Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rusty Nails, 6/16/05...

Whale Evolution: Looks are everything Instapundit links to the latest Tangled Bank offerings promoting evolutionary scenarios, and our old friend DarkSyde is included in a post on the so-called evolution of whales. Despite the fact that whales are notoriously prone to going extinct, evolutionists continue to cling on to whale fossils, which span across millions of years, as being the long lost transitional fossils so readily absent from the fossil record. The basis for such a claim rests mainly on how whale fossils apparently look like they transition from one form to another. Despite admissions that the proposed evolutionary lineages are sketchy at best, despite the fact that the proposed time of transition is woefully short to encompass the necessary changes, and despite the lack of any clear despcription of a mechanism that could produce such changes*, we still see blatant examples of Berra's Blunder. The bottom-line is that the examples presented as transitional fossils are nothing more than intermediate forms. Evolutionary "lensing," that is, viewing the data through strictly evolutionary spectacles, results in strictly evolutionary explanations. The notion that, transitional in nature is not the same as intermediate in form, never seems to occur to the evolutionist. For a classic look at how major changes* in proposed whale evolution are glossed over, view the QT video from the PBS series Evolution (especially note the animation towards the end of the clip).
The Left is Lost Per FoxNews, regarding an FBI report on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Senator Dick said,
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings
Utterly Disgraceful Let him know at
A New Blog lurking in the shadows Longtime commenter Bonnie, from Off the Top, will be teaming up with Marla Swoffer (who probably owns a few Swiffers), on a new seven-woman blog to be titled Intellectuelle. A seven-woman blog? Sigh. Should I get the ACLUnatics to sue for gender discrimination?
You won't see this on the boob tube Per Michell Malkin
Comedienne Rosie O'Donnell banned her partner Kelli Carpenter from breastfeeding their daughter Vivienne just a few weeks after she was born--because she was jealous of their bonding sessions. Kelli gave birth to Vivienne in 2002, and the lesbian couple have been raising her along with their three other adopted children. But O'Donnell admits she felt left out of the motherhood process whenever she observed her partner nursing their child.
Sounds like Rosie needs just a bit more Left Leaning Tolerance.
* There are a variety of changes that must take place for a wolf-like land based mammal to transition first into a fresh-water and then salt-water based whale. In Michael Denton's book, Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, we find that the wolf-like mammal must,
cease using its hind legs for locomotion and to keep them permanently stretched out backwards on either side of the tail and to drag itself about by using its fore-legs. During its excursions in the water, it must have retained the hind legs in their rigid position and swim by moving them and the tail from side to side. As a result of this act of self denial we must assume that the hind legs eventually became pinned to the tail by the growth of membrane. Thus the hind part of the body would have become like that of a seal. Having reached this stage, the creature, in anticipation of a time when it will give birth to its young under water, gradually develop apparatus by means of which the milk is forced into the mouth of the young one, and meanwhile a cap has to be formed round the nipple into which the snout of the young one fits tightly, the epiglottis and laryngeal cartilage become prolonged downwards so as tightly to embrace this tube, in order that the adult will be able to breath while taking water into the mouth and the young while taking in milk. Be it noted that there is no stage intermediate between being born and suckled under water and being born and suckled in the air. At the same time various other anatomical changes have to take place, the most important of which is the complete transformation of the tail region. The hind part of the body must have begun to twist on the fore part, and this twisting must have continued until the sideways movement of the tail developed into an up-and-down movement. While this twisting went on the hind limbs and pelvis must have diminished in size, until the latter ceased to exist as external limbs at all, and completely disappeared in most, whales.
But none of this is a problem as long as you keep repeating to yourself that the fossils look so similar that the only possible explanation is that they must have transitioned into the forms we see through tiny changes over long periods of time.


Tom said...

I cheer that you love your kids so much that you take on something like homeschooling. But we need to help you with that bio stuff obviously!

The beauty of evolutionary theory is how it fits in with all the other sciences. There's a good quote I just looked up in Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things" (that's...ahem...your evolution-denial stance): "If creationists are right, then there are serious problems with physics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, and all life sciences. Can all these sciences be wrong in the same direction?" And of course we could add in genetics, biochem, etc. Clue: Even Hugh Ross understands his astrophysics so well he knows at least the vast timeframe fits and even HE goes out and argues with the young earth creationists.

It all fits, my friend. Good luck denying all of modern science. You're trying to pick fossil nits on a ball of fur with a long tail, and I gotta tell you there's a tiger on the other end of it you'll have trouble denying.

Guys though like Michael Denton are getting rich putting out goofy tracts and having the public snap them up like gospel. Like PT Barnum said...


Re: Bonnie's new blog "Intellectuelle"...wait...isn't that spelled wrong? But seriously, good for Bonnie. She's smart and well-spoken. Blogs are so cool and can be great discussion platforms.

I honestly feel so grateful to folks like you, Rusty, who take the time in their busy lives to lead a discussion about the world. Jeesh, you patiently even respond to ranting and raving liberal evolutionist tree-hugging agnostics like me. Thank you.

Paul said...

So much to talk about! Welcome back :)

Dick Durbin - I dislike almost all comparisons to Hitler today, for much the same reason as Orac ( But if you want utterly disgraceful, try Scott McClellan's comment that "It's a real disservice to our men and women in uniform who adhere to high standards and uphold our values and our laws." (

So US 'standards' and 'values' are to chain people to the floor in extreme temperatures until they foul themselves?

On another topic, Michael Denton's description is just wrong. The wolf-like mammal didn't have to 'do' any of those things, certainly not in the active sense Denton describes. ALl it had to do, over many generations, is pursue food and reproduce.

Tom said...

Well, if Paul is brave enough to wade in on Dick Durbin, I got his back then...

Rusty, take a look at the transcript of the remarks that Durbin read quoting an FBI agent about what he saw at Gitmo...

[The FBI agent reports]
"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

[Durbin now comments on the FBI agent's report]
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings..."
Okay, I grabbed that quote here

Why would Durbin be "utterly disgraceful" for noting this? What if this were done to our soldiers by enemy combatant? Would that be disgraceful on their part? (Code words for "Are you going to go morally relativistic on me now, Rusty?")

We don't have a lot of data here admittedly. Maybe this makes sense morally. I'm skeptical, not sold in either direction. Convince me.

Rusty said...

To claim that a disbelief in naturalistic evolution renders a disbelief in all science disciplines is a non sequitir. It's also a sly way that evolutionists attempt to frame the argument as a win-win situation. I don't discount the data... I discount the naturalistic interpretation of the data.

BTW, unlike the public school system, we structure our home schooling with an open minded approach that has already included explanations of young earth and naturalistic scenarios. Of course we present what we consider to be the correct interpretation, and I've got Origin of Species and Finding Darwin's God sitting on my shelf (and I've read them both). They won't be hidden away when my daughters are old enough to read them. How many public schools sanction the reading of, say, Darwin on Trial, Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, or Of Pandas and People?

You don't rant, Tom (unlike some other individuals who have frequented this site). Thank you for that.

Paul. I was wondering where you were!

Now honestly, you don't really think that the excerpt from Denton's book was suggesting that the wolf-like creature decided to do all those actions described, do you? The point of the passage was to outline just a portion of the myriad of complex changes that must occur if such a creature were to change into a whale. Evolutionists don't consider it a big deal and do you know why? - because they interpret the fossil data with the mindset that naturalistic evolution performed the changes. Thus there is never a need to question whether or not the mechanism is truly capable of performing the change. This is circular reasoning through and through. For a classic example of how the complex changes are ignored, check the end of the PBS clip I reference and note how easily the nose location of the wolf-like creature moves up the skull to the location currently found on whales.

The issue with Senator Dick is not whether a few (or even a significant amount) U.S. military personnel treated prisoners of war inhumanely. The issue is a U.S. Senator not only denigrating our troops but doing so by comparing them to sadistically evil regimes. It is not only an unfair comparison, it is a disgrace to have it come from a U.S. Senator. At best he is idiotically playing partisan politics, at worst he is giving fodder to Islamic terrorists around the world.

For a looksee at genuine evil, consider the human skin lampshades the Nazis created, or read this account of communist aggression from God and Ronald Reagan, by Paul Kengor,

"In a shocking May 1996 appearance to testify before the Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate, Wurmbrand describes his actual crucifixion by his Romanian torturers. Wurmbrand and other Christians were tied to crosses for four days and nights... "The crosses were placed on the floor and hundreds of prisoners had to fulfill their bodily necessities over the faces and bodies of the crucified ones. Then the crosses were erected again and the Communists jeered and mocked: "Look at your Christ! How beautiful he is! What fragrance he brings from heaven!"... [A]fter being driven nearly insane with tortures, a priest was forced to consecrate human excrement and urine and give Holy Communion to Christians in this form."

ReSoT4eM said...

good analysis on the whale evolution scenario. I would have laughed at the PBS movie harder if it wasn't for the fact that I used to believe this fairy "tail." A dog-paddling wolf turns into an orca. They might as well have turned a frog into a prince.

Isn't this just super-Lamarckianism? Like the mammal that kept stretching it's neck to eat and became a giraffe? (Never mind the complex blood pressure regulating system needed to keep the giraffe's head from exploding when it bends down.)

The bottom line: the devil is in the details. It's not just about body shapes - we have plenty of marine mammals alive today whose body shapes look like a transition from land animals (otters) to water dwellers (whales). Until more detailed explanations replace a few bone fragments, whale evolution (or any evolution for that matter) will remain a fairy tale to me.

Tom said...

The interesting thing with your thoughts on evolution, Rusty, is that you often write things like this...that you did recently with the Heard lyrics.

...Tom, yes Heard was painting a pretty cynical picture of our world. I wouldn't characterize him as whining, but telling us what the world is like if we were merely the products of blind, random processes.

Why in so many of your writings are you concerned about whether random, blind processes are beautiful or not?

It sounds very close to the idea that if something isn't pretty, than you refuse to believe it.

Or that if truth isn't pretty, than let's ignore it.

What does beauty have to do with truth?

I tell you I have to struggle sometimes with my agnosticism. There's no pretty heaven and no loving God as far as I can tell. But I sincerely believe it's the I struggle and maintain that vision. I'm not going to lie to myself.

I have a great appreciation for CS Lewis's idea, something to the effect that he was led kicking and screaming into Christianity. That's the way I sometimes feel about my agnosticism.

Tom said...

Rusty, re: my original comment: The beauty of evolutionary theory is how it fits in with all the other sciences

And you said: To claim that a disbelief in naturalistic evolution renders a disbelief in all science disciplines is a non sequitir.

This is shooting fish in a barrel...from encyclopedia britannica:

Chemistry---"...studies materials as small as single atoms and as large and complex as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which contains millions of atoms. New substances can even be designed to bear desired characteristics and then synthesized."
links to...
Biochemistry---"[study of] the nature of hereditary material and the workings of organisms at the level of enzymes and other molecules. Molecular biology provides the most detailed and convincing evidence available for biological evolution. It is now known that the hereditary material, DNA, and the enzymes that govern all life processes hold information about an organism's ancestry."
links to...
Genetics--- "...the study of the way in which genes operate and the way in which they are transmitted from parents to offspring. Modern genetics involves study of the mechanism of gene action—the way in which the genetic material (deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA) affects physiological reactions within the cell."
links to...
Evolution--- "...The gene pool is the sum total of all of the genes and combinations of genes that occur in a population of organisms of the same species...The necessity of hereditary variation for evolutionary change to occur can be understood in terms of the gene pool."

and so on and so on

Sorry, Rusty. The major sciences all fit nicely...or did you want me to link my first one, chemistry, to mathematics next? :-) Oh nevermind, I'd bet you'd give me that one as a freebie.

Strangely though, no one but a puzzling group of American Evangelicals and apparently Richard Dawkins seem to have a problem with evolution and Christianity coexisting. What's up with that? (in the language of the street).

Rusty said...


It's not that blind and random processes are not beautiful... it's that blind and random processes have no way of giving me the appreciation of the abstract concept of beauty.

I have no problem with the mechanics involved in genetics or biochemistry. It's the unwarranted extrapolations I disagree with. For example, to posit that bacterial resistance to antibodies is an example of the evolutionary process is fine - as long as one confines the evolutionary change to the specific bacterial resistance. Once one extrapolates that such a change can produce a whale from a wolf-like creature, they've made an unwarranted extrapolation.

Bonnie said...

Pardon me while I comment here, guys ;-)

Rusty, thanks for the mention, and Tom, thanks for the compliment.

So Rusty...when will you be starting up “Intelli-gents,” the new team blog for guys?


Paul said...

I don't see the circular reasoning that you do, in part because of the timescales involved. The 'transitional' forms you reference are taken to be transitional because they appear at different times (as established by many methods), in many cases in the same locations or conditions that the earlier forms existed in but no longer did, and that they in turn often give way to further transitional forms. Given sufficient time, which they had, small changes like these can add up very easily to major changes. Or do you have a mechanism that stops 'micro-evolution' from becoming 'macro-evolution'?

I didn't think Denton was speaking literally, but he was undeniably phrasing things literally: "As a result of this act of self denial", for example, sounds an awful lot like he's injecting intelligence into the process. That's the kind of action that bespeaks either sloppiness or intention, neither of which is appealing.

As to the Senator's comments. Once again, I think comparisons to Hitler are ludicrous in almost any setting, and to Pol Pot, Stalin et al only slightly less so. That's why I think Durbin's metaphor was stupid and offensive, and why I thought Senator Santorum's remarks comparing the Democrats to Nazis earlier in the year were similarly offensive (I presume you agree?); in both cases, as you say, it is unfitting talk from a Senator. But I'm a little puzzled by the chief objection here - troops torturing prisoners is OK, but comparing those actions to Nazi tactics denigrates the torturers? Isn't denigrating torturers a good thing?

Paul said...

Oh, thanks for prompting me to go and watch the video, btw. I'm not sure quite what point you were trying to make. Sure it's impressive that the nose of the whale ancestor moved back so far, but it's actually a great example of environmental influence on bady structure. If, for whatever reason, you've taken to living in water, yet insist on breathing air using lungs (a stupid design decision, I might add), then having a nose hole as close to the surface as possible will favor the continuation on your line.

Now what the clip did point out is that Denton appears to be wrong when he talks about the rear half of the wolf/whale twisting 90 degreest. The whale uses the same propulsion muscles as its ancestor in the same way, just repurposed to drive a fluke rather than legs. So if Denton is wrong about that, what else did he make up?

Ellbur said...

(Sorry if I randomly add to the middle of a long discussion):

Having had a lot of experience with randomness, specifically, using it as component in various simulations and such I have run, and computer-generated images, that sort of thing,
I can say that randomness can be quite beautiful. In fact, I would say it approaches the beauty seen in the real, random world.

Furthermore, in any situation where time moves the world from one state to a state much like it, evolution, in some form, will occur. (I had an awful problem with a simple random number generator 'evolving' to produce a continuous stream of eights). It is unavoidable. In the real world, it's not just life: everything is evolving in some form.

(Interestingly Nasa's definition of life is anything that undergoes Darwinian Evolution, which, given the number of things that do...)

Rusty said...


As I’ve posited, and as you’ve illustrated, the essential evolutionist explanation is that major, complex changes are no problem because they can (supposedly) be achieved by small changes over long periods of time. A nice hypothesis – but with no empirical support. It remains an extrapolation – unwarranted, in my opinion. To posit that the fossils are empirical support begs the question because the fossils are what we are trying to explain. It certainly may be the case that the mechanism of small changes over long periods of time can produce major changes, but the fossils do not demonstrate that.

Evolutionary lensing, that is, viewing the data strictly through evolutionary lenses, can cloud your analysis. Hence, you ignore the fact that Denton is touching on only a few of the myriad of complex changes that must occur if a wolf-like creature were to turn into a whale. The point isn’t whether or not he’s correctly outlined every type of change that must occur but that the changes required are too major and complex to have been accomplished by multiple random variations in the genetic code combined with natural selection. A lot of time is not equivalent to unlimited time; and a lot of time is certainly not what you have when you look at the differences found in the various fossils within the proposed evolutionary sequence of whales – a sequence which, by the way, wonderfully illustrates how a template structure is adaptable to various applications. Furthermore, you accept the magical animation of the wolf’s nose moving up the skull without reservation simply because your paradigm allows no other choice – it simply must be an example of environmental influence on body structure. The only “evidence” you have that such a phenomenon actually occurred is when you compare a wolf fossil with a whale fossil. Berra’s Blunder, through and through.

It’s very difficult to declare a design a bad design unless you are cognizant of the designer’s intentions and parameters. Besides, categorizing the design as bad, whether intelligently designed or naturally designed, implies a goal… and I know you don’t want to go down that road. Unless you can reveal exactly what the designer intended with the design you will not be able to support the claim that designing an air-breathing mammal to exist in the water is a bad design.

Regarding the Gulag <> Gitmo issue: it’s irrelevant whether or not you (or I) consider comparisons to Hitler ludicrous. The issue is a U.S. Senator not only denigrating the U.S. Military, but comparing their actions to those of sadistically evil regimes. Words have meanings and history is clear on this – did those, in question, or anyone in our military, engage in the wanton torture and destruction of life on the scale of, or in the manner in which, occurred during the Holocaust or the Gulag? Mistreatment of prisoners is not equivalent to the torture and mass killingof prisoners.

I shouldn’t have to explain that.

Paul said...

I think we should abandon the first part of the discussion. There's plenty of reference material on talkorigins to show that the sequence of events in the fossil records is not a "Berra's Blunder" situation at all. The fact that you don't accept that is, of course, your right.

As to the good/bad design concept. I have no problem with their being a goal, so long as the assumption is that there is a designer. I just don't believe that assumption. But you're right, from my point of view it's clearly a stupid design, but then I don't know what the aim of the design was. Sadly neither does anyone else.

The final point. Once again I'll agree that making comparisons to Hitler is stupid, and devalues Durbin's argument. But this moral relativism you're displaying is a disappointing surprise to me; is leaving a man to sweat in his own excrement an American value? Is it really OK to horribly mistreat prisoners, so long as you're not too organized about it? And at what point does this 'mistreatment' become torture? If the prisoner is lying in someone else's excrement? If I make him lie face down in it? If the prisoner is white?

Paul said...

Addendum: I notice that the Vice President is now explaining that the prisoners are being well treated. Would you say that his comments are objectionable, undermining as they do the role of the FBI? How dare he question the FBI agents' love of country?

This is a slightly silly game, isn't it?

Rusty said...


I agree, we should drop the first part of the discussion since you insist on imposing your paradigm onto the data (vs. letting the data indicate where you should go). And it is certainly your right to ignore the inconsistencies with your interpretation.

I think you've painted yourself into a corner with the good/bad design concept. If you claim it is a bad design, then you're claiming it was designed, thereby opening yourself up to the possibility (likelihood) that additional paramaters will nullify the charge of "bad" design. If there is no designer then of what value is the claim that it is a bad design? It becomes a meaningless statement.

Re: Gitmo
My lack of comments on specific instances of prisoner treatment does not indicate moral relativism. It indicates that I'm not straying from the point of my post. That I or other conservative bloggers have to go to such lengths to explain this is indicative of the manner in which liberals do not understand the issue. Is it so difficult to see that Durbin should have said something along the lines of, "We have a report of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo. A bi-partisan inquiry is in order."? But no, he has to go and play the political card in a stupendously offensive manner.

This is not 1943. Technology links the enemy, and the world, to our every public move - or publicity related move - in an instant. Is the issue really about the wholesale torture and killing of prisoners on par with that of the Nazis, the Gulag, or Pol-Pot? Or is it about sporadic mistreatment and abuse of prisoners?

I think the answers to those questions will indicate the true motives of those involved.

Paul said...

Well I haven't yet seen anyone present significant inconsistencies, yourself included. What I have seen quite a lot of is the argument from personal incredulity, which is very tempting, but hardly persuasive.

I'm not arguing that this is an example of bad design. I'm saying that *if* it is designed, it's a bad one, though you quite rightly point out that I'm judging that by my own criteria. I don't believe it's a design at all.

Finally, the gitmo mess. Once again, Durbin's use of the analogy was wrong, as was Santorum's, and Rangel's, and any other politician's. I'd hazard that if you're not talking about Darfur at the moment, any such comparison is flawed, and even that's a bit of a stretch. However, the point he made outside of that stupid comparison was fair; either we have a significant failing in our command structure (and that may be the case), or these acts are being ordered (which seems more likely). Either way, being proud of your country because it's less likely to abuse people is a pretty weak distinction.

As to callign fro a hearing, that's ridiculous in the current climate. We have people working on the Bush campaign impersonating Secret Service personnel, but that matter is 'closed'. We have a gay male prostitute who, if we're lucky, was only spending the night at the White House, but that's not worth looking into. And we went to war against a country because of WMDs, I mean terrorist links, I mean to promote democracy throughout the Middle East, but that's not worth looking into. The current government controls what gets investigated, and this isn't on the approved list.

Rusty said...


Lining up fossils that are admitted to not be directly related, then noting that they are similar in form and that they (some of the time) appear in a purported sequence does not tell us how the creatures got there in the first place. Positing genetic mutation combined with natural selection is a nice story but is not robust enough to explain how the types of changes required to go from wolf-like to whale occurred. (unless, of course, one simply refers back to the original set of fossils as evidence for the power of evolutionary change)

Re: Gitmo; do you seriously believe that a fair hearing is impossible simply due to the power wielded by the White House? (or have you forgotten about Abu Gharib?)

Paul said...

And why is genetic mutation not robust enough? We see it working all the time, even today. We can look at DNA and actually see changes happening. We can date fossils independently of each other and of other fossils. We have fossils that show the progression from one form to another, and while one may not have been able to refer to the other as 'Dad', no other explanation accounts for the apparent progression without saying "Oh it just is."

Gitmo: No, I haven't forgotten Abu Ghraib. So far we've prosecuted some low-ranking soldiers, and I believe reprimanded some higher ranking soldiers. I haven't heard anything about an inquiry into the use of civilian contractors that seemed to prompt the mistreatment of prisoners. Perhaps you could post a link?

Rusty said...

Yes, we see genetic mutation occurring, but show me how it accomplishes the major tasks necessary to change a wolf-like creature into a whale? Anti-biotic resistance and beak-size differentiation are hardly show-stoppers. In fact, the change we do see occurring gives evidence that the species in question will remain static (something that the fossil record validates).

Gitmo: it seems that the real issue is that the action taken so far is not to your liking vs. there being any legal action at all (e.g., Abu Ghraib). So it's not really about whether The current government controls what gets investigated, and this isn't on the approved list, is it?

Paul said...

It doesn't accomplish the major tasks, it accomplishes a major number of minor tasks that add up. And I'd love to hear this evidence of stasis within species.

Gitmo: Of course not enough gets investigated for my taste. But when we went to war based on bad intelligence, and there's no investigation of how we used that intelligence, well that seems to go beyond my preferences.