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There is No ‘Marching Up the Evolutionary Tree’

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The notion that there is any ‘progress’ to evolution is something that I have rebutted countless times on this blog. My most recent entry being Marching Up the ‘Evolutionary Tree’? which was a response to Pumpkin Person’s article Marching up the evolutionary tree. Of course, people never ever change their views in a discussion (I have seen it, albeit it is rare) due, mainly to, in my opinion, ideology. People have so much time invested in their little pet theories that they cannot possibly fathom at the thought of being wrong or being led astray by shoddy hypotheses/theories that confirm their pre-existing beliefs. I will quote a few comments from Pumpkin Person’s blog where he just spews his ‘correlations with brain size and ‘splits’ on the ‘evolutionary tree” that ‘proves that evolution is progressive’, then I will touch on two papers (I will cover both in great depth in the future) that directly rebut his idiotic notion that so-called brain size increases across our evolutionary history (and even before we became humans) are due to ‘progress in evolution’

One of my co-bloggers Phil wrote:

I think you mistyped that, but i see your point. Problem, however, most of your used phylogenies were unbalanced.

To which PP replied:

Based on the definition you provided, but not based on any meaningful definition. To me, an unbalanced tree is . . .

This is literally meaningless. Keep showing that you’ve never taken a biology class in your life, it really shows.

All it is is ignorance to basic biological thinking, along with an ideology to prove his ridiculous Rushtonian notion that ‘brain size increases prove that evolution is progressive’.

PP writes:

You have yet to present ANY scientific logic, and my argument about taxonomic specificity is clearly beyond you.

Scientific logic?! Scientific logic?! Please. Berkely has a whole page on misconceptions on evolution that directly rebut his idiotic, uneducated views on evolution. It doesn’t help that his evolution education most likely comes from psychologists. Nevertheless, PP’s ‘argument’ is straight garbage. Taxonomic specificity’ is meaningless when you don’t have an understanding of basic biological concepts and evolution. (I will have much more to say on his ‘taxonomic specificity’ below.)

PP writes:

Was every tree perfect? No, but most were pretty close, and keep in mind that any flawed trees would have the effect of REDUCING the correlation between brain size/encephalization and branching, because random error is a source of statistical noise which obscures any underlying relationship. So the fact that I repeatedly found such robust correlation in spite of alleged problems with my trees, makes my conclusions stronger, not weaker.

The fact that you ‘repeatedly’ found ‘correlations’ in spite of the ‘problems’ with your trees makes your ‘conclusions’ weaker. Comparing organisms over evolutionary time and you notice a ‘trend’ in brain size. Must mean that evolution is progressive and brain size is its calling card!!

PP writes:

I’m right and all the skeptics you cite are wrong.

Said like a true idealogue.

Here is where PP’s biggest blunder comes in:

It’s not how many splits they have that I’ve been measuring, it’s how many splits occur on the tree before they branch off. Here’s a source from 2017:

Eukaryotes represent a domain of life, but within this domain there are multiple kingdoms. The most common classification creates four kingdoms in this domain: Protista, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia.

So you needed ‘a source from 2017’ to tell you something that is literally taught on the first day of biology 101? Keep showing how uneducated you are here.

PP writes:

Nothing fallacious about a correlation between number of splits and brain size/encephalization.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc:

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc is a Latin phrase for “after this, therefore, because of this.” The term refers to a logical fallacy that because two events occurred in succession, the former event caused the latter event.[1][2]

Magical thinking is a form of post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy, in which superstitions are formed based on seeing patterns in a series of coincidences. For example, “these are my lucky trousers. Sometimes good things happen to me when I wear them.”

P1: X happened before Y.
P2: (unstatedY was caused by something (that happened before Y).
C1: Therefore, X caused Y.

Here is PP’s (fallacious) logic:

P1: splits (X) happened before Y (brain size increase)
P2: (unstated) brain size increase was caused by something (that happened before brain size increaes [splits on the tree])
C1: therefore, splits caused brain size increase

Now, I know that PP will argue that ‘splits on the evolutionary tree’ denote speciation which, in turn, denotes environmental change. This is meaningless. You’re still stating that Y was caused by something (that happened before Y) and therefore inferring that X caused Y. That is the fallacy (which a lot of HBD theories rest on).

PP writes:

You don’t get it. Even statistically insignificant correlations become significant when you get them FIVE TIMES IN A ROW. If you want to believe it was all a coincidence, then fine.

Phylogenies are created from shared derived factors. Berkely is the go-to authority here on this matter. (No that’s not appeal to authority.)  Biologists collect information about a given animal and then infer the evolutionary relationship. Furthermore, PP’s logic is, again, fallacious. Berkely also has tips for tree reading, which they write:

Trees depict evolutionary relationships, not evolutionary progress. It’s easy to think that taxa that appear near one side of a phylogenetic tree are more advanced than other organisms on the tree, but this is simply not the case. First, the idea of evolutionary “advancement” is not a particularly scientific idea. There is no unbiased, universal scale for “advancement.” Second, taxa with extreme versions of traits (which might be perceived as more “advanced”) may occur on any terminal branch. The position of a terminal taxon is not an indication of how adaptive, specialized, or extreme its traits are.

He may emphatically argue (as I know he will) that he’s not doing this. But, as can be seen from his article, X is ‘less advanced’ than Y, therefore splits, brain size, correlation=progress. This is dumb.

For anyone who wants to know how (and how not to) read phylogenies, read Gregory (2008). These idotic notions that PP espouses are what Freshman in college believe due to ‘intuitiveness’ about evolution. It’s so rampant that biologists have writen numerous papers on the matter. But some guy with a blog and no science background (and an ideology to hammer) must know more than people who do this for a living (educate people on phylogenies).

On Phil’s response to see the Deacon paper that I will discuss below, PP writes:

That’s not a rebuttal.

Yes it is, as I will show shortly.

The first paper I will discuss is Deacon’s (1990) paper Fallacies of Progression in Theories of Brain-Size Evolution. This is a meaty paper with a ton of great ideas about phylogenies, along with numerous fallacies that people go to when reading trees (my favorite being the Numerology fallacy, which PP uses, see below).

Deacon argues that since people fail to analyze allometry, this anatomists have mistaken artifacts for evolutionary trends. He also argues that many structural’brain size increases’ from ‘primitive to advanced forms’ (take note here, because this is what PP did and this is what discredits his idiotic ideology) are the result of allometric processes.


Source: Evolution of consciousness: Phylogeny, ontogeny, and emergence from general anesthesia Mashour and Alkire (2013)

This paper (and picture) show it all. This notion of scala naturae (which Rushton (2004) attempted to revive with r/K selection theory has been rebutted by me) was first proposed by Aristotle. We now know how the brain structure evolved, so the old ‘simple scala naturae‘ is, obviously, out of date in the study of brain evolution.

This paper is pretty long and I don’t have time to discuss all of it so I will just provide one quote that disproves PP’s ‘study’:

Whenever a method is discovered for simplifying the representation of a complex or apparently nonsystematic numerical relationship, the method of simplification itself provides new insight into the phenomenon under study. But reduction of a complex relationship to a simple statistic makes it far easier to find spurious relationships with other simple statistics. Numerology fallacies are apparent correlations that turn out to be artifacts of numerical oversimplification. Numerology fallacies in science, like their mystical counterparts, are likely to be committed when meaning is ascribed to some statistic merely by virtue of its numeric similarity to some other statistic, without supportive evidence from the empirical system that is being described.

Deacon also writes in another 1990 article titled Commentary on Ilya I. Glezer, Myron So Jacobs, and Peter J Morgane (1988) Implications of the “initial brain’9 concept for brain evolution in Cetacea:

The study of brain evolution is one of the last refuges for theories of progressive evolution in biology, but in this field its influence is still pervasive. To a great extent the apparent “progress” of mammalian brain evolution vanishes when the effects of brain size and functional specialization are taken into account.

(It’s worth noting that in the author’s response to Deacon, he did not have any qualms about ‘progressive brain-size’.)

In regards to PP’s final ‘correlation’ on human races and brain-size, this is a perfect quote from McShea (1994: 1761):

If such a trend [increase in brain size leading to ‘intelligence’] in primates exists and it is driven, that is, if the trend is a direct result of concerted forces acting on most lineages across the intelligence spectrum, then the inference is justified. But if it is passive, that is, forces act only on lineages at the low-intelligence end, then most lineages will have no increasing tendency. In that case, most primate species—especially those out on the right tail of the distribution like ours—would be just as likely to lose intelligence as to gain it in subsequent evolution (if they change at all).

The ‘trend’ is passive. Homo floresiensis is the best example. We are just as likely to lose our ‘intellect’ and our ‘big brains’ as we are to ‘get more intelligent’ and ‘smaller brains’. The fact of the matter is this: environment dictates brain size/whatever other traits an organism has. Imagine a future environment that is a barren wasteland. Kilocalories are scarce; do you think that humans would keep their big brains—which are two percent of their body weight accounting for a whopping 25 percent of total daily energy needs—without enough high-quality energy? When brain size supposedly began to increase in our taxa is when erectus learned to control fire and cook meat (Hlublik et al, 2017).

All in all, there is no ‘progress’ to evolution and, as Deacon argues, so-called brain-size increases across evolutionary time disappear after adjustments for body size and functional specialties are taken into account. However, for the idealogue who looks for everything they can to push their ideology/worldview, things like this are never enough. “No, that wasn’t a rebuttal! YOU’RE WRONG!!” Those are not scientific arguments. If one believes in ‘evolutionary progress’ and that brain-size increases are the proof in the pudding that evolution is ‘progressive’ (re has a ‘direction’), then they must rebut Deacon’s arguments on allometry and his fallacies in his 1990 paper. Stop equating evolution with ‘progress’. Though, I can’t fault laymen for believing that. I can, however, fault someone who supposedly enjoys the study of evolution. You’re wrong. The people you cite (who are out of their field of expertise) are wrong.

Evolution is an amazing process. To equate it with ‘progress’ does not allow one to appreciate the beauty of the process. Evolution does carry baggage with it, and if I weren’t so used to the term I would use Descent by Modification (DbM, which is what Darwin used). Nevertheless, progressionists will hide out in whatever safehold they can to attempt to push their idealogy that is not based on science.

(Also read Rethinking Mammalian Brain Evolution by Terrence Deacon. I go more in depth on these three articles in the future.)



Happy Darwin Day, Heathens

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Today is Darwin’s 208th birthday and the 158th year since the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle of Life. So many people get Darwin wrong. They either have never read his books, or are taking a secondhand account. You can tell who has never read his writings in his own words and who takes snippets of his writings to use them for ideological purposes. I was going to wait until I finished The Descent of Man (Darwin, 1871) until I wrote this article but Darwin Day seems like the best time to do it.

People call themselves ‘Darwinists’ when it’s clear they’ve never read his writings. And due to this, people have large misconceptions on cherry-picked quotes and then use it for their pet ideology—not even attempting to understand the context around what he wrote. One large misquotation you may see around the Internet may put charges of ‘racism’ on Darwin since he ‘believed’ that the ‘higher’ races of Man will one day exterminate the ‘lower’ races. PumpkinPerson is guilty of this, writing in his article Darwin’s terrifying prediction:

Sadly, if HBD is correct, I think there probably will be natural selection favoring higher IQ populations, in fact it’s already happening.  In sub-Saharan Africa, we see the more primitive cultures like pygmies and Bushmen losing more and more territory and their populations declining.

Which is based on a (misinterpreted) Darwin quote from his book Descent of Man (1871 (2004): 132-3); note: I have the Barnes n Noble edition):

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, convinced by general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks incessantly occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae—between the elephant and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and other mammals.

But all these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

This is the big quote. The quote that supposedly what paints Darwin as a ‘racist’ and one of the many, many instances of quote-mining from Creationists attempting to discredit his theory of evolution through natural selection. But here’s the thing that people fail to realize: without the rest of the context, you won’t know what he’s saying because the very next paragraph writes (pg 132):

With respect to the absence of fossil remains, serving to connect man with his ape-like progenitors, no one will lay much stress on this fact who reads Sir C. Lyell’s discussion, where he shows that in all the vertebrate classes the discovery of fossil remains has been a very slow and fortuitous process. Nor should it be forgotten that those regions which are the most likely to afford remains connecting man with some extinct ape-like creature, have not as yet been searched by geologists.

So, the whole quote taken in context, it seems he was defending his theory showing that even though no there was an “absence of fossil remains” connecting us to our apelike ancestors.

This book was written 12 years after On the Origin, so knowing that and then seeing the rest of the omitted context behind the controversial quote (and, of course, how Creationists quote-mine and attempt to twist and turn words), what do you think he was saying? To me, it looks like he was defending his theory and addressing critics who said that the fossil record does not support his claims. In fact, Darwin and other Naturalists of the time didn’t separate culture and biology and thus used a blend of both. Darwin was simply observing that a slight advantage between races of men would, after time, lead to the creation of a new species. You’d have to have actually read his books to know that, though.

PP’s other post on Darwin, Did Darwin believe in HBD? he writes (referring to the previous quote-mine):

What it looks like is Darwin describing an evolutionary hierarchy: Caucasian > negro/Australoid > gorilla > baboon.

If you’re looking for something, you’re going to find it. Complete misrepresentation of Darwin’s words, and just reading Descent of Man will let you know how grossly incorrect this interpretation really is.

Darwin only meant that Caucasians would replace savage races because of their cultural superiority; biological superiority had nothing to do with it. And are we also supposed to believe that Darwin’s predicted demise of gorillas was also for cultural, not biological reasons?

PP, read the whole context and tell me if that’s how you still interpret it. It is worth noting that the quotes are taken from a part of the book that has the subsection: On the Birthplace and Antiquity of Man, which lends more credence to the fact that he was defending his theory from detractors (due to the names he brought up and his prose, in context) who needed to see ‘transitional’ fossils between ape and man.

Further, since PP is using a Creationist quotation, then a Creationist rebuttal is apt here:

First of all, Darwin is making a technical argument as to the “reality” of species, particularly Homo sapiens in this case, and why there should still be apparently distinct species, if all the different forms of life are related by common descent through incremental small changes. His answer is that competition against those forms with some, even small, advantage tends to eliminate closely related forms, giving rise to an apparent “gap” between the remaining forms. Whether or not Darwin was right about that is irrelevant to the use of this quote mine, of course, since that is part of the context that the creationists using it have assiduously removed.

Irony aside that an atheist is using a Creationist quote-mine to prove biological differences, this shows how people who’ve never read his writing can misinterpret what he really meant.

Darwin was also a huge abolitionist, which is never brought up in these discussions. He argued, for his whole life, that slavery should be abolished. He also came from an extremely abolitionist family, so any charges of ‘racism’ to Darwin seem pretty far off the mark.

PP says:

According to liberals, Darwin only meant that Caucasians would replace savage races because of their cultural superiority; biological superiority had nothing to do with it. And are we also supposed to believe that Darwin’s predicted demise of gorillas was also for cultural, not biological reasons?

According to people that know what they’re talking about, Darwin meant that closely related organisms even will a small advantage will replace the other, and that will give rise to a ‘gap’ between organisms. Learn the context behind the whole quote, instead of what Creationists quote-mine. And biological superiority doesn’t exist.

Never mind that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was actually based on biology, not culture.

Can natural selection NOT occur because of cultural differences? Say, two genetically similar populations and one has the native culture and the other with a new, alien culture and they have to use it to adapt to a new environment. Would that be an example of culture and its effect on natural selection?

Never mind that Darwin’s own cousin (Francis Galton) was the father of HBD.

Nothing to do with Darwin himself.

Never mind that Darwin’s own book on natural selection was subtitled The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Which of the great cabbage races will survive? He used race as a term for varieties.

Why let facts get in the way of a convenient rationalization.

Why don’t you tell me?

They just come up with increasingly creative rationalizations to deny the truth, and the effort this takes makes them more and more psychologically invested in denying inconvenient realities.


People who quote Darwin should most definitely read his works, as if they’re quoting him—especially in these contexts—they should really know the whole context behind the quote and not rely on a Creationist quote-mine which is easily dismantled.

And the way it’s going now, the savage races are outbreeding the civilized races—so how do you see (your interpretation of) Darwin’s theory coming to pass? How will your race war fantasy with each of the macro-races genociding the rest of the ethnies in their group and form one ethnicitu of that racial group? PP believes that eventually it’ll be Ashkenazi Jews vs. East Asians for East Asia. Except Ashkenazi Jews frequently breed with gentiles, and in 100 years there will be very few Ashkenazi Jews left. Japan is having a huge population decline, which is partly biological and partly cultural/environmental in nature. One of the so-called ‘most evolved’ ethnies isn’t able to reign superior over the rest of the inferior ethnies/races due to low birthrates? As I said last night: civilization is dysgenic and leads to low birth rates. So how will the civilized races exterminate the savage races, if the civilized races hardly breed because they get too civilized?