Monday, December 21, 2015

Get Rid of Evolution With This One Weird Trick

A Limited Time Offer

People have been begging me to tell them about this one weird trick to get rid of evolution. But up until now I have been hesitant. It’s almost too easy. Plus, getting rid of evolution would mean not having evolutionists around anymore, and what fun would that be? But now, for a limited time, you too can get rid of evolution with this one weird trick.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jason Rosenhouse: “I Think You Get the Idea”

The New Priesthood

I once heard an evolution professor insist that all of the biological evidences support and confirm the theory of evolution. Since then I found that this view occupies the consensus position. All of the findings in the life sciences are exactly what we would expect from an evolutionary perspective. You can see it everywhere from textbooks to evolutionary journal papers. A good recent example of this thinking comes from professor Jason Rosenhouse.

The idea that all of the biological evidences are exactly what evolution would expect is a misrepresentation of the science. The misrepresentation is striking given the extent to which the evidence contradicts evolutionary theory. You can see examples of these contradictions here.

It is important to understand that evolutionists are not merely saying their theory is an interesting idea that merits investigation. They are not merely saying their theory deserves to be considered or has some degree of merit. Such circumspect sentiment is not, and never has been, what evolutionary thought is about. Evolutionary thought is about high truth claims, with complete certainty, which contradict what we know about the world.

This cognitive dissonance is maintained by evolutionists using two moves. First, because evolution is taken to be true from the start (for non scientific reasons), the evidences naturally undergo interpretation and filtering.

The body of evidence, as understood by evolutionists, is what philosophers refer to as theory laden. For instance, contradictory evidences are often set aside. They may be viewed as incomplete, erroneous, not normative, or anomalous. One way or another they are not ready for prime time.

For example, evolutionists compare homologous genetic sequences between species to evaluate their evolutionary relationship. But the very act of comparing homologous sequences ignores, and filters out, the many sequences for which there is no homology.

The second move is to discount and delegitimize scientific objection as insignificant or nefarious. If you point out the many scientific problems with the Epicurean belief that chance events, coupled with natural laws, explain the origin of the world, then ironically the tables will be turned and you will be blamed for having the religious agenda.

Rosenhouse expresses these points, in typical fashion:

every scrap of evidence discovered by scientists points strongly in that direction [naturalism and evolution]. If evolution is false, for example, then it should have been trivially easy to disprove. And yet every scrap of data we have is consistent with what evolution tells us to expect.

Every scrap of evidence points strongly in the direction of naturalism and evolution? Even though I have seen such claims many times now, I still wince. They are, as they say, not even wrong. This is one of those rare times where superlatives really are appropriate. This is not just absurd, it is very absurd. Not just a misrepresentation but a perversion. Not just a lie, but a damn lie.

From the age-old evidence of breeding and twentieth century fly experiments to the more modern protein evolution studies and the violations of the common descent pattern across the species (a mere four of many examples), the “scraps” of evidence we actually have unequivocally do not point in the direction of naturalism and evolution.

This is simply a bald faced lie.

Rosenhouse then proceeds to discount the actual science as insignificant and merely the product of those religiously-driven creationists trying to prove their creator. What would evolutionists do without the Creationists?

Of course there is a reason for all the machinations. Evolutionists do not insist their modern-day Epicureanism is a fact, in spite of everything around us, without reason. Not surprisingly, that reason is really no different than that of the Epicureans. Modern thinkers have substantially elaborated on the theological details, but it boils down to religious beliefs about how a Creator would and should interact with the world.

First, if a creator were specifically design and create a world, it certainly would not look like this one. Beyond that, a truly great god would not use miracles anyway, and even if he would, the lowly things of this world are beneath his dignity to begin with. Furthermore science becomes impossible with an interventionist god.

The arguments go on and on, and they mandate a naturalistic origins. So not surprisingly, Rosenhouse explains that whatever concerns one might have with evolution, the real problem lies with the alternative:

For example, those biomolecular systems we were talking about never look quite so impressive after you study them in detail. … However superficially implausible they [the problems with evolution] seem, the only alternative on offer is much harder to believe.

After all, we just can’t really understand God:

Whatever mysteries you think you have found in the naturalistic view of life pale in comparison to what happens when you try to comprehend an entity with the attributes God is said to have.

For instance, how can God cause physical actions if he has no physical existence?

God is said to be mind without brain. For all the experience we have with actual minds and actual brains, that just looks like a contradiction in terms. God has no physical existence, yet acts of His will can cause whole universes with finely-tuned fundamental constants to appear where there was nothing before. How does He do that?

And what is the connection between His will and the creation of matter? Did you ever think of that?

What’s the connection between His will and the creation of matter? God knows what everyone is thinking at every moment of every day. How is that possible? How can he process and store all of that information? He exists “necessarily,” whatever that means, in contrast to the more mundane sort of existence we see all around us each day. I could go on multiplying the implausibilities, but I think you get the idea.

Yes, we certainly do get the idea. Evolutionists are driven by religious dogma in spite of the obvious evidence staring right at them. As even Rosenhouse must admit:

Personally, I find it incredible that the four fundamental forces of physics, operating from the moment after the Big Bang, could rearrange matter into everything that we see today. That unintelligent causes can ultimately lead to the creation of intelligent creatures, who can then rearrange matter and energy in clever ways, is, I entirely agree, hard to believe. And Darwinian evolution strains credulity as well. I am very sympathetic to the view that natural forces do not construct delicate, biomolecular machines.

But of course none of that matters because, after all, don’t forget the creationists. We must not allow God to interact with the world.

Young children are content with magical, supernatural explanations for things. But as we grow up most of us come to realize that invocations of God never really explain much of anything. They just create big mysteries where only small ones existed before.

Of course they are evolutionists, their religion requires it. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Evolution is a Scientific Fact: A Proposition

Evolutionists disagree amongst themselves about the theory of evolution but they agree about the fact of evolution. If there is one point of agreement within evolution-dom, it is that evolution is a scientific fact. A few years after Darwin died Joseph Le Conte explained that evolution is a law, not a theory, and it is a law to which every department of natural studies must adhere. It is not merely as certain as gravity, "Nay, it is far more certain." Similarly, Teilhard de Chardin maintained that "evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow—this is what evolution is."

In 1951 George G. Simpson wrote that there really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question, concluded Simpson, has been decisively answered in the affirmative. Scientist and social critic Ashley Montagu elevated evolution beyond all other theories. It was, according to Montagu, "the most thoroughly authenticated fact in the whole history of science."

In his biology textbook Neil Campbell informed the student that “The term theory is no longer appropriate except when referring to the various models that attempt to explain how life evolves … it is important to understand that the current questions about how life evolves in no way implies any disagreement over the fact of evolution.”

For Douglas Futuyma evolution “is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth’s revolution about the sun,” and Richard Lewontin says it is time “to state clearly that evolution is a fact.” Niles Eldredge claims that “Evolution is a fact as much as the idea that the earth is shaped like a ball.”

The National Academy of Sciences explains that in science the word “fact” can be used “to mean something that has been tested or observed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing or looking for examples. The occurrence of evolution in this sense is a fact. Scientists no longer question whether descent with modification occurred because the evidence supporting the idea is so strong.”

And Harvard's Ernst Mayr explained that the fact of evolution is so overwhelmingly established that it would be irrational to call it a theory.

That evolution is a scientific fact is an important claim. Let’s look at exactly what evolutionists are saying:

Evolution: For evolutionists this word refers to the idea that all the species arose via natural laws. God did not use miracles to create the biological world, instead everything arose by the play of the natural processes and laws we observe. Moths changing color or bacteria gain resistance to antibiotics do not constitute evolution. They are at best tiny examples of evolution. Such examples of adaptation do not prove evolution any more than a flat parking lot proves the flat earth theory. Evolution is a big theory.

Is: This evolutionary claim is not tentative. Evolutionists are not merely saying that some evidence supports their theory. They are not saying parts of evolution are true, or that evolution might be a fact. There is no wiggle room here. Evolution is a scientific fact.

Scientific: What type of fact is evolution? It is a scientific fact? This means that this conclusion is arrived at via logic. Scientific reasoning is, if anything, logical. Fallacies are rooted out and eliminated. And the evidence used in the reasoning is public. There is no private knowledge required to understand evolution and its status as a fact. Also, the premises of scientific reasoning are objective. There are no subjective axioms. One need not adhere to Buddhism or Baptism to understand and agree with scientific reasoning.

Fact: This word can mean different things to different people, but in this context evolutionists are quite clear about their usage. A favorite comparison, as demonstrated by Le Conte above, is with gravity. Evolution is a fact every bit as much as is gravity (or more so according to Le Conte). There’s not much nuance here. Sure evolution may not be true, but only in the sense that gravity might not be true. This existence could be a big dream, with none of what we experience being real. But aside from such Berkeleyan quandaries, we can count on the veracity of evolution.

Now that we understand just what evolutionists are claiming, what can we say about it? There is indeed much to say, but the most important observation that is immediately obvious from the evolution genre is that while evolutionists consistently make this claim, it is nowhere demonstrated.

To be sure evolution is often proved to be a fact, but in every case metaphysical premises are involved. If god wouldn’t have created the mosquito then yes, evolution in one form or another must be a fact. But such theological musings (yes, evolutionists really do assert this very premise) fall far outside of the objectivity criterion.

And while the evolution literature is often scientific, in those cases the theory is never shown to be a fact. This problem is not slight. It is not the case that evolution is quite convincing but just shy of fact-hood. Darwin’s theory, in whatever form it is presented, comes nowhere close to being a fact when we restrict the premises to the realm of empirical science. In fact—if we want to speak of facts—the fact is evolution is highly problematic.

For many years I have searched the evolution genre. I have scanned the journals and reviewed the texts. From Darwin and Le Conte to Carroll and Coyne, I have pored over the literature. I have nowhere found an exposition of this most important fact. I have seen evolution proven to be a fact, and I have seen evolution presented as science, but I have never seen evolution shown to be a scientific fact.

And so I have a proposition for evolutionists. Show me your fact and I will promote it. Explain why evolution is a scientific fact and I will retract my criticisms as unfounded. Back up your claim and I will be an evolutionist.

[Repost]

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Biologos and Science: The Case of the OOL

Evolution is at a Tipping Point

Evolutionists claim their theory is a fact and one way they support this claim is by construing the relationship between religion and science according to what is known as the Warfare Thesis, a mythological retelling of history where scientific skepticism is marginalized as anti intellectual. But the Warfare Thesis is more than merely a perversion of history. When Biologos appeals to the Galileo Affair, for example, to support its evolutionary beliefs it is propagating a false history, but the misrepresentations do not stop there. The Warfare Thesis also relies on a false witness of science.

The Galileo Affair is the posterchild of the Warfare Thesis myth. As the story goes, poor old Galileo was a great scientist just doing his job when, after inventing the telescope, discovered the Earth goes around the Sun and this led to a firestorm of religious opposition from biblical literalists who naively and dogmatically referred to those passages of Scripture that say the Sun revolves around the Earth, and all this led to merciless persecution, torture and imprisonment of Galileo.

Furthermore, just as the literalists opposed poor old Galileo in the seventeenth century, so too they are opposing the innocent evolutionists today. If you admit that Galileo was right about heliocentrism back then, then you must agree that evolutionists today are right about mutations creating the species. It is just good solid science at work.

But this is a false argument on every count. First, this retelling of the Galileo Affair that we hear so often today is all wrong. Galileo did not invent the telescope, he did not discover, or otherwise prove, heliocentrism, he was not just a humble scientist, the serious opposition and legal problems he faced did not stem from biblical literalists, the Scripture does not say the Sun revolves around the Earth, and Galileo was not tortured and did not go to jail.

Yes, there were those who viewed heliocentrism as violating scripture, but generally they were easily dissuaded. There was much more serious resistance that Galileo would face. For example, his ideas unquestionably violated Aristotelian physics and ideology which not only was still active but at times had been elevated practically to the status of official church doctrine. Furthermore (i) Galileo’s caustic personality, and his penchant for humiliating people and making enemies (including his one-time friend, the Pope), (ii) the fact that leading astronomers of the day by no means were in agreement on this cosmological question and often held to opposing views, and (iii) the turbulent politics of the day, all conspired to make the going tough for Galileo.

It is misleading and a misrepresentation of history to hold up the Galileo Affair as an example of biblical literalism opposing scientific progress. Yet there it is.

But false history is not the only fruit of the Warfare Thesis, it also leads to false science. Just as historians prevaricate on the history, scientists prevaricate on the science. Consider, for example, the origin of life (OOL) problem.

The spontaneous generation of life was once accepted, but Darwin contemporary Louis Pasteur demonstrated it does not happen. His Law of Biogenesis stated Omne vivum ex vivo (all life from life), and the burden of proof fell to the evolutionists to prove that over time evolution gets lucky, or that there was something different about the early Earth that changes the rules. Well the early Earth was indeed different, but not in ways that help evolution. And deep time doesn’t help either. Evolutionists have been trying to demonstrate the plausibility of life arising spontaneously, over millions of years, from non living chemicals for almost a century now with no luck. And luck is exactly what is needed, an astronomical amount of luck.

Evolutionists have explored every conceivable mechanism, and then some, to tackle the OOL problem. Perhaps life evolved in a warm little pond, or in bubbles, or in crystals, or at deep sea vents, or in clay, or by hypercycles, or from comets. Some have even said it must have been planted here by extra terrestrials because otherwise the OOL problem requires a miracle to solve.

Not only have evolutionists failed but we now have an enormous body of work confirming what common sense (and Pasteur) indicated all along—the most complicated thing in the universe probably didn’t arise spontaneously by chance events.

But none of this changed the evolutionist’s high claims that their idea is a fact, beyond all reasonable doubt. Scientific evidence didn’t seem to matter. In fact for many years evolutionists were not shy about claiming victory, in spite of the obvious failures. Mainstream evolutionists, organizations, and textbooks insisted the OOL problem was essentially solved, with only the details to be ironed out.

That, of course, was an enormous misrepresentation of science. More recently evolutionists have fortunately been more forthcoming about the empirical findings. They have agreed that the problem has not been solved, and that solutionists are not right around the corner.

For evolutionists that was quite a concession, but it did not change their overall truth claims. Evolution is still an undeniable fact and the misrepresentation is now at more of a philosophical level. This is obvious, for example, at the BioLogos presentation on the evidences for evolution. which makes this argument:

The fact that there is no answer today does not mean there will be no answer tomorrow. Though an explanation for the origin of life is currently elusive, this does not mean divine intervention is the only possible explanation.

The religious agenda is obvious. God must not be an intervening God—special divine action must not be allowed. The state of the art must not be reported as indicating any serious problem for OOL; rather, the problem merely has not yet been solved. This opens the door to scientific misrepresentations which come next:

Although we do not know the path that led to these early bacterial forms, it seems likely DNA had emerged as the information molecule by this time. Microbiologist and physicist Carl R. Woese suggests there was a considerable amount of lateral gene transfer among the first forms of bacteria called archaebacteria. Lateral gene transfer, which is the movement of genes from one bacterium to another, would have enabled the exchange of genetic material, and it would therefore expedite the process of diversification of biological function acted upon by natural selection.

Most in the BioLogos audience won’t recognize the falsehoods in these technical claims. It is easy to fudge the facts when no knows any better but these are, nonetheless, serious misrepresentations. No, it is not “likely” that “DNA had emerged as the information molecule by [a 100 million years of the Earth cooling].” That would be a tremendous breakthrough in OOL research if that were true.

But it isn’t true.

There is no experiment or even calculation show that this is likely. In fact it is the exact opposite. Such a scenario is not likely by today’s science, and that is one of the many problems for OOL.

Next, to say that Carl Woese called for “a considerable amount of lateral gene transfer” is another misrepresentation. Woese called for an entirely different scheme which might be called lateral gene transfer on steroids. This is important because Woese’s idea has no analog in reality. Nothing of the sort has ever been observed in the field or synthesized in the laboratory. What Woese needed was a fanciful world of communities of unicellular organisms which somehow spontaneously arose and then engaged in a highly organized, complex process of sharing genetic material which, if not carefully controlled, would have wreaked havoc even if it somehow could have arisen spontaneously (for which Woese presented no evidence).

The article concludes with more philosophical and fallacious misrepresentations:

Life on this Earth appeared approximately 3.85 billion years ago, yet serious scientific study of its origins began just 60 years ago. A convincing scientific explanation may still emerge in the next 50 years.

Question: What do 3.85 billion, 60, and 50 have to do with each other? Or more to the point, why would an older event require more time to figure out? Would the OOL problem be easier if it was supposed to have occurred 1 billion years ago? And why is 110 years required to solve the problem rather than 60?

The answer, of course, is that this is simply more machinations to avoid the clear and obvious fact that the scientific state of the art does not support evolution. Another machination is the use of false dichotomies:

it is dangerously presumptuous to conclude the origin of life is beyond discovery in the scientific realm simply because we do not currently have a convincing scientific explanation. Although the origin of life is certainly a genuine scientific mystery, this is not the place for thoughtful people to wager their faith.

Wager their faith? Beyond discovery? Dangerously presumptuous? These warnings speak volumes for here we have a window into evolutionary thought. We must be evolutionists for otherwise we would be lost in a world of fideism where one’s very faith is staked to scientific failure. No wonder evolutionists are committed naturalists—their religion depends on it.

Finally, there is the ultimate argument which firewalls OOL off from evolution.

Finally, as a purely technical matter, the theory of evolution does not propose an explanation to the question of the origin of life at all. The theory of evolution becomes relevant only after life has already begun

As if sensing a problem, and just in case we were beginning to have doubts, we are told to forget about the whole thing. Forget about all those journals, conferences, textbook claims about the origin of life, popular books and newspaper articles, speeches and blogs. It all has nothing to do with evolution after all.

Evolutionists believe that the species, life, the Earth and planets, the Sun, the galaxies, yes the entire universe arose by chance events. There is no limit to what evolution can create, but when problems arise, the topic is simply dismissed as extraneous to the theory.

The fact, which evolutionists are at pains to avoid, is that OOL research has not merely failed to find a solution. It has positively succeeded in scientifically demonstrating that such a solution is unlikely. That is, according to today’s state of the art. Could that all change with future findings? Of course. Are philosophical end-arounds available such as redefining “evolution,” or invoking the anthropic principle and multiverse? Again, of course. But none of this changes the scientific facts.

Evolution is at a tipping point. In recent years evolutionists have increasingly had to admit that OOL research has not succeeded. The problem has not been solved save for a few minor details. Nor is there an obvious solution just around the corner.

But what evolutionists have not admitted to is what this implies about the fact of evolution. Evolution never was a fact and evolutionist’s insistence that it is has always been metaphysical. But the OOL problem is a good case study to make this crystal clear. It is abundantly obvious, to any objective observer, that evolution is not a fact. But evolutionists will not go there. At least not yet.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

BioLogos: Ex YEC Tells All

From the Frying Pan to the Fire

Movements need converts and evolutionists are now revealing yet another ex young Earth creationist who has seen the light. Growing up he was an enthusiastic apologist for creationism. As a teenager he spread the word on the radio and made trips to Kentucky to work with Ken Ham’s young-earth creationism (YEC) organization. He believed YEC was the only acceptable interpretation of the Bible. Without it he would lose his faith.

When he went to college for his biology degree his parents thought the teaching might sway him to evolution. But instead, he became even more convinced. His conversion to evolution would come later, when he went to seminary.

It was then that he realized the scriptures presented a far grander story and that evolution revealed a greater god. It was invigorating think of science as exploring the unknown and God became all the more wondrous. Science provided the mechanism by which life develops, and religion provided the agency behind the mechanism. It all fit so well. Science and religion were not in opposition, but rather complemented each other.

He also realized that it is a dangerous fallacy to demand that evolution provide answers to every possible question. Just because evolution cannot explain every detail does not mean it is false. And in fact evolution does provide good answers based on solid scientific research.

That, in a nutshell is the evolution story. It is the story of one man’s journey to Epicureanism, but it is also the story of countless others, including Charles Darwin. The road goes through religion, not science. It was the seminary rather than the biology degree that convinced the young man that the world arose spontaneously. It is not science, but religion that drives men to absurdity. And once there, it seems so right. After all, it makes for a more wondrous theology and it frees up our scientific inquiry. Epicureanism is needed for both God and man.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Dark Proteome and Dark Evolution

Evolution Did It

A new PNAS paper published last week on the dark proteome has some interesting implications for the theory of evolution. The paper presents a survey of protein sequences, focusing on the many sequences for which the corresponding three dimensional protein structure is not known, and cannot be inferred from any remotely similar sequence. Why is this so-called “dark proteome” so large? The survey finds that the various hypotheses to explain this—that the dark proteins are intrinsically disordered, or their sequences are compositionally biased, or they are transmembrane proteins, all reasons that can confound structure determination—don’t work very well. The paper concludes that “a surprisingly large fraction of dark proteins … cannot be easily accounted for by these conventional explanations.” And not surprisingly, these dark proteins are less common across the species. So where did all these dark protein sequences come from? Well evolution did it. As the paper explains, “dark proteins may be newly evolved proteins or rare proteins adapted to specific functional niches.”

We might call this dark evolution. Once again, the pattern is not one of common descent, but of unique structures.

The results also have implications for the so-called orphans, open reading frames found only in a particular species. Such genetic sequences contradict evolution and when they were first discovered evolutionists predicted they would be found in other species as more genomes were decoded. Instead the number of orphans just continued to grow.

Evolutionists next predicted that orphan sequences were probably not part of a mature protein coding gene and did not form functional proteins. That has not been found to be true, and this new survey provides further evidence for this. As the authors conclude, “Thus, our results suggest that many of the uncharacterized orphan sequences … are indeed real proteins.”

Protein science, however, is clear that blind mutations cannot form real proteins this fast from scratch (or at all for that matter). Hence we must believe that built-in cellular processes must have created these proteins—processes that are complex and require, among other things, proteins.

Real ones.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Metaphysics From John Ray to Nima Arkani-Hamed

An Ad Hoc, Capricious Creation

When John Ray refused to conform to the 1662 Act of Uniformity—aimed mainly at the Puritans—and so was forced to leave his position at Cambridge University, he roamed Europe for three years doing what he loved: observing nature. Ray and his companions were in for a surprise: unfathomable diversity. They found thousands of different kinds of insects, animals and plants. Every place had a different flora and fauna, and with different interactions. Life did not seem to follow the kind of compact formulas Isaac Newton was discovering for the new physics. With the overthrow of Aristotelianism, physics was becoming more parsimonious in line with Occam’s Razor. But biology was headed in the opposite direction. Were all these organic life forms and their detailed life histories really necessary? Ralph Cudworth had warned that the immense details of the world, while refuting Descartes’ rejection of final causes, were surely beneath the sovereign Creator’s dignity, and Ray’s three-year tour upped the ante. The Infra Dignitatem argument for a less hands-on creation story was born. There must have been something between the majestic Creator and this ad hoc, capricious, gritty creation. Like the Gnostics, the Aristotle of England, who would also become the father of natural theology, called for a separation between the Creator and the world.

The ancient Greeks described the cosmos as a set of concentric spheres that rotated and rubbed against each other producing harmonious tones. We have always wanted a simple, beautiful world. Certainly that is what God would have wanted too. But nature has not lived up to our expectations.

In fact ever since Newton, physics has been backsliding and becoming increasingly complex. All this was well explained in a Quanta magazine article from last week about leading physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed:

in recent years one question about the universe has come to preoccupy him, along with the field as a whole. Particle physicists seek to know whether the properties of the universe are inevitable, predictable, “natural,” as they say, locking together into a sensible pattern, or whether the universe is extremely unnatural, a peculiar permutation among countless other, more mundane possibilities, observed for no other reason than that its special conditions allow life to arise. A natural universe is, in principle, a knowable one. But if the universe is unnatural and fine-tuned for life, the lucky outcome of a cosmic roulette wheel, then it stands to reason that a vast and diverse “multiverse” of universes must exist beyond our reach — the lifeless products of less serendipitous spins. This multiverse renders our universe impossible to fully understand on its own terms. As things stand, the known elementary particles, codified in a 40-year-old set of equations called the “Standard Model,” lack a sensible pattern and seem astonishingly fine-tuned for life. Arkani-Hamed and other particle physicists, guided by their belief in naturalness, have spent decades devising clever ways to fit the Standard Model into a larger, natural pattern. But time and again, ever-more-powerful particle colliders have failed to turn up proof of their proposals in the form of new particles and phenomena, increasingly pointing toward the bleak and radical prospect that naturalness is dead.

Like Ray’s seventeenth century findings about biology, today’s physicists are finding what seems to be a capricious creation. There is no natural explanation as the world seems to consist of a long list of ad hoc, randomly selected designs. One thing they know for sure: no creator would have done this. It must have arisen by chance.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Evolution’s Junk Science at the University of Maine

It’s Not About Science

Thinking about taking CHY 431—Structure and Mechanism in Biological Chemistry next semester at the University of Maine? If so you likely will be fed junk evolutionary science like this page:


The page compares the amino acid sequences from the protein cytochrome c across 38 different species. A few of the residues are conserved across all 38 species. For example, position 10 consistently has the amino acid phenylalanine. And what’s the conclusion?  That “Clearly, evolution selects against any change at these positions.”

Clearly?

Actually this evolutionary reasoning has long since been demonstrated to be false with another, even more highly conserved protein—histone IV. If this was about science then students would at least learn what the observations, rather than the dogma, have to say.

Furthermore, the idea that the cytochrome c proteins from all of these species (from cows and ducks to yeast, fungus and bacteria) are related via common descent means that evolution must have created cytochrome c very early in evolutionary history. Certainly earlier than the advent of the electron transport chain (ETC) for which cytochrome c plays an important role. In other words, random mutations somehow created cytochrome c (a feat which itself has no scientific explanation), and then eons later the protein just happened to fit in with one of the most fantastic inventions in all of biology.

The serendipity is astonishing.

Later the page discusses the cytochrome c sequence positions that are highly variable. Here the student is told that “evolutionary drift randomizes these residues.” This is unfortunately yet more evolutionary dogma. In fact there is no scientific evidence that these residues have been “randomized.” That notion comes from the belief that evolution is true, in spite of the science. It may be true that those positions are neutral with respect to function and so can be “randomized,” but that is hardly obvious. Evolution has a long history of claiming structures are random and useless junk, only later to be corrected by scientific findings of function.

Finally the page compares the evolutionary tree based on the cytochrome c protein sequences with the traditional evolutionary tree and makes the ridiculously false claim that “Such trees tend to agree closely with those constructed by evolutionary biologists using morphological data, and provide independent evidence of common descent.”

In fact such trees often do not agree closely with trees based on morphological data. The differences are so significant that they cannot be explained merely as evolutionary “noise.” Therefore by modus tollens, according to the page’s own logic, the science falsifies common descent. No sense in telling the students about that though.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Yockey and a Calculator Versus Evolutionists

Zero Probability is Not a Problem

In a 1977 paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, Hubert Yockey used information theory to evaluate the likelihood of the evolution of a relatively simple protein. Yockey’s model system was cytochrome c, a protein consisting of about one hundred amino acids. Cytochrome c plays an important role in the mitochondria’s electron transport chain (ETC) which helps to convert the chemical energy in carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds, in the food we eat, to an electrochemical potential energy in the form of hydrogen ions (or protons) stored within the mitochondria’s inner membrane. Like water pressing against a dam and turning its turbines to generate electricity, the high-concentration hydrogen ions drive the ATP synthase “turbine” to create the high-energy ATP molecule. Like the electrical outlets in your house, the ATP molecule provides a standardized form of energy that is used for a wide range of applications in your body, such as muscle contraction and nerve signals. There is no scientific explanation for how the ETC evolved. There also is no scientific explanation for how a single protein, such as cytochrome c, evolved. Yockey explained this in 1977, and since then the problem has only gotten worse.

Given 20 different amino acids to choose from, then for a protein with a sequence of 101 amino acids, such as cytochrome c, there are 20 raised to the power of 101, or 20^101, different possible amino acid sequences. That represents an astronomically (and impossible) number of sequences for evolution to search through to find a functional cytochrome c protein.

The problem is more complicated than this, however, since the different amino acids are not equally likely and there are many different sequences that will form a functional cytochrome c protein.

Yockey accounts for these factors to determine the effective number of sequences evolution would have to search through to find cytochrome c. For instance, Yockey uses the known cytochrome c proteins at the time, from many different species, to get an idea of the different amino acids that are possible at each position, within the sequence of 101 residues. Some residues allow for quite a few different amino acids while others seem to be more stringent.

This approach is reasonable, but by no means the only way of estimating the number of different amino acid sequences that could work. One way or another, the bottom line is this: while the number of different sequences that could form a successful type of protein, such as cytochrome c, is a pretty big number, it doesn’t solve the problem.

Yockey found that the probability of evolution finding the cytochrome c protein sequence is about one in 10^64. That is a one followed by 64 zeros—an astronomically large number. He concluded in the peer-reviewed paper that the belief that proteins appeared spontaneously “is based on faith.”

Indeed, Yockey’s early findings are in line with, though a bit more conservative than, later findings. A 1990 study of a small, simple protein found that 10^63 attempts would be required for evolution to find the protein.

A 2004 study found that 10^64 to 10^77 attempts are required, and a 2006 study concluded that 10^70 attempts would be required.

These requirements dwarf the resources evolution has at its disposal. Even evolutionists have had to admit that evolution could only have a maximum of 10^43 such experiments. It is important to understand how tiny this number is compared to 10^70. 10^43 is not more than half of 10^70. It is not even close to half. 10^43 is an astronomically tiny sliver of 10^70.

Furthermore, the estimate of 10^43 is, itself, entirely unrealistic. For instance, it assumes the entire history of the Earth is available, rather than the limited time window that evolution actually would have had. And it assumes the pre existence of bacteria and, yes, proteins. In fact, the evolutionists assumed the earth was covered with bacteria, and each bacteria was full of proteins. That of course is not an appropriate assumption for the question of how proteins could have evolved in the first place. In fact, it is circular.

Of course the evolution of a single protein is only one of many problems for evolution. Consider, for example, the cellular apparatus that constructs proteins—the protein synthesis machinery. One paper used a back-of-the-envelope, simple and conservative calculation to show that the probability of such an apparatus evolving by chance is one in 10^1018. That’s a one followed by 1,018 zeros. Normally in science this would be considered far beyond impossible, so therefore evolutionists are considering an infinite universe, or multiverse, to solve the problem. In such a universe, it does not matter how improbable any event is, it will eventually occur:

Origin of life is a chicken and egg problem: for biological evolution that is governed, primarily, by natural selection, to take off, efficient systems for replication and translation are required, but even barebones cores of these systems appear to be products of extensive selection. The currently favored (partial) solution is an RNA world without proteins in which replication is catalyzed by ribozymes and which serves as the cradle for the translation system. However, the RNA world faces its own hard problems as ribozyme-catalyzed RNA replication remains a hypothesis and the selective pressures behind the origin of translation remain mysterious. Eternal inflation offers a viable alternative that is untenable in a finite universe … In an infinite universe (multiverse), emergence of highly complex systems by chance is inevitable. Therefore, under this cosmology, an entity as complex as a coupled translation-replication system should be considered a viable breakthrough stage for the onset of biological evolution.

There you have it. Probabilities don’t matter. You can point out how unlikely evolution is, and evolution remains a fact. Science is done by people, and people seek certain answers, regardless of the data.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Evolutionists: We Now Have Empirical Evidence For the Evolution of Kin Recognition

Here We Go Again

In a new study out of the University of Liverpool evolutionists now say they have found empirical evidence that a genetic complex, involving dozens of protein-coding genes related to altruism, can evolve. Such a finding would be truly ground-breaking given that, at least up until now, the evolution of even a single protein has been found to be scientifically unlikely. It would be astonishing if now evolutionists have overturned a substantial body of work establishing molecular evolution to be effectively impossible. But of course evolutionists have done no such thing. There was no finding of molecular evolution, no new proteins or genes, no empirical evidence, nothing. Just another ridiculous claim made by evolutionists. It’s the same old pattern—evolutionists look at profoundly complicated biological structures, assume they evolved, and then claim they have found evidence of evolution.

Altruistic behavior creates many problems for evolution. You can see my explanation of some of them here. One problem I did not explain was the starting point: kin recognition. As I explain, evolutionists unsuccessfully tried to explain altruism using the concept of kin selection, and while that creates many scientific problems, you can’t even get to kin selection without kin recognition. How do animal siblings or cousins recognize each other.

The new study out of the University of Liverpool has found a genetic basis for kin recognition. It is a genetic complex of a couple dozen protein-coding genes and the problems with this are several.

First, it means that kin selection hinges on several proteins working together. Evolving a single protein is, from a scientific perspective, so unlikely as to be effectively impossible. But here evolution needs several proteins. Evolve just one protein and you still don’t have kin recognition. You would have to evolve several others, so the problem is even more difficult.

Second, the genetic cluster is species-specific. Apparently there is no common kin recognition mechanism across the vertebrates as evolutionists had assumed. Of course evolutionists had assumed this, for to have different mechanisms, particular to species or groups of species, would make their theory even more absurdly improbable. Kin recognition would have to re-evolve, in various ways, over and over. Well that is exactly what this new finding is suggesting. As usual, biology shows specific, particular, solutions that are unique to one or a few species, rather than falling into the expected common descent pattern.

Once again, common descent fails to serve as a useful guide. And once again evolutionists, in spite of the science, claim more proof for their theory.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Seth Shostak: Just Add Water

Not Even Wrong

In a recent KCBS radio interview about his work for the search for extraterrestrial life, the Center for SETI research Director Seth Shostak repeatedly made claims about the simplicity of life. “Life is just chemistry,” Shostak informed interviewer Jeff Bell. Shostak elaborated that life is merely a collection of big molecules and that “You’re nothing more than that.” This just-add-water view of life is one of the many consequences of evolutionary theory and is so far from science that there is no point in even issuing a rebuttal. It is another example of metaphysics posing as science and making absurd statements with a straight face.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

BioLogos: Fundamentalists Were Wrong About Galileo, So They’re Also Wrong About Darwin

A Flawed History



It is one thing to point out particular conflicts between religion and science, it is quite another to characterize broadly the relationship between religion and science as one of conflict. The former is simply recognizing realities, the latter is the failed view known as the Conflict or Warfare Thesis. Certainly there are some genuine conflicts that arise from certain religious sects or traditions, but historically the relationship between religion and science is far more complicated than simply an on-going conflict. The BioLogos organization is very much concerned with this conflict, but they point out that they are careful to avoid the Warfare Thesis. Unfortunately this claim depends on a carefully crafted definition of the Warfare Thesis.

What is the Warfare Thesis?

The Warfare Thesis is bad history, but ironically too often the Warfare Thesis itself is the victim of bad history. Proponents of the Warfare Thesis are not necessarily atheists as they are sometimes portrayed. Nor do proponents of the Warfare Thesis necessarily see religion and science as mortal enemies, locked in an inevitable and necessary conflict. Like any broad movement the Warfare Thesis occupies a spectrum of views. From Voltaire and Edward Gibbon, to Hume, Kant, Washington Irving, Antoine-Jean Letronne, Thomas H. Huxley, John William Draper, Andrew Dickson White, and the many twentieth century proponents, the Warfare Thesis has had a wide variety of inputs and influences. Within its ranks one can find theists, agnostics and atheists. A common thread, however, is not the identification of conflict between religion and science so much as between fundamentalist religion and science. The problem lies with those scriptural literalists who can’t, or won’t, understand poetry or nuance in God’s word. Religion, once loosened from the fundamentalist grip, can take on its proper role. One of the Warfare Thesis strongest exponents, Andrew Dickson White, made this quite clear:

My belief is that in the field left to them—their proper field—the clergy will more and more, as they cease to struggle against scientific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And this is saying much. My conviction is that Science, though it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on biblical texts and ancient modes of thought, will go hand in hand with Religion; and that, although theological control will continue to diminish, Religion, as seen in the recognition of “a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness,” and in the love of God and of our neighbor, will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the American institutions of learning but in the world at large.

This religious sentiment was nowhere better illustrated than in the final scene of Inherit the Wind (click video above) which has the fictional character Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow and played by actor Spencer Tracy) paying respects to his now deceased courtroom opponent, Matthew Harrison Brady (based on William Jennings Bryan and played by actor Fredric March).

Such sentimentalism does not sit well with atheist journalist E. K. Hornbeck (based on H. L. Mencken and played by actor Gene Kelly). Drummond quotes Scripture from memory and laments that “A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for God too high up and too far away.”

Hornbeck cries foul: “You hypocrite. You fraud. The atheist who believes in God,” but he is easily vanquished by the wiser Drummond who excoriates Hornbeck and his shallow skepticism. Hornbeck retreats from the courtroom while Drummond thoughtfully weighs his law book in one hand and the Bible in the other hand. He places the Good Book on top and victoriously walks out the other door to the rising crescendo of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Inherit the Wind is a classic staging of the Warfare Thesis. The ultimate target of Jerome Lawrence’s and Robert Lee’s script was McCarthyism and its witch hunts, but it was its weapon of choice—the Warfare Thesis—that made the play, and its many stagings and screenings, so popular.

And just as the Warfare Thesis is constructed from a false history, so too is Inherit the Wind based on a fictional retelling of the famous 1925 Monkey Trial. The historical furniture is rearranged to convey a false message of conflict, and yet the script is routinely held up as a cogent and accurate message for today. Such is the power of the enduring Warfare Thesis mythology.

So the Warfare Thesis is not an atheistic mission. Nor is it an attack on all things religious. Rather it is a religious view that seeks a harmonization which avoids the pitfalls of literalism and recognizes the advances of science. That may sound good, but in its attack on fundamentalism it fails to appreciate the complex relationship between religion and science. Religion, for example, can provide useful ideas to science and it can guiding restraints. The influence may or may not be cooperative, but it often is subtle and complicated.

What is BioLogos?

BioLogos is many things, but regarding the religion and science, BioLogos is concerned about conflicts. And not just any conflicts. President Deborah Haarsma recently reiterated BioLogos’ long-standing concern with Christians who do not accept the fact of evolution. Meanwhile Senior Editor Jim Stump expresses concern that design advocates are misleading people in areas such as climate change and vaccines.

These are all classic Warfare Thesis topics. They are politically, economically and metaphysically laden areas where the science is easily influenced by non scientific factors. Consider vaccines, for example, a topic that comes right out of Andrew Dickson White’s work. The facts are that vaccines provide varying levels of immunity at the very remote risk of injury. The details vary with the vaccine but, in general, patients are faced with a risk-reward tradeoff for which there is no scientific formula. Unfortunately the whole area has become politically charged and accurate statistics can be difficult to obtain. Even the mention of risk, which is a scientific fact, is too often met with disdain. It is the height of scientism—a spin-off of the Warfare Thesis—to argue that science dictates the answer. This is a human decision.

One of BioLogos’ arguments for its position is that it is following in the tradition of Copernicus and Galileo who advocated heliocentrism against scriptural opposition. Is it not obvious that Christians were right to alter their interpretation of biblical verses suggesting geocentrism, such as Psalm 104:5, Joshua 10:12-13 and Ecclesiastes 1:5.

The answer, of course, is “yes.” And for most such a modification was not difficult since it was doctrinally inconsequential. Indeed, most of Galileo’s opposition had little or no problem with such modifications and the scriptural questions were not high on his list of disputes he had to deal with.

Furthermore, when the perspective of those verses is understood (or as we say in science, the “reference frame”), there is no contradiction with heliocentrism. Galileo had plenty of political opposition, and he created much of it with his overbearing personality, but in his favor he had empirical evidences that were fairly suggestive of heliocentrism.

This is not analogous to today’s Warfare Thesis situation. The science does not at all suggest that the species arose spontaneously. We can argue over how unlikely this is, but BioLogos argues it is a fact. And as with all evolutionists, their confidence comes from the metaphysics, not the science. There are many proofs of evolution, but there is no scientific argument that supports the evolutionist’s claim that evolution is a fact. That is not my opinion, that is a fact of the literature.

Likewise, to compare the politically-charged man-made global warming theory with Galileo and heliocentrism is an insult to the great scientist and the theory he championed. Thoughtful commentators such as Matt Ridley have explained the non scientific influences on AGW, but the myth of certainty persists. This is not to say AGW is not true, perhaps it is. But we are far from knowing what its proponents proclaim as undeniable truth, and that is the point. The truth claims reveal that it isn’t about the science.

I tried to explain these issues at the BioLogos website. The website’s rule is the comments are closed after four days of inactivity. In this case, however, the evolutionists suddenly changed the rule and closed the discussion after a criticism of my points.

BioLogos is certainly on target to argue that scientific findings need to be acknowledged and recognized. And BioLogos obviously rejects the over-the-top atheistic versions of the Warfare Thesis. But that doesn’t change the fact that BioLogos’ support for non scientific mandates falls right into the Warfare Thesis tradition.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Evolutionists Have a Brand New Theory

The Philosopher is Dead, Long Live the Philosopher

For a theory that is supposed to be scientific, and therefore not teleological, evolution certainly does have its share of Aristotelian commitments. In fact, the Philosopher seems to be present at every turn in evolutionary thought. Consider the latest thinking from evolutionists—a brand new theory formulated to replace the last brand new theory which, not surprisingly, failed just as badly as the previous theories. The new one is called the extended evolutionary synthesis. First there was evolution. Then there was the evolutionary synthesis. Now there is the extended evolutionary synthesis. Well at least this one affords evolutionists a three-letter acronym. Here is how evolutionists describe it (as usual, watch for the infinitive form):

the EES regards the genome as a sub-system of the cell designed by evolution to sense and respond to the signals that impinge on it. Organisms are not built from genetic ‘instructions’ alone, but rather self-assemble using a broad variety of inter-dependent resources. Even where there is a history of selection for plasticity, the constructive development perspective entails that prior selection underdetermines the phenotypic response to the environment.

Designed by evolution? To sense and respond? Organisms self-assemble? This isn’t science, this is absurdity.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Warfare Thesis and BioLogos

Hindsight is 20/20

Today professor Ted Davis, historian and Fellow at the BioLogos Foundation, explains why BioLogos does not promote the Warfare Thesis. Davis explains that just because the Warfare Thesis (the claim that Christianity often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances) is wrong doesn’t mean there aren’t real conflicts here and there. Davis points to geocentrism and the young-earth beliefs as examples of legitimate conflicts between religion and science. Davis’ point is that while the overarching model of Warfare between religion and science is flawed, there certainly are particular conflicts. So while we need to clarify the failure of the Warfare Thesis, we must not over compensate. We must not reject any and all conflicts as unreal:

My first goal in writing for BioLogos is to get the history right, in all of its complexity. If we want to overthrow the Warfare Thesis (and all of my work is aimed at doing just that), we can’t be replacing it with an equally inaccurate, sanitized view of things.

It was precisely this error that I fell into when I claimed that BioLogos promotes the Warfare Thesis, according to Davis. Davis says that I have a “Misunderstanding of the History of Science and Religion.” After all, BioLogos’ position today is comparable to Galileo’s position four centuries ago when he advocated heliocentrism.

Davis makes many good points, not the least of which is that the history of the interaction between science and religion is a complicated one. The Warfare Thesis is obviously flawed, but nonetheless there certainly have been, and remain today, areas of conflict. That is an important point that I have made many, many times. It is central to this blog and the recent posts (here, here and here) about BioLogos make this very point. Therefore it is a bit perplexing that Davis can, nonetheless, find what would be a sophomoric mistake:

What he fails to understand—or at least, what he fails to tell his readers—is that we historians continue to think there are some instances of genuine conflict between science and religion

Of course there is genuine conflict between science and religion. But how did Davis miss my telling my readers about it? For instance, one post explains that “Evolution was never about the science, but rather is motivated and justified by, yes, religious beliefs. That is abundantly documented, from Leibniz to Darwin to Coyne.” Another post gives this explanation:

evolutionary thinking is obvious in ancient Epicureanism, but its resurgence in the seventeenth century was almost exclusively the work of Christian thinkers. Descartes, Malebranche, Cudworth, Ray, Burnet, Leibniz and Wolfe are good examples of how widespread was the movement within Christian thought, and of how varied were the arguments for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. These Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans agreed that the world must have arisen by natural causes. The common theme was that the arguments were theological and philosophical (i.e., metaphysical rather than scientific). These mandates for naturalism increased and by the nineteenth century were the received truths for progressives. This was the culture Charles Darwin was born into and his book applied these arguments for naturalism to the problem of the origins of the species. Darwin’s thought—from his early notebooks, to Origins, to his later works and autobiography—was thoroughly metaphysical. God must have created via law not miracle and, ever since Darwin, Christians have embraced this belief just as strongly as the pre Darwin Christians had promoted it. … In fact, from a strictly scientific perspective, a naturalistic origins fares no better than a perpetual motion machine. The clear message of science, then and now, is that the world did not likely arise spontaneously.

If that isn’t conflict between science and religion then what is?

But Davis seeks to defend the BioLogos evolutionists and clear BioLogos of the Warfare Thesis. One way to do this is to label any such criticism as a na├»ve misunderstanding—a failure to understand genuine conflicts. To identify BioLogos with the Warfare Thesis is to deny the existence of any legitimate conflicts between religion and science, because BioLogos is doing nothing more than pointing those out.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. BioLogos is not merely pointing out some particular, current examples of religious resistance to science. Instead, BioLogos fits precisely into, yes, the Warfare Thesis.

BioLogos advocates the spontaneous origins of the world (i.e., evolution according to chance plus natural law), claims that this evolutionary conviction is a compelling, empirical scientific conclusion, and then accuses skeptical Christians of using their religion to oppose science. This is precisely the argument of the Warfare Thesis. And like earlier Warfare Thesis proponents, they (i) appeal to Galileo, as though that brings some justification and (ii) seek a “harmonization” in which today’s Epicureanism determines the facts, and skepticism is demoted to mere feeling and faith. Where it counts, this is no different than yesterday’s Warfare Thesis.

But in fact evolutionary thought is soaking in religious influence. Theological proofs are what motivate and justify evolutionary thought—they are at its foundation. Evolutionists, from the seventeenth century to today, have made that abundantly clear. And they use the Warfare Thesis claim the high ground of science and blame the other guy for what they do.

It is easy to look back to centuries past and see the error of those who have come before. It is more difficult to see that same error today. But we must if we are to educate ourselves and avoid such recurring errors. As a previous post explained:

So whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionists were clear about their metaphysical assumptions and how those assumptions mandated naturalism, today’s evolutionists obfuscate their message with the Warfare Thesis. They make the same non biblical, theological and philosophical arguments for evolution in their apologetic literature. But then argue that their proofs are scientific, not metaphysical, and claim their skeptics are the ones with the bad science and bad religion.

The Warfare Thesis is not merely something from long ago. It is not a problem from the past that we have now fixed. It is inherent in our modern day Epicureanism, and it won’t go away until we recognize it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Here is How BioLogos Promotes the Warfare Thesis

Just Like Huxley and White

The “Warfare Thesis” is an overly simplistic and downright mythological view of the relationship between religion and science. It models the relationship as one of conflict, with religion dogmatically resisting science’s inconvenient findings, such as evolution, while science objectively pursues the truth. But the Warfare Thesis is not opposed to religion. Early exponents such as Thomas H. Huxley and Andrew Dickson White were often friends with religion. Huxley was sympathetic to the Church of England and White spoke well of Christianity. Far from wishing to injure Christianity, White wrote that he hoped to promote it; at least, his favored version of Christianity. White's target were those “mediaeval conceptions of Christianity.” Once this “dogmatic theology” is excised all would be well:

My belief is that in the field left to them—their proper field—the clergy will more and more, as they cease to struggle against scientific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And this is saying much. My conviction is that Science, though it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on biblical texts and ancient modes of thought, will go hand in hand with Religion; and that, although theological control will continue to diminish, Religion, as seen in the recognition of “a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness,” and in the love of God and of our neighbor, will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the American institutions of learning but in the world at large.

In other words, rightly understood science and religion should divide along the fact-faith split. Science gives us facts while religion gives us faith and feelings. This was the implicit message of the closing scene of Inherit The Wind which had Clarence Darrow (Spencer Tracy) clutching a Bible after demolishing William Jennings Bryan’s (Fredric March) belief that the Bible gives us facts, as well as faith. The message was not to reject religion, but to keep it in its place. Of course Darrow was not a Christian, and he never defeated Bryan. But the Warfare Thesis never was about truth.

So while the Warfare Thesis speaks of conflict between science and religion, it also seeks harmony between science and religion. The difference is in the religion. Religion needs to accommodate science’s new truths and restrict itself to faith and feelings. That will lead to harmony but otherwise there is conflict.

Nowhere is this more evident today than at BioLogos where, for example in a recent post, President Deborah Haarsma expressed concern that Bethel College has decided that its faculty ought not to be advocating the view that God used evolution to create the first humans. The concern at BioLogos is that such a decision “effectively sets faith commitments in opposition to clear scientific evidence [for the evolution of humans] in God’s creation.”

This is the Warfare Thesis. Religion is in conflict with “science” and that is a problem.

But of course elsewhere BioLogos calls for harmony as they invite “the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation,” and provide “5 Reasons the Church Should Embrace Science.”

This too is the Warfare Thesis. Religion is in conflict with “science” and the solution is to acquiesce and retreat to the realm of faith and feelings.

The Warfare Thesis is based on the erroneous equating of evolution as empirical science. Evolution was never about the science, but rather is motivated and justified by, yes, religious beliefs. That is abundantly documented, from Leibniz to Darwin to Coyne. The claim that science has arrived at Epicureanism is simply absurd. The fact is, Epicureanism has arrived at Epicureanism. Evolutionary thought is thoroughly ensconced in metaphysics. There are no scientific proofs for the spontaneous origin of the species, they are theological and philosophical.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jim Stump: “I almost felt sorry for design advocates”

F6 Thinking

In his recent review of Benjamin Jantzen’s Introduction to Design Arguments (Cambridge University Press, 2014), evolutionist Jim Stump finds much to agree with because, as Stump argues, design arguments are both bad science and bad religion. For example, Michael Behe argues that evolution is challenged by the irreducible complexity of biological structures, but “almost all” biologists think Behe’s examples don’t hold water. The problem is Behe is implicitly appealing to a caricature of how evolution works that views complexity arising all at once. “In reality,” the ex Bethel professor explains, “natural selection operates on combinations of traits, not merely on isolated structures. Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water. Contrary to the ID claim about irreducible complexity, you don’t have to get the whole thing at once.”

Furthermore, even if Behe is right, he can merely conclude that design is the best explanation available. The history of science is full of best explanations that were later rejected because a previously unconceived explanation arose. Therefore Behe’s claim is considerably weakened. Stump finds Jantzen’s analyses to be cogent and by the end “almost felt sorry for design advocates as the soft underbelly of their arguments was exposed.”

Unfortunately what the philosopher demonstrates here is not a helpful and insightful commentary on design arguments but rather the usual sequence of evolutionary misrepresentations.

It begins with Stump's appeal to authority. This is a common evolutionary argument, but the fact that a majority of scientists accept an idea means very little. Certainly expert opinion is an important factor and needs to be considered, but the reasons for that consensus also need to be understood. The history of science is full of examples of new ideas that accurately described and explained natural phenomena, yet were summarily rejected by experts. Scientists are people with a range of nonscientific, as well as scientific influences. Social, career, and funding influences are easy to underestimate. There can be tremendous pressures on a scientist that have little to do with the evidence at hand. This certainly is true in evolutionary circles, where the pressure to conform is intense.

Next, Behe does not appeal to a caricature of how evolution works as Stump describes. In his development of the problem of irreducible complexity, Behe specifically addresses the adaptation of pre existing structures. Indeed, Stump’s representation of ID as claiming that with evolution you must “get the whole thing at once” is itself a caricature.

Furthermore Stump’s view that “natural selection operates on combinations of traits” is nothing more than the usual Aristotelianism dressed up in Darwinian language. Natural selection doesn’t “operate” on anything. And Stump’s credulous explanation of how “Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water” is simply a just-so story. There is no scientific evidence that this ever actually occurred in history, and it adds enormous serendipity to evolutionary theory. Does that make it impossible? Of course not. But that’s not the point.

The final critique of Behe is that he can only present design as the best explanation and is therefore vulnerable to the problem of unconceived explanations. Is not Behe’s claim considerably weakened?

This coming from an evolutionist is hypocritical for contrastive thinking is foundational to evolutionary thought. If Behe’s claim is considerably weakened then evolution is demolished.

Stump concludes with the usual Leibnizian / Kantian appeal to naturalism. Reminiscent of the final scene in Inherit the Wind which has the victorious Spencer Tracy clutching a Bible, we are told that the divine hand is evident in the created order, not in the failures of nature:

We see God’s hand throughout the created order not because science can’t explain nature, but because it can. The Designer’s mark is not in systems that don’t work quite right and need tinkering; those are signs of imperfection.

If naturalism fails, then nature fails. And if nature fails, then the Creator has failed. It’s the seventeenth century all over again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Here’s What’s Going on With BioLogos

The Importance of the Warfare Thesis

Deborah Haarsma was professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College and is currently the President of BioLogos. Both of these Christian organizations promote evolutionary theory (Calvin statement, BioLogos statement). That is not surprising since evolution derives, at least in modern times, from theologians and philosophers in the church. To be sure, evolutionary thinking is obvious in ancient Epicureanism, but its resurgence in the seventeenth century was almost exclusively the work of Christian thinkers. Descartes, Malebranche, Cudworth, Ray, Burnet, Leibniz and Wolfe are good examples of how widespread was the movement within Christian thought, and of how varied were the arguments for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. These Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans agreed that the world must have arisen by natural causes. The common theme was that the arguments were theological and philosophical (i.e., metaphysical rather than scientific). These mandates for naturalism increased and by the nineteenth century were the received truths for progressives. This was the culture Charles Darwin was born into and his book applied these arguments for naturalism to the problem of the origins of the species. Darwin’s thought—from his early notebooks, to Origins, to his later works and autobiography—was thoroughly metaphysical. God must have created via law not miracle and, ever since Darwin, Christians have embraced this belief just as strongly as the pre Darwin Christians had promoted it. Deborah Haarsma is, therefore, a contemporary representative of a long and distinguished intellectual history. But there is one major difference between today’s evolutionists and their forerunners from centuries past.

In the eighteenth century, and even more so in the nineteenth century, evolutionary thought increasingly sought to enlist science to support its thesis of naturalism. In the eighteenth century Bernoulli, Buffon, Kant and Laplace constructed naturalistic theories to explain the origin of the solar system. In the nineteenth century Lamarck, Wallace and Darwin constructed naturalistic theories to explain the origin of the species. While these thinkers and their works rested on the metaphysical foundation that had been laid for them, this genre took on a patina of empiricism. Lengthy, meandering, passages describing scientific observations seemed to lend the authority of science, even if the brief conclusions that followed were steeped in metaphysics.

Thus began the claim that a naturalistic origins is the obvious and unavoidable result of objective scientific inquiry. In fact, from a strictly scientific perspective, a naturalistic origins fares no better than a perpetual motion machine. The clear message of science, then and now, is that the world did not likely arise spontaneously. But science, as has been said, is theology’s hand maiden and the empirical evidence is notoriously vulnerable to manipulation and clever presentation.

To aid in this presentation, evolutionary thinkers also constructed a false history known today as the Conflict or Warfare Thesis. It can be traced back to Voltaire and his mythological reconstruction of the Galileo Affair, but it gathered strength in the nineteenth century. The idea is that science and religion are in conflict as science churns out new, occasionally inconvenient, truths while religion retreats and resists where it can.

So according to the Warfare Thesis, there is a conflict for Christians who are unwilling to bend their interpretation of Scripture. Their religious faith is in conflict with science.

Historians have understood for the better part of a century now that this Warfare Thesis is a false history. It was constructed by evolutionists to frame the origins debate in their favor. In fact the conflict is the exactly the opposite—it is between the metaphysical foundation of evolutionary thought and science. That metaphysical foundation of naturalism is unyielding and unbending, and it makes no sense on the science. It is the evolutionists who have a conflict between their religious beliefs and science. The Warfare Thesis is an attempt to turn the tables and turn the attention away from the obvious problems with evolutionary thought.

Evolutionists say that their skeptics suffer from bad religion and bad science. In fact, the metaphysical foundation of naturalism is not biblical (in spite of the fact that it comes from Christians), and evolutionary theory is not scientific. Science does not indicate that the world spontaneously arose.

But the Warfare Thesis continues. In spite of its obvious failure and falsehood, it is too powerful to resist. A few years ago when Haarsma became President of BioLogos she called for respectful discourse. I took that opportunity to voice my concern that BioLogos was reliant on the Warfare Thesis. Not only was there no reply, but BioLogos has continued to promote the false Warfare Thesis. Haarsma’s article from two weeks ago, on the resignation of Bethel College professor Jim Stump, is an example:

Yet we are concerned that a decision like this effectively sets faith commitments in opposition to clear scientific evidence in God’s creation. We would like to see Christian colleges encouraging their scholars to engage the scientific evidence that humans evolved, and acknowledge that this can be done without letting go of biblical authority. … We are also concerned that Christian college students, especially those who feel called to scientific careers, will see policies like this as a sign of conflict between Christianity and science and feel forced to make an unnecessary choice between them. … We love the Bible and we make the case for evolutionary creation: that God used the natural process of evolution to create all of life’s diverse forms, including humans, as supported by abundant genetic and fossil evidence. This position is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible and Christian doctrine. For example, there are multiple ways that the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve can be understood in the context of this scientific evidence, including as real historical people. And even though God used the natural mechanisms of evolution to create humans, he also made us spiritual beings and established a unique relationship with us by endowing humans with his image.

Clear scientific evidence for evolution? Abundant genetic and fossil evidence for evolution? Yes, the scientific evidence is clear, and the genetic and fossil evidence is abundant, but it does not support evolution. Not even remotely.

Of course Scripture can have different interpretations. But the science leaves no such wiggle room. It does not prove, indicate or suggest that the species arose spontaneously, as a consequence of natural laws and processes. That is a metaphysical mandate that is in conflict with the science.

So whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionists were clear about their metaphysical assumptions and how those assumptions mandated naturalism, today’s evolutionists obfuscate their message with the Warfare Thesis. They make the same non biblical, theological and philosophical arguments for evolution in their apologetic literature. But then argue that their proofs are scientific, not metaphysical, and claim their skeptics are the ones with the bad science and bad religion.

Too often evolutionists today present a contradictory message. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Here is Matt Ridley’s Must Read Article on Climate Science

A Most Dangerous Door

One of the standard defenses of evolution—the Epicurean idea that the world arose spontaneously—is that science is a self-correcting, feedback process and, as such, will always lead to the truth. This is such an ignorant claim it is difficult to know where to begin in rebutting it. First of all, at its best science is a process that takes as input a set of observations and produces as output some generalizations, sometimes called models or hypotheses or theories or laws, about how nature works. A scientist might observe the planetary motions in the sky and hypothesize that the planets travel in elliptical orbits about the Sun. Or a scientist might observe the movement of objects and theorize that the product of the mass and acceleration of an object equals the force applied to it. These are valuable theories that condense a vast amount of observations into simple and useful formulas that can predict future events. But for every one of these successes there are hundreds of failures. Sometimes these failures are rooted out only after decades or centuries of contentious debate with proponents who are convinced they’ve got it right. Indeed, there is no guarantee of a timely resolution of scientific failures. There is no guarantee of a resolution, period. Every engineering student knows that feedback loops do not guarantee accuracy—they don’t even guarantee stability.

Even at its best, science is not guaranteed to produce truth because of some real or imagined feedback process. And the story gets worse in practice because of the many nonscientific influences at work. Scientists have religious, philosophical and political biases as much as anyone else, and too often they are under pressure to conform. Bucking the trend doesn’t usually win the funding grant.

Yet the Warfare Thesis, the myth that in its objective search for truth science is opposed by religion, has persisted and has fueled a strong trend of scientism—the view of science as dispassionate truth giver. It was constructed and promoted by evolutionists to frame the debate in their favor, and it worked.

So the idea that evolution is true because science “says so,” and after all science can’t be wrong, continues to enjoy broad traction. It is for these reasons that Matt Ridley’s brilliant article in Quadrant Online is important. Ridley begins:

For much of my life I have been a science writer. That means I eavesdrop on what’s going on in laboratories so I can tell interesting stories. It’s analogous to the way art critics write about art, but with a difference: we “science critics” rarely criticise. If we think a scientific paper is dumb, we just ignore it. There’s too much good stuff coming out of science to waste time knocking the bad stuff. Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience—homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science. Or so I used to think.

Ridley’s main concern is the highly politicized idea of anthropomorphic global warming (AGW):

Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

This piece by Ridley is important because it is a cogent and direct challenge to the dominant and damaging ideas of scientism and the Warfare Thesis. And it is an admission that the problem is rather obvious:

This should have been obvious to me. Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly.

Ridley has shed the mythology of the objective scientist driven simply by a pursuit for the truth:

Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defence.

And Ridley has learned about scientific hegemony:

What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press.

Ridley observes that global warming has now joined this infamous list of dubious yet dangerous sciences:

This is precisely what has happened with the climate debate and it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science. The “bad idea” in this case is not that climate changes, nor that human beings influence climate change; but that the impending change is sufficiently dangerous to require urgent policy responses.

Ridley explains how climate science was hijacked by partisans some 15-20 years ago and since then dogma, not data, has controlled the research:

These huge green multinationals, with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous. Today’s climate science, as Ian Plimer points out in his chapter in The Facts, is based on a “pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored and analytical procedures are treated as evidence”. Funds are not available to investigate alternative theories. Those who express even the mildest doubts about dangerous climate change are ostracised, accused of being in the pay of fossil-fuel interests or starved of funds; those who take money from green pressure groups and make wildly exaggerated statements are showered with rewards and treated by the media as neutral.

It is not difficult to imagine how this plays out:

Look what happened to a butterfly ecologist named Camille Parmesan when she published a paper on “Climate and Species Range” that blamed climate change for threatening the Edith checkerspot butterfly with extinction in California by driving its range northward. The paper was cited more than 500 times, she was invited to speak at the White House and she was asked to contribute to the IPCC’s third assessment report. Unfortunately, a distinguished ecologist called Jim Steele found fault with her conclusion: there had been more local extinctions in the southern part of the butterfly’s range due to urban development than in the north, so only the statistical averages moved north, not the butterflies. There was no correlated local change in temperature anyway, and the butterflies have since recovered throughout their range. When Steele asked Parmesan for her data, she refused. Parmesan’s paper continues to be cited as evidence of climate change. Steele meanwhile is derided as a “denier”. No wonder a highly sceptical ecologist I know is very reluctant to break cover.

Ridley explains that this abuse of science is justified and enabled by the propagation of a false dichotomy that casts skeptics as dangerous or ignorant extremists:

These scientists and their guardians of the flame repeatedly insist that there are only two ways of thinking about climate change—that it’s real, man-made and dangerous (the right way), or that it’s not happening (the wrong way). But this is a false dichotomy. There is a third possibility: that it’s real, partly man-made and not dangerous. This is the “lukewarmer” school, and I am happy to put myself in this category. Lukewarmers do not think dangerous climate change is impossible; but they think it is unlikely. I find that very few people even know of this. Most ordinary people who do not follow climate debates assume that either it’s not happening or it’s dangerous. This suits those with vested interests in renewable energy, since it implies that the only way you would be against their boondoggles is if you “didn’t believe” in climate change.

And given this false dichotomy, the next step is the vilification of the skeptic in a full-scale demagoguery:

But the commentators ignore all these caveats and babble on about warming of “up to” four degrees (or even more), then castigate as a “denier” anybody who says, as I do, the lower end of the scale looks much more likely given the actual data. This is a deliberate tactic. Following what the psychologist Philip Tetlock called the “psychology of taboo”, there has been a systematic and thorough campaign to rule out the middle ground as heretical: not just wrong, but mistaken, immoral and beyond the pale. That’s what the word denier with its deliberate connotations of Holocaust denial is intended to do. For reasons I do not fully understand, journalists have been shamefully happy to go along with this fundamentally religious project.

And behind all the demagoguery, politics, fallacies and manipulation is just plain old bad nineteenth century science:

Joanne Nova, incidentally, is an example of a new breed of science critic that the climate debate has spawned. With little backing, and facing ostracism for her heresy, this talented science journalist had abandoned any chance of a normal, lucrative career and systematically set out to expose the way the huge financial gravy train that is climate science has distorted the methods of science. In her chapter in The Facts, Nova points out that the entire trillion-dollar industry of climate change policy rests on a single hypothetical assumption, first advanced in 1896, for which to this day there is no evidence. The assumption is that modest warming from carbon dioxide must be trebly amplified by extra water vapour—that as the air warms there will be an increase in absolute humidity providing “a positive feedback”. That assumption led to specific predictions that could be tested. And the tests come back negative again and again. The large positive feedback that can turn a mild warming into a dangerous one just is not there. There is no tropical troposphere hot-spot. Ice cores unambiguously show that temperature can fall while carbon dioxide stays high. Estimates of climate sensitivity, which should be high if positive feedbacks are strong, are instead getting lower and lower. Above all, the temperature has failed to rise as predicted by the models.

Ridley chronicles the long sordid history of manipulating evidence and mindless predictions that, though one after the next turned up false, never mattered and even though they failed ridiculously were used anyway as confirmations of AGW:

Excusing failed predictions is a staple of astrology; it’s the way pseudoscientists argue. In science, as Karl Popper long ago insisted, if you make predictions and they fail, you don’t just make excuses and insist you’re even more right than before.

In the end all of this will ultimately harm science. Its hard won reputation can withstand only so many religious and political intrusions. For Ridley himself, it gets personal:

That complacency has shocked me, and done more than anything else to weaken my long-standing support for science as an institution. … I feel genuinely betrayed by the profession that I have spent so much of my career championing.

But this goes far beyond feels of personal disappointment and betrayal. The consequences are enormous:

None of this would matter if it was just scientific inquiry, though that rarely comes cheap in itself. The big difference is that these scientists who insist that we take their word for it, and who get cross if we don’t, are also asking us to make huge, expensive and risky changes to the world economy and to people’s livelihoods.

Ridley’s article is a must read for anyone who is true to science. But for all of its import, it is only the beginning. Ridley is obviously a discerning man but there has been another misadventure and abuse of science that dwarfs climate science. Virtually everything he points out in this excellent piece could be restated, but to even greater extremes, regarding evolution science.

Ridley was once an AGW proponent who now has pulled himself out of its mire. He has stepped back and now the landscape has become all too clear. It is not that there is no warming, or that carbon dioxide has no effects. That’s hardly the point. The problem is in the misrepresentations of the science, the control of the funding, the publication control and blackballing, the demonization, the false dichotomies, the political intrusions, the dangerous impact on public policy, and so forth. This is not science, it a hijacking of science for nonscientific purposes.

Ridley sees all of this. He sees how it really is, and he doesn’t like what he sees. What Ridley does not yet see is that evolution science is all of this, but on a grander scale. Ridley has opened a door, but he is focusing on the first step. It is a most dangerous door, for behind it are all manner of truths people prefer to avoid.

Religion drives science, and it matters.