Comment on The End of “Junk DNA”? by Sean Pitman.
Your essential argument is a strawman argument. You critize a caricature of the science of genetics and molecular biology and do not seem to be engaged with the basic ideas. For sure there have been profound errors and lack of understanding but that is what science is like. Increasing understanding is expected as new methods and data become available. Hypothesis testing is about detecting error and you are absolutely correct in that the “junk” DNA hypothesis as presented in the popular press has been rejected.
It wasn’t just a “popular press” idea. The “junk DNA” concept was part of mainstream science for decades . . . a prediction of neo-Darwinism according to many biologists.
But it was not at all rejected because some armchair scientists denied it on a priori grounds but was rejected because of new data, experiments and better models.
The point is that there was more than enough data decades ago to reject the junk DNA concept. The only reason the junk DNA concept held on as long as it did is because of neo-Darwinian predictions for it. One clue that should have raised questions long ago is that it is very expensive for a living thing to maintain DNA. It just doesn’t, and didn’t, make any sense for natural selection to avoid getting rid of something that really didn’t contribute substantially to the immediate survival of the organism. The arguments that junk DNA was maintained by nature in order to provide potential future evolutionary benefits to the population didn’t make much sense because nature has no such foresight. Nature only selects, in a positive manner, for what works right now in some kind of beneficial way.
There has been increase in understanding of genomics and the role of junk DNA but as Tim Standish breathlessly says evolutionary concepts were used both for the earlier understanding of “non-protein-coding” DNA as padding and a repository of potential reusable but unnecessary genetic information and for the newer concept of selection of functional activity found in these regions not coding for protein.
Yes yes. But “junk DNA” was thought to have no significant active role in phenotypic expression or the control of genes in a manner that could be positively selected by nature. The view that non-coding DNA was simply a junk-yard “repository” that could be used for future evolutionary advantages is now known to be painfully mistaken – and should have been detected as such long ago.
On the other hand, the design model or paradigm for living things and their informational complexity was predictive in this case while the naturalistic perspective actually slowed down scientific advancement in this area.
3] You seem to believe that molecular geneticists before you and fellow young earth creationists came along with vague statements in the blogoshere about function of the whole of the genome, believed that junk DNA (as Gould rightly observes a “disrespectfully” denoted shorthand predicated on the prokaryotic model of funtional genes) was completely useless.
I think my statements and the statements of many other IDists were quite clear regarding the active functionality of most non-coding forms of DNA and the eventual discovery of such. Also, I never said that naturalists thought “junk DNA” to be absolutely functionless. Obviously, as I originally noted, Gould believed that “junk DNA” had a repository “function”, but he did not believe that it had an active function in living things. He did not believe that it had any significant control over the expression of genes and the overall phenotype of the organism. He was very much mistaken.
This is patently wrong. If you read even the abstract of the 1988 paper from John Bodnar “A domain model for eukaryotic DNA organization: A molecular basis for cell differentiation and chromosome evolution” J theoretical biol 1988, that is cited in the paper by William Dembski that you then cite, you will see that Bodnar was advocating consideration of the genomic organization in terms of “domains” that are much more complex than simply the promoters and coding exons assumed to be subject to evolutionary selection. This essential idea that the genome has been selected by the resultant phenotype has changed little in the last 50 years. The idea that a phenotype is the basis of selection not the genotype has gained increasing recognition as the complexity of the genome and the many levels of regulation and control has become evident. Increasing understanding of “Junk DNA” and the highly nuanced regulation of structure and function determined by regions outside conventional coding regions has enhanced neo-darwinian models premised on natural selection rather than destroyed them as you seem to hope based on your models of reality.
Hardly. Selection has to be based on the phenotypic level. Nature cannot “see” anything at the genotypic level that is not expressed at the phenotypic level. Creationists have long recognized this concept – in the face the claims of naturalists like Richard Dawkins who have promoted selection on the genotypic level.
The regulatory function and structure of non-coding DNA does not help explain the evolution of novel functional systems and elements within any gene pool beyond very very low levels of functional complexity. What the discovery of the functionality of non-coding DNA has done is show that the neo-Darwinian predictions were wrong regarding its value and they were wrong regarding the detrimental mutation rate. This second error will prove far more devastating to neo-Darwinism than the first.
4] You do not seem to make any distinction between the protein coding and non-protein coding regions in terms of their contribution to phenotype.
I thought I was very clear in my article that there is quite a significant difference here. Protein-coding genes are the basic building blocks, the basic “bricks and mortar” so to speak. How these bricks and mortar are used to build different kinds of structures or living things is dependent upon the information in the non-coding regions of the genome where the real blueprint resides.
You seem to be suggesting all are essential. Do you really believe that?
You don’t think non-coding DNA essential to complex living things that depend upon many multicellular organ systems? Are you serious? We aren’t talking about single-celled bacteria here. While not all forms of non-coding DNA are created equal, non-coding DNA contains the primary information for phenotypic expression, dictating how the coding genes are to function and what type of organism to build.
Are all pseudogenes functional?
No. There are true pseudogenes that have in fact lost their original functionality.
What do you mean by “critical”? Critical to life? Consider that you can lose a lot of body parts that aren’t critical to life that you wouldn’t want to just throw away as “non-critical”. I dare say that you’d still like to keep your arms and legs and colon and bladder, etc . . . even though you could live on without them for quite some time.
Surely processed pseudogenes are evidence that introns are non-essential.
Again, non-essential to what? Many intronic regions are now known to carry out important functions (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3). Just because you may be able to survive without some of them doesn’t mean much when it comes to determining important functionality. Ironically, yours is the same argument that was used by many evolutionists to suggest that non-coding DNA was functionless “junk” – because much of it could be deleted without apparent detriment to the organism. Well, that notion turned out to be wrong. The truth is that “Introns in contemporary species fulfill a broad spectrum of functions, and are involved in virtually every step of mRNA processing.” (Link).
Consider also the following comments regarding intron functionality:
As a first approximation, it is possible to view introns as unimportant sequences whose only function is to be removed from an unspliced precursor RNA in order to generate the functional mRNA, rRNA or tRNA product. However, it is now well-established that some introns themselves encode specific proteins or can be further processed after splicing to generate noncoding RNA molecules. Alternative splicing is widely used to generate multiple proteins from a single gene…
Alternative splicing of introns within a gene acts to introduce greater variability of protein sequences translated from a single gene, allowing multiple related proteins to be generated from a single gene and a single precursor mRNA transcript. The control of alternative RNA splicing is performed by complex network of signaling molecules that respond to a wide range of intracellular and extracellular signals.
Introns contain several short sequences that are important for efficient splicing, such as acceptor and donor sites at either end of the intron as well as a branch point site, which are required for proper splicing by the spliceosome. Some introns are known to enhance the expression of the gene that they are contained in by a process known as intron-mediated enhancement (IME).
So you see, just because you can live without something doesn’t mean it isn’t useful or beneficial or otherwise relevant to better phenotypic functionality.
Are alu repeats critical and essential?
Alu repeats are also known to be functionally important. “Dynamic and functional Alu repeats seem to be centrally placed to modulate the transcriptional landscape of human genome” (From ‘JUNK’ to Just Unexplored Noncoding Knowledge: the case of transcribed Alus, 2012).
Is the genome uniformly critical and functional? Is there a heirarchy with protien coding at the top and supporting scaffolding and microregulatory and integrative regions below.
There certainly is a hierarchy with different areas having more or less “critical” functionality. However, I would put protein-coding genes at the bottom, not the top, in this hierarchy of functionality. In this, even the likes of John Mattick seem to agree with me:
“Indeed, what was damned as junk because it was not understood may, in fact, turn out to be the very basis of human complexity,” Mattick suggests. Pseudogenes, riboswitches and all the rest aside, there is a good reason to suspect that is true. Active RNA, it is now coming out, helps to control the large-scale structure of the chromosomes and some crucial chemical modifications to them—an entirely different, epigenetic layer of information in the genome.”
Wyatt Gibbs, The Unseen Genome: Gems among the Junk, Scientific American, November 2003, pp 45-53
Did you read what I read? Mattick himself argues that non-coding DNA forms the very basis of human complexity? way back in 2003? It’s only gotten more convincing since then…
What precisely is your model based on intelligent design? I cannot seem to find it articulated in a scientific way.
Upon what basis must intelligent design be invoked to explain anything in a “scientific way”? – any artifact? What are SETI scientists looking for and how will they know when they’ve discovered evidence of ET? The very same arguments can be used to invoke ID behind certain features of living things. If a given phenomenon goes well beyond what any known mindless force of nature can explain in a reasonable amount of time, and if that phenomenon is within the creative powers of intelligent agents (i.e., humans), then the most rational conclusion is that the origin of this particular phenomenon was most likely intelligent on at least the human level of intelligence or beyond.
What about junk RNA? Will this ongoing post ENCODE scientific debate be the source for your next blog? Would you like to articulate your view based on a YEC perspective with such specificity that we can see if you are right or wrong?
My position is testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. All you have to do is produce a mindless naturalistic mechanism that can create qualitatively novel systems at higher levels of functional complexity in a reasonable amount of time – or at least a tenable statistic model for such. So far, the very best you have is just-so stories and a lot of bravado. Where’s the science?
It is easy to sit at your study desk and pontificate post hoc on the errors of evolutionary biologists but to be credible as a scientist you need to propose hypotheses with some specificities and test them against the data.
You need to get off your high horse and actually test your naturalistic just-so stories against reality – in a statistically relevant manner (i.e., using some real mathematical models that are statistically relevant and meaningful). This you have yet to do.
You yourself admit that you aren’t about to test your notions regarding the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selections in any statistically relevant way. You say that you “approach the reality of speciation in a top down fashion the same way as Darwin did” (Link). Because of this you do not recognize any specific limitation to “speciation” or change over time. You don’t actually consider or recognize the statistical potential and/or limitations of Darwin’s mechanism of random mutations and natural selection when it comes to creativity at various levels of functional complexity. That is why you’re not doing real science here. Your position is immune to even the potential of falsification since it cannot be tested – not even statistically. All you have are just-so stories beyond very low levels of functional complexity.
My position, on the other hand, is open to such testing and potential falsification.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Lots of non-Adventist individuals and organizations are committed to Jesus Christ – like the Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, etc. However, the simple criteria of being committed to one’s own personal view of Jesus Christ does not qualify one as being a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Now, this isn’t to say that being committed to Jesus Christ and His example, as detailed in the Bible, isn’t a good thing. It’s a very very good thing and the motive of love behind such a decision is the very basis of salvation. However, even being in a saving relationship with Jesus is not enough to qualify an individual to be an effective representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in particular.
The Adventist Church takes on basic Christianity as well as an additional mission – a mission which includes upholding before the world some 28 doctrinal beliefs which the church considers “fundamental” or crucial to its primary goals and mission during the last days of Earth’s history.
Now, one may be saved without being a part of the Adventist mission or church – thank God! In fact, the vast majority of people who will be saved in Heaven one day will never have even heard of Seventh-day Adventists. So, this isn’t an issue of salvation. It is an issue of appropriately representing the primary goals and mission of an organization as that organization defines itself.
You, weather you like it or not, are not in line with many of the primary goals and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That doesn’t make you good or bad or outside of the saving love and grace of God. It just means that you cannot adequately represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a paid representative. Your representation would be counterproductive to the stated goals and missions of the church as an organization.
That is why it would be much better for you, and for more honest, if you were to take on a label that more accurately represents your current world views…
When empirical evidence and God’s word go different directions, you will choose the evidence, whereas the SDA Church always has and always will prioritize God’s word.
During the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church the founding fathers took on the position that the Bible prophesied that Jesus would return in 1844. The empirical evidence proved this notion wrong. And, these founding fathers were forced, by the empirical evidence, to admit that their faith in what they thought the Bible said was mistaken.
You see, the SDA Church, from its very beginnings, has been forced to recognize the interplay between faith and evidence for the rational mind. One cannot rationally argue that one’s faith in what one thinks the Bible says, or even the origin of the Bible, is entirely independent of the weight of empirical evidence.
It is for this reason that the modern Seventh-day Adventist Church is actually concerned over what is being taught at La Sierra University regarding the topic of origins. If all that mattered was a fideistic faith in the Bible and our own special interpretation of the Bible, the church wouldn’t care what people thought of the empirical evidence. It wouldn’t care what was being taught in science classes within its own schools. This simply isn’t the case.
You are delusional to believe that the SDA Church will agree to disembody and disavow itself of God if the accumulated evidence goes against its present interpretation of scripture.
But the church has changed its mind before regarding its views of the Bible based on the weight of empirical evidence (as noted above).
Again, God does not ask us to believe or have faith without the weight of evidence. He does not expect us to believe in something that has no more evidential backing than the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. That simply wouldn’t be reasonable on the part of God nor would it be fair for Him to act in such a manner…
There is a great gulf between You and I. Where does one start in trying to find common ground and responding to your very concrete thought structure. Its as if the last 200 years have not happened. Your view of natural theology may have been accepted by William Paley but is not an approach to God thought valid by most modern theologians with any acquaintance with science.
One of the problems I personally have with your perspective, and that of many modern theologians, is that it seems to me to be inconsistent with itself. You yourself describe your own position as “irrational”! You reject the authority of the Scriptures when the Biblical authors describe the miracle of God creating life on this planet in just six literal days (clearly what the author of the Genesis account was trying to convey to his readers)… because of what you view as the contrary evidence of modern science. Yet, at the very same time, you accept the claims of the Biblical authors when they describe the miraculous virgin birth, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. You accept this portion of the Scriptures contrary to the claims of the vast majority of modern scientists who claim that such things are impossible.
Does this not then mean that your internally derived “faith” allows you to pick and choose what you will and will not believe independent of the influence of anything else? It isn’t a matter of consistent Biblical interpretation for you because you simply aren’t consistent in how you interpret the Bible or determine what is or isn’t true. You pick and choose based on your own individual desires for what you want to be true. That is why your faith is inconsistent with itself and is, as you yourself explain, completely irrational to the point of overt fideism. You take on a form of fideism that is its own evidence independent of any influence outside of your own mind and your own feelings and desires – to include any consistent influence from the Bible itself.
What argument can you or any modern theologian present to make what you yourself claim is an irrational position appear remotely attractive to those who appreciate rational thought and careful consistent investigation of fantastic claims?
It is not the 19th century and we are called to preach the grace of God to a secular world. Your vision shows no imagination or understanding of spirituality or the reality and value of vision, myth and abstract concepts that may have no correspondence in concrete realities.
But I do find value in various myths, legends, allegories, and fairytales. Even Jesus used such stories to teach various truths about the existence of realities that are not yet seen. However, it makes a great deal of difference if one believes that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a good moral fable vs. true empirical historical reality. If the disciples of Jesus had believed His claims to be the Son of God simply allegorical, rather than empirical reality, they would not have put their own lives on the line. No rational person, who is naturally prone to avoid a martyr’s death, is going to put his life on the line for stories that he believes are mythical or allegorical – devoid of any “correspondence with concrete realities”.
They key point here is that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead and His disciples had not personally witnessed the empirical reality of this event, there would be no Christian Church of any kind today. All of Christian faith hinges on the literal reality of the Resurrection. Without this reality, there is no mystical experience with God that can rationally support the claims of Christianity.
Do you agree with Martin Luther in his statement about scripture trumping observation:
“People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool [or ‘man’] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”
– Martin Luther, Table Talk
If you truly privilege scripture over science you should really revamp this web site to be consistent with the supremacy of scripture along the lines of the site http://www.fixedearth.com/ A site that is at least absolutely consistent with biblical literalism as Luther saw it.
Even though we who live in this modern age know that the Earth does in fact revolve around the Sun, we still speak in everyday terms as the Sun “rising in the east” and “setting in the west” or the “Sun going down”. Such are terms of perspective. In context, therefore, no further interpretation is necessitated in the Bible’s description of Joshua speaking from his own Earth-bound perspective. Surely you can understand the difference between such passages and passages in Genesis where it would be very very difficult to misinterpret the observation of “evenings and mornings” separating the “days” of creation – regardless of perspective. In such passages the author is clearly claiming that God showed him that the days of creation were separated by what clearly appeared to be “evenings and mornings” from his Earth-bound perspective. There’s a big difference here.
As far as Martin Luther is concerned, he was a great reformer and he did advance important truths for his time. However, he was no prophet and received no privileged revelation regarding such things. He forwarded and acted upon a great many points of misunderstanding regarding the meaning of many Scriptural truths which the Seventh-day Adventist Church has since realized – to include those truths revealed to us by God speaking in a very privileged manner through Ellen White.
Now, you can either accept or reject the Adventist perspective on such things, but it is very difficult to call yourself an Adventist or a true representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when you are actually fighting against numerous doctrinal ideals that the Adventist Church, as an organization, still holds to be fundamentally important. It would be much better and far more honest for you to describe yourself in terms that more accurately reflect your true beliefs.
The reality however is that both you and I interpret the scriptures. As I have said before you appear to practice naturalistic evidence based medicine contrary to the biblical description of healing but then pretend that you are following the plain text of scripture when reject entirely naturalism when it comes to origins. You claim;
“You pick and choose what elements you will use to build your own image of “christianity”… which is quite different from the Biblical claims.”
But do not at all seem able to see that you are in fact doing exactly what you project in accepting evidence based medicine contrary to a plain reading of scripture but claiming origin by divine fiat and miracle on the basis of one particular reading of scripture.
There is actually good support for evidence-based medicine in Scripture. Just because the Scriptures also point out the power of prayer and God’s willingness to supernaturally intervene, on occasion, in our lives does not mean that the Scriptures are opposed to evidence-based medicine. Such a notion is completely contrary to the position of the Bible, Mrs. White, and the Adventist Church on the topics of health and medicine in general where the laws of nature, set in place by God, are to be dealt with on a routine basis in the practice of medicine and healthful living.
You continue to misconstrue the point of my discussion of Santa Claus and Christmas. Children can and do grow in their understanding of reality and are able to see beyond the concrete events of Christmas to see it as a representation of a worthy abstraction that is not invalidated by rejecting a fictitious Santa Claus. You seem unable to move from the concrete to the abstract and yet again claim you will reject Christ if your biblical interpretation is found not to be consistent with a simplistic reality. As though your superior mind trumps any non-rational revelation of God.
A non-rational revelation of God would not, by definition, make rational sense – right? (any more than a desire to believe in the reality of existence of Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?) Why then should I believe in any irrational “revelation” that makes no sense to me? Can you provide any rational answer to this question? Wouldn’t any response you might submit be irrational by definition? That’s why your position makes no sense to me. Why even try to argue for what you yourself are arguing has no rational explanation?
Your arrogance is unceasingly amazing.
“And, so far, the organized Adventist Church agrees with me. Of course, you can call yourself whatever you want. But, again, that doesn’t mean that the church is going to recognize your claims as actually representing the church’s view of reality. So, why would you expect anyone holding views that undermine the fundamental goals and ideals of the church, the ‘fundamental beliefs’, to be paid by the church”
You are of course right if you think the church that is being rebuilt by Ted Wilson and Clifford Goldstein with their militant fundamentalism and unsavoury and ungracious political manouvering is the legitimate heir of traditional Adventism but I do not.
Where did Ted Wilson or Clifford Goldstein set up the fundamental doctrinal ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? You give them far too much credit! These fundamentals were set up well before they came on the scene…
At the very least, you must admit that you are strongly opposed to many of the clearly stated doctrinal positions that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has long held, and currently holds, to be “fundamental” to its very existence. You fundamentally disagree with both the founders and the current leaders of the church on many key points of doctrine. You disagree with many of the modern and historical doctrinal positions of the SDA Church as an organization.
You are really more of a “social Adventist” who was raised in the Adventist Church but who really doesn’t subscribe to many of the doctrinal positions of the church as an organization. Why then do you wish to continue to take on the title of “Seventh-day Adventist” when this title doesn’t really do you justice? – when it doesn’t truly represent who you really are and what you really believe? And, why on Earth would you expect anyone who holds similar views to your own to be hired by any organization who claims to be fundamentally opposed to what you actually believe and are willing to teach/preach?
Wouldn’t it be far more honest and ethical for you and those of like mind to more clearly present yourselves and what you stand for and then go and work for those who are more than willing to pay to have such ideas taught in their schools and preached from their pulpits? Why the aversion to completely open and honest transparency here?
And, if the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as an organization, really has no problem with those from your perspective preaching and teaching on the church’s dime, why then hasn’t the Adventist Church come out in open support of such efforts? Why has the Adventist Church, as an organization, gotten so worked up over Neo-Darwinism being so openly promoted as La Sierra University? – if the church really is as supportive of your position as you seem to suggest?
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
Look again. I did reference the 2018 paper of Basener and Sanford (which was the motivation for me writing this particular article). Of course, as you’ve mentioned, Sanford has also written an interesting book on this topic entitled, “Genetic Entropy” – which I’ve previously referenced before in this blog (along with a YouTube video of a lecture he gave on the topic at Loma Linda University: (Link). For those who haven’t read it or seen Sanford’s lecture on this topic, it’s certainly worth your time…
Evolution from Space?
I will try to do it someday, but lately I’ve been swamped by speaking appointments, my real job, and my two young boys 😉
However, 300-400 people do visit and read articles on my websites per day – which isn’t bad for now. I also get very encouraging E-mails on a regular basis from those who have been helped by these postings. Some of these are teachers and professors who use this information in their own classrooms throughout the country – but often without giving the source for their material in order to avoid the automatic bias that comes with it.
The reason that no competent scientist will date the “soft tissue” of dinosaur bones is probably because the techniques used to extract that material seriously contaminate the extract from a 14C perspective. I am checking on that with several biochemists, but I suspect that this is true.
If that’s the case, then how can radiocarbon dating be relied upon to date the remains of mammoths or other late Pleistocene animals? How can you have your cake and eat it too?
Beyond this, aren’t there supposed to be ways to detect and eliminate contamination and to harvest material without causing significant 14C contamination? – especially when it comes to very well preserved collagen and other original soft tissues (as well as bioapatite)? After all, we’re talking about a lot of contamination here – up to 10% of the total carbon within the dinosaur bone. What kind of source could explain such a high degree of contamination? Also, as an expert in radiocarbon dating, isn’t it basic procedure for those in your profession to be able to detect if not remove 14C contamination from specimens? – as part of the AMS testing process?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if collagen and bioapatite fractions show concordant radiocarbon dating, then isn’t this taken as a valid radiocarbon date? free of significant contamination?
If so, this is what was done with the dating of some dinosaur bone specimens as well: “Collagen and bone bioapatite and/or total bone organics gave concordant C-14 dates after careful extraction and purification of those fractions.” (Link)
Is this not the proper procedure? Is this not what is also done when dating ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloth dung, and giant bison?
All of the evidence presented by you and those who agree with you have been dealt with so many times by so many competent scientists that a reasonable individual would almost certainly say something like: Well, anyone who continues to dispute the scientific evidence on this point apparently just can’t bring themselves to admit the truth of the matter for some religious reason.
An argument from authority already? That’s the best you have? As long as it’s popular among the experts in a given field of science, even if one doesn’t personally understand it and suspects that something isn’t quite right, you’d recommend just going with the flow without question? – trusting that someone else must know the answers?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that the popular opinion of experts in a particular field of study should be taken into careful consideration. However, such “expert opinion” isn’t the end-all of science and has often turned out to not only to be wrong, but painfully wrong. I guess it’s Ok if I’m too lazy or don’t care enough about a particular topic to investigate it for myself to simply trust in the expert opinion of the day. However, let’s not confuse that with conclusive “science” or a valid scientific explanation. Such blind appeals to the authority of “experts” or the status quo within the scientific community, by themselves, are not at all helpful when it comes to answering valid questions in that they have no explanatory power in a discussion like this one. After all, don’t you realize that this is the very same tactic often used by those promoting some religious agenda? – who don’t have anything else beyond an appeal to authority to fall back on? – no reasonably understandable argument besides, “My holy book says so”? – or “most theologians agree”? I believe it was Carl Sagan who once said:
One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. – Sagan (July 6, 2011)
Consider also this humerus exchange between Socrates and Meno:
Meno: Is this true about yourself, Socrates, that you don’t even know what virtue is? Is this the report that we are to take home about you?
Socrates: Not only that, you may also say that, to the best of my belief, I have never met anyone else who did know.
Meno: What! Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
Meno: And you still didn’t think he knew?
Socrates: I’m a forgetful sort of person, and I can’t say just now what I thought at the time. Probably he did know, and I expect you know what he used to say about it. So remind me what it was, or tell me yourself if you will. No doubt you agree with him.
Meno: Yes, I do.
Socrates: Then let’s leave him out of it, since after all he isn’t here. What do you yourself say virtue is?
– Plato, Meno, 71c, W. Guthrie, trans., Collected Dialogs (1961), p. 354
So, I ask you again: In your own words, please do explain to me where, exactly, mainstream scientists have so clearly and reasonably dealt with some of the fundamental problems of Darwinian-style evolution that seem so difficult to me? You don’t even appear to understand the difference between Mendelian variation and the mechanism of Darwinian evolution (random mutations in the underlying gene pool combined with natural selection). You don’t seem to understand that animal breeding is based on phenotypic selection alone, as is natural selection, or that Darwin himself used animal breeding as an illustration of how natural selection is supposed to work. Where can any reasonable explanation be found as to how novel genetic information can enter a given gene pool, via the Darwinian mechanism, beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time? Also, where has any scientist produced a reasonable explanation as to how very well-preserved soft tissues, proteins, and antigenic fragments of DNA can be preserved for even 100k years? – at ambient temperatures? These are honest and sincere questions for which I have found no reasonable answers from anyone – scientists or otherwise. If you know the answers, if they are so obvious to you, why not share them with me here?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me, at this point in my own search, that you, and scientists in general, are not immune from personal bias or from philosophical/religious motivations – or from peer pressure (the fear of being unpopular in your community). In short, you’re human just like the rest of us. 😉
One more thing, your notion that religion and science do not and cannot mix is fundamentally at odds with the existence of a personal God who created the universe and died on the cross for the salvation of humanity. If such a God actually exists, He is the Creator of science and scientific thinking as well as everything else and His Signature can therefore be rationally detected in the things that He has made (Psalms 19:1-3). If this cannot be achieved, then your notion of “God” is essentially the same as atheism – for all practical purposes.
I’m sorry, but William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, makes much more sense here (in a speech he gave for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
No gods worth having exist;
No life after death exists;
No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims. Darwinian-style evolution is just one more argument for the philosophical position of “Philosophical Naturalism” – a position that suggests that everything within the physical world, everything that we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell, is ultimately the result of non-deliberate mindless forces of nature. And, you yourself can’t tell the difference since, as you once said, you wouldn’t be able to give your own granddaughter any good evidence for the existence of God if she were to ask you for such evidence. Why then do you even pretend? – why even give lip service to Christianity?
I have checked with the director of the lab which was supposed to have dated a “soft tissue” extract and he wrote back almost immediately that what they had been given was a whole bone, not a “soft tissue” extract and the bone was badly degraded from the point of view of any organic carbon. The date they obtained was obviously contamination and they reported that fact to the submitter.
That’s hard to believe given that many dates on many different specimens where reported by The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, and others, without any mention of contamination – using the same procedures that they would for a portion of mammoth or mastodon bone (and no one claimed here to have submitted a “soft tissue extract”). After all, the youngest radiocarbon date for a mammoth fossil (3685 ± 60 yr BP) comes from the remains of one discovered on Wrangel Island off the north-eastern Siberian coast (Vartanyan et al. 2008). Yet, no one cites “contamination” when discussing such dates for mammoths. Also, great care was taken to prevent contamination when obtaining the dinosaur bone specimens that were dated. It’s hard to imagine, then, how these dinosaur bones could have been contaminated to the degree that you suggest – which would have had to be between from 1% (40kyr BP) to up to 10% (20kyr BP) of the total carbon within the bone (Plaisted, 2017).
AMS labs know this. You see, it wasn’t until the AMS lab at the University of Georgia discovered that the bone specimens they were analyzing were actually dinosaur bones that they recanted their own results and refused to do any additional 14C testing. Up until this point, they never suspected such a degree of contamination… a mechanism for which is quite difficult to imagine.
Note that both the whole bone and bioapatite in the dinosaur bone was dated. The bioapatite was C14 dated at 41,010 ± 220 years BP, having 0.61 ± 0.02 pMC (percent modern carbon). No mention of “contamination” is listed here. The very fact that they separated out the whole bone date from the bioapatite date is what makes me think they really thought they had original bioapatite from the bone sample.
A couple years later this was followed by:
Consider also that the triceratops horn was well preserved and had well preserved soft tissue within it, to include blood vessels and cellular structures (Link). The fossil’s bioapatite was dated (not the well-preserved soft tissue, which is interesting). According to a 2009 report in the journal Radiocarbon, bioapatite is actually preferable to soft tissue in many cases. Yet, it was also 14C dated by AMS at 33,570 ± 120 years. How is that explained?
Then, there is this report from John Fischer (2014):
Triceratops and Hadrosaur femur bones in excellent condition were discovered in Glendive Montana, and our group received permission to saw them in half and collect samples for Carbon-14 testing. Both bones were tested by a licensed lab for presence of collagen. Both bones did in fact contain some collagen. The best process (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) was used to date them. Total organic carbon and dinosaur bioapatite was extracted and pretreated to remove potential contaminants, and concordant radiocarbon dates were obtained. They were similar to radiocarbon dates for ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers of the Los Angeles LaBrea Tarpits, sloth dung, and giant bison. (Link)
Notice here that both the bioapatite and the collagen within the bone was 14C dated by AMS with resulting “concordant radiocarbon dates” – which is usually used to support the argument that the dates obtained where not the result of contamination.
Now, is this conclusive evidence that dinosaur remains are not millions of years old? I wouldn’t say that this data is conclusive in and of itself – taken one test at a time. After all, a particular lab might not have been able to completely isolate a particular fossil’s original bioapatite – so a particular result may have contamination in it as you suggest. However, I do think that after a certain point of consistent results from multiple tests by multiple labs the weight of evidence starts to add up – adding credibility to the idea that perhaps dinosaurs are not millions of years old after all. When you also consider the fact that pretty much all dinosaur bones with residual organic material in them (and other things that are supposed to be millions of years old – like coal and oil and other “ancient” organic remains) have been consistently dated as only being 15k-40k years old, you have to at least conclude that there is something wrong somewhere. Either the 14C dating system is not as robust as some want to believe, or the fossils are not as old as some want to believe. This is particularly relevant given the existence of very finely preserved original dinosaur soft tissues, proteins, and DNA fragments that simply shouldn’t be there according to all known data on the decay rates of such things.
Here’s an interesting presentation 15-minute presentation (Link) that was given by Dr. Thomas Seiler, a German physicist. In it, he reports on the carbon dating of dinosaur bones, other megafauna (such as mammoths), and plants. In all cases, these materials are supposed to be millions of years old, but they all have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. Of course, one possible explanation for these results is, yet again, contamination. It is possible that “modern” carbon has infiltrated into all these samples, and that’s what is being detected. However, Dr. Seiler presents several arguments that tend to cast doubt on the contamination explanation. First, all the standard treatment used to make a fossil ready for carbon dating was done, which is supposed to get rid of contamination. Second, in some cases, they were examining actual proteins, such as collagen. If “modern” carbon contaminated these fossils, how did it become incorporated into the original collagen? Third, there are some chemicals (like humic acid) that are common contaminants, and it was confirmed that the treatment done on the samples removed those contaminants. Fourth, the amount of carbon in the vicinity of the fossil decreased as you moved away from the fossil. This indicates carbon was “leaking out” of the fossil, not moving into it.
Here’s another interesting article on this topic written by Dr. Jay Wile (2012): Link
So anyway, again I ask you, why not run your own tests? Or why doesn’t Jack Horner or Mary Schweitzer do it with pure finely-preserved dinosaur soft tissues?
As far as breeding vs. natural selection, what’s the real difference if both select based on phenotype alone? You wrote:
It was clear to Alfred Russell Wallace, who, with Darwin, first came up with the idea of natural selection, that you could not use animal breeding experiments to simulate natural evolution.
Please do explain this to me. After all, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing special about the selective breeding of animals in this regard. Even a human breeder could never get one “kind” of animal to evolve into another “kind” of animal (where novel functional genetic options are produced within the gene pool) using breeding techniques with very high selection pressures alone. Why not? Because, selective animal breeding produces no novel information within the gene pool of the animal population in question. Breeding is based on a simple selection of pre-existing information as it is expressed in the various phenotypes of the offspring over time. Exactly the same thing is true of natural selection – which can also produce very rapid phenotypic changes, in the wild, in response to rapidly changing environments or the sudden realization of entirely new environments based on the very same underlying static gene pool of options (no genetic mutations required).
By the way, it was Darwin himself who coined the term ‘selective breeding’; he was interested in the process as an illustration of his proposed wider process of natural selection. Charles Darwin discussed how selective breeding had been successful in producing change over time in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Its first chapter he actually discusses selective breeding and domestication of such animals as pigeons, cats, cattle, and dogs. (Link)
Wallace, on the other hand, argued that the development of the human mind and some bodily attributes were guided by spiritual beings rather than natural selection… (Link)
But please, do explain my mistake here regarding the fundamental differences between the selective breeding of animals vs. natural selection. I’d be most interested, because this concept is fundamental to my own understanding of the clear limits of Darwinian-style evolution via random mutations and natural selection.
Most Species the “Same Age” with No “In-Between” Species
As I’ve previously shown you in this discussion and others, many dinosaur specimens have been sent to very respectable AMS laboratories who carefully process specimens to avoid contamination – yet consistently return 14C dates for these specimens in the range of 15-40kyrs (Link).
Now, have these dates been published in mainstream literature? Of course not. Why not? Because, as I’ve already pointed out, evolutionists (like Jack Horner, Mary Schweitzer, and even you) don’t want to do their own tests on dinosaur soft tissues and actually publish them in mainstream journals… even when offered $25k, on top of expenses, to get the job done (Link). And, they don’t want anyone else doing these tests and publishing the results in mainstream journals either. When someone does try to publish results like this, in a mainstream venue, they are blocked (Link). Why is this? Because, to quote Jack Horner, “That wouldn’t help us.” Jack went on to explain that it didn’t have anything to do with the amount of money – that no amount of money would get the C-14 test done and published by any mainstream science journal. Does that sound like a scientific position to you? – or a philosophical position that must be defended at all cost?
Previous attempts to publish C-14 test results have been repeatedly blocked by mainstream scientists in general. Raw data, without interpretation, was blocked from presentation in conference proceedings by the 2009 North American Paleontological Convention, the American Geophysical Union in 2011 and 2012, the Geological Society of America in 2011 and 2012, and by the editors of various scientific journals. The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia, who conducted C-14 tests on dinosaur bones, without knowing what they were, refused to conduct further C-14 tests after finding they were testing dinosaur bones. There seems to be a bit of a bias going on here.
Your mantra of “contamination” just isn’t convincing at this point given the abundance of very well preserved original dinosaur soft tissue (and other forms of original organic material) all dating within the same range as mammoths and mastodons. There are numerous instances of 14C being discovered in dinosaur soft tissues by those who have sent well-preserved specimens for AMS analysis (with many such labs no longer accepting such specimens because of the politics involved). This is on top of the multiple other lines of evidence backing up the recent existence of dinosaurs on this planet – particularly the very well preserved soft tissues, sequencable proteins and antigenic DNA fragments.
Again, why not just do the AMS test on well-preserved soft tissues and publish the results? Why are evolutionists so scared to perform and publish such tests on dinosaur soft tissues? – tissues that they themselves thought impossible to exist just a few years ago due to the solid science of tissue, protein and DNA decay? Are you guys scientists or not?
As an aside, do you now understand the relevance of animal breeding when it comes to the potential and limits of evolution via natural selection?