Sunday, March 26, 2017

Another Warfare Thesis Tale

Science Versus Biblical Authority

Last time I began to look at a new book co-authored by evolutionist Dennis Venema. As we saw, Venema was raised in an evangelical-creationist setting which equated evolution with atheism. This casting of evolutionists as atheist rascals is ignorant. It is also dangerous for it leaves one without the understanding and tools to reckon with the real evolution. The result is sometimes a  flip to the other extreme: scientism and the Warfare Thesis. The Warfare Thesis holds that religion, and Christianity in particular, often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances. It can be traced at least as far back as Voltaire with his 18th century mythical retelling of the Galileo Affair. Many later contributors embellished and established the myth that was eventually labelled the “Warfare Thesis.” Unfortunately this is precisely where Venema ended up.

After discussing his personal background, Venema presents the Warfare Thesis in a section ironically entitled “Learning from History.” Unfortunately, rather than learning from history readers are given yet another round of the Warfare Thesis myth. They learn that the basic issue of the seventeenth century Galileo Affair was “the veracity of the new science, and its perceived threat to biblical authority.” According to Venema there were “apologists” who thought the science “was wrong,” over against scientists such as Galileo.

Venema has jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. His rehearsing of the Warfare Thesis myth is both predictable and disappointing. The Warfare Thesis myth is standard fare for evolutionists in their attempt to place their theory into a compelling historical narrative. But when will it end? How many historians have to publicly chide, correct, disabuse, and decry this myth before evolutionists will make it stop?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we do know we are not there yet. Venema’s new book is proof of that.

In fact the Galileo Affair was nuanced and complex. Galileo had numerous barriers working against him. One was Aristotelianism. Though it was waning, Galileo was still presented with rebuttals from the two thousand year old system.

Another important barrier was Galileo’s own, abrasive, personality. The church was perfectly fine with Galileo publishing his work, and several people within the church were at least somewhat sympathetic to Galileo’s promotion of heliocentrism. But Galileo outright humiliated people and easily made enemies. Few people could cross the Pope (whether in part or in full) and expect to emerge victorious. Galileo was fortunate that in his aging years his sentence (for ostensibly breaking an agreement with the Pope) was merely house arrest.

Then there was the science, which by no means unambiguously supported Copernicus’ heliocentrism with its circular orbits and epicycles. Brahe’s and Ptolemy’s models were by no means obviously wrong, and expertise in astronomy at that time did not mean one would necessarily agree with Galileo.

Wars and politics were also not helping Galileo. The Reformation and its aftermath, including conflicts with the Protestants did not help to produce an environment conducive to challenging long-standing ideas.

Lastly there were scriptural questions raised by passages such as Joshua 10 and Ecclesiastes 1. These questions are last on my list because they were least. Yes these questions were put to Galileo, but they were hardly at the center of the controversy. And in resolving these questions, the main problem was in Galileo’s lack of diplomacy.

It isn’t that scriptural questions were completely absent, but they certainly were not the key, central concerns of the Galileo Affair, as the Warfare Thesis mythology would have it. This is why Venema’s predictable reconstruction is so misleading.

Once again we see this “science versus religion” rendition of the Galileo Affair servicing evolutionary thought. Venema’s larger point is, in typical fashion, to recruit the Galileo Affair as support for evolution. Darwin and the evolutionists, like Galileo, are merely appealing to the empirical science, and skeptics are driven by their religious agendas.

Unfortunately to make this argument evolutionists must erroneously cast both the Galileo Affair and today’s origins debate.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Here’s An Example of the Flip-Side of the Warfare Thesis

From the Frying Pan to the Fire

Empirical observations of the world don’t suggest that it arose by natural law and chance events. But that is what evolutionists believe, and so it is always interesting to see where they are coming from. What underlying beliefs or influences drive one to the age-old position of Epicureanism? Why would one believe the world arose by randomly swerving atoms, or randomly mutating genomes? Dennis Venema, co-author of a new book promoting evolution, makes his influences clear from the very first sentence:

Like many evangelicals, I (Dennis) grew up in an environment that was suspicious of science in general, and openly hostile to evolution in particular.

That sentence speaks volumes. Venema is a refugee from creationism and what I call the flip-side of the Warfare Thesis. The Warfare Thesis holds that religion, and Christianity in particular, often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances. It can be traced at least as far back as Voltaire with his 18th century mythical retelling of the Galileo Affair. Many later contributors embellished and established the myth that was eventually labelled the “Warfare Thesis.”

While the Warfare Thesis can be found in the evolution literature, creationists have their own version. In this reverse, or flip-side, the myth is that evolutionists are atheists, pushed to believe in a naturalistic origins because of the rejection of God. To be sure, atheism today has been aided and abetted by evolution’s popularity. But from Epicureanism to Darwinism to Neo-Darwinism and beyond, it is theism, not a-theism, that is doing the heavy lifting.

Why did Richard Bentley charge Thomas Burnet (an Anglican cleric who appealed to Scripture in his popular 17th century cosmogony) with atheism? Burnet was indeed a latitudinarian, but hardly an atheist. Why did Charles Hodge charge Darwin’s new theory as atheism in disguise? Darwin was hardly a mainline Christian but, like Burnet, his 1859 tome on evolution was chocked full of theological discussion and claims about the Creator. Darwin’s strong arguments were based on theism, not a-theism.

The flip-side of the Warfare Thesis is as dangerous as the A side, and it was Venema’s world. As he explains, he was taught that evolution was “pushed by atheists,” that Darwin and his theory “were evil,” and there mere utterance was tantamount to cursing, “and not mildly.” Evolution “was bad,” and “Science and God’s actions, at least in this case, were placed in opposition to each other.”

This flip-side of the Warfare Thesis is dangerous because the ignorance it establishes sets its adherents up for a fall. One simply is in no position to comprehend the deep theology at work in Epicurean and evolutionary thought. Darwin presented his arguments with a patina of scientific jargon, and that formed the template for the genre. Consider this gem from Chapter 6 of Origins:

Thus, we can hardly believe that the webbed feet of the upland goose or of the frigate-bird are of special use to these birds; we cannot believe that the similar bones in the arm of the monkey, in the fore-leg of the horse, in the wing of the bat, and in the flipper of the seal, are of special use to these animals. We may safely attribute these structures to inheritance.

One can read through such passages and almost conclude that Darwin is merely presenting empirical scientific reasoning and conclusions. And so it is with today’s evolutionary reasoning, such as this typical textbook example:

If the 11 species had independent origins, there is no reason why their [traits] should be correlated.

It all sounds so scientific. But of course it is not. This is the great deception of evolutionary thought. And those mired in the flip-side of the Warfare Thesis—believing for certain that evolutionists are nothing more than atheist rascals—lack to tools and knowledge to reckon with it. Venema never had a chance. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Unfortunately his story is all too common.

Venema also discusses another important influence in his thinking: rationalism. And again, it is all too common. Evolutionists tend to place great value in theories. To be sure, theories are extremely important in science. But for centuries, rationalism in its extreme has placed an unhealthy, undue, emphasis on theories, over and above the importance of following the data. Better to have a theory that doesn’t work very well, then to have no theory at all (and no, creationism is not a theory).

Venema makes it clear that rationalism was an important influence for him. At an early age he found biology to be a “dreadful bore compared with physics and chemistry.” Physics and chemistry were appealing because they were about principles. Biology “seemed to have no organizing principle behind it, whereas the others did”. Indeed, chemistry and physics had “underlying principles that gave order and cohesion to a body of facts.”

With a foundation of the flip-side of the Warfare Thesis and rationalism, Venema was an evolutionist waiting to happen.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Breaking: Remote Evolutionists Discovered

A Cottage Industry Coming to an End

In recent years anthropologists have increasingly come to accept what seemed inevitable: there were no more evolutionists to be found. People groups who believe they arose spontaneously have always been a source of fascination. How could such a mythology propagate and persist in entire cultures? Naturally such findings were rare, and with the continuing education and outreach efforts, such bizarre beliefs became increasingly rare. “Gone are the days,” complains professor Charles Henzwich, “that one could count on finding at least one or two evolution-worshipping villages on a summer expedition to the outback.” That is why this week’s surprise announcement, by an international team, of a remote, undiscovered clan of evolutionists has academia buzzing and is giving Henzwich and his colleagues hope. “Perhaps mythologies just never go away,” Henzwich concluded with a sense of wonder.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

But, But, But … We’re 98% Similar to the Chimp!

Not.

Transposable elements just don’t make sense. These so-called “jumping genes” are segments of junk DNA that insert themselves at random in our genomes. That is the evolutionary interpretation of these genetic units, but how and why do they move about, and why don’t they wreak havoc on the genome? The answers to these questions, which have been emerging in recent years, is that transposable elements are exquisite, finely-tuned, highly-functional molecular machines that contradict evolutionary expectations. Evolutionists have a long, failed history of presumed disutility—after all, the world arose by chance, surely it doesn’t work very well—and transposable elements are just one more example of this failed prediction. But the junk-to-hero story is only one of three ways that transposable elements utterly demolish evolutionary theory. The other two prongs in this Darwin-destroying triad are serendipity and pattern.

By serendipity, I am referring to the rather awkward findings, which are undeniable at this point, that if evolution is true, then it must have come about by highly complex, non adaptive, mechanisms. From diploid genetics to horizontal gene transfer, alternate gene splicing, genetic regulation, epigenetics, mechanisms that cause adaptive mutations, and transposable elements, evolution must have bumbled along by luckily constructing fantastically complex mechanisms. Those mechanisms would provide no immediate adaptive value, yet somehow would persist and become vital agents in evolutionary history. Simply put, evolution must have created evolution in a most unlikely (astronomically unlikely) set of circumstances. That’s serendipity, not science, and transposable elements heaps more fuel onto the fire.

By pattern, I am referring to another set of awkward findings, again undeniable, that the pattern of structures observed across the species consistently contradicts evolution’s predictions. One of those contradictions are the enormous differences found in otherwise allied species.

All three of these contradictions—disutility, serendipity, and pattern—are on display this week in new, systematic study of transposable elements out of Didier Trono’s lab in Switzerland. The study details the interactions between transposable elements and a class of proteins. The findings indicate the complexity and interdependency of these molecular mechanisms. As the press release admits:

Long considered as junk DNA, transposable elements are now recognized as influencing the expression of genes. … the extent of this regulation and how it is harnessed were so far unknown. EPFL scientists have now taken the first extensive look at a family of ~350 human proteins, showing that they establish a complex interplay with transposable elements … KZFPs can convert transposable elements in exquisitely fine-tuned regulatory platforms that influence the expression of genes, which likely takes place at all stages of development and in all human tissues. … It is a highly combinatorial and versatile system … As a field, epigenetics has come into prominence in recent years, revealing a previously unimagined complexity and elegance in genetics.

Not exactly junk DNA. And of course all of this would require large amounts of serendipity. For evolutionists are now forced to say that transposable elements would have to have played a, err, key role in evolution itself. Evolution would have had to have constructed this highly specific, detailed, system including hundreds of proteins and genetic elements, with hundreds of specific interactions, providing no immediate benefit. As Trono explains:

The vast majority of KZFPs binds to specific motifs in transposable elements. For each KZFP we were able to assign one subset of transposable elements, and also found that one transposable element can often interact with several KZFPs.

Finally, all of this contradicts the expected common descent pattern. This failure has become so common we now have non evolutionary terminology, such as “species-specific” and “lineage-specific.” The paper uses the term “species-restricted”:

KZFPs partner with transposable elements to build a largely species-restricted layer of epigenetic regulation

Species-restricted? In other words, the designs we are discovering in biology are unique to particular species. This is precisely the opposite of what evolution expects. Note also the teleological language (which as usual is evident in the infinitive form): The proteins “partner” with the transposable elements “to build” a largely “species-restricted” layer of epigenetic regulation. This is a classic example of evolution’s absurd creation story language.

The contradictory pattern was, of course, unsuspected. As Trono explains:

KZFPs contribute to make human biology unique. Together with their genomic targets, they likely influence every single event in human physiology and pathology, and do so by being largely species-specific -- the general system exists in many vertebrates, but most of its components are different in each case. … This paper lifts the lid off something that had been largely unsuspected: the tremendous species-specific dimension of human gene regulation.

Yes, it was largely unsuspected. For what these findings reveal is a tremendous species-specific dimension of human gene regulation. In other words, we would need proteins and genetic elements to evolve, via independent and yet interdependent, random mutations, to construct an entirely new set of genetic regulation instructions. This is astronomically unlikely, no matter how many millions of years are available. From a scientific perspective, these findings demolish evolution.

Religion drives science, and it matters.