Saturday, August 13, 2011

Peacefulness, in a Grown Man, That is Not a Good Sign

Evolution is, as Karl Popper once sensed without delving into all the details, a metaphysical research program. That a movement is metaphysical is in itself neither unusual or, in evolution’s case, very interesting. What makes evolution so fascinating, and what Popper did not much explore, is its combination of certainty and denial, of its own metaphysics.

The metaphysics of evolution are most evident not in its explanation of how all of biology has arisen naturalistically, but in its mandate that all of biology must have arisen naturalistically. This is crystal clear in any number of religious claims evolutionists have been making for centuries. Would god have created the mosquito? Of course not, so evolution is the obvious conclusion for evolutionists such as Ken Miller. Or as Stephen Jay Gould explained:

Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce. No one understood this better than Darwin. Ernst Mayr has shown how Darwin, in defending evolution, consistently turned to organic parts and geographic distributions that make the least sense.

And just what is a “sensible god” according to evolutionists? A sensible god, of course, is altogether like an evolutionist. For centuries evolutionists have been issuing their sophmoric metaphysical truth claims with absolute certainty. Like a five year old talking about Santa Claus, the evolutionist’s banality is exceeded only by his certainty.

The IFF statement

These claims of ultimate truth sometime take the form of an IF AND ONLY IF statement, or its linguistic equivalent, which evolutionists consistently use. The IF AND ONLY IF, or IFF, statement is the underlying logic when evolutionists say that only evolution can explain biology. It is another example of the evolutionist’s reasoning by process of elimination. He is certain his idea is correct because the alternatives are wrong.

The rub is that this logic works only if one possesses knowledge of all the alternatives. This may seem to be a minor technicality but it is the crucial, and often unspoken, weak link in the evolutionary calculus. Here is an example from Darwin:

We cannot believe, that the similar bones in the arm of the monkey, in the fore-leg of the horse, in the wing of the bat, and in the flipper of the seal, are of special use to these animals. We may safely attribute these structures to inheritance.

Here Darwin claims that structures which are of no particular or “special” use to an organism must have been inherited. In other words, inheritance and only inheritance can explain such structures. Let’s breakdown Darwin’s logic:

1. Organisms have structures that are of no special use.
2. Structures that are of no special use are structures whose origin cannot be explained except by inheritance.
3. Organisms have structures whose origin cannot be explained except by inheritance.

Step 2 is unspoken and, more importantly, metaphysical. For in science we cannot know that only one theory can work for the simple reason that we cannot know all the possible theories. It is the equivalent of an IFF statement which is not scientific.

This method of metaphysical reasoning runs all through the evolution genre. Evolutionists consistently claim only their theory can explain what we observe in biology.

Pseudogenes for example are sometimes found to be disabled by identical mutations in cousin species. In typical fashion evolutionist Jerry Coyne concludes they wouldn’t have been designed that way and therefore that “Only evolution and common ancestry can explain these facts.” [Why Evolution is True, 68]

If and only if evolution is true, then we would observe such identical mutations in pseudogenes. Here is another example from Coyne of this non scientific logic:

One of my favorite cases of embryological evidence for evolution is the furry human fetus. We are famously known as “naked apes” because, unlike other primates, we don’t have a thick coat of hair. But in fact for one brief period we do—as embryos. Around sixth months after conception, we become completely covered with a fine, downy coat of hair called lanugo. Lanugo is usually shed about a month before birth, when it’s replaced by the more sparsely distributed hair with which we’re born. ... Now, there’s no need for a human embryo to have a transitory coat of hair. After all, it’s a cozy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the womb. Lanugo can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry: fetal monkeys also develop a coat of hair at about the same stage of development. Their hair, however, doesn’t fall out, but hangs on to become the adult coat. And, like humans, fetal whales also have lanugo, a remnant of when their ancestors lived on land. [Why Evolution is True, 80]

According to Coyne our lanugo can only be explained as a consequence of common ancestry. Evolutionists freely issue these metaphysical edicts as though they are scientific findings we all must acknowledge.

The most celebrated example of this non scientific reasoning comes from one of the twentieth century’s leading evolutionists, Theodosius Dobzhansky, who claimed that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Though Dobzhansky did not know the details of how all of biology could have spontaneously evolved, he was certain that it did. For over and over he argued that only evolution could explain the biological world.

Evolution’s denial of itself

In the movie Triage a psychiatrist played by Christopher Lee attempts to help a war photographer played by Colin Farrell. Farrell’s character had witnessed too much of the world’s violence and insanity. He finally withdrew into a subtle form of denial symbolized by his very peaceful naps, one of which he is enjoying when Lee visits him for the first time. Lee quickly perceives Farrell’s massive denialism and lays the groundwork for their next meeting as he walks out the door:

Lee: You know you sleep very peacefully, there’s not a movement, not a wrinkle in your face, just like a baby.
Farrell: That's a good thing isn’t it?
Lee: No. If you were thrashing about and muttering to yourself it would mean a problem is close by. But peacefulness, in a grown man, that is not a good sign.

Denial, particularly in the face of massive contradictions, is a fascinating phenomenon. Between their peaceful naps evolutionists are busy contradicting their denials. They issue their many metaphysical and religious edicts, only to sleep through the consequences, denying they ever did any such thing.

Evolutionists routinely tell me they make no undue metaphysical assumptions. They make various theological claims and conclude their scientifically unlikely idea must be a fact, and then deny the whole thing. No script writer could have dreamt this up.

Consider professor Douglas Theobald who wrote a paper that compares several hypotheses for the early phases of evolutionary history and shows how universal common descent, in one variant or another, is the clear winner. After showing that a comparison of 23 proteins—similar versions of which are found in many species—fit the universal common descent hypothesis far better than the hypothesized alternatives, the paper erroneously states that the results are “very strong empirical evidence” for universal common descent. It was yet another example of the non scientific IFF statement type of logic.

Not surprisingly the paper was an instant hit with evolutionists, celebrated everywhere from journals and popular science magazines to the blogosphere. One science newsletter proclaimed:

First Large-Scale Formal Quantitative Test Confirms Darwin’s Theory of Universal Common Ancestry

Scientific American informed its readers that “The Proof Is in the Proteins: Test Supports Universal Common Ancestor for All Life,” and National Geographic added that:

All Species Evolved From Single Cell, Study Finds
Creationism called “absolutely horrible hypothesis”—statistically speaking.

In his blog PZ Myers, who with his Lutheran background believes god would never have created this world, applauded the big numbers that “support evolutionary theory.” And Nick Matzke, who also believes in the evolutionary metaphysics that god would never have designed what we observe in the biological world, was delighted that the new work debunks creationism.

Of course all of this is false. It is junk science at its worst. I asked Theobald about these problems. I reminded him that one hypothesis comparing well against others does not translate into very strong empirical evidence for the hypothesis. But he disagreed. He assured me that his analysis is fundamentally based on modern, cutting edge statistical methods, and that he firmly stands by his conclusions. Indeed, no scientist or statistician would find them to be controversial, he added.

I explained to him that the problem lies not with the statistical methods. But when comparing such scores a scientist or a statistician would merely claim that the hypothesis with the significantly higher score is the winner of the group. That is entirely different than his high claim that the results constitute very strong empirical evidence for the hypothesis. That conclusion is simply false. The hypothesis may be true, it may not be true, but the study does not provide such powerful empirical evidence for it. Unfortunately, such misinformation fuels the kind of reporting we saw above.

But Theobald continued in his denial. You are simply incorrect, he replied. From a model selection perspective, from a likelihood perspective, and from a Bayesian perspective, empirical evidence can only be evaluated relative to other hypotheses. That’s all we have. No hypothesis can be evaluated in isolation—such an idea is impossible and incoherent. This view is not from evolutionary biology—this is the standard non-frequentist statistical view (and even most frequentists have the same view).

It was another fascinating example of denial of the plain facts. I replied that I was amazed. The lengths to which evolutionists must go is incredible. It is always striking to see the certainty with which evolutionists promote their philosophies and metaphysics. You can see it in the history of evolutionary thought, and today it just keeps on coming. They impose their philosophies, as though they were facts, on the world.

I again explained that when one hypothesis beats out others you cannot make the claims he was making. What you have is very strong evidence that the hypothesis beats out the other hypotheses, period. You do not have very strong evidence for the hypothesis, as you are claiming.

And your appeal to the limitations in your confirmation methods doesn’t change the fact that you are making false claims, and celebrating them as valid findings. The fact that “That’s all we have” hardly justifies the publishing and promotion of misinformation. The fact that “That’s all we have” ought to serve to temper the claims, not exalt them.

But contrastive thinking has been at the heart of evolutionary thought for centuries. From Kant to Darwin, and on up, what has always been rather revealing is how evolutionists have presented their proofs as though they were objective, undeniable findings. It is always a bit shocking to see such bold claims made on such faulty logic.

At this point the evolutionist turned the blame on me. We have, he explained, overwhelming evidence that universal common ancestry beats out competing multiple independent ancestry hypotheses. If you don’t consider that as evidence for universal common ancestry, then you are certainly entitled to that opinion. But the rest of us are not required to believe that your opinion makes any sense. Yours is a strange philosophy, to my mind, and I’m sure to most people who will read your words.

Repeatedly I have found that evolutionists are unable to see the problems and fallacies with their theory. And so when you point out those problems, the evolutionist ultimately can only conclude that the problem lies with you. You are an obstructionist, or biased, or anti science, or something.

Theobald was not being judgmental in any personal way. He threw up his hands and concluded that I am the problem, but his response was genuine, not contrived. It was not mean spirited. Just as Bernoulli proclaimed that anyone who would deny the obvious evolutionary conclusions “must reject all the truths, which we know by induction” so too evolutionists ever since can only understand skepticism as, itself, problematic.

Evolution is a metaphysically-driven tradition and like most such traditions has built-in protections against objective critique. The result, unfortunately, is junk science. In spite of monumental scientific problems, evolution is held to be a fact. If we do not acknowledge this obvious truth we must be obstructionists or biased.

Evolution cannot even explain how a single protein first evolved, let alone the massive biological world that ensued. From biosonar to redwood trees, evolution is left with only just-so stories motivated by the dogma that evolution must be true. That dogma comes from metaphysics, but silly science and metaphysics are not what makes evolution interesting. What is fascinating is the denial.

23 comments:

  1. C'mon Cornelius, we're all your buds here, you can 'fess up - how much is the Discovery Institute paying you to abase yourself like this? $1K a month? $2K? Or do they pay you by the article?

    I realize times are tough and your science career didn't quite pan out the way you hoped, but there's got to be a better way to make ends meet that the constant embarrassment this political twaddle puts you through. You deserve better that that.

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  2. Yours is a strange philosophy, to my mind, and I’m sure to most people who will read your words.

    Cornelius, you appear to require a level of proof that science can never provide, while at the same time you apparently profoundly believe in things for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

    Yours is indeed a very strange philosophy.

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  3. Evolutionists are a contradiction unto themselves.
    They can't see the forest for the trees...although they know (praise darwin!!!) they got there by blind, random chance because GOD wouldn't create a tree.

    "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything."

    G.K Chesterton

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  4. Norm said: Cornelius, you appear to require a level of proof that science can never provide, while at the same time you apparently profoundly believe in things for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

    What about logical deduction? Doesn't the law of biogenesis and the first cause principle PROVE that something outside of nature/the natural MUST exist?

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  5. CH: Evolution is, as Karl Popper once sensed without delving into all the details, a metaphysical research program.

    Cornelius,

    If there was ever a question of your disingenuousness the above sentence put them to rest.

    The details, which Cornelius conveniently left out, can be found here.

    Given this obvious and transparent attempt to misrepresent Popper, how do you expect anyone to take your seriously?

    Or could it be that you really think so little of your target audience, that you'd assume their ignorance would prevent them from realizing you were misrepresenting Popper?

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  6. Doesn't the law of biogenesis and the first cause principle PROVE that something outside of nature/the natural MUST exist?

    Maybe NV, I don't know the answer to that. What do you think that "something" is?

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Scott,

    Here's a quote from Popper from your link. Can you detect why his conclusion is flawed?

    "The Mendelian underpinning of modern Darwinism has been well tested and so has the theory of evolution which says that all terrestrial life has evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly even from one single organism. [Popper, 1978, p. 344; emphasis added]


    "...evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly even from one single organism."


    How can something be so well tested and yet not even know whether it was a few primitive organisms or one organism?

    Maybe it's the environment that evolutionists are educated in. Who knows? With my background in business and applied science it absolutely boggles me as to how these people can get away with such sloppy analysis. It's a bowl of mush. Shouldn't stuff like that get blown out of the water in freshman college? Graduate school?

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  9. Cornelius,

    After showing that a comparison of 23 proteins—similar versions of which are found in many species—fit the universal common descent hypothesis far better than the hypothesized alternatives, the paper erroneously states that the results are “very strong empirical evidence” for universal common descent. It was yet another example of the non scientific IFF statement type of logic.

    Just in case someone actually thinks that Cornelius is making a good point here, let me just say one can only compare one's hypothesis to other hypotheses that have actually been proposed. Cornelius, stupidly, thinks that just because one haven't considered hypotheses such as "the 23 proteins were produced in an ultra-efficient fart-chamber" that science engages if "IFF logic".

    And Cornelius, are you going to tell us what the truth actually is.

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  10. CH: And just what is a “sensible god” according to evolutionists?

    According to you, there no such thing as a sensible God - we cannot make sense out of his actions, or lack there off.

    So, apparently, God could internally arrange every atom in the universe into perfect equilibrium and still be an intelligent designer! That's just what God must have wanted.

    CH: The rub is that this logic works only if one possesses knowledge of all the alternatives. This may seem to be a minor technicality but it is the crucial, and often unspoken, weak link in the evolutionary calculus.

    Just as we cannot make sense out of biology with a God we cannot make sense out of, we cannot explain biology using an un-conceived explanation.

    To use an example, can one use an un-conceived route to drive to a particular destination? While it might seem to be a "minor technicality", the answer is would be "No", right? This does't mean that the destination in question could never be reached. Rather it means that an un-conceived route is void of instructions to turn at a particular location or drive for any particular distance. Both of which are necessarily to get anywhere in particular.

    This is a crucial, yet overlooked weak link in your argument.

    We can say the same about un-conceived explanations. I cannot "make sense" out of anything, let alone biology, using an un-conceived explanation. This is due to the fact that it is void of a key component is absent: an explanation.

    Furthermore, science has been discarding a near infinite number of un-conceived explanations every day, in every field of science, for hundreds of years.

    For example, It's extremely likely that no one is researching whether a cancer patient can be cured by standing their head. Why is this? Because it's not falsifiable? No, it would be trivial to falsify. Rather, we currently lack an good explanation as to how standing on one's head would cure cancer.

    Now multiply this by a near infinite number of possibilities in every field of science. Yet, for some reason, you expect special treatment in the case of the biological complexity we observe?

    What exactly do you expect us to make of this bizarre expectation?

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  11. I wrote: Or could it be that you really think so little of your target audience, that you'd assume their ignorance would prevent them from realizing you were misrepresenting Popper?

    I would seem I stand corrected. Apparently, Cornelius is counting on his audience's willful desire to remain ignorant. For example…

    Neal: Here's a quote from Popper from your link.

    Notice how Neal completely ignores the fact that Cornelius clearly misrepresented Popper by conveniently leaving out "the details." Apparently, he simply doesn't care! Instead, he changes the subject.

    Neal, do you consider this acceptable behavior? Really? Apparently it's OK to be dishonest since, it's not merely a question of being mistaken, but it's part of a cosmic battle between good and those evil evolutionary ideas!

    Neal: Can you detect why his conclusion is flawed? […] How can something be so well tested and yet not even know whether it was a few primitive organisms or one organism?

    Let me guess, because if we don't know absolutely everything then we know absolutely nothing?

    Haven't we pointed out how this conclusion is flawed time and time again? Isn't this an example of an argument from which you've changed the subject in the past, only to bring it up again, as if we never discussed it?

    Should we make a bet as to how long it will take until someone returns to misquoting Popper, yet again?

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  12. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cornelius, how many times?

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    It simply isn't possible that you've missed this point so far.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    I can only conclude that you're ignoring it. I wonder why that would be.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    This really is key to understand how your core argument is so far off the mark.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    This really is embarrassing having to point this out all the time.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    Doesn't it embarrass you that you simply ignore it time and time again?

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    This is very easy to grasp and very simple to show.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    The Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection behaves absolutely no differently to any other scientific theory.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    This is part of the very reason that ToE IS science.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    Don't you have any scientific credibility at all? Not even a little pride in your own work?

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    Seriously, your blatant inability to grasp this incredibly simple point is showing you up as an utter clown!

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    Do I REALLY need to point this out every single time? What is it with your selective blindness?

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

    I'm tearing my hair out here. Do me a favour and READ these words before I go bald.

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!

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  13. Ritchie said...

    AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cornelius, how many times?

    ASSUMING METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM IS A NECESSITY OF PERFORMING SCIENCE!!! EVERY THEORY IN EVERY FIELD OF SCIENCE ASSUMES IT!!!


    Cornelius can't acknowledge that simple truth, ever. If he did, every inane argument he's made on this blog since its inception would go right down the swirling porcelain commode.

    Denial of reality is a Creationist's stock in trade.

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  14. Cornelius Hunter: These claims of ultimate truth sometime take the form of an IF AND ONLY IF statement, or its linguistic equivalent, which evolutionists consistently use.

    We've been over this already. Science works with the form

    If H (Hypothesis) then P (predictions).
    P being verified, H is not proven, but supported.


    Cornelius Hunter: The IF AND ONLY IF, or IFF, statement is the underlying logic when evolutionists say that only evolution can explain biology.

    There are an infinitude of possible theories, an infinitude of evolutionary theories. Science can't rule out every possible theory. Rather, what we can say is that the Theory of Evolution is a strongly supported scientific theory, and Intelligent Design is scientifically meaningless.

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  15. The cabal of critics on this blog (deliberately?) miss the simple straightforward point Dr. Hunter is making.
    "When one hypothesis beats out others, what you have is very strong evidence that the hypothesis beats out the other hypotheses, period."
    For example, while Ptolemy was developing his epicycles, HIS HYPOTHESIS BEAT OUT THE OTHERS, but that didn't make it a very good hypothesis. Ptolemy's astronomy, too, turned out to metaphysically based...just like evolutionism.
    Get it?

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  16. Red Reader,

    Why stop at Ptolemy? Let's apply your logic to the Copernican cosmology, Kepler's laws of planetary motion, Newton's theory of gravitation, and Einstein's general relativity. I'm curious to know what you'll say.

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  17. Neal said:

    "With my background in business and applied science it absolutely boggles me as to how these people can get away with such sloppy analysis."

    Using your background in business and applied science, will you please provide your analysis of what the truth is about the origin and diversification of all life forms, and the universe itself?

    So that you're not accused of being sloppy, please include details and evidence at the level you expect from science.

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  18. Red Reader,

    The cabal of critics on this blog (deliberately?) miss the simple straightforward point Dr. Hunter is making.

    Red Reader, what you don't get is that we get it. Moreover, you and Cornelius don't seem to get the objections we raise. Now what?

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  19. Red Reader, what you don't get is that we get it.

    No. If you do not agree with them, then the only logical conclusion is that you do not understand them. What other possible reason could there be?

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  20. from the OP
    "But when comparing such scores a scientist or a statistician would merely claim that the hypothesis with the significantly higher score is the winner of the group."

    THat's funny, I have read hundreds if not thousands of scientific papers and have never run into this phrasing.

    "THe hypothesis that smoking causes lung cancer is the winner of the group of hypotheses that we tested. It may or may not be true, we can't say, because we haven't tested every single conceived and unconceived hypothesis, but it definitely beats the current crop of competitors. but since new competitors might be appearing from the ether any time now, you can just go ahead and keep smoking."

    nope, can't recall anything like that.

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  21. I'm not sure I'd want to keep smoking in those circumstances.

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  22. No. If you do not agree with them, then the only logical conclusion is that you do not understand them. What other possible reason could there be?

    Indeed. That seems to be as far as they can think.

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