Sunday, 21 October 2012

Refuting Evan Wigg I

I recently asked anti-evolutionists on a well-known internet forum to provide me with their arguments agains evolution, and their first response was to paste this link:
A brief glance through made me sad; the English is just horrible. Then I read the arguments. Bleurgh. So, even though most of my friends will undoubtly reject these arguments, I thought I'd destroy them anyway. I may be a little bored... However, the article is preposterously long, so I may attack each section in turn, make a little series out of it. Fun times.
The Introduction:
We begin with the classic poor attempt to define evolution, and the compromise of "microevolution occurs, macroevolution does not". a) Microevolution is not a term used by evolutionary biologists, we tend to call that "variation". b) Macroevolution is biological evolution. The other three types mentioned are cosmology, I'm not arguing about those.
We then get a reasonable stab at defining the scientfic method... little issue with that, I've seen better but it's fine. However, we then get the usual fall back of "evolution is unscientific because it is unobservable". Difficult... I could paper-dump about 10000 examples of the observed process of natural selection, but if we're fighting on the terms of Mr Wiggs (the Wanderer for Jesus), I think he may not accept that these processes extend to produce macroevolution. Ho hum... we shall see as his argument develops.
Our final stop today is microevolution, the creationist's favourite term, and in Wigg's words "Variation that can be expressed by the genome of a “species’" I don't know quite what Mr Wiggs has against the concept of a species, perhaps he thinks we are all a brotherhood of life, but its a reasonable definition of the (bullshit) term. He witters about mutation for a bit in a non-threatening fashion and then we get to the meat of his argument, namely that microevolution = selective breeding and that this involves no mutation.

At this juncture, allow me to introduce the bullshit alarm. This alarm will sound whenever Mr Wiggs' argument disappears up his arse, and will go *Wee-ah, wee-ah*. Get used to the sound... it's going to happen a lot.
*Wee-ah, wee-ah* Selective breeding allows for alleles considered to be beneficial to become a bigger proportion of the population. These alleles can be naturally present, but they can also arise from mutation. Mutation can play a role in selective breeding, by providing the material upon which selection acts.
Wiggs proceeds to talk about increasing the sugar concentraion in sugar beet, and explains this hits a plateau. Fine; the rate of mutation is not especially high, so maximising sugar concentration by selection can only get you so far. In addition, there will be trade-offs involved, so there may well be a limit to sugar conctration. This does precisely dick-all damage to evolution. He points out the sugar beet didn't chaneg into a potato. Well, no... why would it? If potato-like characteristics were being selected for, it would have become more like a potato, but there are constraints on the sugar beet, such as its role within the plant, that mean its ability to change is limited. If we selected for potato-like traits for hundreds of generations, we could produce something more like a potato as mutation increased the potato-like characteristics we were selecting... in the 70 years Wiggs references, the amount of mutations is probably too small to allow the beet to change hugely... and they WEREN'T TRYING TO MAKE IT A GODDAMN POTATO!
And who is next to flutter over the horizon? Ah yes, the peppered moth, friend to creationist and evolutionist alike. I'm just going to set off the alarm now, because Wiggs is going to make many errors here. *Wee-ah, wee-ah*. Actually I'm a little harsh, his explanation of the basic story is one of the better ones I've read, he doesn't pretend the dark morph randomly emerged but acknowledges that it is a low frequency polymorphism (although not in those words). He does criticise Kettlewell for staging the photographs, but that's fair because he did... although to suggest this impacts on the objectivity of evolutionists (I assume he means scientists) in general elicits a brief peep from the bullshit alarm. Actually, I fail to understand his moth point... he just seems to suggest that the allele frequency in the popualtion did not change, despite historical evidence, i.e. every account of the study, suggesting it does. I am now going to replace the bullshit alarm, as it has just exploded.

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