Common Design vs. Common Descent

I promised John Harshman for several months that I would start a discussion about common design vs. common descent, and I’d like to keep my word to him as best as possible.

Strictly the speaking common design and common descent aren’t mutually exclusive, but if one invokes the possibility of recent special creation of all life, the two being mutually exclusive would be inevitable.

If one believes in a young fossil record (YFR) and thus likely believes life is young and therefore recently created, then one is a Young Life Creationist (YLC). YEC (young earth creationists) are automatically YLCs but there are a few YLCs who believe the Earth is old. So evidence in favor of YFR is evidence in favor of common design over common descent.

One can assume for the sake of argument the mainstream geological timelines of billions of years on planet Earth. If that is the case, special creation would have to happen likely in a progressive manner. I believe Stephen Meyer and many of the original ID proponents like Walter Bradley were progressive creationists.

Since I think there is promising evidence for YFR, I don’t think too much about common design vs. common descent. If the Earth is old, but the fossil record is young, as far as I’m concerned the nested hierarchical patterns of similarity are due to common design.

That said, for the sake of this discussion I will assume the fossil record is old. But even under that assumption, I don’t see how phylogenetics solves the problem of orphan features found distributed in the nested hierarchical patterns of similarity. I should point out, there is an important distinction between taxonomic nested hierarchies and phylogenetic nested hierarchies. The nested hierarchies I refer to are taxonomic, not phylogenetic. Phylogeneticsits insist the phylogenetic trees are good explanations for the taxonomic “trees”, but it doesn’t look that way to me at all. I find it revolting to think giraffes, apes, birds and turtles are under the Sarcopterygii clade (which looks more like a coelacanth).

Phylogeny is a nice superficial explanation for the pattern of taxonomic nested hierarchy in sets of proteins, DNA, whatever so long as a feature is actually shared among the creatures. That all breaks down however when we have orphan features that are not shared by sets of creatures.

The orphan features most evident to me are those associated with Eukaryotes. Phylogeny doesn’t do a good job of accounting for those. In fact, to assume common ancestry in that case, “poof” or some unknown mechanism is indicated. If the mechanism is unknown, then why claim universal common ancestry is a fact? Wouldn’t “we don’t know for sure, but we believe” be a more accurate statement of the state of affairs rather than saying “universal common ancestry is fact.”

So whenever orphan features sort of poof into existence, that suggests to me the patterns of nested hierarchy are explained better by common design. In fact there are lots of orphan features that define major groups of creatures. Off the top of my head, eukaryotes are divided into unicellular and multicellular creatures. There are vetebrates and a variety of invertebrates. Mammals have the orphan feature of mammary glands. The list could go on and on for orphan features and the groups they define. Now I use the phrase “orphan features” because I’m not comfortable using formal terms like autapomorphy or whatever. I actually don’t know what would be a good phrase.

So whenever I see an orphan feature that isn’t readily evolvable (like say a nervous system), I presume God did it, and therefore the similarities among creatures that have different orphan features is a the result of miraculous common design not ordinary common descent.

5,163 Replies to “Common Design vs. Common Descent”

  1. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    stcordova: Not true. Talk Origins points out the problem of C14 popped up when physicists were trying to get C14-free carbon for their neutrino experiments. They couldn’t find enough coal that was free of the darn thing.

    The other thing, C14 has a half life, so the C14 contamination can’t happen a long time ago because C14 contaminant itself will decay. This leads to what I called the compounding interest problem.

    The C14 in those samples is thought to be there by a combination of contamination from how it is processed, and from being continuously generated by local sources of radioactive decay particles (mostly neutrons) from U and Th decay chains in the surrounding rocks.

    See: https://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-ex/0308025.pdf.

  2. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    stcordova,

    If I may point out, biology isn’t my field, but I falsified Ohno’s Nylonase hypothesis […]

    What’s that got to do with the price of fish?

    And yes, I’ve met with radio chemists studying this, and even though Hugh Miller is one of them and is a YEC, he never said, “hey Sal, this is how we fudge the data, we gotta tell lies and use bad methods and materials to prop up our story.”

    Of course people don’t say this out loud. And you’d hardly say so if they did! 😉 But this is nonetheless close to what people do – not lying, but doing terrible science. This thread is littered with examples of your one-sided approach to science. Pascal’s sitting on your shoulder pursing his lips and shaking his head whenever you get within 100 miles of actually doing the scientifically rigorous thing and considering all the data. Collating the anomalies, analysing the proportion of samples with and without, and comparing with nearby non-coal sources, looking for and hopefully eliminating alternative explanations for the data, that sort of thing. But no, conclusion comes first, supporting data force fit and all else discarded. SOP.

    It is Bizarro Science. Dismiss all radio dating except C14, and then only in coal (maybe in the odd bit of marble), and then only when it appears to find something.

  3. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    I reread the T.O piece. An immediate question struck me: why is there any low-C14 fossil fuel, if earth is young?

  4. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan:

    I reread the T.O piece. An immediate question struck me: why is there any low-C14 fossil fuel, if earth is young?

    At one point (at least), Sal was calling himself a Young Life Creationist, wasn’t he? If so, then that particular issue wouldn’t be a problem for him.

    ETA: Sal, from last month:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Many people presume because I’m a Young Life Creationists (YLC) and a skeptical Young Earth Creationist (YEC) I was raised that way and that I have my viewpoints because I’m a biblical literalist and inerrantist. That’s not the case…

    The simple answer for why I now believe Adam and Eve are young is that I don’t believe the fossil record is old as well as the problem of Genetic Entropy as laid out by John Sanford’s book by the same title.

    The fossil record is Young because it would take miraculous fine tuning of global warming to resolve the Faint Young Sun Paradox.

  5. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller:
    I reread the T.O piece. An immediate question struck me: why is there any low-C14 fossil fuel, if earth is young?

    A much better question is, what the flying fck does C14 in fossil hydrocarbons have to do with the age of the Earth, and life?

    Neither life, nor the Earth, is dated by the C14 content of fossil hydrocarbons.

    Even if you want to try do date fossil hydrocarbons by it’s apparent age through it’s C14 content, you still get >150K year dates (some of the purest samples give (IIRC) ~190K year apparent dates due to the low but still continously produced C14), which is still 25-30 times older than Sal thinks the entire universe is.

    None of this obsession with C14 in coal or other fossil hydrocarbons has ANY bearing on the actual age of the Earth, or for how much of that age life has existed on it.

  6. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    There’s an interesting question that arises with guys like Sal. His kooky beliefs are due both to scientific incompetence and religious nutjobbery, but to what extent is each of those responsible for the train wreck?

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could flip a switch, turn off the religious circuits in Sal’s brain for a couple of weeks, and see which of his kooky ideas actually survived? (Of course, flipping the switch would also need to erase his memories of his former positions, in order to keep his ego out of the picture.)

    With a guy like Kurt Wise, the kooky beliefs are due almost entirely to religious nutjobbery, not scientific incompetence. With Sal I suspect it is much less lopsided.

  7. stcordova
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: The C14 in those samples is thought to be there by a combination of contamination from how it is processed, and from being continuously generated by local sources of radioactive decay particles (mostly neutrons) from U and Th decay chains in the surrounding rocks.

    See: https://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-ex/0308025.pdf.

    Jay Wile who is a nuclear chemist and others and even secular researcher discount the radiation production mechanism as insufficient.

    However, that was such a good paper, it is worth working through. Thank you.

    So to those wishing to contribute to exploration of the matter further, I started a thread at TheSkepticalForum:

    http://theskepticalforum.org/index.php?topic=350.msg386#new

  8. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    stcordova: Jay Wile who is a nuclear chemist and others and even secular researcher discount the radiation production mechanism as insufficient.

    However, that was such a good paper, it is worth working through. Thank you.

    So to those wishing to contribute to exploration of the matter further, I started a thread atTheSkepticalForum:

    http://theskepticalforum.org/index.php?topic=350.msg386#new

    Interesting stuff Sal!
    More on that please!
    My wife is an expert in the field btw….

  9. stcordova
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: A much better question is, what the flying fck does C14 in fossil hydrocarbons have to do with the age of the Earth, and life?

    Neither life, nor the Earth, is dated by the C14 content of fossil hydrocarbons.

    Even if you want to try do date fossil hydrocarbons by it’s apparent age through it’s C14 content, you still get >150K year dates (some of the purest samples give (IIRC) ~190K year apparent dates due to the low but still continously produced C14), which is still 25-30 times older than Sal thinks the entire universe is.

    None of this obsession with C14 in coal or other fossil hydrocarbons has ANY bearing on the actual age of the Earth, or for how much of that age life has existed on it.

    I responded here:
    http://theskepticalforum.org/index.php?topic=350.msg387#msg387

  10. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths,

    At one point (at least), Sal was calling himself a Young Life Creationist, wasn’t he? If so, then that particular issue wouldn’t be a problem for him.

    Don’t think that helps him though. It allows for an equilibrium buildup of C14 in the atmosphere, but if trying to argue that C14 traces indicate Young Life, absence of C14 would surely suggest ‘not all of it’.

    In fact, on this one the consistent position might be YEC. Then, there is no C14 in the Created atmosphere, hence nothing in certain deposits, but traces in more recent material. No use for dating, of course, since one needs to know the atmospheric concentration to calibrate.

    The question of stratification of all deposits taken in sum from the Flood must of course be swept under the tectonic-plate-sized carpet. It doesn’t just sort index fossils, or lime/coal alternations, it sorts on C14 content!

  11. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan,

    Don’t think that helps him though. It allows for an equilibrium buildup of C14 in the atmosphere, but if trying to argue that C14 traces indicate Young Life, absence of C14 would surely suggest ‘not all of it’.

    You’re right. He’d have to deny that fossil fuels were actually fossil fuels in order to explain the absence of C14 in some deposits.

    In olden days, there were creationists who denied that fossils were actually the remnants of living creatures, but even Sal is smart enough to reject that absurd notion.

  12. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    stcordova: Jay Wile who is a nuclear chemist and others and even secular researcher discount the radiation production mechanism as insufficient.

    Really? Who are these secular researchers who discount the radiation production mechanism as insufficient?

    All references I that I can find calculates that the average underground radiation sources near fossil hydrocarbon reservoirs, should result in C14 production in the range C14/C12 = 10^-16 to 10^-20. The measured ranges of ~11*10^-18 and ~2*10^-18 are pretty much smack in the middle of that range.

    It’s game over. The coal is old, and there’s the level of C14 in it that there is, because while it is shielded from the cosmic rays that convert N14 in the atmosphere to C14, the underground radiation sources from unstable rock elements produce C14 at low levels instead. There’s more here in chapter 3.5 of this PhD thesis: http://borex.lngs.infn.it/Thesis/E.Resconi_PhD_Thesis.pdf.

  13. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    I was looking for more information on young life creationism and came across this paper by a Seventh-Day Adventist.

    Check out the keyword list:

    Keywords:
    biosphere, Big Bang, infidel, abiotic, day-age theory, gap theory,
    process, symbiosis, singularity, top-down, bottom-up

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