Lents: Devolution is Not a Thing

“Devolve” is a pure Behe-ism.

From me this garners a huge so what.

According to Behe, a protein evolves if it improves in function (or gains a new function), and it devolves if it’s function is reduced, degraded, or destroyed.

So he defines what he means by the term. That is good.

Evolution simply means change over time…

So “devolution” is not the opposite of evolution, because for that to be the case “devolution” would have to mean no change over time.

And Lents tell us that change over time “favors simplicity, efficiency, and streamlining as often as it favors complexity.”

Lents also tell us that change over time " is aimless, sloppy, and produces clunky solutions as often as it does elegant ones."

We are simply asked to take his word for it.

Is this not something you know about? You can’t think of any examples?

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Actually I’m fairly sure other ID/Creationists used it before him, but I don’t think that is the point here.

I find it poetic that the very title of this book, Darwin Devolves, is a misnomer. There is no such thing as devolution and there is no great crisis in evolutionary biology. There are, however, a great deal of interesting unanswered questions. Our new era of cheap genome sequencing can begin to interrogate some of these questions. As with all great interrogations in science, the answers will come from the proper interpretation of all available evidence.

This is an interesting observation Nathan makes. Which side of the argument is cheap genome sequence favoring? What is it telling us?

What makes you think there’s an argument? You give ID too much credit.

Examples of what?

Examples of change over time favoring simplicity, efficiency, and streamlining as often as it favors complexity? No, I cannot think of any examples. Someone would actually need to define their terms and produce the actual science to back it up rather than posting unsubstantiated claims in a blog post and just asking people to believe it.

Do you actually buy the “evolution simply means change over time” assertion? Perhaps that is the “evolution for simpletons” version. So modern evolutionary theory is modern “simply change over time” theory?

If evolution simply means change over time we can all go home now.

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Sorry, I forgot that you are usually just trying to score points off exact wording. Winning! Wouldn’t it be equally good for his argument if it just happens a sizable fraction of the time rather than exactly half? Now, I seem to recall an actual study in which someone took a major taxon and counted the increases and decreases in some measure of complexity. Was it nematodes? I’ll see if I can find it.

Hmmm…if you google “simplification in evolution” you turn up quite a few papers on the subject, though so far I don’t see the one I was thinking of. Still, this one will do.

Ah, another attempt to score points off exact wording. Winning again! But you have confused the definition of a word with evolutionary biology itself, which goes into far more detail than the simple definitions.


And you don’t think that how Nathan defined evolution was a part of his rhetorical strategy against Behe? And of course that’s the real point. Lents wants to score points and to do so he pretends that evolution means simply change over time. And you play right along.

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Yes, everyone has rhetorical strategies, including ID advocates. This isn’t about scoring points though.

That chip on your shoulder, or perhaps the beam in your eye, is making you paranoid.


Behe claims that any adaptations due to Darwninian mechanisms involve breaking genes.

We are simply supposed to take his word for it.

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That is what biologists mean by evolution, so yes, I buy it. For example, the tapeworm has lost many of the adaptations needed to survive outside of a host, and that is still evolution. Obligate intracellular parasites (e.g. Chlamydia sp.) have followed a similar evolutionary path. Nowhere in the theory of evolution does it state that evolution must always follow a path towards higher complexity. Even Darwin wrote about organs becoming rudiments if they were no longer used.

OK, no. Evolution doesn’t just mean change over time. It means heritable change across generations. Which is essentially genetic change.

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I define evolution in three ways. Each definition entails the previous one.

At its most basic evolution is:

  1. heritable change across generations. To borrow John’s terminology.

Evolution can also be understood as:
2. The thesis of universal common ancestry. For (2) to happen one has to happen.

And three:

  1. Evolution can be understood as evolutionary theory. The scientific theory that explains how (1) and (2) happens and takes place.

These are all of course change over time.

One thing that bothers me about the ID/creation/evolution discussion is too much time is spent on the differences instead of common ground. Let’s say some type of progressive, seperare ancestry turns out to be true (it won’t. But bare with me). What really changes? One word in (2). Take out the world universal.

I just read a YEC baraminology paper on Tyrannosaurs. They came to the same basic conclusion as mainstream academia has on Tyrannosauroid evolution. Also read one on dromaeosaurs and it was like 30 taxa across multiple families in their “kind” (Clade). Saw a snake one that was like 27 families and 700 species. That’s a lot of evolution. The traditional anti-evolutionists are starting to accept more and more evolution. I don’t know how I ended up on this rant. But there you go



A summary of some of the clades that they have established:

I want to thank Todd Wood for sending me these.


Provide some citations there.

Done and done

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Thanks to him and to you for posting the links. But I think this is clearly an example of cargo cult science. There are lots of graphs and figures and sciencey-sounding terms and analyses, but is there any justification for believing that these analyses ought to be able to distinguish separate “kinds”?

I don’t think so. But I’m trying to understand why they think there is.

I don’t think they ever say.