At Long Last Scientifically Verifiable Evidence of the Long Sought After Eight Winged Dragonfly!!!

An interesting debate took place between Donald Protheros and Michael Shermer on the one side and Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg on the other.

Two years ago Donald Protheros wrote the book, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters with a foreword by Michael Shermer which, in part, stated,

the best book ever written on the subject…Don’s visual presentation of the fossil and genetic evidence for evolution is so unmistakably powerful that I venture to say that no one could read this book and still deny the reality of evolution.

Ah, now we see whence Richard Dawkins got his idea of promulgating his book The Greatest Show on Earth as somehow forcing a conclusion that God does not exist as inferred from biology (see reviews on Dawkins’ book here, here, here and here).

As Jonathan Wells, who reported on the debate, notes:

Of course, “evolution” can mean many things, most of which nobody would deny even without Prothero’s book. For example, evolution can mean simply change over time, or minor changes in existing species (“microevolution”), neither of which any sane person doubts. Both Shermer and Prothero, however, make it clear that by “evolution” they mean Darwin’s theory that all living things are descended from a common ancestor, modified principally by natural selection acting on unguided variations (“macroevolution”).

The modern version of the theory asserts that new variations originate in genetic mutations. Some of the most dramatic mutations occur in “Hox genes,” which can determine which appendages develop in various parts of the body. On page 101 of his book, Prothero shows pictures of two Hox gene mutations: “antennapedia,” which causes a fruit fly to sprout legs instead of antennae from its head, and “ultrabithorax,” which causes a fruit fly to develop a second pair of wings from it midsection. But both of these are harmful: A fruit fly with legs sticking out of its head is at an obvious disadvantage, and a four-winged fruit fly has no flight muscles in its extra pair of wings, so it has trouble flying and mating. Both mutants can survive only in the laboratory; in the wild they would quickly be eliminated by natural selection.

Some Darwinists have suggested that ancestral four-winged fruit flies could have evolved by mutation into modern two-winged fruit flies. But this explanation doesn’t work, because a two-winged fly hasn’t simply lost a pair of wings; it has acquired a large and complex gene (ultrabithorax) that enables it to develop “halteres,” or balancers. The halteres are located behind the fly’s normal pair of wings and vibrate rapidly to stabilize the insect in flight. So the two-winged fly represents the gain—not loss—of an important structure. (See Chapter 9 of my book Icons of Evolution [there is now a book and DVD]).

Prothero ignores the evidence and suggests that ancestral four-winged flies simply mutated into modern two-winged flies. Modern four-winged mutants, he writes on page 101, “have apparently changed their regulatory genes so that ancestral wings appeared instead of halteres.”

Not only does Prothero ignore the evidence from developmental genetics, but he also invents an imaginary animal to complete the story he wants us to believe. Page 195 of his book carries an illustration of an eighteen-winged dragonfly next to a normal four-winged dragonfly, with the following caption: “The evolutionary mechanism by which Hox genes allow arthropods to make drastic changes in their number and arrangement of segments and appendages, producing macroevolutionary changes with a few simple mutations.

Yet there is no evidence that eighteen-winged dragonflies ever existed. There are lots of dragonflies in the fossil record, but none of them remotely resemble this fictitious creature. No matter. In what Michael Shermer calls “the best book ever written on the subject,” Donald Prothero simply makes up whatever evidence he wants.[1]

Robert Crowther wrote a smack down account of the debate.

It is rather interesting that when evidence fails to support their theory the Darwinism equals God does not exist crowd do not change their theory but manipulate, or in this case invent, “evidence.” The artist in the best friend of this crowd as when evidence does not exist they can paint it, draw it or sculpt it.

Listen to a debate between Stephen Meyer, Richard Sternberg, Donald Prothero and Michael Shermer at this link.

[1] Jonathan Wells, “Donald Protheros Imaginary Evidence for Evolution - Need evidence for Darwinian evolution? Just make it up,” Evolution News, December 1, 2009
This essay is copyrighted by Mariano of the “Atheism is Dead” blog at http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com.
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  1. Are there inconsistencies in the current theory of evolution? Of course. The same could be said of almost every single other theory in science. I don't hear the creationists questioning the theory of infectious disease, or the theory of relativity, despite the fact that somebody, somewhere could probably come up with some kind of instance where they seem to fail.

    It is abundantly obvious to any NEUTRAL observer (read: non-religious, without a religious agenda) that the ultimate reason the creationists and ID crowd seek to discredit the theory of evolution and not other scientific theories that do just as good a job at explaining the world is because evolution clashes so profoundly with their deepest-held beliefs. The same could not be said of the theory of relativity, for example. And that exposes the real agenda of the creationists.

    Mariano, allow me to edit your last paragraph:
    "It is rather interesting that when evidence fails to support their theory the [creationist] crowd do not change their theory but manipulate, or in this case invent, 'evidence.'"

    There, that sounds about right. In a few years, when new archaeological discoveries, new genetic advancements, and new biological achievements are made further improving and bolstering evolution, I have no doubt that the creationists will move the goal post... again, and again.

    Of course evolution does not disprove the existence of a god--on that I agree with you. But what it does do is cut the legs out from under much of Christianity and other religious traditions.

  2. Secularist10,
    Thanks for the comment.
    This is not about "inconsistencies in the current theory of evolution" this is about pretending that a drawing is evidence.


  3. But Mariano, this post is "about pretending that a drawing is evidence" to what end? No reasonable person would ever say that a drawing of a funny-looking creature is proof of that creature's existence. There is no debate on that point.

    Obviously, I haven't read the book in question, but I suspect you are extracting one unusual-seeming thing from it (a tactic you have criticized anti-Bible people of doing)--for what purpose? Presumably for the purpose of discrediting the larger theory or idea being expounded.

    Furthermore, the bulk of this post is taken up by rhetoric critical of the theory of evolution, not the theory of drawing funny pictures.

    So I ask you a bit more pointedly, do you accept evolution?

  4. I guess if you can't draw your lies, it's best to write them down in a big, thick, old book.

  5. Secularist10

    From your first paragraph apparently the only neutral reader who can draw a conclusion from any study of the theory of evoluyion is one who is a) not religious or b) has no religious agenda? So your in essence saying that only an atheist or an agnostic can possibly understand yet alone be allowed to comment on these things? A fairly elitist position.

    Personally I myself can say I'm quite comfortable with the theory of evolution. It does not in any way destroy any of my deepest held beliefs. In fact I fail to even see why atheists would want to use it in an attempt to destroy God.

    Though thats just my musings in the subject for now. All in all Mariano simply shows that hard core Darwinists simply abuse the scientific procedure to disprove something that their cherished theory doesn't even touch.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

  6. You go, Mariano! Show those strawmen who's boss!

    Of course, Prothero never claimed that the drawing portrayed an actual creature. The drawing was only meant to illustrate how large body changes can come about through fairly minor changes to genes. That concept is absolutely true and well-evidenced.

    Do yourself a favor and stick to theology, because your science posts aren't convincing anyone.

  7. Anonymous,
    Fair enough; when I said "religious" I was thinking of those who come to the question of where humans and the complexity of life came from with a specific religious assumption. But I can understand how that can be misunderstood.

    The point is that, when approaching a question, one cannot believe anything at the beginning that could influence one's conclusion or one's interpretation of evidence--which many religious people do.

    In any case, there's no reason to give religion the benefit of the doubt on this issue, given its long dubious history vis-a-vis science and knowledge.

    And as I said, evolution in no way disproves or "destroys God" per se. But it does neuter much of traditional religious claims about the origin of humans and of life.

    And you have not addressed the fact that most of this post is taken up by rhetoric critical of the theory of evolution, not critical of the theory of drawing funny pictures.

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  9. One thing that the Hox argument always seems to overlook: Timing and placement are as specific and critical as the actual construction (design) of said biochemistry. Gene knockout - any disruption in the cascade involved with Sonic Hedgehog (SHh) tends to have... well, interesting consequences. (Full figure can be found here.)

    All arguments involving Hox mutations - besides the apparent deleterious or wasteful effects on the organism - tend to overlook one simple point: The necessary complexity of the entire genetic cascade before the mutation ever occurred.

    Cart before the horse, so to speak - evolutionists can play the salesman with how mutation can (with alot of imagination) be the Vegas-style bioengineer for hopeful monsters... But they always seem to overlook (unintentionally most times) just how exactly (experimentally, verifiably, observationally) all of that genetic machinery - along with the narrow parameters for its timing both in upstream and downstream genetic events - actually came about in the first place.

    Gould was especially notorious at this - he could point to what he thought was Hox gene "conservation" across the taxonomic board (like saying that all cars use certain gauge bolts), but always came up short in the operational scientific department when it came time to actually show the conservation of Hox genes via macro evolution, much less the actual bioengineering of the Hox machinery/timing via natural selection and mutation. (Or any other biochemical machinery/timing, for that matter.)

    But, as with Gould and Darwin, faithful researchers will never have a shortage of how hopeful monsters can be construed (via National Geographic artists) as "looking like" signposts for Darwin's Grand Unifying Hypothesis. Great story tellers, these.

  10. TaTSbro

    You take away speculative drawings and you are left with not much with regards to actual scientific evidence for evolutionary theory.

    "The drawing was only meant to illustrate how large body changes can come about through fairly minor changes to genes"

    No one denies that fact. That problem lies when its taught as more than just an illustration. The fact is, most of evolutionary theory, the kind in which describes the origins of man relies on more speculation rather than actual scientific observation and experimentation. A rather blatant point already made in the blog post.

    "That concept is absolutely true and well-evidenced."

    Then why in the world do they constantly think up and draw speculative illustrations? I would rather see the mountains of supposed scientific evidence than a bunch of speculative drawings from a biased mind