What Theobold meant by "... macroevolutionary adaptations is a question left open..."

This thread is dedicated colewd’s question asking for an explanation of Douglas Theobold’s quote from a 2002 writing:

"The fundamentals of genetics, developmental biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and geology are assumed to be fundamentally correct—especially those that do not directly purport to explain adaptation. However, whether microevolutionary theories are sufficient to account for macroevolutionary adaptations is a question that is left open"

What’s odd about this is the quote in question comes from this article titled:

29 Evidences for Macroevolution

Scientific Evidences for the

Theory of Common Descent with Gradual Modification
Version 2.4
Copyright © 2000-2002 by Douglas Theobald, Ph.D.
[Last Update: February 21, 2002]
I thought this was particularly appropriate since @colewd actually accused me of “circular reasoning”! And yet Theobold follows his words with this key statement:

"It must be stressed that this approach to demonstrating the scientific support for macroevolution is not a circular argument; the truth of macroevolution is not assumed a priori in this discussion. Simply put, the hypothesis of common descent, combined with modern biological knowledge, is used to deduce predictions; these predictions are then compared to the real world in order see how the hypothesis fairs in light of the observable evidence."

“In every example, it is quite possible that the predictions could fail to match the empirical evidence. In fact, without assuming the truth of universal common descent, it is highly probable that the hypothesis will indeed fail for most of these predictions - and this is exactly why many of these predictions are such strong evidence for common descent. The few examples given for each prediction are meant to be representative of general trends. By no means do I purport to state all predictions or potential falsifications; there are many more out there for the inquiring soul to uncover.”


Part I . One true phylogenetic tree

  1. Fundamental unity of life
  2. Nested hierarchy of species organization
  3. Independent convergence on true phylogeny
  4. Morphology of common ancestors
  5. Chronology of common ancestors

Part 2 . Past history

  1. Anatomical vestigial structures
  2. Molecular vestigial structures
  3. Ontogeny and developmental biology
  4. Present biogeography
  5. Past biogeography

Part 3 . Evolutionary opportunism

  1. Anatomical paralogy
  2. Molecular paralogy
  3. Anatomical convergence
  4. Molecular convergence
  5. Anatomical suboptimal function
  6. Molecular suboptimal function

Part 4. Molecular evidence

  1. Functional evidence - protein redundancy
  2. Functional evidence - DNA redundancy
  3. Transposons
  4. Pseudogenes
  5. Endogenous retroviruses

Part 5. Change

  1. Genetic
  2. Morphological
  3. Functional
  4. The strange past
  5. Stages of speciation
  6. Speciation events
  7. Morphological rates
  8. Genetic rates
    Closing remarks


Continuing from a part of the PeacefulScience thread: Difference Between Beneficial and Innovative Mutations:

With a little luck, @colewd, you will understand a few of the 29 evidences!

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Here Theobald describes Common Descent.

As stated earlier, for the purposes of this article macroevolution and universal common descent are treated as virtual synonyms. Common descent is the hypothesis that all living organisms are the lineal descendants of one original living species.

Do you agree that you need to show a prokaryotic to eukaryotic transition to empirically demonstrate this claim?

The question was already answered several times. Bill quote-mined the article to make it look like Theobald was saying mechanisms for macroevolution are unknown. In fact the line only means the question is not addressed in that specific article, because that is not the topic of the article. The same reason Theobald says abiogenesis is not addressed in the article either.

Why Creationists think quote-mining counts as honest discussion is the real question.


It would be nice to have perfect knowledge but it’s not necessary. The empirical evidence we do have for evolution through common descent is way more than sufficient to establish the case.

To substantiate that claim one would have to show evidence most consistent with such a transition having occurred, while not being equally well or better explained by an alternative hypothesis. Yes.

That evidence exists and has been explained to you many times before. The evidence for the consilience of independent phylogenites, nesting hiearchical structure in shared similar genetic sequences, simpler versions of previously-thought-to-be-unique-to-eukaryotes cellular structures and organelles present in prokaryotes(group II self-splicing introns, including a homologue of the prp8 protein you love so much existing in bacteria, such as histones, actin and tubulin in archaea just to name a few examples, and so on and so forth), and all the evidence for endosymbiosis leading to the establishment of the mitochondria and chloroplasts in eukaryotic lineages, combined withe the fact that endosymbiosis has literally been observed take place in real time by an alphaproteobacteria(wolbachia) like the mitochondria are, that horizontal gene transfer from endosymbionts to hosts are observed to take place in real time and the mechanism facilitating this is understood. Etc. etc. etc.

This is not to say everything about this transition is know or understood, but we don’t HAVE to know EVERYTHING about HOW it happened to know THAT it happened to a substantial and rational degree of certainty.


This is where you lose me as you don’t establish a statistical confidence level. It simply relies on your assertion that it is the best alternative of what is known.

This is just the first of many major innovative transitions required to support Theobald’s claim. You are simply resorting back to Darwins inference which appears to be circular reasoning as no statistical confidence level is established to support the major transitions such as proposed prokaryotic to eukaryotic evolution.

How would you model this? You first need to understand the mechanistic causes of the event and how they allow this event to occur.

Actually you lose yourself by refusing to understand any of the thousands of scientific explanations you’ve been given. There’s no cure for willful ignorance.


Bill goes right back to his Creationist 101 Playbook. If science doesn’t know everything then science doesn’t know anything.



Bill, that’s word salad.

It’s not a “claim,” it’s an explicit hypothesis. It is supported by all the data we have, except for the exceptions we understand mechanistically, like horizontal gene transfer.

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More word salad. Do you realize how obvious it is to working scientists that you are just assembling sentences full of buzzwords without an understanding of what they mean?

One doesn’t need to understand the “mechanistic causes” (what other kinds of causes are there?) of an event to model it.

And “how they allow this event to occur” is not only gibberish, but redundant gibberish.


How the hell is this a response to what you are quoting me saying? You quote me saying that we don’t need to understand everything about HOW something happened to know THAT it happened, and you respond to that by demanding I “model it”? Uhm, what the f… ?

I stated a principle there, that there are some types of knowledge we can have that aren’t contingent on us knowing everything. To bring up an analogy here I think you would understand, I’m sure you would argue that we can know with good evidence that God divinely resurrected Jesus without us knowing how God actually accomplished that, right? Surely you must at least agree with this. That we can know that X really did happen, without knowing everything there is to know about how X happened.



Why do you turn to atheists to better understand God-guided Evolution?

You are using @swamidass’ kindness to inflame distrust between groups… at Joshua’s expense.

Dont you have a life?

I gave you a proposed standard for claiming knowledge. The statement that you don’t need to know everything that happened to know that it happened is a meaningless statement.

What do you need to know about the eukaryotic transition. Here are a few things.
-the origin of the new complex machinery that don’t exist in prokaryotic cells
-The origin of chrome structure
-The origin of DNA where genes contain exons separated by introns in most or all genes.

The claim is that this was from cell division and variation. Yet with long term experiments with prokaryotic cells we don’t see any of this emerging.

Why did you make this post? I will exit now.

Why don’t you use this same standard for your religious ID-Creationist claims? Why the double standard hypocrisy?

All you do is bitch all day long because science doesn’t have the infinite knowledge Bill demands while always ignoring the vast amount of knowledge we do have. Then you wonder why you don’t get taken seriously.

Classic Bill. Can you list the name and birthdate of every one of your ancestors going back 2000 years? If you don’t have that information does it mean you’re wrong to claim human ancestry for that entire span?

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I assume you mean “this thread”… not this “post”.

I had two reasons for making this thread:

[1] You accused me of circular reasoning… all the while you were quoting the author’s sentence out of context …

[2] … Quoting from the specific article the author wrote to show people like you why Evolution is not a circular proposition!

I suppose there was a third reason as well… you never answered my question in the other thread (now closed down) why you are assaulting atheists who are here to help @swamidass build bridges of trust regarding evolution.

If you are sincere in helping him build consensus that de novo creation of Adam and Eve was NOT deal breaker, you wouldnt be doing your best to antagonize non-Christian Evolutionists who just might come to agree with Joshua!


Is this another moving goal post?

This article is about macro evolution. If you are going to fixate on single cell life, lets talk about single cell creatures that are known to feed on algae cells.

In a laboratory, a culture was developed from these algae-eaters where an algae cell was engulfed … and it REFUSED TO DIE!

In fact it prospered… and it produced nutrients for its host cell when there was little food, but lots of sunlight. And the host cell kept the algae alive when there wasnt much sunlight.

I dont think we can find a more dramatic case of macro-evolution… in a single generation!

Let us recall that Bill refuses to believe that two species of crocodiles are related by common descent, or two species of sparrows, or two species of apes. How much more difficult would it be to convince him that a bacterium and an amoeba are related?



Well, well, well!!!

I had no idea he had reached those conclusions! So, really, he gives us not a wit of hope that he will accept God using Evolution for part of his creation?

What a shame… what a waste.