Jan 102007
 

“Darwin’s primary interest [was] the modification of living forms under the selective influence of the environment”. Magnificent as his grasp of this aspect of biology is, it is counterbalanced by a curious lack of interest in the nature of the organism itself”. It is difficult to find in Darwin any really deep recognition of the life of the organism as a functioning whole which must be coordinated interiorly before it can function exteriorly.” Loren Eisely

Craig Holdrege over at The Nature Institute has a very interesting point:

I sometimes wonder why no one has maintained that the giraffe has, in reality, a short neck. If you observe a giraffe drinking or, as they occasionally do, grazing close to the ground, then you know what I mean (see Figure 4). Giraffes do not drink often, but when they do, they have to either splay their forelegs to the side or bend their forelegs strongly at the wrist joint. Both procedures take time and are awkward for the giraffe. But only in this way can it get the tip of its mouth down to the surface of the water. So, looked at from the perspective of drinking, the giraffe has a very short neck. Antelopes and zebras reach the ground without bending their legs, and the long-legged elephant has its trunk to compensate for its short neck. Only the giraffe (and its rain forest relative, the Okapi) have necks that are so short relative to their legs and chest that they must splay or bend their legs.

So why hasn’t the giraffe become famous for its manifestly short neck? Why don’t we have evolutionary hypotheses explaining how the giraffe got its short neck? It is because the giraffe’s neck, in other respects or from other perspectives, is long. No other mammal has such a long neck in absolute terms or in relation to the length of its torso. We all have seen (in life or in pictures) and been amazed by the standing giraffe, its long neck sailing skyward, in comparison to which the ungainly, short-necked drinking giraffe appears as exceptional, almost unfortunate behavior.

Whether the neck is long or short depends on our perspective and on the behavioral or anatomical context we are focusing on. We only understand the giraffe when we view it from various perspectives and let the giraffe show different aspects of its being. The moment we focus solely on the “long neck”– and on it solely in terms of a food-gathering or some other strategy– we’ve lost the reality of the giraffe.

read the whole essay here

  39 Responses to “Does the Giraffe Really Have a Long Neck?”

  1. Thanks inunison. A very nice post demonstrating lateral thinking.

  2. Another interesting thing about the giraffe’s short neck is that it is made up of seven vertebrae – exactly the same number as you and I. Compare that to the swan, with (I think) 24 vertebrae in the neck.

    It is intriguing to consider the design perspective (assuming for a moment a design scenario that precludes macroevolution). Why did the designer give the giraffe such a rubbish neck. A bit longer to reach the water would not be that difficult techincally – not for someone who designed the bacterial flagellum surely. And perhaps a few more vertebrae would not go a miss?

    Of course this takes us into the taboo world of pondering the nature of the designer and the design process. We are left to conclude that either the giraffe evolved (perhaps from some precursor created in the Cambrian?) OR the designer was not too bright, and was not the same entity that designed all the good stuff OR the designer has an odd sense of humour.

  3. the Pixie:
    Why did the designer give the giraffe such a rubbish neck.

    Just because you or someone think’s it’s rubbish doesn’t make it so. Also a perceived flaw does not make it a non-designed structure. We have many examples of engineering disasters as proof that flaws do exist in designed objects.

    The only way the 7-vert neck scheme works in a Common Descent scenario (or any alleged homologous structure for that matter) is if said structures are derived from homologous genes and via similar developmental pathways. However we know that isn’t so.

    Also it is obvious the designer of living organisms is much smarter than we will ever be.

    Is that all you have (the) Pixie?

    It is really unfortunate that I cannot post on the ARN DB. It is also unfortunate that the ARN DB is dominated by anti-IDists who get away with misrepresnting reality. Life is full of litlle ironies…

  4. Oops-

    Another option is that the original population of giraffe’s did not have this perceived issue. But that it “evolved” due to the random effects on a once good design.

    Narrowmindedness is not a good quality…

  5. Hi Pixie,

    How would disadvantageous traits like this survive the selection process? I thought we were in an evolutionary arms race.

  6. Joe G

    Just because you or someone think’s it’s rubbish doesn’t make it so.

    That seemed to be the point of the article. If the neck was rather longer, the giraffe could drink water so much more easily.

    Also a perceived flaw does not make it a non-designed structure. We have many examples of engineering disasters as proof that flaws do exist in designed objects.

    Of course not. I mentioned three possibilities that include design in my post. Did you not read it?

    The only way the 7-vert neck scheme works in a Common Descent scenario (or any alleged homologous structure for that matter) is if said structures are derived from homologous genes and via similar developmental pathways. However we know that isn’t so.

    I was not aware that we know that. Do you have a link to a site that says exactly how we know that? I was guessing the seven neck vertebrae was common across mammals (or perhaps placental mammals), because of the similarity in the genes. I will be interested to see why this is not so.

    Also it is obvious the designer of living organisms is much smarter than we will ever be.

    And yet He did not think to make the giraffe’s neck a few inches longer…

    Is that all you have (the) Pixie?

    I am afraid so. I am by no means an expert on giraffes.

    It is really unfortunate that I cannot post on the ARN DB. It is also unfortunate that the ARN DB is dominated by anti-IDists who get away with misrepresnting reality. Life is full of litlle ironies”

    Strange how that ID forum has banned so many IDists.

    Another option is that the original population of giraffe’s did not have this perceived issue. But that it “evolved” due to the random effects on a once good design.

    That is the sort of thing I was thinking of when I said, in the context of design scenarios, “the giraffe evolved”.

    Narrowmindedness is not a good quality”

    Very true.

  7. Teleologist

    How would disadvantageous traits like this survive the selection process? I thought we were in an evolutionary arms race.

    If the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, that would explain it. It is like the fancy displays of male birds, most particularly in peacocks, where the disadvange of being easily spoted by predactors and even hampered in flight are outweighed by the advantage of attracting the female.

  8. If the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, that would explain it.

    This does not appear to be the case here. Darwinists are still left with the dilemma of finding that elusive “beneficial advantage” to explain this selection.

  9. the Pixie,

    Start with Gavin de Beer’s Homology: An Unsolved Problem– that has only been around for some 36 years. He states:

    homologous structures need not be controlled by identical genes

    and that

    the inheritance of homologous structures from a common ancestor”cannot be ascribed to identity of genes.

    I read it back in 1978 when I really started questioning the whole deal. Which was just after I read Grasse- I was big time into zoology and marine biology at the time.

    Mice have a gene similar to the gene that can transform a fly’s antennae into a leg (Antennapedia). Mice do not have antennae and their gene affects the hindbrain.

    Mice and flies share the “eyeless” gene but that leads to the development of radically different eyes.

    Another reference would be- David Cannatella, review of Homology: The Hierarchical Basis of Comparative Anatomy, ed. B.K. Hall, and Homoplasy: The Recurrence of Similarity, ed. M.J. Sanderson and L. Hufford, Evolution in Systematic Biology 46 (1997): 369

    Embryology does not contribute to comparative morphology by providing evidence of limb homology in the form of an unchanging pattern of condensation common to all tetrapod limbs

    That was from- Richard Hincliffe, “Towards a Homology of Process: Evolutionary Implications of Experimental Studies on the Generation of Skeletal Patterns in Avian Limb Development” in Organizational Constraints on the Dynamics of Evolution, ed. J. Maynard Smith and G. Vida (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), 121.

    Or if you can get a copy of Denton’s “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis”- chapter 7 is The Failure of Homology.

  10. Hi The Pixie,

    Point of this article is to demonstrate failure of reductionism to account for complexity of living organisms. Evolutionary Biology (EB) is almost solely focused on this reductionist view of nature. There are so many levels of complexity in the living world that we can observe and EB haven’t even touched on explaining that reality.

  11. Teleologist

    This does not appear to be the case here. Darwinists are still left with the dilemma of finding that elusive “beneficial advantage” to explain this selection.

    Sure. There are lots of questions to be answered in science. That does not mean we should abandon the existing theories. If the answers turn out to contreadict an existing theory, then we can consider revising or perhaps even rejecting the theory. It will be interesting to see what Darwinist scientists come up with in the next decade, compared to ID scientists.

  12. Joe G

    I am not getting your point. From earlier: “The only way the 7-vert neck scheme works in a Common Descent scenario (or any alleged homologous structure for that matter) is if said structures are derived from homologous genes and via similar developmental pathways. However we know that isn’t so.” Are you saying that we know this is never the case? I assumed before that you were saying we know it is true in the specific case of the 7 vertebrae neck, but as you are now talking in general terms about homology, it sounds you are making the more general claim.

    Start with Gavin de Beer’s Homology: An Unsolved Problem- that has only been around for some 36 years.

    Only? 36 years is a long time in science.

    homologous structures need not be controlled by identical genes

    I think the term is used differently nowadays, at least by some people. Eg, from Wiki: “In genetics, homology is measured by comparing protein or DNA sequences. Two homologous genes share a high sequence identity or similarity, supporting the hypothesis that they share a common ancestor. Sequence homology may also indicate common function.

    It is now clear that the pride with which it was assumed that the inheritance of homologous structures from a common ancestor explained homology was misplaced; for such inheritance cannot be ascribed to identity of genes. The attempt to find `homologous genes, except in closely related species, has been given up as hopeless.

    Newsflash! Genetics has come a long way since 1971. Now homologous genes are routinely found in distantly related species. Here is a recent discussion of de Beer’s ideas, to put it in a modern perspective and here is an article about how homology is found by searching databases of gene sequences. This is an interesting discussion on homology too.

    Mice have a gene similar to the gene that can transform a fly’s antennae into a leg (Antennapedia). Mice do not have antennae and their gene affects the hindbrain.

    What a screwed up way to design them!

    Embryology does not contribute to comparative morphology by providing evidence of limb homology in the form of an unchanging pattern of condensation common to all tetrapod limbs

    A google search for this found only 10 sites all with the same article by Wells. It would be interesting to see the quote in context, because frankly, I do not trust Wells to be representing what Hinchliff actually said. Do you have the book? Can you give us some more of the quote? In any case, all the quote says is that embryology does not give any evidence for limb homology; it does not suggest there is no anatomical or genetic evidence for limb homology, or indeed that embryology does not give evidence for other homologies.

    Or if you can get a copy of Denton’s “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” – chapter 7 is The Failure of Homology.

    Is this the chapter that is discussing cytochrome-c? This is something I have discussed at length with Salvador, and Denton got it wrong. Remember that since writing that book, Denton has accepted common descent. That would be odd if he still believed there was reasonable evidence against it. More likely, he realised his mistake and, like any good scientist, revised his views accordingly.

  13. Why did the designer…?

    What a screwed up way to design them!

    All these dysteleological arguments against ID are fallacious! Why? All of these arguments make two false assumptions:

    (1) that the designer must only make things which are pain-free and have no suboptimal features, and
    (2) that the design is indeed suboptimal.

    I wonder what happened with critical and logical thinking in the minds of some Darwinists. These Darwinists are making theological objections which have nothing to do with the scientific theory of intelligent design. I might add that many religions have very good theological answers to these questions.

    Carl Zimmer must be the sloppiest thinking Darwinist around. I really enjoy reading his comments, they are so amusing. One of his claims is that an eye is not designed because our retinas may become detached after “a sharp punch to the head”. This again illustrates that Darwinists view the empirical evidence through a particular theological lens.

    Bottom line: declaring what or how God may not create is just as religious as declaring what or how He does create.

  14. Accepting Common Descent does not mean there is scientific evidence for it.

    WE are not talking about genetics. We are talking about morphological structures that are said to be homologous but are NOT controlled by homologous genes. IOW the quote from Wiki is irrelevant.

    Now alleged homologous genes assumes a common ancestor and refuses to consider a Common Design.

    Denton discusses much more than cytochrome-c.

    Mice have a gene similar to the gene that can transform a fly’s antennae into a leg (Antennapedia). Mice do not have antennae and their gene affects the hindbrain.

    the Pixie:
    What a screwed up way to design them!

    It may be to you, but who the heck are you? As far as I can tell you are just some anonymous anti-IDists who doesn’t even understand the basics. Also it appears that you have found a test for design. Imagine that…

    Also since 1971 genetics has done nothing but support de Beer.

    I don’t trust the NCSE. They are known liars.

    The following is an essay on Homology and Homoplasy

  15. The bottom line is Common Descent needs to explain the DIFFERENCES observed between populations but instead all it can do is try to explain the similarities.

    Guess what? No one can even explain the physiological and anatomical differences observed between chimps and humans. And no one can tell us why the giraffe is like it is using genetics or any other methodology. All we do know is giraffes come from the successful mating of giraffes. There isn’t any data that demonstrates they “evolved” from a population of non-giraffes.

  16. Does the Pixie understand how it was detrmined that sequences are homologous and therefore evidence for Common Descent? Sequence similarity coupled by the perceived odds against such a sequence similarity being formed via convergence. IOW morphological convergence has been observed so it is no longer disputed. But genetic convergence can never be real. Any genetic similarities HAS to be due to Common Descent- all at the a priori exclusion of a Common Design.

    And there is still the fact that alleged homologous genes affect different parts of development in different organisms. That alone refutes Gishlick’s diatribe.

  17. Inunison

    All these dysteleological arguments against ID are fallacious! Why? All of these arguments make two false assumptions:

    So let me see if I have this straight. We have this gene that gives flies antennae and does something to the hindbrain of mice. You guys think this does not fit with common descent, because of what exactly? But you think it is quite reasonable for the creator to design it that way? Evolution is a messy business, using ad hoc solutions based onlimited materias (what the organism is like today, and what mutation happen along). There is no forward planning. Such a scenario will produce a messy genome.

    You may feel happy with a creator who designs an apparently messy genome. The beauty of ID is that we cannot know ether way. But why you feel the messy genome precludes common descent but allows ID is beyond me.

    Bottom line: declaring what or how God may not create is just as religious as declaring what or how He does create.

    No, that is theoloy. You do not have to be religious to discuss theology as far as I know.

  18. Joe G

    Accepting Common Descent does not mean there is scientific evidence for it.

    You think Denton believes things he has no evidence for? He is an IDist…

    WE are not talking about genetics. We are talking about morphological structures that are said to be homologous but are NOT controlled by homologous genes. IOW the quote from Wiki is irrelevant.

    Structures that are morphologically homologous, but not controlled by homologous genes are due to convergent evolution, not common descent. What has this to do with the 7 vertebrae neck by the way?

    I don’t trust the NCSE. They are known liars.

    Fine, look at other web sites, and find out about homology in the twenty-first century.

    Or is it the case that any web site that disagrees with you must be by liars?

    The following is an essay on Homology and Homoplasy

    I don’t trust XYZ. They are known liars.

    Does the Pixie understand how it was detrmined that sequences are homologous and therefore evidence for Common Descent? Sequence similarity coupled by the perceived odds against such a sequence similarity being formed via convergence. IOW morphological convergence has been observed so it is no longer disputed. But genetic convergence can never be real. Any genetic similarities HAS to be due to Common Descent- all at the a priori exclusion of a Common Design.

    What is your basis for supposing that “genetic convergence can never be real”?

  19. On the homology and homoplasy article…

    The difficulty is determining whether similar structures are homologous or homoplasious, because similarity, does not necessarily imply common ancestry….

    Fair comment.

    As Gavin De Beer points out:

    “Homologous structures need not be controlled by identical genes, and homology of phenotypes does not imply similarity of genotypes.” Gavin De Beer, Homology, an Unsolved Problem (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), 16.

    As I read this I am thinking that what de Beer is describing is homoplasious, that is the features are not due to common ancestry, given that the genes are different.

    Now the problem with using homology to show common ancestry is that it is quite circular. Jonathan Wells points this out

    The funny thing is that homology was used by the creationist Linnaeus to produce the nested hierarchy before Darwin proposed common descent. So did Linnaeus use common descent to devise the nested hierarchy?

    Wells’ nonsense is address in the link I provided earlier.

  20. Joe G, wrt The “eyeless” gene:
    From here:

    The eyeless gene appears to produce a protein that appears to be a transcription factor. The current hypothesis is that when expresses, this protein binds to a specific set of genes and basically says ‘make eyes’. The discovery of this ‘master control gene’ will help researchers coordinate the extensive data they already have on some of the genes involved with the development of vision, and will also probably reveal the presence of many other vision-associated genes.

    Also, see this technical article about the “eyeless” gene, which ends “After all, Darwin was right again.”I am not convinced this is the big problem for common descent that you seem to think it is.

  21. the Pixie:
    You may feel happy with a creator who designs an apparently messy genome.

    It is only apparently messy because of our ignorance. Also, I have told you already, just because it is “messy” now does not mean it was always that way. Just take a look at a new car in a showroom compared to that same car 2000,000 miles and ten years later.

    Master control switches imply intentional design. The fact that the SAME control switches allow for the development of totally different eyes (for example) tells us that they do NOT determione the type of eye. As Denton recently told us:

    It is true that genes influence every aspect of development, but influencing something is not the same as determining it.

    the Pixie:
    The funny thing is that homology was used by the creationist Linnaeus to produce the nested hierarchy before Darwin proposed common descent. So did Linnaeus use common descent to devise the nested hierarchy?

    No Linne used Common Design to devise NH. And that brings us to another point- all evolutionists did was to change the archetype with common ancestor. IOW it is obvious that the SAME evidence leads to different inferences.

    That is why Common Descent needs to explain the differences, yet it cannot.

    One would expect a priori that such a complete change of the philosophical bias of classification would result in a radical change of classification, but this was by no means the case. There was hardly and change in method before and after Darwin, except that “archetype” was replaced by the common ancestor.– Ernst Mayr

    One would not expect nested hierarchy from Common Descent because we know that traits/ characteristics can be gained and lost, only to be regained.

    the Pixie:
    What is your basis for supposing that “genetic convergence can never be real” ?

    John F.Y. Brookfield, “Genetic Redundancy,” Advances in Genetics 36 (1997): 145

    There is “evidence” for Common Descent. There just isn’t any scientific data that would support the claim. We don’t even know what makes an organism what it is beyond the following:

    What makes a fly a fly? In his book (English title) “Why is a Fly not a Horse?” , the prominent Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, tells us the following :

    Chapter VI “Why is a Fly not a horse?” (same as the book’s title)

    The scientist enjoys a privilege denied the theologian. To any question, even one central to his theories, he may reply “I’m sorry but I do not know.” This is the only honest answer to the question posed by the title of this chapter. We are fully aware of what makes a flower red rather than white, what it is that prevents a dwarf from growing taller, or what goes wrong in a paraplegic or a thalassemic. But the mystery of species eludes us, and we have made no progress beyond what we already have long known, namely, that a kitty is born because its mother was a she-cat that mated with a tom, and that a fly emerges as a fly larva from a fly egg.

    And the problem is the SAME structures that de Beer was talking about ARE used as homologous structures. The new claim is the structure was kept but how to get that structure changed.

    BTW isn’t it strange that in one ARN thread you quote AiG dissing ID but in another thread JP sites the AIG CREATION museum and (falsely) ties that to ID?

    And isn’t also very misrepresenatative to talk about ID and the supernatural knowing full well that any anti-ID scenario also requires something super or non natural because natural processes cannot account for the origin of nature because they only exist in nature. There is a metaphysical alternative- saying the universe “just is”.

    IOW you have provided more than enough to warrent distrust.

    And all Gishlick should have done was to show that similar genes and similar developmental pathways lead to similar structures in allegedly related populations. He did not even attempt to do so.

    The 7 vert neck- can you provide any data that shows they all develop the same way or are controlled by similar genes? Give it a shot- ya see that is all you had to do instead of prattling on.

  22. Hi The Pixie,

    You may feel happy with a creator who designs an apparently messy genome.

    I am in no position to judge what Creator did or should have done. It is beyond me that you, somehow, feel qualified to make pronouncements about the Creator.

    You do not have to be religious to discuss theology as far as I know.

    Of course not and I never claimed otherwise. What is your point?

    All I said is that using theological argument (what God should or may do) to prove or support scientific view is false. It only shows that Darwinism, in its foundations, is religious in nature.

  23. Regarding giraffes here is a link to another interesting article by Wolf-Ekkehard Lo?nnig, Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research.

    “The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe”

    and if you can read German go here

  24. Joe G

    It is only apparently messy because of our ignorance.

    Perhaps. And perhaps it only seems a problem to common descent because of our ignorance.

    Also, I have told you already, just because it is “messy” now does not mean it was always that way.

    Of course. It could, for example, have been subject to random muations for the last half billion years. That would certainly make it messy.

    Master control switches imply intentional design.

    Can you talk us through the logic there?

    The fact that the SAME control switches allow for the development of totally different eyes (for example) tells us that they do NOT determione the type of eye.

    I agree.

    It is true that genes influence every aspect of development, but influencing something is not the same as determining it.

    Is he making the definite claim that something other than or in addition to genes determine development? It is not clear from this quote. I appreciate the environment does have a role in some cases, but that is minor. And gene expression is certainly important, but the mechanisms for gene expression come, I would say, from other genes.

    No Linne used Common Design to devise NH. And that brings us to another point- all evolutionists did was to change the archetype with common ancestor. IOW it is obvious that the SAME evidence leads to different inferences.

    Before Darwin, biologists believed in numerous archetypes (something like creationists and “kinds”) so this is not the same as proposing a single common ancestor.

    Common descent implies a nested hierarchy. It needs a nested hierarchy; no nested hierarchy would refute common descent. Common design is compatible with a nested hierarchy. It would survive without a nested hierarchy.

    If you look at the evolution of household appliances, you will find that new features appearing on one model will appear on other models by other manufacturers soon after, and the same between different appliances. For example, nowadays all washing machines and dish washes have microprocessors, no matter who built them. Features like this break the nested hierarchy. Common design suggests no nested hierarchy.

    One would not expect nested hierarchy from Common Descent because we know that traits/ characteristics can be gained and lost, only to be regained.

    Can you explain the logic here?

    John F.Y. Brookfield, “Genetic Redundancy,” Advances in Genetics 36 (1997): 145

    Is this the “Get thee to the library” argument? Are you incapable of debating this?

    There is “evidence” for Common Descent. There just isn’t any scientific data that would support the claim. We don’t even know what makes an organism what it is beyond the following:

    Why does that invalidate the evidence for common descent? Does it also invalidate the evidence for the Krebs cycle?

    And the problem is the SAME structures that de Beer was talking about ARE used as homologous structures. The new claim is the structure was kept but how to get that structure changed.

    I do not understand what you mean?

    BTW isn’t it strange that in one ARN thread you quote AiG dissing ID but in another thread JP sites the AIG CREATION museum and (falsely) ties that to ID?

    Sounds like something to take up with JP. Pity you managed to get yourself banned over there.

    And isn’t also very misrepresenatative to talk about ID and the supernatural knowing full well that any anti-ID scenario also requires something super or non natural because natural processes cannot account for the origin of nature because they only exist in nature. There is a metaphysical alternative- saying the universe “just is” .

    Sorry, I do not get this either. Who am I supposed to be misrepresenting now?

    The 7 vert neck- can you provide any data that shows they all develop the same way or are controlled by similar genes? Give it a shot- ya see that is all you had to do instead of prattling on.

    I was just speculating. It was only a guess that all mammals have 7 vertebrae in the neck. I have since found this site; apparently there are a few exceptions. The the sloth Bradypus has nine. So this supposed designer put seven vertebrae in the animal with the longest neck, but nine in the sloth. Mysterious ways, I guess.

    Of course, this is a falsifiable prediction. Given a biology lab., it should be possible to test the prediction that most mammals have the same number of vertebrae in the neck because of the same genetic sequence.

  25. Inunison

    I am in no position to judge what Creator did or should have done. It is beyond me that you, somehow, feel qualified to make pronouncements about the Creator.

    But if we assume there was a creator, then everything around you is indicative of what he did, what he is (or was) capable of doing, what his purpose was. Just as any work of art tells us something of its creator.

    Inu: Bottom line: declaring what or how God may not create is just as religious as declaring what or how He does create.
    Pix: You do not have to be religious to discuss theology as far as I know.
    Inu: Of course not and I never claimed otherwise. What is your point?
    All I said is that using theological argument (what God should or may do) to prove or support scientific view is false. It only shows that Darwinism, in its foundations, is religious in nature.

    So you said that “using theological argument” “only shows that Darwinism… is religious in nature”. I am chopping this up, but as far as I can see, this is representative of your intent. So I responsed that discussing theology (i.e., “using theological argument”) does not imply you are religious. What am I missing here?

  26. Here:

    On the African savanna, the various herbivores have divided up the savanna in a very finely-grained fashion. There are antelope of almost every shape and size. One big division is between browsers and grazers, and there are all kinds of different ways of browsing and grazing. To pick a random example within grazers, zebras and wildebeest, even though they run around together, eat different portions of the same grass.
    Male giraffes feed the highest up, female giraffes a few feet lower, and juvenile giraffes below that. Baby giraffes are six feet tall when born. They are even taller when they stop nursing a few months later. So even baby giraffes are already above most of the competition. Maybe, just maybe, this has something to do with the “Why does the giraffe have a long neck?” question. (Frank Sonleitner pointed this consideration out to me)

    Here:

    Nor would branches of your vagus nerves extend down from your neck to encircle arteries in your chest on their way back to your throat. Yet that hardly seems inconvenient at all when you consider how those same nerves still loop down into the giraffe’s chest before returning to its voice box. Those extra meters of nerve interposed between brain and voice box make the impressive silence of giraffes a bit less surprising.
    Surely no competent designer would ever build in such an unnecessary delay between thought and vocalization. For while you have often regretted your words immediately, the giraffe has a much longer delay during which to regret messages still en route. But presumably that recurrent laryngeal nerve once followed a straight and narrow path across the short fat neck of your tiny ancestral mammal as it squeaked a quick warning of incoming pterodactyl.

  27. the Pixie:
    Common descent implies a nested hierarchy. It needs a nested hierarchy; no nested hierarchy would refute common descent.

    That is total nonsense for thne very reason I already provided. The logic that traits can be gained, lost and regained is that nested hierarchy is determined by traits!

    Chapter 6 in “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” refutes that Common Descent expects or requires nested hierarchy.

    Whenever classification schemes are drawn up for phenomena which fall into a continuous or obviously sequential pattern– such as climatic zones from the artic to the tropics, subspecies in a circumpolar overlap, the properties of atoms in the periodic table, series of fossil horses, or wind strengths from breeze to hurricane– class boundaries are bound to be relatively arbitrary and indistinct. Most of the classes defined in such schemes are inevitably partially inclusive of other classes, or, in other words, fundamentally intermediate in character with respect to adjacent classes in the scheme. Consequently, when such schemes are depicted in terms of Venn diagrams, most of the classes overlap and the schemes overall have a disorderly appearance.

    A quite different type of classification system is termed hierarchic. In which there are no overlapping or partially inclusive classes, but only classes inclusive or exclusive of other classes. Such schemes exhibit, therefore, an orderly “groups within groups” arrangement in which class boundaries are distinct and the divisions in the system increase in a systematic manner as the hierarchy is ascended. The absence of any overlapping classes implies the absence of any sort of natural sequential relationships among the objects grouped by such a scheme.

    On why traits/ characteristics are importatnt:

    Biological classification is basically the identification of groups of organisms which share certain characteristics in common and its beginnings are therefore as old as man himself. It was Aristotle who first formulated the general logical principles of classification and founded the subject as science. His method employed many of the principles which are still used by biologists today. He was, for example, well aware of the importance of using more than one characteristic as a basis for identifying classes, and he was also aware of the difficult problem which has bedeviled taxonomy ever since: that of selecting the characteristics to be used and weighing their relative significance.

    “While hierarchic schemes correspond beautifully with the typological model of nature, the relationship between evolution and hierarchical systems is curiously ambiguous. Ever since 1859 it has been traditional for evolutionary biologists to claim that the hierarchic pattern of nature provides support for the idea of organics evolution. Yet, direct evidence for evolution only resides in the existence of unambiguous sequential arrangements, and these are never present in ordered hierarchic schemes.”

    “Of course evolutionary biologists do not look for the direct evidence in the hierarchy itself but rather argue, as Darwin did, that the hierarchic pattern is readily explained in terms of an evolutionary tree.”

    Common Descent is not progressive. Evolution can be progressive, lateral, backwards, or static.

    Darwin understood the importatnce of extinction events to make the distinction between populations and classes more apparent. IOW if all the alleged transitionals were still alive we would not see nested hierarchy. The lines would be blurred and overlapping would be the norm.

    this is also relevant:

    Summary of the principles of hierarchy theory

    Design could survive without nested hierarchy, but Common Design could not.

    What Giuseppe Sermonti does to Common Descent is demonstrate the concept is untestable! How can we test whether or not any mutation/ selection process is adequate when we don’t even know what makes an organism what it is?

    I don’t have anything to take up with JP- I was just exposing his stupidity and the fact that no one has corrected him even in light of your AiG related post. And with you if you do not state that even the anti-ID position is metaphysical when it comes to origins that is misrepresenting reality to gain some sort of an adavantage.

    the Pixie:
    Given a biology lab., it should be possible to test the prediction that most mammals have the same number of vertebrae in the neck because of the same genetic sequence.

    My prediction is that they are not. That prediction would follow the fact that the same pattern found in the pentadactyl limb is not because of the same genetic sequence nor developmental pathways.

    About the “get thee to a library” quip- you asked where I got that from- that genetic convergence can never be real.

    And when you can demonstrate that nature, operating freely can put together master control switches I will say that master control switches do not imply ID. Until then every time I see a master control switch it has always been due to an intelligent agency. There is no data wht-so-ever that would show us sheer dumb luck can cobble one together.

    The Pixie:
    But if we assume there was a creator, then everything around you is indicative of what he did, what he is (or was) capable of doing, what his purpose was.

    And if you read “The Pivileged Planet” they talk about at least one of the inferred purposes.

    And one more thing- when someone, anyone, can design a better giraffe or other living organism, I will listen to their whinings of incompotent design. Until then that approach is no more than children crying because they think they aren’t getting their way.

  28. But if we assume there was a creator, then everything around you is indicative of what he did, what he is (or was) capable of doing, what his purpose was.

    Hi The Pixie,

    Above is true only to a small extent. In order to really know that we would need to get to know mind of the Creator which is not within field of science.

    So I responsed (sic) that discussing theology (i.e., “using theological argument” ) does not imply you are religious. What am I missing here?

    My objection was not that you (being non religious) are not allowed to discuss theological points. But we are not discussing theology here. The problem is, you are using theological argument to interpret scientific data/observation. We were repeatedly told that only wicked Creationist do that in contrast to Darwinian Evolutionists whose interpretations are always scientific. Unfortunately this is not so and this and many other debates prove my point.

    I am also under impression (but I might be wrong) that you believe we are evolution deniers. Please note that this is not so. All we are saying is that evolution is limited in scope and it cannot account for all diversity and complexity in life. No one here thinks that Designer or Creator made spieces immutable.

  29. Joe G

    That is total nonsense for thne very reason I already provided. The logic that traits can be gained, lost and regained is that nested hierarchy is determined by traits!

    Yes, you did say that before. And I said I did not know what you were talking about. I was hoping you would have a go at explaining, rather than repeating. By bad.

    Chapter 6 in “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” refutes that Common Descent expects or requires nested hierarchy.

    As I keep saying, Denton now accepts common descent, making me think he now beliefes he was wrong.

    Whenever classification schemes are drawn up for phenomena which fall into a continuous or obviously sequential pattern– such as climatic zones from the artic to the tropics, subspecies in a circumpolar overlap, the properties of atoms in the periodic table, series of fossil horses, or wind strengths from breeze to hurricane– class boundaries are bound to be relatively arbitrary and indistinct. Most of the classes defined in such schemes are inevitably partially inclusive of other classes, or, in other words, fundamentally intermediate in character with respect to adjacent classes in the scheme. Consequently, when such schemes are depicted in terms of Venn diagrams, most of the classes overlap and the schemes overall have a disorderly appearance.

    Sure there is overlap between species as they evolve one from another; this is what evolution expect. But after a time the distinction is clear. A Venn diagram of primates and rodents will have no problem with any species alive today. Where it will run into problems is deciding where to put the very first rodent or the very first primate.

    A nested hiararchy requires that subgroups lie entirely with supergroups. For example, any animal in the ape subgroup, must also be in the primate group. There are no instances of an ape being in the rodent group for example. The ape group is “nested” inside the primate group. Sure, when you look at early apes it may not be clear if they are apes or monkeys or something else, but that is expected.

    A quite different type of classification system is termed hierarchic. In which there are no overlapping or partially inclusive classes, but only classes inclusive or exclusive of other classes. Such schemes exhibit, therefore, an orderly “groups within groups” arrangement in which class boundaries are distinct and the divisions in the system increase in a systematic manner as the hierarchy is ascended. The absence of any overlapping classes implies the absence of any sort of natural sequential relationships among the objects grouped by such a scheme.

    The natural sequential relationship in evolution is notamong objects grouped together, it is up and down the hierarchy! Drawn as an upside down tree, the top of the hierarchy is the comon ancestor. Follow the tree down to man at the very bottom, and you have the evolutionary history, the natural sequential relationship, of the man from the common ancestor.

    If you are grouping in terms of Venn diagrams, each class is all those organisms with a certain common ancestor. The primate class is all the organisms descended from the first primate. The ape class is all the organisms descended from the first ape. The natural sequential relationships is in the nesting of the classes, not between members of a class. No one is claiming man evolved from modern gorillas!

    Common Descent is not progressive. Evolution can be progressive, lateral, backwards, or static.

    Evolution can only go forward. That might mean a loss of function, but it is still forward.

    Design could survive without nested hierarchy, but Common Design could not.

    Common design is a “just-so” story” to explain away the features of common descent. Is there anything that the claim of common design gives us apart from that? What predictions does it make? What other evidence supports it? How does it fit with the rest of design theory?

    I will answer the last question. It does not fit with design theory at all! Design theory rejects any attempt to say how the design process was done, while common design attempts to constrain that process (it is a creationist concept, not an ID concept, of course).

    What Giuseppe Sermonti does to Common Descent is demonstrate the concept is untestable! How can we test whether or not any mutation/ selection process is adequate when we don’t even know what makes an organism what it is?

    Common descent makes no claims about the mechanisms of evolution, for example anything about any mutation/selection process, so this comment is nonsense.

    And when you can demonstrate that nature, operating freely can put together master control switches I will say that master control switches do not imply ID. Until then every time I see a master control switch it has always been due to an intelligent agency. There is no data wht-so-ever that would show us sheer dumb luck can cobble one together.

    Okay, just an argument from ignorance then. We do not know how it could happen any other way, therefore you are happy to assert that it happened this way.

    And if you read “The Pivileged Planet” they talk about at least one of the inferred purposes.

    What? How dare they be so presumptious!

    And one more thing- when someone, anyone, can design a better giraffe or other living organism, I will listen to their whinings of incompotent design. Until then that approach is no more than children crying because they think they aren’t getting their way.

    And again the ever popular argument from ignorance. Congratulations!

  30. Inunison

    The problem is, you are using theological argument to interpret scientific data/observation. We were repeatedly told that only wicked Creationist do that in contrast to Darwinian Evolutionists whose interpretations are always scientific. Unfortunately this is not so and this and many other debates prove my point.

    Let us call it a philosophical discussion then. Philosophy draws on observations of the universe, but without making scientifically testable claims. In those terms we can ponder the nature of the creator surely?

    I am also under impression (but I might be wrong) that you believe we are evolution deniers. Please note that this is not so. All we are saying is that evolution is limited in scope and it cannot account for all diversity and complexity in life. No one here thinks that Designer or Creator made spieces immutable.

    Everyone accepts microevolution, as far as I know. I do get the impression you all reject common descent from a single ancestor, though in your case I am only guessing by the company you keep.

  31. Hi The Pixie,

    In my opinion, at this stage, “common descent from a single ancestor” is interesting religious or at least philosophical inference. By all means let us have our philosophical discussion about common descent but just lets not pretend its science.

  32. To add to my previous post, the more we know about genetic fabric of life, the more “common descent from a single ancestor” looks improbable. For instance check this article with many links to relevant literature:

    Genetic Phylogeny

  33. Thanks for the link, Unison.

    Actually, it does not contradict the theory of common decent. Michael Denton was mistaken in ever thinking that it did.

    Great, the guy backs up my claim that Denton was wrong!

    One problem might arise when one considers that mutation rates are calculated on a per generation average.

    I would have thought mutation can happen at any cell division (to be inherited that would restrict it to germ cell division). So what you really need is the per germ cell division average, rather than the generation average. Same thing for bacteria, but rather different for people.

    Consistent hierarchies, at least for the earliest branches of the supposed “Tree of Life”, are falling apart with additional evidence. When a given organism has hundreds of genes which none of its supposed nearest evolutionary relatives have, evolutionists are left in a very perplexing position. In order to maintain their theory they must propose, in an ad hoc non-falsifiable manner, that these differences were not the result of evolution from a common ancestor over time, but were in fact the result of lateral transfer of pre-evolved sequences. This messes the notion of nested hierarchies up very badly as far as its being a “science” is concerned. It is not science since it is not falsifiable. It is nothing more than “just so” story telling.

    It is speculation, it happened billions of years ago so it is the best we can do. Sure, we could be descended from a set of ancestors, rather than just one, we do not know, and perhaps we never will. Does it matter? I say a single common ancestor because it is quicker. Is there anything in the paper that makes me doubt we are related to tetrahymena? No.

  34. And one more thing- when someone, anyone, can design a better giraffe or other living organism, I will listen to their whinings of incompotent design. Until then that approach is no more than children crying because they think they aren’t getting their way.

    The Pixie:
    And again the ever popular argument from ignorance.

    That is your position- that is arguing from ignorance.

    when you can demonstrate that nature, operating freely can put together master control switches I will say that master control switches do not imply ID. Until then every time I see a master control switch it has always been due to an intelligent agency. There is no data wht-so-ever that would show us sheer dumb luck can cobble one together.

    the Pixie:
    Okay, just an argument from ignorance then. We do not know how it could happen any other way, therefore you are happy to assert that it happened this way.

    Umm that is backwards. We have data that shows it can be done one way. We don’t have any data that shows sheer dumb luck can do it. Therefore the safe inference is design. THAT is how science operates. We go with what we know.

    “Thus, Behe concludes on the basis of our knowledge of present cause-and-effect relationships (in accord with the standard uniformitarian method employed in the historical sciences) that the molecular machines and complex systems we observe in cells can be best explained as the result of an intelligent cause.
    In brief, molecular motors appear designed because they were designed”
    Pg. 72 of “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”

    IOW Common Descent is the argument from ignorance. That is what reality demonstrates.

    Chapter 6 in “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” refutes that Common Descent expects or requires nested hierarchy.

    the Pixie:
    As I keep saying, Denton now accepts common descent, making me think he now beliefes he was wrong.

    Umm the two are NOT related. One can accept Common Descent and still understand that Common Descent does not expect nested hierarchy.

    the Pixie:
    Sure there is overlap between species as they evolve one from another; this is what evolution expect.

    Overlapping violates nested hierarchy.

    Common Descent is not progressive. Evolution can be progressive, lateral, backwards, or static.

    the Pixie:
    Evolution can only go forward. That might mean a loss of function, but it is still forward.

    That is false:

    Can evolution make things less complicated?
    Scientists suggest cell origins involved a forward-and-backward process:

    “We do think there is a tendency to look at evolution as progressive,” he said. “We prefer to think of evolution as backwards, sideways, and occasionally forward.”

    I will go with reality, thanks.

    the Pixie:
    Common design is a “just-so” story” to explain away the features of common descent.

    UMM Common Design was around well before Common Descent. Therefore if anything Common Descent is a “just-so” story to explain away the features of Common Design.

    the Pixie:
    Design theory rejects any attempt to say how the design process was done,

    That is ignorance talking. As I have already explained the only way to make such a determination in the absence of direct observation or designer input is by studying the design in question.

    the Pixie:
    Common descent makes no claims about the mechanisms of evolution, for example anything about any mutation/selection process, so this comment is nonsense.

    The point, of course, is that there isn’t any way to objectively test the premise of Common Decsent. And you just verified that fact.

  35. Does it matter?

    Hi The Pixie,

    Of course it does. It would falsify Darwinian Evolution (if it could be falsified)! I hereby pronounce you guilty of selective reading 🙂 (no offense, we are all guilty of it from time to time).

    BTW, The Pixie, thank you for the civil discourse.

  36. Joe G

    I guess bold was on sale today?

    Umm that is backwards. We have data that shows it can be done one way. We don’t have any data that shows sheer dumb luck can do it. Therefore the safe inference is design. THAT is how science operates. We go with what we know.

    Yes, we have data it can be done one way, in a certain situation, to produce a particular thing. In another situation, producing something analogous but not identical, thing. It would be reasobable to suppose the second thing could be made by the same process as the first, but not definite. And there is no reason to suppose any other route could not produce the second thing.

    “Thus, Behe concludes on the basis of our knowledge of present cause-and-effect relationships (in accord with the standard uniformitarian method employed in the historical sciences) that the molecular machines and complex systems we observe in cells can be best explained as the result of an intelligent cause.
    In brief, molecular motors appear designed because they were designed” Pg. 72 of “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”
    IOW Common Descent is the argument from ignorance. That is what reality demonstrates.

    But that statement did not mention common descent, so how can you use it to justify that claim?

    And how can Behe claim this “on the basis of our knowledge of present cause-and-effect relationships” when we have nothing to suppose a cause for design, i.e., there is no evidence of a designer?

    Umm the two are NOT related. One can accept Common Descent and still understand that Common Descent does not expect nested hierarchy.

    Fine. Make the case. Say it in your words. Argue it yourself if you think it is true.

    Pix: Sure there is overlap between species as they evolve one from another; this is what evolution expect.
    Joe: Overlapping violates nested hierarchy.

    I said overlap between species (try defining species if you want to make an issue of that). There is no overlap between classes in your Venn diagrams. The latter would violate the nested class.

    UMM Common Design was around well before Common Descent. Therefore if anything Common Descent is a “just-so” story to explain away the features of Common Design.

    Common descent started as soon as the second species descended from the first!

    That is ignorance talking. As I have already explained the only way to make such a determination in the absence of direct observation or designer input is by studying the design in question.

    Oh come on! We all know ID deliberately shies away from debating the designer and the creation process.

    The point, of course, is that there isn’t any way to objectively test the premise of Common Decsent. And you just verified that fact.

    Oh dear, oh dear. Common descent would be falsified if the necessary predicts of common descent turn out to be false. For example, overlap between classes would disruped the nested hierarchy, disproving common descent. The problem is that it is not falsified on the terms you think it should because you do not understand it.

  37. Inunison

    Of course it does. It would falsify Darwinian Evolution (if it could be falsified)!

    For clarity, it refers to whether there was one or many ancestors billions of years ago, given that humans and bacteria are related. So if there were numeroius ancestors, how would that falsify Darwinian evolution?

    I hereby pronounce you guilty of selective reading no offense, we are all guilty of it from time to time).

    Could you pick pout the bit that you think is most convincing to you (I admit I skimmed the second half; I could easily have missed something).

  38. Hi The Pixie,

    Maybe we should start another thread to discuss “Common Descent” vs “Common Design”. What do you all think?

  39. Good idea.

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