Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fighting Religion in Texas

Ever wonder what it would be like to go up against religious forces? Don McLeroy, who wanted evolution to be exposed to scientific scrutiny now knows. He was ousted this week from his post as the Texas chairman of the State Board of Education. This is the first step of a new religious offensive against science. And this offensive will of course require a righteous mandate. For that, McLeroy is reportedly being blamed for a host of evils, including recklessly disregarding the advice of education experts (i.e., evolutionists), causing the board to be “extremely dysfunctional,” fueling endless culture wars, and putting ideology and partisanship ahead of the schoolchildren of Texas. It is apparently OK to promote religion in science, but to ask for scientific scrutiny is to be reckless, ideological, partisan and dysfunctional.

If you are a journalist, law maker, educator, administrator, policy maker or scientist who thinks that evolution should be exposed to scientific scrutiny, then beware. You will be going up against religious forces. In this case, the inquisition was divided along party lines, with one of our great political parties aligning itself with enforced religion. It is ironic that these same politicians claim to support the separation between church and state.

The Brilliance of Evolution

Science and engineering have produced some very sophisticated machines. After centuries of advances and who knows how many millions of hours of work, we have now sports cars and spacecraft. Such high tech marvels, however, in many regards do not match the wonders of biology. Evolutionists are convinced that the forces that bring us the wind and the rain also accomplished what our leading scientists and engineers, armed with determination, years of training and supercomputers, could not. We cannot even build a single cell bacteria from scratch, which evolution somehow is supposed to have produced early on in a warm little pond somewhere.

But scientists and engineers are producing ever improved robots to study animal design and even evolution. Ignoring the fact that evolution did not have the benefit of a robotics industry, microprocessors, and centuries of supporting fundamental science, evolutionists are claiming that their robotics experiments are simulating evolution. The key is all the new, advanced technology that makes for more advanced robots. As one report explained:

Microprocessors are now tinier and more sophisticated. Building materials are more pliable. The same technology driving the use of electronic prosthetic limbs and vacuuming robots also is giving scientists a sophisticated tool to study biology. "In the past, if you think about it, robots wouldn't work because we could only make these big metal things with rotating joints that were really stiff ... and that's not how nature is," said Robert J. Full, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

With enough investment, research and determination perhaps someday we can catch up to evolution—a truly brilliant designer.

Behavior Problems

In attempting to explain behavior, evolution has become dramatically more complex in recent decades. Love, hate, deception, cheating, suspicion … the list of nuanced behaviors evolution now explains goes on and on. And the explanations are rather incredible. Children use temper tantrums, for instance, to manipulate parents. Parents countered this with the ability to discern and children, in turn, refined their manipulation with heartfelt whining. All a result of the complexities of natural selection. Such highly detailed, elaborate, speculation has raised evolution’s legendary just-so stories to a new level.

But speculation on steroids is not the only problem with today’s version of evolution. As is often the case, though evolutionists are convinced their theory is a fact they can’t quite figure out how it works. This leads to competing hypotheses which, in this case, deal with the different levels at which natural selection may work. Is natural selection more important at the level of the individual and family or the group and society?

The theory is in disarray, but evolutionists remain as confident as ever. Here is what one evolution said this week about new research supporting one hypothesis:

Inclusive fitness is the thing. It's a powerful way to think about the world and a powerful way to model the world.

It is true these hypotheses can model a variety or behaviors, but such explanations also raise profound problems for evolution.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


One of the problems with evolution is its elevation of genes. Because genes are so central to the evolutionary narrative, they have taken on an unrealistically important role in evolutionary theory. Here's an example from an article about research comparing mice and humans:

"In the last decade or so, we've come to realized that the mouse is really similar to humans," said co-author of the new study, Wolfgang Enard of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthrophology. "The genes are essentially the same and they also work similarly."

Only in evolutiondom do we find otherwise smart people making such bizarre, non scientific conclusions.

Empowering Natural Selection

Natural selection never created anything, at least not in the colloquial sense of that verb. This is not a criticism of evolutionary theory--this is evolutionary theory. According to evolution, biological designs just happen to occur, and the better designs (i.e., those that leave more progeny) tend to persist into the future whereas the worse designs (i.e., those that leave fewer or no progeny) tend to disappear. This winnowing process is called natural selection, and you can see that it doesn't create anything. Natural selection in no way induces or entices the improved mutations to occur.

The human body, for instance, must have arisen from a very long sequence of small, unguided modifications, with no outside help. The ill-suited modifications died off and the successful modifications pushed on, via natural selection, but those modifications just happened to occur. And those modifications were incredible. How did those mind-boggling designs arise in the first place? One problem here is that the biological design space is enormous and filled mostly with useless, non functional designs. How did evolution create the rare gems—the functional and successful designs that then could be selected for? Evolutionary history must have been one long, seemingly unending, sequence of miracles.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the evolution genre is so euphemistic. The absurdity of mutations and such creating mind-boggling designs over and over is avoided with such euphemisms as "selective pressure" and "environmental pressure." In evolutionary theory, such pressure does not act to produce new designs, as the euphemism implies. It only acts after the new design has already been created. Evolutionists explain that they use these euphemisms merely as convenient shorthand, but such teleological language also helps to mask the underlying absurdity.

Friday, May 29, 2009

From One Absurdity to the Next

Evolution isn't even wrong. The religiously driven idea has its followers tossing and turning. Like a ship that throws its occupants from one side of the galley to the other, evolution has its loyalists flying from one absurdity to the next. To say that evolution is wrong would be to grant a certain level of objective, consistent thought. In fact, evolution is loaded with subjective truth claims and internal contradictions. Consider this new research adding to the rags-to-riches story of so-called junk DNA.

Tandem repeats are short stretches of DNA that are repeated head-to-tail. "At first sight," explains evolutionist Marcelo Vinces, "it may seem unlikely that this stutter-DNA has any biological function." This is an example of how evolutionary thinking harms science. Since life is an accident, biology must be straightforward. If we do not immediately perceive how something works, then it must be non functional junk. Over and over this evolutionary expectation has turned out wrong. And now again with tandem repeats:

unstable junk DNA allows fast shifts in gene activity, which may allow organisms to tune the activity of genes to match changing environments--a vital principle for survival in the endless evolutionary race.

The tandem repeats allow for swift adaptation to environmental demands, so cells with more repeats stand a better chance. As the evolutionists explain, "Their junk DNA saved their lives." We are now to believe that evolution created this sophisticated system of adaptation so that evolution could occur. Evolutionists are flipping between absurdities in what is increasingly looking like a parody. The evolution literature looks more and more like a spoof. As if sensing the problem, the science writer reporting on the new research hastened to add that it is to be published in a reputable journal.

The Hypocrisy of Tenure

Dan Clawson has an article in Science about academic tenure and the future of the university. Clawson notes that:

The fundamental rationale for the tenure system has been to promote the long-term development of new ideas and to challenge students' thinking. Proponents argued more than 60 years ago that tenure is needed to provide faculty the freedom to pursue long-term risky research agendas and to challenge conventional wisdom. Those arguments are still being made today and are still valid.

While tenure may occasionally support such lofty goals as protecting intellectual freedom and the right to challenge conventional wisdom, in fact it routinely serves as one of several powerful mechanisms used to enforce conformity. The undergraduate, graduate, post graduate and untenured academic experiences all serve as purefying filters that narrow, rather than broaden, intellectual curiosity. The tenure process, the granting of research funds, publication peer review and social pressure all serve as further enforcers of right thought.

At the point of tenure application, candidates are usually fully conforming. The right answers and right thought have long since been abundantly clear and candidates who think otherwise would have been filtered out at earlier stages. The selection process is protracted and thorough. Far from promoting diversity and intellectualism, the tenure system often works against such virtues.

But too often academia has nothing but high praise for itself and denial of its own political correctness. This became painfully obvious in Iowa State University's shameful denial of tenure to astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez--an affair that exposed a profound thread of anti intellectualism that now runs through academia.

Junk DNA to the Rescue

Imagine if, back in 1859, Charles Darwin explained that evolution proceeds in fits and starts. Species rapidly appear as if planted there, and then go unchanged for eons. There would have been, as we say today, no bounce. In fact Darwin would have been laughed off the stage, and he knew it. Darwin had to present a narrative of gradualism. Funny thing is, the fits-and-starts narrative is today precisely what evolutionists tell us. The difference is that today evolution is a fact. You'd have to be a real crackpot to doubt it.

So evolution is a fact, but nonetheless it seems strange that this absent minded process would leave a trail of contradictory evidence. For instance, we know that evolution has not squared very well with the fits-and-starts pattern of the fossil record. Why should biology's evidence make evolution appear to be a ludicrous idea? Is evolution trying to deceive us? Or perhaps it is merely testing our faith. Well now we know. Enter junk DNA.

A few years back evolutionists began to think that retroviruses could play important roles in evolution. This idea has now taken hold in a much bigger way, with the discovery of Genomic Drive. Amazing new research found that transposable elements, comprising about half of our genome and once thought to be so much junk, are the drivers behind evolution itself.

Of course species suddenly appear and then don't change for eons. It is because those transposable elements occasionally awaken to action. The once junk DNA has gone from the dog house to the starting lineup. It turns out that transposable elements supply the genomic drive behind biology's wonders. Mutations are out, jumping genes are in.

In fact, this junk DNA is now thought to have a critical role in ensuring the survival of biological lineages. And how do they work their magic? The answer is easy. Transposable elements, they say, "do their survival work by reformatting and rearranging DNA genomes to sometimes create significant adaptive mutations that undergo natural selection." It is amazing that evolution so cleverly created its own Genomic Drive. Now, evolution is even more of a fact.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Adaptation Defies Evolution

The evolutionary expectation was that species, including bacteria, adapt by unguided variation. Sometimes, it was thought, this blind process happens to stumble upon an improved design which has a reproductive advantage, and so becomes more prevalent in future generations. This evolutionary model could hardly be more wrong. We now have glimpsed the profound complexity of biology adaptation mechanisms. They are anything but a blind process and new research adds yet more insight into this fascinating aspect of biology.

The new research explores the ability of bacteria to acquire resistance to multiple antibiotics using a genetic "copying and pasting" of resistance genes. Apparently unaware of the theory of evolution, this sophisticated design, as one writer put it, uses the antibiotics themselves to "trigger the synthesis of the bacterial enzyme that captures the resistance genes and enables their expression in the integron."

Unbelievable. Adaptation was always claimed as the no-brainer, empirical evidence for evolution. How can anyone doubt evolution when we can observe it right before our eyes? This claim has always been an absurd equivocation on evolution, for such adaptation has very little in common with the macro evolution narrative. The absurdity is reinforced by this growing body of knowledge revealing the deep complexity of adaptation. Evolutionists are left scratching their heads, wondering how their know-nothing process was able to devise such a clever adaptation machine. They are left with the silly idea that evolution created the intelligent adaptation machine that then allowed for evolution.

Understanding the Evolution Genre

Evolution has to be true, and yet it is not well supported scientifically. If you ask how evolution occurred, you will be told there are various theories grappling with the problem. But if you ask if evolution occurred, you will be told that, without a doubt, it is an unequivocal fact. Evolutionists have metaphysical certainty about the truth of evolution, in spite of the empirical evidence. This is a consistent theme in the evolution genre. Here, for example, is the opening paragraph from a recent journal paper on the evolution of vision:

The evolution of the eye has focused research interest ever since Darwin identified the eye with its ‘‘inimitable contrivances’’ as a vexing problem for evolutionary theory (1859). Gradual evolution seemed implausible because ‘‘intermediate’’ forms of the eye seemed unlikely to be adaptive and selectable (1). Since Darwin’s original challenge, however, a surprisingly large number of cases of independent evolution of image-forming eyes have been documented (2, 3).

Translation: Contrary to evolutionary expectations, biology presents us with a wide variety of vision systems. They are too different to have evolved from a common ancestor. The evolutionary spin on this surprise is that vision must have independently evolved many times (after all, the fact that vision must have evolved, somehow, is not in question).

Furthermore, various living species with completely functional forms of eye organization are now known, which could be viewed as ‘‘intermediate’’ between a simple photoreceptive patch and the complex image-forming eye seen in cephalopods and most vertebrates (2, 3).

On the other hand, they could not be viewed as intermediate. It all depends on whether we are following the evidence. In fact, the biochemistry of even simple, non image forming, eyes is profoundly complex.

Although the fact of repeated evolution of image-forming eyes, as well as the capacity for functional intermediates, is thus firmly established, the mechanism of the evolutionary process is still speculative.

Translation: We may have to contrive just-so stories to explain evolution, but we will continue repeating that it is a fact.

Evolutionists Don't Know What They're Talking About (Literally)

Nicholas Kristof is back at it. This normally sharp-shooter journalist seems to lose all critical thinking skills when it comes to evolution. Today he informs his readers that “Some evolutionary psychologists believe that disgust emerged as a protective mechanism against health risks, like feces, spoiled food or corpses.” “Emerged” is an interesting way to put it. I guess it sounds better than “randomly arose somehow via unguided mutations, along with a thousand other assorted behaviors for selection to choose from.” Kristof seems to be unaware how silly this is.

We also learn, courtesy of psychology professor Jonathan Haidt, that “Our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth; they were designed to play social games.” Is that true? If so, it makes one wonder how pundits such as Kristof and Haidt can be so sure of things (including evolution). Perhaps the social games evolution designed include making up truth claims that we cannot be sure of. Well in any case, one thing we can be sure of (I think) is that if evolution is true then evolutionists don't know what they're talking about.

Evolution: Master Molecular Architect (and fact)

Evolutionist Nick Lane claims DNA as one of evolution's ten great inventions. Evolutionists think nothing of such a claim. After all evolution, if true, invented pretty much everything. And if evolution did invent DNA, it was quite a feat for the know-nothing mechanic. The double helix, for instance, is delicately held together by hydrogen bonds which are precisely placed and aimed.

The double helix can be opened up so the information inside can be accessed, or conversely it is often tightly compacted for storage. In fact, if all the DNA in your body was stretched out it would reach to the moon and back many thousands of times. Nice job.

Billions of years ago, before there were mammals, amphibians, plants, fish or any multi cellular life forms, phenomenal genome compaction mechanisms must have evolved into place, and then persisted unchanged ever after. Evolution, somehow and for some reason, luckily produced these incredibly elaborate and complex compaction mechanisms for unicellular life forms, and it turned out they were just the thing for millions of far more complex species. Quite a feat.

Then there is the replication of DNA, a fascinating and complex process performed by amazing molecular machines that, in spite of evolutionary theory, are not consistent across the species. Evolution must have decided to create the same Rube Goldberg machine several times over. Very creative.

There is also the DNA code which is cleverly designed at several levels, including minimizing the effects of errors and maximizing information content (such as in supporting overlapping messages).

And when errors do arise, DNA has an amazing error correction capability. As one researcher put it, "it’s almost as if cells have something akin to a computer program that becomes activated by DNA damage, and that program enables the cells to respond very quickly."

If evolution wasn't a fact, the evidence might make one to begin to ask questions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just Add Water

Evolution has a high view of itself. Not only is it supposed to be as believable as gravity, but the narratives it generates are uncritically swallowed. For instance, origin of life stories are routinely reported with, frankly, laughable proclamations such as this one:

Mystery of how life on Earth began solved by British scientists: Scientists in Britain have solved the mystery of how life on Earth evolved from molecules when the planet was devoid of life four billion years ago.

Such non scientific reporting of science is by no means restricted to journalists. If they have exaggerated further it is only because they have stood on the shoulders of giants. Consider biochemist Nick Lane's new book, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. A compendium of such extreme overstatement one would think it a parody. But alas, never underestimate the evolution genre. Evolutionists seem to be ever raising the ante of hyperbole at this high table. Consider, for example, how Lane describes the evolutionary tales of the origin of life:

The origin of life is one of biology's biggest conundrums. How prebiotic chemistry gave rise to biochemistry, how the first cells formed, what kind of energy first powered metabolism and replication -- all these questions are serious challenges. Remarkably, all are answered in broad brush stroke by the amazing properties of alkaline hydrothermal vents, which form naturally chemiosmotic, self-replicating mineral cells with catalytic walls. They concentrate organics, including nucleotides, in impressive quantities, making them the ideal hatcheries for life.

I guess we should thank our lucky alkaline hydrothermal vents
. (Which, by the way, were not needed by the British scientists extolled above who also, remarkably, solved all the problems). Lane lists nine other "inventions" of evolution which, believe it or not, are as absurd as this one. I have no doubt Lane is a smart fellow. That is why evolution is all the more amazing--and all the more dangerous. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Now It’s Junk Protein

One problem with evolution is its strong bias toward viewing everything in biology as a kludge. When a newly discovered structure is examined, evolutionists take one look and conclude it is leftover junk. After all, blind, unguided mutations and other processes just happened to produce everything we see. The evolutionist’s going in position is that biology is a fluke. We’re lucky anything works.

This expectation pervades evolutionary thinking, and shows up again and again to be wrong. This week, instead of the usual junk-DNA-turned-marvel, it is junk protein. Here is what the evolutionist had to say:

Here we have a molecule that serves an important role in how cells function and survive, but it contains these puzzling 'junk' sequences that don't seem to have any apparent purpose. Our work suggests that this disorder is really a way of creating flexibility, allowing the protein to function as a molecular switch, a process that is thought to go wrong in certain diseases.

Evolution has provided researchers with convenient modular structures, areas that are repeated over and over again to make up proteins, and so we tend to dismiss the interspersed disordered sequences that don't seem to have any definable structure. Here we show that the weak molecular interactions in a disorganized protein equence are essential in giving this protein its unique attributes.

Well it is good to see that evolution has been helping researchers by providing convenient modular structures. At least evolution does something right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This Week's Inquisition in Texas

Earlier this year Don McLeroy and the Texas Board of Education had the courage to stand up to the religious hegemony known as evolution. But the evolutionists have only begun to fight. They are bringing their lies and vitriol from all directions. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education writes that the new Texas science standards "authorize teachers to omit evolution or include creationism at their whim." That is, of course, false and Rosenau, or whoever is feeding him, knows better. Rosenau also writes of creationist pseudoscience and creationist attacks, and warns that "Watchdogs worry that some publishers may satisfy the board by outright larding books with creationism." He alerts his readers that the new Texas standards contain "creationist amendments," "promote creationism’s mantra," and "echo creationist beliefs."

Lies such as this are fueling a furious response to the standards. The standards actually state that evolution should be taught from a theory-neutral perspective. That is, students should actually understand the scientific evidence. But that is a death knell for evolution and so the fury has been unleashed. They want McLeroy out, textbook publishers not to go along with the spirit of the standards or else face a boycott at the university level, religious leaders to voice their support for evolution, and entrepreneurs to explain why evolution is necessary.

If ever there was an example of the importance of religious influence, this is it. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Evolution's Circular Reasoning and Genomics

When trying to prove their theory, evolutionists often use circular reasoning. Here's a simple example. In his book The Making of the Fittest, Sean Carroll writes "the degree of similarity in DNA is an index of the [evolutionary] relatedness of species." [98] This can only make sense if we first assume evolution is true. But Carroll's book is a defense of evolution, intended to demonstrate to skeptics that the theory is true. He seeks to prove evolution is true, but he begins with evolutionary reasoning and interpretations. That is circular reasoning. Unfortunately such circular reasoning is a common motif in the evolution genre.

In recent years the genomes of various species have been decoded. It is an avalanche of disparate data, as genomes can contain a variety of types of messages. For evolutionists, these messages hold many secrets of evolutionary history. If the species share common ancestors, then the contents of their genomes should help decipher that evolutionary history.

For instance, mobile genetic elements are genome segments that can move about, inserting themselves at various locations within the genome. These insertions, according to evolutionists, are a random affair. After all, evolutionists assume that life is a fluke, and biology is one big kludge.

A few years back evolutionists claimed that retroviruses found in primate genomes proved common descent. The retroviruses, it was said, were the perfect evolutionary sign post. They were assumed to insert randomly into the genome and once inserted to stay put. Therefore, if two cousin species shared a similar pattern of retroviruses, then those retroviruses must have been inherited from a common ancestor. It would be too great of a coincidence for the retroviruses to have independently inserted into the two genomes (notice the circular reasoning).

These assumptions are routinely revised. Retroviruses patterns were found that cannot be explained by common descent (e.g., same pattern in only two of three cousin species). Apparently the retroviruses were not such perfect evolutionary sign posts as had been assumed. But evolutionists viewed such cases as anomalies, and rationalized them using ad hoc explanations. In fact I recently received a challenge to find a retrovirus that violates the evolutionary expectation. That's easy. Such falsifiers have long since been discovered. They are just not advertised.

This dynamic has repeated itself with other types of genetic messages, such as pseudogenes and interspersed elements. Here is what Carroll had to say about the latter:

These landmarks are produced by accidental insertions of junk DNA sequences near genes. ... Once [an interspersed element] is inserted, there is no active mechanism for removing it. The insertion of these elements marks a gene in a species, and is then inherited by all species descended from it. They are really perfect tracers of genealogy. [99]

Except, that is, when they aren't. Like retroviruses, and pseudogenes, interspersed elements occasionally violate the evolutionary pattern. Apparently they are not quite such "perfect tracers of genealogy." To be sure, such outliers are unusual, but if they can be explained by mechanism (rather than inheritance), then so can the others. Carroll concludes that the interspersed elements:

can be explained only by the species sharing a common ancestor. ... biologists have sufficient forensic evidence to determine species' kinship beyond any doubt. [99]

This is, of course, false. In fact, interspersed elements patterns are explained without resorting to a common ancestor and the tremendous problems with such an explanation.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Sermon From PZ Myers

Evolution, the theory that natural processes created all life, is mandated by the religious belief that God would not have created our world. Ironically, a belief about God underwrites a theory that helped fuel the rejection of God. But atheists today remain as dependent on religion as ever.

Here is a simple example. Atheists argue that the world is not as we would expect if God had created it. Therefore the world must have evolved and God is superfluous. Notice that this makes evolution a fact, not merely a theory. Sound familiar?

And notice that this is a religious argument. It depends on assumptions about what God would and would not create. It doesn't matter whether the science supports evolution (it doesn't), one way or another evolution must be true. Here is an example from PZ Myers, writing in the LA Times about how he analyzes religion:

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' conclusion depends on what he believes about God. God wouldn't make life difficult. God wouldn't create patterns in the fossil species. God wouldn't create similarities between species. It makes no difference that evolution does not explain how life, in all its incredible forms, actually arose. It does not matter that evolution is consistently wrong--it must be right. Our religion depends on it.

Evolutionists such as Myers have been duped by religion. They use it and they depend on it, but they imagine they are free of it.

Evolution's Junk is Biology's Treasure

Another week, another "junk DNA" claim disproven. And this time in rather dramatic fashion. The headline reads "Research team finds important role for junk DNA." That's putting mildly. The "junk" DNA genes "spur an almost acrobatic rearrangement of the entire genome" of the humble protozoan, Oxytricha.

Early discoveries of "junk" DNA function were a bit more mundane. For instance, some segments were found to have a structural role. To be sure, structural roles actually are complex, and it is not good science to think mutations constructed such a marvel. Later, the "junk" DNA was found to be responsible for massive, sophisticated gene regulation. Pretty amazing. But now we have the rearranging of the entire genome. Biology doesn't seem to understand evolution. But evolutionists don't give up easily--after all, it's a fact.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Hype Must Go On

What was the worst example of evolutionary exaggeration this week? The contrived mega hoopla surrounding the primate fossil, Darwinius massillae, right? Wrong. True, the hoopla is so extreme it would seem to be a parody. Years from now, when scholars sift through the mountains of evolutionary nonsense, trying to figure out how it could have happened, the Darwinius massillae episode will probably rank as a spectacular icon. Like a vacant mansion from the gilded age, this episode will serve as the ultimate example of the unsustainable and vacuous non science we are witnessing.

But amazingly the silly evidential claims of Darwinius massillae are standard fare for the evolution genre. Evolutionists routinely top this example, and they did this week with the headline that announced:

Mystery of how life on Earth began solved by British scientists: Scientists in Britain have solved the mystery of how life on Earth evolved from molecules when the planet was devoid of life four billion years ago.

Granted this was a merely a headline, but the article did not help much. How could it? The headline is nothing short of outrageous (the scientists did nothing of the sort). But it is not particularly unusual. Evolutionists, and the subservient media, have a long history of such reporting. It makes the Darwinius massillae affair look downright sober.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Muddy Water Theory

Evolution always predicts simplicity, and it always seems to be wrong. If all life arose from muddy water then it probably isn’t very cleverly designed. Evolutionists always seem to assume that biological designs are crude, if even functional. And biology, apparently unaware of evolution, continues to reveal sophistication and complexity. Here’s an everyday example.

In genes that code for proteins, some nucleotides in the DNA sequence can be switched without altering the protein sequence. This is because the DNA code is degenerate: there are 64 codons (i.e., 4^3 DNA nucleotide triplets) but only 20 amino acids, so different codons often code for the same amino acid. In other words, certain nucleotides can be switched without altering the encoded amino acid. Such nucleotide changes are referred to as silent or synonymous replacements.

Evolutionists figured this code, and its degeneracy, was a big fluke. The DNA code arose from muddy water, so what would you expect? No wonder it is degenerate. And a consequence of this evolutionary thinking was that the silent replacements don’t matter. After all, they don’t alter the protein sequence, and since biology is nothing more than one big kludge, there can’t be any other significant function for the gene sequence.

It is yet another example where evolutionary thinking has set back science. Not only is the DNA code profoundly subtle and complex, but silent replacements do matter, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons that has been understood for decades is that although a silent replacement does not alter the protein sequence, it does alter the intermediate, mRNA, transcript, and mRNA stability (or should I say instability) is important. Like a blueprint folding up on itself in the wind, if the mRNA transcript is too stable it will fold up. Then it is difficult to translate into a sequence of amino acids. In other words, mRNA needs to be somewhat unstable.

In spite of the importance of even silent replacements in DNA, evolutionists routinely view them as practically neutral, having little effect one way or another. A recent paper reinforced the importance of these silent replacements. This research showed that protein production can vary substantially (by up to two orders of magnitude) when silent replacements are inserted, because the mRNA stability is altered.

Another surprise for evolutionists. As one science writer explained, for evolutionists, “these results fundamentally change the understanding of the role of synonymous mutations, which were previously considered evolutionarily neutral.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009


How do ants know where they are going? As the Discovery Channel reports, they have their own built-in GPS system.* It seems that tiny magnets in the ant antennae provide a "biological compass needle." And the system has a low carbon-footprint. Ants are not responsible for global warming.

The presence of magnetic material, as part of a navigational system, is nothing new in biology. It has been observed in a wide array of organisms including, of course, homing pigeons. Nonetheless, we still do not fully understand the inner workings. Figuring out how these magnetic marvels work is a worthy challenge, as the Discovery Channel article explains:

Nanotechnologists have their eye on such ant, bird and other nature-made GPS systems, as they could in future lead to more accurate drug targeting in humans, and might even serve as tiny data storage devices. While insects and animals seem to either get their magnetic materials from dirt or otherwise produce them, the crystals apparently aren't so easy to recreate in a lab. According to Fleissner and her team, "Even though birds have been producing these particles for millions of years, the main problem for scientists who want to find benefits from their use will be the technical production of these particles."

Biology is full of these high-tech devices which leave evolution in the dust. Sadly, evolutionists have no choice but insist on the non-scientific mutation-to-marvels creation story.

* This navigational system in ants actually bears little resemblance to the Global Positioning System, aside from the fact that both systems fall under the broad category of Navigation.

Technology Transfer: The Flight of a Fly

Insect flight is fascinating. It seems to defy engineering principles and the old joke is that it is impossible. (As body size reduces the lift force becomes weaker than the body weight, and viscosity effects also cause problems). Now we understand better how it can be possible, and we're continuing to learn more of the details. A recent paper reporting on creative new research on insect flight control reveals some interesting aspects of the visual flight speed response in fruit flies. Insects, like subatomic particles, are difficult to measure without disturbing. Past experiments often relied on tethering the flies–hardly a natural environment. This new paper reports on research using a wind tunnel with controlled light patterns to better understand how the fly's visual system controls flight. The researchers found that:

To control flight speed, the visual system of the fruit fly extracts linear pattern velocity robustly over a broad range of spatio–temporal frequencies. The speed signal is used for a proportional control of flight speed within locomotor limits. The extraction of pattern velocity over a broad spatio–temporal frequency range may require more sophisticated motion processing mechanisms than those identified in flies so far. ... Finally, the high-level control principles identified in the fly can be meaningfully transferred into a robotic context, such as for the robust and efficient control of autonomous flying micro air vehicles.

In recent years autonomous, uncrewed flight vehicles have become increasingly common. Of course leaving out the crew can be useful for dangerous missions, but the absence of any personnel also allows for very small vehicles. There are applications for micro flight vehicles, and this work adds to a growing body of research on how the sophisticated designs of insects can be of use in such vehicles.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Darwinius masillae: The Religion in Evolution

Alfred North Whitehead once observed that we often take our most crucial assumptions to be obvious and in no need of justification. These underlying assumptions are unspoken and undefended because, as Whitehead put it, "Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.” This week a new paper describes a beautiful primate fossil which evolutionists claim as powerful evidence for their theory. In fact, evolutionists have orchestrated an instant sensation out of the find. Journalists across the board obediently relayed the evolutionary message to their readers, listeners and viewers, and movies, books, documentaries and web sites are in the works. It will be a multi media extravaganza.

Why all the hype? It is not merely because we now have a beautifully preserved early primate fossil. While this is certainly cause for celebration in the paleontology department, it would not qualify for the evening news. The excitement is because of what Darwinius is thought to portend for evolution. The fossil is supposed to be an important puzzle piece in primate evolution, and therefore human evolution. And that's big news. But behind all the hype lies an unspoken and unrecognized assumption that has nothing to do with scientific research.

It seems so obvious that evolutionists would laugh to think it even needs to be explained: similarity implies evolution. As one evolutionist quipped, if an intelligent being had designed both a fish and Sophia Loren from scratch, there’s no way, if evolution hadn’t occurred, that her arm would have had any internal resemblance to the fish.

That's a funny way to put it, but it is no joke. This sentiment comes from a non scientific, theological tradition that has been influential for centuries. It is one of the core religious components of evolutionary thought, and it has deeply penetrated today's science. This new primate fossil is not merely viewed as a new specimen to add to our understanding of species from the past. It is taken as yet more proof of evolution, and this will be the message in the media blitz to come.

But similarities between species are not necessarily a result of evolution. In fact, that idea has substantial scientific problems. But the mandate for evolution doesn't come from science, it comes from religion. The Darwinius masillae story is yet another example of this influence, and why it is important. Consider this recent example from PZ Myers' blog:

The evolution of whales is also a matter of fact and evidence. We have the fossils; we can see a pattern of change across geological time, from those hooved terrestrial quadrupeds to flippered ambush predators adapted to living in the shallows to four-flippered, paddle-tailed swimmers to obligate water-dwellers with flukes and no hind limbs, with many stages in between. It is a beautiful and strongly-supported example of macroevolutionary change. So yes, we believe it — you'd have to be blind to ignore the testimony of the rocks.

There are three fallacies in this single paragraph, but they aren't fallacies to evolutionists. Given the religious beliefs of evolutionists, such evolutionary thinking makes perfect sense. The most obvious of Myers' fallacies is his affirming of the consequent. If a theory makes a prediction that is found to be true, this does not prove the theory to be true. However, if the theory, and only the theory, can make that particular prediction, then the successful prediction does prove the theory true. As Elliott Sober put it, evolution relies on contrastive thinking. Or as Ernst Mayr put it, evolution is proven by the default of the alternatives.

And how do evolutionists know that only their theory can create the fossil patterns we find? Such a claim, of course, goes far outside science. Such a claim entails religious knowledge not available to science, and not vulnerable to scientific findings. With evolutionary thinking, the logic switches from if P then Q, to if and only if P, then Q. The grammatical difference is slight but the effect is huge. The former is scientific, the latter is religious. The former refers to a particular theory, the latter presumes knowledge of all explanations.

PZ Myers thinks of himself as a voice of reason, free of religious motivation. Like the fish which is unaware it is in water, Myers and the evolutionists are so steeped in religious committment that they are unaware of it. As Whitehead observed, the undefended assumptions are the important ones. For "such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.”

Real Facts

Why do people believe that the most complex designs in the known universe evolved? Teams of our best scientists and their super computers cannot figure out how these wonders work, but we're sure they just happened to arise in a warm little pond somewhere. Somehow the mud created designs that outperform our best military systems. How do we know this to be true? Here is some example reasoning from PZ Myers' blog:

Biologists recognize that the basis of life is chemistry — that we are the product of some wonderfully interesting biochemical reactions. We do not believe in spontaneous generation, but we do know that the boundary between biology and chemistry is very, very fuzzy indeed, and that there was a transition in the history of life where chemical replicators gradually acquired sufficient complexity that they became the basis for life. Again, this is the product of evidence and experiment: we see molecular indicators of the common origin of all life, and that we see even in our own cells the hallmarks of a history with a much simpler origin.

Evidence and experiment? Molecular indicators of the common origin of all life? Such claims are, of course, false. It is not controversial that origin of life research has always been motivated by evolutionary thinking. The impetus for thinking that biology's incredible gizmos come from muddy water comes from evolution, not science. Indeed, the scientific evidence has always been a problem for origin of life research. Even the National Academy of Sciences has admitted that:

Constructing a plausible hypothesis of life’s origins will require that many questions be answered. Scientists who study the origin of life do not yet know which sets of chemicals could have begun replicating themselves.

But Myers' rewrite of both science and history is not uncommon. This is the sort of anti intellectualism to which evolutionary thinking leads. Myers continues:

The evolution of whales is also a matter of fact and evidence. We have the fossils; we can see a pattern of change across geological time, from those hooved terrestrial quadrupeds to flippered ambush predators adapted to living in the shallows to four-flippered, paddle-tailed swimmers to obligate water-dwellers with flukes and no hind limbs, with many stages in between. It is a beautiful and strongly-supported example of macroevolutionary change. So yes, we believe it — you'd have to be blind to ignore the testimony of the rocks.

Blind? How about logical? Myers here confidently proclaims the fact of evolution based on affirming the consequent. But this fallacy is only the beginning. The pattern Myers celebrates is so often contradicted in the rocks that this evolutionary illogic is also guilty of confirmation bias. Beyond these two fallacies, there is the problem there really wasn't a consequent to affirm in the first place. Not surprisingly, since the evidence is so often at variance with the pattern Myers finds so persuasive, evolution has long since dropped such a prediction. Increasing complexity, decreasing complexity, rapid appearance, trees, bushes, diversity explosions, stasis for eons—evolution predicts them all.

This is it folks. This is the kind of evidence and reasoning evolutionary thinking brings to the table. To be sure, earth's history is packed with an incredible menagerie of life forms. For those interested in real facts, that is a real fact. But how they got there is a different question. They may have just evolved there, courtesy of the wind, rain, and natural forces. There are of course mammoth scientific problems with that idea. But it could be true. What we do know about that idea, however, is that it is not a scientific fact. Rather it is an unlikely hypothesis that, amazingly, evolutionists insist must be true. Religion drives science and it matters.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A New Mandate for Evolution

President Obama recently called for more understanding and dialog in our heated public debates. We are to try to understand the other person's perspective, even if we strongly disagree. Count me in. Unfortunately I suspect not everyone feels the same. Consider, for instance, clinical psychologist Seth Kalichman. John Moore reviewed Kalichman's new book, Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy, in which Kalichman brands various folks as "denialists." As Moore describes, Kalichman describes these folks as "deranged and disgruntled university professors who turn to pseudoscience as a platform to gain attention." That's strong stuff.

I agree that some people are way out on a limb in their convictions. But deranged? Too many pundits rely on personal attack, ad hominems, strawmen, stereotypes and marginalization. Such attacks make for a simplistic world of good guys and bad guys. The world probably is that simple sometimes, but often it is not. While Kalichman's main concern in the book is AIDS, it appears Kalichman's watchful eye has others in view as well:

These attitudes are not unique to HIV. Denialism, notes Kalichman, is "partly an outgrowth of a more general anti-science and anti-medicine movement". Groups that support intelligent design, doubt global warming, claim that vaccines cause autism, argue that cigarettes are safe, believe that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 were an intelligence-agency plot or deny the Holocaust all use similar tactics.

I doubt Kalichman's list stops here. Look around. Who else hides this insidious mental illness? Certainly anyone who questions that evolution is a fact must be one of those wicked denialists. What a powerful mandate and protection for evolution. There are many religious demands for evolution, but here we have something equally powerful. Take your choice: accept evolution or be defined as deranged.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Giraffe's Long Neck

Giraffes have always figured prominently in the evolution genre, either as a rebuke to Lamarckism or as an example of natural selection's creative powers. Isn't it obvious that the giraffe's long neck was an evolutionary innovation, allowing its owner to eat leaves too high for other animals to reach? Actually, no, it is not so obvious. Perhaps the long neck was needed to compensate for the giraffe's long legs. Or again, perhaps the long neck makes the giraffe more attractive. In fact, the scientific evidence for all these narratives is weak. But of course, not knowing how or why the giraffe's long neck evolved in no way lessens the fact that it did evolve. There may be problems with evolution, but we must never allow ourselves to question evolution itself.

More Failed Evidences

In his book The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, evolutionist Sean Carroll makes the usual claims about how we can know evolution is true. According to Carroll, there is no doubt, evolution is decisively confirmed, it is beyond any doubt, and so forth. As if to prove these high claims Carroll presents a variety of genetic evidences and arguments. But his examples routinely fail and indeed raise profound problems for evolution. The evolution genre is a sort of modern day version of the Emperor's New Clothes. It is a fascinating study in contrasts, for it reveals a well educated, intelligentsia gone awry.

One of Carroll's evidences involves vision, and a particular gene that determines the color of the light that is detected. [see pages 103-107] This gene encodes a protein that is found in the hundreds of millions of photocells in our retina. The photocells shaped like a cone come in three types, depending on which color they detect: red, green or blue. By combining the signals from these different photocells, our brain can assemble a full color image. The whole system is phenomenally complex, and might seem to be an unlikely subject to use as compelling evidence for evolution.

Carroll's point is that it is easy for him to envision how we came to have our particular color coding genes. For instance, two of them are adjacent in the genome. Isn't this evidence that one arose from the other via gene duplication? After the duplication event only a few mutations would be needed to settle on their respective color codings. Is this not compelling evidence for evolution by natural selection?

The story continues, but it doesn't get any better, and it is remarkable that Carroll thinks this example helps make evolution compelling. First, there is no compelling reason why one should accept Carroll's evolutionary interpretation of the data. Evolutionists are ensconsed in their theory, and often have difficulty understanding why others do not understand that all life simply evolved. Carroll is convinced of this evidence, but in fact he has not provided good reasons to be so swayed, for those who do not already believe in evolution.

Beyond this, his evidence raises profound problems for evolution. Most obviously, Carroll takes for granted the pre existence of the color-coding gene, the photocells, the retina, and the remainder of the vision system and brain. From where did this incredible system come? Are we to believe that it too is simply the result of evolution because Carroll thinks a gene duplication event added more color resolution?

Another problem is that Carroll vastly underestimates the complexity of the supposed evolutionary change he proposes. A new color-coding gene followed by a few mutations does not instantly provide enhanced color resolution as Carroll suggests. That is only the beginning of what would be required. The product of the new color-coding gene would need to be used in certain photocells. The quantity and locations of these photocells are important.

And on the receiving end, downstream cells would need to be reprogrammed, to interpret properly the new color information. This is because the photocells do not signal their color. The output of the photocell is merely a nerve impulse (action potential), and its interpretation is an extremely complex process. Modifying a color-coding gene without concomitant downstream reprogramming just confuses things.

With evolution all this complexity is irrelevant. Evolution presents a just-add-water view of biology that does not do justice to the science or the scientists. It is a fascinating study in contrasts.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Evolution's Reliance on Strawmen

A strawman argument is a sign of weakness. It means that one cannot withstand opposing arguments, so those arguments must be misrepresented. It is a common debate tactic. With an inferior position, one needs to weaken the opposing position. One way to do that is to misrepresent the opposing position. Attack the strawman to clear the way for the weak argument that otherwise could not survive on its own. Of course people do make occasional mistakes, but when misrepresentation is consistent--as it is with evolutionists--then it is a sign of weakness. Consider this latest example from evolutionist Barbara Forrest:

Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order. ... I examine the ID movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their supernaturalism, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their creationist claims.

This quote comes from the abstract of a journal paper--not exactly a hasty thought. It is now a matter of record in the peer-reviewed literature: ID is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions. This of course is a strawman, and that is putting it lightly. But it is also quite typical in the evolution literature. From full length books, such as Why Intelligent Design Fails, to articles and papers such as Forrest's paper above, this misrepresentation of ID is rampant.

Evolutionists, as a rule, are busy attacking a strawman version of ID. To be sure, I can make arguments against ID, but they are based on the real thing. The evolutionist's version is a strawman because ID is not a religious belief and it does not require supernatural intervention. There are no religious premises in ID, no claims of faith or reliance on religion. Nor does ID require supernatural intervention in the natural order (ID merely requires that design is detectable).

Labeling ID as a religious belief is like labeling evolution as an atheistic belief. While ID has implications for religious belief, and evolution has implications for atheism, these are outputs of the theories, not inputs. Likewise, while there are theists who support ID, just as there are atheists who support evolution, these are people, not theories. There are no religious claims in ID, just as there are no atheist claims in evolution. It would be a fallacy to reject evolution because, for instance, the skeptic David Hume helped build its foundation.

So this is all cleared up, right? Of course not. Evolutionists have been using this strawman for years, in spite of a substantial body of ID literature that clearly describes the theory. One more blog will not make any difference. The strawman is inexcusable but understandable. Evolution is a weak position that needs strawmen to survive.

Fine Tuning and the Intellectual Necessity

You have probably heard about the multiverse--the idea that the universe is really a large number of universes. The multiverse helps to explain why our particular universe seems so special. Our universe seems to be a finely tuned machine and the evolution of life would require low probability events. Is our universe special? The multiverse helps to deflect such thinking. If there is a large number of universes, then perhaps each has a different set of natural laws. And perhaps intelligent life can only be supported by a very particular set of laws. So the only life forms that would exist to observe their universe would be those that live in special universes. Presto, we're not special and fine tuning and evolution are explained.

There is, however, another type of fine tuning that evolutionists have not explained. In addition to physics and biology, philosophy is also fine-tuned. I suspect it can also be explained with the multiverse, but we need to start keeping a list of all the little things we sweep under the multiverse rug. Philosophy is fine-tuned in the sense that evolutionary theories of origin are both (i) fact and (ii) intellectually necessary. Let me explain.

On the one hand, evolutionists say they know that evolution (of one sort of another) is a fact, every bit as much as gravity is a fact. Life and all the species arose strictly by purely naturalistic processes. If you doubt this, it is equivalent to doubting the existence of gravity. It is remarkable that evolutionists have this level of certainty, but keep in mind they are very smart people.

On the other hand, evolutionists say that evolution (again, of one sort of another) must be assumed in order to do science. We saw how evolutionary thinkers, from the Joseph LeConte in Darwin's day to PZ Myers today, have illuminated this requirement. Here is another example from another evolutionist, Barbara Forrest:

Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order. ID thus brings with it, as does supernatural theism by its nature, intractable epistemological difficulties. ... I examine the ID movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their supernaturalism, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their creationist claims.

In other words, in order to avoid "intractable epistemological difficulties" and get along with the business of doing science, evolution is a must. So, evolution is both a fact and intellectually necessary. These are two independent properties. It didn't have be this way. We could live in the universe where evolution is not a fact, but yet intellectually necessary. Or we could live in the universe where evolution is a fact, but yet not intellectually necessary. Either way things would be very confusing. I'm glad we're not stuck in one of those universes. Thanks to the multiverse, there are options. We live in a universe that is finely-tuned for truth, and full of evolutionists to explain this to us.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Theology: Still Queen of the Sciences

Evolutionist PZ Myers approves of this religious YouTube video challenge, and Myers adds another metaphysical mandate to the mix. Myers writes:

Scientist find a gene, and what do they do? Figure out what it does, and dig into the databases to find its relatives within that organism or in other species. Creationists claim genes can't be created without the intervention of a designer, and what do they do? Nothing.

Myers' religious passions are well known. Like most atheists he has strong religious views. And as an atheist, he is stuck with the theory of evolution for his creation myth. His dogmatic claim that evolution is a fact does not come from science. And his argument above is an example of how metaphysics drives evolutionary thinking.

Myers' point is that there is an intellectual necessity for evolutionary theories. Without them science cannot do much. This is a centuries old non scientific argument that gained strength in Darwin's day. For instance, Charles Lyell, for many the father of modern geology, argued strenuously for uniformitarianism. Lyell's argument was not merely that geological history is dominated by uniform processes, he was arguing for uniformitarianism. In other words, science, in general, should be restricted to uniformity.

This view had been slowly but surely gaining strength, as many theists had argued that this is how God would interact with the world. The Reverend Baden Powell argued that naturalism and continuity are required. To deny them in any instance "would be to endanger all science." And so, not surprisingly, Darwin made good use of this intellectual necessity justification for evolutionary explanations. It was one of his many metaphysical arguments for his theory.

After Darwin this tradition continued to hold sway. And as evolutionist Joseph LeConte reminded the world thirty years after Origins, strict naturalism was not merely good science--it was true:

The origins of new phenomena are often obscure, even inexplicable, but we never think to doubt that they have a natural cause; for so to doubt is to doubt the validity of reason, and the rational constitution of Nature. So also, the origins of new organic forms may be obscure or even inexplicable, but we ought not on that account to doubt that they had a natural cause, and came by a natural process; for so to doubt is also to doubt the validity of reason, and the rational constitution of organic Nature.

Today this dogma has become a truism for evolutionists. One example from Niles Eldredge will have to do, though evolutionists routinely employ this metaphysic:

But the Creator obviously could have fashioned each species in any way imaginable. There is no basis for us to make predictions about what we should find when we study animals and plants if we accept the basic creationist position. … the creator could have fashioned each organ system or physiological process (such as digestion) in whatever fashion the Creator pleased.

Today's atheists, such as PZ Myers, rely on evolution's theological claims no less than did Darwin and the earlier thinkers who laid evolution's non scientific foundation. It is not atheism that motivates evolution, but rather theism. The science is ridiculous, but the religion is compelling. From Lyell and Powell to Eldredge and Myers, the science is superfluous. Metaphysical mandates such as the intellectual necessity leave no choice. It does not matter what the empirical evidence says, evolution must be true.

The Most Dangerous Kind of Religion

Religion in disguise can be the most dangerous kind. Sometimes religious movements veil their true convictions and instead present an appealing false front to searching souls. Even long-time members may not be aware of the true inner core of the movement where they place their faith. By the time they do become exposed to the truth of their movement, they are too ensconced to raise any doubts. And likewise outsiders have difficulty understanding the movement. While this may sound like a cult, it also describes evolution. It is a religious theory disguised as science, and adherents and opponents alike often fail to appreciate this. The latest example of evolution's disguised religion comes in the form of this YouTube video that challenges viewers to find a gene that did not evolve.

While there are several problems with the challenge, the disguised religion comes around the 1:15 mark, shown above, where the criterion of homology is explained. Don't worry if you are not familiar with the concept of homology. The bottom line is that the challenge uses random design as a test for whether a structure evolved. Specifically, if there is any non random pattern detectable, then it must not have been designed; instead, it must have evolved.

This is today's version of a test that dates back to Daniel Bernoulli and Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. The idea is that God would not design according to a gratuitous pattern. If a design is not physically required, then God would not use it. Instead God would exercise all the possible variations in a design. As Kant wrote (concerning the design of the planetary orbits in the Solar System):

Thus, God's choice, not having the slightest motive for tying [the planetary orbits] to one single arrangement, would reveal itself with a greater freedom in all sorts of deviations and differences.

Laplace and Darwin both relied on this argument. For instance, Darwin argued that if God created the species then we should find "a sudden leap from structure to structure?" As Darwin pointed out, "We never find the bones of the arm and forearm, or of the thigh and leg, transposed." Today this argument is ubiquitous in the evolutionary literature. But it appears in shorthand, such as in the above video, so as to disguise the religion.

Those interested in the details can read more about evolution's religious premises here and here. The bottom line is that a crucial evolutionary premise is that observable patterns across the species disprove independent creation and mandate an evolutionary origin. The YouTube video is yet another example of this, now commonplace, metaphysical logic. The argument may appear to be scientific, but this is merely a disguise. The argument does not come from science, and it has no scientific justification. It comes from personal metaphysical belief that is fundamental to evolution.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Evolution of Venomous Proteins

Imagine a Star Trek movie in which two strikingly similar planets are discovered. The planets are in different corners of the universe, yet their coastlines, mountain ranges, inhabitants and cultures are amazingly alike. Or again, imagine a new, yet fully-formed, planet is discovered. The planet was not there a few years earlier, but there it is, complete with inhabitants and civilizations. These two phenomena--convergence and rapid appearance--are common in biology and, needless to say, they contradict evolutionary expectations. These surprises are not often seriously reckoned with. Evolutionists do not engage the implications of these findings, and sometimes they even avoid or deny the findings altogether.

To explain convergence and rapid appearance evolutionists tack on unlikely and complex explanations to their their theory. These epicycles are, themselves, a sort of measure of the truth value of a theory. A large number of epicycles suggests the theory is merely a tautology--a description of what we observe rather than an explanation of an underlying fundamental aspect of nature. A recent study of animal venom is the latest example of this pattern of epicycles and denial.

The study compared toxic proteins across a wide spectrum of species. These molecular assassins are cleverly designed. In World War II, the Allies bombed German ball bearing factories as a way of disabling its larger war machine. Obviously such a strategy required detailed knowledge of the war machine, how it works, the single point failures, where they are located, how they can be disabled, and so forth. Similarly, these biological toxins are finely tuned to disable crucial processes, such as the conversion of food energy to chemical energy, or the nervous system to paralyze the prey. Beyond vague speculation, evolutionists have no explanation for how such finely tuned toxins could have evolved.

Beyond the problem of how such designs evolved, these toxic proteins also reveal patterns of convergence and rapid appearance. Evolutionists are trying to figure out how very different types of animals have such similar venomous proteins. And some of the proteins appear to be completely new, as there are no known proteins in biology that share any significant degree of similarity. This implies a massive degree of evolutionary change in a relatively short period of time (something the study fails to mention), ending with a finely tuned molecular machine.

How can evolutionists present such findings within their framework? A common literary device in the evolution genre is the use of teleological language, such as "evolution designed the hemoglobin molecule to perform several important functions." Of course evolutionists do not literally mean that evolution consciously designed anything. Their teleological language is useful shorthand. Useful because it masks the absurdity of the notion that the blind, unguided process of evolution stumbles upon incredibly complex designs, again and again.

And so, not surprisingly, in this study the evolutionists use a plethora of teleological language in their peer reviewed paper. The reader is told, for example, that the study "confirms that convergent protein recruitment" spans all major animal phyla. We also learn that "the proteins chosen" in the evolutionary process are from widely dispersed protein families. Such literary devices are ubiquitous in the evolution genre and crucial to maintaining a credible narrative.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Improved Reporting on Abiogenesis Research

It is one of the silliest of all the icons of evolution. Abiogenesis, the notion that life springs forth on its own from a lifeless pool of chemicals, is not motivated by science. There are no observations to suggest it occurs. (If anything science’s law of biogenesis, which states that all life comes only from pre existing life, suggests the exact opposite). Instead, abiogenesis is motivated by the religious ideas that mandated evolution. It is, frankly, an outrage that taxpayer money is used to fund abiogenesis research. Nonetheless, a new study does give evolutionists some good news.

The new study reports on a way to spawn two ribonucleic acid (RNA) nucleotides. The formation of such nucleotides, without too much experimenter interference, is quite difficult. And yet RNA is thought likely to be needed in the hoped for abiogenesis process. The bad news for evolutionists is that this finding does nothing to mitigate enormous problems with the whole idea of abiogenesis. Yes, it does improve the picture slightly, but big obstacles remain.

The good news for the rest of us is that science writer Nicholas Wade does a good job on providing a balanced view of this new study. To be sure, his article in today’s New York Times gives, on the whole, a much too rosy interpretation of the finding. The worst part is the headline (“Chemist Shows How RNA Can Be the Starting Point for Life”) which greatly exaggerates the findings. But headlines are headlines. Otherwise, much of the article is a vast improvement over the sort of reporting we are accustomed to seeing.

For instance, Wade gives mention to the problem of investigator interference and fine-tuning (e.g., the starting point for the experiment includes an unstable chemical). Wade quotes one critic, who suggests it would be a fantasy to think the chemical would be naturally available in its pure form. Also, Wade explains that even the lead author has reservations about the results.

Wade also mentions the problem of chiralty. Just as our right hand is different from our left hand, so too important organic molecules come in two mirror image forms. But only one form is present in our biochemistry. The new study does nothing to explain why or how this is so. As Wade explains:

A serious puzzle about the nature of life is that most of its molecules are right-handed or left-handed, whereas in nature mixtures of both forms exist. Dr. Joyce said he had hoped an explanation for the one-handedness of biological molecules would emerge from prebiotic chemistry, but Dr. Sutherland’s reactions do not supply any such explanation. One is certainly required …

It is good to see more accuracy in the reporting of evolutionary research.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There is Hope

Back to this month's Scientific American: where evolutionist Lynn Margulis makes the bold claim that evolution explains human nature "Quite well." I guess we shouldn't be looking for measured scientific assessments from people who believe evolution is a fact. Margulis makes reference to the famous Wilberforce-Huxley debate, which reminded me that this is a topic that can help to highlight the religion in science (though Margulis has no such intention, of course). Even the Wikipedia site understands:

Though the debate is frequently depicted as a clash between religion and science, a case could be made for saying that for the many clerics in the audience, the underlying conflict was between traditional Anglicanism (Wilberforce) and liberal Anglicanism (Essays and Reviews). Many of the opponents of Darwin's theory were respected men of science: Owen was one of the most influential British biologists of his generation; Adam Sedgwick was a leading geologist; Wilberforce was a Fellow of the Royal Society (though at that time about half of the Fellows were well-placed amateurs).

Or as historian John Hedley Brooke comments:

The image of a head-on conflict between science and the Anglican Church also turns out to be simplistic. How, for example do we account for the following fact recorded in Leonard Huxley's Life of his father? Close to a group of Huxley's sympathisers had been "one of the few men among the audience already in Holy orders, who joined in – and indeed led – the cheers for the Darwinians." [click: "A legend in need of revision?"]

There is hope.

The Real Story Behind Junk DNA

By now you have probably heard about so-called junk DNA. In recent decades the genomes of a growing number of species have been mapped out. Not surprisingly, scientists did not understand how many of these DNA sequences worked. For instance, repetitive sequences are common, but what do they do? As these data accumulated evolutionists increasingly viewed such sequences as useless junk. Then, years later, various functions began to emerge as our knowledge grew. This junk DNA story is the latest version of what seems like a repeating bad dream that goes like this. Scientists discover something new in biology but don't understand it. Evolutionists, unaware that they are staring at a design whose complexity dwarfs their puny understanding, decide it is a useless evolutionary leftover. Such a useless design is pressed into service as an evolution apologetic. Later, when the function is eventually uncovered, evolutionists automatically claim the design as an evolutionary achievement. The structure goes from junk to treasure without a second thought.

The latest finding of "junk" DNA function involves repetitive elements which have been found to be active in certain tissues. The researchers concluded that this activity "has a key influence" on the overall activity of the mammalian genome. As one evolutionist admitted, "As a class [repetitive elements] are not just a junk DNA. They're not just parasites, but they can shape the architecture of the genome."

So what is the story here? That biological designs are complex? That evolutionary thinking does not anticipate nature very well? That evolutionists should think twice and speak once, rather than the other way around? Yes, these are all good lessons for us, but these are not the real story behind junk DNA (and the other rags-to-riches stories in the history of evolutionary thought).

The real story behind junk DNA is not that it is a show stopper for evolutionary theory. In fact, evolution never predicted junk DNA. And it can get by just fine, thank you, if there is no such thing as junk DNA. But if evolution is so ambivalent toward junk DNA, then why is it such a powerful apologetic? If the science doesn't hinge on the efficacy of DNA, then why is that very efficacy so important? And why is the finding of function so important to evolution's opposition?

Here we find the real story behind junk DNA. Junk DNA (and all examples of evil and dysteleology in nature), proclaim evolutionists, contradicts creation. The message seems so obvious and instinctive that it is not even thought through clearly. Is not junk DNA clear evidence for the scientific theory of evolution? No. The junk DNA apologetic is a religious statement about God. It is that simple.

Junk DNA mandates evolution because it denies creation on the basis of religious beliefs. God would never create DNA with no function. Such beliefs are not open to scientific rebuttal. Science has nothing to do with it. I cannot even begin to recount the number of scientists, professors and pundits I have heard proclaim, in the name of science, such religious conclusions as proof of evolution. They should be wearing a tiara and holding a scepter. This is the real story behind junk DNA.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Your Gramma's a Sponge!

For all their disagreements, evolutionists strongly agree that evolution is a fact, just as gravity is a fact. There is no question that evolution occurred. And since evolution is as certain as gravity, those who do not assent must not be rational, or they must have ulterior motives. If there are scientific questions about evolution (and there are), they merely relate to the question of how evolution occurred, not whether evolution occurred. Those who point out that the scientific evidence does not bode well for evolution must understand that such evidence can in no way call the fact of evolution into doubt. The scientific evidence can only bear on questions of how evolution occurred.

Now this logic might be reasonable if the scientific problems with evolution were minor compared to the supporting evidence. We certainly do not doubt the fact of gravity even though we do not understand the details of how it works. But then again, the evidence for gravity is rather strong. In the case of evolution, it is the other way around. In the case of evolution, it is the problems which are rather strong.

We don't understand how life could have first evolved, we don't understand how multicellular organisms could have evolved from unicellular organisms, we don't understand how identical unconstrained DNA sequences could be conserved in distant species, we don't understand how shocking differences could have evolved in otherwise similar species, we don't understand how consciousness could have evolved, we don't understand how adaptive mechanisms could have evolved, we don't understand how a thousand and one complex structures, superior to our best military machines, could have evolved, we don't understand how ..., well you get the idea.

In light of the scientific evidence, the fact that evolutionists shout down any dissent makes them look more like the Wizard of Oz than sober scientists. Consider, for instance, the problem of how multicellular organisms could have evolved from unicellular organisms. Bob Holmes reported on this recently in The NewScientist. One problem is that such an evolutionary move must have occurred quickly, without leaving any evidence. As one evolution admitted, "The different branches of the animal tree evolved very rapidly in a short period, a long time ago."

Another problem is that reconstructions of the evolutionary tree are not stable. Was the ancestor of multicellular organisms a choanoflagellate? Or was it a placozoan, or a ctenophore, or even a sponge larva? Different methods lead to different reconstructions. And of course the move to multicellular organisms required more complex designs. Not surprisingly, the details of early animal evolution are still hotly debated.

While evolutionists can provide plenty of guesses about how multicellular organisms could have evolved from unicellular organisms, the fact is evolutionists have no idea how they actually evolved. And if evolutionists have no idea how they evolved, can we really be sure that they did evolve? Evolutionists scoff at such skepticism. It is unwarranted, they say, because evolution is a fact. It seems that rather than the scientific evidence putting to rest problems with the fact of evolution, it is the fact of evolution that is putting to rest problems with the scientific evidence.