Technical Ben wrote:To some extent yes. While the answer "evolution is possible" or "we observe life exists, so evolution must be probable" are somewhat given to me. But those statements don't verify themselves. Being shown the figures would help me have confidence in such claims.
I don't know the frequency of mutations that are deleterious/neutral/beneficial, and I wager any answer would require explaining some biochemistry to you. I, however, don't see it as particularly pertinent a point; mutations happen, we know this, and we know this is how evolution occurs. If you want to play a game of math and try and argue something, you'll need to bring it up yourself, because frankly, your level of confidence in the fact that it happens is more or less entirely irrelevant to the discussion. We know that most mutations are deleterious. If you want to know how much 'most' means, go learn some biochemistry and figure it out!
Technical Ben wrote:What tells me that something had to be a mutation? What if it was geographic migration? If I had generations A, B, C, etc, I could erroneously assign C to be the ancestor of A. How would I prevent that error and what should I look for?
The first part of your question is the same conversation we had pages ago; are you asking if you can tell the difference between a replication error, radiation error, or toxic compound mutagenesis? The answer is you can't, unless you look at something like frequency of other mutations in the same region of DNA.
To the second part of your question; 'geographic migration' doesn't cause mutations.
To the third part of your question, you could prevent the error by being an ecologist and having the knowledge that would reduce the chances of making that error. A layman, like yourself, may look at a beetle and say 'oh, the thing has a shell casing that's red and a horn, so, obviously it's the same as this other thing that's red and has a horn', while a Coleopterist (I dunno if that's what you call 'someone who studies beetles, seems legit though) would say "Obviously these are two different species, because these two horns look nothing alike, and look at the difference in ratios of the blahblahblah."
EDIT: Cars. I should have gone with cars for the analogy: Someone who doesn't really know much about cars might look at a '94 and a '98 models and say "yeah, that's a Porche" while someone who knows about Porches can look at the two and spot the differences. Do you understand?
I'm saying this to you because, again, a lot of your uncertainty here seems to stem from assuming that because YOU don't understand something, that no one does.
Technical Ben wrote:I'm not sure we can state that such a range of mutations has the probability of stretching indefinitely. Until we can say where it's limits are, I cannot say that the observations of life are within those limits or not.
Well, I daresay again, you might need to learn more about the field before you can point to where obvious limitations are. You might find it unacceptable that an eye could evolve from a not eye, but it makes pretty good sense to some people who can point to 'eye like', 'kind of an eye', 'protoeye' and 'pretty much an eye' in extant species or evidence in development for eye formation in stages. I didn't understand evolution very well until I took a class on Evolutionary Biology and Developmental Biology. You're an engineer right? I don't understand how flying buttresses or cantilevered structures stay up; wouldn't you agree it would be foolish for me to state "I cannot accept that they can be used in construction"?
... with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.