Geoffrey Simmons on not knowing the direction of the sun

Geoffrey Simmons, in a never ending series of self-promotional posts, questions the evolutionary processes that led to the ability of plants to grow up:

The pat answer is that prehistoric flat plants decided to compete for more sun. But where did this need to compete arise? How could a limp ground hugger accidentally develop systems to support excessive weight – maybe tons of wood – root systems to support the weight, transport systems to move the water and nutrients up, and defense mechanisms against weather and pests?

Simmons does not buy the pat answer, but it is a perfectly reasonable causation. Imagine a limited area that is overrun with flat plants. Since there is no more area on the ground, any move in the vertical direction is going to yield exposure to more sun. The need for weight supporting structures, transport systems and defense mechanisms simply followed. This would have been obviously brought about by natural selection. The fact that Simmons can’t see this is actually astounding. I guess his billions of missing links, including upside-down wombat pouches, adhesives used by Barnacles and Mussels, and velvet worms, can all be summarized as an argument from personal disbelief.

Simmons ends with a ridiculous analogy. This of course has become a pattern with creationist/IDers. When they can’t really make a good argument that is based on reason and evidence, they appeal to an analogy that is specifically crafted to prove their point.

Did you notice the derogatory statement that plants accidently developed the ability to grow upright? Or how about how plants decided to compete? This wording would not really be used by scientists and is yet another example of an ID proponent trying to win points by making evolution sound absurd. However, Simmons inability to see natural selection in such an obvious place is what is really absurd.

Update:  The skepTick has an alternate (and more funny) view of Simmon’s post.

Upside down on wombat pouches

In a May 20, 2008 post entitled Billions of Missing Links: Wombat Pouches, Geoffrey Simmons writes:

A design must be considered improbable if it is highly functional and durable yet too complex to have come about spontaneously or by intermediate steps.

This is a simple rewording of irreducible complexity, an idea that is being destroyed with increasing frequency in the fields of paleontology and in molecular biology. IDers proclaim that the species we have today are too complex to have come about by intermediate steps. Who are they to decide what is too complex?  It seems like an arbitrary call to me and set up for future arguments using the moving goalposts fallacy. Besides, systems that once appeared too complex to work without individual parts are now able to be simplified. For example, blood clotting, functional eyes, and the complement system.

The “missing link” brought up in this post is the one of the upside down pouch in wombats:

The wombat has an upside-down pouch. Scientists presume, and it makes sense, that position prevents dirt from entering the pouch when the wombat is digging in the ground. Could there have been transitional species with pouches situated sideways, or did the first wombats have to scoop dirt out of their pouches every day?

The author is using a technique to make evolution sound stupid by bringing up a wombat that would have a sideways pouch or that wombats would have to scoop dirt.  Of course the change from right-side-up to upside-down could have simply been in one step.  When a wombat came along with a mutation that led to an upside-down patch, it would have a strong advantage in being able to raise healthy young.

This characterization of the wombat is laughable, yet convenient for IDers. I suspect the example was brought up because it is going to be hard to find intermediate fossils of wombat pouch evolution due to the pouch being made of soft tissue. Since soft tissues don’t fossilize, it will be hard to trace its evolution.  Unfortunately, there have not been any useful fossils found of wombat ancestors.  But then again, present day-like wombats have not been found either, as would have been predicted by ID.