The Instigator
MykSkodar
Pro (for)
Tied
3 Points
The Contender
Jellon
Con (against)
Tied
3 Points

The theory of evolution is well established

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/7/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,931 times Debate No: 61348
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (34)
Votes (2)

 

MykSkodar

Pro

In this debate, I will argue that evolution by natural selection is well established, as its title of scientific theory suggests, while my opponent will argue that it is ultimately flawed.

Things that will not be debated:
-the meaning of the word theory (scientific or otherwise)
-abiogenesis (how life got started).
The theory of evolution provides clues to the origin of life, but is not ultimetaly about the origin of life. Arguments on the origin of life from either side should therefore not be considered.

Rounds:
1st round = Acceptance.
2nd round = Opening statements (no rebbutals).
3rd round = Rebuttals.
4th round = Further rebuttals and closing statements.

Rules:
-no name calling.
-arguments should be organised into coherent paragraphs for clarity.
-correct spelling should be used as much as possible.
-statements should be backed by sources.
-please make time for the debate. If you're leaving on holiday or busy, don't accept this debate.
Jellon

Con

I accept this debate with the new title. I am looking forward to a stimulating conversation about evolution. Researching evolution and related topics is a hobby to me. Since college, I've studied evolution from proponents for evolution, such as talkorigins. Although there's too much out there to be familiar with everything, I feel well versed in various theories of evolution, so I hope to give you a challenge.
Debate Round No. 1
MykSkodar

Pro

Thank you Jellon for taking the time to debate me on this issue. I hope this debate will be stimulating for the both of us!

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" -Theodosius Dobzhansky

The theory of evolution by natural selection is now well established. The original idea was independently arrived at by two scientists, Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, the latter presenting it in his famous book On the Origin of Species in 1859. While Charles Darwin already provides compelling arguments for the theory in his book, more than 150 years of research now supports the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Briefly, there are two ideas central to the theory of evolution:
-that random variations occur within a population of organisms and are inherited across many generations.
-that natural selection occurs.

Natural selection is the "[d]ifferential survival and reproduction of organisms as a consequence of the characteristics of the environment." [1]

Random variations in a population of organisms lead individual organisms to have varying survival and reproduction fitness in a particular environment. A higher reproductive fitness will lead the trait confering the advantage to become more common in a population over many generations. A lower reproductive fitness will lead to the gradual or sudden (if particularly deleterious) phasing out of the trait in a population.

Over geological times, with variation in traits and environments between populations, one species can turn into many as it becomes impossible for the members of one sub-population to reproduce with those of another. This process, that naturally follows from the central ideas of the theory of evolution, is called speciation. Speciation implies that many species can arise from an ancestral species. Followed to its logical conclusion, this means that, turning back the clocks of time, each species can be traced back to some ancestral species shared with other species. All species share common descent, another idea Darwin presented in his book.

But how does the theory of evolution by natural selection fare when it comes to the evidence? Here I will invoke the concept of consilience (The "[a]greement between the approaches to a topic of different academic subjects, especially science and the humanities" [2]). I will show that different sources of evidence all converge conclusively towards the theory of evolution.

Evidence from genetics

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution largely predates the field of genetics, yet the findings of genetics fit particularly well with the theory of evolution.

The first thing to notice is that the field of genetics gives random variation in organisms a support (the genetic code [encoded by DNA/RNA molecule]) and a cause (random mutation).

Mutation is "[a] change in the sequence of one or more nucleotides in DNA. [...] In some cases mutations result in the organism possessing these altered traits to have a greater or lesser chance of surviving and reproducing in a given environment than other members of its species. " [1]

The genetic code of an organism, along with the mutations it has aquired are passed on to offspring through reproduction. Genetics therefore offers a way whereby evolution can take place.

The theory of evolution implies that all living species share a common ancestor. This is patent in the universality of the genetic code. Every living species has a genetic code composed of a series of 4 repeated nucleotide bases. Because of this universality, it is possible to take certain genes from one species and express them in another as illustrated by the GloFish, a zebrafish which has been genetically engineered to express the fluorescence protein of a jellyfish, leading to fish that glow.[3]

If the theory of evolution is correct, common ancestry between two species should be reflected in the genetic code. The phenotypical traits displayed by various species can give us a fairly good indication of how related two species are in comparison to other species. If the theory of evolution is correct and the mechanism underlying it is supported by genetics, we should observe species sharing a recent common ancestor share more DNA sequence than either with species with a more distant common ancestor.

Scientists did not wait for the sequencing of genomes (a fairly recent feat. that occured around the turn of the century) to investigate this. DNA-DNA hybridisation has been used to determine how similar the DNA of two species are by combining the DNA strand of one species, to the complement strand of another species. (4) How well these strands fit depends on sequence similarity. This technique confirmed much of our intuitions and lead to further classification. Crucially it showed that Man and Chimpanzees share ~98% of their genetic code, evidence of recent (in geological time) speciation eventually leading to both those species. Whole-genome sequencing confirms this similarity, showing that the genetic makeup of bonobos is also extremely similar. [5] Species as different as the wild banana and Humans betray their ancient, but existent, common ancestry through the ~50% of their respective genetic codes they share. [6]

The field of genetics has a lot to offer in the way of confirming the theory of evolution, but I will move on to other forms of evidence.

The fossil Record

The fossil record is one of the older forms of evidence for the theory of evolution and unlike genetics, some of it predates the theory of evolution and helped formulate the theory in the first place.

Over many centuries, the fossil record has introduced us to many species that no longer exist in our modern world. The fossil record is testament to the change that has occured in organisms over billions of year. As we travel through the layers representing different ages of the Earth, we encounter fossils that tell the story of evolution. Importantly, the fossil record shows species with increasingly more complex structures consistent with the accumulation of advantageous variations over time. [7]

The fossil record is full of transitional fossils. UC Berkeley's website defines transitional fossils as follows:
"Fossils [...] that show the intermediate states between an ancestral form and that of its descendants are referred to as transitional forms. There are numerous examples of transitional forms in the fossil record, providing an abundance of evidence for change over time." [8]

Transitional fossils thus show us gradual change over time, for life as a whole, but also for specific species or a set of species. The relationship between species (the subject of the field of phylogenetics) patent in transitional fossils allows us to draw up a tree of life. This tree is consistent with a number of traits inherited by all species of a particular group. The common ancestor to all mammals has traits that all mammals have (e.g. mammary glands) and that no other separate branch has developed. We can observe this at different levels.

The meeting of genetics and the fossil record is ripe with consilience. To name just one, the tree of life suggested by the fossil record fits with the tree of life determined through genome comparison and DNA-DNA hybrid studies. Two different fields come to the same overall conclusion, which we can link to traits in species. We can also look at the genome of different species to discover regions conserved in groups of species. These conserved regions must have appeared in a common ancestor and will thus not be found on other branches. They are inherited.

Evidence from geographic distribution

We know from geological sciences that the different continental plates once came together as the great supercontinent Pangea but have since drifted apart. The geographical separation of species can be gleaned in the fossil record, with the same fossils being found on two different continents at a time when continents were one, but different fossils being found thereafter.

Consistent with this observation, we find quite different species on different continents. Furthermore, we find species that are endemic ("(Of a plant or animal) native or restricted to a certain place" [9]) to a certain island. Australia for example has diverse species termed Marsupials, a groupping found only in Australia because of its geographical isolation. Madagascar present the same characteristic with species such as lemurs found only there.

The ancestors to all of those species following continental drift are geographically consistent. The recent fossil ancestors of an African lion will not be found in South America for example.

The evidence for the theory of evolution of course does not end here. Each of the sections I have presented have more evidence to bring to the table. Other forms of evidence I have not had the opportunity to present. It is important to keep in mind that evidence for the theory of evolution by natural selection has been piling up for a century and a half.

It is also important to stress that any of these pieces of evidence on its own can make a resounding case for the theory of evolution. That we have so many fields in agreement that we can bring together through consilience only consolidates this already established theory.

The theory of Evolution is well established.

References

[1] http://www.nas.edu......
[2] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com......
[3] http://www.nature.com......
[4] http://evolution.berkeley.edu......
[5] http://news.sciencemag.org......
[6] http://www.nhm.ac.uk......
[7] http://www.dmp.wa.gov.au......
[8] http://evolution.berkeley.edu......
[9] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com......
[10] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com......
Jellon

Con

Evidence from Genetics
Proponents of evolution claim that the universal genetic code is evidence for evolution. This isn't the case at all! Even pro-evolution sources admit this [1]. The very same aticle also points out there are actually exceptions to the universal genetic code. As a rule, there are 20 standard amino acids used by all organisms. There are, however, a few exceptions to that rule where organisms have added new amino acids to their genetic structure [1]. The fact that the genetic code is constrained to 4 nucleotides and 20 amino acids is considered an enigma by evolutionists [1]. In fact, humans have engineered bacteria that can reproduce using 6 nucleotides [2]. The authors of that experiment also raise the question as to why evolution settled on only 4 nucleotides. If evolution predicted the universality of the genetic code, then exceptions would discredit the theory. Instead we find the theory able to easily accomodate such exceptions [1]. On the contrary, we find evolutions wondering why a universal genetic code exists at all [1] [2].
But that is not the only trouble evolutionists have with genetics. Evolution predicts that without external causes, we would see an orderly progression of species as determined by molecular homologies. In more common terms, that means that genes common between two descendants of a common ancestor should also be shared by that ancestor. There are an overwhelming number of exceptions to this rule. According to the National Center for Biotechnology, "Phrases like "sequence (structural) homology", "high homology", "significant homology", or even "35% homology" are as common, even in top scientific journals, as they are absurd, considering the above definition" [3]. They furthermore state that it is impossible to know which family (on a phylogenetic tree) a specific gene belongs to, because at best they can make an educated guess. Schwabe was one of the first molecular evolutions at the time molecular evolution became a technical possibility. Schwabe is quoted as saying, "Instead it seems disconcerting that many exceptions exist to the orderly progression of species as determined by molecular homologies; so many, in fact, that I think the exception, the quirks, may carry the more important message" [4]. These quirks later led Schwabe to believe in multiple common ancestry. But Schwabe wasn't alone in these beliefs. Gregory Warr coauthored a book with Schwabe claiming, "They saw the field of molecular evolution as being mired in subjectivity driven by an a priori commitment to universal common ancestry" [5] [6]. It is true that there are multiple naturalistic explanations for these quirks. Given an abitrary quirk in the phylogenetic tree, an evolutionist cannot prove which hypothesis is the best explanation. In other words, they have provided the possibility of naturalistic causes, but they have not shown probability. I will come back to that. Commonality in DNA in a version of the phylogenetic tree is used as evidence for common ancestry. However, if mutations are indeed random, we would not expect this to be the case. If given common ancestry, is there a premise which logically produces the conclusion that humans should share any DNA in common with fish? I challenge Pro to produce one. If DNA is used in all species to code for traits, we should expect similarities in organisms to determine how much DNA is shared in common. This would need to take into consideration that there is more than one genetic code which produces the same function [1]. Pro has already demonstrated that two organisms with similar function share similar DNA sequences. Pro claims that the similarity is based on inheritance. This is not predicted by evolution. Evolution simply accommodates it. In fact, there are multiple species who share a high degree of genetic similarity without inheritance, a phenomena called convergence evolution [7]. For example, dolphins, sharks and ichthyosaurs are from very different origins, yet they are physically and genetically similar. The genetic similarity was surprising to evolutionists, because it doesn't fit with pure random mutation predictions. There are, of course, other examples. To quote livescience on the convergent evolution between dolphins and bats, "We didn't expect to see more than perhaps 10 to 30 genes converge, probably mainly hearing-related ones," researcher Joe Parker, an evolutionary biologist at Queen Mary University of London, told LiveScience. "Instead, we were able to detect many times that number."
So we see that structural similarity is a stronger predictor of genetic similarity than ancestry. We see that universal genetic code is not only not predicted by evolution, but it isn't true in observable nature or in a laboratory. We see that the genetic homologies predicted by evolution contain many exceptions which evolution accommodates with observable natural phenomena without the ability to test they hypothesis of causality.

The Fossil Record
The fossil record should be a good indicator of when a species came into existence. Darwinian evolution, which seems to be what is proposed here, claims that small changes happened over time and natural selection acted on those changes to create distance between species of the same family. This slow trickle of new species is not what we observe in the fossil record.

[8]
Instead, we observe what have been called punctuated equalibria. The cause of punctuated equalibria has been debated since Eldredge and Gould popularized the idea in their book published in 1972. The history of the theory actually goes back to the 1950s. There is still no demonstrable cause for this observation in the fossil record. One of the most notable leaps is known as the Cambrian Explosion, an event which produced almost every family of species currently known to man. The Wikipedia article on the topic presents and refutes 12 explanations for the Cambrian Explosion [9]. We have fossils that suggest evolution in lower forms of life, but we lack a fossil record of transitional forms of higher taxa. Evolutionists dismiss this in a number of ways. I will name two:
1) Fossils are rarely formed, so we shouldn't expect to see evidence for transitional forms
2) The transitional forms were so short lived that they didn't leave fossils
The second is popular among those aware of punctuated equilibria. However, the application of natural selection specifically on these transitional forms requires speculation without any scientific data to support it. The transitional forms we do see are based almost entirely on morphological phylogenetic trees. In other words, if an unknown species is found, the structural features distinguishable on the fossil are compared to known organisms, and it is then placed in the phylogenetic tree based on almost arbitrary criteria. For example, Deinonychus was once considered to be a link between birds and mammals. A more in-depth, work-cited history of the belief in the bird-mammal relationship can be found at trueorigins [11]. In fact, go back and watch the first "Jurassic Park" movie and listen to the archeologist in the movie explain that the dinosaur was a bird (he was later corrected in the movie, of course). I have already demonstrate functional and genetic similarities among species known not to have any evolutionary relationship to each other. Thus, I have shown the criteria used to determine transitional forms for fossils to be purely speculative regardless of the method used.

Evidence from Geographic Distribution
Evolution may accommodate the different forms of species forming in different continents. It is not a logically valid argument. Allow me to demonstrate.
P1) Each specific evolution takes place in a single location
P2) A specific evolution that cannot cross water will be limited to the land body it is on
P3) We observe species that exist only on one land body
C) Evolution took place on land masses separated by water
However, we see this Geo-spacial division in species able to travel from one area to another. The fact a species lives only on a single island, Australia for example, is not evidence that evolution took place. In fact, it is entirely possible that animals unique to Australia existed before Australia became an island. The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

In short, the conclusions drawn by evolution do not logically follow their premises. Some of their conclusions are used as a premise in further conclusions. Many predictions made by evolution have been proven to have numerous exceptions. There exist logical explanations for the conclusions drawn by evolutionists that do not entail the premises on which their conclusions are based.

Science deals only with nature. Anything outside of nature is outside of science. If nature is all there is, evolution is the most logical conclusion. But it has not been shown that nature is all there is. That's a different debate.

1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
2) http://www.livescience.com...
3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
4) Schwabe, Christian. 1986. On the Validity of Molecular Evolution. Trends in Biochemical Sciences 11:280-283.
5) http://www.trueorigin.org...
6) Schwabe, Christian and Gregory W. Warr. 1984. A Polyphyletic View of Evolution: The Genetic Potential Hypothesis. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 27:465-485.
7) http://www.livescience.com...
8) http://www.geo.arizona.edu...
9) http://en.wikipedia.org...
10) Benton, Michael J. (editor). 1993. The Fossil Record 2. Chapman & Hall, London.
11) http://www.trueorigin.org...
Debate Round No. 2
MykSkodar

Pro

Thank you Jellon for a rich opening statement. You quote some quality papers. Whether these actually support your arguments is another matter entirely.

In my opening statment, I pointed to the genetic code as the support for random variation in organisms. I proceeded to state that "every living species has a genetic code composed of a series of 4 repeated nucleotide bases", emphasizing the universality of the genetic code. However, con points to a bacterium that was engineered to incorporate new nucleotide bases. [1] The key word here is "engineered". It is perhaps necessary in this case to emphasize that I am referring to naturally occuring living species, although this is what is commonly understood and is evident even in the article cited by con:
"All living creatures have a DNA "alphabet" of just four letters, which encode instructions for the proteins that perform most of the key jobs inside cells." [1]

Con argues that the genetic code's universality is not evidence for evolution, pointing to a peer-reviewed paper that he claims supports this conclusion. However, he does not develop the point further. I would ask him to clarify which specific claim in the paper negates that proposition. One thing that is asserted in the paper is that the genetic code "is nearly universal" [2] which could be seen as undermining my statement that it is universal. Two points can be raised here. The first is that, in my argument, I judge the universality of the genetic code as a structure rather than through its discrete attributes. That all living species have a genetic code remains true and points to shared ancestry of all species. This is a position that is argued quite explicitely in the paper cited by my debate partner:
"in its main features, the structure of the code seems not to have changed through the entire history of life or, more precisely, at least, since the time of the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) of all modern (cellular) life forms." [2]

The above quote is followed by the use of "genetic code" in the sense in which I intended it in my argument:
"This universality of the genetic code and the manifest non-randomness of its structure cry for an explanation(s)." [2]
The genetic code is thus referred to in two different ways in the paper: by its discrete units; describing it as nearly universal, and as a structure which is universal.

The second point that needs to be made is that, even if my argument had centered on the sum of the genetic code's discrete units, a quasi-universal genetic code is still an argument in favor of the theory of evolution. It cannot be stressed enough that what is compelling about the genetic code is that it applies to all living species. Nowadays, this can seem like some form of truism, but before the dawn of genetics, the existence of a shared structure of inheritance for all living beings was not a foregone conclusion. That some species' genetic structures code for additional amino acids or that some viruses use only RNA to encode their genome [3] (another fact con could have used) is irrelevant.

Finally, con points to the fact that the quasi-universality of the 4 nucleotide and 20 amino acid remains a puzzle for evolutionary biologists, based on both his opening sources [1][2]. An interesting puzzle, but it does not in any way undermine the fact that the genetic code is universal which in turn consolidates the idea of shared ancestry and, by extension, the theory of evolution.

The next argument ventured, that purports to show inconsistency between genetics and predictions that follow from the theory of evolution, is simply baffling. Con makes the following statement:
"Evolution predicts that without external causes, we would see an orderly progression of species as determined by molecular homologies [...] There are an overwhelming number of exceptions to this rule."

Con then proceeds to quote a source's paragraph whose main point is that the word "homology" is often misused as a placeholder for similarity when talking about sequences, a mistake that con inexplicably makes himself after having read and quoted from this paragraph. [4] The end of the paragraph spells this out clearly:
"In all of the above cases, the term “homology” is used basically as a glorified substitute for “sequence (or structural) similarity”." [4]
This argument is thus entirely invalid as borne out of misinterpretation. I would encourage con to review the source again in earnest.

Con quotes Christian Schwabe extensively, but does not provide specific examples of the quirks that Schwabe takes issue with nor whether his paper or book, written in the 80s and predating the sequencing of the human genome [5], have stood the test of time. I would therefore ask con to expand on some of Schwabe's arguments so that I can properly address them, rather than pointing out what Schwabe had to say, for example, about the scientific establishment. As it stands it is an argument from authority. A fallacy.

Con makes the following assertion:
"Commonality in DNA in a version of the phylogenetic tree is used as evidence for common ancestry. However, if mutations are indeed random, we would not expect this to be the case."
What con has ommited is that, while mutations are random, natural selection is thouroughly non-random. Mutations that are beneficial or simply benign tend to be passed on through the generations and this is obvious in their descendants. Descendants which, given enough time, can belong to different species. This fact alone answers the challenge con set me. Con returns to an earlier source to point out that any explanation would have to account for the fact that "there is more than one genetic code which produces the same function". This undoubtedly refers to the redundancy in codons. It is more accurate to say that more than one codon produces the same amino acid as demonstrated below, but this is hardly an argument against the DNA similarities between two species, it just means that some mutations have a neutral effect as they lead to the same amino acid.
<a href=http://www.biogem.org...; width="442" height="331" />
Convergent evolution shows how powerful a role natural selection plays in evolution, with vital functions such as vision being reinvented many times across the animal kingdom. The piece of research my debate partner presents is certainly groundbreaking. However, the concept, as the paper points out, is not new, only the quantity uncovered by this paper is impressive. [6] In cladistics, we refer to this convergence as homoplasy. [7] As the paper, makes clear, it involves changes in the same genes. It is entirely conceivable that natural selection would favour similar mutations in the same genes in different species, arriving at a similar result, the genes themselves for the most part unchanged between their last common ancestor, except in these crucial ways. A mistake would be to think that the paper advances that genes appear ex-nihilo in one species to resemble the other where there was none. The paper does not defend this, the dolphin and the bat both have modifications in the exact same hearing genes which evolved towards echolocation, the gene framework essentially mostly there already.

Punctuated equilibrium is a challenge to gradualism, not an argument against the theory of evolution. Change still happens over long periods of time. Only in geological time are these changes rather sudden. This is one of many internal debates in the field, one documented in a book that chronicles the quarrels between two biologists, Dawkins vs. Gould. Other internal debates include whether group selection occurs. In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins defends the idea that all selection occurs at gene level, another paradigm over which Dawkins and Gould disagreed. What they agree on though is that the theory of evolution is well-established. The following remark by Gould is relevant:
"Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists [...] as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abudant between larger groups." [8]

It is important to stress continually that nothing in the fossil record blatantly contradicts the theory of evolution and that gaps are not arguments against evolution. It is probably impossible to get the full picture of the tree of life from fossils for the reasons con pointed out but somehow dismisses out of hand. A mere handful of transitional fossils is sufficient to show that evolution works in practice. Any additional transitional fossils found are a bonus. [9]

To finish con purports to take my geographical argument apart although does not provide an adequate alternative explanation for the fact that entire groups of species, such as marsupials, are all found in Australia and nowhere else. That marsupials all already existed before the breakup of Australia and all without exception migrated would be extremely random. A randomness that those arguing against evolution themselve abhor. Evolution makes sense of it quite elegantly however, both with fossils and living animals.

Again it is important to stress that the evidence put together provides an unecessarily detailed proof of evolution, but that even parts of it could establish evolution alone.

[1] http://www.livescience.com... (See above, Jellon [2])
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov... (see above, Jellon [1])
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov... (see above, Jellon [3])
[5] http://www.genome.gov...
[6] http://www.nature.com...
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[8] http://www.stephenjaygould.org...
[9] https://www.youtube.com...
Jellon

Con

Given the space constraints of my rebuttal, I intend to minimize my objections to Pro's rebuttal. This is not because I can't elaborate, but because I have not yet met my BoP and need to produce additional arguments.

Pro continues to affirm universal genetic code as evidence for evolution. He pointed out that the 6 letter DNA was engineered. However, the fact that we can engineer such changes in a lab does not prevent them from occurring in Nature.
P1) 6 letter DNA organism can be engineered in a lab using naturally occurring processes
P2) It is possible for 6 letter DNA to occur in by natural processes
C) Given enough time, 6 letter DNA organism will occur by natural processes

If Pro would like to assert that this logical construction is invalid, I recommend Pro correct the following logic as well:
P1) Mutations are observed in a lab by natural processes
P2) It is possible that mutations small mutations can create large mutations over time
C) Given enough time, small mutations will accumulate into large mutations causing speciation

The reason the evolutionists in both my sources question why there are only 6 letters in DNA is simple. They understand my first logical construction. There is no known cause for 6 letter DNA not arising.
Pro reasserts that using the same genetic code in multiple organisms points to common descent. But we know by observing things built by humans that two types of manufactured items use the same basic components. Two competing processors will use the same transistors. It is a logical conclusion that if two types of species were going to be constructed by humans, we too would use the same basic building blocks. It is no stretch to say that if there was a designer of organisms, than the designer would also use the same building blocks across multiple similar objects. If naturalists are wrong, then the universality of the genetic code cannot be used as evidence for evolution, because we know that things designed by humans follow the same pattern of reuse.

Christian Schwabe is an extremist. He doesn't believe in Darwinism. He is still one of the first to use DNA sequencing to compare various species. The fact that his discoveries came before the human genome was sequenced is irrelevant to their truthfulness. Pro has failed to show that Schwabe was wrong about the inconsistencies (quirks) between the expected mutation model and the observed reality. Furthermore, I presented multiple sources which agree to the problem and attempt to address it. I want to know what fallacy Pro claims I made by quoting Schwabe. It is strange that Pro claims I quoted Schwabe "extensively". I only provided a single, small quote.

Pro claims that natural selection works on random mutation to create distinct species by eliminating transitions between two different taxa. Natural selection is seen to occur in nature and isn't disputed. Natural selection alone only shows removal of genes from the available gene pool. It cannot account for the creation of new genetic information which is believed to occur by random mutation. To revisit the bat and dolphin argument I made previously, I want to reassert that this defies the idea of random mutation. Bats and dolphins are believed to have evolved nearly identical genes for sonar through a very complex set of mutations [1]. In almost every case where we observe convergent evolution we see a difference in the genes. But where we see a difference in the genes, we also see a difference in the capability. Although evolutionists claim that similar DNA causes similar functionality, these two are merely correlated. The opposite expectation is also true. Two species with similar functionality will have similar DNA. Correlation does not imply causation, thus the evolutionist blunders by asserting this conclusion from the premise. The idea that very complex traits evolve multiple times at random is also staggering. For example, the eye is believed to have evolved somewhere between 50 and 100 time, all within a few million years [2]. It is believed to have been improved upon slightly since then, but it is strange that such a complex organ would arise multiple times in a short time frame and then never show up new in any species again ever! This does not appear to be random chance. Were it random, you would expect to see the various evolutions each take place at different times, because the mutation is believed to be random. It is true that natural selection would favor the same mutations, but it neither explains the ability to evolve the eye or the short time scale in which that evolution took place.

Pro does not seem to understand my argument for location of living animals. I will point out that polar bears live on the same continent as Texas, but there are no naturally occurring polar bears in Texas for obvious reasons. Pro claims, "[Con] not provide an adequate alternative explanation for the fact that entire groups of species, such as marsupials, are all found in Australia and nowhere else." However, a cursory examination of evidence proves that marsupials didn't originate in Australia after the continental breakup [3] [4]. I'll note that the talkorigins article from 1994 claimed marsupials originated in North America 80 million years ago. The oldest marsupial fossil known to man was found in 2009 in France dating 99 million years ago. I also note that the discovery of this old fossil has caused evolutionists to change their beliefs on where mammals first traveled [3]. Pro's evidence that marsupials are only found on one continent is clearly false according to evolutionists. This should not be a point of contention. The King Cobra is found in India and Southeast Asia [5]. Even though it is found on the same land mass as a very large part of the world, it has not spread out. The isolation of the King Cobra to one section of the land mass is not evidence that it evolved in isolation and wasn't able to spread out to other areas. In fact it could spread out, but it chooses not to. Besides, the conclusion doesn't follow the premises.
P1) A family of species is only found on one isolated land mass
P2) A species will spread out over its natural habitat
C) The species found on an isolated land mas must have evolved only there, because it was unable to spread out before the continents split apart.
I have already demonstrated that premise 2 is false using the King Cobra, although I could provide other examples if needed. If it is not evidence that they evolved specifically in one place, it is not evidence that they evolved at all.

I do not believe the theory of evolution makes testable predictions that, if falsified, would discredit the theory. The theory can easily adapt to any new information. For example, if a species that was believed to have evolved only recently was found fossilized in the Cambrian layer, there would be a big upheaval in the theory of evolution where time scales would need to be modified. The theory would still hold that the evolution took place sooner than expected. As Pro points out, the lack of missing links in the fossil record cannot be used as evidence that the evolution did not take place. As I have proven, the specific locality of fossils can neither prove nor disprove evolution. The known exceptions to the universality of the genetic code, whether natural or engineered, cannot be used as evidence against evolution. As I previously showed, evolutionists used to believe that mammals and birds were related. Even now, if a bird-mammal was found, then convergent evolution could be claimed without the evidence of any missing links. Evolution used to use noncoding DNA (aka junk DNA) as evidence for evolution, but they almost dropped that argument when it was discovered that noncoding DNA actually had a use [6]. Noncoding DNA can still be functional. Evolutionists have made many claims about vestigial organs that were inherited but don't serve a purpose in the new species. However, the number of vestigial organ claims continues to decrease with time. According to National Geographic, a use for the spleen was discovered in 1977 [7]. Scientists are starting to question if humans have any vestigial organs at all [8]! The fact that we do not know the use for an organ does not mean it does not have one. As National Geographic quoted,
History is littered with body parts that were called "useless" simply because medical science had yet to understand them, Laitman said. People say, You can remove it and still live. But you have to be careful with that logic," he said. "You could remove your left leg and still live. But whenever a body part is moved or changed, there's a price to pay.
The lack of vestigial organs has not had an impact on the theory of evolution. It was adapted to fit observations. There are still claims to vestigial organs, but none of those claims logically hold.
P1) We don't know of a use for that organ
P2) It's evolutionary ancestor had that organ
C) It's a vestigial organ
I have yet to see one logical conclusion that the theory of evolution makes that can be tested and proven false to the discredit of the theory. There has been no evidence given that may be used as a premise that logically concludes evolution took place. Pro asserts that evolution is a well established fact. I believe that well established should involve testable premises that logically conclude evolution.

Back to you Pro. Good luck.

1) http://www.newscientist.com...
2) http://en.wikipedia.org...
3) http://www.sciencedaily.com...
4) http://www.talkorigins.org...
5) http://en.wikipedia.org...
6) http://healthland.time.com...
7) http://news.nationalgeographic.com...
8) http://www.inplainsite.org...
Debate Round No. 3
MykSkodar

Pro

Thank you for your rebuttal. Here is my reply and my closing statement

Con argues that engineering bacteria in the lab does not prevent the result from occuring in nature. I do not disagree. However, it is quite a leap to say that because it can be engineered in the laboratory it will happen in nature. Offering this engineered result billions of years to occur likewise does not mean that it will. Put simply, a result produced in a lab could conceiveably occur in nature, but that is not to say that it does or ever will.

There are two major flaws in con's three step reasoning undermining P1. First, the article does not claim that only naturally occuring processes are at work in the experiment. [1] This is evident in the number of steps that take place in vitro before the foreign DNA is inserted into the bacterium as the paper described in the article details. [2] Second, con does not consider the importance of the order of these processes, whether they would likely take place in that order or if the lab setting imposes the order. A damning detail for con's three step reasoning is that the experiment requires that "an exogenously expressed algal nucleotide triphosphate transporter efficiently impor[t] the triphosphates of both d5SICS and DNaM [...] into Escherichia Coli". [2] Given that the transporter is from another species, this definitely precludes the experiment tapping into a complete naturally occuring pathway in Escherichia Coli.

No comment is needed to assert the veracity of the next three step reasoning given that the originally argued P1 proposition was unfounded. The point made in my first paragraph (that phenomena artificially created in the lab can, but do not neccesarily, occur in nature) is true for this new step reasoning as well. The important difference however is that mutations have been observed to in nature and therefore their propensity to occur in nature does not need to be demonstrated.

I would however fault con on saying small mutations accumulate into large mutations causing speciation. Size is not necessarily the decisive factor here, mutations of different sizes can occur, from point mutations to large segmental duplications. [3] Quantity is the decisive factor with the accumulation of various mutations potentially causing speciation. One must remember that mutations are random and would thus not be expected to systematically strike the same gene locus over and over again (although of course, given geological times, mutations in the same gene locus do occur more than once).

Again, con uses the faulty reasoning that if there is nothing preventing something from occuring ("There is no known cause for 6 letter DNA not arising.") this means that it should therefore occur. One could similarly argue that there is no known cause for Pluto's orbit being as highly inclined as it is, so why didn't it appear on the same plane as other bodies? One could imagine that answers to such questions are within science's future grasp. One paper originally quoted by con reviewed some ideas to explore. [4]

Con next argument brings intelligent design into the debate. Right away it is important to point out that the argument suffers from the balance fallacy. It offers itself as an alternative explanation to evolution, but that does not de facto make it an explanation on par with evolution. By analogy, one could offer an alternative to gravity by positing that a highly advance alien species operating in another dimension actually moves bodies around in our perceived dimensions. One could similarily say it is not a stretch if we accept the premise that advanced aliens operate in other dimensions. Such arguments need to be subjected to the scrutiny that scientific theories undergo before they can pose as solid alternative explanations. Moreover, positing an alternative to a phenomemon does not actually say much about the validity of the original explanation. Offering an alternative to evolution does not say anything about whether it is well-established or otherwise.

Once again, con mentions the quirks unearthed by Schwabe without giving any example or even smimply describing the nature of these quirks. I cannot be expected in a time/character limited debate to research and debunk the entire work of one scientific maverick. It is up to con to bring the counter-arguments made by Schwabe to the fore. Con fails to provide concrete examples for me to counter in this particularly segment of the debate. I will however concede that con does not quote Schwabe "extensively" as he only brings up two quotes (one with Gregory Warr). I accept that this was a misleading hyberboly on my part. However, I stand by my earlier statement that con doesn't provide anything concrete for me to counter in this instance.

Con makes the statement "Pro claims that natural selection works on random mutation to create distinct species by eliminating transitions between two different taxa." I do not make this claim, I do not know what could possibly be meant by eliminating transitions between two different taxa.

Con revisits the scientific study that showed convergent evolution in bats and dolphins, not just in functional attributes, but also in gene sequence. [6] Once more, what is ignored is that the Prestin gene already exists in various species and would have to already be quite similar accross all these species to be considered the same gene. The requirement is simply for a variation on a pre-existing gene in two different species. Given geological time and mutations in that gene that are favoured by natural selection, one can conceive of the same few mutations being retained in two different species. Transitional forms leading to either species would encouter different mutations for that gene for sure, but natural selection may favour a specific subset of mutations so that these when encoutered confer a very large advantage to their bearer. Thus dolphins and bats, out of the myriad of species that didn't develop echolocation, could both chance upon these mutations leading to echolocation. It is also important to stress that it is not the entire echolocation apparatus that is developped through convergent genes in bats and dolphins, but specifically a fragment of one gene that produces the Prestin protein. Con argues that a complex set of mutations is needed to arrive to this result while the article merely points out that the change took place for a complex trait, echolocation. Traits and mutations are not interchangeable. This scientific study is by far the most interesting piece of research I have read in this debate and definitely gives homoplasy a new life. It does not pose a real challenge to the theory of evolution however. Con is taking grounbreaking work and carrying it way past its logical conclusion.

As con points out, my argument based on marsupials being solely found in Australia is wrong. However, it is not wrong for the reasons that con believes. What is wrong in my argument is that marsupials are also found in the Americas. [7] Perhaps I can be faulted for trying to simplify the argument from geographical location. Although I would like to clarify that I never implied that ancestral forms of marsupials did not exist on other continents, simply living marsupials. This would be a nonsensical statement at times where some continents were still interlocked. However, as the source con uses points out, we do see migrational trends throughout transitional fossils, with fossils that eventually stop on other continents and continue showing up in places where we find marsupials today. [8] Still consistent is the other argument that I made that con didn't address, which is that fossils from the same species can be found in layers on two different continents if the layer coincides with a period where these continents were connected, but not in layers after this continental break. It is legitimate to wonder why we would not find some same fossils after continental breakup if speciation does not actually occur. Finally I do agree that species adapted to their environment won't necessarily spread. However, the argument was being made for a whole infraclass of mammals. You would expect an infraclass to radiate. This is what they in fact did, both before and after the breakup of continents. [8]

I now provide a brief closing statement.

The theory of evolution is well-established. Some of its detractors like to point to surprising discoveries made over the last 150 years since its inception. The finding that convergent evolution leads to convergent sequences more often than previously thought is one such surprising finding. [6] Another approach is to point to ongoing interrogations, things that have no explanation yet. Why are there 4 base pair instead of 6 or more...why do they only code 20 amino acids? [4] However, this is to miss the point. We can make these discoveries and ask this question, because we have a working theory that puts them in a context. By establishing the theory of evolution Darwin did not answer all biological questions and his book contains independent conjectures since disproven. To prove that the theory of evolution isn't well established demands a little more than pointing to surprising results or gaps in our knowledge, it requires evidence that negates evolution to its core. It's safe to say we are beyond that point today. The theory of evolution is well established!

[1] http://www.livescience.com...
[2] http://www.nature.com...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
[5] http://rationalwiki.org...
[6] http://www.newscientist.com... (see Jellon [1])
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[8] http://www.talkorigins.org...
Jellon

Con

I will quickly address Pro's rebuttal in order then give closing statements.

Pro asserts that because the transporter used to create the 6 letter DNA came from a different species that it couldn't occur in nature. The fact that the transporter does occur in nature is an indicator that it could occur in nature. The fact the lab engineers chose to act across species is irrelevant. In fact, there is no reason a retrovirus couldn't produce this result. After all, retroviruses are believed to account for part of the human genome [1]. Pro dismissed out of hand the fact that there are exceptions to the 20 amino acids. The fact that some organisms use 23 amino acids instead of 20 is solid evidence that evolution can produce exceptions to the universal genetic code. Pro never once, in any round, address my objection that similar organisms will share similar function, thus DNA common between two similar species doesn't imply ancestry.

Pro points out that large mutations are not prevented by the theory of evolution. In fact, there is a controversial topic called Saltation [2]. Given the possibility of Saltation, there is really no species that evolution cannot predict the existence of. If evolution is able to predict all out comes, whether observed or not, then there cannot be a falsifiable premise which leads to the conclusion that evolution is logically valid.
Logically valid is defined as, "In effect, an argument is valid if the truth of the premises logically guarantees the truth of the conclusion. The following argument is valid, because it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to nevertheless be false. [3]".

Pro accuses Intelligent Design of not holding any validity. However, Intelligent Design is based on multi-disciplinary principles. For example, the same logic used by the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) to determine if a signal comes from an intelligent source can be applied to observations about DNA [4]. In fact, Stephen Meyer created a logical construction for Intelligent Design that supports it. In fact, Stephen Meyer does not exclude the possibility of evolution [5]. Pro, along with many evolutionists, assert natural selection is the cause for the appearance of intelligence [6]. He never substantiates this with any evidence. I was unable to find evidence proposed by evolutionist as to why natural selection is a better explanation for the appearance of intelligence in DNA. Not only did my previous citation provide evidence, but neither does PBS [7]. Intelligent Design includes Theistic Evolution [8]. One of the most notable evolutionists of our time, Richard Dawkins, admits the appearance of intelligence [9]. If the two are not mutually exclusive, then the argument for intelligent design comes with scientific evidence for an intelligent force behind DNA, but the idea of natural selection does not. Additionally, the premise used to discredit intelligent design in favor of natural selection is not logically valid. Pro's only argument against intelligent design is that it doesn't have scientific evidence for it. I have dispelled that claim. I will point out that I used the word evidence, and there is a difference between evidence and proof.

Pro seems to think that my assertion that there are many quirks to DNA sequencing is based solely on my quotation of Schwabe. In my opening arguments I also cited the National Center for Biotechnology Information [10] which discussed the possible methods for resolving these discrepancies. I have given two pro-evolution sources that claim there are a large number of quirks. Pro never cited a single source stating that there are not. Instead, he wanted me to give specific examples so he could rebut each one individually. The insistence on this mode of argumentation is not a valid, especially in light of my strong evidence from a standard evolution source [10].

Pro continues to downplay the significance of the bat-dolphin similarity. I should remind him that the article itself plays up the significance.
The researchers discovered genetic signatures consistent with convergence in nearly 200 genomic regions when it came to dolphins and echolocating bats. ... These similarities were not seen with non-echolocating animals. "We didn't expect to see more than perhaps 10 to 30 genes converge, probably mainly hearing-related ones," researcher Joe Parker, an evolutionary biologist at Queen Mary University of London, told LiveScience. "Instead, we were able to detect many times that number." [11]
Pro asserts that these genes were passed down from ancestors, even though I pointed out they were not. The "non-echolocating animals" in the study included bats that did not have the ability to echolocate. That means that there were bats that did not share the 200 common genomic regions which are associated with echolocation. Pro claims that natural selection could favor the same mutations. This is purely speculative reasoning. For one, bats don't swim in the ocean like dolphins do. The conditions set by natural selection are not guaranteed to be similar. Pro gave no premise by which we can reach that conclusion. He made several other claims from speculative reasoning such as chance could have produced two sets of genes that are identical through random mutation. Evolution predicts, as stated by the article, that this similarity would not occur. In most cases it does not.

Pro continues to assert that the existence of marsupials only in Australia is evidence of evolution taking place there. We know that Australia broke off from the land mass known as Gondwana about 140 million years ago [12]. However, in 2013, a new marsupial fossil was found that dated back 55 million years ago [13]. The article headline is, "Two tiny marsupial fossils from Australia are prompting an overhaul of theory about marsupial evolution after they revealed unexpected links to South America and Africa." The oldest Platypus fossil known to man is 120 million years old [14]. If a Platypus fossil were found in Africa dating back to 160 million years, this would overhaul the hypothesis about marsupial evolution. It would not imply that evolution did not take place. If Pro's premise were to be falsified, it would not effect Pro's conclusion that evolution took place. A premise should not be used to support a conclusion that doesn't logically follow. Pro never addressed my objection that there are other groups that are only found in one location, even though they could migrate elsewhere. Thus, the existence of a group of animals in only one location is not a premise that logically implies evolution. If it doesn't logically imply evolution took place, then the premise should not be counted as proving evolution. The premise that new species emerged after continental separation took place isn't testable. As I just pointed out, if a specific case were falsified, it wouldn't make evolutionists question evolution.

In closing, Pro failed to provide any evidence for evolution that, if falsified, would discredit the theory. If the theory cannot be discredited, then it shouldn't be considered as established. Pro asserts the universal genetic codes is evidence for evolution, but exceptions to it do not discredit evolution. When I gave two examples (5 species total) of genes that match exactly in multiple species with distinct origin that did not inherit them from their ancestors, Pro simply denied the evidence. Pro maintains that even if this was the case, it would not discredit evolution, because evolution doesn't exclude the possibility of the exact same genes evolving multiple times. Pro asserts that locality of fossils of species is evidence for evolution, but my multiple examples of contradictions to that rule would not discredit evolution. Pro even agreed with me that we observe the same phenomena in species which are not separated by water or hostile environments.
Conclusion: Pro has failed to provide any evidence for evolution that, if falsified, would discredit evolution.
Pro refused to address the issue that there are so many quirks in DNA. I have shown that these quirks are agreed to by evolutionists and have been addressed by a number of hypothesis which are based on speculation. I have shown that there are prominent evolutions who agree to the appearance of intelligence in DNA, and that intelligent design provides evidence from other scientific disciplines that DNA isn't the result of chance. Evolution, on the other hand, provides no evidence that natural selection is more reasonable than intelligent design. Intelligent design have philosophical implications that skeptics are not willing to accept. In a world where naturalism is assumed, evolution is the only rational explanation for origins, but if non-natural origins are considered as possibly valid, then other theories emerge as rationally possible, which weakens the already shaky argument for evolution.

1) http://www.retrovirology.com...
2) http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
3) http://lmgtfy.com...
4) http://www.designinference.com...
5) http://www.patheos.com...
6) http://www.actionbioscience.org...
7) http://www.pbs.org...
8) http://biologos.com...
9) http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu...
10) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
11) http://www.livescience.com...
12) http://en.wikipedia.org...
13) http://www.sci-news.com...
14) http://www.nytimes.com...
Debate Round No. 4
34 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Jellon 2 years ago
Jellon
Thanks. Lately I've been trying to be more creative with the debates I start. There have been multiple debates over whether or not a deity exists, so this puts a unique spin on the same question.
Posted by MykSkodar 2 years ago
MykSkodar
Now that's an interesting debate I will keep akeen eye on!
Posted by Jellon 2 years ago
Jellon
I modified the debate to include all of science, not just evolution. If science supports Atheism, than it is logical to conclude that religion is illogical. Otherwise, Atheism is purely a philosophical belief on par with other beliefs.
http://www.debate.org...
Any takers?
Posted by MykSkodar 2 years ago
MykSkodar
I'd argue they are the same thing, but that is a debate for someone else to have.
Posted by Jellon 2 years ago
Jellon
This debate gave me the idea for another, possibly more interesting, debate: "Naturalistic Evolution is more likely than Theistic Evolution". Anyone want to challenge me to that? I'll take either side of that. I can play devil's advocate.
Posted by Jellon 2 years ago
Jellon
I expect voters to mostly vote along philosophical lines. Evolutionists and naturalists will likely find the arguments for evolution compelling while others will likely find the evidence against evolution compelling.
Thanks for the debate. I'm glad I was able to teach you some things. I learned a few things as well while doing my research.
Posted by MykSkodar 2 years ago
MykSkodar
This debate went by quick, we're clearly both passionate debators! :-)
Posted by Jellon 2 years ago
Jellon
No worries. If I have the ability to respond, I will not forfeit a round in this debate. I usually dedicate a lot of time to each round I post, and I'm waiting until I have a chunk of uninterrupted time before I respond.

When you ff, you usually lose the debate. The voters lower your elo. So in general, there is a penalty for ff enforced by the voters. In some cases, there is an agreed upon ff for which there should be no penalty. I would debate that there should be no inherit penalty for ff, but rather the current system works. :)

I am familiar with http://biologos.org... but I don't read them as often as I read http://talkorigins.org...
I have already stated that I agree with the point that evolution is an option or Theists. Perhaps I wasn't explicit. I still contend you require Naturalism to reach the conclusions logically, but I will present that case in my rebuttal, not in comments. ;)
Posted by MykSkodar 2 years ago
MykSkodar
Whoever wins, I'm just glad there was a debate. Too many debates on here end abruptly in the second round. I know from first hand experience and it looks like you've had that experience too. Perhaps a future debate could be "there should be a penalty for frequent forfeiting on Debate.org" :P
Posted by MykSkodar 2 years ago
MykSkodar
I don't believe that is correct given the overwhelming number of religious people who accept the theory of evolution. It's certainly true that evolution works in a naturalistic universe, but so do all the laws of physics. There is no reason why the theory of evolution would not work in a universe with a spiritual dimension. It's not what I believe myself, I am firmly a naturalist and atheist, however it is what scientists such as Francis Collins (director of the NIH) and Kenneth Miller (responsible for defending evolution in school against intelligent design) believe. Both have written books that might be right up your alley. My friend recommends the one by Miller.

I think the theory of evolution should be compelling no matter one's religious inclinations and it pains me to see people cling to ID or Creationism as the natural option for religious people. My opening quote was from a religious man in fact.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by SNP1 2 years ago
SNP1
MykSkodarJellonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I could not bring myself to vote on conduct, grammar, or sources. I have to leave it to the arguments. While con did have some good points, they did not seem very well supported compared to the points Pro made. Pro's points seemed well supported, making it so his BoP was fulfilled.
Vote Placed by RainbowDash52 2 years ago
RainbowDash52
MykSkodarJellonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro failed to provide an example of how evolution could be falsified, which is a prerequisite for a theory to be well established.