Tag Archives: Presupposition

New PNAS study: maximum animal diversity exists at the beginning of the fossil record

From Phys.org – news of a study that is lethal to orthodox Darwinian belief. This is huge.


Our understanding of how animals on the planet evolved may be wrong, according to scientists at the University.

In a new paper, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evolutionary biologists from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.

Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.

Lead researcher from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Dr Matthew Wills said: “This pattern, known as ‘early high disparity’, turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn’t a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals, or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.”

The team used published descriptions of extinct groups in order to construct ‘morphospaces’; empirical spaces in which anatomically similar species plotted close together, and more dissimilar species plotted further apart. By looking at the manner in which the occupied ‘volume’ of space changed through time, they were able to track changes in morphological disparity.

Evolution News analyzes how the authors of the study explain away their findings to keep faith with Darwin.


Why did 20 or more separate animal phyla suddenly appear in the geological blink of an eye? Because “Clades reach highest morphological disparity early in their evolution,” answer Martin Hughes, Sylvain Gerber, and Matthew Albion Will… The Cambrian animals exploded onto the scene because evolution works fast sometimes. It seems to be a pattern that high disparity occurs early on. Must be a law of nature. What, you’ve got a problem with that?

These three biologists from the University of Bath took a bath in their own assumptions. They don’t deny that the animals appear suddenly. They just believe that when opportunity arises, evolution works fast to fill up the landscape with endless forms most beautiful. Under the section, “Why Do Clades Have Early High Disparity?” they say:

What might explain the prevailing pattern of early high disparity in clade evolution? Both ecological and developmental explanations have been proposed, and our results remain consistent with both. The “empty ecospace” modelpredicts that clades will radiate and diversify more rapidly when colonizing a new environment. This colonization may occur because ecospace has been vacated by other occupants (e.g., in the wake of some other extinction, typically the result of external, physical factors) or because a hitherto inaccessible environment or other resource has been rendered viable by the acquisition of some novel, “key” adaptation or series of characters (an intrinsic, biological trigger). Morphological change under these circumstances may be rapid eitherbecause transitions are unusually large or because rates of cladogenesis areunusually high (even with “normal” step sizes at each splitting event). (Emphasis added, reference numbers omitted.)

Jaws should drop at that “explanation.” If Hughes, Gerber and Wills were simply describing what is found in the fossil record — the sudden appearance of complex animals — it would be one thing. But they attempted to explain how these complex animals appeared, so suddenly as Jonathan Wells described in the film Darwin’s Dilemma, that it’s comparable to less than two minutes on a twenty-four-hour clock.

[…]As Stephen Meyer shows in Darwin’s Doubt, prior to the Cambrian explosion there were only microbes, sponges and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna that most paleontologists do not consider related to the Cambrian animals. There were no jointed appendages, eyes, guts, nervous systems or any of the other organs, tissue types and body plans that characterize Cambrian phyla. What kind of Darwinian “miracle” would it take to get all those complex traits in blink of an eye? Calling it “cladogenesis” is like calling the simultaneous chance appearance of cars, boats, and airplanes “vehicle-o-genesis.”

The model has striking similarities to the old notion of Punctuated Equilibrium discussed in Chapter 7 of Darwin’s Doubt. In fact, the PNAS paper was edited by Steven Stanley, “an early advocate of the punctuated equilibrium model” according to Meyer (p. 137). As such, this new model is really a throwback to the old “punk eek,” and suffers from the same drawbacks: it’s an attempt to explain away the absence of evidence for evolution by claiming, without any mechanism better than old-fashioned neo-Darwinism, why the fossil record shows a discontinuous pattern, not a record of a gradually branching tree.

There’s a lot more in that Evolution News article.

Now, I’m pretty sure I read about this upside-down tree of life years ago in a little book by biologist Jonathan Wells entitled “Icons of Evolution“. Dr. Wells made the case that Darwin’s iconic picture of “the tree of life” should really be inverted. Darwin thought that the root came early in the fossil record, and the branches came later – by mutation and selection. The truth is that the branches come first. The diversity is all at the beginning of the fossil record. This falsifies evolution (again).

Is this new study going to make the naturalists change their religion? Probably not. Because science has nothing to do with the presupposition of naturalism. Darwinists presuppose naturalism for other reasons that are insulated from experimental science. It’s a faith commitment – and they don’t care about revising their faith when the progress of science reveals new facts.

Related posts

Do leading evolutionists think that evolution is compatible with God?

Here is a post from Jerry Coyne’s blog: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/selective-creationists/. (H/T Retha from Christian Rethinker)

Coyne is a radical atheist and evolutionist. And he is also a very prominent biologist.

He writes:

Only a tad more than one in four teachers really accepts evolution as scientists conceive of it: a naturalistic process undirected by divine beings.  Nearly one in two teachers thinks that humans evolved but that God guided the process.

Can we count those 48% of “guided-by-Godders” 0n our side?  I agree with P. Z.: the answer is NO.  Yes, they do accept that our species changed genetically over time, but they see God as having pulled the strings.  That’s not the way evolution works.   The graph labels these 48% as believers in intelligent design, and that’s exactly what they are, for they see God as nudging human evolution toward some preconceived goal.  We’re designed.  These people are creationists: selective creationists.

To count them as allies means we make company with those who accept evolution in a superficial sense but reject it in the deepest sense.  After all, the big revolution in thought wrought by Darwin was the recognition that the appearance of design—thought for centuries to be proof of God—could stem from purely natural processes.   When we cede human evolution to God, then, we abandon that revolution.  That’s why I see selective creationists like Kenneth Miller, Karl Giberson and Francis Collins as parting company with modern biological thought.

Just to let you know, Ken Miller and Francis Collins do not think that science can perform experiments and detect that an intelligent cause is the best explanation for some effect in nature. They are committed to explaining every effect in nature as the result of natural processes, before they ever sit down in front of a microscope to look and see. That is their faith commitment – naturalism. I.e. – God didn’t do anything in nature that we can know about using objective measuring.

Theistic evolution versus atheism

Who was the foremost evangelical proponent of theistic evolution? Well, one of them was Howard Van Till of Calvin College. Why do I say “was”? Take a look at this event he did for a FREETHOUGHT group a while back.


by Howard J. Van Till

Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Emeritus
Calvin College
Presented 5/24/2006 for the Freethought Association of West Michigan
Lightly edited 5/26/2006

Precis: Born into a Calvinist family, shaped by a Calvinist catechism training, educated in the Calvinist private school system, and nurtured by a community that prized its Calvinist systematic theology, I was a Calvinist through and through. For 31 years my
teaching career was deeply rooted in the Calvinism I had inherited from my community.

During most of that time it was a fruitful and satisfying experience. Nonetheless, stimulated in part by the manner in which some members of that community responded to my efforts to practice what I had learned from my best teachers, I eventually felt the need to extend my intellectual exploration into philosophical territories far outside the one provided by Calvinism. Did I complete the lengthy journey from Calvinism to Freethought? The listener will be the judge.

Freethought is atheism, by the way.

I think that either God can interfere or he can’t. Theistic evolutionists and atheists think that he can’t intervene – at least not in a way that is independent of “faith” – by which they mean blind belief ungrounded by evidence. What theistic evolutionists are really saying is that God interferes where we can’t test in a lab (the resurrection), and he doesn’t interfere in the area that they can test in a lab (science). This allows them to appease their wives and churches with pronunciations of orthodox beliefs (of course I believe in miracles, honey), and also to appease their scientific colleagues (God didn’t do anything that we can know objectively). Well. Isn’t that convenient for them AND THEIR CAREERS as scientists?

Video of Johnson-Provine debate on evolution vs physical evidence

In 1994, when this debate was held, intelligent design was still pretty new. This debate, more than any other resource, clarified what was at stake in the debate over origins.

Provine makes clear what follows from the truth of evolution: no free will, no objective standard of good and evil, no life after death, no meaning in life. Johnson argues that the Cambrian explosion disproves Darwinian evolution, and the only reason why Darwinian evolution is widely-accepted is because materialism is pre-supposed.

If materialism is pre-supposed, then only atheistic answers to the origins question are allowed, so naturally Darwinism wins – it has to win once you make a philosophical assumption that matter is all there is. (An assumption contradicted by the big bang theory, which requires the creation of all matter from nothing.

Here’s a summary of the debate:

Debate before an audience between two professors on the naturalistic vs. the theistic way of understanding human existence.

William Provine, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, cites evidence supporting neo-Darwinian theory and argues that microevolutionary processes account for the origin of all life. He asserts that modern evolutionary theory is incompatible with belief in God; that there are no absolute moral and ethical laws; that free will does not exist; and that human character is merely a result of heredity and environment.

Phillip Johnson, Professor of Law at the University of California in Berkeley, agrees that modern neo-Darwinian theory is atheistic and scientific; however, as a general theory it is a philosophical dogma that is inconsistent with the evidence.

Provine and Johnson debate basic questions: Do we owe our existence to a creator? Can the blind watchmaker of natural selection take the place of God? Moderator is Timothy Jackson, Dept. of Religious Studies, Stanford University.

And here’s a couple of clips from the opening. (H/T Uncommon Descent via ECM)

The rest are  linked here.

This is very much worth watching, especially for atheists who typically are not aware that evolution rests on a philsophical assumption that is assumed, and that contradicts astrophysics. That has to stop. And the best way to stop it is by calling it out into the open using debates like this one.

For those of you behind a firewall, here are text excerpts.

And don’t forget about my recent post about the role of pre-suppositions like the pre-supposition of naturalism in historical Jesus research. The post contains debates where this is actually discussed as well.