New Version of the “Tree of Life”

We’ve posted before about the Tree of Life Web Project, but now there’s an updated version which you can see here: Tree of Life. It takes forever to load, however.

PhysOrg has an article about it: ‘Tree of life’ for 2.3 million species released, which says:

A first draft of the “tree of life” for the roughly 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes — from platypuses to puffballs — has been released. A collaborative effort among eleven institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

What’s new about this one? We’re told:

Tens of thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches of the tree of life — some containing upwards of 100,000 species — but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree that encompasses all of life. The end result is a digital resource that available free online for anyone to use or edit, much like a “Wikipedia” for evolutionary trees.

“This is the first real attempt to connect the dots and put it all together,” said principal investigator Karen Cranston of Duke University. “Think of it as Version 1.0.”

Let’s read on:

Rather than build the tree of life from scratch, the researchers pieced it together by compiling thousands of smaller chunks that had already been published online and merging them together into a gigantic “supertree” that encompasses all named species. The initial draft is based on nearly 500 smaller trees from previously published studies.

That’s enough excerpts. You’ll want to read it all, and then take a look at the new project.

But we can’t help wondering what people like ol’ Hambo make of this. Did all those species somehow appear in the 4,000 years since Noah’s Flood? Why does every species — including our own — fit into its proper place in this one hierarchy — as if they were all related? Why aren’t there any unique outliers that don’t fit anywhere?

We searched the Answers in Genesis website. Most of the hits on “Tree of Life” bring up articles about the tree in the Garden of Eden, but we did find this from 2007: Classifying Life, which says, with our bold font:

Creationists disagree with the idea of a “tree of life” as evolutionists see it — all life originating from a single, unknown, common ancestor. If we consider the created kinds from Genesis, the picture of life would look more like an orchard — distinct groups of animals showing variety within a kind. The trees in this orchard do not overlap one another or cross one another, representing the limits of variety within the DNA of the created kinds. This view (developed by Dr. Kurt Wise) is confirmed by the evidence from operational science.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Not one tree, but an “orchard” of separate trees. Yeah, right!

Well, they have their creation science; we have the real thing. And they’ll never change.

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8 responses to “New Version of the “Tree of Life”

  1. Simply mocking the creationists is easy. Debunking them takes a bit more work.

    But it can be done. One of the more obvious ways in which to do it is to show that the variability within “kinds” is sufficient to cross boundaries. Consider the platypus, one of two members of the monotreme group of mammals, which has among other primitive features poison spurs which become highly active during mating season. (Only the males have these spurs in adulthood.) The other monotreme, the echidna, has spurs but no venom. Both also show more inefficient regulation of body temperature than do other mammals, another way in which they suggest a transition from cold-blooded reptile to warm-blooded mammal.

    At a deeper level, one can question the very notion of “kind,” which seems to mean whatever creationists need it to mean in any particular case–from species to genus and on up at least as far as classes (mammals, reptiles, etc.). A concept as opportunistically defined as “kind” has no real meaning; it’s a rhetorical device, nothing more.

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    Imagine Ken Ham downloading this software, and adding one field “kind”, then start building his orchard. He’d be a mad man living in a bathrobe living in a half-done ark. “And then the aardvarks are of the armored mammal kind, no the bug eating mammal kind, no. Damn another kind I have to create.”

  3. What I find interesting is that Ken Ham says that each BARAMIN (“created kind”) in scripture is roughly a taxonomic family—but he never checks all of the occurrences of MIN in the Hebrew Old Testament to see if that fits. What he would find is some lists of eagles and ravens (depending upon the translation) which are closely related and therefore they suggest a single baramin, not several as listed.

    If they actually paid attention, they would notice that a created “kind” is just as generic and inexact as phrases like “all kinds of” or “every kind of” in English. Thus, all kinds of animals could be used to refer to clean animals and unclean animals, prey and predators, domesticated kinds of animals and wild animals. They have never shown us their evidence that MIN refers to taxonomy per se.

  4. In the Discovery Institute’s mendaciously mistitled “Explore Evolution”, the “Orchard theory” is presented as an alternative, preferred by “some scientists” (who?) as an alternative to Darwinian gradualism, and punctuated equilibrium, which are offered as mutually exclusive alternatives. The “Orchard theory” is made to sound sciency by calling it a “polyphyletic” theory, and by misrepresenting Woese’s evidence of cross-linkages deep within the tree (thereby made even more connected) as if it supported multiple separate origins, which is of course the very opposite.

  5. AiG: :Creationists disagree with the idea of a “tree of life” as evolutionists see it…”

    As most of you know, not all “creationists” disagree with that idea, and AiG was perfectly aware of that by 2007. Granted, AiG may be defining “creationists” as only their YEC “kind.” And even most OECs, which outnumber YECs ~2:1 in the general public, also deny the “tree of life.” But some of the most raved-about evolution-deniers, particularly Michael Behe, fully concede it. And many others, particularly in the ID camp, merely play dumb about it.

    Moral of the story is that anti-evolution activists routinely switch definitions, but we can’t afford to. We must pick one definition and stick to it. So if “creationists” is to include ID peddlers, we must acknowledge that, while they may misrepresent evolution to no end, they don’t necessarily deny the tree of life or geologic time.

  6. @Prof. Tertius:
    Wikipedia has an interesting article List of animals in the Bible. There is no system to what is distinguished by name in the Bible. Compare the treatment of “fish” and “ass”, for example. There is no basis for singling out any taxonomic rank, such as species, family, class or phylum of being of any interest in the Bible.
    And, aside from that, from the Bible, about MIN (kind):
    There is no reason to think that an animal cannot become of a different kind.
    (Let alone that a population cannot evolve. Even “macro”evolve.) Or that an animal belongs to one and only one kind in any circumstance.
    There is no suggestion of species “micro”evolving in a kind.
    There is no reference in the Bible to kind when speaking of humans.

  7. Paul Braterman: "In the Discovery Institute’s mendaciously mistitled 'Explore Evolution', the 'Orchard theory'…

    I'm not sure if that's the same section, but I read that in EE, the DI cites Christian Schwabe, a common-descent denier who proposed a naturalistic independent origins “theory,” even though its mere existence (as a hypothesis, if its even that) undermines the DI’s false dichotomy (either nature did it this way, or a designer did it that way). Usually, anti-evolution activists like to pretend that odd birds like Schwabe don’t exist, but the DI must have been desperate. We know that they’ll toss out anything that’ll fool the “masses,” even if it risks alerting some to their scam.

    Since you mention Woese, I’m reminded of a Dembski quote of ~10 years ago where, in the same paragraph, he (1) acknowledges Behe’s acceptance of common descent, (2) pretends that Woese “explicitly denies it” (Woese only denies a false caricature of it), and (3) conveniently omits his own position. While Dembski rightly tries to dispel, stereotype that all evolution-deniers deny common descent, he winds up fooling most people, and diverting the attention from the fact that probably most, maybe even all, Discoveroids (1) privately accept all of evolution, (2) know that literal Genesis (all mutually-contradictory versions) is total nonsense, and (3) are fully aware that they’re grotesquely misrepresenting evolution to promote unreasonable doubt. That way the “masses” can infer their favorite Genesis version by default (or non-Biblical creation, or “aliens did it” for those so inclined), without noticing the contradictions, and the fact that none have a shred of evidence.

  8. Eric Lipps: “Simply mocking the creationists is easy. Debunking them takes a bit more work.”

    Especially since there are many “kinds” of creationist, each with a different set of bogus claims to debunk. But an obvious place to start is to show people how rarely they “challenge” each other, despite radical differences regarding which are the “kinds” and age of life disagreements of 5+ orders of magnitude! That double standard alone will make anyone who takes the 10 Commandments seriously smell a rat.

    What annoys me though is how rarely the debunking includes simply asking them questions about their own mutually-contradictory “theories.” Even though that’s the part that best showcases the hopelessness of their scams. It only takes a few key questions to get the Biblicals to admit that they don’t really take the evidence seriously, and that scripture overrules it (which undermines the whole pretense of “scientific” creationism). Similarly, it only takes a few key questions to show the pathetic evasion of the IDers. Double standard again.

    It all depends on whom we’re trying to inform. If it’s the ~half of the public that is unsure, or just “leans” for or against evolution, that’s where I start (and it works). But if we’re not interested in informing anyone, and just want to feel good, then mocking them is all that’s necessary.