Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jim Stump: “I almost felt sorry for design advocates”

F6 Thinking

In his recent review of Benjamin Jantzen’s Introduction to Design Arguments (Cambridge University Press, 2014), evolutionist Jim Stump finds much to agree with because, as Stump argues, design arguments are both bad science and bad religion. For example, Michael Behe argues that evolution is challenged by the irreducible complexity of biological structures, but “almost all” biologists think Behe’s examples don’t hold water. The problem is Behe is implicitly appealing to a caricature of how evolution works that views complexity arising all at once. “In reality,” the ex Bethel professor explains, “natural selection operates on combinations of traits, not merely on isolated structures. Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water. Contrary to the ID claim about irreducible complexity, you don’t have to get the whole thing at once.”

Furthermore, even if Behe is right, he can merely conclude that design is the best explanation available. The history of science is full of best explanations that were later rejected because a previously unconceived explanation arose. Therefore Behe’s claim is considerably weakened. Stump finds Jantzen’s analyses to be cogent and by the end “almost felt sorry for design advocates as the soft underbelly of their arguments was exposed.”

Unfortunately what the philosopher demonstrates here is not a helpful and insightful commentary on design arguments but rather the usual sequence of evolutionary misrepresentations.

It begins with Stumps appeal to authority. This is a common evolutionary argument, but the fact that a majority of scientists accept an idea means very little. Certainly expert opinion is an important factor and needs to be considered, but the reasons for that consensus also need to be understood. The history of science is full of examples of new ideas that accurately described and explained natural phenomena, yet were summarily rejected by experts. Scientists are people with a range of nonscientific, as well as scientific influences. Social, career, and funding influences are difficult to underestimate. There can be tremendous pressures on a scientist that have little to do with the evidence at hand. This certainly is true in evolutionary circles, where the pressure to conform is intense.

Next, Behe does not appeal to a caricature of how evolution works as Stump describes. In his development of the problem of irreducible complexity, Behe specifically addresses the adaptation of pre existing structures. Indeed, Stump’s representation of ID as claiming that with evolution you must “get the whole thing at once” is itself a caricature.

Furthermore Stump’s view that “natural selection operates on combinations of traits” is nothing more than the usual Aristotelianism dressed up in Darwinian language. Natural selection doesn’t “operate” on anything. And Stump’s credulous explanation of how “Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water” is simply a just-so story. There is no scientific evidence that this ever actually occurred in history, and it adds enormous serendipity to evolutionary theory. Does that make it impossible? Of course not. But that’s not the point.

The final critique of Behe is that he can only present design as the best explanation and is therefore vulnerable to the problem of unconceived explanations. Is not Behe’s claim considerably weakened?

This coming from an evolutionist is hypocritical for contrastive thinking is foundational to evolutionary thought. If Behe’s claim is considerably weakened then evolution is demolished.

Stump concludes with the usual Leibnizian / Kantian appeal to naturalism. Reminiscent of the final scene in Inherit the Wind which has the victorious Spencer Tracy clutching a Bible, we are told that the divine hand is evident in the created order, not in the failures of nature:

We see God’s hand throughout the created order not because science can’t explain nature, but because it can. The Designer’s mark is not in systems that don’t work quite right and need tinkering; those are signs of imperfection.

If naturalism fails, then nature fails. And if nature fails, then the Creator has failed. It’s the seventeenth century all over again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Here’s What’s Going on With BioLogos

The Importance of the Warfare Thesis

Deborah Haarsma was professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College and is currently the President of BioLogos. Both of these Christian organizations promote evolutionary theory (Calvin statement, BioLogos statement). That is not surprising since evolution derives, at least in modern times, from theologians and philosophers in the church. To be sure, evolutionary thinking is obvious in ancient Epicureanism, but its resurgence in the seventeenth century was almost exclusively the work of Christian thinkers. Descartes, Malebranche, Cudworth, Ray, Burnet, Leibniz and Wolfe are good examples of how widespread was the movement within Christian thought, and of how varied were the arguments for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. These Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans agreed that the world must have arisen by natural causes. The common theme was that the arguments were theological and philosophical (i.e., metaphysical rather than scientific). These mandates for naturalism increased and by the nineteenth century were the received truths for progressives. This was the culture Charles Darwin was born into and his book applied these arguments for naturalism to the problem of the origins of the species. Darwin’s thought—from his early notebooks, to Origins, to his later works and autobiography—was thoroughly metaphysical. God must have created via law not miracle and, ever since Darwin, Christians have embraced this belief just as strongly as the pre Darwin Christians had promoted it. Deborah Haarsma is, therefore, a contemporary representative of a long and distinguished intellectual history. But there is one major difference between today’s evolutionists and their forerunners from centuries past.

In the eighteenth century, and even more so in the nineteenth century, evolutionary thought increasingly sought to enlist science to support its thesis of naturalism. In the eighteenth century Bernoulli, Buffon, Kant and Laplace constructed naturalistic theories to explain the origin of the solar system. In the nineteenth century Lamarck, Wallace and Darwin constructed naturalistic theories to explain the origin of the species. While these thinkers and their works rested on the metaphysical foundation that had been laid for them, this genre took on a patina of empiricism. Lengthy, meandering, passages describing scientific observations seemed to lend the authority of science, even if the brief conclusions that followed were steeped in metaphysics.

Thus began the claim that a naturalistic origins is the obvious and unavoidable result of objective scientific inquiry. In fact, from a strictly scientific perspective, a naturalistic origins fares no better than a perpetual motion machine. The clear message of science, then and now, is that the world did not likely arise spontaneously. But science, as has been said, is theology’s hand maiden and the empirical evidence is notoriously vulnerable to manipulation and clever presentation.

To aid in this presentation, evolutionary thinkers also constructed a false history known today as the Conflict or Warfare Thesis. It can be traced back to Voltaire and his mythological reconstruction of the Galileo Affair, but it gathered strength in the nineteenth century. The idea is that science and religion are in conflict as science churns out new, occasionally inconvenient, truths while religion retreats and resists where it can.

So according to the Warfare Thesis, there is a conflict for Christians who are unwilling to bend their interpretation of Scripture. Their religious faith is in conflict with science.

Historians have understood for the better part of a century now that this Warfare Thesis is a false history. It was constructed by evolutionists to frame the origins debate in their favor. In fact the conflict is the exactly the opposite—it is between the metaphysical foundation of evolutionary thought and science. That metaphysical foundation of naturalism is unyielding and unbending, and it makes no sense on the science. It is the evolutionists who have a conflict between their religious beliefs and science. The Warfare Thesis is an attempt to turn the tables and turn the attention away from the obvious problems with evolutionary thought.

Evolutionists say that their skeptics suffer from bad religion and bad science. In fact, the metaphysical foundation of naturalism is not biblical (in spite of the fact that it comes from Christians), and evolutionary theory is not scientific. Science does not indicate that the world spontaneously arose.

But the Warfare Thesis continues. In spite of its obvious failure and falsehood, it is too powerful to resist. A few years ago when Haarsma became President of BioLogos she called for respectful discourse. I took that opportunity to voice my concern that BioLogos was reliant on the Warfare Thesis. Not only was there no reply, but BioLogos has continued to promote the false Warfare Thesis. Haarsma’s article from two weeks ago, on the resignation of Bethel College professor Jim Stump, is an example:

Yet we are concerned that a decision like this effectively sets faith commitments in opposition to clear scientific evidence in God’s creation. We would like to see Christian colleges encouraging their scholars to engage the scientific evidence that humans evolved, and acknowledge that this can be done without letting go of biblical authority. … We are also concerned that Christian college students, especially those who feel called to scientific careers, will see policies like this as a sign of conflict between Christianity and science and feel forced to make an unnecessary choice between them. … We love the Bible and we make the case for evolutionary creation: that God used the natural process of evolution to create all of life’s diverse forms, including humans, as supported by abundant genetic and fossil evidence. This position is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible and Christian doctrine. For example, there are multiple ways that the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve can be understood in the context of this scientific evidence, including as real historical people. And even though God used the natural mechanisms of evolution to create humans, he also made us spiritual beings and established a unique relationship with us by endowing humans with his image.

Clear scientific evidence for evolution? Abundant genetic and fossil evidence for evolution? Yes, the scientific evidence is clear, and the genetic and fossil evidence is abundant, but it does not support evolution. Not even remotely.

Of course Scripture can have different interpretations. But the science leaves no such wiggle room. It does not prove, indicate or suggest that the species arose spontaneously, as a consequence of natural laws and processes. That is a metaphysical mandate that is in conflict with the science.

So whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionists were clear about their metaphysical assumptions and how those assumptions mandated naturalism, today’s evolutionists obfuscate their message with the Warfare Thesis. They make the same non biblical, theological and philosophical arguments for evolution in their apologetic literature. But then argue that their proofs are scientific, not metaphysical, and claim their skeptics are the ones with the bad science and bad religion.

Too often evolutionists today present a contradictory message. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Here is Matt Ridley’s Must Read Article on Climate Science

A Most Dangerous Door

One of the standard defenses of evolution—the Epicurean idea that the world arose spontaneously—is that science is a self-correcting, feedback process and, as such, will always lead to the truth. This is such an ignorant claim it is difficult to know where to begin in rebutting it. First of all, at its best science is a process that takes as input a set of observations and produces as output some generalizations, sometimes called models or hypotheses or theories or laws, about how nature works. A scientist might observe the planetary motions in the sky and hypothesize that the planets travel in elliptical orbits about the Sun. Or a scientist might observe the movement of objects and theorize that the product of the mass and acceleration of an object equals the force applied to it. These are valuable theories that condense a vast amount of observations into simple and useful formulas that can predict future events. But for every one of these successes there are hundreds of failures. Sometimes these failures are rooted out only after decades or centuries of contentious debate with proponents who are convinced they’ve got it right. Indeed, there is no guarantee of a timely resolution of scientific failures. There is no guarantee of a resolution, period. Every engineering student knows that feedback loops do not guarantee accuracy—they don’t even guarantee stability.

Even at its best, science is not guaranteed to produce truth because of some real or imagined feedback process. And the story gets worse in practice because of the many nonscientific influences at work. Scientists have religious, philosophical and political biases as much as anyone else, and too often they are under pressure to conform. Bucking the trend doesn’t usually win the funding grant.

Yet the Warfare Thesis, the myth that in its objective search for truth science is opposed by religion, has persisted and has fueled a strong trend of scientism—the view of science as dispassionate truth giver. It was constructed and promoted by evolutionists to frame the debate in their favor, and it worked.

So the idea that evolution is true because science “says so,” and after all science can’t be wrong, continues to enjoy broad traction. It is for these reasons that Matt Ridley’s brilliant article in Quadrant Online is important. Ridley begins:

For much of my life I have been a science writer. That means I eavesdrop on what’s going on in laboratories so I can tell interesting stories. It’s analogous to the way art critics write about art, but with a difference: we “science critics” rarely criticise. If we think a scientific paper is dumb, we just ignore it. There’s too much good stuff coming out of science to waste time knocking the bad stuff. Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience—homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science. Or so I used to think.

Ridley’s main concern is the highly politicized idea of anthropomorphic global warming (AGW):

Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

This piece by Ridley is important because it is a cogent and direct challenge to the dominant and damaging ideas of scientism and the Warfare Thesis. And it is an admission that the problem is rather obvious:

This should have been obvious to me. Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly.

Ridley has shed the mythology of the objective scientist driven simply by a pursuit for the truth:

Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defence.

And Ridley has learned about scientific hegemony:

What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press.

Ridley observes that global warming has now joined this infamous list of dubious yet dangerous sciences:

This is precisely what has happened with the climate debate and it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science. The “bad idea” in this case is not that climate changes, nor that human beings influence climate change; but that the impending change is sufficiently dangerous to require urgent policy responses.

Ridley explains how climate science was hijacked by partisans some 15-20 years ago and since then dogma, not data, has controlled the research:

These huge green multinationals, with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous. Today’s climate science, as Ian Plimer points out in his chapter in The Facts, is based on a “pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored and analytical procedures are treated as evidence”. Funds are not available to investigate alternative theories. Those who express even the mildest doubts about dangerous climate change are ostracised, accused of being in the pay of fossil-fuel interests or starved of funds; those who take money from green pressure groups and make wildly exaggerated statements are showered with rewards and treated by the media as neutral.

It is not difficult to imagine how this plays out:

Look what happened to a butterfly ecologist named Camille Parmesan when she published a paper on “Climate and Species Range” that blamed climate change for threatening the Edith checkerspot butterfly with extinction in California by driving its range northward. The paper was cited more than 500 times, she was invited to speak at the White House and she was asked to contribute to the IPCC’s third assessment report. Unfortunately, a distinguished ecologist called Jim Steele found fault with her conclusion: there had been more local extinctions in the southern part of the butterfly’s range due to urban development than in the north, so only the statistical averages moved north, not the butterflies. There was no correlated local change in temperature anyway, and the butterflies have since recovered throughout their range. When Steele asked Parmesan for her data, she refused. Parmesan’s paper continues to be cited as evidence of climate change. Steele meanwhile is derided as a “denier”. No wonder a highly sceptical ecologist I know is very reluctant to break cover.

Ridley explains that this abuse of science is justified and enabled by the propagation of a false dichotomy that casts skeptics as dangerous or ignorant extremists:

These scientists and their guardians of the flame repeatedly insist that there are only two ways of thinking about climate change—that it’s real, man-made and dangerous (the right way), or that it’s not happening (the wrong way). But this is a false dichotomy. There is a third possibility: that it’s real, partly man-made and not dangerous. This is the “lukewarmer” school, and I am happy to put myself in this category. Lukewarmers do not think dangerous climate change is impossible; but they think it is unlikely. I find that very few people even know of this. Most ordinary people who do not follow climate debates assume that either it’s not happening or it’s dangerous. This suits those with vested interests in renewable energy, since it implies that the only way you would be against their boondoggles is if you “didn’t believe” in climate change.

And given this false dichotomy, the next step is the vilification of the skeptic in a full-scale demagoguery:

But the commentators ignore all these caveats and babble on about warming of “up to” four degrees (or even more), then castigate as a “denier” anybody who says, as I do, the lower end of the scale looks much more likely given the actual data. This is a deliberate tactic. Following what the psychologist Philip Tetlock called the “psychology of taboo”, there has been a systematic and thorough campaign to rule out the middle ground as heretical: not just wrong, but mistaken, immoral and beyond the pale. That’s what the word denier with its deliberate connotations of Holocaust denial is intended to do. For reasons I do not fully understand, journalists have been shamefully happy to go along with this fundamentally religious project.

And behind all the demagoguery, politics, fallacies and manipulation is just plain old bad nineteenth century science:

Joanne Nova, incidentally, is an example of a new breed of science critic that the climate debate has spawned. With little backing, and facing ostracism for her heresy, this talented science journalist had abandoned any chance of a normal, lucrative career and systematically set out to expose the way the huge financial gravy train that is climate science has distorted the methods of science. In her chapter in The Facts, Nova points out that the entire trillion-dollar industry of climate change policy rests on a single hypothetical assumption, first advanced in 1896, for which to this day there is no evidence. The assumption is that modest warming from carbon dioxide must be trebly amplified by extra water vapour—that as the air warms there will be an increase in absolute humidity providing “a positive feedback”. That assumption led to specific predictions that could be tested. And the tests come back negative again and again. The large positive feedback that can turn a mild warming into a dangerous one just is not there. There is no tropical troposphere hot-spot. Ice cores unambiguously show that temperature can fall while carbon dioxide stays high. Estimates of climate sensitivity, which should be high if positive feedbacks are strong, are instead getting lower and lower. Above all, the temperature has failed to rise as predicted by the models.

Ridley chronicles the long sordid history of manipulating evidence and mindless predictions that, though one after the next turned up false, never mattered and even though they failed ridiculously were used anyway as confirmations of AGW:

Excusing failed predictions is a staple of astrology; it’s the way pseudoscientists argue. In science, as Karl Popper long ago insisted, if you make predictions and they fail, you don’t just make excuses and insist you’re even more right than before.

In the end all of this will ultimately harm science. Its hard won reputation can withstand only so many religious and political intrusions. For Ridley himself, it gets personal:

That complacency has shocked me, and done more than anything else to weaken my long-standing support for science as an institution. … I feel genuinely betrayed by the profession that I have spent so much of my career championing.

But this goes far beyond feels of personal disappointment and betrayal. The consequences are enormous:

None of this would matter if it was just scientific inquiry, though that rarely comes cheap in itself. The big difference is that these scientists who insist that we take their word for it, and who get cross if we don’t, are also asking us to make huge, expensive and risky changes to the world economy and to people’s livelihoods.

Ridley’s article is a must read for anyone who is true to science. But for all of its import, it is only the beginning. Ridley is obviously a discerning man but there has been another misadventure and abuse of science that dwarfs climate science. Virtually everything he points out in this excellent piece could be restated, but to even greater extremes, regarding evolution science.

Ridley was once an AGW proponent who now has pulled himself out of its mire. He has stepped back and now the landscape has become all too clear. It is not that there is no warming, or that carbon dioxide has no effects. That’s hardly the point. The problem is in the misrepresentations of the science, the control of the funding, the publication control and blackballing, the demonization, the false dichotomies, the political intrusions, the dangerous impact on public policy, and so forth. This is not science, it a hijacking of science for nonscientific purposes.

Ridley sees all of this. He sees how it really is, and he doesn’t like what he sees. What Ridley does not yet see is that evolution science is all of this, but on a grander scale. Ridley has opened a door, but he is focusing on the first step. It is a most dangerous door, for behind it are all manner of truths people prefer to avoid.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Planned Parenthood Launches Counter Attack With Ersatz Apology

Fork Tongue



In this video Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “personally apologizes for the tone and statements” of “one of our staff members.” That “staff member” happens to be Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services and those “statements” happen to be about the on-going practice of killing babies before they have a chance to see the light of day, turning the mother’s womb into the most dangerous place in America. But Richards is not apologizing for the mass murder she presides over. After all, she promotes it. In fact, the video is not really an apology at all. It is an attack that is full of lies. Richards states that Planned Parenthood “follows all laws and ethical guidelines,” has as a top priority “the compassionate care that we provide,” and is committed  “to life-saving research.”

Ethical guidelines? Compassionate care? Life-saving research? In fact, Planned Parenthood has failed in its ethics and care. Its work is to end, not save, lives.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Day the Music Died

We Are Now Without Excuse

In the age of on-line entertainment and instant information it was, perhaps, possible to live without knowing about the carnage going on around us, but the video of evolutionist Deborah Nucatola casually and callously explaining the crushing of innocent babies and harvesting their young bodies leaves us forever without excuse. Between gulps of red wine and bites of salad we learn that “a lot of people want liver” and that “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver …” We are also told how to play games with the law so the harvesting of human body parts can proceed efficiently:

The Federal Abortion Ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation. So if I say on day One, I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter. … If you maintain enough of a dialogue with the person who’s actually doing the procedures, so they understand what the end-game is, there are little things, changes they can make in their technique to increase your success. … For example, so I had eight cases yesterday. And I knew exactly what we needed, and I kind of looked at the list and I said alright, this 17-weeker has eight lams, and this one—so I knew which were the cases that were probably more likely to yield what we needed, and I made my decisions according to that too, so it’s worth having a huddle at the beginning of the day, and that’s what I do.

That 17-weeker never had a chance—she never even saw the light of day. We now know the unthinkable and our response is telling.

Did we look at each other in horror? Did we stop everything? Were we angry? Were we sad? Did we cry?

No, we shot the messenger.

Surely this is all a false manipulation of the facts by those with nefarious and ulterior motives. After all, as the nightly news points out, the good doctor made it clear that this was not about the profit.

So it’s all good, right?

To avoid the obvious we strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. We celebrate that thirty pieces of silver was not excessive while innocent babies are murdered in cold blood.

We can try to look the other way but we are a deeply sick society. And now we know it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lunch with Dr. Nucatola Fallout—Here Come the Attacks

How Do You Justify Murder?

As predicted, evolutionists are desperately attempting to dismiss and delegitimize a several-hour long video of an evolutionist discussing the routine practice of crushing live babies to murder them in cold blood. Business Insider, for example, leads with an absurd headline labelling the video as “false.” No the video is not false. What is false is the evolutionist’s claims that humanity, and everything else for that matter, arose from a series of random chance events—what their Epicurean forefathers referred to as swerving atoms. And, as William Jennings Bryan foresaw, if the world is nothing but a happenstance accident, then what does it matter if we kill? And kill they do. In our country alone evolutionists have murdered more than 50 million babies. It is Bryan’s worst nightmare come true. Evolutionists have brought us this nightmare, and they will insist that it continues. What we are now seeing is how evolutionists conduct business—lies, more lies, and blackballing and delegitimization of anyone who points it out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lunch with Dr. Nucatola

The Killing Fields



Evolutionary thought’s insistence that the world arose spontaneously is our modern-day version of Epicureanism. The idea was then, and continues to be today, motivated by metaphysics, not science. From a scientific perspective the idea is clearly false. That was understood by philosophers of antiquity, but it is understood all the more clearly today. Simply put, modern science has demolished Epicureanism. But ideas die hard, especially ideas that are driven by metaphysical ideas we believe must be true. Overturning Epicureanism and modern day evolutionary thought requires overturning the foundational metaphysics—and that is much more difficult than solving a scientific problem. And so in spite of the science, evolution continues to be a very popular and influential idea. In fact evolution has been tremendously influential in a broad range of political, public policy and social issues. These include wars, holocausts, and abortion. The above video is a good example. It shows evolutionist Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, explaining how they murder unborn babies and harvest the tissue. Nucatola describes crushing techniques they use to preserve valuable body parts while murdering the baby in cold blood:

We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.

The level of cruelty is astonishing, yet most likely will go ignored or dismissed by evolutionists. Already the Washington Post has made the absurd suggestion that the almost three hour video may have been doctored in some way. The article concludes:

It’s hard to assess exactly what happened at the lunch with Nucatola.

Hard to assess? Do they also question the holocaust? Do journalists have difficulty determining just exactly what happened in Nazi Germany?

It would be difficult to imagine a more misleading conclusion. An abortionist discussed techniques for murdering babies. How can that possibly be “Hard to assess”?

But this is how evolutionists will frame this event.

Pluto Flyby


Monday, July 13, 2015

Berkeley’s “Understanding Evolution” Website Explains Natural Selection

Secrets Of The Trade

With a small army of evolutionists working on it, and several National Science Foundation grants funding it, the University of California at Berkeley’s “Understanding Evolution” website has a surprising number of errors. One of the more egregious ones is on a page that is intended to clarify the concept of natural selection. It is entitled “Misconceptions about natural selection,” but it begins with what is perhaps the worst of all: “natural selection can produce amazing adaptations.”

While it is true that the species display a wide assortment of amazing adaptations, they have nothing to do with natural selection. Remember the chameleon that changes color? A recent study discovered the incredible mechanism responsible behind it:

Many chameleons, and panther chameleons in particular, have the remarkable ability to exhibit complex and rapid colour changes during social interactions such as male contests or courtship. It is generally interpreted that these changes are due to dispersion/aggregation of pigment-containing organelles within dermal chromatophores. Here, combining microscopy, photometric videography and photonic band-gap modelling, we show that chameleons shift colour through active tuning of a lattice of guanine nanocrystals within a superficial thick layer of dermal iridophores.

Wow—active tuning of a lattice of guanine nanocrystals. Biology students will recognize guanine as one of the four main bases used to form the chemical letters in our DNA. The chameleon forms crystals of guanine to control the reflected light. In an outer layer of skin, the chameleon has guanine nanocrystals in a triangular shape in special light-reflecting cells called chromatophores. Then, in a deeper layer the chromatophores contain brick-shaped guanine nanocrystals. The active control occurs in the outer skin layer. Using some sort of cell signaling, such as hormones, the triangular guanine nanocrystals are excited, altering the crystal spacing and with it the wavelength of the reflected light and so changing color.

It is a fantastic mechanism and, needless to say, natural selection plays no role in it.

What about the origin of this mechanism? Did it evolve via random mutations and natural selection? According to the paper it did. In fact the authors write that they have demonstrated such an incredible feat:

Combining histology, electron microscopy and photometric videography techniques with numerical band-gap modelling, here we show that chameleons have evolved two superimposed populations of iridophores [chromatophores] with different morphologies and functions

Is that true? Does the paper “show that” this incredible active color control mechanism evolved?

No.

In fact this claim is utterly false. The paper shows nothing of the sort. In fact the authors admit they cannot even settle on an “evolutionary scenario.”

They also admit that the mechanism is an evolutionary novelty:

This combination of two functionally different layers of iridophores [chromatophores] constitutes an evolutionary novelty that allows some species of chameleons to combine efficient camouflage and dramatic display, while potentially moderating the thermal consequences of intense solar radiations.

But it gets worse.

Not only do the authors lack a convincing evolutionary scenario for what must be an evolutionary novelty, but they fail to present an explanation for how this fantastic active color control mechanism evolved.

I’m not saying their explanation is weak. I’m not saying it lacks credibility. I’m not saying it is yet another “just-so” story. I’m not saying it is improbable. I’m not saying any of those things for the simple reason that there is no explanation given. Nothing. Nada. What the research does show is some of the details of how this fantastic mechanism works.

Believe it or not, for evolutionists, elucidating structure, mechanism and function equates with demonstrating that it evolved.

Newcomers to evolutionary literature might be nonplussed. How can a research paper unequivocally state that it “shows” X, and then do nothing of the sort? Nothing at all.

In fact this rather strange literary device runs throughout the evolutionary genre. Researchers make utterly unfounded claims of discovering, demonstrating, confirming and proving evolutionary events, and then journalists follow along with popular articles rehearsing the refrain. Evolution is demonstrated yet again.

And not just evolution.

Evolutionists also say that examples such as this are demonstrations of natural selection—demonstrations of natural selection producing amazing adaptations.

This brings us back to the UC Berkeley “Understanding Evolution” website. It abuses science in its utterly unfounded claim that “natural selection can produce amazing adaptations.”

In fact natural selection, even at its best, does not “produce” anything. Natural selection does not and cannot influence the construction of any adaptations, amazing or not. If a mutation occurs which improves differential reproduction, then it propagates into future generations. Natural selection is simply the name given to that process. It selects for survival that which already exists. Natural selection has no role in the mutation event. It does not induce mutations, helpful or otherwise, to occur. According to evolutionary theory every single mutation, leading to every single species, is a random event with respect to need.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

NIH Director: Each Neuron is Different

“Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light”

In his blog post this week on the neuroscience research of Columbia’s Sean Escola, NIH Director Francis Collins makes the obvious, yet too often overlooked point that each of the hundred billion or so neurons in the human brain is different. In our profound ignorance it is easy to view the brain like a pile of pudding, achieving its fantastic abilities through a lucky mixture of the right chemicals. But of course, nothing could be farther from the truth and Collins’ observations helps to disabuse us of such folly. If you have ever wired up a machine you will understand. It is not just a pile of wires that somehow happen to get it right. Each wire has its own, unique function, attaching to two specific connectors. Things are astronomically more complicated in the brain, as its “wires” are not merely a conduit of electrical charge but an incredibly complex cell called a neuron. And each neuron does not merely attach to two distant connectors, but rather to hundreds or thousands of connectors. And each connection is nothing like a simple soldering attachment. In the brain they are called synapses and with thousands of molecular-scale switches researchers compare them to microprocessors.

But on top of all that, each neuron is different. A hundred billion different, unique neurons, each having a different, unique function. Each forming a different, unique set of synapses. We have not even begun to understand all of this neural circuitry, let alone how to design or build anything like it. And yet we insist it all must have arisen spontaneously, as a result of random mutations. That is not science, that is absurdity.

h/t: Paul Asay

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Study: The Human Brain Has an Almost Ideal Network of Connections

The Brain Was Evolutionarily Designed?

Perhaps the most unlikely part, of all the many unlikely parts, of evolutionary theory is the evolution of the brain, with all that that entails, including 200 billion nerve cells, one quadrillion synapses, and the thousand or more molecular-scale switches in each synapse. Not surprisingly researchers sometimes can hardly find the words to express what they are studying. The brain is “truly awesome” beyond anything they’d imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief. (You can read more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

And so far we’re only talking about the brain’s physical wonders. On top of all that there is consciousness, will and all those feelings and emotions we have. There is, not surprisingly, no evolutionary explanation for how the brain evolved. And a new study on how information is transferred within the brain now adds yet another intriguing aspect to the problem.

The researchers used a network analysis approach, and considered the tradeoff between the number of connections made and the number of information routing pathways connecting disparate locations. In this simple model, the transfer of information is optimized by minimizing the number of connections while maximizing the direct routings.

Of course the human brain undoubtedly has many more functions and requirements to fulfill, but interestingly their data showed a striking fit. According to their findings the structure of the human brain has an almost ideal network of connections. As the lead researcher explained, “That means the brain was evolutionarily designed to be very, very close to what our algorithm shows.” As usual, the infinitive form reveals the underlying teleological thinking. Aristotle is dead, long live Aristotle.

But that is the least of evolution’s problems. What is striking, and a dead giveaway, is the high confidence of evolutionists. There is no question that evolutionary theory has its challenges. This study of the brain’s information transfer is yet another example of this. The researchers of this study, in spite of statements about evolution, have no scientific theory for how the brain could have evolved. Nothing.

This paper provides yet another example that it is not exactly obvious that the world arose spontaneously (and that is putting it gently). In fact, science tells us the exact opposite. And yet evolutionists insist that evolution is a fact—no question about it. It would be, evolutionists like to say, perverse to say anything less. Those over-the-top claims by evolutionists tell all. This isn’t about science.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Jeffrey Taylor Sympathetically Reviews Jerry Coyne’s Book Against Religion

Ball Don't Lie

Jerry Coyne, having supplied the world with yet another tome proving that evolution is true—and by true Coyne and the evolutionists mean as true as the existence of gravity or the computer screen sitting in front of you, in other words there is not much nuance there—has now moved on to the next target: religion. In his new book Faith Versus Fact, Coyne rides the mythical Warfare Thesis (which holds that religion, except for in its anti realism form where it merely is the keeper of some vague set of values we might want to think about, opposes science and the two are incompatible) to take the battle to the believers. You can read a polite review in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Taylor. Taylor’s review is polite because, like Coyne, he also is an evolutionist and atheist. Unfortunately, that means that Taylor misses the key point that readers must understand if they are to make sense of Coyne’s new book, and evolutionary thought in general.

Coyne’s earlier book on why evolution is true did not add any new arguments or evidences to the evolution apologetic. The book was an excellent contribution to the genre, with its unique arrangement of the evidence and Coyne’s good writing style. And it gathered more evidence in one place than most treatments. But conceptually, it pounded the same themes that date back to Darwin, Hume, Wolfe, Malebranche, Lucretius, and many more.

And those themes are deeply metaphysical. The most obvious of them is the problem of evil and how evolutionists view it as requiring a distant god. The world must have arisen spontaneously, on its own, so to speak, because their god never would have intended for this gritty world. (You can read more about how Coyne handles the POE here, here, here and here, for example).

The key point to understand when reading the evolution genre is that it is motivated by, and relies on, this sort of religious belief. I call it a key point not only because the religious assumptions are fundamental and essential to evolutionary thought, but because they often are misunderstood. After all, isn’t the argument against an active Creator motivated by science, not religion?

No, science makes no such mandate, or provides no such evidence.

But what about evolution?

Evolution is founded on theological and philosophical claims about God and creation. From a scientific perspective it is not plausible. But from a religious perspective it is a fact.

So when Coyne rails on those of faith, and argues that religious beliefs are no longer tenable, he is making a hypocritical argument. He is a religious person, no less so than any high priest ever was, driven by deeply held metaphysical convictions.

Like evolution, atheism is also grounded in metaphysics. A typical example comes from atheist PZ Myers’ opinion piece in the LA Times where he made the case for atheism from the problem of evil:

We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

That is a religious argument. Myers, who comes from a Lutheran background, draws a conclusion that depends on what he believes about God. God wouldn’t create this world, so there must be no God.

Aside from the hypocrisy, atheism is founded on a fallacy. For its conclusion, that matter and motion are all that exist, does not support religious beliefs about God. If materialism is all there is, then Myers cannot know anything about God. Myers could not know what God would or wouldn’t do. Atheism is vacuous and collapses on itself. Nor is this problem anything new for atheism. Historian Alan Charles Kors, for example, found that eighteenth century French atheism had come from the church and its culture. Kors wrote:

[My] inquiry led not to a prior history of free thought ... but to the orthodox culture of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in France. It was, above all, within the deeply Christian learned culture of those years that there occurred inquiries and debates that generated the components of atheistic thought. It was, to say the least, not what I had expected; it indeed was what I found. … Before one can understand the heterodoxy of early-modern atheism, one first must understand the orthodox sources of disbelief.

Atheism is a referendum on religious belief and specifically, in most cases, a referendum on Christian religious belief. That referendum is based not on some logical fallacy or historical failure of Scripture, but rather on our rejection of the Creator. God wouldn’t do it that way.

Elsewhere Taylor makes this point repeatedly. He is concerned there is a lack of understanding about atheism. Taylor argues that people need to understand and appreciate the reasoning behind atheism rather than cast atheists simply as failed theists. We must understand the underlying rationale:

Nowhere does Taunton posit the most obvious conclusion one may reach about the growing prevalence of atheism today: namely, that the tenets in which the Christian tradition demands faith may have ultimately appeared to young people to be untenable. Christianity requires that we, in the twenty-first century, after having mapped the human genome, sent probes to Mars, and discovered the Higgs Boson, believe in human parthenogenesis and tales of a man turning water into wine, calming raging seas, curing lepers, and raising the dead. It requires that we believe that God chose to redeem humankind by means of a human sacrifice.

This monumental failure called atheism is all the more striking when it appeals to scientific findings, as though somehow those findings mandate the atheist’s religious convictions. As per the quote above, Taylor somehow sees molecular biology and other advances of science as mitigating against the virgin birth, crucifixion, and atonement of Christ? We’ve discovered genetics and space travel, so therefore miracles aren’t possible? You’re kidding, right?

Unfortunately, no. The atheists are quite serious in their sophism.

As they say in science, this isn’t even wrong. Such a critique would be too generous. These atheist arguments are the stuff of late-night dorm room sessions where freshman argue strenuously about that which they do not understand. The heat of the argument is exceeded only by the ignorance.

Most people eventually grow up. Not so with the atheists and evolutionists.

It’s not that Coyne, Myers, Dawkins, Taylor and the rest are not smart people. They certainly are. But their religious convictions have them stuck in a fool’s game. After two thousand years, they continue to repeat the absurdities of their Epicurean forefathers.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, July 3, 2015

It Begins: Polygamy Makes First Move

The Floodgates are Open

This week a man filed for a license to marry two women.

It’s Official: Lamarckism has Now Joined the Narrative

Our Menu Items Have Changed

It is often said that all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Yesterday with the publishing of a new paper out of Israel, and two centuries later, Lamarck’s pre Darwinian theory of evolution, sometimes referred to as the inheritance of acquired characteristics, completed the cycle.

Darwin joined in the early nineteenth century ridicule of Lamarck but Darwin also quietly admired the Frenchman’s genius and at one point made considerable use of Lamarckian ideas, particularly toward the end of his first and into his second Transmutation Notebook where Darwin found Lamarck’s ideas on habits fruitful in dealing with William Kirby’s challenge on instincts. (For a good treatment of the Darwin-Lamarck relationship see George James Grinnell’s 1985 paper, The Rise and Fall of Darwin’s Second Theory).

It is often the case that Darwin’s personal journey presages evolutionary thought in general, and Darwin’s relationship with Lamarck, in many ways, is no exception. Darwin’s ridicule at times turned into harsh opposition. In an 1844 letter to friend J. D. Hooker, Darwin castigated Lamarckism as absurd and “veritable rubbish.” In later years Darwin deplored comments, even by supporters of his theory, that linked his new theory of evolution with Lamarckism in any way.

And yet, in the end, Darwin had no idea how biological variation occurred, and how it could provide the necessary material for natural selection. For such thorny problems the Sage of Kent could refer to Lamarck’s ideas as a rear guard. Ultimately, Lamarck was needed by Darwin, as he is today, a century and a half later, by evolutionists.

But in making that journey, evolutionists first went through the ridicule and violent opposition stages that Darwin had traversed. Darwin would have been delighted to see the early twentieth century’s merger of Mendelian genetics with Darwinian evolution, bringing with it the death knell for Lamarckism. This new form of Darwinism (neoDarwinism) or Modern Synthesis, required that Lamarck’s inheritance of acquired characteristics be false. Evolutionists spent that century in unbridled opposition to Lamarck (see here, here and here for just a few examples).

Vestiges of that hatred remain quite evident today even though the science has overwhelmingly proved them wrong (by the way, all the other major tenets of neoDarwinism have also turned out to be false). Inheritance of acquired characteristics has been observed for most of a century and in recent years progressive evolutionists changed direction and began acknowledging those Lamarckian ideas.

This brings us to yesterday’s new paper entitled “The Lamarckian chicken and the Darwinian egg” which now suggests the inheritance of acquired characteristics as a legitimate mechanism of evolution. First, the authors explained what went wrong:

Evolution according to Lamarck, as described 50 years before the publication of Darwin’s work, is driven by the inheritance of acquired characteristics. According to Lamarck, organisms adapt by developing new variations in response to changing environments, and these new adaptive traits become heritable. Because of the apparent teleological nature of his theory, since it appears to clash with Mendelian genetics, and because no mechanism that enables inheritance of acquired traits was known, Lamarck’s theory was considered, for 200 years, to be completely wrong.

And not just considered completely wrong, but vilified as well. But now evolutionists begin to consider Lamarck’s ideas as legitimate:

We suggest that the original “Chicken or Egg” dilemma (how did chicken come to be?) is not a paradox, it is explained by evolution, and that each evolutionary change could map to either a pure Darwinian world (or “Weissmanian” really), in which the metaphorical “Egg” must have preceded the “Chicken,” or to a “Lamarckian” world in which the metaphorical chicken “comes first.”

Soon Lamarckian mechanisms will be self-evident. Evolutionists have already begun to prepare the way for this tectonic shift in their thinking. First, their venerable prophet must be rescued and protected from the fallout. The founders of neoDarwinism will have to take the hit—Darwin must be protected at all costs. Here is how Denis Noble laid out the strategy two years ago:

I will use the term ‘Modern Synthesis’ rather than ‘Neo-Darwinism’. Darwin was far from being a Neo-Darwinist (Dover, 2000; Midgley, 2010), so I think it would be better to drop his name for that idea. As Mayr (1964) points out, there are as many as 12 references to the inheritance of acquired characteristics in The Origin of Species (Darwin, 1859) and in the first edition he explicitly states ‘I am convinced that natural selection has been the main, but not the exclusive means of modification’, a statement he reiterated with increased force in the 1872, 6th edition.

This is, of course, a classic example of whig history. Darwin’s statement about natural selection comes at the end of his introduction to Origins and has nothing to do with Lamarckism. Darwin was softly promoting his theory to a skeptical reader and leaving himself wiggle room, not referring to the inheritance of acquired characteristics. For instance, Darwin would refer to sexual selection, as an addendum to natural selection. Darwin would have liked nothing more than rid his theory of anything linking it to Lamarck. He expressed that many times in no uncertain terms. Darwin’s rare employment of Lamarck’s ideas was strictly a rear guard action.

And for good reason. As with today, Darwin employed Lamarck only because he had to. Darwin needed at least some idea for how the plethora of biological variation would come about. Otherwise Lamarck was not welcome for, as yesterday’s paper explains above, Lamarckism smacked too much of teleology. Biological change arising in response to the needs of the organism? That was biology’s answer to Aristotelian, not Newtonian physics.

What Darwin needed, and what he posthumously got in neo Darwinism, was blind change. As Nobel Laureate Jacques Monod put it in 1971:

chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. And nothing warrants the supposition—or the hope—that on this score our position is likely ever to be revised.

To suggest that Darwin would have been opposed to this neo Darwinism is, like the Warfare Thesis, more photoshopping of history. The problem, then and now, is that the inheritance of acquired characteristics demolishes evolutionary thinking. That is why evolutionists have resisted and opposed Lamarckism so strenuously. But like it or not, that is the scientific evidence. So evolutionary theory will become even more ridiculous, if that were possible, as evolutionists spin tall tales of how the inheritance of acquired characteristics is, after all, simply another wonder of evolution. The abuse of science will continue. Rather than dealing with the evidence evolutionists will engage in yet more fairy tales.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Vaccine Study Finds No Harmful Association, But Wait …

A Foregone Conclusion

A recent large vaccine study found no evidence of harmful association between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). That good news was celebrated everywhere from the health care trade journals to the mainstream media. “The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella,” reported CNN, “doesn't bring an increased risk of autism, according to a new study of more than 95,000 children.” In a related interview on the same webpage, CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta argued that while “We don’t know what causes autism, but we know that vaccines do not.” Gupta went on even to suggest that “vaccines have been protective against autism.” That was, amazingly, precisely the most statistically-significant finding in the new study. That’s right, for one of the groups studied, receipt of the MMR vaccine was strongly associated with reduced autism risk. There is only one problem: it was yet another example of bogus Warfare Thesis science.

Historians have tried for years to disabuse us of the Warfare Thesis mythology. But their efforts have largely been in vain. The Warfare Thesis myth has always served as a powerful context for evolutionary theory and, false or not, evolutionists show no signs of forfeiting this powerful narrative.

Similarly, statisticians have tried for years to bring discipline to their field which too often uses statistics to “discover” a desired conclusion. One journal, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, recently even went so far as to ban altogether null hypothesis significance testing. But biostatisticians at Johns Hopkins rightly point out that ridding science of shoddy statistics will require scrutiny of every step, not merely the last one.

I point out the Warfare Thesis and statistical inference not as disparate examples of scholarship gone wrong, but rather as two very related problems. You might say statistical inference is one of the Warfare Thesis’ preferred tools, and this new vaccine study is a good example.

The study’s most significant finding was that the MMR vaccine is associated with reduced autism risk. The authors were right to seek some sort of confounding variables to explain this unlikely result. But this result, even if explained away, hints at the underlying challenges and problems in such a research study.

One problem is that the we are dealing with people. Different parents have different levels of concern. And diagnoses may be influenced by various factors. Second, autism spectrum disorders include a variety of symptoms and conditions. Statistical comparisons may be complicated by such factors.

Nonetheless, the authors concluded that “receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD.” While that is technically true, the opposite is also true. That is, receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with an absence of increased risk either. In other words, the uncertainty of their results is such that they are consistent with both no increased risk, or some increased risk. Either could be true, within reasonable levels of statistical confidence.

What the results do show is that the MMR vaccine is not associated with a dramatic increased risk of ASD. Receipt of the vaccine was not likely associated with a doubling of the risk, for example. But again, those results are subject to the caveats discussed above (which may be overriding factors).

The bottom line is that the study’s conclusions are false and irresponsible. And they led to yet more false and irresponsible proclamations in the media, with commentators such as Sanjay Gupta making demeaning comments about parents struggling with this difficult decision.

One might ask how papers such as this survive peer review? The answer is that the paper said exactly what the peer reviewers were looking for. You see, like all literature, the scientific literature comes in a genre, and today that genre is the Warfare Thesis. This is made clear at the very beginning of the paper, long before the data are considered:

Two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine are currently recommended for children in the United States: the first at age 12 to 15 months and the second at age 4 to 6 years. Although a substantial body of research over the last 15 years has found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), parents and others continue to associate the vaccine with ASD. Parents cite vaccinations, especially MMR, as a cause of ASD and have deferred or refused vaccinations for their children as a result. Lower vaccination levels threaten public health by reducing both individual and herd immunity and have been associated with several recent outbreaks of measles, with most cases occurring among unvaccinated individuals.

There you have it. Science has revealed the truth yet resistance to the undeniable facts continues, posing threats to us all. There was no question where the paper was headed—the results were a foregone conclusion. There is no way the researchers were going to discover anything wrong with vaccines. Those were the ground rules that readers must understand.

And once the beachhead is established the media’s heavy artillery can be brought to bear, proclaiming how the science had once again debunked the recurrent myths of the ignorant, as commentators such as CNN’s Jake Tapper shake their head in disgust.

These new truths then, in turn, lead to laws such as the California law mandating vaccines for all public school students which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law today. The law forces parents to violate their conscience or lose their tax monies to a public school system they are not allowed to use. Brown is a good leader but this new law is unfair and a mistake.

Does any of this mean that vaccines are not a great public health success, or that they should be avoided at all costs? No, of course not. Vaccines hold great promise and have conferred great health benefits. But the choice of whether or not to vaccinate is not simply a scientific question.

The problem is not that this is a difficult decision for some. That’s life. The problem is that evolution’s Warfare Thesis has resulted in both faulty science and an environment of discrimination against and vilification of parents struggling with legitimate decisions.

h/t; Little John