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Testing Common Descent via the Continuity Between Biogeography and Evolution

Casey Luskin

Last fall I spoke at a symposium on intelligent design (ID) and the law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My forthcoming paper from that conference, “The Constitutionality and Pedagogical Benefits of Teaching Evolution Scientifically,” deals with many issues, one of which is a rebuttal to dumbed down versions of evolution that some evolution-lobbyists wish to teach students.

The primary force in the evolution lobby is the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). In its response to the chapter on biogeography in the supplementary textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (“EE”), the NCSE asserts that EE “mangles the tiny fraction of biogeography covered.” The reality, however, is that the NCSE drastically overstates the case for evolution from biogeography by stating that “consistency between biogeographic and evolutionary patterns provides important evidence about the continuity of the processes driving the evolution and diversification of all life,” namely that “[t]his continuity is what would be expected of a pattern of common descent.”

However, in making its case for common descent and against Explore Evolution, the NCSE essentially ignores the numerous and significant examples where the biogeographical evidence does not fit well with purported “evolutionary patterns.” In other words, they cherry pick the data and ignore examples where there are great discontinuities between biogeography and neo-Darwinism. One of the most significant discontinuities, the origin of South American monkeys (“called platyrrhines”), is discussed in this first of four installments to rebut the NCSE on biogeography.

Before jumping into the discussion, which is featured in my article on the Further Debate section of the Explore Evolution website, “The NCSE’s Biogeographic Conundrums: A Defense of Explore Evolution‘s Treatment of Biogeography,” one preemptive rebuttal must be made. I presented some of this information discussed below at the St. Thomas conference last fall, and NCSE staff member Josh Rosenau repeatedly alleged that I was making a “poof” hypothesis for the origin of monkeys.

No. That is not what I was arguing at all.

The NCSE made a specific argument for common descent based upon the “continuity” and “consistency” between biogeography and evolution. The evidence presented below refutes their assertion.
This argument is no “poof” hypothesis for the origin of monkeys. In fact, if the only alternative to common descent is, in the words of Josh Rosenau, the “poof” hypothesis, then that says more about common descent being an unscientific hypothesis than anything else.

Fortunately for Mr. Rosenau and the NCSE, there are alternatives to common descent apart from the “poof” hypothesis. Common descent is testable, and in my view it fails the test presented below. Explore Evolution presents a scientifically testable alternative to common descent, the orchard model. The NCSE dismisses it as a “creationist” argument, but as will be seen below, only the hardened Darwinian faithful will buy such quips, dismissals, and refusals to seriously engage this argument.

The next three installments will explain how the sea monkey hypothesis refutes the NCSE’s biogeography objections to Explore Evolution.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



biogeographyExplore EvolutionNational Center for Science Educationncsescience