Darwinian Whale Evolution

by Max Andrews

When evaluating population drift/evolution one must keep in mind a pattern/process distinction.

  • To be explained:  A pattern of a sequence of ancestors to present (a phylogenetic sequence)
  • Explanation:  High random mutation rates + high selection coefficients –> Incremental genetic change over time (“evolution”)

We now know that the majority of anatomical changes unique to fully aquatic cetaceans (Pelagiceti) appeared during just a few million years.

Here are only a few of the changes that had to have occurred during the transition to a fully marine whale

  • Counter-current heat exchanger for intra-abdominal testes
  • Ball vertebra
  • Tail flukes and musculature
  • Blubber for temperature insulation
  • Ability to drink sea water (reorganization of kidney tissues)
  • Reverse orientation of fetus in the uterus
  • Nurse young underwater (modified mammae)
  • Forelimbs transformed into flippers
  • Reduction of hind limbs
  • Reduction/loss of pelvis and sacral vertebrae
  • Reorganization of the musculature for the reproductive organs
  • Hydrodynamic properties of the skin
  • Special lung surfactants
  • Novel muscle systems for the blowhole
  • Modification of the teeth
  • Modification of the eye for underwater vision
  • Emergence of expansion of the mandibular fat bad with complex lipid distribution (the fat pad has acoustic properties)
  • Reorganization of skull bone
  • Modification of the ear bones
  • Decoupling of esophagus and trachea
  • Synthesis and metabolism of isovaleric acid (toxic to terrestrial mammals)
  • Emergence of blowhole musculature and their neurological control
  • 1-2 million (at most 9 million) year time frame for all these, and possibly hundreds/thousands of more traits, to take place (time frame refers to Pakicetus to Basilosaurus).
Breeding Population Generations (5y per) Years
10,000 27,283,640 136,418,204
100,000 2,728,364 13,641,820
106 272, 836 1,364,182

Two possibilities can be ruled out

Breeding Population Generations (5y per) Years
10,000 27,283,640 136,418,204
100,000 2,728,364 13,641,820
106 272, 836 1,364,182

Not enough time

Breeding Population Generations (5y per) Years
10,000 27,283,640 136,418,204
100,000 2,728,364 13,641,820
106 272, 836 1,364,182

Breeding size too high

Average mammalian breeding population sizes are on the order of only 104 – 105 individuals a generation:

  • Hominids (humans) – 20,000
  • Murids (mice) – 600,000

The breed population seizes of mammals are far too small for natural selection to have been operative (109 reproducing individuals more per generation were needed)

The bigger body size (think Cetacea) the few offspring the lower population size.

All of this s based on the premise that DNA encodes the cetacean body plan and that mutations can change that programming.  But if DNA does not contain the information for whaleness, then no number of mutations (plus selection) can account for the “great transformation.”

 

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11 Comments to “Darwinian Whale Evolution”

  1. You don’t come out and say what your conclusion is. If you’re saying it couldn’t have happened, the answer is that it did, so it doesn’t make sense after the fact to say it couldn’t have, so perhaps you went wrong somewhere in your calculations. How do you know what population size would be required?

    This is like the probably apocryphal story about scientists reckoning that bumble bees shouldn’t be able to fly. Have you talked this through with an evolutionary biologist? They might be able to help you out. If you truly believe that evolution through natural selection is NOT sufficient then you’re proposing the biggest upset in scientific knowledge since Einstein. Why not submit a paper on this for review and wait for that Nobel Prize?

    • And how can you possibly know how many generations WOULD be required? Is this a guess, or is it based on a scientific calculation. It’s not enough just to say “It doesn’t sound like many to me!”.

    • Well, you’re begging the question as to what the antecedent conditions for the conclusion is (that the whales exist). The whole discussion is centered around what the antecedent conditions and the mechanisms were. These are notes from Richard Sternberg when I briefly studied under him a couple summers ago. So, be careful not to be post hoc here that because of evolution therefore evolution. So, yes, this has been through a biologist. A prominent one.

      I don’t believe it’s appropriate to equate something that is contrary to Darwinism to the Einsteinian revolution. Darwinism is a philosophy. It’s a negation of teleology, which is not scientific. It’s only an inference posterior to the scientific discoveries. ID is merely the detect of agent causation, which can be empirical. The purposiveness is a philosophical inference from that observation. Einstein gave a more accurate description that revolutionized Kantian and Newtonian categories and intuitions obstructing empirical deduction from fixed premises. Einstein’s mathematical invariance allowed for an interrogative approach to scientific inquiry rather than keeping the sensorium in the Kantian mind. Einstein allowed for discovery and free invention rather than mere invention or deduction. It’s a far step to equate these so I hope you’re just speaking hyperbolically. Also, if you think that ID is so revolutionary in such a paradigmatic shift way I don’t think you’re keeping up with the published works in the field (peer-reviewed as well). You’re ignoring where the discussion is and accusing the ones discussing it that they’re way behind. It doesn’t follow. For example, look into a few papers by Bradley Monton. I prominent philosopher of science who studied under Plantinga and van Fraasen… that says a lot. What’s interesting is that Monton is an ID proponent and an atheist. The published work is here and not as novel as you think it is.

      • “I don’t believe it’s appropriate to equate something that is contrary to Darwinism to the Einsteinian revolution. Darwinism is a philosophy.”

        It’s a scientific theory, its the bedrock of modern biology; the comparison seems pretty appropriate to me.

        “It’s a negation of teleology, which is not scientific”

        If you mean it assumes natural causes, then no, that’s not unscientific. Einstein did the same when he rejected the idea that Mercury’s unusual passage around the sun was a sign of God ‘tinkering’ with the heavens and instead must have an as-yet undiscovered natural cause.

        “A prominent philosopher of science who studied under Plantinga and van Fraasen… that says a lot”

        I guess so. Plantinga is the creator of the ‘Evolutionary argument against naturalism’ which a) showed he didn’t really understand naturalistic evolution and b) ended up basically being an argument for solipsism.

        “I don’t think you’re keeping up with the published works in the field (peer-reviewed as well)”

        I won’t get into a discussion about these peer-reviewed papers, except to say that you should note that the subject is not without controversy:

        “As the editor of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington [Sternberg] controversially handled the review and editing process of the only article published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal advocating intelligent design. The journal subsequently declared that the paper “does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings” and would not have been published had usual editorial practices been followed” [wiki]

      • Your equivocation is completely inappropriate. Either that or you don’t understand the scientific, philosophical, and epistemic impact of Einstein. Material causation isn’t a negation of teleology either. Efficient causation is the agency role here. Material causation is a sufficient condition for teleology. What’s your objection here? So just because Plantinga isn’t a Darwinist he must not understand it? Lol I don’t think that’s the case. You’re unable to argue against people like Monton and Bas van Fraasen on these issues. You can’t blame it on religious influence.

      • No, I said Plantinga didn’t understand it because his argument betrays a lack of understanding about it. Lol all you want, but that was quite clear in my last post.

        And straight back at you: My equivocation is completely appropriate. Either that or you don’t understand the scientific, philosophical, and epistemic impact of Darwin. Ever read Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea?

      • Lol. Well you haven’t advanced the argument by appealing to the statement that because one isn’t a Darwinist implies that they don’t understand it. It’s this elite Gnosticism I suppose.

        Yes, I have. But it pales in comparison. I’m having a paper on Einstein’s use of mathematical invariance and his impact on epistemology and theology in review for publishing. Care to read? The epistemic evolution with Einstein is far beyond Darwin. I’m not denying he influential and contributed to science and philosophy but nothing like Einstein. His qualitative and quantitative impact far outweighs. Can you tell me Darwin’s impact on epistemology?

      • I only criticise grammar when the sense of a sentence becomes ambiguous. I couldn’t quite tell if you were saying I HAD made such a statement or not. I guessed the former, which I hadn’t. I meant that Plantinga’s argument depended on serious misunderstandings about how evolution works.

        Regarding the philosophical impact of Darwin, he fundamentally changed the way we see ourselves as a species. Scientifically, most biologists see his ideas as now forming the basis of biology. It has been said that little in biology makes sense without him. As for epistemology: http://Bit.ly/wPCYNb

      • That last post was in response to my phone. The only mistake I could find is that I left out an IT. Apparently, you’ve resorted to criticizing grammar and not the argument (which was just an omission of one word on my phone). I guess this is the type of reasoning to expect from the Darwinist camp? Pity, I thought you were better than that.

  2. After having just played Devils Advocate defending ID I’m keen to do the reverse this time.
    Max this seems to be an argument that the probabilites just don’t pan out for random mutations to do the changes in the specified time frame.
    I’m guessing you aren’t trying to say that there aren’t any transitional whale animals in the fossil record but rather that it seems like all the mutations were guided so that just the right changes were made to make the intermediate creatures both be viable and reach a more stable niche in whales.

    I can still see convergent evolution playing a role here in that if the unfolding ecology occurs in the right way it seems as though viable ecological pathways might force just the right selections to occur. I’m a bit suspiscious of this however, it would work better if the ecology played a role in forcing certain mutations. In that way the mutations would not be random and the process could be tailored for the required changes.
    In this view the setting up of the ecology would be even more critical.

    It seems like this is where the future is for ID. It seems like common ancestory will be shown to be correct but that the probabilites just don’t stack up. abiogenesis seems to be a good example of that, it just seems to have happened too quickly.

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