Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Front-loaded/teleological Evolution, Baraminology, and Common Descent
What often happens in the Creationary community is that we have spent so much time arguing against Darwinism that we sometimes forget what it means for Darwinism to be false. That is, once we've won the argument against Darwinism, what then? This time is quickly approaching (or perhaps is already here). The issue is that the arguments against common descent were based on Darwinism. X couldn't evolved from Y because of the hideously complicated algorithms it would have to cross. The problem is that if Darwinism is no longer assumed, this argument doesn't work against common descent. If evolution is directed, then there is no limit to the sophistication of evolutionary pathways. Therefore, complexity cannot be used as an argument against common descent.
So how does this affect us? Not much. Baraminology proceeds from the assumption that the Bible is true, and uses that to move forward. It does not try to prove the Bible's correctness -- only takes it as a given.
However, non-Darwinian/teleological evolution does give Baraminologists a better working relationship with non-Baraminologists. Whether or not common descent is true, if evolution proceeds teleologically, it does mean that there are pre-defined possible forms and mechanisms for organisms to realize. Therefore, baraminology could serve them as well, for define the basic types for biology around which variation happen. Baraminology could determine the "core systems" in existance, no matter whether they happened by independent design or common descent.
So, all that to say, as far as I can tell, when Darwinism is put to rest, there isn't any good argument against (or for) common descent, and in fact the distinction becomes less important. Because the distinction is less important, and the design is recognized, baraminology becomes important both for Creationists and non-Creationists.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Feyerabend on Cranks
It is here, by the way, that the distinction between ‘respectable’ people and cranks must be drawn. The distinction does not lie in the fact that the former suggests what is plausible and promises success, whereas the latter suggest what is implausible, absurd and bound to fail. It cannot lie in this because we never know in advance which theory will be successful and which theory will fail. It takes a long time to decide this question, and every single step leading to such a decision is again open to revision. Nor can the absurdity of a point of view count as a general argument against it. It is a reasonable consideration for the choice of one’s own theories to demand that they seem plausible to oneself. This is one’s private affair, so to speak. But to declare that only plausible theories should be considered is going too far. No, the distinction between the crank and the respectable thinker lies in the research done once a certain point of view is adopted. The crank usually is content with defending the point of view in its original, undeveloped, metaphysical form, and he is not at all prepared to tests its usefulness in all those cases which seem to favour the opponent, or even to admit that there exists a problem. It is this further investigation, the details of it, the knowledge of the difficulties, of the general state of knowledge, the recognition of objections, which distinguishes the ‘respectable thinker’ from the crank. The original content of his theory does not. If he thinks that Aristotle should be given a further chance, let him do it and wait for the results. If he rests content with his assertion and does not start elaborating a new dynamics, if he is unfamiliar with the initial difficulties of his position, then the matter is of no further interest. However, if he does not rest content with Aristotelianism in the form in which it exists today but tries to adapt it to the present situation in astronomy, physics, and micro-physics, making new suggestions, looking at old problems from a new point of view, then be grateful that there is at last somebody who has unusual ideas and do not try to stop him in advance with irrelevant and misguided arguments.
Todd Wood's "State of Baraminology" Report
Some interesting highlights:
- Summarized methods of classifying baramins, including baraminic distance, ANOPA, and multidimensional scaling, while de-emphasizing interbreedability based on biblical and practical concerns (on a personal note, I am often skeptical of morphological statistical methods for anything simply because of a massive amount of selection bias -- Wood appeared to agree to an extent by mentioning that character selection techniques should be an important future research area for baraminologists)
- Wood listed 66 animal groups which had been classified based on baraminology methods. The data that is in so far appears to confirm that "family" is a good starting point baraminology studies, and that while there is sometimes continuity above that level, there are no (or maybe few) instances where discontinuity occurs below that level.
- Wood defended baraminology against the charge that there is no currently-known mechanism for producing such diversity in such a short timescale. His answer is:
Related to accepting "too much evolution" is the objection that there is no mechanism capable of producing intrabaraminic diversity in the short chronology (<6000 years) implied by the Bible. I agree completely (Wood, 2002b; Wood and Murray, 2003), but I do not believe that this is a legitimate argument against baraminology. Demanding a mechanism seems to be a prerequisite for acceptance among scientists, but it is not always necessary or even prudent. Consider the preformation/epigenesis debate. In the eighteenth century, when the formal study of embryonic development began, many scientists took the position (called "preformation") that the embryo was merely a miniature adult that mechanically unfolded during development. The epigeneticists argued that development was too complex to be merely the unfolding of preexisting structures, but they had no mechanism to propose instead. The preformationists argued on the basis of the well-known mechanism of Newtonian mechanics, but the epigeneticists held out for an unknown mechanism. Now we know that those who limited themselves to the known mechanisms of the day were wrong, and even 250 years later, we still do not fully understand how embryonic development works. I take from this history the lesson that mechanism is perhaps not as important as what the evidence actually indicates.
An interesting review, but nothing earth-shattering.
YEC and ID Blogs
1) Salvador Cordova's new blog, Young Cosmos. The current entries are about the Setterfield's work, which is really fascinating.
2) This one isn't quite so new, but it has grown quite quickly in recent months: ResearchID.org. It is a great compendium of ID researchers (as well as Creationists operating within the ID paradigm).