Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NAS Authority Speaks: That Would Be Blasphemous! Religion Provides the “Acid Test” As Evolution Goes Viral

We have seen that an evolution professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences, John Avise, argued that the evolution of the species is not by chance and that the evolution of complexity is not a problem because high fitness, point mutations are fixed in populations of bacteria in a test tube. You might think that such erroneous claims must be one-time blunders—mistakes that would be quickly retracted when pointed out. But this is not the case. These are standard evolutionary arguments. Avise’s book was endorsed by several evolutionists, and when I pointed out these enormous blunders other evolutionists rushed to his defense. Fallacious thinking is fundamental to evolutionary thought. But why? After all, evolutionists such as Avise are certainly not intellectually lacking. Evolutionists are smart, well educated and informed. So why the blatantly erroneous claims? The answer, as usual, comes down to religion.

In his book Inside the Human Genome, John Avise discusses at length the evils and inefficiencies of the world, and in particular in the genome. He explains repeatedly that this cannot be reconciled with a good god. For example, Avise introduces the reader to this problem on the third page of the book:

This is the persistent dilemma of theology. Why does suffering exist in a world governed by a loving deity? Put more simply, why do bad things happen to good (as well as bad) people? … Why for example must countless people endure sometimes lifelong pain and suffering from inherited physical disabilities? And why must the persecutions extend even to those who surely must be innocent in God’s eyes, such as the untold numbers of human embryos and fetuses who spontaneously abort in utero? Indeed, in a world run by a loving Creator God, why are senescence and death the unavoidable fates of anyone fortunate enough to have survived all of life’s earlier challenges? … But what about the evil visited upon people in situations where free will is irrelevant? The victim of a tornado or earthquake presumably had no control over such natural catastrophes, nor did an aborted embryo have control over the inherited disabilities that may have caused its premature death. [Inside the Human Genome, Oxford, 2010, p. 3-5]

This sentiment continues as Avise rehearses, later in the chapter, the standard evolutionary metaphysics that it is not the good designs that rebuke creationism so much as the harmful ones:

At least at a superficial explanatory level, evolutionary and creationist scenarios both seem plausible, in principle, for complex traits that perform their functions well. A more acid test comes from complex traits that are harmful to their bearers. As we will see in later chapters, many complex generic traits (such as pseudogenes and mobile elements) that often are functionless or even detrimental to the organisms that house them are rampant in the genomes of vertebrate animals, humans included. Did a Creator God repeat these apparent errors of genomic construction time and time again? Or are such genomic flaws merely the footprints of phylogenetic history? [28-9]

It is these harmful and inefficient designs, particularly in the genome, that Avise will elaborate on in the remainder of the book. For instance consider harmful mutations. Avise believes it would be blasphemous to ascribe them to God:

Few people would blame a loving and all-powerful God for purposefully inventing deleterious mutations; that would be blasphemous. [65]

For as Avise points out these mutations can be devastating:

most de novo mutations range from neutral to highly deleterious for human health, and collectively they leave in their wake countless shattered bodies and destroyed lives (including those of untold numbers of early human embryos). These are probably not the kinds of biological outcomes that one would wish to attribute to the direct hand of an all-powerful and loving God. [72]

It’s all about religion. It did not begin with Darwin, and ever since Darwin the religious control of science has become even stronger. Of course evolution must be a fact—our religion demands it. For otherwise we commit blasphemy. Never mind that it makes no sense scientifically. Like a Trojan Horse, religion has infected science, and it has gone viral.

31 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. John Avise is obviously a religious idiot.

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  3. The full title of the book is "Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design"

    I think that if the case for intelligent design were not so overwhelming, then Mr Avise would never have felt the need to try and counter it.

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  4. Is Avise blind from birth or he has blinded their eyes voluntarily?
    Anyone who opens his eyes in a natural landscape knows that beauty is not random, even knowing that some beings are feeding from any others making them "suffer"

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    1. If our native natural landscapes looked like garbage dumps and smelled like hog houses, those are the sights and smells that would be beautiful to us.

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    2. "If our native natural landscapes looked like garbage dumps and smelled like hog houses, those are the sights and smells that would be beautiful to us."

      Hmmm, something tells me you are missing the 'bigger picture':

      The Artists - The Artists is a short film about two rival painters who fail to see the bigger picture.
      http://vimeo.com/33670490

      All Things Bright And Beautiful - Canon In D - Pachebel
      http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4082996/

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    3. anaxyrus said
      "If our native natural landscapes looked like garbage dumps and smelled like hog houses, those are the sights and smells that would be beautiful to us."

      Sure? Can you prove that? May be men can find normal ugliness, but is easy for them to get used to beuty.

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    4. The burden would be on you to prove that there is an objective standard for landscape beauty. I have known people who have grown up with cattle and find the smell of their manure not unpleasant.

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    5. "and find the smell of their manure not unpleasant."

      Does "not unpleasant" equal beautiful in your worldview?

      Actually I think it is very, very, clear that the materialistic philosophy has a extremely difficult time assigning any proper value and/or beauty to humans, or anything else, in the first place, i.e. Just how do you derive value and/or beauty for a person, or anything else from a philosophy that maintains transcendent values are merely illusory?:

      How much is my body worth?
      Excerpt: The U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils invested many a hard-earned tax dollar in calculating the chemical and mineral composition of the human body,,,,Together, all of the above (chemicals and minerals) amounts to less than one dollar!
      http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia/explain/docs/worth.asp

      Whereas Theism, particularly Christianity, has no trouble whatsoever figuring out how much humans are worth, since infinite Almighty God has shown us how much we mean to him and how much He loves us:

      John 3:16
      “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

      MercyMe - Beautiful
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vh7-RSPuAA

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    6. Unknown said
      "The burden would be on you to prove that there is an objective standard for landscape beauty. I have known people who have grown up with cattle and find the smell of their manure not unpleasant."

      All the people I know that that grown up with cattle and go to live in the city when return to his originary place fins it unpleasant because of the smell.Garbage looks normal only if you do not know anything else.

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  5. Dr. Avise goes on, in his book, to put forth a number for 'deleterious mutations' in humans:

    Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design - Pg. 57 By John C. Avise
    Excerpt: "Another compilation of gene lesions responsible for inherited diseases is the web-based Human Gene Mutation Database (HGMD). Recent versions of HGMD describe more than 75,000 different disease causing mutations identified to date in Homo-sapiens."

    I went to the mutation database website cited by John Avise and found:

    HGMD®: Now celebrating our 100,000 mutation milestone!
    http://www.hgmd.org/

    Moreover if one looks at the extremely rare examples of supposedly beneficial mutations in humans (Sickle Cell, Lactase Persistence, Tibetan high red blood cell count,) one finds that even those few 'beneficial' mutations lose functional information. Now, of course, the 'scientific' question is not the Theological Question of 'Why does God permit natural evil in the world so as to allow so many deleterious mutations?' as Dr. Avise tries to frame it against ID, but the real 'scientific' question is 'Exactly how is Darwinism suppose to evolve anything with such a high rate of deleterious mutations?' It turns out that, scientifically, his supposed strongest evidence against ID is actually a very, very, strong evidence for ID.

    Using Computer Simulation to Understand Mutation Accumulation Dynamics and Genetic Load:
    Excerpt: We apply a biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program to study human mutation accumulation under a wide-range of circumstances.,, Our numerical simulations consistently show that deleterious mutations accumulate linearly across a large portion of the relevant parameter space.
    http://bioinformatics.cau.edu.cn/lecture/chinaproof.pdf
    MENDEL’S ACCOUNTANT: J. SANFORD†, J. BAUMGARDNER‡, W. BREWER§, P. GIBSON¶, AND W. REMINE
    http://mendelsaccount.sourceforge.net

    Genetic Entropy - Dr. John Sanford - Evolution vs. Reality - video (Notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/35088933

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    1. a few more notes:

      The high spontaneous mutation rate: Is it a health risk?* - James F. Crow - 1997
      http://www.pnas.org/content/94/16/8380.full

      Contamination of the genome by very slightly deleterious mutations:
      why have we not died 100 times over? Kondrashov A.S.
      http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ap/jt/1995/00000175/00000004/art00167

      Why are we still alive? - LAURENCE LOEWE - Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, - 2006
      http://www.evolutionary-research.net/news/2008/04/01/why-are-we-still-alive

      Rate, molecular spectrum, and consequences of human mutation - Michael Lynch - 2009
      http://www.pnas.org/content/107/3/961.full

      Sanford’s pro-ID thesis supported by PNAS paper, read it and weep, literally - September 2010
      Excerpt: Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear that most of the mutation load is associated with mutations with very small effects distributed at unpredictable locations over the entire genome, rendering the prospects for long-term management of the human gene pool by genetic counseling highly unlikely for all but perhaps a few hundred key loci underlying debilitating monogenic genetic disorders (such as those focused on in the present study).
      http://www.uncommondescent.com/darwinism/sanfords-pro-id-thesis-supported-by-pnas-paper-read-it-and-weep-literally/

      High Frequency of Cryptic Deleterious Mutations in Caenorhabditis elegans ( Esther K. Davies, Andrew D. Peters, Peter D. Keightley)
      "In fitness assays, only about 4 percent of the deleterious mutations fixed in each line were detectable. The remaining 96 percent, though cryptic, are significant for mutation load...the presence of a large class of mildly deleterious mutations can never be ruled out."
      http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/285/5434/1748

      The Frailty of the Darwinian Hypothesis
      "The net effect of genetic drift in such (vertebrate) populations is “to encourage the fixation of mildly deleterious mutations and discourage the promotion of beneficial mutations,”
      http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/07/the_frailty_of_the_darwinian_h.html#more

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  6. It should be pointed out (as it has been in comments on this blog before as today's post is another recycled classic; way to go green!) that scientists cannot win on this one. If they mention that what we see in nature is outside of the bounds of what a sane, benevolent, competent, anthropomorphic creator would construct, then it allows Cornelius Hunter to hit the "evolution is theodicy button." If they keep it scientific with no mention of gods, then Joe Reader asks: "Where is my God in this? This can't be right!"

    As the number of Americans who believe in gods is orders of magnitude greater than the number who have read books by the blog author, it's not surprising that some authors take this route.

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    1. anaxyrus
      If they mention that what we see in nature is outside of the bounds of what a sane, benevolent, competent, anthropomorphic creator would construct....

      Where do you get your knowledge of creators from that you 'know' what they are /are not likely to constrruct?

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    2. Which part of anthropomorphic did you not understand? A completely unknown or carefree designer could produce anything, leading to no prediction whatsoever.

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    3. The only requirement of ID theory is that the designers must be intelligent. There is no requirement that they must be all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful. That's a lame strawman, one which shows that most evolutionists have a bone to pick with fundamentalist Christianity.

      Intelligent design necessarily leads to a tree of life, not the nested TOL of evolutionists but a non-nested tree. Why? Because intelligent designers reuse previously tried and tested designs (that's what makes them intelligent) to come up with new ones. Reuse automatically leads to a design hierarchy.

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    4. Louis Savain

      The only requirement of ID theory is that the designers must be intelligent. There is no requirement that they must be all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful. That's a lame strawman, one which shows that most evolutionists have a bone to pick with fundamentalist Christianity.


      Er Louis, it's the Fundy Christian Creationists who keep claiming that their all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful GOD created everything. Not science. If you have a bone to pick, pick it with them.

      Intelligent design necessarily leads to a tree of life, not the nested TOL of evolutionists but a non-nested tree. Why? Because intelligent designers reuse previously tried and tested designs (that's what makes them intelligent) to come up with new ones. Reuse automatically leads to a design hierarchy.

      Like your "intelligent" designer reused the same design for the wings of insects, birds, and bats. Oh wait...

      Like your "intelligent" designer reused the same design for the eyes of vertebrates and cephalopods. Oh wait...

      Like your "intelligent" designer reused the same oxygen intake system for water dwellers like fish and cetaceans. Oh wait...

      Looks like those Elohim weren't very intelligent after all, eh?

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    5. Thorton, whoever's paying you to write your brain-dead propaganda on this forum should ask for their money back because you're about as dumb as a watermelon. The crap that you wrote above is so devoid of sense that refuting it would only bring out more crap from you.

      But don't feel too bad, Thorton. Take solace in that you're in good company. I have come to believe that all evolutionists are as just stupid as you are. :D

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    6. Thornton
      Like your "intelligent" designer reused the same design for the wings of insects, birds, and bats

      If all the intelligent scientists alive now were able to get together with all the intelligent scientists who have ever lived, they still would not be able to create, from scratch, the wing of even the tiniest most insignificant little bug, let alone a bird or bat wing.

      Nevertheless you believe that an unintelligent blind process was able to effect the whole of life on the planet!

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  7. If the Bible said that God was bad, then all this wouldn't be a problem. Dysteleology isn't a contradiction to God's existence, It is only a problem for conventional theology.

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  8. CH: We have seen that an evolution professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences, John Avise, argued that the evolution of the species is not by chance and that the evolution of complexity is not a problem because high fitness, point mutations are fixed in populations of bacteria in a test tube. You might think that such erroneous claims must be one-time blunders—mistakes that would be quickly retracted when pointed out.

    The simple answer, Cornelius, is that they are not blunders at all.

    The "blunders" are entirely of your imagining, and arise, it seems, from your profound misunderstanding of evolutionary theory.

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    1. Pomposity raises its ugly head again. There is nothing profound about evolutionary theory. It's a shallow, simplistic theory that tries to fit the data into preconceived ideas and flawed assumptions based on erroneous theology. The blunders and deceptions are many and are ingrained.

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    2. Well, that seems a pretty pompous response, Louis.

      We both need to support our assertions.

      I'll try to do so later.

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    3. OK, here is blunder 1, according to CH:

      Avise’s mental gymnastics are painful to watch. This blunder is consistent amongst evolutionists, but no less astonishing. First let’s consider the claim that natural selection means the origin of species wasn’t by chance. Imagine a friend wins a one-in-a-million jackpot at roulette, but he claims it wasn’t by chance because he also had some losing bets. On his losing bets he collected nothing, but on his winning bets collected his winnings. Isn’t that the very antithesis of chance?

      Of course not. This is a monumental blunder in thinking. Yes he doesn’t collect on his losing bets, and he does collect on his winning bets. But that does not change the fact that roulette is a game of chance. And it doesn’t change the fact that his beating the casino was unlikely.

      According to evolution biological variation is random with respect to need or purpose. Natural selection doesn’t change this. It kills off the bad designs, but winning designs are nonetheless constructed by random variation—they are by chance. Every mutation and recombination event leading to whales, cherry trees and humans was, according to evolution, random. Likewise every losing design is also by chance.

      In other words, some designs win and some designs lose. The process continues and the species evolve. But it is entirely by chance. The fact that some win and some lose doesn’t change this.


      Yes, it hugely "change[s] this". Take another example - radioactive decay. Whether or not an atom will decay or not is a paradigm example of "chance". It is simply not possible to predict when a specific atom will decay. And even if we use a Geiger counter to detect every decay event, given one event, we have no way of predicting when the next will occur. There could be a small temporal gap - or there could be a very large one. However, what we can do is compute a probability distribution, so that we can predict, with a high degree or confidence, how many decay events will occur over the next, say 24 hours, and then, over the next. Indeed we can compute the "half life" of the material to many decimal places. In other words, we can describe it as a "necessity" process in bulk, even though it is a pure "chance" process at the level of the individual atoms.

      To relate that back to biology, novel variants occur by "chance" processes, that might even involve quantum-level true "chance" events, but which also include the kind of unpredictable factors that we refer to as "chance" simply because they are too complex to map (as in "tossing a coin" - in fact, given enough data about the precise forces involved, we could predict a given coin toss very well - at the Newtonian level, a coin toss is not a "chance" process).

      However, given a bulk supply of "chance" variation, we can predict, with a high degree of confidence (although not as much as for radioactive half-life) that adaptation will occur given certain environmental constraints. This is why we are able to breed miniature poodles, for instance, or high-yield wheat.

      And why we can predict changes in, say, mean finch-beak sizes given a distribution of seed sizes.

      So, while "chance" is a somewhat loose word (and it is important not to equivocate with it, as I submit Cornelius is doing), it is perfectly reasonable to describe variance-generation as a "chance" process (unpredictable) and natural selection as a non-chance process (predictable).

      Although of course, there is a continuum, and, in addition, chance processes are rarely associated with flat probability distributions, and novel genetic variants are certainly not drawn from a flat probability distribution, something that most IDists totally fail to understand.

      More below.

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    4. Avise’s second argument is that chance is also removed from the process because it is on-going, producing new species which become the basis for further evolution. This argument is equally fallacious.

      A chance process that continues for awhile is still a chance process.

      The evolutionary process is still by chance. If a frog evolved from an earlier amphibian—such that the evolution of frogs was limited in its possibilities—that doesn’t change the fact that the process was, from the beginning, by chance.

      Every biological variation that occurs is random. Yes natural selection kills off the bad designs. And yes the process proceeds down certain pathways, producing certain species. But every species is produced by a series of random biological variations.

      The origin of species by chance is unlikely. It would require a long, long series of random mutations that just happens to construct an incredible biological design. And this would have to occur repeatedly, for all of biology’s amazing designs. And in each of these long series of random mutations, there would need to be a great many—mostly undiscovered and unknown—intermediate designs. And these intermediate designs would have to be helpful to the organism.


      Again, this is Cornelius's blunder, not Avises. In fact, Cornelius concedes that "the process proceeds down certain pathways, producing certain species." But he then asserts: "It would require a long, long series of random mutations that just happens to construct an incredible biological design", which suggests that he has not even understood the fundamentals evolutionary theory.

      First of all, variants are only "random" in the sense of being generated independently of their potential usefulness. They are not "random" in the sense of being drawn from a flat (equiprobable) distribution. An offspring's genome is far far more likely to be very like the parental genome(s) than very different. And, moreoever, similar genomes produce similar phenotypes, so viable parents (and parents are, by definition, viable) will tend, with a high degree of confidence to produce viable offspring. So "random" means: drawn from a distribution in which the most probable draws are similar in viability to the parent genome".

      Secondly, the series is not random (in the lay sense), partly because of the above (descendents tend to resemble their ancestors), and partly because of natural selection. Not only will offspring tend to resemble their parents, but the offspring with the most of their own offspring will tend to be as viable, or more viable, than their parent, again, by definition. This is not "chance". And so we do not have to posit a "long long series of random mutations that just happens to construct an incredible biological design". All we have to posit is what we actually do posit, that each new generation represents a biased sampling of the genome of the parental generation in favour of what works best in that environment. And if you repeat a biased sampling over and over again, where the bias is in favour of what works, then you are highly likely to "construct an incredible biological design". We know this is true because when we simulate the process in GAs we find exactly that - that the process continually surprises us with its apparent ingenuity in finding ways of thriving within the GA environment. And in any case, the theory can make very precise predictions which are confirmed by data, for example in Lenski's E coli studies (although be careful, which Cornelius isn't, about extrapolating from bacterial experiments, because bacteria do not speciate as they reproduce by cloning, and so genetic sequences are inherited wholesale).

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    5. Thus neither of Avise's alleged "blunders" are in fact "blunders" - what has happened is that Cornelius has, not for the first time, blundered by failing to understand the basics of evolutionary theory (or even, oddly given his background, of biology).

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  9. CH,

    I would just like to let you know that you have a new fan of your blog. Keep up the work.

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  10. God described His creation thusly:

    Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. ” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning —the third day. Gen 1:11-13.

    Obviously, if plants were created with their seeds in it then there must have been created at the beginning the cycle of life and death. So Avise should learn some real theology before he starts trying to understand how the creator creates. His ignorance of theology leads to an ignorance of science, the study of God's creation.

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  11. Peter Wadeck

    God described His creation thusly:


    All science so far!

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    1. 'All science so far!'

      Perhaps you would care to elaborate how atheism can ground science?

      The Great Debate: Does God Exist? - Justin Holcomb - audio of the 1985 debate available on the site
      Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
      http://theresurgence.com/2012/01/17/the-great-debate-does-god-exist

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