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An argument with an intelligent design advocate/anti-evolutionist

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I hate to admit it, but this may be the first time I got into an argument about evolution/intelligent design with someone who appears to know what he's talking about. I drafted a response to this guy, but I couldn't help but feel my arguments were not strong enough. If anyone would like to critique my responses (My arguments are under the "B"s), please feel free to be very honest.

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A - opponent

B - me

I didn't give a full response to this mess, but I did the best I could on my own with admittedly a lack of knowledge about the issue

A

I know exactly what I'm talking about and the sources are history and science. This isnt a college paper where I need to document.

B

If you're going to make radical claims, I'd like to see where you are getting them from. Just because you're not writing a college paper doesn't mean you can't verify what you're saying.

A

As I said, scientists of the past have been 100% wrong,

B

Still not correct. 100% of what? Everything they've said? Parts of claims they've made? You make it sound like every scientist that has ever lived has been discredited as total rubbish, when really, all I've witnesses is future scientists expanding on earlier scientists, and -maybe- contradicting one or two things the previous scientist has speculated.

A

yet you appeal to the authority (logical fallacy) of scientists today

B

Appeals to authority aren't inherently fallacious, and arguments from authority aren't necessarily appeals. An appeal is an instigation. I am not instigating, I am contending that based on the lack of peer reviewed evidence for intelligent design, there exists no valid reason to put it in a biology class. "Your not giving me a good enough reason to not want resources invested in this study" is not my burden.

A

that they somehow know better what is true. Peer review does not determine what is and is not science. It is rather a modern editorial fashion, arising in the last 50 years, not something that determines what is and is not science.

B

No, but it's the best way to interpret things for the layman. There should definitely be more standards as to what qualifies as valid peer review, and less conflicts of interest. But then again, I'm not claiming that peer review is unequivocal truth. I'm not saying that peer review is the standard for what qualifies as science. I'm saying that peer review should be the standard of prioritizing what educators should invest their resources in.

.

A

Your analogy of alchemy being equivalent to design theory is also disingenuous,

as alchemy is a discredited semi-mystical practice, not a scientific theory.

B

"Discredited"? Ooh, sounds like a reliance on the same standard you dismissed as an appeal to authority. Discredited by whom?

And LOL @ "Alchemy is not a scientific theory". It was considered a scientific theory at the time.

A

ANY valid theories should be presented and shown their merits and evidence against. The evidence for design is rather plain, you have intricate systems that could not form by evolution as they are too complex, interdependent, and can not be explain as developing from step by step changes as many changes would have to occur concurrently in separate systems to continue working, Evolution is inadequate to explain it.

B

The argument from irreducible complexity ignores the fact that, although removing a part may render an organism helpless for one thing, it may still be perfectly useful for other things. Intelligent design is based on pure conjecture. The proposition "Some people believe that these organisms had to have been designed by an intelligent design" is relevant to social studies classrooms or philosophy, not a science class room.

A

The point of education is not to present one view. It is not to indoctrinate people.

B

Only teaching the theory of evolution is not indoctrination. In much the same way that only teaching modern chemistry, as opposed to alchemy is not indoctrination. Intelligent design is not taught, because it is not relevant to biology. Relying on the teacher to teach all aternative ideas is impossible.

A

It is to allow students to see the full range of ideas and yes choose their own. And when teaching science, which should ALWAYS accept alternate theories, why would say not presenting alternatives is wrong? They taught the big bang (creationist) and steady state theories (atheist) when they were both considered equally (chuckle) plausible.

B

Hahah what?

A

define "define" truth is the true nature of the universe

B

No circular definitions here, no sir.

But if you want to get philosophical about it - there are no sources of truth. Science is the only accurate means of acquiring knowledge.

A

No, you merely show your ignorance. The example was gravity. Newton's theory has entirely been overturned.

B

So... what, ~-9.8m/s^2 is no longer the acceleration of gravity (yes, I know mileage may vary)? The gravitaitonal force of a planet is no longer m1 * m2 / (distance between two objects)^2 ? Force is no longer equal to mass * acceleration + velocity * (massdtime)?

A

We no longer believe gravity is a mystical force acting at a distance and no longer believe in Newton's Law even, which is at best an approximation. The present theory that overturned it believes that gravity is caused by a deformation of spacetime and the "correct" math expression of gravity is Einstein's field equation.

B

This is an example of modification, not 100% absolute 180 refutation, like you are insisting.

A

Sigh, you do realize that all theories in their beginning have little evidence because no one's looked for it. Einstein, even today, is proved "correct" due to a handful of evidence of a few experiments. Observations during an eclipse and time appearing to slow fractions of a second on spacetrips. The big bang is "proven" with a far too uniform background radiation that is less than half the lower range of the predicted value. Yet these are believed to be true. The evidence for evolution is not overwhelming and as said, its original evidence has faded away largely. Much of the remaining evidence is largely contrived.

B

Darwins theory is definitely not "in it's beginning", though.

A

no. but do tell how Newton modified the Greek view that gravity was caused by love?

Do tell how Einstein modified Newton's theory of forces at distance to his view of warped spacetime. Seems entirely novel ideas.

B

Yes, because you cherrypicked the novelty out of the ideas and presented them as examples of scientific theories being 100% refuted - when they appear to be irrelevant to the overall theories.

A

No it is not stupid and again false analogies. Hitler did not reject Darwin's theory.

B

No proof

A

His entire racial theory was based on popular and scientific views of evolution of the time.

B

No proof.

A

You can not understand Nazi policy without its connection to evolution. They believed that the German people had been corrupted by cross breeding with non-Germans, particularly Jews, which was an obvious and distinct subgroup in Germany. This came from "scientific" views that non-whites were a subhuman species that whites evolved from (source: Darwin's descent of man <--how bout that -- he called them the melanin races) Northern Europeans were considered the most evolved and interbreeding with lower species caused their descendents to go backwards in evolution. This is why not only were "pure" Germans not permitted to marry non-pure germans, but also the destruction of less pure races, their planned enslavement, as well as encouraging "pure" Germans to breed more, from baby farms to encouraging births out of wed lock.

B

If you actually look at the context of the book, you'll notice that Darwin

A

Appeal to authority rather than facts...logical fallacy condems you :-D

B

That would be true, if I gave you an appeal to authority -without- facts. That's not the case. I provided some facts, and, although it was very hasty, it was definitely not a simple appeal to authority.

A

wow you present a whole video that comes up with the overwhelming evidence of um ring species. And this proves common descent how? No one is denying evolution as a process. I deny the THEORY of evolution that all species came from 1 single magic cell that we dont have a clue how it formed (MAGIC!)

B

Now you're shifting the goal posts.

A

well lets see:

1. artificial selection - once believed to show the incredible malleability of species, we now know that interbreeding causes reduction in the genome and less healthy individuals the more they are inbred and can be inbred to extinction.

2. Vestigial organs - once believed to have 100s in the human body alone, now we found functions for them and are left with well a vestigial bit of a theory that science holds on to. Simply put there are no vestigial traces, which also eliminates the possibility of new organs arising or declining out them. Even the appendix is an important lymphatic organ at the juncture of 2 organs. It is also a vestige from.....umm....mice? since monkeys do not have an appendix, but mice and apes do. So we have an organ that jumped not only an intermediate species, but a whole group. Seems that would be a flaw in common descent, but perfect evidence for design as designers tend to reuse models and parts.

3. Embryology --well this one totally f-d up too. They once believed that species relived their evolutionary development as embryos. Well even at the time, real embryologists said um no. Yet this too persists. Now they claim there's a stage where they all look the same, which is also false. What is really odd is the earliest stages of fish and reptiles and birds look similar, but not to the other group of amphibians and mammals that look similar, yet mammals, reptiles/birds, fish, and amphibian early embryos are all quite distinct in development.

4. Fossil record....well an amazing record that is totally contrived, scientists go out looking for skeletons with a certain trait (say an ape that can walk) and wow they find one (even tho it has equal length arms and legs which implies it walks on all fours) but the hips look at things in the hips dammit!! ignore those arms and legs. and viola it becomes our ancestor with an amazing half dozen partial skeletons. And repeat ad naseum.

5. Comparative anatomy....well the only proof left...but things looking alike does not prove direct relationship. Especially when you have jumping organs like the appendix above, and a vast amount of other inconsistencies. The problem with this "proof" is that its based on classification which is LOOKING for similarities and ignoring the vast differences.

B

I had no response because I admittedly know nothing about the subject as of know, and I would like to learn.

A

No, he does not debunk that evolution must arise out of random processes. We debunks probability arguments. I said nothing about probability so point?

B

You're spouting a common misconception about evolution being "mere chance", and you think you said nothing about probability?

A

Please then tell me the theory how cells evolved, how complex cells evolved, and how multicelled creatures formed (about a dozen times at least, all in the same basic way....? explain that)

B

I admittedly had no response or no idea how to research this

A

"But then all theories of origin are not true experimental science, they are mere modern mythology no better than creationism in intent"

It's based on mathematical science. If there exists no observable evidence, scientists turn to reliable mathematics

Um, common descent is based on math? wow, did not know that.

B

Had no response. If anyone's wondering about the quote beforehand, I admit I kinda just vomitted that response up

A

"So why do atheists believe their mythology is better than Christian?"

Loaded question.

"

it is a mythology. Common descent is generally accepted on faith, since there are not even theories about how the major events of evolution (those listed above) occurred, yet you have faith it caused them and all species are related.

I would agree with the relation, but it could only have happened by design and a designer. This is the only explanation that explains the evidence. Complex systems out of nothing, following the same methods....by the way all those events occurred the same way too...addition of a more complex reproduction method and compartmentalization of function, which had to occur at the same time too or else the advance could not have happened.

so really why do you have faith in common descent?

B

Had no response

---

If at any point, I put "had no response", it's because I didn't feel like writing up a response at the time. I'm not looking for someone to formulate a response for me, all I'm looking for is perhaps some improvement on what I already wrote.

Here is the first dialogue I had with the guy, to clear things up

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Ahahaha you have no idea what you're talking about. You're on your soapbox and you've provided no sources.

I saw on the news the other day that this woman coached her child to ask one of the Presidential candidates about his beliefs in creationism and evolution (he's religious) and he answered that Texas schools teach both and give students a chance to decide for themselves (oh no free thought and non suppression of ideas! oh my).

Not every idea deserves equal time in a science classroom. The idea that evolution and intelligent design are two equally plausible theories are absolutely -not- held by most scientists, but that's a myth they're trying to push. Intelligent design is rejected as unscientific by peer review, by people who regularly study evolutionary biology (ex: Francis Collins, who has absolutely no atheistic convictions motivating him to believe in evolution, yet admits that the evidence is overwhelming anyway). For the same reason that Chemistry classes aren't being required to offer a chapter on Alchemy, Biology classes shouldn't be forced to offer a chapter on Intelligent design.

I don't believe most people would have a problem with intelligent design being taught in classrooms like.. philosophy, religion, etc. But the point of learning about science is not to "let students decide for themselves what they like" - The teachers are only teaching what the scientists have discovered. Whether or not people chose to accept it does not mean that the teacher should provide an alernative theory to what scientists accept.

The mother then chimed in ask him about why he doesn't like science? The liberal newscaster in the panel then got almost exasperated that it is in issue that people can believe in something when science disagrees.

I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of science by people that is promoted by atheists who many treat "science" as a core belief of their religion.

Science is a tool. NOT a fundamental source of truth, yet people think it produces truth.

Define "truth"

If you want truth, go elsewhere. On top of that it is 100% wrong. Doubt me? study science history and you find that every theory that was held has been overturned as false

The examples you provided below are examples of modifications of former theories, no examples of theories that have been "overturned as false". Some aspects have been overturned, yes, but for you to claim that it is 100% wrong is idiotic.

and there is no reason to believe that the theories we hold today will not be overturned by future theories.

There's also no reason to categorize things with overwhelming evidence, to things with no evidence.

As an example - gravity.

1. The Greeks believed it was the force of love pulling things together.

2. Newton studied how it operated and made a formula based on observations about how strong it was over distance. He also believed it was a mystical thing called a force that operated between objects at a distance.

3. Einstein came up with the present theory to explain a few aberrations Newton's theory couldnt explain....that gravity was a deformation of space time

Examples of modifcations of previous theories, not absolute refutations of theories.

On to evolution. I hatez it. It is the cause of more human suffering in the last 100 years than any other idea. It directly caused the worst atrocities of the Nazis, the forced sterilization of 60,000 Americans, and even the US immigration laws, keeping out undesirable races like Italians and Irish. It reinforced racism with scientific jargon.

Ahahahaha... you do realize that Hitler rejected Darwin's theory of evolution, right? I'm only responding to that point because you have no sources for any of your claims, and your first claim was the only one I commonly heard. It's almost as stupid as saying (and yes, I realize atheists say this a lot and it is annoying) "Christianity has caused the crusades/murder of indigenous people" or "Islam has caused the WTC to blow up/slavery in Africa".

I also do not believe it. Common descent can not occur. Chance mutations can not create drastic improvements to interconnected systems, let alone whole organs. There is no evidence it has ever done so.

Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome project disagrees with you.

There is overwhelimg evidence that it has ever done so.

It is a flawed belief in that most of the original evidence has disappeared or been proven wrong.

No evidence provided for your claim whatsoever.

I do not understand how anyone who studies anatomy can think THAT comes about by chance.

Supporters of the theory of evolution don't claim that everything happens by the same chance as rolling a dice. Most mutations are based on previous mutations.

http://www.dhbailey.com/papers/dhb-probability.pdf

Here David H Bailey debunks the common misconception that evolution is pure randomness.

Not to mention there is no theory as to how the major jumps of life occurred. No theory how life formed. No adequate theory how complex cells formed. No theory how multicelled creatures formed. It is up to faith in evolution to believe it somehow did it. That is not even science anymore.

All of these are incorrect, you should perhaps replace "no theory' with 'no answer that I like".

But then all theories of origin are not true experimental science, they are mere modern mythology no better than creationism in intent.

It's based on mathematical science. If there exists no observable evidence, scientists turn to reliable mathematics

So why do atheists believe their mythology is better than Christian?

Loaded question.

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The argument simply points out a contradiction in the design argument. If complexity implies design, and the designer is a complex sentient being, then he needs a designer himself, and so on. You do

Might want to consider a different approach. He says science isn't a source of truth and doesn't produce truth, so instead of arguing evolution versus creationism, just go for reason versus faith, because that's what it boils down to. It's not like atheism is inferred from evolution theory, like we start out with this biological and other data about genetic changes being inherited over generations and then go "ergo there is no God," as if he just attacks the theory of the appendix in mice and apes, then we would have to abandon the conclusion and accept Vishnu whatever god he happens to prefer.

It's about starting out with a primacy of existence approach, starting out with observed data and integrating it non-contradictorily, accepting facts over whim or authority. Evolution is merely a secondary consequence of adopting the method of objectivity versus mysticism. If he sees something wrong with evolution and has some data and experiments we can inspect, then we await his paper. But this doesn't lend itself to "ergo God" like he is trying to do with the argument from design, as if no theists believe in evolution. It just simply does not logically follow.

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Where does he come up with the idea that Atheism is a "mythology". I'm not a theist, end of story. No mythology there.

He claims evolution is a mythology, not atheism.

Might want to consider a different approach. He says science isn't a source of truth and doesn't produce truth, so instead of arguing evolution versus creationism, just go for reason versus faith, because that's what it boils down to. It's not like atheism is inferred from evolution theory, like we start out with this biological and other data about genetic changes being inherited over generations and then go "ergo there is no God," as if he just attacks the theory of the appendix in mice and apes, then we would have to abandon the conclusion and accept Vishnu whatever god he happens to prefer.

It's about starting out with a primacy of existence approach, starting out with observed data and integrating it non-contradictorily, accepting facts over whim or authority. Evolution is merely a secondary consequence of adopting the method of objectivity versus mysticism. If he sees something wrong with evolution and has some data and experiments we can inspect, then we await his paper. But this doesn't lend itself to "ergo God" like he is trying to do with the argument from design, as if no theists believe in evolution. It just simply does not logically follow.

Agreed, but I find his understanding of evolution to be so offensive and arrogant that I just can't be so abstract. I do feel a discussion of epistemology is necessary, though.

What I am wondering is, did I put myself in a bad position by invoking peer review? I argued that peer review makes evolution a better candidate to be taught in school, but I do acknowledge that peer review has it's flaws, and relying on peer review may be considered an act of faith

Edited by Black Wolf
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I get that, but he says "why do atheists believe THEIR MYTHOLOGY...." which implies he thinks there is a mythology associated with atheism. I think you are correct in that he appears to think that atheism stems (only) from acceptance of evolutionary theory.

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What I am wondering is, did I put myself in a bad position by invoking peer review?

Peer review is certainly a good characteristic in maintaining high standards in a rigorous journal, but it's not going to convince someone who thinks that everyone involved in a field is simply a religious devotee of 'evolutionism' or some such garbage. I'd stick to the evidence. Don't talk about what 'scientists' have been wrong about in the past, it's not relevant to the debate today. Ask for concrete examples of irreducible complexity, and then refute them (refutations are easily accessible for all examples that I have seen). Or present concrete and compelling pieces of evidence for common descent. I used to be a pretty frequent participant in online evolution debates years ago, so I wrote up a few short pieces of evidence and saved them; use them if you want. In general, www.talkorigins.org is a great reference for evidence for evolution, and it heavily cites from rigorous scientific literature.

The evidence of a continuous line of common descent is incredibly strong. Let's take a look at some of the evidence from ubiquitous genes and proteins. A ubiquitous protein is a protein which is present in every life form, and absolutely essential for the functionality of an organism. For example, Cytochrome C is a ubiquitous protein found in all living organisms: humans, chimpanzees, bacteria, fungus, and bananas. These proteins do not have to have the exact same amino acid sequence, as we shall see, but they have to have an amino acid sequence that will produce a protein which performs the specific function, or the organism will die.

Now, as you might guess, ubiquitous genes are the genes which code for ubiquitous proteins. For any given ubiquitous protein, there are a great number of possible genes which would code for that protein (just as, with any computer program, there are many, many different ways to write the computer code which will produce that program). No one ubiquitous gene is necessary for, for example, humans. All that is necessary is that we have any one of a number of genes which will give us the protein we need (in the analogy, all we need is the working computer program; it doesn't actually matter what the code looks like). By the way, by "a great number of possible genes," we're talking in the neighborhood of, to use our cytochrome c example, a minimum of 2.3 x 10^93 possible functional sequences. This is due partly to the fact that several different genetic sequences can code for the same amino acid, but mainly to the fact that only about 1/3 of the amino acids in cytochrome c are actually necessary to produce its function; the rest are unrestricted by natural selection and free to mutate without harming the organism.

Now, this is important. We have a situation where any of an *incredibly* great number of genetic sequences will produce basically the same protein (more possible sequences than there are atoms in the universe). Now, without common descent, what would we expect to see? Well, there is no reason for the genetic sequences of different species to be related. We would expect a random distribution of the possible genetic sequences to produce the protein (there is no reason to think that humans and chimpanzees and mice all share the same underlying code, because there are so many different possibilities which make pretty much the same protein). However, what does common descent predict?

Well, common descent says that all organisms descended from a universal common ancestor. It also says that different species had their most recent common ancestor at varying times; the most recent common ancestor of humans and bananas would be much farther in the past than the most recent common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. You can think of it by comparing it to a family tree. My most recent common ancestor with my first cousin is only two generations in the past; our grandparents. However, my most recent common ancestor with my third cousin is four generations in the past; our great-great-grandparents.

Let's take a ubiquitous protein in my grandparents. Passing it down from them to me involved two reproductive events. This means that there are two opportunities for the protein sequence (really the DNA sequence, which then produces the protein sequence) to mutate. Thus, my DNA sequence has a small chance to be different than my first cousins (two generations of mutation worth). However, what about the ubiquitous proteins in me and my third cousin? Well, there, our common sequence is four generations in the past. Since the split, there have been four reproductive events; four chances for mutation. Thus, we would expect that the more distantly related someone is from me, the greater chance of mutations, and thus the greater number of mutations, and the more different the code.

The same logic applies to evolution. Common descent predicts that our protein sequences will be most similar to organisms most closely related to us (chimpanzees, for example), and the farther back in time the proposed common ancestor is, the more different the sequences should be. Thus, taking our cytochrome c example again, the cytochrome c protein sequences between us and chimpanzees should be very similar, while the cytochrome c protein sequences between us and bananas should be much more different, and with bacteria it should be even more different.

So, what do we find? Is our prediction in the absence of common descent right (random distribution), or is the prediction of common descent correct (distribution corresponding to the Tree of Life)?

The cytochrome c sequences of humans and chimpanzees are identical. Looking farther out on the evolutionary tree, to other mammals, we see about a 10 amino acid difference between us and them. The farther back the supposed common ancestor according to evolution, the larger difference we see. When we go out to the most distantly related organisms, we see the largest difference in protein sequence (about 50 amino acids with the yeast Candida krusei). (Source: The Making of the Fittest, by Sean B. Carroll)

Thus, the evidence from ubiquitous genes and proteins strongly supports the theory of common descent.

The evidence from retroviruses is some of the strongest evidence for common descent. A retrovirus is a virus which reproduces by inserting itself into the DNA of its host. Then, when the host cell divides and replicates its DNA, it replicates the virus as well. Retroviruses don't have particular points in the DNA that they like to choose; they are equally likely to themselves at any spot among the billions of base-pairs of the genome. If such a virus inserts itself into a germ line cell (a sperm or an egg), and if this sperm or egg cell is then used to make a new organism, then that virus will be in the DNA of every cell in that offspring's body. This is called an endogenous retrovirus.

You can already see how unlikely this is to happen. The cell has to be a germ line cell, and a very specific one at that (the particular sperm or egg used in reproduction). Also, it's not enough for the new organism to simply be born with the ERV. In order for the ERV to spread throughout the population, the descendants of this particular organism must be evolutionarily successful. As a result, an addition of a new ERV is incredibly rare, but over millions of years it happens with some regularity.

So, let's say that we take a look at your DNA, and we see an ERV (or at least the remnants of one; they tend to decay, as all useless code does, after extremely long periods of time because selection does not exert pressure to keep mutations out of coding which has no effect on survival) in a certain point in your DNA. Then we look at my DNA, and we find the same ERV, or bits of it, in the exact same spot. How can we explain this? The immense improbability of this rare event happening to two different people in the exact same spot on the genome (out of billions of possible base-pair locations) rules out two different occurrences. The only explanation is that we share a common ancestor whose DNA was invaded with a retrovirus. This easily explains what would otherwise be a statistically impossible coincidence.

In this way, ERVs can be used to show common ancestry. Finding the same ERV in the same spot in two people's DNA strongly indicates common ancestry. So, how is this relevant to evidence for evolution? You can probably guess.

Yes, scientists have examined the human genome, along with the genomes of many other animals, and have found a number of these occurrences. Humans and chimpanzees share seven, count 'em, seven ERVs (list of journal article references found here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html#retroviruses). The only explanation is that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. That's the only possibility.

I will, however, examine a common Creationist response to this, and explain why it is invalid. The only response any Creationist is left with is, "Well, God must have made it that way. Chimps and humans are similar; it makes sense that God would use some of the DNA sequences in making them." This was the response from a biologist from AiG when I asked him. Simply put, this answer makes no sense. These are not useful genes that we're talking about here. These are remnants of old viruses. They serve no purpose common to humans and chimps, no purpose at all. They don’t contribute to the phenotype of either organism in any way. The only conceivable reason for God to write DNA this way is active deception. Only a God who would want to trick us into disbelieving his followers would actively write DNA with ERVs this way. Thus, upon further examination, this objection falls apart.

This is incredibly compelling evidence for common descent, but what people simply don't grasp is how much evidence there is just like this, and how well it fits into the evolution model. We can look at humans and several different kinds of apes, and find the exact same things as we do with just humans and chimpanzees. Here's a phylogeny (a chart that shows evolutionary relationships) that shows what ERVs are shared by what apes, and the point at which the insertion happened.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/images/retrovirus.gif

Transposons are similar to ERVs, though they lack the tools to cross cellular barriers, and they thus provide the same kind of evidence. In the human α-globin cluster alone there are seven Alu elements (a specific kind of transposon), and each one is shared with chimpanzees in the exact same seven locations (source: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html#transposons).

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Where does he come up with the idea that Atheism is a "mythology". I'm not a theist, end of story. No mythology there.

I don't know if this is what he intended by that but I will give him this:

Many of the "atheists" one encounters these days are as dogmatic as any religious person. That is I think where Objectivism stands out.

Just because one rejects "God" doesn't mean that they have given up worship of the irrational. What immediately comes to mnd is Rand talking about the "materialistic mysticism" of the communist revolutionaries of her teenage and young adult life before leaving for America. Or the irrational dogmatic fervor of the global warming environmentalists.

Many of these people are atheists but they are mystics that are lead by myths rather than reason despite claiming to reject the idea of deity.

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Most creationists I've debated with tell me that they don't argue that species do change, they argue against common descent, and claim that common descent is just as faith based as intelligent design.

So then reply with the evidence from ubiquitous genes, endogenous retroviruses, transposons, and redundant pseudogenes. That is all evidence specifically for common descent, not just things changing. All those things provide evidence to say that humans and other species have common ancestors. It doesn't take any faith at all.

Edited by Dante
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This debate has little to do with evolution, and more to do with 'what is a scientific theory and what is a good theory.' All science, at least that which is interesting, is theoretical. If science were solely what is observable fact, then we would not have or need scientists. Science requires hypothesizing, whether it be a small testable experiment or a large universal theory that will takes year and new technological advancements to test, science does not work with observation alone.

This being said, there are logical ways to test a theory's strength. The philosophy of science provides a framework for this. If you are seriously interested, check out "Reading the Book of Nature: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science" by Peter Kosso. It explains logical ways to determine the plausibility of a theory.

Most importantly, the book points out that almost all major advancements in science began as theories. To argue that theories are simply predictions that carry no merit is an attack on the foundations of scientific reasoning. Ask your opponent to define science and explain its value. Using this answer, decide whether or not the debate is worth your time. No sense in arguing with a fundamentalist who will not change their mind regardless.

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  • 4 months later...

I think that religiuos people are coming from a different philosophic framework. They argue, as far as I can tell :

Truth cannot be obtained by human beings.

Because they can err.

BUT

Human beings can obtain knowledge from God.

God is infallible.

Science is human, religion divine.

Ergo, true.

Or,

Reason cannot arrive at truth.

THEREFORE, ULTIMATELY

All our knowledge rests upon some kind of faith. Faith in science, faith in the law of the universe, faith in causality, faith in reason.

And skepticism is in some sense, the foundation upon which religion rests.

I think all these reasons hide behind the logic of creationists. Many of the specific arguments against the above are in "The case against god" by George H. Smith.

Edited by samr
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  • 2 months later...

Arguing with creationists - that way lies madness. Many years ago I had an extended argument with a creationist (by mail - yes, children, there was an era before email :-) ) and at one stage, I even convinced him. But then he slowly slid back and the convincing didn't stick.

One of the problems with creationists is that the creationist literature is rife with errors. If the errors were true, then they would actually have a case! But what I found in the course of arguing, by looking up the primary literature quoted by creationist luminaries, was almost all of it was either misquoted, out of context in a way that changed the meaning, or otherwise inaccurate. Creationist "intellectuals" in general troll the literature for word bites they can use, without attempting to understand their real meaning. And the problem with that is that short of taking apart every claim, it is hard to get to a creationist: they just jump from one to another and you usually find yourself running in circles.

Unless you are dealing with a creationist actually open to having their mind changed (possible, but rare), the best you can do is point them in the direction of some of the books written by scientists that refute the creationist arguments (yes, it takes a book's-worth, hence the impossibility of doing it verbally) for the details, and just approach it from a higher level. Things that you might find useful are:

  • Evolution is not random: the raw material (mutation, gene shuffling etc) is random but the directional accumulation is non-random via natural selection.
  • Natural selection is not a tautology: it is a direct and in fact necessary consequence of reality and causality, of the fact that organisms have to survive and reproduce in a real world, and that real world imposes conditions on what they have to do.
  • Theories are not inferior to "facts": theories are explanatory frameworks, and can themselves be facts (e.g. the "theory" of universal gravitation).
  • Complex organs (and organisms) do not have to arise by "chance" or all at once: they arise by accumulations of smaller changes, each in itself an advantage (or at least, not a severe disadvantage - many changes actually happen by random drift) in its own right. Creationists do dispute this (hence "irreducible complexity") but:
    • In nearly all cases of alleged irreducible complexity, there are plenty of examples among living creatures or fossils that there is a sufficient range of complexity, all perfectly functional, for the change from simple to complex to have evolved naturally. Examples are the classic case of the eye (in nature, a myriad of forms of increasing complexity from pigment spots to vertebrate eyes); the mammalian jaw (an excellent series of fossils showing how, yes, the lower jaw bones of reptiles did evolve into the single lower jaw + inner ear bones we possess)
    • In some cases, the structure may be so ancient and/or non-fossilisable that we have no direct information like that. But "I do not know how this could have evolved" or even "I cannot believe this evolved!" is not proof that it couldn't. Especially in the light of all the irrefutable evidence of what can and has evolved.
    • A good example, I forget where I read it, is that of an arch. It might be impossible, looking at a finished structure, to imagine how it could have been constructed piece by piece. But that doesn't mean it wasn't. In the case of evolution, things get mixed and matched and something that evolves for one function can be co-opted for a quite different one (many examples are known). In the case of an arch, you can build one stone by stone: you use a scaffold, then remove it when the arch is complete. Same kind of thing in evolution.

    [*]There are transitional fossils: so many that creationists should be embarrassed to still be creationists. The fossil record is never going to be complete (the number of fossil species identified is far less than the number alive today, which shows you the scale of the problem of getting complete evolutionary sequences), but even then it is good enough to crush creationism. Good examples are the recent findings on birds (a whole menagerie of creatures from feathered raptors to obvious birds) (Archaeopteryx alone was enough for any honest mind, but now...); the transitions from fish to amphibian, amphibians to reptiles, and reptiles to mammals; well, the list goes on and on with less grand changes, such as the evolution of aquatic whales from land-dwellers, not to mention human beings from apes.

    • In some cases, fossils with transitional forms are dated after the time when the transition must have occurred. However this is neither surprising nor a problem. For the reasons stated above - each stage in a transition is viable in its own right - it is not surprising that transitional forms live on while others of their type move on. We do after all see that all around us today. Chimps are approximately structurally transitional between monkeys and humans - they have a common ancestor with us but have diverged less from the ancestral form. But they are still here.
    • The "point" of such belated transitional forms is not to prove evolution occurred: but it does prove that transitional forms existed and were viable. And they are a prediction of evolutionary theory in their own right, as demonstrated.

    [*]The Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) and (a related topic) Information Theory do not contradict evolution. Earth is not a closed system, it is bathed in sunlight which provides the bulk of the energy living things need to live, grow - and evolve. Each living thing itself goes against entropy by the fact that it not only survives but grows and develops. And yet, they are here. For the same reason.

I think that covers the bulk of the kinds of arguments creationists present. If they want to argue the details - point them to a good book. And a good book, almost by definition, is one not written by a creationist :-D

Edited by Robin Craig
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Examples are the classic case of the eye (in nature, a myriad of forms of increasing complexity from pigment spots to vertebrate eyes);

Is there an explanation how the first light sensitive organ came to being? How it was connected to the cells central unit and could respond accordingly to the amount of light that was cast on the cell? How did the cell know what to do when light was cast upon it? Did the connection (think of the cable between the computer and keyboard) between the central unit (that can instruct the cell to do an action) and the light sensitive organ exist before the light sensitive organ or after it? If it existed after the light sensitive organ what advantages did the organ give to the cell that was selected by natural selection? If it existed before what advantages did the connection give to the cell and how come the new light sensitive organ could connect to it once it evolved? Did it have a PS/2 port or an USB port?

There are transitional fossils: so many that creationists should be embarrassed to still be creationists. The fossil record is never going to be complete (the number of fossil species identified is far less than the number alive today, which shows you the scale of the problem of getting complete evolutionary sequences), but even then it is good enough to crush creationism.

Would you say the same if we had half as many fossils as we have today? How much is enough to crush ignorant creationists?

I have several versions of the Operating System called Windows. They all share some characteristics and code with each other. The closer they are in the record the more similar they look. The older they are the more complex and better they become. Would showing a few copies of Windows enough to crush ignorant creationists?

Good examples are the recent findings on birds (a whole menagerie of creatures from feathered raptors to obvious birds) (Archaeopteryx alone was enough for any honest mind, but now...); the transitions from fish to amphibian, amphibians to reptiles, and reptiles to mammals; well, the list goes on and on with less grand changes, such as the evolution of aquatic whales from land-dwellers, not to mention human beings from apes.

Why do reptiles that can't fly develop feathers that are only better compared to scales in terms of aerodynamics? They are light, flexible strong but only useful for things that can fly. Yes feathers can be used to keep body heat the same way a skyscraper can be used to cast a shade on something, but that doesn't explain the favorable properties these objects have.

Why did natural selection choose to make feathers the way it did? What advantage has a reptile with feathers have that cannot fly over other reptiles? Why didn't other reptiles develop feathers as well or things that are similar to them?

Eyes and ears can develop independently multiple times but feathers cannot?

When can one say with a high level a certainty that a scientific theory has been proven?

Can evolution be proven?

Was evolution proven?

What would account as being undeniable proof of evolution?

Has there been ever any scientific criteria that evolution didn't fail at?

Edited by Dániel Boros
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Why do reptiles that can't fly develop feathers that are only better compared to scales in terms of aerodynamics?

If you're referring to Dinosauria, they were not reptiles. As to your questions, I don't want to answer them each individually. You seem to be focused on the details of evolution and not the process. Darwin proved that the process of evolution occurs and how it occurs. The theory of this process is validated by scientific discoveries in the field. The specific details of how individual species evolved certain traits may or may not be known to scientists, but the point of evolution is they are explainable under the process of natural selection.

Daniel Boros, you don't seem to be arguing in favor of creationism, at least you don't mention it, so this next part of the post isn't directed at you.

And yes I realize this is a necrothread and some of the original posters aren't here anymore, but since this thread will be on the front page for a little while I thought I'd add my two cents.

Creationism isn't really a theory, I have never heard an ID debater proffer an alternative process. Often they don't want to get into specific details of faith, so as not to alienate particular denominations. The alternative process which remains unnamed, of course, is God. Most commonly a Judeo-Christian God. The reasons that it is entirely impossible that the origin of species is mystical are too obvious and numerous to count.

Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion does an exceptional job of pointing out arguments against god, for evolution, and for atheism in general. I recommend it to anyone interested in debating on the topic.

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I don't want to answer them each individually.

They never do...

Darwin proved that the process of evolution occurs

How did he prove that the process of evolution occurs?

The theory of this process is validated by scientific discoveries in the field.

Please name a few.

The specific details of how individual species evolved certain traits may or may not be known to scientists, but the point of evolution is they are explainable under the process of natural selection.

They can be just as much explained by a common designer as they can via common descent.

Creationism isn't really a theory, I have never heard an ID debater proffer an alternative process. Often they don't want to get into specific details of faith, so as not to alienate particular denominations. The alternative process which remains unnamed, of course, is God. Most commonly a Judeo-Christian God. The reasons that it is entirely impossible that the origin of species is mystical are too obvious and numerous to count.

Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion does an exceptional job of pointing out arguments against god, for evolution, and for atheism in general. I recommend it to anyone interested in debating on the topic.

Anthony Flew gave a much better argument for atheism than Dawkins did.

Do you really need to know who designed the Stonehange and why to realize it was designed? Is it possible that there exists some universal attribute that all designed objects carry that can be detected by humans? Is it logical to say that some objects are more likely to be the product of design as they are the product of nature? If we found such an attribute would it be logical to believe that any object with such an attribute was probably designed unless evidence to the contrary is provided?

I am an ID debater and I am willing to go in detail into my faith: I have none.

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Please name a few.

The evidence from retroviruses is some of the strongest evidence for common descent. A retrovirus is a virus which reproduces by inserting itself into the DNA of its host. Then, when the host cell divides and replicates its DNA, it replicates the virus as well. Retroviruses don't have particular points in the DNA that they like to choose; they are equally likely to insert themselves at any spot among the billions of base-pairs of the genome. If such a virus inserts itself into a germ line cell (a sperm or an egg), and if this sperm or egg cell is then used to make a new organism, then that virus will be in the DNA of every cell in that offspring's body. This is called an endogenous retrovirus.

You should already be able to see how unlikely this is to happen in any particular case. The cell has to be a germ line cell, and a very specific one at that (the particular sperm or egg used in reproduction). Also, it's not enough for the new organism to simply be born with the ERV. In order for the ERV to spread throughout the population, the descendants of this particular organism must be evolutionarily successful. As a result, the addition of a new ERV into a population is incredibly rare, but over millions of years it happens with some regularity.

So, let's say that we take a look at your DNA, and we see an ERV (or at least the remnants of one; they tend to decay, as all useless code does, after extremely long periods of time because selection does not exert pressure to keep mutations out of useless coding) in a certain point in your DNA. Then we look at my DNA, and we find the same ERV, or bits of it, in the exact same spot. How can we explain this? The immense improbability of this rare event happening to two different people in the exact same spot on the genome (out of billions of possible base-pair locations) rules out two different occurrences. The only explanation is that we share a common ancestor whose DNA was invaded with a retrovirus. This easily explains what would otherwise be a statistically impossible coincidence.

In this way, ERVs can be used to show common ancestry. Finding the same ERV in the same spot in two people's DNA strongly indicates common ancestry. So, how is this relevant to evidence for evolution? You can probably guess.

Scientists examining the human genome, along with the genomes of many other animals, found a number of these occurrences. Humans and chimpanzees share seven ERVs in the same spots in our genomes (list of journal article references found here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html#retroviruses). Literally the only explanation is that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. We're talking about useless code here, which is not expressed in the phenotype of an organisms. There is no design incentive for this result to occur.

This alone is compelling evidence for common descent, but what people simply don't grasp is how much other evidence there is just like this, and how well it fits into the evolution model. We can look at humans and several different kinds of apes, and find the exact same things as we do with just humans and chimpanzees. Here's a phylogeny (a chart that shows evolutionary relationships) that shows what ERVs are shared by what apes, and the point at which the insertion happened.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/images/retrovirus.gif

Transposons are similar to ERVs, though they lack the tools to cross cellular barriers, and they thus provide the same kind of evidence. In the human α-globin cluster alone there are seven Alu elements (a specific kind of transposon), and each one is shared with chimpanzees in the exact same seven locations (source: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html#transposons). The evidence overwhelmingly presents a coherent picture of common descent over millions of years.

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Please name a few.

A few... I guess I should name some more. Let's go with some of the evidence that comes from ubiquitous genes and proteins.

A ubiquitous protein is a protein which is present in every life form, and is absolutely essential for the functionality of an organism. For example, Cytochrome C is a ubiquitous protein found in all living organisms: humans, chimpanzees, bacteria, fungus, and bananas. All proteins are composed of amino acid sequences. In order to work properly, a particular protein does not have to have the exact same amino acid sequence in every organism, as we shall see, but if an organism doesn’t have some amino acid sequence that yields a functional Cytochrome C protein, it will die.

Ubiquitous genes are the genes which code for ubiquitous proteins. For any given ubiquitous protein, there are a great number of possible genes which would code for that protein (just as, with any computer program, there are many, many different ways to write the computer code which will produce that program). No one particular Cytochrome C gene, for example, is necessary for humans. All that is necessary is that we have any one of a number of genes which will give us the protein we need (in the analogy, all we need is the working computer program; it doesn't actually matter what the code looks like). By the way, by "a great number of possible genes," we're talking in the neighborhood of, with our cytochrome c example, a minimum of 2.3 x 10^93 possible functional sequences. This is due partly to the fact that several different genetic sequences can code for the same amino acid, but mainly to the fact that only about 1/3 of the amino acids in cytochrome c are actually necessary to produce its function; the rest are unrestricted by natural selection and free to mutate without harming the organism.

Now, this is important. We have a situation where any of an *incredibly* great number of genetic sequences will produce basically the same protein (more possible sequences than there are atoms in the universe). Now, without common descent, what would we expect to see? Well, there is no reason for the genetic sequences of different species to be related. We would expect a random distribution of the possible genetic sequences to produce the protein (there is no reason to think that humans and chimpanzees and mice all share the same underlying code, because there are so many different possibilities which make pretty much the same protein). However, what does common descent predict?

Well, common descent says that all organisms descended from a universal common ancestor. It also says that different species had their most recent common ancestor at varying times; the most recent common ancestor of humans and bananas would be much farther in the past than the most recent common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. You can think of it by comparing it to a family tree. My most recent common ancestor with my first cousin is only two generations in the past; our grandparents. However, my most recent common ancestor with my third cousin is four generations in the past; our great-great-grandparents.

Let's take a ubiquitous protein in my grandparents. Passing it down from them to me involved two reproductive events. This means that there are two opportunities for the protein sequence (really the DNA sequence, which then produces the protein sequence) to mutate. Thus, my DNA sequence has a small chance to be different than my first cousins (two generations of mutation worth). However, what about the ubiquitous proteins in me and my third cousin? Well, there, our common sequence is four generations in the past. Since the split, there have been four reproductive events; four chances for mutation. Thus, we would expect that the more distantly related someone is from me, the greater chance of mutations, and thus the greater number of mutations, and the more different the code.

The same logic applies to evolution. Common descent predicts that our protein sequences will be most similar to organisms most closely related to us (chimpanzees, for example), and the farther back in time the proposed common ancestor is, the more different the sequences should be. Thus, taking our cytochrome c example again, the cytochrome c protein sequences between us and chimpanzees should be very similar, while the cytochrome c protein sequences between us and bananas should be much more different, and with bacteria it should be even more different.

So, what do we find? Is our prediction in the absence of common descent right (random distribution), or is the prediction of common descent correct (distribution corresponding to the evolutionary tree of life)?

The cytochrome c sequences of humans and chimpanzees are identical. Looking farther out on the evolutionary tree, to other mammals, we see about a 10 amino acid difference between us and them. The farther back the supposed common ancestor according to evolution, the larger difference we see. When we go out to the most distantly related organisms, we see the largest difference in protein sequence (about 50 amino acids with the yeast Candida krusei). (Source: The Making of the Fittest, by Sean B. Carroll)

To conclude, we see in ubiquitous proteins exactly what evolution would predict that we would see.

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For the most part a genetically modified life form carries the same genes and ERV-s as its original.

Does that prove that it had evolved?

You claimed that If two species has the same genes and ERV-s than that would prove that evolution works.

So if I had a life form and a genetically modified version of that life form that would prove that evolution happened even though it didn't.

My question is this: is the existence of ERV-s sufficient to prove evolution? If yes, why? If not what would be sufficient?

The theory of Evolution was established before ERVs and before the human and chimp genomes were sequenced. What was the basis for evolution before that? Plain ignorance?

What part of what you said cannot be explained by a common designer and why?

Edited by Dániel Boros
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Re Daniel's specific questions, I refer you to the suggestion I made in the beginning of my post for the reasons I gave then: if you really want the details, read the books by evolutionary scientists. If you are influenced by creationist/ID literature: go to a university library and look up the original literature. Really, you need a book to answer the details.

As for the general questions, the evidence in Darwin's day was incomplete but pretty convincing. Now it is absolutely convincing. It comes from the whole convergence of fossil evidence, comparative anatomy, comparative biochemistry (including comparative gene sequences), molecular biology (the actual basis of heredity and its variability - unknown in Darwin's day), experiments on many aspects of evolutionary theory that happen on a short enough time span to be experimentally studied.

The evidence "against" design is primarily the evidence for evolution (in that because there is a natural explanation, there is no need for a "designer") and secondarily the weird and wonderful ways in which organisms have evolved which make perfect sense if they evolved (where x is co-opted for y and good enough is good enough) but would require a criminally negligent designer. Again - read the books.

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Re Daniel's specific questions, I refer you to the suggestion I made in the beginning of my post for the reasons I gave then: if you really want the details, read the books by evolutionary scientists.

Would The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins be good?

If you are influenced by creationist/ID literature: go to a university library and look up the original literature. Really, you need a book to answer the details.

I have looked high and low but my questions have never been answered. Also I may be not satisfied with any kind of answer like: photosynthesis evolved because grass is green and such...

As for the general questions, the evidence in Darwin's day was incomplete but pretty convincing. Now it is absolutely convincing. It comes from the whole convergence of fossil evidence, comparative anatomy, comparative biochemistry (including comparative gene sequences), molecular biology (the actual basis of heredity and its variability - unknown in Darwin's day), experiments on many aspects of evolutionary theory that happen on a short enough time span to be experimentally studied.

Can you name any aspect of the evidence that is there for evolution but is not their for artificial advancement? Like cars or computers?

If it is absolutely convincing why am I not convinced?

The evidence "against" design is primarily the evidence for evolution

The evidence for evolution is primarily evidence against design if such evidence is uncommon to be found in designed objects.

(in that because there is a natural explanation, there is no need for a "designer")

So you admit your bias :)

and secondarily the weird and wonderful ways in which organisms have evolved which make perfect sense if they evolved

Maybe makes sense to you...

(where x is co-opted for y and good enough is good enough) but would require a criminally negligent designer. Again - read the books.

Give me an example.. I am tired of the books...

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For the most part a genetically modified life form carries the same genes and ERV-s as its original.

Does that prove that it had evolved?

That is the case because the original code is the baseline for the modified organism's code, which is also what happens in evolution. There would be no reason for a designer to operate in this way.

My question is this: is the existence of ERV-s sufficient to prove evolution? If yes, why? If not what would be sufficient?

Yes. It is a confirmed prediction of the theory with no reasonable alternative explanation.

The theory of Evolution was established before ERVs and before the human and chimp genomes were sequenced. What was the basis for evolution before that? Plain ignorance?

The fact that you think I could possibly give you every piece of evidence in favor of evolution in one forum post illustrates that you clearly don't understand the breadth and the depth of the evidence, stretching much farther back than the snippet I just gave you. The fact that evolution made this prediction about the genome before it was confirmed is a strength of the theory.

What part of what you said cannot be explained by a common designer and why?

The part where completely useless code that a designer has no reason to bother with, because it does not show up in the phenotype, follows patterns completely consistent with evolution through common descent. The only reason a designer would have to write the code in this way would be active deception; to make it look like things had evolved from a common ancestor even when they hadn't.

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That is the case because the original code is the baseline for the modified organism's code, which is also what happens in evolution. There would be no reason for a designer to operate in this way.

That is interesting because that is exactly how we humans do it.

Every genetically modified product was created that way.

Yes. It is a confirmed prediction of the theory with no reasonable alternative explanation.

It is easy to make predictions after the discovery and label them as if they were things that the scientists expected.

Give me the date the prediction was made and when ERV-s were found and I will believe it.

It's not a prediction it is just a fact that happens to not contradict evolution. Doesn't matter much if the rest of the facts are ignored.

The fact that you think I could possibly give you every piece of evidence in favor of evolution in one forum post illustrates that you clearly don't understand the breadth and the depth of the evidence, stretching much farther back than the snippet I just gave you. The fact that evolution made this prediction about the genome before it was confirmed is a strength of the theory.

Anyone could make a prediction like that if they looked at Windows 7 and Vista. Since they look similar if they were run by a code the code would be similar as well.

Also since Win7 is found later in the Tree of Microsoft it will be more complex and more fit for survival than Vista.

And I didn't have to believe in evolution to make that prediction...

And the operating systems that are not fit for survival die out.. oh what a great discovery...

The part where completely useless code that a designer has no reason to bother with, because it does not show up in the phenotype, follows patterns completely consistent with evolution through common descent. The only reason a designer would have to write the code in this way would be active deception; to make it look like things had evolved from a common ancestor even when they hadn't.

That's a rather hasty generalization. If preexisting organisms are used to create modified living beings than it would not be surprising to see inactive retro viruses in the the offspring. (You see organisms unlike computers can self reproduce) That would be the product of cost effectiveness rather than deceit.

It is not like viruses and antiviruses with virus databases don't exist in the computer world. My computer has more ERV-s than my own genome...probably...

Edited by Dániel Boros
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That's a rather hasty generalization. If preexisting organisms are used to create modified living beings than it would not be surprising to see inactive retro viruses in the the offspring. (You see organisms unlike computers can self reproduce) That would be the product of cost effectiveness rather than deceit.

Used by whom, through what causal process?

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