years ago

None of these can be falsified by experimental evidence, and therefore are accepted on faith.

Sean Pitman’s responses to this are predictably all over the place. They include:

[This] is a request for absolute demonstration. That’s not what science does.” [totally agreed; science can’t examine these beliefs]

The Biblical account of origins can in fact be supported by strong empirical evidence.” [not any of these three major interpretations of Genesis 1]

Does real science require leaps of faith? Absolutely!

I think it’s fair to say from Pitman’s perspective that faith derived from science is laudable, whereas faith derived from scripture–God’s word–is useless.

Don’t fret, Dr. Pitman. I won’t lure you into further pointless discussion. While I am greatly amused by all of this nonsense and deliberation (hardly angry, as you often suggest) for a small handful of largely disinterested readers, I am finished. I won’t be responding to any further remarks or questions.