Klinghoffer Does the Micro-Macro Mambo

You have all heard of the Micro-Macro Mambo — we described it in Common Creationist Claims Confuted like this:

Creationists acknowledge what they call “micro-evolution” (observed changes due to mutation and selection, as with Darwin’s finches) but they insist that what they call “macro-evolution” (the result of cumulative changes over time) is impossible. If you ask a creationist why “macro” changes are impossible you’ll be told that it’s just impossible — some magic barrier interferes to preserve the integrity of scriptural “kinds.”

Because of that unevidenced magical mechanism, which only the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — can overcome, creationists flatly assert that regardless of time, one species cannot evolve into another — despite the abundant fossil evidence to the contrary. Therefore, creationism requires belief in a two-part dogma consisting of: (1) the Great Barrier; and (2) the miracle that breaks through the barrier.

The error is enormous, because first it involves accepting, at the scale of a few visible generations, both the fact of and the mechanism for evolution (variation and natural selection), and then rejecting the inevitable consequences of what has been accepted.

The jolly fellows Discovery Institute, like all the other creationists, know how to do the dance. See Discoveroids Dance the Micro-Macro Mambo, and then Casey Does the Micro-Macro Mambo.

Now it’s the turn of David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. His new post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog is “Rapid” Evolution Observed in Guppies? As Always, It Depends on What You Mean by Evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Reporting in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers have rigorously demonstrated something totally unsurprising — only to turn around and offer it as evidence for something quite different and quite surprising. The technical term for that is bait-and-switch.

Oooooooooooooh — those sleazy scientists are trying to do a bait-and-switch! It’s fortunate that we have the Discoveroids to keep us safe. Klinghoffer tells us:

A team showed that if you take guppies and move them from an environment rich in predators to one that’s largely predator-free, this can have an effect on a superficial trait like coloration.

This is the paper he’s talking about: Selection analysis on the rapid evolution of a secondary sexual trait. You can only see the abstract unless you have a subscription. There’s an article about it at PhysOrg: Research shows evolution in real time.

Klinghoffer says this guppy evolution is no big deal:

Who would have thought otherwise? Given (a) characteristics that vary from generation to generation, (b) heritability, and (c) an environment or other factors that favor one over another, it would be startling if selection didn’t result in small-scale change over time, even over rather short periods — microevolution, in other words, at its finest.

See? It’s only micro-evolution. He explains why that’s meaningless:

But the kind of evolution [the researchers] observed is not the same thing — unguided macroevolution, novel biological information fortuitously generating new animals — that is subject to skepticism by those who “don’t believe in evolution because they can’t see it.

Ah, it’s not macro-evolution. There’s no new “information” — which only the magic designer can provide. If you don’t know what “information” is, see Phlogiston, Vitalism, and Information. Let’s read on:

Show me the most devout creationist and I will show you someone perfectly happy to accept every word of [the published] results, and completely untroubled by them. Don’t Darwinists know this?

No, because Darwinists are fools! Klinghoffer concludes by shaming his critics:

I understand wanting to draw attention to your work by highlighting how it casts light on a hot debate. But first find out what both sides in the debate say, what they’re arguing about, and then tell us how your work ought to figure into the discussion.

Silly Darwinists! They don’t grasp the vital distinction between micro- and macro-evolution. Until they do, the Discoveroids will just laugh at them.

Well, what can we say in response? We’ve said it all before. Instead of babbling about “information,” which is as real as the spirits who speak through a psychic fortune teller, creationists should do a little more work on the distinction between micro- and macro-evolution. They need to actually demonstrate: (1) the mechanism of the Great Barrier; and (2) the activity of the Barrier-breaking designer.

We all know there’s a difference between taking one step and ascending a whole flight of stairs; but we don’t know why, if you can take the first step, you can’t continue that process until you reach the next floor. If they show us that, we’ll pay some attention.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Klinghoffer Does the Micro-Macro Mambo

  1. Pete Moulton

    I think Klinghoffer’s utter lack of self-awareness is hilarious. “But first find out what both sides in the debate say…” There’s absolutely no evidence in Klinghoffer’s biography and writing that he’s ever looked inside a legitimate science book. Indeed, Little Davey, maybe you should trouble yourself to learn something about evolutionary theory before you make an even bigger fool of yourself.

  2. Klinky says *subject to skepticism by those who “don’t believe in evolution because they can’t see it.“*

    By that logic, other things that don’t exist: UV light, protons, electrons, neutrinos…

  3. I wonder whether there was anybody who took the same position about classical mechanics before the space age. That gravity had been observed working in the region around the surface of the Earth (“micro-gravity”) but there is no reason to beieve that it worked everywhere else (“macro-gravity” – including the assumption that it is weaker with great distance and dependent on the mass of the attracting body (“just assumptions with no repeatable laboratory evidence”). Or, for that matter that today, we only know that it works in the Solar System.
    I think that just about everybody gave up by the 1700s.

  4. SC: “They need to actually demonstrate: (1) the mechanism of the Great Barrier; and (2) the activity of the Barrier-breaking designer.”

    Before that they need to be clear on where the barriers are (IOE, between which specific “kinds”) and when each “kind” appeared, specifically, was it during the time period during which mainstream science concluded that it speciated, or some other time.

    Fortunately, Klingoffer’s own DI colleague, Michael Behe, gave us some pretty good hints. “Barriers” are all crossed in vivo, which means that the “kinds” (all but that microscopic first one) all shared common ancestors. To my knowledge, Behe never unequivocally claimed that the designer intervened at the time of speciation, and in fact hinted that he/she/it “preprogrammed” the “barrier crossing” at or before the design of the first “kind,” some 4 billion years ago.

    So rather than repeat the refutation that Klinghoffer heard 1000 times, I would humor him and ask if he agrees with Behe. Yes I’d expect a Dembskieque “that’s not ID’s task” evasion, but that’s the whole point. At least half of the people who fall for the micro-macro-mambo are not committed evolution-deniers, and would clearly see that evasion as evidence that the DI is trying to fool people into believing what they “know ain’t so.”

  5. “one species cannot evolve into another”
    That’s why it’s so funny to provide creationists with links that show observed speciation – in real time. They can’t deny it, because they stress the importance of eyewitness accounts. They can’t accept it, because it comes dangerously close to what they call macro-evolution. So what they do is
    1. ignore it and hope it will go away by itself; of course I, as a nasty Dutchman, are more than happy to remind them over and over again.
    2. tell us that it’s not evolution because (insert a goofy made up reason); the “clever” ones refer to “kinds” and maintain that speciation only is possible within a certain “bandwith”. Of course I, as a nasty Dutchman, ask them to specify the limits of that “bandwith”, after which they fall back on strategy 1.

    Invariably sooner or later the creationist reaches a breaking point, after which an angry rant follows in the good old tradition of Ol’Hambo. Only two days ago I once again managed to initiate that spectacle.
    And that’s why I disagree with SC on the issue of debating creationists (of course live debates are a totally different matter). Actually I’m grateful to our dear SC by providing some very useful additional tools. Every time I manage to wind up some creationist he deserves a part of the honour.

  6. As far as the species barrier to evolution. Even the Young Earth Creationists have given up on that. You can find in their web sites cautions against using that argument. Of course, that is because of the problems with Noah’s Ark, rather than from a rational reason, but they do acknowledge the evidence adduced by “evolutionists”. And they can’t tell us what the “kind” barrier is, for example between Homo sapiens and the various hominin fossils. And the Bible gives no guidance. They have to rely on the standard tactic of making things up.
    I think of this analogy: the “sound barrier”, which some people once believed prevented piloted aircraft from flying faster than the speed of sound. Once that was convincingly “broken”, one could postulate another “speed barrier” which was vaguely placed beyond current technology, but reasonable people either gave up, or did the work of describing just what would be the next barrier and why and how that was real.
    The “species barrier” has been broken. Those who want to postulate a “kind barrier” to evolution now have the obligation of doing that work: describe what the barrier is, and why and how it resists crossing.

  7. michaelfugate

    The “barrier” though is supposed to be easily broken by God – so it is not really a barrier at all.

  8. Klinghoffer challenges us to

    Show me the most devout creationist

    Somebody, send that man a mirror.

  9. Ben Carson does differ from the Bible on occasion, for he said that the Earth spins on its axis.
    I wonder what evidence that he has that over-rides the plain truth of the Bible?
    Does he believe in macro-gravity? There is no more mention of gravity than of evolution in the Bible.
    I wonder what it is like to work for him. No never know when you will correct you. Dare you mention germs, or weather forecasts?

  10. Which came first? The Great Barrier or Creation?

    But more importantly, when the various kinds came into being, did they do a pixel fade in to existence, sprout from the ground like a cartoon flower or was it some sort of wonderful hollywoodish tumultuous combination of natures forces kind of effect?

  11. I tried something novel along those lines, Dean, the last time I was talking with a bullheaded creationist. I asked what sound they made when they came into being, how, exactly, they came to be at all. Whether they were warm to the touch from the displacement of air caused by their appearing. That sort of thing.

  12. @Dean:
    Your question was posed by Herbert Spencer in his 1852 essay, The Development Hypothesis

    I’d like to know when a “kind” comes into existence, is there anything more than several individuals coming into existence. When the pre-Flood “kinds” were around, were there also species, genera, families, … phyla, kingdoms, domains – or were those categories only the product of the super-evolution of a few hundred years after the Flood? I don’t recall any mention of any particular animal or plant (or than humans) before the Flood. I think that it was only in the time of Abraham that sheep and goats were first mentioned, for example.

  13. Tom S. raises a crucial point. Creationists have been forced to accept “micro-evolution” and even speciation (though quite a few still balk at the latter), but cling to the notion that “kinds” (which they define in whatever way is convenient at the moment) are inviolate.

    What they don’t do, because it would destroy the whole notion of “kinds,” is specify at what point acceptable micro-evolution shades into forbidden macro-evolution. They just want their suckers, ahem, audience to take it on faith that there is such a point, even if they can’t exactly, ahem, point to it.

    This is either Orwellian doublethink or outright fraud, depending on whether these people actually believe what they’re saying and writing or don’t. Either way, it deserves no respect.

  14. I would think that it would be the Young-Earth Creationists, such as Ken Ham, who would have a problem accepting their so-called “macro-evolution” because of the millions or even billions of years required.

    I’m surprised that the Discoverrhoids balk at the concept of “macro-evolution.” Don’t they for the most part claim to accept the idea of an old Earth?

  15. retiredsciguy: “I’m surprised that the Discoverrhoids balk at the concept of ‘macro-evolution.’ Don’t they for the most part claim to accept the idea of an old Earth?”

    As you know, the DI is running a big tent scam, and they’ll say anything that will impress the public that lacks the time or interest to look beyond the catchy sound bites. Even if it contradicts something else they said. But in this case it’s not contradictory. Even Biblical OECs (wrongly) claim that billions of years is not enough for “RM + NS” to cross “kind” barriers.

    For some reason, nearly everyone but me overcomplicates the situation by suggesting that the DI believes anything that they say. It’s much simpler when one assumes, at least for the sake of argument, that the DI knows that Biblical creationism – OEC and YEC varieties – are pure nonsense, with no evidence at all of “kinds” popping up, either all at once (6 days) or periodically over billions of years. That assumption has merit, if only because the “don’t ask don’t tell what happened when” part of the scam was underway well before it became legally risky to talk about “creators.”

    Behe, the only Discoveroid to make his position clear, consistently for 20+ years, accepts not only billions of years of life, but also common descent. The DI has no official position, so technically it welcomes YEC, geocentrism, a flat earth, and yes, even the FSM as designer. But lets get real. No one at the DI, has ever challenged him publicly, and Dembski even said that ID can accommodate all the results of “Darwinism.” Connect the dots and they are basically shouting “yeah, we know you ‘Darwinists’ are right, but we can fool the public better than you can set them straight.”

    So at best the DI thinks that something other than “RM+NS” happens on occasion in cells, not in the “dust” to “cross barriers.” Of course if any of them truly believe it, the obvious question is “why have they consistently turned down such lucrative opportunities to test it?” Why are they vague even on the most basic hypotheses of “when” or “between which species”? Behe not only unequivocally stated that humans an chimps share common ancestors, but to my knowledge did not rule out RM+NS as a possible cause at that taxonomic level. Dembski, in contrast, once said that he didn’t think humans and chimps “evolved” – meaning by RM+NS – from common ancestors, but did not rule out that they descended from them by some other mechanism, e.g. saltation or Behe’s front loading. The simple answer is that they know there’s no promising alternate explanation. At least not one that will be of any comfort to those they’re trying to “save” (have we all forgotten “Expelled,” which practically shouts that their objection has nothing to do with the evidence???)

    The DI also knows that it’s a bait-and-switch to think that if known mechanisms are incorrect that “some designer must have intervened somewhere at some time.” They know that the designer could well use “RM+NS” (the personal belief of many of their “Darwinist” critics), or that, if “RM+NS” were indeed insufficient, that some other “naturalistic” mechanism that we haven’t discovered yet, may be taking over “here and there.” In one of their books they even favorably quote Christian Schwabe, who proposed a “naturalistic” independent origin hypothesis. Now that contradicts their implied false dichotomy, but they are confident that their critics will not remind the public nearly enough about that – or about their other word games – to compete with the DI's misleading sound bites.