Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We Can Now Obtain Erroneous Results Even Faster

A new method for computing evolutionary trees may revolutionize evolutionary biology. That's good because evolutionary biology needs some revolutionizing. So far its fundamental predictions have consistently turned out to be false. Indeed, at evolutionary biology's very core, the idea of an evolutionary tree is problematic given the data, and even some evolutionists are suggesting the "tree thinking" may not be useful. But the new research isn't likely to help on that score. What the research does enable is the creation of erroneous results at a much faster pace.

"Detailed, accurate evolutionary trees that reveal the relatedness of living things can now be determined much faster" is how one report summarizes the new research. Well, the new trees certainly will be computed with much greater speed, and they will be detailed. But will they really "reveal the relatedness of living things"?

Such high confidence in the face of poor data fits is not limited to science writers. Evolutionists routinely make such absurd claims. In spite of such confidence, the biological data present an abundance of outlier data that make no sense on the evolutionary assumption that all the species are related via a tree (or a bush, or whatever the latest shape is that evolutionists are sure of).

For instance, species that seem to be highly similar actually have substantial differences (even variants within the same species!). And species that seem quite different actually have profound similarities. The outliers are far outside any evolutionary explanation, aside from the usual tautologies about how it turns out that rapid change occurs all the time, hmmm, and about evolution having a universal toolkit or some such (I wish I had one of those).

One of example, of many, is the eye of the squid and human. These incredibly complex, intricate designs are strikingly similar, and cannot be due to a common ancestor. Nor can they be due to a similar environment (though even if so that wouldn't get us very far). It would be like finding the same Rube Goldberg device on different planets. But evolutionists are absolutely sure these vision systems evolved, no question about it.

The idea that the species evolved according to common descent, along some sort of evolutionary tree, is not motivated by the evidence. It is motivated by the assumption that evolution is true, which in turn is motivated by religious and philosophical assumptions. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Myers and Krauss: An Intellectual Convergence

That insightful Wall Street Journal piece by Lawrence Krauss is already bearing dividends. For PZ Myers it was just the thing, as it helped crystallize for him just why it is that religion is wrong. It is good to see our leading intellectuals converging on these important findings.

Krauss' ironclad, air tight reasoning and logic had to be moving, but of course none of what Krauss wrote was new for Myers. He certainly has made similar arguments. In his recent LA Times piece Myers issued his groundbreaking epiphany that an all-powerful, benevolent being would never have created this universe. Obviously there is no god and religion is wrong, but what is amazing is how evolutionists know so much about god. We knew evolutionists were experts at things that exist, but they are also experts at things that don't exist.

And like Krauss, Myers is not religious. After all, they believe religious beliefs are all wrong (at least those beliefs they don't agree with). And that's a good thing, because it allows them to see things so clearly. For instance, Krauss' piece also helped Myers see anew evolution's intellectual necessity. If we really want to do science, and do it right, Myers and the evolutionists remind us that strictly naturalistic explanations such as evolution are absolutely mandatory. Fortunately, evolution also happens to be true. That's amazing.

Kristof Warns of Endocrine Disruptors

Nicholas Kristof has written a New York Times opinion piece about science without the usual gratuitous or politically correct evolution adulation. In fact Kristof discusses the growing problem of deformities and abnormalities in water animals and humans, and links to increasing levels of endocrine disruptors in the environment. It is good to see science reporting that is scientific.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Pearls from the World Science Festival

Edward O. Wilson was not the only leading light at the World Science Festival. The sophistry was also in the air at the Festival's "Science, Faith and Religion" panel discussion, which sported two evolutionists debating two other evolutionists about profound matters. As reported yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Lawrence Krauss, who was one of the debaters and is director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, philosopher Colin McGinn "began by commenting that it was eminently rational to suppose that Santa Claus doesn't exist even if one cannot definitively prove that he doesn't. Likewise, he argued, we can apply the same logic to the supposed existence of God." Fascinating stuff.

For his part Krauss confronted the two faithful evolutionists on the panel with the miracle of the virgin birth and asked how they could reconcile this with basic biology. "I was ultimately told," reports Krauss, "that perhaps this biblical claim merely meant to emphasize what an important event the birth was." You can see we have much to learn from these evolutionists.

Krauss' main point, however, was not the debate so much as the gnosticism that he so faithfully promotes. Krauss is always quick to point out that he is not religious. After all, he believes religious beliefs are wrong. Following such eminent evolutionists as J.B.S. Haldane and Isaac Asimov, Krauss explains that science and religion cannot be mixed. A scientist can be a believer in private, but once he dons that clean white lab coat he must leave all such beliefs behind. Krauss approvingly quotes this pearl of wisdom from Haldane's 1934 book Fact and Faith:

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.

While others struggled to understand why nature is uniform and how there could be natural laws, Haldane was able to see past such philosophical nuisances. His great insight was we can safely ignore such fine points.

And as Krauss points out, the very success of science which justified Haldane continues to justify our confidence today. You know, like evolution's finding that life just happened to arise from a muddy pond (or maybe from an ocean vent, or maybe from outer space), and that a multitude of universes can solve any apparent problem with this story. It's that kind of hard science that leads today's scientists to react as Haldane did. As Krauss methodically explains, they extrapolate the atheism of science to a more general atheism. This is not the shallow end folks--these truths may be a bit rough on some folks, but they certainly are truths. What we see here is cold, hard logic at work.

And for those who do harbor doubts about all this, Krauss has some very sobering and cogent insights:

Finally, it is worth pointing out that these issues are not purely academic. The current crisis in Iran has laid bare the striking inconsistency between a world built on reason and a world built on religious dogma. Perhaps the most important contribution an honest assessment of the incompatibility between science and religious doctrine can provide is to make it starkly clear that in human affairs -- as well as in the rest of the physical world -- reason is the better guide.

That really puts it all in the right perspective. You can be an evolutionist or you can oppose reason. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sober Rebukes Evolution's Religion (Sometimes)

The religion in evolution can be subtle and it can fool even sophisticated thinkers. Elliott Sober, for example, has recognized that religious premises are used by evolutionists. He says they don't work because they rely on gratuitous assumptions. In his book Evidence and Evolution he writes the following (regarding a religious argument made by evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould about the panda's thumb):

But it is no good simply inventing assumptions that help one defend one's pet theory. Rather, what is needed is independent evidence concerning what God (or some other intelligent designer) would have wanted to achieve if he had built the panda ... Gould assumes that if an intelligent designer had made the panda he would have chosen not to give the panda the spur of bone we call a "thumb" and instead would have given the panda some more efficient device. With this unfavorable assumption, the intelligent-design hypothesis has a likelihood of zero, so the hypothesis of chance and the hypothesis of evolution by natural selection both have higher likelihoods. [128, 143]

Gould, of course, did not "invent" assumptions about divine intent as Sober accuses. Such theological assumptions have been popular for centuries, and are crucial in the formulation and justification of evolution by Darwin and evolutionists since. But Sober is correct that it is a powerful religious assumption, rebuking design and therefore pointing to a naturalistic narrative, of one sort or another.

Sober suggests that such assumptions should not be used, but in his new paper approves of precisely this sort of argumentation. Sober explains how common ancestry is indicated, not because it is likely, but because separate ancestry is unlikely. How is this done? By appealing to those "useless and deleterious" designs in nature, such as our tailbone and those invisible gill slits in the human fetus. Sober writes:

One of the main objections to Darwin’s theory, both when the Origin was published and in the minds of many present-day Creationists, is the idea that species (or ‘‘fundamental kinds’’ of organism) are separated from each other by walls. No one doubted, then or now, that natural selection can cause small changes within existing species. The question was whether the process Darwin described can bring about large changes. Maybe a species can be pushed only so far. ...

If we focus just on natural selection, it is hard to see why Darwin had the more compelling case. However, if we set natural selection aside and consider instead the idea of common ancestry, the picture changes. Darwin thought he had strong evidence for common ancestry. This is enough to show that insuperable species boundaries (and insuperable boundaries between ‘‘kinds’’) are a myth; if different species have a common ancestor, the lineages involved faced no such walls in their evolution. And the case for common ancestry does not depend on natural selection at all. ...

Two of the facts mentioned earlier--that humans and monkeys have tailbones, and that human fetuses and fish have gill slits--are evidence for common ancestry precisely because tailbones and gill slits are useless in humans.

Sober goes on to explain that such "useless" designs make separate ancestry unlikely, and therefore make common ancestry likely. Evolution relies on this form argument and so Sober calls it Darwin's Principle. But Sober mysteriously fails to finish the story. Yes, such arguments are powerful, and they do make common ancestry a no-brainer. And they are ubiquitous in the evolution genre. But as with Gould's argument about why the panda's thumb proves evolution, they are religious.

Sober knows that Darwin's Principle is foundational to evolutionary claims. But amazingly he departs from his earlier thinking, where he criticized Gould for using religious assumptions, and now attempts to portray Darwin's Principle as metaphysically neutral. He explains that for "useless" designs, the likelihood ratio (the ratio of the probability of the design on common ancestry to the probability of the design on separate ancestry) is large because the denominator (the probability of the design on separate ancestry) is so small.

But Sober mysteriously fails to explain the obvious. The elephant in the room is ignored as Sober moves on to an analogy about term papers. The reason the denominator is so small is that a religious premise about divine intent was smuggled in. The reason those creationist concerns about insuperable boundaries do not hold is because common ancestry is likely. And common ancestry is likely because nature's designs given separate ancestry is unlikely. And those designs given separate ancestry are unlikely because god would not have given us our "useless" tailbones.

How ironic. The supposedly scientific theory of evolution relies on religious assumptions about divine intent to rebuke the religious theory of creation about its concerns that empirical observations indicate biological variation is limited.

Evolution Created the Complex Cell

Life in its most basic form is complex. The unit of life is the cell and and it doesn't show signs of having evolved as evolutionists say it did. In fact, evolutionist Nick Lane, in his new book Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, says that the complex cell is one of the the ten great inventions of evolution, to go along with photosynthesis, DNA, and the origin of life. Here is how Lane explains it:

All complex life on Earth is composed of nucleated cells, known as eukaryotic cells. The eukaryote arose only once, and bacteria normally show no tendency towards morphological complexity. The last common ancestor of eukaryotic cells was a chimera, formed in a unique union between two prokaryotic cells called endosymbiosis -- a non-Darwinian mechanism whereby organisms converge rather than diverge. Without that chimera, evolution may never have progressed beyond bacteria, and again none of us would be here.

Isn't is amazing how things just happen? Complexity beyond our comprehension magically arose, via some combination of mechanisms that we don't quite understand, but we know must have done the job. Our confidence is exceeded only by our lack of data.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Sophisticated DNA Error Correction Mechanism

New research is adding to our knowledge of error correction mechanisms in the cell's process of protein synthesis. Proteins are created by transcribing and translating the information stored in DNA, and various error correction mechanisms maintain high levels of accuracy throughout the protein synthesis process. Indeed, these mechanisms are not only sophisticated, but they are also coordinated. As one researcher put it, "it’s almost as if cells have something akin to a computer program that becomes activated by DNA damage, and that program enables the cells to respond very quickly."

These error correction mechanisms are still not completely understood, and one puzzle is how they achieve such remarkable accuracy. The first step in the protein synthesis process is the transcription (copying) of the DNA strand, forming a new RNA strand. The RNA polymerase machine is at the heart of the process, and the new research investigates how this marvel checks for errors as it slides back and forth on the DNA strand. As one science writer explained, "Intelligent typesetters would remove the last few letters when they spot an error," and this is how the new research suggests the RNA polymerase machine corrects errors as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MicroRNAs to the Rescue

Evolutionists are not irrational. Their argument that evolution must be a fact is perfectly valid. It entails religious premises, but given those premises, the conclusion follows. Therefore problems with the scientific evidence are inconsequential. When the evidence contradicts the theory (as it often does), they just patch the theory. And there are a great many patches holding together evolutionary theory. Sometimes there are patches on top of patches. One problem that has used up several patches is the sudden appearance of new forms in the fossil record. How could such rapid appearance occur?

Darwin's confidant and supporter Thomas Huxley likened such rapid appearance of new species to a barrel that is filled rapidly with apples. Then it takes longer to fill the remaining spaces with pebbles, sand and finally water. So like the barrel, environments are abruptly filled with new species, and then modifications are added at a slower pace.

More recent explanations are more technical-sounding but no less reliant on speculation. Steven Stanley compared it to the introduction of bacteria croppers which prey on dominant species which previously had suppressed diversity. J. J. Sepkoski compared it to rapid growth of bacterial populations in a virgin petry dish. Were the Precambrian oceans a virgin ecosystem with the raw materials of oxygen and food supplied by ancient bacteria? Geneticist Steve Jones wondered if the Cambrian explosion reflected some crucial change in DNA--life’s genetic material. “Might a great burst of genetic creativity,” asked Jones, “have driven a Cambrian Genesis and given birth to the modern world?”

Now, a new paper suggests that microRNAs did the trick by increasing genic precision. It is yet another just-so story motivated by the non scientific belief that evolution is a fact. If evolution is a fact, then we merely need to explain it, no matter how absurd are the explanations.

Evolution's Repeat Performances

Would you believe that the blind, unguided process of evolution repeats itself? Would you believe that evolution somehow repeats striking patterns of change? Evolutionists do. They must because the evidence reveals such patterns in the history of life. As one science writer explained:

An international team of researchers ... has discovered a group of closely related living species that independently repeated the different step-like changes that occurred in the major diversification of their kind during the Cretaceous Period, roughly 100 to 90 million years ago. But this group of species arose 80 million years later!

This evidence contradicts evolutionary expectations, but what's new?

What's Wrong With Religion?

Evolutionists say their theory is a fact, just like gravity. This may seem strange since the theory of evolution has so many scientific problems. The science, however, is not what is driving the conclusion. Evolution is proclaimed to be a fact because it is mandated by religious beliefs. That is, a strictly naturalistic origins narrative is mandated by beliefs about what God would and would not do. Elliott Sober's new paper is helpful because it explains the power and structure of this reasoning (though the paper does not explore the religious assumptions that have penetrated science).

But what's wrong with religious reasoning? Actually, nothing. The problem is not the fact that evolution entails theological premises. The problem is that evolutionists are in denial about it. It is fascinating to see evolutionists rely on powerful arguments (and Sober's work explains why the arguments are powerful) which are religious, and then insist their theory is strictly scientific. Evolutionists have metaphysical certainty, but then claim it is based merely on the conservative and tentative methods of modern science. They step outside of science and claim their theory is a fact on par with gravity, and then retreat back to science as if to legitimize their claim.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Evolution's Religion Revealed

Did you know evolution is a religious theory? If this seems strange then read on. In this post I will explain one way that evolution is contingent on religious reasoning. Such reasoning is a constant thread running through the evolution genre, but it can be subtle. If you are familiar with the evolution literature you may have noticed this underlying theme, but exactly how does it work?

Enter evolutionist and philosopher Elliott Sober. In his new paper, Sober continues his work in analyzing the arguments for evolution. He has done much work which is particularly helpful in showing (i) the premises built into the arguments and (ii) the relative strengths of the different arguments evolutionists use. And strong arguments are needed for evolution, as Sober writes:

One of the main objections to Darwin’s theory, both when the Origin was published and in the minds of many present-day Creationists, is the idea that species (or ‘‘fundamental kinds’’ of organism) are separated from each other by walls. No one doubted, then or now, that natural selection can cause small changes within existing species. The question was whether the process Darwin described can bring about large changes. Maybe a species can be pushed only so far ... If we focus just on natural selection, it is hard to see why Darwin had the more compelling case. However, if we set natural selection aside and consider instead the idea of common ancestry, the picture changes. Darwin thought he had strong evidence for common ancestry. This is enough to show that insuperable species boundaries (and insuperable boundaries between ‘‘kinds’’) are a myth; if different species have a common ancestor, the lineages involved faced no such walls in their evolution.

And what is this powerful evidence for common ancestry? Sober points out that the strong arguments used by Darwin are not from adaptive designs (i.e., designs that increase fitness), but rather useless or even deleterious designs (Sober cites our tailbone and gill slits in the human fetus as examples). He summarizes this in what he calls Darwin's Principle:

Adaptive similarities provide almost no evidence for common ancestry while similarities that are useless or deleterious provide strong evidence for common ancestry.

And why are useless or deleterious similarities so helpful? It is not because they raise the probability of common ancestry, but rather because they lower the probability of separate ancestry. In other words, the reason common descent is a no-brainer is that the alternative, separate ancestry, is extremely unlikely.

Evolutionists like to use the analogy of two students turning in writing assignments with identical typos or mistakes. It would be conceivable for different papers to have similar ideas and even passages. Such similarities are reasonably possible even if the students worked independently. But is separate ancestry at all likely if the papers contain so many shared typos and mistakes?

No, and the probabilities can become ridiculously low. It is these shared errors that make the case for a common "ancestor" because they disprove separate ancestors. Similarly, evolutionists say that it is the shared biological errors that make common ancestry the obvious conclusion by showing that separate ancestry is so unlikely.

This, then, is how those insuperable species boundaries (and insuperable boundaries between ‘‘kinds’’) are shown to be a myth. Simply put, evolution becomes a fact because creation is, for all practical purposes, false.

So where's the religion?

While all of this may sound scientific, it in fact hinges on subtle but crucial religious assumptions. First consider the term paper analogy. It is true that we can scientifically determine the likelihood of whether or not the two students worked independently. We can do this because we understand very well the process of writing term papers. And if need be we could even measure the rate at which students make mistakes, so the probability of the shared errors could actually be calculated fairly accurately. In other words, we have an accurate and reliable model for the creation of term papers and their errors.

But what about those shared biological errors? How many of us have created different species? And what researcher can measure the rate at which these errors arise when species are created? Of course we cannot measure such data--they come from our religious beliefs. Here is how Stephen Jay Gould described the role of these shared errors in evolutionary thought:

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

Over and over Darwin argued that biological designs were "inexplicable on the theory of creation." From the pentadactyl pattern in our hands and feet to the distribution of frogs around the world.

Today these arguments have been augmented to include the latest findings, such as pseudogenes. They are widely used and scientific sounding. When evolutionist David Penny argues for evolution with the reasoning that "Clearly we can reject any idea that the trees from the different sequences are independent," one might never suspect that religion is at work. Is it not a scientific conclusion? Hardly.

But the religion in evolution is not always so subtle. In fact, when evolutionists attempt to prove their theory is a fact, they usually bring out their religion in full force. It is just so obvious for evolutionists. How could anyone disagree with their conclusions? In his book Finding Darwin's God, Ken Miller describes elephant-like fossil species dating back to as much as 50 million years ago. Trends in the design of the trunks and tusks can be found amongst these species. Using these trends, the species can be compared and classified. It is, according to Miller, an overwhelming proof of evolution because, yes here it comes, we cannot possibly believe there is a designer behind such a haphazard arrangement:

This designer has been busy! And what a stickler for repetitive work! Although no fossil of the Indian elephant has been found that is older than 1 million years, in just the last 4 million years no fewer than nine members of its genus, Elephas, have come and gone. We are asked to believe that each one of these species bears no relation to the next, except in the mind of that unnamed designer whose motivation and imagination are beyond our ability to fathom. Nonetheless, the first time he designed an organism sufficiently similar to the Indian elephant to be placed in the same genus was just 4 million years ago--Elephas ekorensis. Then, in rapid succession, he designed ten (count’em!) different Elephas species, giving up work only when he had completed Elephas Maximus, the sole surviving species.

This, and a thousand other examples, is the true color of evolution. It is impossible to separate it from its religious foundation. The scientific problems with evolution and common ancestry are enormous. But Darwin and evolutionists ever since have argued that evolution must be a fact because creation is obviously false. The arguments take on different forms depending on the evidence at hand, and they can be subtle. There need be no mention of religion or creation. The underlying religious premise is often hidden between the lines. Indeed, evolutionists often are unaware of the metaphysics that surrounds them. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Eyes Did Not Evolve in the Back of the Head

In the "Ask the Experts" column on Scientific American's back page this month, evolutionist S. Jay Olshansky explains why humans have not evolved eyes in the back of the head. Olshansky makes the argument that (i) natural selection is limited to those designs that just happen to arise and (ii) what happens to arise is not driven by need. In other words, we don't have eyes in the back of the head not because they wouldn't be useful, but because early versions never happened to arise there in the first place.

The term "contingent" is sometimes used to describe this sort of explanation. The idea is that evolution's designs are not a consequence of necessity or good design, but rather the vagaries of historical accidents. Far from answering the question, this explanation simply raises even more questions and problems.

One problem is that this doctrine that biological variation, from which natural selection does its choosing, is blind and independent of fitness, though long a staple of evolutionary theory, is false.

Another problem is that strikingly similar designs, which could not be due to a common ancestor, are common. Biological designs are clearly not contingent on a capricious process of historical accidents.

Yet another problem is that the contingency explanation for evolutionary designs cuts both ways. For if this is the explanation for why eyes did not evolve in the back of the head, we could then just as easily ask, why then did eyes evolve in the front of the head?

It is all one big tautology. Eyes did not evolve in the back of the head because they did not accidentally arise there. On the other hand, eyes did evolve in the front of the head because they did accidentally arise there. This reminds me of a debate I was in where the evolutionist explained that the purpose of science is to explain nature, and that evolution is good science because it explains biology.

Given the absurdities it is not surprising that Olshansky changes gears. Instead of "it all depends on what happens to arise accidentally," Olshansky retools the explanation, this time with selection doing the heavy lifting:

Although light-sensitive cells are likely to have appeared on different parts of early forms of life, selection seems to favor those that enable creatures to detect light in the direction they are headed rather than the direction from which they came. Forward locomotion probably was a driving force for the current location of light-sensitive cells.

In the space of a few paragraphs, Olshansky has completely reversed himself. I guess we should think of it as a menu of explanations from which to choose your favorite. You may have contingency or you may have necessity. You can limit biological variation, leaving selection with little flexibility, or you can expand the powers of variation and use selection to winnow back the many choices. Evolution is not merely one tautology--it has multiple tautologies.

Another problem is that if biological variation is blind, then how do nature's intricate designs arise? Olshansky glosses over this problem, assuring the reader that:

The first light-sensitive cell most certainly arose through random mutation among the earliest multicellular creatures.

In fact, even the simplest light-sensitive cells in nature are phenomenally complex. The idea that they "arose through random mutation" is "certainly" not motivated by the science. And that is only the beginning. Evolutionists such as Olshansky forget that light sensitivity, even if it could magically arise on its own, would do the creature no good without a host of concomitant capabilities to take advantage of the windfall. For the newly available sensory data must be processed, transmitted, and ultimately integrated into the creature's cognitive processes. Even primitive versions of these requirements render evolution silly.

Scientific American: Origins of the Left & Right Brain

Another month, another classic Scientific American entry in the evolution genre. In this July issue, amongst a set of scientific articles on economics, energy, antibiotics and space exploration, is an article on the evolution of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

The article, written by three evolutionists, explains that it was once thought that the hemispheric specialization of our brain (e.g., language in the left hemisphere, spatial thinking in the right hemisphere) evolved in our hominid ancestors, over the past few million years. But it now appears to have evolved orders of magnitude farther back in time.

Why the half a billion year change? Mainly because of the accumulation of evidence of hemispheric specialization in a wide array of species. "So what" you ask?

If you want to make sense of the evolution genre you must understand that when similarities are discovered between species, evolutionists will think the similarities must have come from a common ancestor. (Unless, that is, if the arrangement would violate other similarities, which, much to the evolutionist's chagrin, often seems to be the case eventually--see below). If hemispheric specialization is found in different species, then it must have derived from their common ancestor, which takes us back to about half a billions years ago.

For instance, right-handedness has been found in various primates. Amazingly, yet true to form, the evolutionists claim that this clearly suggests "that human right-handedness descended from that of earlier primates."

Next add hemispheric specialization findings in birds, the sea lion, and in other species, and evolutionists must conclude that such profound complexity dates back to the early branches of the evolutionary tree. This is a common trend, and today evolutionists must believe that incredibly complex designs mysteriously arose in the earliest stages of evolution.

But what about those species that contradict the hemispheric specializations? This is another common problem for evolution. Evolutionists try to organize the species by their differences and similarities, but the divisions are never clean. Neighboring species have profound differences and distant species share profound similarities. The species do not naturally form an evolutionary tree. Evolution's solution to this dilemma is to count the cooperative comparisons as indicative of evolutionary history, and to discard the non cooperative comparisons as anomalies. True to form, the evolutionists describe the contradictions to their hemispheric specialization groupings as "exceptions."

As is typical of the evolution genre, the article is packed with just-so stories, and hypotheticals. Here are few examples:

In early vertebrates such a division of labor probably got its start when one or the other hemisphere developed a tendency to take control in particular circumstances ...

In all vertebrate classes ... animals tend to retain what was probably an ancestral bias toward the use of the right side in the routine activity of feeding ...

The syllable may have evolved as a by-product of the alternate raising (consonant) and lowering (vowel) of the mandible, a behavior already well established for chewing, sucking and licking. A series of these mouth cycles, produced as lip smacks, may have begun to serve among early humans as communication signals, just as they do to this day among many other primates.

Somewhat later the vocalizing capabilities of the larynx could have paired with the communicative lip smacks to form spoken syllables.

The article ends with a classic tautology, with otherwise straightforward observations gratuitously ascribed to evolution:

For example, one would expect schooling fish to have evolved mostly uniform turning preferences, the better to remain together as a school. Solitary fish, in contrast, would probably vary randomly in their turning preferences, because they have little need to swim together. This is in fact the case.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I retracted my blog post from March 25 about a debate at Westminster Abbey. Since then I have learned of two problems with the post. First, although I intended to use the debate as a segue into a more general critique of evolution, the transition was not as clear as it should have been, leaving ambiguous what was said in the debate. Second, my representation of Denis Alexander's views were not sufficiently nuanced to capture his views with sufficient accuracy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Questions for Judge Jones

Here are two multiple choice questions, but you must not look at the second question before answering the first.

1. What makes a theory a religious theory?

A. The theory incorporates religious premises.
B. Proponents of the theory are religious people.
C. The theory mandates certain types of solutions.
D. The theory allows for all types of solution.

2. Which of these describe evolutionary theory?

A. The theory incorporates religious premises.
B. Proponents of the theory are religious people.
C. The theory mandates certain types of solutions.
D. The theory allows for all types of solution.

Answers for Judge Jones

In my previous post I posed two questions for Judge Jones. The answers to the second question are A, B and C. That is, (A) Evolutionary theory incorporates religious premises, (B) Proponents of evolutionary theory are religious people and (C) Evolutionary theory mandates certain types of solutions.

Of course, (B) is not peculiar to evolutionary theory, but (A) is. It is true that science, in general, incorporates certain metaphysical assumptions, such as uniformity and parsimony. But evolution incorporates specific religious premises, having nothing to do with uniformity and parsimony. These religious premises are uncharacteristic of science in general, and they mandate evolution. One way or another, evolution must be a fact. Every time you hear evolutionists proclaim their theory to be a fact (which is quite common), you are hearing a religious proclamation.

I'll discuss (C) when I receive my answer from Barbara Forrest.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Echolocation Convergence in Bats

For many years the molecular sequences in the bat genome have not been cooperating, and new research continues to confirm these findings. If evolution is true, then we must believe that the incredible echolocation ability found in some bats arose multiple times, by evolving independently. That's not easy for evolutionists to explain. How could such uncanny design details repeat themselves via blind biological variation (no, natural selection doesn't help)?

On the other hand, perhaps instead of evolving independently, it only evolved once long ago, and then repeatedly was lost in particular lineages. That's another puzzle. If it was valuable enough to be selected, then why would it later disappear?

But of course if one believes in evolution, then problems such as these are minor. In fact, they are easy to explain. Echolocation evolved repeatedly due to similar environmental pressures. Or, on the other hand, echolocation could have been lost in different lineages due to shifts in environmental pressures. See, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Douglas Futuyma's Review of Jerry Coyne's Theology

Is there anyone out there who still thinks evolution is merely a scientific theory? If so they can read Douglas Futuyma's review of Jerry Coyne's new book, Why Evolution is True, where Futuyma highlights a few of Coyne's theological proclamations, to add to the many Futuyma himself has made in past years. Of course, all of this theology sits squarely within the evolution genre.

In his book Science on Trial, Futuyma added his own creative touch to the long history of theological mandates for naturalism. Nature, explained Futuyma as though reporting a scientific measurement, is full of useless features, inadequate design, shoddy workmanship, and harshness or cruelty.

And, Futuyma explained, we find similarities and differences between the species where we should least expect a Creator to have supplied them. Is it not strange that a Creator should have endowed bats, birds, and pterodactyls with wings made out of the same bony elements that moles use for digging and penguins use for swimming?

Birds and mammals are warm-blooded and for better blood transport from the heart they have only one aortic arch instead of two as in amphibians and reptiles. But birds retain the right aortic arch while mammals retain the left one. Why the difference? Bacteria have "silent" genes that are never expressed and appear to have no function. The Panda's "thumb" is a clumsy design, and no caterpillars have compound eyes. Photosynthesis is immensely useful, yet no higher animals have this mechanism.

Futuyma argued strenuously that these and many other examples of shoddy design prove the species arose from natural causes. From our wisdom teeth to our need for vitamin C, biology reveals a lack of design. Take any major group of animals, explained Futuyma, and the poverty of imagination that must be ascribed to a Creator becomes evident. Why should there be more than a million species of animals and more than half a million of plants, and "what could have possessed the Creator," asks Futuyma, "to bestow two horns on the African rhinoceroses and only one on the Indian species?" Darwin's long sermon was getting longer.

Even worse than all this were the many evils in nature. Male elephant seals battle furiously for females and many die of bloody wounds. The peacock carries such long feathers that it can hardly fly. Sickle-cell anemia afflicts those who have inherited a disastrous gene. Species overproduce causing overpopulation. The lung worms infest snakes and schistosome worms kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. And more than 90 percent of the species in history became extinct. It was abundantly obvious to Futuyma that this world was not designed by anything but natural causes. How could a wise Creator allow for such evils?

Coyne's new book is now the next addition to Darwin's long sermon, and not surprisingly Futuyma is delighted. He writes in his review of Coyne's book:

Vestiges, embryos and bad design include the multitude of morphological and molecular features that are inconsistent with any concept of ID but fully explicable from, and predicted by, evolution. And "the biogeographical evidence for evolution is now so powerful that I have never seen a creationist book, article, or lecture that has tried to refute it. Creationists simply pretend that the evidence doesn’t exist."

Of course successful predictions made by evolution do not make it true. That would be a fallacy. Evolution is true, not because it has made successful predictions (particularly in light of its many false predictions), but because it must be true. For the evolutionists, the species must have arisen naturally. God never would have created this world. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Enlightenment Mythology

When does a misconception become a myth? When intellectuals embrace it. There is always plenty of ignorance to perpetuate misconceptions, but when the educated promote a false idea, is it not a sort of mythology? If so, then there is abundant reason to categorize today’s caricature of the Enlightenment, as a rejection of religious influence and thought, as a myth.

The caricature of the Enlightenment that is prevalent today is that, for better or for worse, those eighteenth century European intellectuals eschewed theological considerations in favor of a strictly secular perspective based on human reasoning. Religion and theology were out, science and philosophy were in. It is not difficult to see how this two-dimensional rendition can segue into the equally erroneous warfare thesis, which views science and religion in a continual conflict.

The latest example of this enlightenment mythology comes from a piece by historian Richard Wolin this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The title, Reason vs. Faith: the Battle Continues, indicates Wolin’s thesis. Not only does he promote the Enlightenment caricature discussed above, but he superimposes it on contemporary debates as well. The Enlightenment’s target was religion and today we have religion's neo-Darwinian detractors. Wolin writes:

A cursory glance at the major cultural divide of our day suggests that, in many respects, we haven't gotten much beyond the landmark dispute between faith and reason that separated the leading lights in Hegel's time.

In fact, both eighteenth century Enlightenment thinkers as well as today’s secularists, such as the evolutionists, are every bit as religious as anyone else, and probably more so. The fact that they conclude for reason and naturalism does not lessen the theological calculus that got them there.

Indeed, it is precisely their metaphysics, rather than mere logic and observation, that mandates their truths. When Enlightenment thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, or contemporary evolutionists such as Ernst Mayr, proclaim that their naturalistic narrative is a fact beyond dispute, it is merely a secular-sounding conclusion based on a long religious argument. We need to move beyond the simplistic “reason versus faith” caricatures of modern thought.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Question for Barbara Forrest

In her recent paper, The Non-epistemology of Intelligent Design: Its Implications for Public Policy, evolutionary philosopher Barbara Forrest states that science must be restricted to natural phenomena. In its investigations, science must restrict itself to a naturalistic methodology, where explanations must be strictly naturalistic, dealing with phenomena that are strictly natural. Aside from rare exceptions this is the consensus position of evolutionists. And in typical fashion, Forrest uses this criteria to exclude origins explanations that allow for the supernatural. Only evolutionary explanations, in one form or another, are allowed. She writes:

The sciences are unified by their naturalistic methodology and empiricist epistemology, a unity ... that can take us to the outer reaches of natural phenomena, but never beyond them. When we move beyond the epistemic boundaries that these faculties and rules set for us and the correspondingly limited metaphysical boundaries they enable us to define, we move from the relative epistemological safety of knowledge to the unmapped, supernatural territory of faith.

Forrest does not attempt to prove these assertions. That would require the non scientific, religious, assumptions that under gird evolutionary thought, and of which evolutionists are in denial. Be that as it may, let's have a look at this evolutionary philosophy of science.

In spite of what evolutionists would have us believe, theirs is not the only philosophy of science. The bigger picture (or at least part of it) is that there is a three-way tug of war between method, realism and completeness. One can mandate any two of these three, but not all three. The underlying problem here is that we don't know the truth at the outset.

For instance, if we mandate a naturalistic methodology as do evolutionists, then this restriction may rule out true explanations in some cases. We have no way of knowing if method restrictions will rule out the truth, because we don't know the truth.

This means we'll either have to settle for explanations that may be false (as did Descartes), or for explanations for only the subset of phenomena that match up with our method restriction (as did Bacon).

The first option mandates method and completeness but sacrifices realism. The second option mandates method and realism but sacrifices completeness. Finally, the third option is to mandate completeness and realism but sacrifice restrictions on method. Historically this was the favored position of moderate empiricists.

Within this larger context we can see that Forrest falls into the second option, mandating method and realism but sacrificing completeness. The question for Forrest and the evolutionists then is: What is the boundary between natural phenomena and supernatural phenomena?

Forrest tells us science must never violate this boundary, so it is important that we discern it. We need to distinguish between natural and supernatural phenomena? How can science know when it is investigating a supernatural phenomena rather than a natural one? Bacon wrestled with this problem. What does Forrest have to say?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Sermon by Eugenie Scott

In case you missed Eugenie Scott's Gould Lecture at the evolution2009 conference last week, she made the usual religious argument that evolution is a fact, followed by claims that evolution is not religious. It is amazing that evolutionists continue to utter such contradictions, and journalists continue to print them.

In the nineteenth century UC Berkeley professor Joseph Le Conte promoted Darwin's religious arguments for evolution. As is typical, Le Conte was so convinced by the arguments that he lost sight of the religious premises. As with evolutionists today, Le Conte proclaimed powerful religious beliefs, and then concluded that evolution was an inescapable scientific finding. In spite of the religious foundation, he claimed that evolution was as much a fact as gravity. And just as we do not use "gravitationist" for someone who accepts the obvious fact of gravity, so too we should not use "evolutionist" for someone who accepts evolution.

Le Conte's work is a classic example of evolutionary thinking and Scott replayed the tape in her lecture. We cannot ''believe" in evolution, explained the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, because its basic idea--common descent--is a scientific fact. Debating the existence of evolution's core idea is as ridiculous as debating other widely accepted scientific facts. After all, no one would talk about belief in cell division. It was classic nineteenth century triumphalism, free of twenty first century science.

Scott followed this with the other classic evolutionary keystone that non evolutionary explanations are not scientific. Science, after all, is limited to explaining the natural world using natural processes. What a happy coincidence. Science is limited to naturalistic evolution, whatever it may be, and it so happens that naturalistic evolution, whatever it is, is a fact.

And regarding all those disagreements among scientists about the mechanisms and patterns of evolution, Scott reminded us not to worry. Such problems are often misunderstood as weaknesses of evolution as a whole, but of course, that would be impossible. Remember, evolution is a fact.

Scott's lecture was a succinct summary of the sort of sophistry to which evolution's religious premises lead. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Misrepresentation is Too Common

In debate clubs one learns how to misrepresent the opponent's position. But if you are interested in getting at the truth rather than knocking down strawmen arguments, then genuinely engage all sides of a question. Why is evolution proclaimed to be a fact? What are all the evidences and arguments for evolution? Are they compelling? If so, why? If not, why not?

These are the questions I asked myself. I had found problems with the theory, but perhaps I was missing something. A critique that is based on secondary evidences and arguments, or worse, misrepresentations, is a waste of my time. I wanted to understand the full weight of the theory I was beginning to doubt.

Not so with evolutionists. It is remarkable how consistently evolutionists fail to investigate, and even misrepresent, the position of skeptics. Here is a typical example. After a public debate with an evolutionist, I asked him about his knowledge of scientific problems with his theory. I asked because he evinced little such knowledge in our debate. In the debate, rather than address the problems I raised he simply dismissed them as fallacies. He assured me that he had a well stocked library of works by evolution skeptics, and he was familiar with "all the arguments."

That didn't square with his performance in the debate, so I mentioned some specific titles. Well he hadn't read those. Hmm, I mentioned another but again, he hadn't read it. Of these books which I admired and felt seriously engaged evolutionary theory, he had not read any. No wonder he was so confident that scientific problems were unfounded--he was conveniently ignorant of them.

Too often evolutionists are, amazingly, not well studied on how the scientific evidence bears on their own theory.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New DNA Damage Repair Mechanism Must Have Arisen Early

DNA damage repair is a fascinating topic in cell biology. Fascinating because the cell's repair mechanisms are so incredible. What's more the mechanisms are coordinated in a sophisticated control network. As one researcher put it, "it’s almost as if cells have something akin to a computer program that becomes activated by DNA damage, and that program enables the cells to respond very quickly."

Now a new mechanism has been discovered which repairs DNA alkylation damage (the erroneous addition of carbon groups to DNA bases). The new mechanism links two previously known mechanisms. Here is how one science writer describes these two mechanisms:

The DNA repair process that removes such toxic "lesions" is known as base repair, and uses a protein called AGT (O6-alkylguanine DNA-alkytransferase) to remove the alkyl group before DNA replicates. The protein essentially sticks a chemical finger inside the DNA to flip the damaged [base] out from the DNA helix structure so that its adduct is exposed and can be transferred from the [base] to a part of its protein structure. The [base] is now repaired and can rejoin cytosine with three hydrogen bonds linking them.

AGT is believed to act alone, but there is another, unrelated repair process—nucleotide excision repair (NER)—that uses lots of proteins in its pathway. This repair occurs when bulky adducts stuck to bases distort the sleek shape of the DNA helix. Then a whole group of proteins come in and remove a patch of bases that includes the adduct, and DNA polymerase follows and fills in the patch while adding the correct base back.

The new mechanism uses alkyltransferase-like proteins (ATLs) which are similar to the AGT protein. Like AGT, ATL attacks the DNA base that has suffered alkylation damage. But the ATL protein distorts the DNA structure significantly, and thus triggers the NER mechanism.

This sophisticated and coordinated repair sequence was found in all three domains of life (prokaryotes, eukaryotes and archaea). For evolutionists this forces the absurd conclusion that such a sophisticated DNA repair interaction evolved early on. Before there was so much as an amoeba evolution had worked wonders. The earliest crude cells must not have been so crude after all. Evolution incredibly worked miracles when life first arose. As the researchers write:

Our analysis of lesion-binding site conservation identifies new ATLs in sea anemone and ancestral archaea, indicating that ATL interactions are ancestral to present-day repair pathways in all domains of life.

This conclusion that complexity comes early is often forced on evolutionists, in spite of the evolutionary expectations to the contrary.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another Good Sign in Science Reporting

For the second time in as many months there is a reasonably accurate report on recent origin of life research. That's about as many as there were in the entire twentieth century. Something is going right, particularly since this latest piece comes in the renown crusader of evolution, Nature magazine. Katharine Sanderson writes of some fascinating new biochemistry research which is being erroneously described as an evolution breakthrough.

But Sanderson makes no such blunder. She even interviewed chemist Robert Shapiro who has the unusual habit of requiring evolutionary hypotheses to be supported by empirical evidence. Shapiro points out that the research deals with a chemical system that is unlikely (to put it mildly) to be available in a warm little pond:

It is possible to speculate that a system of this type arose during the course of evolution — though well after life began — as a precursor to RNA and DNA. At the time when life first began, however, only crude chemical mixtures would be expected on early Earth. The idea that such mixtures would spontaneously transform themselves into the systems of the type described here, without the aid of chemists and laboratories, is absurd.

Sanderson goes even further, and notes that even the lead researcher "is coy about the implications of his work for the origins of life." Fifty years ago such research would likey have been proclaimed with triumphant headlines. "Life in a Test Tube," the headlines might have read. The bar is rising, and Sanderson should be commended for good journalism.

Edward O. Wilson at the World Science Festival

If you are in Gotham City this weekend you can attend Brian Greene's and Tracy Day's World Science Festival. Greene wants the festival to celebrate great scientists in addition to science, as a way of encouraging public interest and generating excitement in the minds of future students. That's a great idea (one of many from the brain of Brian Greene). But this year's choice of "great scientist," evolutionist Edward O. Wilson, may not generate the type of excitement we need.

Wilson uses "science" to determine that soldiers who heroically throw themselves on top of grenades, to save their nearby comrades, are merely acting according to how evolution has programmed them. In his book On Human Nature, for instance, Wilson explained this sort of altruism:

To understand ... and resolve the puzzle of human altruism we must distinguish two basic forms of cooperative behavior. The altruistic impulse can be irrational and unilaterally directed at others; the bestower expresses no desire for equal return and performs no unconscious actions leading to the same end. I have called this form of behavior "hard-core" altruism ... Where such behavior exists, it is likely to have evolved through kin selection or natural selection operating on entire, competing family or tribal units. We would expect hard-core altruism to serve the altruist's closest relatives and to decline steeply in frequency and intensity as relationship becomes more distant. [155]

It seems the heroic soldiers not only were merely acting out their evolutionary impulses, programmed by kin selection, but they didn't even do that right, confusing their fellow soldiers for siblings--quite irrational.

But what about charity that goes beyond cultural and even national boundaries? Has Mother Theresa confused Indian children for her own? No, evolution has constructed religious altruism with false promises of salvation. How clever. Wilson again explains all:

Mother Theresa is an extraordinary person but it should not be forgotten that she is secure in the service of Christ and the knowledge of her Church's immortality. [165]

With those insightful thoughts, we can imagine how the Friday night panel discussion, on what it means to be human, went. The topic focused on altruism, which Wilson undoubtedly explained away to a fawning audience.

What is particularly disgusting about evolution's enlightened views of behavior and altruism is its scientific absurdity and ultimate reliance on religion. Hardly an encouragement to the minds of future students.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vitalism as Strawman Null Hypothesis

Recent epigenetics findings highlight a problematic trend. Evolution faces ever increasing scientific challenges as its predictions continue to go wrong. All the while evolutionists, for the most part, continue to issue non responsive responses. Most of what I have heard from evolutionists regarding epigenetics falls into the usual categories of denialism, but one evolutionist told me that epigenetics poses no problems for evolution because the mechanisms are, well, just that--mechanisms.

This argument is very simple: The epigenetics mechanisms are natural, and therefore they fit well within evolutionary theory. This argument draws a (false) dichotomy between vitalism and evolution. In this banal view of nature, vitalism is evolution's foil--if a mechanism isn't violating natural law, then it evolved.

In his 2005 book Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature, Keith Thomson uses this argument (see Science's Blind Spot for discussion). Could this be an emerging argument for evolution? If so, it demonstrates how desperate the defense has become.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Evolution's Warfare Thesis

Evolutionist Douglas Woodhams admirably promotes conservation of biodiversity, but in doing so reveals the severe warfare thesis streak that runs through evolution. He is concerned about people "with values based on faith, not science," and explains that "Scientists may help convince the religious community" if they can "appeal to people of faith."

This hard dichotomy, with science cleanly sequestered from religious influence and scientific "values" free of any metaphysical impurities, reveals a profound misunderstanding and dangerous under estimation, of the pervasiveness of religious thought. Indeed, far from being free of religious influence, evolution is based on it.

Some Good News for Biology Students

Evolutionists have complained bitterly that some states are requiring biology classes to present evolution from a theory-neutral perspective--that is, the evidence should be presented without first presenting evolution as true. And evolutionists have mounted an offense against such efforts.

But here's some good news. Some evolutionists, rather than using political manipulation, say they are going to use science. The new standards call for science, and to the science they will go.

Ken Miller and Steve Nowicki, for instance, authors of Prentice Hall and Holt McDougal texts, respectively, are looking forward to beefing up the scientific description and evidences for evolution. As Nowicki says:

I understand that there may be a political agenda behind the standards, but I am taking them at face value. If a state thinks students need more information to understand evolution, I am happy to provide that.

You mean there actually are evolutionists who will follow the standards (which call for science class to present science), rather than impute false motives and engage in political offensives? That is terrific news and Nowicki needs to be applauded. Last time I reviewed a Holt text it was, frankly, pathetic. The publisher's response to my review was equally disappointing. We look forward to better things.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Epigenetic Inheritance: Can Evolution Adapt?

Given how routinely evolution fails to explain biology, it is remarkable that scientists still believe in the nineteenth century idea. One of the many problem areas is adaptation. Evolution holds that populations adapt to environmental pressures via the natural selection of blind variations. If more fur is needed, and some individuals accidentally are endowed with mutations that confer a thicker coat of fur, then those individuals will have greater survival and reproduction rates. The thicker fur mutation will then become common in the population.

This is the evolutionary notion of change. It is not what we find in biology. Under the hood, biology reveals far more complex and intelligent mechanisms for change, collectively referred to as epigenetic inheritance. You can read more about the challenge that this form of inheritance poses for evolution here. The take home message is that adaptation is routinely found to be not blind, but rather responsive to environmental pressures. The fur becomes thicker not by accident, but via cellular mechanisms responding to a need.

There is still much to learn about this phenomenal built-in adaptation capability, but it now is clear, and has been for several years, that epigenetic inheritance is a dramatic departure from evolutionary expectations. Indeed, this sort of adaptation is closer to the ideas of the long disgraced French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). Lamarck's idea was that offspring inherit traits or characteristics that were acquired by the parents. Although epigenetic inheritance is far more complex than anything Lamarck imagined, he was remarkably close to what is now being discovered. You can see a recent review of what has been learned here. Only a few years ago positive references to Lamarck drew heated response. Such ideas were not tolerated. Now his name appears regularly in the epigenetics literature.

This leaves evolutionists in an awkward position, to say the least. For years many have been resisting these evidences. I raised these evidences in a debate once and the evolutionist flatly denied any such thing. The problem is that such intelligent adaptation capabilities suggest design, not accident. Evolution is left with the unlikely explanation that evolution constructed elaborate adaptation mechanisms so that evolution could then occur--hardly the obvious explanation. It is yet another example of how evolution is failing to explain biology.

Photosynthesis: A Great Invention

Evolutionist Nick Lane claims photosynthesis as one of evolution's ten great inventions. Photosynthesis truly is a remarkable invention. The short explanation is that it is a mechanism that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into chemical energy, food and the oxygen we breath. The long explanation fills textbooks and is about molecular antennae tuned to capture the sun's energy and incredibly complicated sequences of chemical reactions.

One may wonder why is it that Lane thinks that such a phenomenal machine was created by evolution. After all, there is very little in the architecture of photosynthesis that would lead one to such a conclusion. Lane thinks photosynthesis evolved because he is an evolutionist. He believes everything evolved. The thought that photosynthesis, or anything else, did not evolve never crosses the mind of evolutionists. For them evolution is a fact and it simply is not possible that anything did not evolve. You can see in what Lane has to say that feasibility is not a consideration:

Without photosynthesis life couldn't get very far. Photosynthesis provides both the fuel and oxygen for respiration -- and only aerobic respiration generates enough energy to support multicellular life. Oxygenic photosynthesis arose just once in the history of evolution, in cyanobacteria. The trick demands an elaborate biochemical scheme to extract electrons from water and thrust them onto carbon dioxide. Without that improbable pathway, we would not be here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Credible Scientist Doubts Evolution

How many times have you heard that no credible scientist doubts the truth of evolution? They probably said the same thing about geocentrism. Fortunately, science is not a democracy. But for the record, in fact a great many scientists doubt evolution. And some of them have even put their names on the Dissent from Darwin statement. It reads:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

Guppy "Evolution" and Interpretation Bias

In addition to confirmation bias, another problem that arises when evaluating the theory of evolution is interpretation bias. Evolutionists routinely interpret new findings according to evolution, and then use the findings as evidence for evolution.

A good example of this is the interpretation of adaptative change as evolutionary change. Adaptive change is mediated by complex cellular mechanisms in response to environmental pressures. And adaptive change occurs rapidly. This does not fit the theory of evolution which views variation as blind to environmental pressure.

New research on guppies provides a good example of this type of adaptive change, and the evolutionary interpretation. Guppies were transplanted into an environment with predators, and within eight years they had adapted variations that improved their survival rate in the new environment. It was an excellent experiment, but the results were presented as an example of evolutionary change. As one science writer put it:

The fact that fitness differences were found after only eight years shows just how fast evolution can work—for short-lived species anyway.

This is an unfortunate example of a way that evolution restricts scientific research.

The Stickleback and Confirmation Bias

Species of stickleback fish can rapid adapt to new environments. Such adaptations can range from minor adjustments to body shape and size to the complete loss of major structures such as the pelvis. It is an example of rapid, intelligent adaptation, not the sort of change expected by evolution.

This is not the only surprise for evolutionists. New research has found that these adaptations are controlled by different genes. That surprised evolutionists because they expect the same genes would control the same changes in related species. A basic prediction of evolution is that related species should be genetically similar, because they have been evolving independently for only a relatively short period. But this expectation is routinely contradicted by biology, which seems to be unaware of the theory of evolution.

Another interesting example of this in stickleback fish are the sex-determination genes, which are located on different chromosomes in different species. As one evolutionist admitted:

This is very surprising because these species are fairly closely related.

Evolutionists believe that significant differences such as these must have somehow evolved. Evolutionists may not have a clear or compelling explanation for how or why the change came about, but not surprisingly, they believe evolution did the job. Since these differences do not fit the evolutionary expectation, they are viewed as anomalies, whereas the similarities that are expected are viewed as more informative of evolutionary relationship. It is the latter, not the former, that are more often used when evolutionists create their evolutionary trees.

This pre screening of data is known as confirmation bias. It is a well known tendency in science. Proponents of a theory are less likely to dwell on, or perhaps even acknowledge, contradictory data. Those data are viewed as outliers. This is one reason why objective theory evaluation is difficult. Don't expect evolutionists to tell us one day that their theory may not be a fact after all.

New Stickleback Research

It's worth repeating that if Charles Darwin had explained that evolution proceeds in fits and starts, his theory would have been ridiculed from the start. Imagine if Darwin had explained that, according to his theory of evolution, species rapidly appear as if planted there, and then go unchanged for eons. Darwin would have been laughed off the stage. Darwin had to present a narrative of gradualism. Funny thing is, the fits-and-starts narrative is today precisely what evolutionists tell us.

Evolutionists have tried to justify the fits-and-starts narrative with evidence of rapid changes in fish morphology. Problem is, those rapid changes are too rapid. They are a sign of a built-in adaptive capability rather than a lucky accident which evolutionists envision. New research on stickleback fish continues to tell this story. Evolutionist Mike Shapiro was interviewed for this article, which explained that:

There are six and perhaps eight stickleback species, all in the Northern Hemisphere. They live in Europe; coastal North America north from northern Mexico on the Pacific and north from New York on the Atlantic; and all over coastal northern Asia. Like salmon, many live in the sea and swim upstream to spawn. Others live in lakes.

After Ice Age glaciers started melting some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, sea-going sticklebacks swam up streams to newly formed lakes. Many populations of ninespine and threespine sticklebacks were trapped in lakes, creating an experiment in evolution.

They adapted very quickly and dramatically to these new freshwater environments," says Shapiro. "Some of the changes include shifts in body shape and size, the amount of armor on their bodies and, occasionally, complete loss of major structures like the pelvis. That's the equivalent of us losing our legs."

Such rapid adaptations do not help us understand why the fossil record is characterized by the rapid appearance of new species followed by eons of no change.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Pyknon Prediction

The latest "junk" DNA finding is that pyknons have been found in the much studied plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Pyknons are short (about 20 nucleotides) DNA sequence patterns that are common, and show up in both genes and the "junk" regions of DNA (introns and intergenic).

In addition to their dual presence as (i) evolutionary "junk" (which increasingly is being found to be useful in spite of evolutionary expectations) and (ii) within genes, pyknons are also similar to regulatory RNA sequences, and have some interesting correlations and patterns regarding their chromosomal positioning.

So why are pyknons so prevalent in these "junk" DNA regions? The researchers think they are a by-product of the action of RNA gene silencing. In other words, it's just junk after all. If the history of evolutionary expectations is a useful guide, you can expect that this will be yet another one gone wrong.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

McLeroy Does it Again

The much maligned Don McLeroy has a column in today's Bryan-College Station Eagle. Recall that McLeroy has been accused of a host of nefarious deeds, including recklessly disregarding the advice of education experts, causing the Texas State Board of Education to be “extremely dysfunctional,” fueling endless culture wars, and putting ideology and partisanship ahead of the schoolchildren of Texas. So what does McLeroy have to say for himself?

Well he starts right off with the ludicrous idea of teaching only science in science class. I can now see why everyone was so upset. McLeroy writes that there is no place for any ideology, religious or otherwise in science class. He obviously is up to no good. He also argues that students should be able to challenge untestable ideologies being taught as dogma. This of course will undermine the authority of the teacher and textbook.

We all agree with the need for, so-called, critical thinking. But McLeroy takes this to a dangerous extreme, essentially bringing anarchy to the classroom. Students need to be taught theories that everyone already knows are true. It profits no one for students to question the truth. Students may ask questions about theories, but not question the theories themselves. McLeroy fundamentally misunderstands what critical thinking is all about.

McLeroy's ulterior motives become all too obvious when he addresses the theory of evolution (which is really a fact). He thinks, of all things, that students should study evidence for common ancestry, such as in the fossil record. McLeroy would then allow these young, impressionable, students to question evolution.

It is hard to believe that we are even debating how to teach science. Students obviously need to be taught, and tested on, the truth. Questioning the truth will get them nowhere.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hearing Design Research

One of the many fascinating designs in biology is the workings of our senses. Here, for example, is a description of new findings on the actions of hair cells in the inner ear. It is yet another example of biology leaving evolution in the dust:

Microvilli (stereocilia) projecting from the apex of hair cells in the inner ear are actively motile structures that feed energy into the vibration of the inner ear and enhance sensitivity to sound. The biophysical mechanism underlying the hair bundle motor is unknown. In this study, we examined a membrane flexoelectric origin for active movements in stereocilia and conclude that it is likely to be an important contributor to mechanical power output by hair bundles. We formulated a realistic biophysical model of stereocilia incorporating stereocilia dimensions, the known flexoelectric coefficient of lipid membranes, mechanical compliance, and fluid drag. Electrical power enters the stereocilia through displacement sensitive ion channels and, due to the small diameter of stereocilia, is converted to useful mechanical power output by flexoelectricity. This motor augments molecular motors associated with the mechanosensitive apparatus itself that have been described previously. The model reveals stereocilia to be highly efficient and fast flexoelectric motors that capture the energy in the extracellular electro-chemical potential of the inner ear to generate mechanical power output. The power analysis provides an explanation for the correlation between stereocilia height and the tonotopic organization of hearing organs. Further, results suggest that flexoelectricity may be essential to the exquisite sensitivity and frequency selectivity of non-mammalian hearing organs at high auditory frequencies, and may contribute to the “cochlear amplifier” in mammals.

How Future Scholars Will View Evolution

Centuries from now, here is how a history book is likely to describe the theory of evolution:

As with many new paradigms, evolutionary thought developed over a lengthy period. Within the period known as Modern Science, which had its beginnings in the middle of the second millennium, evolutionary thought began to emerge in the mid seventeenth century. At that time theologians and philosophers from various traditions strenuously argued that the world must have arisen via strictly naturalistic processes. These schools of thought contributed to what became known as The Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century which marked a major turning point in Western intellectual thought.

In The Enlightenment period theological and metaphysical positions became codified in Western thought. These positions became sufficiently accepted and familiar so as to be no longer in need of justification. Instead, Western thinking rapidly incorporated these positions as new truths. This new theology made strong commitments in the area of divine intent, action, and interaction with creation. The impact on science was profound as this theology mandated that God's interactions with the world was to be strictly via secondary causes (i.e., natural laws), and that all of history must be governed solely by such causes. This paradigm later became known as Evolutionary Thought.

In Evolutionary Thought, science implicitly incorporated these theological and metaphysical commitments. Western, and by now worldwide, thought entered a dark age of anti intellectualism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this period all findings were described as evolutionary. Needless to say this was cause for ever more strained explanations of the evidence. Nonetheless, a rigid social and financial structure enforced adherence, complete with implicit penalties and harassment of dissenters.

We now understand that a key enabler of Evolutionary Thought was the denial of its very foundation. In its Delusion of Objectivity, evolution denied any theological or metaphysical influence or commitment. Indeed, the very term Enlightenment is an anachronism. We still use this historical term, even though it was meant to convey the idea of objectivity and independence of religious assumption and authority. Indeed, The Enlightenment period was precisely the opposite. As with so many periods of history, The Enlightenment was strongly influenced by theology and metaphysics. The difference in The Enlightenment was its denial of such influence. This Delusion of Objectivity was the source of much of the justification for Evolutionary Thought, until its demise in the early twenty first century.