Monday, March 20, 2017

Here’s An Example of the Flip-Side of the Warfare Thesis

From the Frying Pan to the Fire

Empirical observations of the world don’t suggest that it arose by natural law and chance events. But that is what evolutionists believe, and so it is always interesting to see where they are coming from. What underlying beliefs or influences drive one to the age-old position of Epicureanism? Why would one believe the world arose by randomly swerving atoms, or randomly mutating genomes? Dennis Venema, co-author of a new book promoting evolution, makes his influences clear from the very first sentence:

Like many evangelicals, I (Dennis) grew up in an environment that was suspicious of science in general, and openly hostile to evolution in particular.

That sentence speaks volumes. Venema is a refugee from creationism and what I call the flip-side of the Warfare Thesis. The Warfare Thesis holds that religion, and Christianity in particular, often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances. It can be traced at least as far back as Voltaire with his 18th century mythical retelling of the Galileo Affair. Many later contributors embellished and established the myth that was eventually labelled the “Warfare Thesis.”

While the Warfare Thesis can be found in the evolution literature, creationists have their own version. In this reverse, or flip-side, the myth is that evolutionists are atheists, pushed to believe in a naturalistic origins because of the rejection of God. To be sure, atheism today has been aided and abetted by evolution’s popularity. But from Epicureanism to Darwinism to Neo-Darwinism and beyond, it is theism, not a-theism, that is doing the heavy lifting.

Why did Richard Bentley charge Thomas Burnet (an Anglican cleric who appealed to Scripture in his popular 17th century cosmogony) with atheism? Burnet was indeed a latitudinarian, but hardly an atheist. Why did Charles Hodge charge Darwin’s new theory as atheism in disguise? Darwin was hardly a mainline Christian but, like Burnet, his 1859 tome on evolution was chocked full of theological discussion and claims about the Creator. Darwin’s strong arguments were based on theism, not a-theism.

The flip-side of the Warfare Thesis is as dangerous as the A side, and it was Venema’s world. As he explains, he was taught that evolution was “pushed by atheists,” that Darwin and his theory “were evil,” and there mere utterance was tantamount to cursing, “and not mildly.” Evolution “was bad,” and “Science and God’s actions, at least in this case, were placed in opposition to each other.”

This flip-side of the Warfare Thesis is dangerous because the ignorance it establishes sets its adherents up for a fall. One simply is in no position to comprehend the deep theology at work in Epicurean and evolutionary thought. Darwin presented his arguments with a patina of scientific jargon, and that formed the template for the genre. Consider this gem from Chapter 6 of Origins:

Thus, we can hardly believe that the webbed feet of the upland goose or of the frigate-bird are of special use to these birds; we cannot believe that the similar bones in the arm of the monkey, in the fore-leg of the horse, in the wing of the bat, and in the flipper of the seal, are of special use to these animals. We may safely attribute these structures to inheritance.

One can read through such passages and almost conclude that Darwin is merely presenting empirical scientific reasoning and conclusions. And so it is with today’s evolutionary reasoning, such as this typical textbook example:

If the 11 species had independent origins, there is no reason why their [traits] should be correlated.

It all sounds so scientific. But of course it is not. This is the great deception of evolutionary thought. And those mired in the flip-side of the Warfare Thesis—believing for certain that evolutionists are nothing more than atheist rascals—lack to tools and knowledge to reckon with it. Venema never had a chance. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Unfortunately his story is all too common.

Venema also discusses another important influence in his thinking: rationalism. And again, it is all too common. Evolutionists tend to place great value in theories. To be sure, theories are extremely important in science. But for centuries, rationalism in its extreme has placed an unhealthy, undue, emphasis on theories, over and above the importance of following the data. Better to have a theory that doesn’t work very well, then to have no theory at all (and no, creationism is not a theory).

Venema makes it clear that rationalism was an important influence for him. At an early age he found biology to be a “dreadful bore compared with physics and chemistry.” Physics and chemistry were appealing because they were about principles. Biology “seemed to have no organizing principle behind it, whereas the others did”. Indeed, chemistry and physics had “underlying principles that gave order and cohesion to a body of facts.”

With a foundation of the flip-side of the Warfare Thesis and rationalism, Venema was an evolutionist waiting to happen.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Breaking: Remote Evolutionists Discovered

A Cottage Industry Coming to an End

In recent years anthropologists have increasingly come to accept what seemed inevitable: there were no more evolutionists to be found. People groups who believe they arose spontaneously have always been a source of fascination. How could such a mythology propagate and persist in entire cultures? Naturally such findings were rare, and with the continuing education and outreach efforts, such bizarre beliefs became increasingly rare. “Gone are the days,” complains professor Charles Henzwich, “that one could count on finding at least one or two evolution-worshipping villages on a summer expedition to the outback.” That is why this week’s surprise announcement, by an international team, of a remote, undiscovered clan of evolutionists has academia buzzing and is giving Henzwich and his colleagues hope. “Perhaps mythologies just never go away,” Henzwich concluded with a sense of wonder.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

But, But, But … We’re 98% Similar to the Chimp!

Not.

Transposable elements just don’t make sense. These so-called “jumping genes” are segments of junk DNA that insert themselves at random in our genomes. That is the evolutionary interpretation of these genetic units, but how and why do they move about, and why don’t they wreak havoc on the genome? The answers to these questions, which have been emerging in recent years, is that transposable elements are exquisite, finely-tuned, highly-functional molecular machines that contradict evolutionary expectations. Evolutionists have a long, failed history of presumed disutility—after all, the world arose by chance, surely it doesn’t work very well—and transposable elements are just one more example of this failed prediction. But the junk-to-hero story is only one of three ways that transposable elements utterly demolish evolutionary theory. The other two prongs in this Darwin-destroying triad are serendipity and pattern.

By serendipity, I am referring to the rather awkward findings, which are undeniable at this point, that if evolution is true, then it must have come about by highly complex, non adaptive, mechanisms. From diploid genetics to horizontal gene transfer, alternate gene splicing, genetic regulation, epigenetics, mechanisms that cause adaptive mutations, and transposable elements, evolution must have bumbled along by luckily constructing fantastically complex mechanisms. Those mechanisms would provide no immediate adaptive value, yet somehow would persist and become vital agents in evolutionary history. Simply put, evolution must have created evolution in a most unlikely (astronomically unlikely) set of circumstances. That’s serendipity, not science, and transposable elements heaps more fuel onto the fire.

By pattern, I am referring to another set of awkward findings, again undeniable, that the pattern of structures observed across the species consistently contradicts evolution’s predictions. One of those contradictions are the enormous differences found in otherwise allied species.

All three of these contradictions—disutility, serendipity, and pattern—are on display this week in new, systematic study of transposable elements out of Didier Trono’s lab in Switzerland. The study details the interactions between transposable elements and a class of proteins. The findings indicate the complexity and interdependency of these molecular mechanisms. As the press release admits:

Long considered as junk DNA, transposable elements are now recognized as influencing the expression of genes. … the extent of this regulation and how it is harnessed were so far unknown. EPFL scientists have now taken the first extensive look at a family of ~350 human proteins, showing that they establish a complex interplay with transposable elements … KZFPs can convert transposable elements in exquisitely fine-tuned regulatory platforms that influence the expression of genes, which likely takes place at all stages of development and in all human tissues. … It is a highly combinatorial and versatile system … As a field, epigenetics has come into prominence in recent years, revealing a previously unimagined complexity and elegance in genetics.

Not exactly junk DNA. And of course all of this would require large amounts of serendipity. For evolutionists are now forced to say that transposable elements would have to have played a, err, key role in evolution itself. Evolution would have had to have constructed this highly specific, detailed, system including hundreds of proteins and genetic elements, with hundreds of specific interactions, providing no immediate benefit. As Trono explains:

The vast majority of KZFPs binds to specific motifs in transposable elements. For each KZFP we were able to assign one subset of transposable elements, and also found that one transposable element can often interact with several KZFPs.

Finally, all of this contradicts the expected common descent pattern. This failure has become so common we now have non evolutionary terminology, such as “species-specific” and “lineage-specific.” The paper uses the term “species-restricted”:

KZFPs partner with transposable elements to build a largely species-restricted layer of epigenetic regulation

Species-restricted? In other words, the designs we are discovering in biology are unique to particular species. This is precisely the opposite of what evolution expects. Note also the teleological language (which as usual is evident in the infinitive form): The proteins “partner” with the transposable elements “to build” a largely “species-restricted” layer of epigenetic regulation. This is a classic example of evolution’s absurd creation story language.

The contradictory pattern was, of course, unsuspected. As Trono explains:

KZFPs contribute to make human biology unique. Together with their genomic targets, they likely influence every single event in human physiology and pathology, and do so by being largely species-specific -- the general system exists in many vertebrates, but most of its components are different in each case. … This paper lifts the lid off something that had been largely unsuspected: the tremendous species-specific dimension of human gene regulation.

Yes, it was largely unsuspected. For what these findings reveal is a tremendous species-specific dimension of human gene regulation. In other words, we would need proteins and genetic elements to evolve, via independent and yet interdependent, random mutations, to construct an entirely new set of genetic regulation instructions. This is astronomically unlikely, no matter how many millions of years are available. From a scientific perspective, these findings demolish evolution.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, January 27, 2017

About Those Placental Regulatory Genes

Evolution Recruits and Deploys Genes

Last time we noted the teleological ideas and language used to describe the hypothetical evolution of several genes that are expressed for a mere few hours, in the early development stages of many placental mammals. And by early we mean when we consist of only 8-16 cells. The teleology is not a mere slip-up. As we have documented many times, it is a common thread running throughout the genre of evolutionary literature. It is needed to make sense of the data, because evolution doesn’t.

That teleological language appeared in an article about the research. Not too surprisingly, teleological language also appears in the research journal paper as well. To wit:

A small number of lineage-specific tandem gene duplications have occurred, and these raise questions concerning how evolutionarily young homeobox genes are recruited to new regulatory roles. For example, divergent tandem duplicates of the Hox3 gene have been recruited for extra-embryonic membrane specification and patterning in dipteran and lepidopteran insects, a large expansion of the Rhox homeobox gene family is deployed in reproductive tissues of mouse, and duplicates of TALE class genes are expressed in early development of molluscs.

Two of the evolutionists’ favorite words are “recruited” and “deployed.” They sound so active. What better way to obviate the rather awkward problem that, if evolution is true, all biological variation must be random with respect to fitness (a claim which, by the way, has been falsified so many times we stopped counting). Evolutionists nonetheless continue to spread this fake news.

And no teleological idea would be complete with the mandatory infinitive form (“for … specification and patterning”). Religion drives science and it matters.

Regulatory Genes Are Expressed For But a Few Hours

“Grabbed by Evolution”

How would you explain the evolution of a small set of genes that are expressed for but a few brief hours—when we consist of only 8-16 cells—in a finely-tuned choreography unique to placental mammals? The answer, of course, is to use teleological language because the evolutionary explanation is so transparently unrealistic. To wit, Ignacio Maeso explains:

It was really shocking to find these genes are only read for a pulse of a few hours in our entire lifetime. … They are found on chromosome 19, known to be an unstable part of our genome. Think of it as a bubbling cauldron of DNA, with individual bits of DNA being added and taken away, occasionally forming whole new genes. At the dawn of placental mammals, 70 million years ago, these genes emerged and were grabbed by evolution to perform a new task, acting to control what cells do in the earliest stages of development.

As usual, the infinitive form tells the tale.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Big is the Closet?

A Report From Academia

When a theory repeatedly fails its fundamental predictions, and is unable to explain even the basic facts, well there is bound to be doubt. No evolutionist who has ever peered into a microscope can look in the mirror and maintain self-respect. So I wasn’t too surprised when a friend told me that all across the country, life science professors “have told me in private they have questions about evolution,” and he keeps their identities secret. One wonders: How big is the closet?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Sea Anemone: A Proverbial Precambrian Rabbit

A Contradiction of Another “Widely Held Belief”

When asked what evidence would disprove evolution, the famous 20th century evolutionist J.B.S. Haldane is famously said to have responded “a fossil rabbit in the preCambrian.” In other words, a fossil rabbit would have to be found in strata dating to long before rabbits, or mammals for that matter, are normally found. And by “long,” we’re talking about somewhere between roughly one-half a billion years to several billion years. It was an exercise in what philosophers refer to as theory protectionism—erecting insurmountable protective barriers around a theory. The fossil record was sufficiently understood in Haldane’s day to know that such as finding was highly unlikely. And it was also known that much less astounding, and more feasible, fossil findings would (or at least should) pose serious problems for evolutionary theory. In fact there are many such contradictions in the rocks, but if a rabbit in the preCambrian is the evidential standard, then evolution is comfortably safe. Haldane’s preCambrian rabbit response was also an exercise in na├»ve falsificationism—the thinking that a single finding is going to take down a theory so deeply imbedded in our thinking, and so confidently held to be true. In fact evolutionary theory has survived myriad contradictory evidences of at least as much severity as a preCambrian rabbit without so much as skipping a beat. Consider, for example, the genome of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. Here is how one report summarized it:

The genome of the sea anemone, one of the oldest living animal species on Earth, shares a surprising degree of similarity with the genome of vertebrates, researchers report in this week's Science. The study also found that these similarities were absent from fruit fly and nematode genomes, contradicting the widely held belief that organisms become more complex through evolution. The findings suggest that the ancestral animal genome was quite complex, and fly and worm genomes lost some of that intricacy as they evolved.

In other words, it was the genomic equivalent of Haldane’s preCambrian rabbit—a preCambrian genome had, err, all the complexity of species to come hundreds of millions of years later. In other cases it has more complexity than species such as worms and flies which, according to evolution, must have lost enormous amounts of genetic complexity.

The lead author of the sea anemone study explained that “We have this basic toolkit now for the whole animal kingdom.” Of course the idea of foresight is contradictory to evolutionary theory. As one evolutionist admitted, it is surprising to find such a “high level of genomic complexity in a supposedly primitive animal such as the sea anemone.” It implies that the ancestral animal “was already extremely highly complex, at least in terms of its genomic organization and regulatory and signal transduction circuits, if not necessarily morphologically.”

Or as another evolutionist put it:

It is commonly believed that complex organisms arose from simple ones. Yet analyses of genomes and of their transcribed genes in various organisms reveal that, as far as protein-coding genes are concerned, the repertoire of a sea anemone — a rather simple, evolutionarily basal animal — is almost as complex as that of a human.

None of this makes any sense on evolutionary theory. Of course it is “commonly believed” by evolutionists “that complex organisms arose from simple ones.” That would be rather fundamental to the theory. And yet we repeatedly find early complexity. This is another example of how resistant evolution is to testing and falsification.

The science contradicts the theory.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Repetitive Elements: Evolution Has a Toolkit, And Several Other Findings

Tightly Coupled Molecular Machines Make Evolution Work

I’m not an expert carpenter, but if I know what needs to be built I’ll eventually get there. It may not be beautiful, but given a blueprint I can build a structure. What if I didn’t have that blueprint? What if I had no idea what needed to be built—no notion of where the task was headed? Furthermore, what if I had no knowledge of structures in general. Just randomly cutting wood and pounding nails probably would not end well. This is the elephant in the room for evolution, for according to evolutionary theory, random actions are precisely what built the world. It is what the Epicureans claimed two thousand years ago, and this random-creation hypothesis fares no better today than it did then. In fact, with the findings of modern science we now know far more about the details than did the Epicureans, and it has just gotten worse for their hypothesis. This is why evolutionists, as we have repeatedly documented, consistently appeal to teleological language. Regulatory genes “were reused to produce different functions,” Dinosaurs “were experimenting” with flight, and the genome was “designed by evolution to sense and respond.” Such Aristotelianism, which casts evolution as an intelligent process working toward a goal, makes the story more palatable; after all, evolution had a blueprint in mind. All of this makes for a glaring internal contradiction: on the one hand evolution has goals; yet on the other hand evolution is a mindless, mechanical process driven by random, chance events. As Jernej Ule explained last week:

We’re all here because of mutations. Random changes in genes are what creates variety in a species, and this is what allows it to adapt to new environments and eventually evolve into completely new species.

This makes evolution, rather inconveniently, dependent on random events (no, natural selection doesn’t change this—it cannot coax the right mutations to occur) which, by definition, do not work towards a goal—they do not build anything:

This ambiguity creates a great challenge. On the one hand, mutations are needed for biological innovation, and on the other hand they cause diseases.

Indeed. This is not looking good. As one Michael Skinner recently explained:

the rate of random DNA sequence mutation turns out to be too slow to explain many of the changes observed. Scientists, well-aware of the issue, have proposed a variety of genetic mechanisms to compensate: genetic drift, in which small groups of individuals undergo dramatic genetic change; or epistasis, in which one set of genes suppress another, to name just two. Yet even with such mechanisms in play, genetic mutation rates for complex organisms such as humans are dramatically lower than the frequency of change [between species if evolution is true] for a host of traits, from adjustments in metabolism to resistance to disease.

Whereas Skinner appealed to epigenetics to save the theory, Ule appeals to repetitive elements. Evidence has shown that far from being “junk DNA,” repetitive elements plays a genetic regulatory role. As a result evolutionists such as Ule have concluded repetitive elements “are an important toolkit for evolution.”

Like any good carpenter, evolution has a toolkit.

Ule and his co-workers are now elaborating on the details of how repetitive element toolkit might work. It goes like this: (i) Random mutations gradually modify repetitive elements, (ii) these repetitive elements are sometimes incorporated as part of the blueprint instructions for making a protein, (iii) there are several complicated molecular machines that either repress or allow such incorporation of these repetitive elements in the blueprint.

According to Ule, this complicated process, including these two opposing machines which are “tightly coupled,” allows evolution to experiment and successfully evolve more complicated species, such as humans:

We’ve known for decades that evolution needs to tinker with genetic elements so they can accumulate mutations while minimising disruption to the fitness of a species. … This [process we have discovered] allows the Alu elements to remain in a harmless state in our DNA over long evolutionary periods, during which they accumulate a lot of change via mutations. As a result, they become less harmful and gradually start escaping the repressive force. Eventually, some of them take on an important function and became indispensable pieces of human genes. To put it another way, the balanced forces buy the time needed for mutations to make beneficial changes, rather than disruptive ones, to a species. And this is why evolution proceeds in such small steps – it only works if the two forces remain balanced by complementary mutations, which takes time. Eventually, important new molecular functions can emerge from randomness.

These suggestions from Skinner and Ule are the latest in a long, long line of ideas evolutionists have come up with, in an attempt to make sense of their random creation hypothesis. In modern evolutionary thought, the first such idea was natural selection.

The reason there is a long, long line of ideas is none of them work. They are becoming ever more complicated, ever more unlikely, and equally useless in solving the basic problem of random events constructing the world.

But Ule’s latest attempt highlights yet another problem: serendipity. All of the solutions, from natural selection on up to epigenetics and repetitive elements rely on serendipity, and this reliance is increasing. Ule’s solution is serendipity on steroids, for the idea holds that evolution just happened to create (i) repetitive elements, and (ii) the complicated, finely-tuned, opposing molecular machines that repress or allow those repetitive elements into the protein instructions.

This isn’t going to work, but the point here is that even if it did somehow work, it amounts to evolution creating evolution. In order for evolution to have created so many of the species, it first must have lucked into creating these incredible mechanisms, which then in turn allowed evolution to occur. And all of this must have occurred with no foresight.

This is just silly. This violates the very basics of science. Imagine a car factory that uses highly complex machines, such as drill presses and lathes, to build the cars. Now imagine the factory first creating those machines by random chance, so then the cars could be built, by yet more random chance events.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

About That Oparin Prediction …

Very, Very Soon

Although we have chronicled all manner of new and rehashed ideas for how life is supposed to have evolved—including the latest doozy that life arose “almost instantaneously”—Alexander Oparin’s 1924 prediction that origin of life research would be solved “very, very soon” may not only have been premature but, in fact, out and out false. For as evolutionist Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo now admits, most likely we will, err, “never manage to find the answer to how life began.” Fortunately evolution is a fact, otherwise people might begin to doubt.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Evolutionists Now Have a Simple Proposal For The Origin of Life

Reductio Ad Absurdum 

The latest example in the recent stream of findings of “rapid evolution,” which seem to be coming at an ever increasing pace, is that with the finding of graphite in a 4.1 billion year zircon, life on Earth may have started, err, “almost instantaneously.” Someone tell the angels that Oparin can now rest in peace, for his 1924 prediction that origin of life research would be solved “very, very soon” has finally come to pass. Life arose “almost instantaneously”—though we suspect Oparin was hoping for a bit more detail.

The problem is that with its inexorable march of progress, science just continues to narrow those evolutionary time windows. Darwin insisted evolution required hundreds of millions of years, but the Cambrian Explosion, and all the other so-called Big Bangs of the historical record—which tell us that the appearance of everything from flowers to horses was punctuated rather than gradual—must have occurred in no more than a few million years.

It means the evolutionary tree is the exact opposite of what evolutionists expected. Rather than the slow, gradual, buildup of diversity over the eons of time, instead bursts of radically new species appeared out of nowhere, over and over, only to be winnowed out by extinction.

And it all started with the first life. Except that where a few tens of millions of years once seemed to be available, which itself was inadequate, that speck of graphite now leaves us with nothing but an evolutionary nanosecond.

Merrilee Salmon Propagates the Warfare Thesis

The Will to Believe

Merrilee Salmon’s review of Richard Williams and Daniel Robinson 2015 volume, Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, starts out well enough, explaining that scientism is “a philosophical view about the power and scope of the techniques of the natural sciences. It is generally understood to hold that all genuine knowledge about the world around us, including about human behavior, is obtainable only through the particular scientific methods that have proved so successful in physics, chemistry, and the other natural sciences. In other words, knowledge gained through use of the scientific method has a unique claim to truth, and, some would say, constitutes the only path to real knowledge.” But the professor emerita from one of the leading HPS programs in the country (University of Pittsburgh) unfortunately ends up devolving into the same old Warfare Thesis myth which contributed and underwrote today’s scientism in the first place. To wit, Salmon erroneously identifies, yes Galileo and Darwin, (oh no, not this again), as examples where science triumphed over religion:

Simply recognizing that both science and theology are cultural institutions, however, does not solve the problem of what to believe when the two collide. The historic cases of Galileo Galilei and Charles Darwin remind us that science has the superior record when it comes to producing evidence for claims that have been challenged by theologians.

Arg. Has history taught us nothing?

Do we need to recount yet again how theology underwrote evolution, and that rebuttals were about the science? Do we need to, one more time, retell the facts of the Galileo Affair? That questions about Joshua 10 and Ecclesiastes 1 paled in comparison to the political, social, Aristotelian, and most importantly, scientific problems with heliocentrism?

Unfortunately, over and over, we see that the mythological Warfare Thesis is not the product of the ignorant but the elite. From the playwrights to the professors, the Warfare Thesis is a powerful and enduring myth for the same reasons any myth is powerful and enduring—we want to believe it.

Religion drives science, and it matter.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Graur and Martin Explain Monumental Failure in Molecular Clock Uncertainty Estimate

Mirages Contain No Water

The scientific evidence contradicts evolutionary theory. Consider, for example, the problem of tracing out the mammalian evolutionary tree. According to evolution similar species should be neighbors on the evolutionary tree. For example, the flying squirrel and sugar glide certainly are similar—they both sport distinctive “wings” stretching from arm to leg. Shouldn’t they be neighboring species? The problem is that, while they have incredible similarities, they also have big differences. Most notably, the flying squirrel is a placental and the sugar glider is a marsupial. So they must be placed far apart in the mammalian evolutionary tree. The problem in this example is that different characters, across the two species, are not congruent. Here is how evolutionists rationalize the contradiction:

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders are only distantly related. So why do they look so similar then? Their gliding "wings" and big eyes are analogous structures. Natural selection independently adapted both lineages for similar lifestyles: leaping from treetops (hence, the gliding "wings") and foraging at night (hence, the big eyes).

This is a good example of how contradictory evidence drives evolutionists to use irrational just-so stories. Natural selection cannot “adapt” anything. Natural selection kills off the bad designs. It cannot influence the random mutations which must, somehow, come up with such amazing designs. This is the hard reality, but in order to rationalize the evidence, evolutionists must resort to this sort of teleological language, personifying and endowing natural selection with impossible powers. As usual, the infinitive form (“for similar lifestyles”) is a dead giveaway. Natural selection becomes a designer.

This example is by no means exceptional. In fact, this sort of incongruence is rampant in biology. Evolutionists have attempted to deny it in the past, but it is undeniable. It is the rule rather than the exception. As one recent paper, entitled “Mammal madness: is the mammal tree of life not yet resolved?” admitted:

Despite the keen interest in mammals, the evolutionary history of this clade has been and remains at the center of heated scientific debates. In part, these controversies stem from the widespread occurrence of convergent morphological characters in mammals.

In addition to the morphological characters, evolutionists make extensive use of molecular sequence data using the so-called molecular clock method. The molecular clock method, however, has a long history of problems. You can see here and here how the molecular clock method has failed, but an entirely different problem is the non-scientific, misuse, of this approach. Consider how evolutionists have misused it in the mammalian evolutionary tree problem:

Two articles in this issue address one such node, the root of the tree of living placental mammals, and come to different conclusions. The timing of the splitting event—approximately 100 Ma based on molecular clocks—is not in debate, at least among molecular evolutionists. Rather the question is the branching order of the three major lineages: afrotherians (e.g., elephants, manatees, hyraxes, elephant shrews, aardvarks, and tenrecs), xenarthrans (sloths, anteaters, and armadillos), and boreoeutherians (all other placentals; fig. 1).

Such overly optimistic interpretation of the molecular clock results unfortunately has a long history. Dan Graur and William Martin have showed how such over confidence became common in evolutionary studies. They write:

We will relate a dating saga of ballooning inapplicability and snowballing error through which molecular equivalents of the 23rd October 4004 BC date have been mass-produced in the most prestigious biology journals.

Graur and Martin chronicle how a massive uncertainty was converted to, err, zero, via a sequence of machinations, including the arbitrary filtering out of data simply because they do not fit the theory:

A solution to the single-calibration conundrum would be to use multiple primary calibrations because such practices yield better results than those obtained by relying on a single point. Indeed, it was stated that “the use of multiple calibration points from the fossil record would be desirable if they were all close to the actual time of divergence.” However, because no calibrations other than the 310 +/- 0 MYA value were ever used in this saga, the authors must have concluded that none exists. This is not true. Moreover, deciding whether a certain fossil is “close to the actual time of divergence” presupposes a prior knowledge of the time of divergence, which in turn will make the fossil superfluous for dating purposes.

Not only are uncooperative data discarded, but tests are altogether dropped if they don’t produce the right answer:

The results indicated that 25% of the homologous protein sets in birds and mammals failed the first part of the consistency test, that is, in one out of four cases the data yielded divergence times between rodents and primates that were older than those obtained for the divergence between synapsids and diapsids. One protein yielded the absurd estimate of 2333 MYA for the human–chicken divergence event, and as an extreme outlier was discarded. For the remaining proteins, the mean bird–mammalian divergence estimate was 393 MYA with a 95% confidence interval of 471-315 MYA. In other words, the 310 MYA landmark was not recovered. Because neither condition of the consistency test was met, it was concluded that the use of the secondary calibration is unjustified.

In one example, a monumental dating uncertainty, roughly equal to the age of the universe, is magically reduced by a factor of 40:

Were calibration and derivation uncertainties taken into proper consideration, the 95% confidence interval would have turned out to be at least 40 times larger (~14.2 billion years).

Now of course there is little question that evolutionists will resolve their evolutionary tree problems. A combination of filtering the data, selecting the right method, and, of course, deciding there is nothing at all improbable about natural selection “adapting” designs in all manner of ways, can solve any problem. But at what cost? As the paper concludes, “Unfortunately, no matter how great our thirst for glimpses of the past might be, mirages contain no water.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tasneem Zehra Husain, The Multiverse, and Plenitude

How Physicists Learned to Love the Multiverse

Tasneem Zehra Husain has an excellent article on the multiverse in this month’s Nautilus. In this age of the expert whom we must trust to give us the truth, Husain’s transparent and clear explanation of some of the underlying philosophical concerns regarding the multiverse is refreshing. I only wish that her writing was more aware of the historical plenitude traditions. Many of the philosophical concerns regarding the multiverse interact heavily with, or even are mandated by, plenitude thinking. Husain makes this quite clear, and locating this thinking in the historical matrix of plenitude traditions would further enrich and elucidate her explanation of the multiverse hypothesis.

Plenitude thinking holds that everything that can exist will exist. As Lovejoy observed, it had an obvious influence on a range of thinkers since antiquity, including Bruno’s infinity of worlds (read extra-terrestrials) and Leibniz’ view that the species are “closely united,” and “men are linked with the animals.”

Though I don’t suspect plenitude thinking had a direct influence on the initial development of the multiverse hypothesis, it doesn’t take a physicist to see a fairly obvious connection. If everything that can exist will exist, then why should there be only one universe?

But a more interesting interaction comes in how physicists evaluate and justify the multiverse hypothesis which, after all, isn’t very satisfying. With the multiverse, difficult scientific questions are answered not with clever, enlightening, solutions but with a sledgehammer. Things are the way they are because things are every possible way they could be. We are merely living in one particular universe, with one set of circumstances, so that is what we observe. But every possible set of circumstances exists out there in the multiverse. There is no profound explanation for our incredible world. No matter how complicated, no matter how unlikely, no matter how uncanny, our world is just another ho-hum universe. All outcomes exist, and all are equally likely. Nothing special here, move along.

As Princeton cosmologist Paul Steinhardt puts it, the multiverse is the “Theory of Anything,” because it allows everything but explains nothing. Given this rather unsatisfying aspect of the multiverse, how can it be defended?

Enter plenitude thinking. An important theme in plenitude thinking is that there should be no arbitrary designs in nature. If everything that can exist will exist, then no particular designs will exist where others are also possible.

This has become a powerful element in evolutionary philosophies of science. As Leibniz explained, the entire, continuous, range of designs should be manifest in nature, rather than a particular, arbitrary design. That would be capricious.

This rule holds unless there is sufficient reason for it not to (Leibniz’ PSR). If only one design can arise in the first place, due to some reason or technicality, then all is good—the design is no longer viewed as arbitrary. The problem is, we can find no such reason or technicality for our universe. It seems any old universe could just as easily arise.

Plenitude thinking mandates that the designs we find in nature should fill the space of feasible designs. We should not find particular designs where others are possible. But this seems to be precisely what we find in our universe. It is a particular design where others are possible. Theoreticians have been unable to find any reason for why this design should have occurred.

If we say the universe was designed, then it is a design that is arbitrary, and that violates the Principle of Plenitude. The solution to this conundrum is the multiverse.

This is how physicists can learn to love the multiverse. Yes it is a sledgehammer approach, but it satisfies plenitude thinking. Our universe is no longer arbitrary. Instead, the full range of universes exists out here. Husain beautifully explains this, and here is the money passage:

For decades, scientists have looked for a physical reason why the [universe’s] fundamental constants should take on the values they do, but none has thus far been found. … But to invoke design isn’t very popular either, because it entails an agency that supersedes natural law. That agency must exercise choice and judgment, which—in the absence of a rigid, perfectly balanced, and tightly constrained structure, like that of general relativity—is necessarily arbitrary. There is something distinctly unsatisfying about the idea of there being several logically possible universes, of which only one is realized. If that were the case, as cosmologist Dennis Sciama said, you would have to think “there’s [someone] who looks at this list and says ‘well we’re not going to have that one, and we won’t have that one. We’ll have that one, only that one.’ ”

Personally speaking, that scenario, with all its connotations of what could have been, makes me sad. Floating in my mind is a faint collage of images: forlorn children in an orphanage in some forgotten movie when one from the group is adopted; the faces of people who feverishly chased a dream, but didn’t make it; thoughts of first-trimester miscarriages. All these things that almost came to life, but didn’t, rankle. Unless there’s a theoretical constraint ruling out all possibilities but one, the choice seems harsh and unfair.

Clearly such an arbitrary design of the universe is unacceptable. (By the way, Husain also adds the problem of evil as an associated problem: If the universe was designed, then “how are we to explain needless suffering?”)

The multiverse solves all this. Yes, the multiverse is an unsatisfactory, sledgehammer approach. But it saves plenitude, and that is the more important consideration.

Husain’s article is a thoughtful, measured explanation of how physicists today are reckoning with the multiverse hypothesis. But make no mistake, religion does the heavy lifting. The centuries old plenitude thinking is a major theme, running all through the discourse. That, along with a sprinkling of the problem of evil, make for decisive arguments.

The multiverse is another good example of how religion drives science in ways that are far more complex than is typically understood.

Friday, January 6, 2017

“When Facts Fail”: Oh The Irony

Fossils and DNA

Because when an evolutionist, such as Michael Shermer in this case, warns readers that people don’t change their minds even when presented with the facts, the irony should be savored:

Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data.

Yes, there certainly are conflicting data.

It gets worse:

Creationists, for example, dispute the evidence for evolution in fossils and DNA because they are concerned about secular forces encroaching on religious faith.

Evidence for evolution in DNA? What exactly would that be? Ultra conserved elements, orphans, replication, duplication, the universal DNA code, protein synthesis, protein coding genes, genetic regulation, recurrent evolution, convergence, cascades of convergence, and … well you get the idea. The evolutionist is demonstrating some of those “facts that fail” and the attendant doubling down, right before our eyes.

And what about those fossils? More “evidence for evolution”? How about those fossils that appear “as though they were planted there” as Richard Dawkins once admitted. One of those “planted” classes, the humble trilobites, had eyes that were perhaps the most complex ever produced by nature. [1] One expert called them “an all-time feat of function optimization.”

And even Shermer’s go-to source, Wikipedia, admits ancestral forms, err, “do not seem to exist”:

Early trilobites show all the features of the trilobite group as a whole; transitional or ancestral forms showing or combining the features of trilobites with other groups (e.g. early arthropods) do not seem to exist.

Likewise, even the evolutionist Niles Eldredge admitted [2] they didn’t make sense on standard evolutionary theory:

If this theory were correct, then I should have found evidence of this smooth progression in the vast numbers of Bolivian fossil trilobites I studied. I should have found species gradually changing through time, with smoothly intermediate forms connecting descendant species to their ancestors.

Instead I found most of the various kinds, including some unique and advanced ones, present in the earliest known fossil beds. Species persisted for long periods of time without change. When they were replaced by similar, related (presumably descendant) species, I saw no gradual change in the older species that would have allowed me to predict the anatomical features of its younger relative.

And it just gets worse:

The story of anatomical change through time that I read in the Devonian trilobites of Gondwana is similar to the picture emerging elsewhere in the fossil record: long periods of little or no change, followed by the appearance of anatomically modified descendants, usually with no smoothly intergradational forms in evidence.

Any more facts Mike?

1. Lisa J. Shawver, “Trilobite Eyes: An Impressive Feat of Early Evolution,” Science News, p. 72, Vol. 105, February 2, 1974.

2. Niles Eldridge, “An Extravagance of Species,” Natural History, p. 50, Vol. 89, No. 7, The American Museum of Natural History, 1980.