On the thread entitled “Species Kinds”, commenter phoodoo asks:

What’s the definition of a species?

A simple question but hard to answer. Talking of populations of interbreeding individuals immediately creates problems when looking at asexual organisms, especially the prokaryotes: bacteria and archaea. How to delineate a species temporally is also problematic. Allan Miller links to an excellent basic resource on defining a species and the Wikipedia entry does not shy away from the difficulties.

In case phoodoo thought his question was being ignored, I thought I’d open this thread to allow discussion without derailing the thread on “kinds”.

Discovered dollo’s law and it makes a probability case.

i just read in Acts/Facts (ICR creo pub) about a law in evolutionism called Dollo’s law.. Gould said”…restates the general principal of mathematical probability…”

This touches on a thread I made here once about how darwins idea, statement, that to disprove evolution someone would need to show why small steps could not have created anything now in biology. I answered that if small steps can do the glory/complexity of biology then they could do anything. However improbable. Say a fish to a rhino, over time, bacj to a fish, then back to a rhino. WHY NOT is small steps of selection can do anything.

WELL. They had a law here about how evolution can’t reverse/repeat itself due to the math improbability.

Yet this would confute Darwins argument.  SO small steps can’t do everything. There are boundaries indeed. THEN the creationist must be allowed the concept of how improbable biology coming from small steps IS. In fact Gould/Dawkins all agree its improbable for like results. so why not the whole concept of evolution as to explain biology??

The improbability of fish becoming fishermen, a common first instinct, is proved as right as a instinct because of Dollo’s law.  Its impossible to repeat/reverse but this means its impossible for the first time.

Small steps being selected is NOT a answer to the apparent impossibility of what evolutionism claims to demonstrate.


Time for a discussion of “kinds”, i.e. “created kinds”, known to some as baramins. More specifically, holobaramins, an originally created (no ancestors, that is) population and all its descendants. But from now on I’ll just call them kinds, as long as we can agree on the intended meaning. There can be no kinds within kinds. Each one is a separate tree in a creationist’s phylogenetic orchard.

I don’t mean to go on long. This is really intended as a place for creationists to attempt to answer important questions of baraminology. Can a kind encompass more than one species? How can you know whether two species belong to the same or different kinds? Would we expect to see something obvious to differentiate them?

I’ve seen several criteria proposed, some of which work in only one direction. If two species hybridize, it’s claimed, they must be the same kind; but if they don’t, that doesn’t mean they’re different kinds. If a transition between two species is not “mechanically feasible”, they must be different kinds; but if it is, that doesn’t mean they’re the same kind. Other criteria I’ve seen are “discontinuity”, whatever that is, intuitive recognition (seriously, that’s an actual claim), and of course biblical exegesis. Can we agree to leave out the last?

Finally, can some creationist use those criteria, or any other, to designate at least a few entities that he is sure are kinds? Then we’ll have something concrete to argue about.

Phylogeny – the Bigger Picture

During recent discussions on phylogeny, we saw a distinct failure to communicate, probably felt by both sides. The ‘evos’ attempted to consider the role of molecular data in determining relationship. Given that an obvious cause of common sequence is common descent, due to the significant but not perfect fidelity of the DNA replication process, the phylogenetic inference is that sequence similarity is indicative of common descent. This, critics feel, is a circular argument. Continue reading

Pull Up Your Socks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that it is a federal crime to visit a website after being told not to visit it. This decision is based on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

As the linked article notes, this ruling seems to somewhat conflict with a previous ruling by the en banc 9th Circuit, so there is a good chance that it will be appealed to the full court. In the meantime, though, it is conceivable that a sleazy lawyer could file federal charges against people who use pseudonyms to continue participating in an online forum where they have been previously banned for pointing out the ignorance and irrationality of certain protected members.

It’s reassuring that we don’t know of anyone with the combined lack of self-control and ethics that would allow him to do such a thing.

Jonathan McLatchie still doesn’t understand Dembski’s argument

Over at Uncommon Descent, Jonathan McLatchie calls attention to an interview that Scottish Christian apologist David Robertson did with him.  The 15-minute video is available there.

The issue is scientific evidence for intelligent design.  As so often occurs, they very quickly ran off to the origin of life, and from there to the origin of the Universe.  I was amused that from there they tried to answer the question of where God came from, by saying that it was unreasonable to push the origin issue quite that far back.  There was also a lot of time spent being unhappy with the idea of a multiverse.

But for me the interesting bit was toward the beginning, where McLatchie argues that the evidence for ID is the observation of Specified Complexity, which he defines as complex patterns that conform to a prespecified pattern.  He’s made that argument before, in a 2-minute-long video in a series on 1-minute apologetics.  And I’ve complained about it before here.  Perhaps he was just constrained by the time limit, and would have done a better job if he had more than 2 minutes.

Nope.  It’s the same argument.

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Complacency with the Everyday Fantastical

I am fascinated by dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, prehistoric squaliformes, prehistoric giant sea scorpions, and so forth like a lot of folk who grew up as kids in the 70s (or really…like a lot of kids). Seeing the bones or fossils of such creatures, the artist renditions, the movies that feature (gross exaggerations in many cases) such creatures all stir my imagination and just plain excite me to no end. They just seem so…<i>fantastic</i>…so legendary…so other worldly.

I was thinking about this yesterday and I came to the conclusion (and I’m betting I’m not alone in this) after a few brief searches that I have a real bias in regards to the “fantastical”. And I think that bias stems from familiarity.

Part of the amazement people have with dinosaurs stems from the fact that a lot of them were quite large. Many people (and I’ve been guilty of this misconception myself) get the impression that at some point (or even various points) the world was filled with animals far larger than anything we have today. In fact, a lot of people think that the vast majority of prehistoric animals were larger than anything we have today (which simply is not the case), mostly because of a few very popular and more well-known specimens (T-Rex, stegosaurus, Triceratops, brachiosaurus to name a few). What few take the time to consider is that not only do these animals not represent the size of the majority of other animals from those times, but in many cases those particular animals didn’t even exist <i>at the same time</i>. Still, we tend to think that animals in the past were larger, more fantastic than anything around today.


Here is a pic of the (likely) largest animal that has ever existed on this planet. Unless you actually get a chance to see one up close in the wild, particularly with something nearby for scale, you really can’t appreciate just how unbelievably large this animal is. It. Is. ENORMOUS. Here’s how it compares (at least based on an artist’s rendition) to some other “fantastical” animals:


Now one can debate about how accurate the artist got some of the sizes I suppose or whether the current research and inferences to actual size are accurate, but that isn’t all that relevant to the point. Even if some of the other animals are off by significant percentages, the Blue Whale still dwarfs every other specimen.

The point is, we DO live in an amazing time of fantastical creatures. And I hope we can learn not to take that for granted.

Phylogenetics. Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

I do think this site needs a thread to discuss phylogenetics and whatever the creationist alternative might be. Let’s start with this quote from Sal Cordova:

stcordova: Insisting on the truth of naturalism in the disguise of evolutionary theory could impede scientific progress in the medical sciences if the whims of some evolutionary biologists like Dan Graur are realized. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested 170 million dollars in unresolvable evolutionary phylogenies of little or no utility to medical science.ii To date, no therapies based on the 170 million dollar phylogeny project have come to market. By way of contrast, with the help of research like ENCODE, epigenetic therapies are already being delivered to patients with more such therapies in the pipeline. Therefore, a gambler’s epistemology that seeks to maximize reward in the face of uncertainty would seem a superior approach versus blind insistence on impractical naturalism.

This short paragraph raises a number of questions, a few of which seem like topics for discussion.

1. Assuming for the sake of argument that investing in phylogenetics doesn’t help medical science, why should we ignore other benefits? Is basic knowledge useless unless it contributes directly to human health? Should NSF be concerned only with medical sciences, and if so, shouldn’t it be folded into NIH?

2. Phylogenetics actually does have practical applications, even in medical research. Feel free to discuss that. Me, I’m into knowledge, regardless.

3. What is “unresolvable” intended to mean here? NSF grants, the AToL program in particular, have produced great amounts of phylogenetic resolution. My project, Early Bird, for example. Is it all somehow bogus? How much phylogeny is there, anyway, and how would a creationist tell where it begins and ends?

4. And a minor point: Where does this figure of $170 million come from? Is it the total amount awarded by the NSF Assembling the Tree of Life program from beginning to end? Or does it also count various other programs that have funded systematics research? I find it hard to pull any aggregate info from the NSF web site.

Thorp, Shannon: Inspiration for Alternative Perspectives on the ID vs. Naturalism Debate

The writings and life work of Ed Thorp, professor at MIT, influenced many of my notions of ID (though Thorp and Shannon are not ID proponents). I happened upon a forgotten mathematical paper by Ed Thorp in 1961 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that launched his stellar career into Wall Street. If the TSZ regulars are tired of talking and arguing ID, then I offer a link to Thorp’s landmark paper. That 1961 PNAS article consists of a mere three pages. It is terse, and almost shocking in its economy of words and straightforward English. The paper can be downloaded from:

A Favorable Strategy for Twenty One, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences.

Thorp was a colleague of Claude Shannon (founder of information theory, and inventor of the notion of “bit”) at MIT. Thorp managed to publish his theory about blackjack through the sponsorship of Shannon. He was able to scientifically prove his theories in the casinos and Wall Street and went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars through his scientific approach to estimating and profiting from expected value. Thorp was the central figure in the real life stories featured in the book
Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System that Beat the Casino’s and Wall Street by William Poundstone.
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