When dealing with the similarities between closely related species, they claim that the similarities (and differences) are due to design and not evolution. They claim that evolution cannot account for the differences between, say, humans and chimps. Only intelligent design can do that.
In an attempt2 to show them that evolution CAN account for the differences between humans and chimps/bonobos, I wrote up a description of how Neutral Theory and random genetic drift produce genomes that differ by 22 million positions if we take the fossil evidence at face value and assume that chimps and humans last shared a common ancestor about 5 million years ago [Why are the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes so similar?].
The point is that Intelligent Design Creationists not only have to account for the fixation of 22 million nearly neutral mutations in each lineage but they also have to explain why their designer choose to do it in a way that looks a lot like evolution from a common ancestor. I was hoping to teach them a little bit about evolution along the way since they seem to be stuck in the 1800's.
Vincent Torley was the first one to respond but he followed a typical creationist pattern. Having failed to understand Neutral Theory, population genetics, genomes, and random genetic drift, he falls back on the argument from ignorance and assumes that they must all be wrong [Fixation: the neutral theory’s Achilles’ heel?]. I tried to correct the most obvious misconceptions in that post [A creationist illustrates the argument from ignorance while trying to understand population genetics and Neutral Theory].
Now he's back for more. This time Vincent Torley is saying that the discussion was not about whether evolution could account for the differences between chimps and humans but whether it can account for the important adaptive differences. He asks: Can the neutral theory of evolution explain what makes us human?.
No, Vincent, you can't account for all the distinctive differences between humans and chimpanzees by only looking at the fixation of nearly neutral alleles. What ever gave you that idea? Adaptation and natural selection play an important role in the evolution of species.
Let's look at Vincent Torley's recent post to see how he lies and moves the goalposts in order to avoid dealing with the fact that evolution, and not Intelligent Design Creationism, can account for fixation of 22 million nearly neutral alleles in the human genome.
Recall that Vincent Torley wrote a long post about all of his objections to Neutral Theory and random genetic drift [Fixation: the neutral theory’s Achilles’ heel?]. He didn't believe that it could take one million years to fix these neutral mutations in the evolving human population and he expressed doubt that nearly neutral mutations could be fixed at a rate equal to the mutation rate. In fact, he even expressed doubt about the mutation rate.
Now he claims that he was arguing about something entirely different. He says,
When I expressed doubt in a recent post that an accumulation of minor mutations could account for the macroevolutionary transition leading to the emergence of human beings from a primate ancestor, Professor Moran reiterated his position:We've shifted back to an earlier discussion about macroevolution where Vincent Torley asked, "Does Professor Larry Moran (or anyone else) understand macroevolution?." I answered that post on March 20th with: What do Intelligent Design Creationists really think about macroevolution?.
I recently wrote up a little description of the differences between the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes showing that those differences are perfectly consistent with everything we know about mutation rates and the fixation of alleles in populations [Why are the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes so similar?]. In other words, I answered Vincent Torley’s question.
One of the claims made by Vincent Torley was that we don't understand macroevolution because there's not enough time for it to occur. (Remember that Torley is a philosopher so it's not surprising that many of his question could be answered by any university student who took a biology course.) He said,
Third, you can’t really claim to understand a mechanism for getting from A to B unless you can demonstrate – at least with back-of-the-envelope calculations – that the mechanism is capable of getting from A to B in the time available. If you are unable to produce the required calculations, then your claim to understand how the process works is tantamount to nothing more than hand-waving. As it turns out, scientific arguments that there’s plenty of time for macroevolution are fundamentally flawed, which means that evolutionary biologists are back at square one.That's when I replied that I had already answered this question with calculations showing that the evolution of chimps and humans from a common ancestor was consistent with evolution. I did the back-of-the-envelope calculations and showed him that we understand the mechanism for getting from A to B.
Now, I am no expert when it comes to mutations. But I do know something about human evolution – I’ve been studying it, on and off, since I was about eleven. So in today’s post, I’d like to explain some of the reasons why I don’t believe that neutral mutations (or nearly neutral ones) have a hope in Hades of accounting for the complexity of the human brain.I agree with Vincent Torley. The differences in the complexities of chimp and human brains are almost certainly due, in part, to adaptation and fixation of beneficial alleles by natural selection.
Here's what Torley says about me ...
Professor Moran’s view: 22.4 million neutral mutations were what made us human.That's such a distortion of what I said that it counts as a deliberate attempt to misrepresent my position. In other words, it's a lie.
At no time have I ever denied that natural selection plays a role in the evolution of humans. It would be ridiculous to do that. What I was doing is pointing out that the IDiots have a lot of explaining to do if they are going to account for the differences between chimps and humans because the vast majority of those differences are entirely consistent with the fixation of nearly neutral alleles according to modern evolutionary theory (population genetics). I was also showing them that evolution can account for macroevolution.
Torley makes the case for selection of better brains in the past 300,000 years. He then says,
Readers will recall that one implication of the neutral and near-neutral theories of evolution espoused by Professors Myers and Moran was that new traits should have taken 1,100,000 years to get fixed in the human population, if they were the product of neutral (or near-neutral) mutations. But here we have a biological trait that shaped the course of human history, that did not exist prior to 300,000 years ago!Is it possible that Vincent Torley is just too stupid to understand the difference between fixing neutral alleles by random genetic drift and fixing beneficial alleles by natural selection? Or, is he deliberately trying to mislead his fellow IDiots by lying about what I meant in my posts?3
Torley concludes with ...
In conclusion: there appear to have been at least four changes in the development of the human brain over the last few million years, which can only be described as beneficial. In addition, the most recent of these changes emerged and fixed itself within the human population far more quickly than allowed for by the neutral theory of evolution. The neutral theory of evolution thus appears to be woefully deficient, as an account of what makes us human.It's an exaggeration to imply that none of the neutral alleles contribute to what makes us human but I agree with the general idea that Neutral Theory, by itself, can't account for why we are different from chimps.
WARNING: I'm about to post the final sentence from Vincent Torley's latest post. You should turn off your irony meters.
I’d like to close with a short quote from the late John Maynard Keynes. "When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?"
BTW, don't read the comments under Torley's post. It can be very depressing. It makes you realize that the level of ignorance we're dealing with is way beyond our ability to fix it with a few posts about evolution. Remember, Uncommon Descent is one of the best blogs on Intelligent Design Creationism. You won't find another where the level of discourse is any better. Where are all the smart ID proponents? Why don't they speak up and correct the mistakes made by their colleagues?
1. Yes, even the Theistic Evolution Creationists.
2, Apparently futile, since the stupidity and bias of the IDiots resists all attempts.
3. Yes, yes, I know. These are not mutually exclusive. He could be both stupid AND a liar.