More Evidence for Natural Selection, Chairman

by

Don McLeroy, the esteemed evolutionary biologist dentist and creationist who serves as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, spent a lot of time last month trying to persuade his fellow board members that scientific evidence for natural selection is wrong. Perhaps he should read this piece from the New York Times:

In a worldwide survey of 50 populations, a team of geneticists has identified many fingerprints of natural selection in the human genome. These are sites on the genome where specific sequences of DNA show signs of having become more common in the population, presumably because they helped their owners adapt to new climates, diseases or other factors.

The genetic regions where natural selection has acted turn out to differ in various populations, doubtless because each has been molded by different local forces on each continent.

“Our work supports the notion that regional populations have adapted in a variety of ways, some shared, some not, to the selective pressures they encountered as they dispersed from the ancestral African homeland some 80,000 years ago,” said Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at the University of Chicago.

The authors of the new study are Dr. Pritchard and his colleagues Joseph Pickrell and Graham Coop. It was published online last month in Genome Research. It is the first to look for signals of selection in DNA samples gathered by the Human Genome Diversity Project.

Science marches on.

(Hat tip: musings)

20 Responses to “More Evidence for Natural Selection, Chairman”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Natural selection is not evolution. It’s plain to see that, in nature, the weak are taken out and the strongest, fastest, best suited survive. It would be ridiculous to try to say that doesn’t happen. However, science has yet to create a new species from an existing one through selecting traits. For thousands of years we’ve bred dogs, bacteria, chickens and roses just to name a few, and brought out unique characteristics in a breed through human selection. These unique characteristics were not added to the breed– just revealed by selectively eliminating more dominant traits from the gene pool. In the end, a chicken is still a chicken, a dog is still a dog and a rose is still a rose. Even after breeding hundreds of thousands of generations of a bacteria in a lab experiment, the bacteria may reveal hidden traits but we end up with the same species of bacteria.

  2. ScienceMinded Says:

    Right on Jeff!! I think you will find TFN, if you polled the SBOE, that the vast majority does believe in microevolution — a process of evolution that can be achieved through natural selection, local climatic and geographic impacts. This is not the point being argued. And I reiterate, the issue is really not evolution at all. It is about what should be taught to our children in public classrooms. And, as much as you fear that creationists are out to brainwash your little kids, Jeff, I, and many others are just advocating that teachers teach both the recognized strengths and weaknesses of ALL theories taught in public schools, and that we analyze and evaluate theories from ALL sides. We advocate this in order to promote critical thinking skills in our young students and to instill thought processes and skills that are conducive to expanding scientific knowledge at the fastest rate possible. This goes for all theories, not just evolution. And, if you are still having trouble with the meaning of “weakness” in the context of evolution, please read some of Jeff’s recent posts — or Fish Gals sole post from back on the 27th of March, or within a day or 2 from that date.

  3. ScienceMinded Says:

    TFN: Please support your statement with solid evidence that Don McLeroy believes that the scientific evidence for NATURAL SELECTION is wrong. You might want to clarify or retract your statement. In all the videos and statements I have read from Chairman McLeroy, I have not seen one indication that he believes the scientific evidence for natural selection is wrong. Jeff so adeptly points out the natural selection process in the above post. Although I differ, I think, from Jeff on one point. I do believe that natural selection, climatic changes, geographical isolation, changes in diet, as well as many other factors can give rise to microevolutionary adaptations.

  4. ScienceMinded Says:

    And for those still wondering about some of the weaknesses of the theory of evolution, Jeff had some good examples that have been recognized by mainstream scientists worldwide. Here are several weaknesses with the theory of evolution as pointed out by Jeff:

    Jeff Says:
    March 28, 2009 at 9:29 pm
    “Name a legitimate weakness in the theory of evolution.”

    Ok, here are several:

    1) The second law of thermodynamics.
    2) The probability of even the most simplistic DNA coming together by accident is astronomical.
    3) The probability of even the DNA decoding mechanism developing by accident is astronomical.
    4) The probability of even the most simplistic DNA coming together by accident AND the decoding mechanism developing by accident at the exact same time in history, at the exact same location on the earth is off-the-chart, out-of-this-world, impossible.
    5) DNA is the delivery system of coded information. Codes are never the result of chaos. Only intelligence can create codes. DNA alone is meaningless without each DNA “word” having been given a definition in the DNA language. What is the evolutionary process for that?

    That’s just a few. I’ve got lots more.

  5. Ben Says:

    DMTS

  6. James F Says:

    ScienceMinded, you forgot “If evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?” Your satire has given me a good laugh this afternoon, thank you!

  7. Coragyps Says:

    Oh dearie me. It’s the dreaded Second Law of Thermodynamics! We’re all DOOMED, fellow Evilutionists! DOOME….

    Oh, wait a minute! The 2nd LoT doesn’t say doo-squat about evolution, does it? It just says “it is impossible to use a cyclic process to transfer heat from a colder to a hotter body without at the same time converting a certain amount of work into heat.” (Danke, Herr Doktor Clausius.) No mention of common ancestry at all…..

    ScienceMinded, what is delta S for and A —> G change in a human chromosome 2? Ideally, what’s the value of such a change in that first internal telomere – you know, the one that creationists won’t admit was once a telomere?

  8. Joe Lapp Says:

    Scienceminded, your assertions (2) through (5) are correct in themselves, but they have nothing to do with evolution (and (1) is just a noun phrase). Most people, intuiting the truth of these statements, will assume that you indeed have debunked evolution. However, each statement reflects a misunderstanding about evolution that the people who study evolution don’t have.

    On evolution supposedly being the byproduct of randomness (2) – (4), you temporarily — for the sake of argument — forget that evolution is randomness PLUS natural selection, not just randomness. See http://teachthemscience.org/falseweaknesses#randomness

    TeachThemScience.org doesn’t address (5) directly, but you are correct that complex patterns only improbably arise without external influence. You forget that the environment is an external influence. Populations evolve to fit their environment, coding information about the environment in the process. Environments are very restrictive molds; perhaps only the center of the sun provides the “chaos” you imagine — and you’d be right to doubt that organisms could evolve there.

    (1) is just plain wrong. Any first year physics student understands that the 2nd law has nothing to do with life. The second law only applies to closed systems — systems that do not exchange resources beyond their boundaries. If you don’t understand this, you’ll get your assignments wrong (I doubled in physics and math). A population of organisms receives nourishment from processes ultimately sourced by the sun. All organisms produce waste, including heat waste. Organisms are clearly open systems exchanging resources outside themselves, and therefore the 2nd law has absolutely nothing to say about them. See http://teachthemscience.org/falseweaknesses#2nd-law

    The problem with creationism is also its strength. Anti-evolutionists read and repeat the same rhetoric over-and-over. When people hear the same thing enough times, people come to believe it. So you’re playing your part well.

  9. Charles Says:

    You may be right Joe Lapp.

    I was kind of hoping that ScienceMinded might follow up your thought on repetition of dogma by explaining to us in detail the relationship between the worldwide global warming hoax, how it will put big government in control of every detail in our private lives, turn over American national sovereignty to the United Nations, which will then destroy Santa Claus and Dairy Queen, thereby opening the door to the rule of one-world government, which is the last natural step of preparation for the advent of the Anti-Christ who will take control as the ruler of said one-world government?

    It has been repeated so often that I believe every Christian Neo-Fundamentalist on the planet has bought thoughtlessly into the general concept. However, I doubt that even they know the tiny and complex web of details that must underlie so grand a scheme. I have never known them. Can you help us out here ScienceMinded? Do you know the details on this?

    What are the details here ScienceMinded?

  10. Jeff007 (formerly "Jeff") Says:

    Joe,
    I’ll agree to disagree with you (or your website) on the 2nd LoT. I understand what you are saying and we could argue that all day.

    As for your second point. You didn’t read what I said. I’m referring to the beginning of life by random chance. Not the evolution of life. Your linked argument doesn’t match my statement. You’ll need to go and find another argument to copy and paste.

    “Dr. James Coppedge, director of the Center for Probability Research in Biology in California, applied laws of probability of a single cell, protein, and gene coming into existence by chance. And computed a world including the earth’s crust and entire array of elements were available. He then had all the amino acids combine at 1.5 trillion times faster than they do in nature. In computing the probabilities, he found that a cell would take 10^119,841 years (that’s a one with 119,841 zeros after it), a single protein molecule 10^262 years.”

    So, science estimates the Earth to be a few billion years old. that’s just a tiny, tiny fraction of the trillions and trillions and trillions of years needed for life to be reasonably probable.

    These numbers are unfathomable. Put a timeline of the Earth’s history up against these numbers and it would look like a microscopic speck. Adding natural selection doesn’t change this. The probability does not change. Natural selection can’t select a random event if it doesn’t happen.

  11. Jeff007 (formerly "Jeff") Says:

    Charles,
    I found it quite humorous that the guy who’s copying and pasting his arguments from another website ends his post with a lecture on repeating dogma.

  12. Joe Lapp Says:

    Jeff, I was responding to ScienceMinded. I hadn’t read your post.

    This entry addresses your randomness calculation:
    http://teachthemscience.org/falseweaknesses#randomness

    This entry addresses confusing origin-of-life with evolution, as you’re doing:
    http://teachthemscience.org/falseweaknesses#origin-of-life

    There isn’t one physicist on the planet who will agree that the 2nd Law precludes evolution, creationist or not. The following syllogism is just obviously false:

    * Closed systems tend to grow more disorderly over time (2nd Law)
    * Life is an open system
    ——–
    * Therefore, life tends to grow more disorderly over time (if by natural causes alone).

    Pushing this argument completely robs you of credibility. You might drop it and stick to arguments that require effort to refute.

    P.S. Your speaking of evolving new species of bacteria also shows a lack of understanding of biology. Bacteria do not have strict species; they merely cluster in similarity. Bacteria freely exchange genetic material with one another, no matter how different the bacteria. There is no species barrier among bacterial variants. Bacteria are fluid and evolve extraordinarily rapidly. For example, a heat resistant bacterium could transfer heat resistance directly to a distantly-related bacterium with one material exchange (depending on the material exchanged). Bacteria violate the intuitive understanding of life that we get living our macroscopic world.

  13. Ben Says:

    Some people don’t know when to quit.

  14. Larry Fafarman Says:

    ScienceMinded Says (April 7, 2009 at 10:38 am) —
    –TFN: Please support your statement with solid evidence that Don McLeroy believes that the scientific evidence for NATURAL SELECTION is wrong. You might want to clarify or retract your statement. In all the videos and statements I have read from Chairman McLeroy, I have not seen one indication that he believes the scientific evidence for natural selection is wrong.–

    Ditto.

    Coragyps Says (April 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm) —
    –The 2nd LoT doesn’t say doo-squat about evolution, does it? It just says “it is impossible to use a cyclic process to transfer heat from a colder to a hotter body without at the same time converting a certain amount of work into heat.” (Danke, Herr Doktor Clausius.) —

    That is the “Clausius statement” of the SLoT. There are other ways of stating the SLoT — the Kelvin statement is also popular —

    Kelvin statement: It is impossible to construct an engine, operating in a cycle, whose sole effect is receiving heat from a single reservoir and the performance of an equivalent amount of work.

    Joe Lapp Says (April 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm) —
    –Any first year physics student understands that the 2nd law has nothing to do with life. —

    There is a tendency to misapply the SLoT to evolution because of the SLoT’s concepts of order and disorder, which are seen as being related to the complexity of living things. The SLoT is normally applied just to homogeneous substances and mixtures and combinations of homogeneous substances. The SLoT concept of entropy has real-life applications — entropy appears as a thermodynamic property in steam tables and also appears in Mollier charts.

    Joe Lapp says,
    –The second law only applies to closed systems — systems that do not exchange resources beyond their boundaries.–

    Be careful what you mean by “resources.” “Resources” could include heat and work, and according to some definitions, a “closed system” can exchange heat and work with the surroundings. Wikipedia gives the following definitions:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermodynamic_system#Overview

    Isolated systems are completely isolated in every way from their environment. They do not exchange heat, work or matter with their environment.
    Closed systems are able to exchange energy (heat and work) but not matter with their environment.
    Open systems exchanging energy (heat and work) and matter with their environment.

    By these definitions, the Carnot engine — which is not a practical engine — is a closed system, but real air-breathing internal combustion engines are open systems because they exchange matter with the surroundings.

    However, the “Free Dictionary” defines “closed system” as being synonymous with “isolated system”:
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/closed+system

    closed system: A physical system that does not interact with other systems. A closed system obeys the conservation laws in its physical description. Also called isolated system. Compare open system.

    So I think that the term “closed system” should be used with caution. The term “isolated system” is unambiguous.

    Ben Says:
    –Some people don’t know when to quit.–

    You are one of the best examples.

  15. Charles Says:

    “I found it quite humorous that the guy who’s copying and pasting his arguments from another website ends his post with a lecture on repeating dogma.”

    Are you referring to Joe Lapp? I rarely copy things from other web sites?

  16. J.R. Says:

    Listen to the biologists, geologists, genecists and other scientists who spend their lives studying and researching in accredited universities, not the Discovery Institute or any of the other dogmatically motivated group of people.

  17. James F Says:

    Jeff007,

    Unsurprisingly, searches for Dr. Coppedge and the “Center for Probability Research in Biology in California” bring up the same quote pasted on various creationist web sites. Indeed, Coppedge has no publications listed in PubMed and the Center has no web page, no physical address, and generally appears not to exist. Don’t creationists realize it’s the internet age and we can call them on their BS? Pathetic.

  18. Larry Fafarman Says:

    J.R. Says (April 9, 2009 at 10:07 am) —
    –Listen to the biologists, geologists, genecists and other scientists who spend their lives studying and researching in accredited universities–

    (1) Why should anyone defer to their opinions on questions that do not require scientific expertise? And some scientists urged the board to include “teach the controversy” provisions in the state science standards.

    (2) There is a widespread myth that the seven “fundies” on the Texas SBOE are ignorant of science. Five of these fundies — Mercer, Cargill, Dunbar, Lowe, and McLeroy — have strong backgrounds in science, at least three of them in biology — see
    http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/members.html

    I have included McLeroy in this group because he is an electrical engineering graduate and engineering students take a lot of physical science and math courses in college and most of engineering itself is of a scientific nature. I know what I am talking about because I am an engineering graduate myself (mechanical). No, Charles, engineering graduates are not like “chefs.”

    Ed Brayton, who banned me permanently from his blog because my literal interpretation of a federal court rule was contrary to his preconceived notion of the purpose of the rule, said that the Texas SBOE is composed of “dentists, real estate agents and bored housewives”:

    We would react with derisive laughter at any suggestion that allowing an elected board made up of dentists, real estate agents and bored housewives to determine the curricula in medical school would be a “stirring illustration of democracy at work.”
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/04/di_flaks_spout_nonsense_on_new.php#more

    So we have been getting lies, lies, and more lies about the scientific backgrounds of the board members. If anything, science is overrepresented in the backgrounds of the board members, and other subjects are getting shortchanged.

    (3) If John E. Jones III, the Kitzmiller v. Dover judge who has no background in science (he has a bachelor of arts degree and a law degree), can decide whether intelligent design is science, then why can’t the Texas board of education make decisions about the state science standards?

    — not the Discovery Institute or any of the other dogmatically motivated group of people.–

    A lot of Darwinists are dogmatically motivated.

  19. Joe Lapp Says:

    “A lot of Darwinists are dogmatically motivated.”

    That’s right, the Jewish “Darwinists” are using evolution to push Judaism, the Mormon “Darwinists” to push Mormonism, the Islamic “Darwinists” to push Islam, the Buddhist “Darwinists” to push Buddhism, the mainstream Christian “Darwinists” to push mainstream Christianity, the agnostic “Darwinists” to push agnosticism, and the atheist “Darwinists” to push atheism.

    The creationists are the only ones fighting “Darwinism” to promote science and not religion.

  20. der Brat Says:

    OMG! I think the arguments by Jeff007 and Larry Fafarman clearly illustrate the wisdom of Henri Bergson’s observation that “Strength of faith manifests itself, not in moving mountains, but in not seeing mountains to move.” This is typical of every creationist argument I have ever seen. You give them facts, and they respond with rhetoric and semantics to obfuscate and not to illuminate.

    Winston Churchill did not say, “Never have so many thought so much about so little,” but he should have.

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