Can you prove evolution with DNA research? My lecturer says the information stored in DNA tell us things about the history of life on Earth. She wrote, 'DNA is an encyclopedic record of the history of the tree of life which, while not 100%complete, already provides enough information to categorically prove that all animals, including humans, evolved from more simple life-forms." Is this right? Can we use the DNA record to prove evolution? I thought it was only a theory.

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OK, so we're talking about science, right? And you feel no responsibility to back your assertions with actual information? No need to document evidence of your conclusions? Have you actually been getting college degrees with a method like that? At what kind of school? Studying what?

It sounds a lot like you won't give me any documentation about the way you think DNA tracking works because you can't. Do you really know anything about this topic in reality?

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In reply to #20: As a light-hearted example, those glow-in-the-dark mice with flourescent squid molecules spliced into their DNA.

The glow-in-the-dark mice you mention were genetically altered by human manipulation.  I think the question is can evolution be proven across species without manipulation by humans to make it happen?

Mainstream science does not have to defend itself to every doubting Thomas.

As far as I can understand, science, in order to be credible among other scientists must prove with evidence, support, and observations that a theory is valid, otherwise it is a mere hypothesis.  Science has the obligation to prove its own theories so that more can be learned and known.  I find it amusing that you use a "doubting Thomas" in defence of your own ideas.  What if in 50 years or so, your theory is proved wrong by better scientific research?  Will you accept it or will you doggedly cling to what you are emotionally tied to?

 

As far as I can see, and I am not a scientist, you are mainly interested in your own pet theory rather than listening to anyone who has a different viewpoint.  I am surprised that you can't read French or German being a doctoral student.  Were you not required to take a foreign language in your under grad studies?

 

And, science has not definitively proved the kind of DNA evolution that you are referring to. It is still a theory.  A theory is a theory until proven true or false...it is a theory...a guess with some support behind it.

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Frogmander, eh? Sounds very interesting, but I'd like to know an awful lot more about it than a tiny blurb before making any big decisions. I have a first cousin who's been a staff writer at National Geographic since the '70s, and she says the editorial standards have really fallen. I was a voting member since 1964, but I dropped my membership recently over stuff like the Archaeoraptor fraud. Can you please post some actual information on this DNA tracking method you're referring to? I'm really very interested, and you keep mentioning it. Can you recommend an article or book about what exactly you are speaking about, or post a link?

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Cool, please tell me what my false assumption is.  If you spot a hole in my logic I would be grateful.  I suppose I could have been more clear.  My point was that if DNA research (at least at this time) cannot track across a species very far, how can it track across species lines, or across phylla?  I am not, personally, a DNA researcher, so it's very possible for me to not be up-to-the-minute.  If you can show me something that can be done to do this sort of DNA tracking I'd be thrilled.

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Contrary to many people's ideas, Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, was not the author of Frankenstein.  That was her daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, whose father was William Godwin, author, philosopher and one of the founders of the anarchist movement.  Godwin's influence on scientific and political contemporaries have been obfuscated somewhat because of the later problems with segments of that movement.  I think if you'll research the published (originally private) letters and papers of Darwin you'll find he was very influenced by Godwin, who combined the sort of evolutionary ideas of Vedanta with what was then modern science.  Godwin's writings were quite influential at the time on scientists, including Lamarck, Haeckel, etc.  Although Darwin considered Jean-Baptiste Lamarck as a forerunner of his theories, Lamarck's ideas and theories have been discredited long ago.  Charles Darwin's father, Erasmus, had arrived at nearly the same concepts as Lamarck, and the majority of his work has also fallen by the wayside (There's nothing wrong with that- the scientific method is a means of learning through failure in a controlled environment, and almost all theories fall by the wayside sooner or later after we learn enough from them).  He, too, was influenced by Godwin.  Charles Darwin, late in his life, also considered much of the work of such scientists, including some of his own, to have been mistaken, another point television and academia tend to overlook.  Kind of like Carl Jung repudiating most of his early work, but psychology today still enshrining it.  And although "religion" is irrelevant to the issue under discussion, those who like to cite Darwin as an anti-religious figure also ignore his return to Christianity late in life.

When we're talking about DNA we're talking about an alphabet of only four letters.  There are only so many ways you can combine them to make "words", and some of those combinations will not work.  So nature strings them into long "sentences", but since it has only four proteins to work with everything with DNA is going to inevitably have similarities.  But a "new" species does not have the "same" DNA as the "preceding" species plus a little more strung on the end to make up the difference, it just doesn't work like that.  All live things (or those which were once alive) have DNA, and this proves they are or were alive.  But that is all it actually proves.  The presence of DNA and the similarities caused by the limitations of workable DNA protein combinations does not "prove" interrelationships among the species.

We tend to think of DNA "evidence" as infallible and omniscient, but it's not.  For instance, we can prove that Sally Hemmings was involved with some member of Thomas Jefferson's family, because the present-day Hemmings family members' (of direct descent from Sally) DNA proves descent from some close relative of Thomas Jefferson, either himself or his brother or some other very close relative.  But it has to be a very close relative, not a second cousin or third cousin once removed, etc., and in a direct line.  We can tell a lot lengthwise through time down a line of direct descent, but not broadly across the population.  We can prove remains are those of a human, but not that the human is the fourth cousin of a sister of say, George Washington.  So to expect to use contemporary DNA research to prove relationship between species is not realistic.  We can prove a frog is related to another frog, but we cannot prove it is related to a salamander or a fish.

One problem with academic science is that it is nearly always a minimum of ten to 20 years behind the current state of science.  We've gone in 150 years from going to a university to learn the leading edge of science to going to a university to get a degree so we can get a job where we might, with great effort and over a period of years, begin to catch up to the leading edge of science.  As for television, I enjoy PBS specials about history and the History Channel, etc., but I notice that these are frequently mistaken.  TV, Wikipedia and semi-discredited scientists are not great things to hang an argument on.

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I understand all these arguments quite well, but I'm still not convinced that DNA can actually prove evolution.  For instance, a chimpanzee has 98% the same DNA material as a human.  But that doesn't mean humans are chimpanzees with two percent more DNA.  The chimpanzee has two percent of its DNA that is different from a human's, and vice versa. But that two percent is quite significantly different, and all of the DNA of both is put together very differently.  That 98% is the same DNA proteins, but the 98% is not "the same" as one another's.  Frizzyperm's analogy of a tree is very good, but simplistic and somewhat misleading.  The differences are more important than the similarities in DNA- human DNA indicates we may be primates, but it also proves we are not apes.  All life may be related in some way, but that still does not prove the actual "theory of evolution" as it exists today or back to Darwin, or before him back to the Vedas.  We all do understand that evolution is a religious concept from Vedanta, or Hinduism, right? Or have we not researched where Darwin got these ideas originally?  From Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley's father, who got it from studying the Vedas.

Yes, species change over time, yes species change form, natural selection is the driving force of that change and we know so many facts about genetics and mutation that it's coming out of our ears.  But that does not prove "evolution," it proves CHANGE.  Evolution is not simply change, it involves specific types of change which science in general has proven unlikely or impossible.  Out of all the DNA evidence and fossil evidence we have come up with there has been nothing that shows it is possible for one species to change into another one, and that is the crux of the theory of evolution.  Everything we have learned about biology, genetics, mutation, etc. tell us that one species cannot change into another, and if that does not occur than evolution as we define it today cannot be true.  Unless, of course, the laws of nature changed at some point, and things evolved for possibly millions of years and that those laws of nature have now changed and evolution is not any longer occuring, and is now impossible.  I find that unlikely.

Except for right-wing bozos and anti-religionists (as distinct from atheists) religion has nothing to do with this issue.  I never questioned evolution until 1986 when I read a book by the head paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History, who claimed it had taken him 30 years to admit to himself that paleontology had proven evolution did not occur.  I had never heard such a thing, except from the "uneducated", so I did some serious research.  I have continued all these years, and I've become convinced that there's something to the theory of evolution, but that it's not actually the answer we thought.  It is a point to begin from, and we've learned a lot from it, but it turns out to be not quite correct.  We refine the theory, or we discard it and find another, but it is simply unscientific and possibly foolish to persist in arguing about something we obviously need to change.  And the passion and vitriol those arguments often descend into is not needed at all in social intercourse or science.

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From the perspective of a biologist, nothing can be proven in science.  One of the most important characteristics of any scientist is an inheritent tendency to question things.  As soon as one takes an idea as "proven" they no longer seek out alternative possibilities, thus shutting their eyes and minds to the possibility that perhaps they were indeed mistaken.

Where many people tend to get confused is in believing that by accepting that evolution is occuring they are also refuting the existence of God.  In truth, evolution simply refers to the fact that organisms (as a group) change over time.  This is not contended among the scientific community, but is still referred to as a theory because nothing in science can be proven.  We, however, do use the word theory differently than it is used by most.  For us, a theory is a well-tested explanation that has been tested many, many times by many scientists and no evidence has yet been found to show that it is incorrect.  That being said, as new evidence comes to light we may have to adjust a theory.

What is still disagreed upon, and what most critics of evolution usually highlight as dissent among scientists over evolution, is how life started.  Was there a creator?  Did we all evolve from a single celled organism? Is it possible that a creator made template organisms (monkey, cat, fish, etc.) and then endowed them with the ability to evolve to adapt to their specific niche, thus giving rise to so many species of each?  There is certainly ample evidence (including gross amounts of DNA evidence) to suggest that we did in fact share a common ancestor, but since we cannot go back in time to witness early life, we will never be able to say for sure.

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Frizzyperm, I may quote your answer  :) It is very well put. I have soooo had it up to *here* with people who misrepresent the word "theory" in a general sense to try to knock down "scientific theory";  scientific theory has to change when evidence that contradicts it is discovered. Not so with others.

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Proof by belief creates truth vacuously.  Proof by fact defines truth incompletely, yet provides a consistent frame to expand understanding. Where theory crosses into fact may be a function only of one's desire or ability to comprehend accumulating fact.

It's effectively impossible to prove the scientific rational to those who entertain only belief, and those who substitute belief for fact do so at their (and unfortunately others) peril.  The deeper more interesting question is, "Why do they do so?"

Substitute the word "gravity" for "evolution" during creationist arguments.  What do you conclude? Those who wish to explore divine intervention should post to philosophy or religion, and leave science alone.

 

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