If The Design Is So Intelligent, Why Aren’t Its Followers?
The Design of Life is an ID creationist lie-fest passing itself off as a textbook. It’s written by two of the biggest proponents of this religious non-science, William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells, who both work at the Discovery Institute clown college. This book is actually just a retitled third edition of the book Of Pandas and People that got laughed out of the Kitzmiller v. Dover creationism trial.
One of their tactics for promoting the book is by having a blog, where they post sciency articles that creationist stooges like Denyse O’Leary and Access Research Network (see earlier BoF articles here, here, and here) can then trumpet over and over in their own blogs.
So over on the Design of Life blog is a post titled “The Tree of Life and Speciation – the odd case of the beefalo”, written by Jane Harris-Zsovan. All I could find out about Jane Harris-Zsovan is that she’s an anti-science writer living in Canada. Let’s see what she has to say about the Beefalo and how it proves ID creationism or disproves evolution or demonstrates perpetual motion, or whatever crazy claim she has (I still haven’t figured out what her goal is here).
Does the classification system used by biologists accurately reflect the path of natural selection through the generations? And does it trace the differentiation of species? Not necessarily.
Stop the presses! Oh wait. That’s something we already knew. I guess it’s news to the ID creationists, though. Those people don’t know a whole lot of science.
Taxonomy is an attempt to describe and classify all living organisms. Closely related to that is Systematics, which studies how these organisms are related to each other through evolution. It’s a little more complicated and nuanced than that, but hopefully those definitions will work well enough for this article.
OK, so scientists want to know what all the plants, animals, fungi, etc. are, and how they all evolved. They’ve come up with the classification scheme that we know today. Ideally, the taxonomic charts that we’ve put together would accurately reflect exactly how everything is related and how they evolved. There’s going to be a little bit of error here. In the old days, they had to rely on morphology and other techniques to puzzle out relationships. Things have gotten a lot better now that we have genetics, but there are still places that need tweaking.
Anyway, so we have animals classified into different orders, genera, species, etc. It’s not a perfect classification, partly due to historical inertia. It takes time to get everybody to agree that there’s enough evidence to justify calling something a new sub-species or merging two genera or such. Until that consensus emerges, we continue to use the old classification. Remember, there are millions of species, and there aren’t that many people working just on taxonomy and systematics. This stuff takes time to resolve.
So in Harris-Zsovan’s article published on the Design of Life blog, she’s claiming that the current taxonomic charts aren’t perfect. We already knew that. What’s your point, Jane? And how does that help your claim? And just what is your claim? Well, let’s delve deeper into the article.
Consider the Bovoids, genus bison (for example, the North American buffalo) and genus bos (for example, domesticated cattle).
Now might be a good time to look at their relative taxonomies.
|Species||Bison bison||Bos taurus|
Notice how closely related the two are. They’re even in the same sub-family, only splitting at the genus level. Theoretically, two organisms of the same genus but different species cannot mate and produce fertile offspring. In the case of the bison and cattle, we’re even going one level higher than that: same sub-family but different genera. If the guys who put this table together are correct, the two can’t interbreed. (Remember, though, that nature is a broad continuum. It is only humans who want to put things into artificial boxes. The boundaries between boxes are often blurry in real life.)
According to most theories of speciation, a cross between two genera (such as genus bison and genus bos) after a geographical separation of many thousands of years is unlikely.
Actually, time has nothing to do with it. If the animals have been correctly cataloged and truly are of different genera, they wouldn’t be able to interbreed and produce fertile offspring, even if they’re sharing the same pasture.
But tell that to a rancher in Western Canada or the United States where buffalo bison, raised on ranches, are interbred with cattle. (These animals have been known to interbreed since the 18th century.) The resulting offspring are called beefalo or cattalo.
As she points out, this is not news, so I’m still having trouble figuring out what this has to do with ID creationism or evolution or the Roswell crash (or whatever she’s trying to convince us of).
Both domestic cattle and American bison can interbreed with their cousin, the European bison (the wisent), as well as with yaks and other members of the bos genus. A cattle/wisent cross is called a zubron. A yak/cattle hybrid is known as a dzo.
Hybridization of European and American bison does not appear to cause fertility problems even in first generation males. Some taxonomists argue that the wisent and the American bison are not separate species at all.
Those taxonomists are probably correct. It looks like the charts need to be updated. This is science in action. When new data come in, you revise your hypothesis accordingly.
Ancestors of American bison and European bison are thought have descended from an ancient relative in Southern Asia over 400,000 years ago in the Pliocene epoch.
But, after millennia of separation, European and North American bison are still recognizable as bison.
BFD. Crocodiles are still recognizable as crocodiles after millions of years. All that means is that their environment has been relatively stable and hasn’t produced much evolutionary pressure.
Darwin’s theory of speciation through natural selection would predict that the hybridization of cows and yaks with bison is quite unlikely.
What? Who says? Show me where in evolutionary biology it says that populations separated geographically for thousands of years are required to be separate species. If the environments are similar and there are no other evolutionary pressures, you would expect them to remain the same species! (Genetic drift is one factor that could cause speciation, but that’s random and could just as easily not happen.)
She then points out (as I did in the table above) that bison and cattle are in two different genera.
The existence of the beefalo and its cousins, the dzo and zubron, show us that – after millennia of separation – the gene pool of individuals in the genus bison and genus bos has not changed enough to make interbreeding impossible.
Yes, Jane. So what’s your point?
And, in the case of European bison and American bison, there is debate as to whether speciation has fully occurred.
Yes, Jane. So what’s your point?
Clearly, the Darwinian theory of speciation by natural selection is not the whole story. Maybe it’s not the true story at all.
What?! That’s your whole thesis? I read this whole article just to find out you’re retarded?! Just to find out that you have no concept of how evolution works?
I’ll repeat my question from above: Where in “Darwinian” theory, or anywhere else in biology for that matter, does it say that speciation has to occur? And since you brought it up, where in this narrative is the natural selection? There’s no selection pressure! Without selection, speciation by natural selection can’t happen!
“[S]peciation by natural selection is not the whole story”, because it’s not any part of this story, you freaking moron!
And even if this were somehow a flaw in evolutionary theory (it’s not), how does that prove Intelligent Design creationism? It doesn’t! Once again, the ID-iot creatards think that proving the moon isn’t green somehow proves that it’s purple!
Once — just once — I’d like to read an article by these people that showed an understanding of any of the following:
Take your pick, Jane. Just one is all I ask.