Monday, August 31, 2009

The (Real) Problem With Atheism

Did you know the new atheism is on the wane? Did you even know there was such a thing as the new atheism? In recent years there has been a surge of activity from atheists. Organizations, web sites, conferences and books advocating the materialistic world view have entered the spiritual marketplace. Fueled by strong convictions, these thinkers have made little attempt to make their hard-edged attitudes palatable to the unsuspecting public. Instead, they have force-fed their ideas onto searchers, insisting that atheism is mandated by science and logic. When you strip away religious sentiment and just look at the data, they declared, atheism is required.

Initially the new atheism attracted quite a bit of attention but now, as Bryon McCane pointed out this week, it is fading fast. I take some solace in its demise not because I dislike atheists but because the new atheism sowed needless confusion. Atheism is, and always has been, irrelevant in the origins debate. But the rise of the new atheism made atheism appear more important than it really is.

For many, atheism is the driving force behind evolutionary thought. Isn't the origins debate between religious people and those who reject god? Did not Princeton's Charles Hodge early on identify Darwinism as atheism in disguise? Is not the rise of twentieth century atheism evidence for this? After all, it was the leading atheist Richard Dawkins who admitted that "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

The rise of the new atheism seemed to confirm such views. Evolution, it seems, is all about atheism.

Before we close this case, however, let's take one more look. First, there are no arguments for evolution made from atheism. If you study the evolution genre, and especially that part that argues for the veracity of the theory, you will have great difficulty finding atheistic premises. In fact, I have not found any.

The strong arguments for evolution are, and always have been, from theism. God would not create this gritty world so it must have evolved. There is no meaningful distinction between theist and atheist when it comes to belief in evolution--they both rely on the same theological premises. An evolutionary theist, such as Francis Collins, and an evolutionary atheist, such as PZ Myers, use arguments that rely on the same theological assumptions.

This is the dirty little trade secret of atheism: it is parasitical on theism. Atheism, itself, has nothing to add to the origins debate. As McCane notes, "the new atheists’ biggest mistake, by far, was to be openly intolerant of religion. They mocked, derided and made fun of it."

Indeed, atheism is motivated by skepticism of theism. It is not a positive argument for atheism, but a negative argument against theism. But an argument against theism usually entails theological convictions. Talk to any atheist and you're liable to hear strong convictions about what god should and should not do. As the atheist Myers wrote in the LA Times recently:

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.

How do they have any idea what god would and would not do? Because they hold certain beliefs about god. Their atheism relies on their theism. Unbelievable. The folks who bring you the new, cutting edge, atheism rely on, yes, their own ridiculous pious pleadings. How pathetic.

But this "new" atheism is nothing new. Arguments for evolution and atheism have always been religious. In his massive investigation of the rise of atheism in eighteenth century France, historian Alan Charles Kors found that French atheism had come from the church and its culture. Kors wrote:

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

Likewise the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume buttressed his religious skepticism and nascent evolutionary ideas by relentlessly pounding home his attacks against theism. The complexity of the world was a tremendous problem for Hume, but it was trumped by the world's evil. "Here I triumph," proclaimed his character Philo.

Hume's arguments were largely borrowed from seventeenth and eighteenth century theists. So were Darwin's. In the centuries leading up to Darwin, Christians were pondering how god created the world. A handful of theological concerns mandated that god created strictly via natural laws rather than divine intervention. Leading theologians and philosophers declared that the world must have arisen via natural processes (read evolution). By Darwin's day these arguments had gained momentum and it is no surprise that scientists on different sides of the world were convinced that an evolutionary narrative was required, though they didn't know how the species could have evolved. Yesterday's theology had become today's science.

The story is no different today. Scientifically the theory is a muddle, but metaphysically it is mandated. Its truth is derived from the rejection of design / creation. Today, as in centuries past, the arguments come from the theists and are borrowed by the atheists.

Evolution is not about science, it is about god, and atheism is irrelevant. It makes no difference whether the theological arguments come from a theist such as Francis Collins or an atheist such as PZ Myers, the science is asinine either way.

And what was it that Dawkins said? "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Note the causal relationship. It was evolution that fueled atheism, not the other way around. The real problem with atheism is not that it is the driving force behind evolution; rather, the real problem is that it masks the driving force behind evolution. It is theism, not atheism, that is the driving force behind evolution.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Sympathetic View of Intelligent Design

People really hate intelligent design. It's bad science, bad religion and bad people all rolled up into one despicable thing. It is untestable and wrong. It is unfalsifiable and false. It is religious and it is false religion. Its promoters are naive and ignorant, and they devise clever arguments and ingenuously manipulate the data. Take your pick, according to evolutionists intelligent design is wrong in just about every way imaginable.

But before we dispatch such folly, let's take one final look. Is there anything good about intelligent design? Upon sober reflection, is there any way to make use of this insidious movement?

Most scientists are uncomfortable using science for anything but completely naturalistic explanations. We should not, they say, try to use science to describe the supernatural. As Barbara Forrest put it:

The sciences are unified by their naturalistic methodology and empiricist epistemology, a unity ... that can take us to the outer reaches of natural phenomena, but never beyond them.

Given this philosophy of science, it is understandable that intelligent design, which is not uptight about the possibility that some phenomena might be supernatural, would make these scientists uncomfortable. But rejecting intelligent design in particular, and safeguarding science from supernatural phenomena in general, does not solve all our problems.

For if we are to mandate, with Forrest and the evolutionists, that science must never dabble in the supernatural, then we must be able to discern in the first place what is, and is not, supernatural. We must be able to evaluate whether the phenomenon in question is caused by natural laws and processes, or by supernatural causes.

In my earlier post, A Question for Barbara Forrest, I asked her this question: How can science know when it is investigating a supernatural phenomena rather than a natural one?

This is not a completely new or foreign concept. In the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, radiation from distant stars is analyzed for signals such as radio transmissions. If we tune in and hear a baseball game then we know there is life. But it may not be so easy. In some cases it is difficult to determine whether a radio signal is just background noise, caused by some natural process, or if it is an intelligent transmission. SETI researchers have developed sophisticated algorithms to cull the messages from the noise.

We can view intelligent design as a generalization of such solutions. As with the radio signals, nature in general is full of "signals" which can be so analyzed. And as with the radio signals, the problem of design detection can be difficult. Natural laws and processes may seem rudimentary, but they have been found to be capable of generating some fascinating patterns and structures in nature. What are their limits? Can such limits be understood and analyzed? These questions are relevant to the problem of design detection, and they are relevant to science in general if we are to avoid using science to explain supernatural phenomena.

Questions for Lynn Margulis

When asked "What do you think about those who talk about Intelligent Design?" Lynn Margulis replied:

They are ignorant. More precisely, they are dogmatic and should admit that they are a religious group. I have nothing against religion, I respect it. I think they should talk about their religious beliefs in religion class, but not in science class. Scientists try to argue based on evidence from experiments and results, not by trickery, and these people are either con men or naive, but definitely ignorant.

Why is it that Intelligent Design, which does not entail religious premises and argues from the evidence, is in your view religious? And why are those who promote Intelligent Design "con men or naive, but definitely ignorant"?

On the other hand, why is it that evolution, which entails religious premises, considered to be a scientific theory?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Caterpillars and Butterflies

The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is marvelous. A new theory on how evolution created such wonder speculates that it arose when an insect met a worm and aspects of both designs were retained in the resulting organism. It's like saying a seaplane arose when an airplane met a boat. But is this any worse than the conventional "explanation" which tells us nothing?

Most biologists believe these [larval stages that look nothing like the adults] evolved gradually, perhaps because natural selection favored juvenile stages that differed from the adults and thus would compete less with them.

Such silliness is what happens when science is driven by religion.

Evolutionary Explanation for Contradictory Altruism Findings

Last year psychologists planted hundreds of wallets on the streets of Edinburgh to find out what people would do when they found them. Whether the wallet was returned strongly depended on what type of photograph was inside. For instance, almost all the wallets with a baby picture were returned whereas most wallets with no picture were not returned.

This is not exactly an earth-shattering finding. Are we shocked at such a result? Well, evolutionists should be. That is because the evolutionary explanation for altruism is that evolution has trained us favor our close relatives because they share our genes. In reality, we favor the weak, needy and helpless, but that contradicts evolution. Was Mother Theresa confusing those orphans half a world away for her own children?

Evolutionists need better stories to explain Mother Theresa and Edinburgh-ians who return wallets with baby pictures. And so they have made up a new just-so story. As one reporter explains:

According to Dr Wiseman the result reflects a compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations. “The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people, which is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective,” he said.

Scientists argue that it would be difficult to genetically code for feeling empathy exclusively towards your own child and much easier to code for feeling empathy towards all children. If you find a baby alone, there is a good chance it belongs to you, making it an effective evolutionary trait, said Dr Wiseman.

Evolution was supposed to make us favor our genes, but that was too difficult. It is just easier to create genes that make us favor all babies. A complete switch, but now it all makes sense.

It is remarkable that anyone takes this seriously. Perhaps for an encore the evolutionists will explain why we have compassionate towards adults to whom we are not related. By the time they're done it will be one big love fest. The theory that brought us survival-of-the-fittest will switch to the Golden Rule.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

McWhorter's Harrowing Escape

Readers are wondering how the captured Behe video was spirited out of the Darwinista camp, and more importantly about the safety of John McWhorter. Unfortunately I am not at liberty to discuss the former, but I can say a few things about McWhorter's miraculous escape. Apparently he was being held in a maximum security Darwinista facility, but the Darwinists failed to lock the door, thinking it would lock itself.

When the Darwinists were saying their afternoon prayers to St. Charles, McWhorter was able to escape unnoticed. Only by the sheer miracle that the Darwinists have evolved to have such lax security measures was McWhorter able to reach safety. Thank Darwin for that.

Behe's Dangerous Idea

What is so dangerous about biochemistry professor Michael Behe? Does he talk about theology and metaphysics, and promote strange religious ideas? Oops, it is the evolutionists who do that. So why would evolutionists attempt to suppress a discussion about scientific evidence? See for yourself:

Controlling the Message at BloggingHeads

Over at BloggingHeads the heat has been turned up. John McWhorter's interview of Darwin doubter Michael Behe was yanked as soon as Paul Nelson hit the return key. The forum gives one of those carefully crafted statements which speaks volumes in what it omits:

John McWhorter feels, with regret, that this interview represents neither himself, Professor Behe, nor Bloggingheads usefully, takes full responsibility for same, and has asked that it be taken down from the site. He apologizes to all who found its airing objectionable.

"Represents neither himself, Professor Behe, nor Bloggingheads usefully"? Unbelievable. This is reminiscent of those forced confessions that make no sense. The prisoner awkwardly apologizes in broken English he would never normally utter as armed guards threaten him from behind.

Any use of the scientific evidence to criticize evolution is hereby "objectionable." There will be no more discussion. I'm afraid the revolution will not be televised--even on BloggingHeads.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to School

How well does your school teach evolution? Evolutionists give good grades to biology classes that teach evolution is a fact, and poor grades to those that teach the evidence. Evolution is too complex and young students are in no position to think for themselves, say the evolutionists.

This is one move amongst many by evolutionists to protect their theory from scrutiny. As Casey Luskin points out, another move by the Darwin lobby is to redefine "scientific literacy" as "acceptance of evolution" rather than "an independent mind who understands science and forms its own informed opinions."

Luskin's advice for students is to "take courses advocating evolution. But also read material from credible Darwin skeptics to learn about other viewpoints. Only then can you truly make up your mind in an informed fashion." Science should not be about brainwashing, it should be about learning.

Ribosome More Complicated Than Thought

The ribosome is the molecular machine that assembles proteins. The assembly instructions (which amino acids to use) are stored in the DNA genes. A vast regulatory process selects the proper gene and a copying machine creates a copy of the DNA gene. The copy goes through some processing and is then passed to the ribosome, which obtains the appropriate amino acids, in the right order, and glues them together to form the protein backbone. This translation from DNA-copy to amino acid is done according to a code--the famed DNA code.

It is interesting that while the ribosome is the cell's protein assembly plant, the ribosome itself is made of many proteins. How did evolution create this protein factory? The blind process would have needed proteins to build the factory, but from where could it get proteins if the protein factory was not yet built. Evolutionists aren't yet sure just how this occurred.

Another problem is that the ribosome is complex, and new research is revealing it to be even more complex than previously thought. As one researcher explained:

Scientists used to think that the ribosome made a simple two-stage ratcheting motion by rotating back and forth as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA. What we captured were images of the ribosome in intermediate stages between the rotations, showing that there are at least four steps in this ratcheting mechanism.

We suspect that the ribosome changes its conformation in so many steps to allow it to interact with relatively big tRNAs while keeping the two segments of the ribosome from flying apart. It's much more complicated than the simple ratcheting mechanism in a socket wrench.

If evolution weren't a fact one might wonder if it really is the essential, unifying idea upon which all of biology depends.

The Evolution Genre: From Immanuel Kant to Barry Starr

Genre: A category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content. Evolutionary thought and its literature, though centuries old, reveals a consistent and particular style, form, and content. There is a common style of thinking running through evolutionary thought that transcends cultural influences. It is not beholden to a particular academic discipline, religion or philosophy. Here is a simple example.

I recently discussed the human chromosome count evidence that evolutionists promote. The strength of the argument comes from theology, not science. Specifically, two of our chromosomes are fused together and this, according to evolutionists, falsifies design. As evolutionist Barry Starr wrote:

An alternative explanation is that the designers fused the two chromosomes together when they created humans. ...

The difficulty with this idea is that there is no obvious advantage to having 46 chromosomes instead of 48. ...

And even if there were, a designer who can easily put in the 60 million or so differences between humans and chimpanzees should be able to accomplish whatever results a chromosome fusion gives more elegantly than sticking two ape chromosomes together.

Now compare this to how the great philosopher Immanuel Kant evaluated our solar system's configuration, with the planets orbiting the sun in the same direction, and in roughly the same plane. Kant argued that there was no functional reason for the design, and if there was then God shouldn't have done it that way. As I wrote in Science's Blind Spot:

First, why do planets revolve about the sun in the same direction, for "it is clear that here there is no reason why the celestial bodies must organize their orbits in one single direction." If they were arranged by "the unmediated hand of God" then we would expect them to reveal deviations and differences. As Kant wrote:

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

And this reasoning also applied to the fact that the planetary orbits all lie in the ecliptic. Furthermore, the fact that the orbits do not precisely lie in the ecliptic also mandates a naturalistic origin:

"If it was for the best that the planetary orbits were oriented on a common plane, why are they not oriented with extreme precision? And why has a portion of that deviation remained in place, when it should be avoided?"

For Kant, there must have been a natural force or process that placed the planetary orbits in the ecliptic, but not precisely due to interference and interactions. It must be the mark of a natural process, for God would have aligned the orbits perfectly:

"If what the philosopher said is true, that God constantly practices geometry and if this is reflected in the methods of the general natural laws, then certainly this principle of the unmediated work of the Omnipotent Will would be perfectly traceable and the latter would reveal in itself the perfection of geometrical precision."

Starr's and Kant's arguments are not exactly parallel, but notice the common framework:

1. There is no reason for the observed design.
2. And even if there was a reason, it wouldn't matter for it is a bad design anyway.

As with most such examples in the evolutionary literature, it is doubtful that the geneticist Starr borrowed from the cosmologist / philosopher Kant from 250 years earlier.

In the lexicon of evolution, the argument is analogous not homologous. Parallel development is common within the literature, such that similar ideas and concepts repeatedly appear. The literature presents a particular style, form, and content. It is a genre.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk: Evolution is Good Science and Good Religion

Reasonable people accept the fact of evolution but it continues to disturb those deeply religious fundamentalists. This was the message in USA Today recently from evolutionists Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk who say the "the real conflict" comes from religious rejection of evolution. That's convenient.

This means Giberson and Falk can ignore the scientific problems with their theory. It also means they can ignore the history of thought, the history of the church, the philosophy of science, and the metaphysical foundation and motivations for evolution. Now I understand why they can be evolutionists.

Giberson and Falk first make it clear that the fact of evolution is unquestionable. They write that evolution "is as well-established within biology as heliocentricity is established within astronomy." After all:

In the years since Darwin argued natural selection was the agent of creation, the evidence for evolution has become overwhelming. The fossil record has provided evidence of compelling transitional species such as whales with feet. The discovery of DNA now provides an irrefutable digital record of the relatedness of all living things. And even the physicists have cooperated by proving that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, providing plenty of time for evolution.

So why don't people come along peacefully and drink the Kool Aid? Giberson and Falk blame skeptics for sending the wrong message. The Discovery Institute, for instance,

calls on Christians to essentially choose between science and faith.

Such sentiment is unfortunately not merely common, but the consensus amongst evolutionists. They are conveniently naive of the big scientific problems, they misrepresent the evidence to the public, and spread falsehoods about skeptics.

But how does one correct such misrepresentations? For the debate is profoundly asymmetric. Evolution skeptics are keen to understand the evidence for and against evolution, who is saying what, why they are saying it, and so forth.

Evolutionists, on the other hand, are often ignorant of the implications of the scientific evidence and are equally out of touch with the debate. Oh also, they're teaching your children.

Did Vision Cause the Cambrian Explosion?

The evolutionary view of biology is that life is a fluke. Marvels just happen to appear by accident. One marvel is vision and another is the phenomenal collection of forms that rapidly appear in the fossil record in the Cambrian strata. Now evolutionist Nick Lane wonders if the former may have caused the latter:

Sight may well have been the driving force behind the Cambrian explosion, when the first animals leapt into the fossil record about 550 million years ago. Thanks to a series of surprises in molecular biology, we now know how eyes evolved in great detail. Lens proteins and crystals were recruited from an astonishing range of sources, from calcite to mitochondria to stress proteins, but the ubiquitous light-sensitive protein rhodopsin probably evolved in algae, where it is used to calibrate light levels in photosynthesis.

With evolution it is all so easy. So easy that anyone can contrive their own narrative. I have seen several such explanations for the Cambrian explosion. This wide variety of ideas indicates the lack of an explanation that is scientifically compelling. Nonetheless, evolutionists such as Lane claim detailed knowledge of how marvels such as vision evolved, though they have nothing of the sort.

Graeme Finlay: Evolution is True, Part I

A wise man once said it is not people who are wrong that concern him, but people who know they are right. Enter the evolutionists who are sure that evolution is a fact just as gravity is a fact. Of course we constantly see gravity in action--it is an observable, empirical fact. To deny gravity would be to deny the reality of our existence. Only by claiming that this life is one big dream can we avoid the fact of gravity. Otherwise the fact of gravity is certain. It is this level of certainty that evolutionists attach to their theory.

The problem with evolution is not that a few scientists are toying with a far flung idea with substantial evidential problems. The problem is that evolution is a dogma. It is held with a conviction that can match any religious movement. The problem is not that evolutionists are wrong--it is that they know they are right.

Evolutionist Graeme Finlay's article on human evolution is a typical example. He introduces the article with this:

Even as some Christians deny that new species can evolve, that macroevolution has taken place, and that complexity can develop through natural genetic processes, the genomic revolution of this century has established the truth of all three evolutionary concepts.

Now whether or not some flavor of evolution is true is a difficult question. That was a long time ago. But it is unequivocal that scientific evidences--genomic or otherwise--do not prove evolution to be a fact as Finlay and the evolutionists mandate. Quite the opposite, while there are evidences for evolution (as there also are for a flat earth), there are monumental scientific problems with Darwin's idea.

For example, Finlay appeals to opsin genes which code for light-sensitive membrane proteins which are used in our vision. Finlay interprets similar patterns in similar species as unequivocal signs of evolution:

This breakpoint is common to apes and OWMs [Old World Monkeys], and demonstrates that the duplication arose in a unique event, and that it has been inherited by all the species that now possess it. This finding indicates that trichromatic vision arose in a random DNA duplication event.

As I have discussed here, this argument ignores profound problems. And as we shall see, there are more problems with this reasoning.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Bogey Moment: The Human Chromosome Count

In the 1954 movie The Caine Mutiny, Humphrey Bogart plays the compulsive-paranoid Captain Queeg who is relieved of duty when unable to deal with a dangerous storm at sea. Upon return to port two officers face a court-martial for mutiny. The trial goes badly for them and they appear to be destined for prison until the final testimony of Captain Queeg where his underlying paranoia is suddenly revealed. In the courtroom sideways looks and wide eyes reveal a collective revelation: "Ohh, noooowwww I understand."

Bogart's masterful portrayal of Captain Queeg, nervously rolling ball bearings in his hand as he defended himself against the world, shows how underlying motivations, sometimes bizarre, can work and how they can suddenly manifest themselves at points.

Evolution is full of such teaching moments. Darwin's book, for instance, could ramble on for pages with meaningless speculation and thought experiment as boring as any courtroom. But then, suddenly, Darwin would pronounce that this or that collection of biological facts was "utterly inexplicable on divine creation."

Darwin could only speculate about how his theory could create such marvels, but he knew they must have evolved. Ahh, now we understand. The theory may make no sense, but it must be true.

Today it is no different. The evolution literature is loaded with metaphysical claims that come out of nowhere and reveal the underlying calculus of evolutionary thought. This is where the certainty comes from. This is why evolutionists agree, their theory must be a fact.

I call these Bogey Moments and here's a typical example. Most great apes have their DNA organized into 48 chromosomes but humans have only 46 chromosomes. Why is that? A likely explanation is that we once had 48, but a chromosomal fusion event occurred. It happened to spread throughout the human population, reducing our count to 46.

Evolutionists such as Barry Starr see this as "great evidence for evolution." In fact, this was a powerful evidence that evolutionist Ken Miller used in the 2005 Dover trial to convince Judge Jones that evolution is a fact.

There's only one problem: such a fusion event has nothing to do with evolution.

Bizarre claims such as this make people wonder. What are the evolutionists thinking? The fusion event occurred in, and spread through, the human population. Even if evolution is true, this fusion event would give us no evidence for it. The fused chromosome did not arise from another species, it was not inherited from a human-chimp common ancestor, or any other purported common ancestor.

Furthermore, beyond handwaving evolutionists cannot explain the phenomenal complexity of chromosome structures and the army of nanomachines that attend to them. Chromosomes are not what evolutionists should be pointing to, especially with apparently specious arguments. So what gives?

Evolutionists are not stupid. They have not mistakenly forgot that the chromosome fusion event does not reveal evolution. Instead, their conviction is that such chromosome fusion would never have been designed or created. It is, in the words of Darwin, "utterly inexplicable on divine creation." As Starr writes:

An alternative explanation is that the designers fused the two chromosomes together when they created humans. ...

The difficulty with this idea is that there is no obvious advantage to having 46 chromosomes instead of 48. ...

And even if there were, a designer who can easily put in the 60 million or so differences between humans and chimpanzees should be able to accomplish whatever results a chromosome fusion gives more elegantly than sticking two ape chromosomes together.

There you have it--a Bogey Moment. The argument seemed absurd, but suddenly the underlying reasoning is manifest. The scientific problems with evolution--and there are many--don't matter. Evolution must be true, regardless of how unlikely it is. For no creator or designer would have done it this way. The ball bearings are rolling.

Worms That Use Decoys

Heat seeking missiles can be confused by the release of flares but nature has long since used this solution. In the latest example of nature anticipating engineering, deep-sea worms have been found that release luminescent flares when bothered.

In what is now sometimes referred to as biomimetics, the seemingly endless variety of profound solutions in biology has inspired a variety of engineering designs. But often times, as in this example, the technology transfer never occurred. Instead the parallel between biology and engineering was observed after the fact. Either way, nature's brilliance is profound.

Chris Mooney's Hypocritical Strawman

A good test for a proponent of any position is to explain their biggest weakness. What are the best arguments against their position? What do their strongest detractors say? When I investigate evolution my goal is to find the best arguments for it. Why should I believe it is a fact, every bit as much as gravity? I have criticized evolution, but I want to do so using its very best evidences and arguments. If I criticize strawmen arguments I waste everyone's time, including my own. And I fool no one, except myself. Not so with evolutionists.

It is a sure sign of a problem that evolutionists consistently fail to address their biggest weakness. They consistently ignore the best arguments against their position. Indeed, I have yet to find any evolutionary work that violates this trend.

The latest example comes from an interview of evolutionist Chris Mooney in Friday's LA Times:

Religion: How has it deepened the divide between Americans and science?

It's been there forever. There really is a huge history of not being able to grapple with this issue in the U.S. Other countries have handled it better in many ways. There is just a ton of data on Americans, why they don't accept science, particularly evolution, and what their views on religion are. And there is zero doubt that religion is the block.

Religion is the reason they think they can't accept evolution. That's because they are told by their pastors from the pulpit, all across the country, that evolution is an assault on their identity, their moral universe and their ability to raise children who get taught this. So there's been an attempt to create a hermetically sealed environment in the conservative Christian community that keeps this stuff out. And that's a huge problem.

The world of science is very angry about this, and justifiably so. They are sick of playing Whac-A-Mole with the anti-evolutionists. Every year, maybe more than every year, there's a new battle.

Of course there are people who reject evolution on religious grounds. But this does nothing to resolve evolution's monumental scientific problems except, that is, if you need a strawman argument to mask those problems.

And the strawman argument is hypocritical. If Mooney was truly concerned about religious influences in science he could find it in spades in his own backyard.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Virus Combats Evil But Philosophical Problems Remain

New research shows that the aphid, that innocent little insect, can be saved from a gruesome death by the presence of a virus. The virus comes by way of a bacteria, and the gruesome death by way of a parasitic wasp. These wasps and their evil deeds were well known in Darwin's day. They were yet one more example of how nature was, as Tennyson so memorably put it, "red in tooth and claw." Religious concerns over far less atrocious deeds had driven seventeenth century thinkers to distance god from nature. By 1859 the theological mandate for naturalism had only grown stronger. The many inefficiencies and atrocities of nature were, as Darwin oft repeated, inexplicable on divine creation. Darwin's new theory was dripping with the accepted theology of the day.

And let there be no doubt about just how terrible is this parasitic wasp. As one researcher explained, "A parasitoid death would be a very gruesome death."

But on second thought, if the wasp evolved, and we later evolved, then why do we see its actions as so atrocious? How did "gruesomeness" evolve? How did we obtain the sense of right and wrong, good design and bad design, morality and evil?

These metaphysical truths which we unequivocally hold mandate evolution. But evolution does not return the favor.

Evolutionary processes cannot yield any true truth. There can be no truly good or bad anything, only perceived, subjective good or bad. You have your truth, and I have mine.

Even here evolutionists have only vague speculation about heroic natural processes that produced the human brain and its various contents. Somehow evolution happened to create a normative sense (how things ought to be) within us which, serendipitously happened to lead us to the true understanding that we evolved and that our normative sense never was genuine in the first place.

This is what happens when religion infects science.

Robert Wright and the New Pragmatism

In recent years evolutionists have been trying to pin down the theological implications of evolution. If evolution is true--and of course evolutionists believe it is true--then what does this tell us about god? From blogs to books to conferences at the Vatican, the "fact" of evolution is being integrated with our theology. The latest example of this science-informs-religion movement is Robert Wright's op-ed piece in today's New York Times which resurrects Charles Peirce's pragmatism. It is yet another example of evolution's abuse of science.

evolutionary psychologists have developed a plausible account of the moral sense. They say it is in large part natural selection's way of equipping people to play non-zero-sum games - games that can be win-win if the players cooperate or lose-lose if they don't.

So, for example, feelings of guilt over betraying a friend are with us because during evolution sustaining friendships brought benefits through the non-zero-sum logic of one hand washing the other ("reciprocal altruism"). Friendless people tend not to thrive.

Indeed, this dynamic of reciprocal altruism, as mediated by natural selection, seems to have inclined us toward belief in some fairly abstract principles, notably the idea that good deeds should be rewarded and bad deeds should be punished. ...

If evolution does tend to eventually "converge" on certain moral intuitions, does that mean there were moral rules "out there" from the beginning, before humans became aware of them - that natural selection didn't "invent" human moral intuitions so much as "discover" them? That would be good news for any believers who want to preserve as much of the spirit of C. S. Lewis as Darwinism permits.

Something like this has been suggested by the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker - who, as a contented atheist, can't be accused of special pleading.

Mr. Pinker has noted how the interplay of evolved intuition and the dynamics of discourse tends to forge agreement on something like the golden rule - that you should treat people as you expect to be treated. He compares this natural apprehension of a moral principle to the depth perception humans have thanks to the evolution of stereo vision. Not all species (not even all two-eyed species) have stereo vision, Mr. Pinker says, but any species that has it is picking up on "real facts about the universe" that were true even before that species evolved - namely, the three-dimensional nature of reality and laws of optics.

Similarly, certain intuitions about reciprocal moral obligation are picking up on real facts about the logic of discourse and about generic social dynamics - on principles that were true even before humans came along and illustrated them. Including, in particular, the non-zero-sum dynamics that are part of our universe.

The mistake here is at the beginning. Evolutionists have not discovered how the moral sense evolved any more than they have discovered how the brain arose on its own. Indeed, the theory of evolution has become increasingly bizarre in its attempt to reckon with behavior. The lesson here is that it behooves us to be suspicious when "science" just happens to produce theological truths we want to hear, regardless of how bad is the science.

Evolutionists: Two Wrongs Make a Right

Evolutionists have a plethora of reasons why their religious theory is a fact beyond debate. Many of these reasons are fallacious, such as the Tu Quoque argument they often use. As one reader wrote to me regarding my review of Jack Szostak's and Alonso Ricardo's article in Scientific American:

Your article contemptuously dismisses the authors’ hypotheses regarding abiogenesis. For all the scorn you heap on their theories, though, is your work any more reliable? Do you have anything else to show that makes your theories more credible?

This is the tu quoque argument, a form of the ad hominem fallacy. It goes like this: If someone criticizes a theory, such criticism is invalid if that person does not have a better replacement theory.

This is a protectionist device which I have seen used many times by evolutionists. Imagine if this device were used in science? Lousy theories for hard, unsolved problems would remain unscathed. After all, criticism would not be allowed except in the rare cases that the critic comes with a better theory.

But with evolution this fallacy is standard fare. They bring religion into science, claim it to be a fact, and rebuke skeptics because they haven’t solved the problem. This fallacy opens science up to all manner of speculation and sophistry, and misrepresentation of the science as in the Scientific American article.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Szostak on Abiogenesis: Just Add Water

Evolutionists Jack Szostak and Alonso Ricardo summarize origin of life research in the current Scientific American (Sept 2009). It is a good summary of the problem, which entails a long list of seemingly monumental steps. There is the creation of the chemical components of genetic material, the assembly of the genetic material, the imperfect replication of the genetic material, the sequestering the genetic material into a protocell, cell division, selection, metabolism, and so forth.

The article also summarizes how far along are the solutions to these various steps. In most cases evolutionists working in the laboratory have been able to devise experiments that produce many of the key players. Sugars, phosphates, nucleobases, membranes, nucleotides, RNA sequences, and so forth can all be synthesized given the right experimental conditions. On the other hand, many of these steps have their limitations. For example, only two of the four RNA nucleotides have been synthesized.

While Szostak and Ricardo discuss several of these limitations, many problems are not discussed. For example, how are the needed concentrations of the key chemicals maintained? How finely-tuned are the experiments and could such a disparate collection of conditions work together? How did biology's chiralty arise?

Beyond such basic issues, even if all their problems disappeared Szostak and Ricardo would only be at the point of having some RNA macromolecules inside a water-filled vesicle. In the laboratory such a system would do nothing. Why should we believe things would be different in a warm little pond? Indeed, from here the problems are enormous and here the evolutionist's credulity moves into high gear.

In fact, a high level of credulity seems to be the theme of abiogenesis / origin of life research. True, with finely-tuned experiments ribose can be stabilized, phosphate can be obtained, nucleotides can be synthesized, RNA can be coaxed to polymerize, duplication can be arranged, vesicles can be formed and divided, and so forth. But this is light years from even the simplest of living cells.

The scientific conclusion is that, given our current level of knowledge, abiogenesis is not likely. Perhaps future findings will change this, but we cannot change this conclusion with bed-time stories of warm little ponds teeming with activity that just happen to lead to the most complex nanomachines we know of.

While Szostak and Ricardo may sound scientific with their summary of the abiogenesis research, the article is firmly planted in the non scientific evolution genre, where evolution is dogmatically mandated to be a fact. Consequently, the bar is lowered dramatically as the silliest of stories pass as legitimate science. As Szostak and Ricardo conclude:

There could be pools of cold water, perhaps partly covered by ice but kept liquid by hot rocks. The temperature differences would cause convection currents, so that every now and then protocells in the water would be exposed to a burst of heat as they passed near the hot rocks, but they would almost instantly cool down again as the heated water mixed with the bulk of the cold water. The sudden heating would cause a double helix to separate into single strands. Once back in the cool region, new double strands--copies of the original one--could form as the single strands acted as templates.

As soon as the environment nudged protocells to start reproducing, evolution kicked in. In particular, at some point some of the RNA sequences mutated, becoming ribozymes that sped up the copying of RNA--thus adding a competitive advantage. Eventually ribozymes began to copy RNA without external help.

It is relatively easy to imagine how RNA-based protocells may have then evolved. Metabolism could have arisen gradually, as new ribozymes enabled cells to synthesize nutrients internally from simpler and more abundant starting materials. Next, the organism might have added protein making to their bag of chemical tricks.

With their astonishing versatility, proteins would have then taken over RNA's role in assisting genetic copying and metabolism. Later, the organisms would have "learned" to make DNA, gaining the advantage of possessing a more robust carrier of genetic information. At that point, the RNA world became the DNA world, and life as we know it began.

What a pathetic and embarrassing example of evolution's influence on science. While great material for a story book, it is astonishing that a scientist would pen such a passage. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, August 21, 2009

More Chimp-Human Genome Problems

One of evidences for evolution that has been strongly touted in recent years is the fact that the genomes of the human and chimpanzee are so similar. About 98.4% of the instructions in our genome match the chimp's. We must share a common ancestor, so goes the argument which doesn't worry about how humans and chimps could be so different. With a 98.4% match, evolution must be true. That, of course, is not a scientific argument. But leaving that aside, when we look under the hood we actually find that comparisons of the human and chimp genomes contradict evolution.

It turns out that the differences between the human and chimp DNA instructions are not sprinkled, more or less at random, throughout our genome. Rather, these differences are found in clusters. Even more interesting, at these locations the chimp's genome is quite similar to other primates--it is the human that differs from the rest, not the chimp.

Evolutionists refer to these clusters as human accelerated regions (HARs) because they believe the human genome evolved from a human-chimp common ancestor. Often these HARs are found in DNA segments that do not code for genes (the majority of the genome does not code for genes). As we have seen, these HARs cause several problems for evolution. For instance, we must believe that evolution magically caused rapid changes to occur right where needed to improve function and eventually create a human. As one evolutionist wrote:

The way to evolve a human from a chimp-human ancestor is not to speed the ticking of the molecular clock as a whole. Rather the secret is to have rapid change occur in sites where those changes make an important difference in an organism’s functioning. HAR1 is certainly such a place. So, too, is the FOXP2 gene, which contains another of the fast-changing sequences I identified and is known to be involved in speech.

This is truly a whopper of a just-so story. But it doesn't stop here. Some HARs are found in DNA segments that do code for genes, and here we find another story of contradictions. For the ump-teenth time the evolutionary expectations are found to be false.

Of course the evolutionary expectation was that humans evolved from the chimp-human ancestor via natural selection acting on mutations, to improve the genes. That is, mutations happen to occur in the genes and occasionally a mutation was helpful or at least not harmful (neutral). In those cases it may well persist and eventually become established in the population.

But findings published earlier this year reveal nothing of the kind. Assuming evolution is true, the HARs that were found in protein coding genes showed evidence not of mutations that had been selected because they were genetically helpful, but rather the exact opposite. The genetic changes showed evidence that they were, in fact, at least slightly deleterious. They had become established in the population not because they were helpful (or not harmful), but in spite of being deleterious. As the evolutionists concluded, the results led to:

the provocative hypothesis that many of the genetic changes leading to human-specific characters may have been prompted by fixation of deleterious mutations.

Once again the results make little sense under evolution. This evolutionary conundrum is inferred from a series of observations. First, it was found that the differences found in the HARs had a suspicious trend: they strengthened the structure of the DNA molecule. Here is a brief explanation.

Instead of 26 letters, the DNA language consists of four letters. And instead of ink on paper, the DNA letters are represented by four different nucleotide molecules. The four nucleotides used in DNA are adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine (abbreviated a, t, g and c, respectively). In the famous double helix structure, nucleotides from one DNA strand are paired with the corresponding nucleotide in the other strand.

Adenine and guanine are the larger nucleotides whereas thymine and cytosine are the smaller nucleotides. Not surprisingly, paired nucleotides consist of a big and a small nucleotide. Adenine is not found paired with guanine (two large nucleotides) nor is thymine found paired with cytosine (two small nucleotides).

This way the DNA double helix has a constant width. Furthermore, adenine is only found paired with thymine (barring error), and guanine is only found paired with cytosine. Each pair (a-t and g-c) has hydrogen bonds that precisely align, as can be seen below. Notice that the g-c pair has three hydrogen bonds whereas the a-t pair has only two hydrogen bonds. Therefore g-c pairs are stronger than a-t pairs.

Now back to our story. The HARs show a suspicious trend in that the differences observed in the human DNA (compared to the other species which are quite similar) typically increase the g-c content of that particular region of the DNA helix. That would not occur if the differences were produced by evolution as it enhanced the functionality of the protein that is encoded by the gene. That is, if natural selection were picking out DNA mutations that improved the protein, then the g-c content of the underlying gene should remain roughly constant. We would not expect a consistent trend toward increasing g-c content.

Furthermore, these HARs often are not limited just to the protein coding part of the gene, but instead extend beyond the border a bit into the flanking sequences. This further indicates that these differences observed in the human DNA are not a consequence of natural selection enhancing the protein that the gene encodes.

On the other hand, these HARs tend to cluster in a single part of a gene (in and around a single exon) rather than across the entire gene, and they tend to correlate with male recombination but not female recombination. These observations also make no sense on the theory of evolution.

There is more to the story, but it does not get any better for evolution, and evolutionists are left to speculate about why these strange patterns would be favored. For instance, evidence suggests that increased g-c content helps to increase gene expression. But as the evolutionists admit:

it is difficult to hypothesize why selection on g-c content would affect single exons and their flanking sequences rather than chromosomal domains or spliced transcripts.

Once again the evolutionary expectation is contradicted and under evolution the evidence is a mess. We're left with an increasingly contorted theory that is twisted and patched in its attempt to explain the data. It lent no helpful intuition in exploring the evidence, and leaves us even more confused after the investigation is over.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prokaryote Evolution: The Wisdom of Evolution

If eukaryotes evolved (somehow) from a symbiosis between a prokaryote (bacteria) and a archaea, then from where did the prokaryote and the archaea come? James Lake, long-time early evolution researcher has a new paper promoting the notion that

the double-membrane, Gram-negative prokaryotes were formed as the result of a symbiosis between an ancient actinobacterium and an ancient clostridium

As usual, the evidence is circumstantial and the argument presupposes evolution is true. From a scientific perspective, there isn't much reason to think that a actinobacterium + clostridium = a prokaryote. Such a merger is a rather heroic view of nature.

Yes, symbiosis is common and cells do ingest objects around them. But so much more needs to happen in these scenarios in which evolutionists envision the creation of prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Of course none of this means such scenarios are impossible. What is telling though, is the evolutionist's certainty:

Lake has discovered the first exclusively prokaryote endosymbiosis

Lake reports that two groups of prokaryotes -- actinobacteria and clostridia -- came together and produced "double-membrane" prokaryotes.

"Higher life would not have happened without this event," Lake said.

In other words, there is no doubt that this proposed evolution of prokaryotes is actually a fact. Perhaps readers should not be alarmed at such pseudo science. As Lake concludes, we can learn from the wisdom of evolution:

We have been overlooking how important cooperation is. If two prokaryotes get together, they can change the world. They restructured the atmosphere of the Earth. It's a message that evolution is giving us: Cooperation is a way to get ahead.

I feel better already. Evolution is wiser than the evolutionists it created.

The Worst Evolutionary Designs

Over at Wired David Wolman has a great list of Evolution's 10 worst designs. How about this one:

#4: Giraffe birth canal. Mama giraffes stand up while giving birth, so baby's entry into the world is a 5-foot drop. Wheeee! Crack.

How could evolution be so cruel? It can't be true. Oops, I forgot, we celebrate these designs because they prove evolution is true.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Glycine: The Elixir of Life

John Johnson has a nice piece in the LA Times about the new confirmation of the amino acid glycine in the Wild 2 comet. Johnson gives some nice technical details:

The Stardust spacecraft, managed jointly by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La CaƱada Flintridge and Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, was launched in 1999 on a 2.9-billion-mile journey that made two loops around the sun before meeting up five years later with Wild 2, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter.

Flying as close as 147 miles to the hamburger-shaped comet, Stardust passed through its tail of dust and gas.

At its closest approach, the craft deployed a tennis-racket-shaped collector packed with a substance called aerogel, which harvested comet particles. The spacecraft then returned to Earth's orbit and jettisoned a capsule containing the sample. The capsule made what NASA called a "bulls-eye" landing in Utah on the morning of Jan. 15, 2006.

But come on guys, Johnson and his sources seem unable to stop uttering absurdities about the humble amino acid glycine.

The problem is that evolutionary thought wildly exaggerates. For instance, the finding of an amino acid--the simplest one at that--on a comet is hardly a surprise. True, it is, as Johnson writes, "the first time an amino acid has turned up in comet material." But so what? They have, after all, been found in a variety of meteorites and moon dust. "It is neat that they have collected amino acids in situ," one researcher said privately, "but otherwise this is hardly news."

Again to his credit Johnson mentions that this is not the first finding of extra terrestrial amino acids. But the preponderance of the story hypes the findings as important. Why the hype? It seems that evolutionists want to cast science as in full support of their theory.

More importantly, the report repeatedly makes the silly implication that having some amino acids available means you are on the verge of life. It is almost soup. For evolutionists, glycine is practically the Elixir of Life. Here are quotes from Johnson or his sources illustrating this wild exaggeration:

Ingredient for life detected in comet dust

bolstering the idea that the building blocks of biology are 'ubiquitous' in space

the ingredients for life in the universe may be distributed far more widely than previously thought

scientists have found traces of a key building block of biology

a vital compound necessary for life

we now know that comets could have delivered amino acids to the early Earth, contributing to the ingredients that life originated from

This is yet another piece of evidence that the ingredients for life are ubiquitous. These building blocks of life are everywhere.

the result is exciting because it represents a second, very large source of life-giving material

To say that glycine is a "life-giving material" is like saying that bits of metal are automobile-giving material. But again to his credit, Johnson ends on a note of realism:

Just having the right materials is no guarantee that life will begin, of course, any more than leaving a hammer, nails and planks lying around will cause a barn to rise.

Maybe there is hope.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Eugene Koonin: It Is Certain

I wish I had a nickel for every statement of evolutionary certainty that later had to be dropped. Carl Zimmer's recent piece on how eukaryotes are supposed to have evolved quotes Eugene Koonin as stating that "it is certain" that a long time ago, in a warm pond far far away, two cells (an archaea and a bacteria) symbiotically merged to form the first eukaryote. The rest, as they say, was history, as from that humble eukaryote sprung everything from the trilobite to the tyrannosaurus.

So how exactly did this dynamic duo, an archaea and a bacteria, perform such a miracle? How did the massive changes, required to produce the incredible eukaryote cell, come about? It would be like merging two motorcycles to produce a jetliner. As Zimmer reports, Koonin and his co-worker William Martin have just the just-so story. Koonin and Martin suspect that:

early eukaryotes would have been particularly vulnerable to attacks from mobile elements. They propose that the nucleus—the structure that gives eukaryotes their name—evolved as a defense against this attack. After mobile elements are transcribed into single-stranded RNA, they are copied back into the genome. With the invention of a nucleus, RNA molecules were moved across a barrier out of the nucleus in order to be translated into proteins. That wall reduced the chances of mobile elements being reinserted back into the genome.

So there you have it--junk science at work. There was a need for that jetliner so, presto, it sprung forth. No question about it, evolution is smarter than evolutionists.

The Water Strider: Evolution's Gratuitous Explanations

New research is telling us more about how water striders, those bugs that walk on water, get such long legs. As usual the story is more complicated than evolution would have it. A regulatory gene that helps in the development of the water strider has opposite effects in different limbs, lengthening some and shortening others.

Incredibly, evolutionists were quick to add their gratuitous, scientifically meaningless, interpretation of the findings. As one evolutionist put it:

Many have marveled at the ability of water striders to walk on water, and we are excited to have discovered the gene that has affected this evolutionary change.

How cogent. This would be like entering an automobile manufacturing plant, finding the robot that installs the doors, and claiming to have discovered how the doors evolved.

Human Accelerated Regions: You Cannot Make This Stuff Up

The new genome data create some, ah, "interesting" problems for evolution. One example are the so-called HARs (human accelerated regions) which are regions of our genome that are significantly different from the corresponding regions in the genomes of other species. This includes even the most similar genome--that of the chimpanzee. Yet, on the other hand, these regions are highly conserved among the other species.

As usual evolutionists are oblivious to any problem with their theory. According to evolutionists their theory is a fact and there is no contradictory data. There may be data they do not yet fully understand, but there are no problems. I have spoken with biology professors who literally claim that every piece of evidence in biology supports the conclusion that evolution is a fact. One claimed that DNA sequences in particular provide absolute and irrefutable evidence proving the fact of evolution.

Their claims are so far removed from reality it is difficult to believe this isn't a big spoof. But it isn't, and the hundreds of HARs don't help. Evolutionists must imagine that their magical process accelerates change in just the right places to create a human. It's worth repeating this explanation given by an evolutionist:

The way to evolve a human from a chimp-human ancestor is not to speed the ticking of the molecular clock as a whole. Rather the secret is to have rapid change occur in sites where those changes make an important difference in an organism’s functioning. HAR1 is certainly such a place. So, too, is the FOXP2 gene, which contains another of the fast-changing sequences I identified and is known to be involved in speech.

Somebody wake me up--I must be in an alternate world!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Evolutionist: Glycine on Comet Indicates Life in the Universe may be Common

Evolutionists are now reporting that traces of glycine, the simplest amino acid (the side chain is a mere hydrogen atom), found in samples of the Wild 2 comet, is evidence that:

the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare.

In evolutionary thought exaggeration is taken to new heights. The notion that glycine found on a comet suggests that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space is simply absurd. Perhaps those building blocks are indeed out there, but this finding gives little reason to think so.

Far more staggering, however, is the bizarre notion that the presence of glycine (or even all the biochemicals one can imagine) tells us anything about the prevalence of life in the universe. It would be like finding metal samples and concluding that the presence of automobiles in the universe may be common rather than rare. This is embarassing.

Learning from the Greatest Genius of All

Researchers are now using biological molecules to help with the processing of instructions in a new generation of computer chips. Over the past century computers have become smaller, cheaper, faster and more powerful while using less energy. To continue such improvements a technology that uses DNA molecules may be used.

There are many examples of designs in science and engineering that borrow from biology. Designs from synthetic aperture radar to velcro were here long before we re-invented them. But now we borrow not merely a design from nature, but the actual structures--DNA molecules.

Isn't it amazing that such wonders just happened to arise on their own before our smartest scientists and engineers, using powerful computers, were able to design them? Which is smarter, evolution or the evolutionist it created?

Junk Science Goes Green

Some say smarts do not make for wisdom. That certainly holds for evolutionists who, while generally smart people, publicly admit to believing the evolution myth. They say it is a fact, as sure as gravity, that life arose on its own. This form of junk science has been promoted for years by science writer par excellence, Carl Zimmer. His book, Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea is a strange combination of excellent writing coupled with science that is so bizarre it cannot even be said to be wrong.

Zimmer's latest piece reveals how evolution is fine-tuned to ensure it is politically correct. In recent decades rapid adaptation has been observed which falsifies evolution's prediction about mechanism and time scales of biological change. As one evolutionist admitted, with regard to rapd adaptation in response to environmental changes:

People really weren’t thinking about evolution at all, They thought it happened on thousand-year time scales.

Or as another evolutionist admitted:

Darwin thought evolution was gradual, and that it would take longer than the lifetime of a scientist to observe even the slightest change

Here we have a fundamental failure of evolutionary theory which must be denied. Zimmer does just that by ignoring entire fields of inquiry and erroneously ascribing such adaptation to natural selection and "plasticity." (Wouldn't it be nice to just make up vacuous terms whenever needed?).

And to help steer clear of the politically incorrect fact that biological evidence contradicts evolution, Zimmer sets up climate change as the culprit and focus of the article.

But here he confronts yet another politically incorrect obstacle. If this new, fast, version of evolution is so adept at responding to global warming, then is climate change not such a threat? Does evolution's magic resolve environmental worries?

This would spoil the story. The right denouement is that while the wonders of evolution never cease, our modern day creation story nonetheless cannot foil the town villain. After all, some species may not be able to rapidly adapt. Surely more research is needed to better understand evolution--that foundation of all biology.

If that research doesn't pan out then we can always assign hard limits to evolution. After all, "natural selection can hit biological walls." Zimmer ends on this potentially dangerous note. Can there really be limits to evolution? Isn't this what creationists have been saying?

No problem. We all know evolution creates everything from blue whales to bald eagles. Its inventiveness may seem unlimited, but it can be fine-tuned when necessary--after all, we define how it works.

Scott Aaronson on Scientific Certainty

In a lengthy discussion of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, computer scientist Scott Aaronson made a side comment that was perhaps the most prescient:

What you have forced me to realize is that ... what I'm uncomfortable with is not the many worlds interpretation [of quantum mechanics] itself, it is the air of satisfaction that often comes with it.

Unfortunately in this world I have been observing, there are people with even greater confidence in a theory with far less credibility.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

John Lynch's Glass House

Last week evolutionist John Lynch did some investigative research and found indications that certain evolution skeptics are young earth creationists. Imagine what would happen if Lynch investigated evolution?

New Research: Teleology is Built Into the Brain

New research reveals teleology in the design of the human brain. It has long since been known that the brain processes and categorizes different types of objects in different parts of the brain. A steak sandwich and a predator, for example, activate different areas of the brain. But the new research indicates that such differentiation is not merely for the purposes of processing different types of visual images. Instead, our cranial categories distinguish objects based on their inherent properties--objects are not categorized by mere appearance but, as one reporter put it, by the "subsequent consideration they demand."

An interesting example is the division between living and non living objects. Living things tend to look different than non living things, but people who have been blind since birth tend to distinguish these objects in the same way as sighted people. As one researcher concluded:

We think these findings strongly encourage the view that the human brain's organization innately anticipates the different types of computations that must be carried out for different types of objects.

But can evolutionary theory account for such smarts? The short answer is yes, of course it can, because evolutionary theory employs just-so stories. Free ranging speculation based on low-probability events can explain just about anything.

But the evolutionary origin of these cerebral smarts is a long shot. We would have to imagine mutations occurring that somehow set up these distinctions and the mapping of them to different areas in the brain, and the appropriate differences in the cognitive handling of the concepts. Such a hypothesis is not motivated by scientific evidence but rather by the assumption that evolution is true.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Red Ape

This month a new study reports that orangutans are particularly resourceful tool makers as they have been found to use a tool for communicating. Orangutans not only are sophisticated but, interestingly, share many similarities with humans. These "people of the forest," as they have been called, have more in common with humans than do the other great apes. This includes features of anatomy, reproductive biology and behavior. This is interesting because it conflicts with evolutionary expectations. The conflict arises because there is one feature in which orangutans are not the closest species to humans: DNA.

In evolution-dom, DNA is king. Long ago evolutionists settled on DNA as the explanation of how the information for macro evolution could be stored and passed on. Ever since then DNA has been viewed as the blueprint for biological design. DNA fulfilled the role of the biological "program" that determines the nature of an organism, just as a computer program determines what a computer does. The other parts of the organism, as with the computer, were viewed as merely mechanically performing tasks and following instructions.

Evolutionists needed DNA to fulfill this role because they needed unguided change to be heritable. Such change was viewed as created by DNA mutations, which could then be passed on to offspring. Scientific problems with this dogma are mounting, but evolutionists have been slow to adjust and reconcile such a fundamental failure.

Until recently the DNA dogma was even more narrow, as evolutionists viewed only the genes within the DNA as important. The remainder of the DNA (the vast majority) was often thought of as useless junk. Now that science, no thanks to evolution, is discovering that most of the "junk" is actually important, evolutionists changed their view to include more of the DNA.

Now science is taking the next step, again no thanks to evolution, in finding that the nature of an organism may be influenced by players outside the exalted DNA.

Nonetheless, within evolution DNA is still king, and humans share about 98.4 per cent of their DNA with chimps, 97.5 per cent with gorillas and 96.5 per cent with orangutans. Therefore, according to evolution, chimps rather than orangutans are our closest relatives.

Of course the supposed human-chimp relationship has its own problems, as they share genomic differences that don't make evolutionary sense. As one evolutionist put it:

The way to evolve a human from a chimp-human ancestor is not to speed the ticking of the molecular clock as a whole. Rather the secret is to have rapid change occur in sites where those changes make an important difference in an organism’s functioning. HAR1 is certainly such a place. So, too, is the FOXP2 gene, which contains another of the fast-changing sequences I identified and is known to be involved in speech.

The evolutionist doesn't skip a beat when reporting on evolution's "secret" miracles. In this case, evolution's secret is to focus the mutations right where they are needed to construct jaw-dropping designs. In other words, evolution targeted a whole bunch of mutations to create the human from the human-chimp ancestor. The silliness of evolution reaches yet new heights.

And the silliness continues when the orangutan enters the picture, for it looks and acts more like humans than do chimps. As one evolutionist admitted, if it weren't for DNA, it would be the orangutan rather than the chimp pictured next to the human in the evolutionary tree. Contra the DNA evidence, only a handful of visible characters make it look like humans are most similar to chimps, whereas many more characters point to orangutans being more similar to humans than chimps. As one researcher put it:

There remains, however, a paradoxical problem lurking within the wealth of DNA data: our morphology and physiology have very little, if anything, uniquely in common with chimpanzees to corroborate a unique common ancestor. Most of the characters we do share with chimpanzees also occur in other primates, and in sexual biology and reproduction we could hardly be more different. It would be an understatement to think of this as an evolutionary puzzle.

Yet once again we find conflicting characters when trying to align the species to an evolutionary tree. Even presupposing that evolution is true, we are left with an array of contradictory data. Here is how one evolutionist summed it up:

revisiting the red ape is a useful reminder that not everything to do with morphology can be attributed to the closeness of a genetic relationship. We can evolve likenesses even to our more distant cousins if both sets of ancestors faced similar problems.

In other words, similarities indicate evolution--except when they don't. If I didn't know better, I would think that Darwinism might not make sense. But of course, Darwinists will clear all this up. They've already determined that macro evolution is a fact. Next they'll explain the evidence.