Four years ago, while describing the madness of the false dichotomy of micro- and macro-evolution, we said (here) that it was like someone declaring: “I believe in individual steps, but not a whole flight of stairs.” Later we expanded on that and wrote The Scientific Case Against Stairs.
The imaginary distinction between micro- and macro-evolution depends on a magic barrier between them, which somehow prevents one from gradually becoming the other. That imaginary (and unevidenced and unexplained) barrier says: “A species can mutate thus far and no farther!” It’s the reason creationists give to invoke the intervention of a deity (or an intelligent designer) who is somehow able to overcome the barrier and thus provide the appearance that life evolved naturally over eons, in a long chain of mini steps. Therefore, creationism requires belief in a two-part dogma consisting of: (1) the Great Barrier; and (2) the miracle that breaks through the barrier.
Given the obvious absurdity of what we call the micro-macro mambo, one might be forgiven for thinking that such foolishness is found only in the most primitive forms of creationism — the kind we recently posted about here: Rev. David Rives — What We Don’t See. But that’s a mistake. Even the “sophisticated” and allegedly “scientific” creationists — i.e., the Discoveroids, indulge in the same foolishness.
Look what we just found at the website of the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. Their new essay is titled Evolution’s Central Claim Has Not Yet Been Observed. It’s by Tom Bethell. He’s not officially a Discoveroid, but Wikipedia says he advocates intelligent design and other fringe science. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us. He begins by purporting to quote something Jerry Coyne wrote in Nature back in 2001:
When, after a Christmas visit, we watch grandma leave on the train to Miami, we assume that the rest of her journey will be an extrapolation of that first quarter-mile. A creationist unwilling to extrapolate from micro- to macroevolution is as irrational as an observer who assumes that, after grandma’s train disappears around the bend, it is seized by divine forces and instantly transported to Florida.
That’s a good description of the micro-macro mambo. It’s certainly better than anything we’ve written on the subject. But the Discoveroids don’t like it. Not one little bit. Bethell says, with a bit of quote-mining thrown in:
We do need to be reminded that Darwinism depends on extrapolation. According to Harvard’s longtime evolution expert Ernst Mayr [1904-2005], evolution across species “is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species.”
Was Mayr really scoffing at evolution by referring to it as mere extrapolation? That’s the impression we get from Bethell’s selective quote. Let’s check it out. We can’t find the place where it originally appears, but Wikipedia refers to it in Macroevolution and the modern evolutionary synthesis. They say, with a bit of red color added by us:
Within the Modern Synthesis school of thought, macroevolution is thought of as the compounded effects of microevolution. Thus, the distinction between micro- and macroevolution is not a fundamental one – the only difference between them is of time and scale. As Ernst W. Mayr observes, “transspecific evolution is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species… it is misleading to make a distinction between the causes of micro- and macroevolution”
How very surprising. We’re shocked — shocked! — that Bethell left out an important part of that quote. It seems that Mayr didn’t really intend to dismiss macro-evolution, which is what the Discoveroids imply. Rather, he was dismissing the alleged distinction between micro-and macro-evolution. Mayr says, in effect, that it’s not magical at all; it’s merely a straightforward extrapolation. But the Discoveroids are citing Mayr as an authority for the existence of the Great Barrier that prevents you from going upstairs one step at at time, or that prevents granny’s train from going clickety-clack down the track, all the way to Miami.
Let’s see what else the Discoveroids have to tell us:
Coyne’s comment shows us that this extrapolation has not yet been demonstrated. If it had been, believe me, we would never hear the end of it. He wouldn’t have needed to put grandma on that imaginary train.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’ve got the fossil record that shows what happened. That history is revealed in DNA. And we’ve even got ring species. Frankly, the burden of proof is the other way around. It’s the creationists who assert, and thus need to demonstrate: (1) the mechanism of the Great Barrier; and (2) the activity of the barrier-breaking designer. (We imagine the designer — blessed be he! — creeps into the genome when no one is looking and, like a sleazy used-car salesman, he resets the invisible mutation-counter from “maximum” back to zero so the creature’s descendants can then continue to mutate to the next level.) Let’s read on:
In The Origin of Species, Darwin discussed the work of animal breeders, pigeon fanciers in particular. They might vary in coloring or display, but at the end of the day, as Darwin well knew, they all remained pigeons. Dogs vary greatly in size, but dogs they remain.
Darwin said that varieties were “incipient species,” thereby staking his claim to the belief they were on their way to becoming something else. In short, he was extrapolating. But that was philosophy, not science. He lacked the evidence to claim that the extrapolation had actually been observed.
Is “extrapolation” going to be a new mantra for the Discoveroids? Probably. Here’s more
Ever since, evolutionists have assumed that it has been observed. But the Coyne quote reminds us that it hasn’t been. Grandma just keeps traveling on to Miami, he reassures us, and it takes a “creationist” to raise doubts about that.
Then, in what is a real shock, Bethell takes a swipe at the Discoveroids’ patron saint, who they claim (while deep in his dotage) became an early convert to an incipient from intelligent design. But as this next quote shows, when Wallace’s mind was still intact he wasn’t the Discoveroids’ man — he was Darwin’s. Observe what Bethell says:
Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, wrote in 1858 that his theory could be summarized as “indefinite departure from the original type.” “Indefinite departure” is in fact the central claim of the theory of evolution by natural selection. But it still hasn’t been observed.
The Discoveroid essay goes on quite a bit, and it ends with this:
When you are relying on random variation, the track that Coyne presupposes doesn’t even exist. And if such parallel tracks could be created, and laid, they might lead anywhere. Or nowhere.
So there you are. You can’t walk upstairs, granny can’t take the train to Miami, and there can’t be any “macro-evolution” without the magical intervention of the celestial designer. Now you know.
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