Monday, July 27, 2009

Are Evolutionists Delusional (or just in denial)?

My friend Paul Nelson has the patience of Job. He writes that evolutionists, such as PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, "need to think about [their theological arguments] more deeply." In one moment evolutionists make religious arguments and in the next they claim their theory is "just science." Their religious arguments, they explain, really aren't religious arguments after all. Gee, that was easy. In light of such absurdity, I don't have much confidence that evolutionists are going to think more deeply about this. But it would be nice if they would stop misrepresenting science. And it would be nice if they would stop using their credentials to mislead the public. In short, it would be nice if they would stop lying.

I don't like to think that people are liars. Perhaps evolutionists are merely delusional or in denial. I know they are smart people so this isn't just a case of acting stupidly. Whatever the case, it is a fact that evolutionists engage in substantial misrepresentation of the facts. Here's how Coyne attempts to explain why his religion isn't really religion after all:

the argument from imperfection — i.e., organisms show imperfections of “design” that constitute evidence for evolution — is not a theological argument, but a scientific one. The reason why the recurrent laryngeal nerve, for example, makes a big detour around the aorta before attaching to the larynx is perfectly understandable by evolution (the nerve and artery used to line up, but the artery evolved backwards, constraining the nerve to move with it), but makes no sense under the idea of special creation — unless, that is, you believe that the creator designed things to make them look as if they evolved. No form of creationism/intelligent design can explain these imperfections, but they all, as Dobzhansky said, “make sense in the light of evolution.”

Should we laugh or cry? According to Coyne the design "makes no sense under the idea of special creation" and this "is not a theological argument, but a scientific one." Coyne's misrepresentations and sophistry are, frankly, astonishing. Let's have a look in more detail. First, here is what Coyne writes about this design in his new book, Why Evolution is true:

One of nature's worst designs is shown by the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals. Running from the brain to the larynx, this nerve helps us speak and swallow. The curisou thing is that it is much longer than it needs to be. ... In giraffes the nerve takes a similar path, but one that runs all the way down that long neck and back up again: a distance fifteen feet longer than the direct route! ... This circuitous path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve is not only poor design, but might even be maladaptive. That extra length makes it more prone to injury. It can, for example, be damaged by a blow to the chest, making it hard to talk or swallow. But the pathway makes sense when we understand how the recurrent laryngeal nerve evolved. ... But the particular bad designs that we see make sense only if they evolved from features of earlier ancestors. If a designer did have discernable motives when creating species, one of them must surely have been to fool biologists by making organisms look as though they evolved. [82-5]

This, of course, is a classic example of the theological naturalism which is the heart of evolutionary thought. Design X must have arisen naturalistically because it would not have been designed. Such assumptions about design, and what counts as acceptable and unacceptable design, are metaphysical--they are above science. They do not derive from science, but rather drive the science, as we can see so vividly here in Coyne's example.

Coyne also employs the classic evolutionary argument that it would be deceptive for God to have created the design, because this would mean he created organisms to look as though they evolved.

But nature's organisms do not look as though they evolved. Except, that is, if one assumes that God would never have designed the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Again, we're back to assumptions about design. Evolutionists are so deep in their own metaphysics they don't even realize it.

Evolution has no scientific explanation for how the recurrent laryngeal nerve, or any other nerve for that matter, evolved. It is a vacuous theory. But it knows they must have evolved because God would not have done it that way.

In fact, evolution has no solid basis for even thinking these designs are necessarily poor. This is more religion making its way into the argument, as the assumption of poor design is itself a motif of evolutionary thought. When in doubt, evolutionists assume lack of function or poor design. It is not a scientific finding so much as a consequence of the belief that evolution is true.

In fact, evolution's track record is terrible. Its many "findings" of lack of function or poor design are typically found to be false when more understanding is gained. In the case of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, it and associated nerves are complex and we by no means are in a position to declare the state of the design's goodness at this time.

Finally, Coyne makes a standard evolutionary appeal to a famous paper by evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky. Dobzhansky was one of the twentieth century's leading evolutionists and he wrote a paper entitled "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

The title itself reveals the metaphysical message and, not surprisingly, the paper was a tirade against divine creation. It is now a classic example of theological naturalism in action. The paper's title has become one of the most memorable and quoted phrases for evolutionists--another constant reminder of the theology embedded in their thinking.

Coyne makes the usual appeal to this iconic paper, but as if sensing a problem Coyne carefully edits the title. He writes that such imperfect designs "as Dobzhansky said, 'make sense in the light of evolution.' "

It may sound similar, but Coyne's redaction is a not too subtle attempt to hide the metaphysics. Dobzhansky's message was that imperfections make no sense except in evolution. That is, imperfections make no sense in divine creation.

Coyne inverts the message to say that imperfect designs make sense in evolution. Of course, but so what? So do perfect designs, and everything in between. All these make sense in evolution just as my bad day yesterday makes sense in astrology and warp drive makes sense in science fiction movies. When you can make up whatever just-so stories come to mind, then everything "makes sense."

The bottom line is that it is precisely from theology and metaphysics that evolution derives its power. Evolution is proclaimed to be a fact by Dobzhansky, Coyne and the evolutionists not on the basis of speculative science. As Elliott Sober has pointed out, evolution's truth status comes from the assumed unlikeliness of design, and all the theology entailed therein. It is, as Sober put it, Darwin's Principle.

Evolutionists like to make factual claims. One fact that is incontrovertible is that evolution is driven by theological claims--that is a matter of public record. Evolution is a religious theory. What is interesting is that the evolutionist denies any such thing. He may as well be denying the nose on his own face. This is truly a fascinating mythology.

Whether evolutionists are liars, delusional or in denial is difficult to say. What is obvious is that evolutionary thought is bankrupt. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Evolutionist is "Shocked, Shocked to Find Religion in Here"

Religious doctrinaire PZ Myers now incredibly claims there is no religion in evolution. After seeing Paul Nelson and Ronald Numbers discuss the issue, Myers reveals he is deeply in denial:

The argument from biological imperfections is not theological, no matter how vociferously Nelson asserts that it is, because no biologist is simply saying what he claims they are; the interesting part about imperfections like the recurrent laryngeal nerve or the spine of bipeds or mammalian testicles isn't simply that they seem clumsy and broken in a way no sensible god would tolerate, but that evolution provides an explanation for why they are so. We can build a case that these structures are a product of historical antecedents, and have a positive case for them as consequences of common descent. Nelson is misrepresenting the argument, and Numbers just went along with it.

It is not news that people live in denial of their own commitments and convictions. But the degree to which evolutionists are in denial is remarkable. The metaphysics embedded in their thought is exceeded only by their denial of it. It is a truly fascinating mythology.

The reason given by evolutionists such as Myers for why their theological proclamations don't count is that "evolution provides an explanation for" the imperfections. This reasoning is so problematic it seems unnecessary to rebuke. Can evolutionists really be serious? Unfortunately they are, so here goes.

First, as a simple matter of logic, the evolutionary "explanations" for imperfections do nothing to remove the theological claims. Second, as Elliott Sober has recently pointed out with logical rigor, it is precisely from the metaphysical premises that the argument from imperfection derives its strength. Third, the notion that "evolution provides an explanation" is absurd. That's like saying bed-time stories provide an explanation. See here, here and here for the evolutionary aburdity that vision (and that imperfect blind spot) just "evolved." Fourth, the theology has historically and continues today to drive evolutionary thought.

The seventeenth century cleric Nicolas Malebranche argued for simple, blunt means of creation to explain imperfections and evil in the world. His theodicy laid the groundwork for Leibniz and others. And the seventeenth century botanist John Ray argued that the world's “errors and bungles” reveal indirect creation mechanisms. These are merely two examples of how evolutionary thought was being formulated centuries before Darwin. And here are just a few examples from later thinkers:

Thus, God's choice, not having the slightest motive for tying [the planets] to one single arrangement, would reveal itself with a greater freedom in all sorts of deviations and differences” –Immanuel Kant, 1755

“I needed all my skeptical and metaphysical subtlety to elude [the design argument, but] here [referring to imperfections and evil] I triumph.” –David Hume, 1779

The hierarchical clustering of the species is "utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations.” –Charles Darwin, 1859

“I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or the cat should play with mice.” –Charles Darwin, 1860

“The strange springs and traps and pitfalls found in the flowers of Orchids cannot be necessary per se, since exactly the same end is gained in ten thousand other flowers which do not possess them. Is it not then an extraordinary idea to imagine the Creator of the Universe contriving the various complicated parts of these flowers as a mechanic might contrive an ingenious toy or a difficult puzzle? Is it not a more worthy conception that they are some of the results of those general laws which were so co-ordinated at the first introduction of life upon the earth as to result necessarily in the utmost possible development of varied forms?” –Alfred Wallace, 1870

“If whales were made at once out of hand as we now see them, is it conceivable that these useless teeth would have been given them?” –Joseph Le Conte, 1891

Unless “one is prepared to believe in successive acts of creation and successive catastrophes resulting in their obliteration, there is already a strong presumptive indication that evolution has occurred.” –Sir Gavin de Beer, 1964

"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." –Stephen Jay Gould, 1980

What could have possessed the Creator to bestow two horns on the African rhinoceroses and only one on the Indian species?” –Douglas Futuyma, 1983

“It has turned out to be easier to evolve variations on the five-digit theme, than to recompose the limb structure. If species have descended from common ancestors, homologies make sense; but if all species originated separately, it is difficult to understand why they should share homologous similarities.” –Mark Ridley, 1993

Would God “really want to take credit for the mosquito?” –Ken Miller, 1999

“There are too many deficiencies, too much cruelty in the world of life. To assume that they have been explicitly created by God amounts to blasphemy. I believe God to be omniscient and benevolent. The design of organisms is not compatible with such beliefs.” –Francisco Ayala, 2002

Evolutionary thought is, and always has been profoundly religious. Of course that is nothing new--religious mandates have always been influential. What is remarkable is the denial of evolutionists about their own arguments and convictions.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conformity in Science and Journalism (and Everywhere Else)

Journalist Nicholas Wade notes that not only is conformity pervasive in our culture, but most conformists are not fully aware of their own conformity. He writes in the New York Times this week:

Journalists, of course, are conformists too. So are most other professions. There’s a powerful human urge to belong inside the group, to think like the majority, to lick the boss’s shoes, and to win the group’s approval by trashing dissenters.

Unfortunately Wade is too often correct. Conformity is pervasive, sometimes subtle, and usually unfairly critical of dissent. Those in the comfort of the dominant paradigm have little incentive for exploring why they might be wrong. It is easier for conformists to trash-talk rather than engage dissent.

This well describes evolutionists who often misunderstand, misinterpret and misrepresent the opposition. You can see this by asking them one simple question: "Why are people skeptical of evolution?"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Facts Will Resist Theories: There is no Tree of Life

Attempts to cast today's origins debate as a Galileo replay are particularly ironic. It is true that today religion is dictating truth over against scientific findings, just as Whiggish history portrays the Galileo affair. But the Whigs have it backwards. Today the religion dictates evolution while the science contradicts it.

No matter what evolutionists claim, the science does not lie. Facts do not bend to accommodate theories. Evolutionists, for instance, continue to cling to the notion of a tree of life, in spite of the data. As one scientist wrote:

there is no such thing as a tree of life. The idea of a tree of life, which stringently follows Darwin theory, is not pertinent in the genomic age. Because of the occurrence of lateral gene transfer, specifically in the 'mobilome' category of selfish genes, we know that current organisms are chimeric, and made of a mosaic of sequences of different origins that makes the tree of life theory obsolete.

Indeed, otherwise similar species reveal profound differences and very different species reveal profound similarities. This is not what evolution predicted. Science should follow data, not dogma.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dan Hofstadter: Skeptics Don't Understand Science

Let's hope that Dan Hofstadter understands Galileo better than evolution. The author of the latest rendering of the Galileo affair thinks that the seventeenth century argument over heliocentricism (and many other things) is "essentially the same quarrel" as today's origins debate. Evolution skeptics such as intelligent design supporters and creationists, explains Hofstadter, do not understand the notion of a hypothesis:

the similarity has to do with the failure to understand the notion of a scientific theory, and the inability to understand what it is to perceive nature, to know nature, which was really very understandable in 1616 ... But (it) is much harder to understand or sympathize with now.

It seems that Hofstadter is yet another evolutionist who criticizes without understanding. And as usual the evolutionist's strawman version of evolution skepticism is overflowing with hypocrisy.

Evolution skeptics don't understand the notion of a scientific theory? Unbelievable. Evolutionists make up just-so stories to explain an origins myth that is contradicted by empirical evidence but mandated by religious convictions--and it is the skeptics who are at fault?

Religion drives science and it matters.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Lamprey: A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma

Francis Collins recently rebuked skeptics for thinking evolutionists are protectionists. Sure, evolution is a paradigm, President Obama's nominee to lead the National Institutes of Health agreed. "But one of our goals," Collins explained, "is to upset these paradigms."

OK, how about the humble Lamprey? Long known as a "living fossil," the lamprey is an extant species that also shows up in fossil records dated at hundreds of millions of years old. It is not a very good example of evolution. Now the lamprey gives evolution another jolt: it rewrites its own genetic code during its lifetime.

Like the self-modifying code that software engineers sometimes use, the Lamprey restructures its DNA instructions during its early embryonic stages of development. Furthermore, the germline cells (sperm and egg cells) that later develop somehow retain the original instructions, which are then passed on to the offspring.

It is an astonishing capability and, needless to say, leaves evolution looking rather silly. As one science writer put it, "The scientists don't know how this happens, or why." But of course they do know that it evolved. After all, that's a fact.

One evolutionist thinks that perhaps the initial genome plays a role in the creation of germline precursor cells. Then, once these cells are established, the DNA is restructured to suit the future needs of the organism.

So let's see, hundreds of millions of years ago in the early stages of the evolutionary drama, when species rapidly appeared with designs as sophisticated as today's species, some unguided mutations just happened to occur that just happened to cause a dramatic self-modifying DNA capability that just happened to work really well. Now I see why evolution is such a powerful theory. As one evolutionist explained:

We don't really know where this discovery about the sea lamprey's remodeling of its genome will take us. It's common in science for the implications of a finding not to be realized for several decades. It's less about connecting the dots to a specific application, and more about obtaining a broad understanding of how living things are put together.

Obviously the fact of evolution plays a key role in life science discoveries such as this. Where would we be without it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Religious Hypocrisy from PZ Myers

Evolutionists often criticize creationism for not starting with a clean slate, but instead doing science according to preconceived notions about what must be true. Here is the latest example from PZ Myers. He writes that a recent example of speculation on the evolution of a signaling pathway is an example of good science, in contrast to the creationist approach:

It's informative in particular for those who follow the creationist “literature”, which often crudely apes the products of actual working science, but lacks the sound methodological underpinnings. In particular, creationism completely misses the process of poking at the real world to develop ideas, since they begin with their conclusion.

Here, once again, we have the evolutionist rebuking others for his own crime. Evolution is one long religious argument. Evolutionists are, if anything, a prime example of folks who "begin with their conclusion."

For instance, Myers recently declared that god didn't create this world because god wouldn't create this world:

We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

That's a religious conviction that drives science, and it matters.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Evolution's Anti Intellectualism Reaching Fever Pitch

Steven Pinker, Harvard professor of psychology, is the latest evolutionist to become unglued over Stephen Meyer's op-ed piece in the Boston Globe. Pinker writes:

SHAME ON you for publishing two creationist op-eds in two years from the Discovery Institute, a well-funded propaganda factory that aims to sow confusion about evolution. Virtually no scientist takes "intelligent design’’ seriously, and in the famous Dover, Pa., trial in 2005, a federal court ruled that it is religion in disguise.

Where do we begin? We could reassure Pinker that the Discovery Institute surely is not a "propaganda factory that aims to sow confusion about evolution." Or we could politely explain to the evolutionists that Meyer's op-ed is not "creationist" as Meyer's claims and the creationist's claims do not line up. And we could point out that federal courts, while very good at ruling on interstate trade and kidnapping cases, are not always equipped to deal with more nuanced cases involving the history and philosophy of thought, as was abundantly revealed in the Dover case.

Such responses would be intended to clear the air of the false notions evolutionists carry around. The responses would be made under the assumption that evolutionists are interested in facts and objective inquiry into such matters. Unfortunately, that is typically not the case. Evolutionists are certainly not interested in understanding intelligent design--then the evolutionists wouldn't be able to brand ID proponents as creationists.

Of course such explanations and reassurances would never be considered. They would never open the mind of an evolutionist like Pinker. But what is worse is they would mask the more serious problem. Trying to explain errors of logic or erroneous assumptions would miss the utter hypocrisy that fuels the evolutionist's vitriol.

Intelligent design is an inference from the data. Agree or disagree with it, there are no religious assumptions. It may be all wrong, but its arguments are based on the evidences of nature, logic, mathematics, and so forth. In other words, it is a scientific argument.

Evolutionists have always branded skeptics as guilty of being driven by religious motivations. Surely there must be religious convictions behind anything the skeptics say. If the skeptics don't admit to their sin, then they are liars as well.

But while evolutionists stand in self-righteous judgment of anyone who disagrees, it is in fact the evolutionists who have founded and promoted a religious theory. Their hypocrisy is plain for all to see. For they commit the very crime for which they castigate others. There is no scientific argument for their claim that evolution is a fact just like gravity--it is a religious argument based on deep metaphysics. Consider Pinker's very next paragraph.

The judge referred to the theory’s "breathtaking inanity,’’ which is a fine description of Stephen Meyer’s July 15 op-ed "Jefferson’s support for intelligent design.’’ Well, yes, Thomas Jefferson died 33 years before Darwin published "The Origin of Species.’’ And Meyer’s idea that the DNA code implies a code maker is just a rehash of the ancient "argument from design’’ - that an eye implies an eye maker, a heart implies a heart maker, and so on. Darwin demolished this argument 150 years ago.

And how did Darwin demolish the argument from design? How did Darwin show that the eye evolved rather than was designed? Did Darwin demonstrate a reasonable evolutionary pathway leading to the eye? Did he convince us that vision plausibly arises on its own? Of course not.

Darwin had no such evidence. But he did have something more powerful--religion. In Chapter 6 of Origin Darwin argued that the evolution of vision is the superior view because otherwise we must say that "the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of men." Have we any such right?

This anthropomorphic warning was straight out of the theological pronouncements of Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. And it was one of hundreds of religious arguments that mandated evolution, one way or another.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Collins: Evolution Skepticism is an Insult

In a recent Books & Culture interview Francis Collins summarized his position on evolution and its skeptics. President Obama's nominee to lead the National Institutes of Health is an evolutionist who tries to make Darwin's idea palatable to the masses. His main concern is with the faithful who, according to Collins, wrongly view evolution as a threat to their religion. This fence-mending mission earns Collins enemies among both the atheists, who think Collins is insufficiently orthodox in his evolutionary views, and the faithful who think Collins has compromised theological truths. From Collins' perspective he is a centrist, forging a via media between the two extremes. But Collins is anything but a centrist and here are three reasons why.

In the Books & Culture interview Collins confidently stated that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming:

The evidence is overwhelming. ... Trying to do biology without evolution would be like trying to do physics without mathematics. ... But nearly all scientists agree upon descent from a common ancestor, gradual change over a long period of time, and natural selection operating to produce the diversity of living species. There is no question that those are correct. Evolution is not a theory that is going to be discarded next week or next year or a hundred thousand years from now. It is true.

Collins also equated evolution with science and evolution skepticism with non scientific conspiracy theory:

The position that people on the outside of science--­like the creationists and the people in the [Intelligent Design] camp--­have adopted, that such a conspiracy could actually exist for more than thirty seconds, completely flies in the face of the realities of the sociology of the field of science. It's an insult.

Finally Collins explained that evolution is all about attempting to falsify:

Sure, we have paradigms that we use to try and organize things, but one of our goals is to upset these paradigms. If laboratories did experiments and said, "Hey, wait a minute, here is some data suggesting that evolution is wrong, it is not capable of explaining something," that would be a lightning rod for excited investigation. This idea would not be ignored because it wasn't consistent with a reigning paradigm.

These misconceptions are so extreme one hardly knows where to begin. The comparison of the role of math in physics and evolution in biology is absurd. Evolution is, in fact, not needed for biological research. There is substantial evidential problems with evolution but Collins describes it, in typical fashion, as "true."

His metaphysical certainty reminds us not that the evidence is overwhelming but that the evidence, when interpreted according to evolution's religious filter, is overwhelming. Collins has argued elsewhere that God never would have created what we find in biology so evolution must be true.

Collins' use of the loaded term "conspiracy" for evolution skeptics, and describing them as outside of science is also problematic. Evolutionists often use this sort of delegitimization of skeptics as an easy dismissal tactic, and this leaves little hope of an objective evaluation of the problematic evidence. And Collins' description of evolutionists as seeking to falsify their theory is out of touch.

When compared to atheists Collins may seem to be a moderate. But regarding evolution, either Collins' understanding of the science and the evolution skeptics is radically in error, or he is in denial.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Implausible Deniability

Evolutionists claim their theory is a fact--every bit as certain as gravity and the round shape of the earth--and it is precisely this claim of certainty that reveals the heart of evolution. For there is a reservoir of metaphysics dictating evolutionary thought and mandating its certainty. Such certainty is not from science. Indeed, from the scientific perspective evolution is not a very good theory. Genetics, paleontology, comparative anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, molecular biology, adaptation, biogeography and so many other fields all pose major problems for Darwin's theory.

Science is not what motivated evolutionary thought. As one historian put it, Darwin and Wallace searched for a mechanism after they had become convinced evolution must be true. As usual, the science followed the metaphysics. Evolution's metaphysical motivations are not too surprising or even interesting--after all, theological and philosophical influences have always been important in the history of thought. What is fascinating about evolution is its denial of such motivations.

Evolution's metaphysics comes in several forms but it is ubiquitous. It may be subtle or it may be obvious, but it is always there. And it forms a distinct literary genre that is evident from its pre Darwinian roots to today's apologists. It is fascinating to see the same metaphysical truth claims foisted upon readers from the seventeenth century to the twenty first century. It is not the science that makes evolution a fact; rather, the science has been force-fitted to provide the required results.

But while evolutionists consistently make their metaphysical appeals, as they must, they also consistently claim to be free of any such non scientific concerns. No demonstration of the fact of evolution is free of deep metaphysics. Evolutionists appeal to these metaphysics, proclaim evolution to be true, all the while pretending to be doing "just science."

One defense evolutionists offer is that all this metaphysics is just an aside. Yes, they agree, evolutionists have made religious claims, but these arguments mainly are intended to persuade those fundamentalists who deny evolution on religious grounds. We're just using every argument at our disposal, they explain, but rest assured the science is in--case closed. After all, you don't see religious claims made in the research journals.

This argument is one of several variations of the denialism that pervades evolution. But it is not plausible for several reasons. Of course research journal papers do not argue for evolution--they presuppose evolution. Research results are interpreted according to evolution without a second thought. Research papers do not generally rehash arguments for the paradigm they work within. This would be like expecting research papers on quantum mechanics to explain why classical physics failed to explain blackbody radiation, atomic spectra and the other motivations for quantum mechanics.

The absurdity of this argument shows how desperate is the denialism. In fact, there is no bridge between the empirical scientific data and the claim that evolution is as much a fact as is gravity. Evolutionists consistently proclaim that their theory has this level of confirmation, but their claims hinge on metaphysical assumptions. Indeed, the more confident their claims, the more indebted they are to non scientific thinking. These are not side arguments--these are the arguments that mandate evolution, and they have been used for centuries.

What is fascinating about evolution is not its assumptions, arguments or conclusions, but its denialism. It reveals a profound internal contradiction. Religion drives science and it matters.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Anti Intellectualism from PZ Myers

The old joke is that evolutionists think the history of science began in when Charles Darwin came along. Unfortunately this barb is too often true and this week it was once again demonstrated by PZ Myers. In his response to Stephen Meyer's reminder that Thomas Jefferson found evidence for design in nature, Myers returned to this bizarre form of anti intellectualism: Anything before Darwin doesn't matter. Myers begins with a typical misplaced criticism:

I knew the creationists were sloppy scholars and had a poor grasp of history and science, but this is getting ridiculous.

First, Stephen Meyer is not a creationist. But understanding that would require PZ Myers to have knowledge of the position he is attacking.

Second, Stephen Meyer stated that Thomas Jefferson found evidence for design in nature (not revelation), based on this quote:

I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.’’ ... It is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion.

So exactly how does PZ Myers find this to be "a poor grasp of history and science"? What is it about "it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design" that evolutionists don't understand?

The answer, of course, is that none of that matters. After all, Jefferson wrote those words before Darwin began to reveal all. Doesn't Stephen Meyer know better? PZ Myers pounds home his anti intellectualism for all to see:

Jefferson was 33 years in the grave before Darwin got around to explaining how we don't need a designer to explain the living universe. I rather suspect that no ship was dispatched from Virginia to Shropshire to get young Charlie Darwin's rebuttal of the 1823 claim, either. It's even less likely that Jefferson's zombie rose up in 1859 to take a quick gander at these new ideas spreading through biology and decided, nah, he likes intelligent design better.

33 years in the grave before Darwin began writing? So what? This is irrelevant to Stephen Meyer's point. Jefferson inferred design from the evidence in nature and, believe it or not, he didn't need a note from Charles Darwin to do so.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Sermon by Jerry Coyne on Biogeography

It is remarkable that people pay evolutionist Jerry Coyne to indoctrinate their children according to his dogmatic religious beliefs. But they do, and he does. And the University of Chicago biology professor has now enshrined evolution’s theological convictions in his new book, Why Evolution is True, for all to see. Here is one example:

And this leads to another prediction that we made in chapter 1. If evolution happened, species living in one area should be the descendants of earlier species that lived in the same place. So if we dig into shallow layers of rocks in a given area, we should find fossils that resemble the organisms treading that ground today.

And this is also the case. Where can we dig up fossil kangaroos that most closely resemble living kangaroos? In Australia. Then there are the armadillos of the New World. Armadillos are unique among mammals in having a carapace of bony armor—armadillo in Spanish means “little armored one.” They live only in North, Central, and South America. Where do we find fossils resembling them? In the Americas, the home of the glyptodonts, armored plant-eating mammals that look just like overgrown armadillos. Some of these ancient armadillos were the size of Volkswagen Beetles, weighed a ton, were covered with two-inch-thick armor, and sported spiky balls on tails wielded like a mace. Creationism is hard-pressed to explain these patterns: to do so, it would have to propose that there were an endless number of successive extinctions and creations all over the world, and that each set of newly created species were made to resemble older ones that lived in the same place. We’ve come a long way from Noah’s Ark. [96]

Elliott Sober would be proud to see this variation on what he refers to as Darwin’s Principle in action. Coyne’s argument is not that the evidence of biogeography makes evolution compelling. In fact, it doesn’t. As we’ll see below, there are all kinds of problems and if Coyne really believed the prediction he gives above was falsifiable, then he would be forced to deal with a falsified prediction.

But evidential problems don’t matter when the only alternative is ruled out. As Sober explains, the important evolutionary point here is not that the probability of the evidence on evolution is high, but rather that the probability of the evidence on creation is low—real low.

This makes evolution the obvious conclusion in the minds of evolutionists. But of course, as Coyne so powerfully declares above, the conclusion follows from theological conviction. And powerful conclusions, such as Coyne’s triumphant one above, are made so by virtue of the powerful theology underwriting them. The greater the certainty of evolutionists, the greater their underlying religious conviction.

Coyne’s religious conviction are, of course, nothing new. This is standard evolutionary theology. From an empirical perspective, the data are all over the map, so to speak. And for all the various observations there is a battery of just-so stories to explain what we observe.

When similar designs are found in different locations around the world, then perhaps this discontinuity was caused by a partial extinction within a previously larger range. On the other hand, perhaps the discontinuity was caused by a dispersal event.

When new world monkeys were found to be similar to their old world cousins, it was hypothesized that African monkeys crossed the ocean on rafts. Or again, lizards somehow floated across thousands of miles of ocean from the Americas to islands in the Pacific.

Are the fauna similar between two different continents? Then that is because those continents were once joined, but have since drifted apart. What if the fauna are different between the continents? Then that is because those continents must have drifted apart farther back in time.

The stories are at times, as evolutionist Ernst Mayr once put it, “indeed almost unbelievable.” In his book Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution Douglas Futuyma wrote that “The molelike and wolflike animals of Australia are marsupials, clearly related to each other, because only marsupial ancestors had reached Australia.” Once again, forcing the evidence into the evolution paradigm failed as a few years later placental fossil species were discovered in Australia.

Alec Panchen agreed that building an argument for evolution from biogeography is not easy, and when he tried it was religion that supplied the key premise. “It is improbable,” explained Panchen, “that the distribution of organisms can be explained by the separate creation of species [because] ecological adaptation in any environment is demonstrably imperfect.” This sort of theological reasoning is standard within evolution and it leads to the conclusion that evolution must be a fact.

Like all evidences, the biogeographical data are subjected to a theological evaluation by the evolutionist. As Mayr concluded in his book What Evolution Is, “For a creationist there is no rational explanation for distributional irregularities.”

Likewise for Michael Ruse, God cannot be reconciled with the facts of biogeography so we must turn to evolution. In his book Darwinism Defended he wrote that “given an all-wise God, just why is it that different forms appear in similar climates, whereas the same forms appear in different climates? It is all pointless without evolution.”

According to the evolutionary textbook Evolution: Process and Product by Dodson and Dodson, if God had created the species then they should be distributed uniformly about the globe. The text states: “Had all species been created in the places where they now exist, then Amphibian and terrestrial mammals should be as frequent on oceanic islands as on comparable continental areas. Certainly, terrestrial mammals should have been created on these islands as frequently as were bats.

Futuyma explains that there are “peculiar regularities to the ways in which animals and plants were distributed throughout the world that could only be viewed as capricious if they were the handiwork of a Creator.” Likewise Tim Berra explains that “if special creation were really how things came to be, there would be no reason for species on volcanic islands to resemble the inhabitants of the nearest land mass.”

This is evolution—a genre rich in religious pronouncement. The priesthood still enjoys secure, lifelong appointments from which to make theological pronouncements. But these days it wears a white lab coat.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hatena: It is What it Eats

Iddo Friedberg has an interesting blog entry on symbiosis in general and on a unicellular organism named Hatena in particular. Biology is full of examples of species that interact with each other in fascinating ways. As Friedberg notes:

The Portuguese Man o’ War is a colony of four different organisms which form a composite jellyfish; None of the individuals which can exist in a free-living form. Lichen is a colony of two: a photosynthetic partner providing sugars, and a fungus providing other nutrients as well as preventing the dehydration of the photosynthetic partner.

Hatena is another such example, but with its own twist. Like many unicellular organisms Hatena vacuums up smaller organisms and nutrients as it swims through an aqueous medium. But when it ingests a certain alga, Hatena and the alga go through a fascinating metamorphosis. The alga within is not digested but rather grows while losing some of its components, and Hatena takes on alga-like qualities, making it less like a predator and more like an autotroph. For instance, its mouth is replaced with an alga-like light sensor, biasing Hatena's motions toward light which is needed for the alga within to perform its photosynthesis.

Interestingly, when Hatena reproduces it creates a Cain and Abel scenario, with one of the progeny turning back to the predator design and the other inheriting the alga and continuing as an autotroph.

Hatena is reminiscent of Euglena gracilis which can perform photosynthesis if sunlight is present, but also is mobile and consumes nutrients if they are available. It could be classified as a plant or an animal. But Hatena's metamorphosis is triggered not by the environment but by what it eats.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How Evolutionists View Francis Collins

President Obama's nomination this week of Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health was politically smart. Collins, an evolutionist and an evangelical Christian, has wide appeal. One day he can be speaking at an international gathering of leading scientists and the next at a suburban mega-church. In fact Collins is quite interested in maintaining the harmony between these two worlds. It is true that many Christians are evolutionists, but many others are not. Collins seeks to remedy the misconceptions he sees as motivating such skepticism.

All of this seems entirely politically correct. Do evolutionists have any grounds for complaint against the long-time NIH scientist and leader of the high-profile Human Genome Project? Yes they do.

Like the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, Collins gets stuck on the moral law within. Can evolution really describe altruism? Indeed the evolutionary explanations are rather silly, and for all of his promotion of evolution Collins cannot go the full distance. The moral law remains an enigma in the twenty first century.

For this breach of faith Collins is attacked by his fellow evolutionists. PZ Myers and others cannot tolerate such skepticism. Doesn't Collins know that evolution has plenty of just-so stories to explain behavior such as altruism?

Furthermore, Myers and other evolutionists point out that Collins' skepticism is a gods-of-the-gaps argument. This is yet another one of evolution's religious arguments. Dating back to certain seventeenth century Anglicans, it is a general-purpose religious argument that can be used to rebuke any and all scientific problems with evolution. The empirical evidence is inconsequential--no matter how contradictory are the data, evolutionists mandate naturalistic explanations. We may not know how altruism evolved, but it must have evolved. To think otherwise is to commit the sin of gap thinking.

So evolutionists such as Myers use non scientific concerns to mute the science. Their scientific "method" overrules the evidence. There is no option for contemplating possibilities; no allowance for tentatively considering alternatives. Evolution is a fact. As one evolutionist typically put it:

If a given problem appears to be merely unsolved, then he'll leave it to the realm of science; if, on the other hand, Collins deems a question to be unsolvable, it's fair game for inclusion in a spiritual interpretation of the universe.

And that's a no-no for evolutionists. They mandate that all phenomena can be accurately explained naturalistically. One need not be a philosopher to see that this claim to completeness, realism and naturalism does not come from science.

But the criticism of Collins ceases when he uses the standard religious arguments for evolution. For instance, appealing to the genetic data he is familiar with, Collins makes the usual "God wouldn't do it that way" arguments:

Most mammals, for example, do not need dietary sources of vitamin C because they can make their own using an enzyme encoded in their genomes. But primates, including humans, require vitamin C in their diet, or they will suffer a disease called scurvy. What happened here? Well, if you search through the human genome, you will find a degenerated copy of the gene for this vitamin C synthesizing enzyme. But it has sustained a knockout blow, losing more than half of its coding sequence. A claim that the human genome was created by God independently rather than being part of descent from a common ancestor would mean God intentionally inserted a nonfunctioning piece of DNA into our genomes to test our faith. Unless you are willing to contemplate the idea of God as a deceiver, this is not a comfortable explanation.

Collins' logic is faulty (common ancestry is not the only naturalistic explanation), but more importantly, as Elliott Sober has pointed out, the strength of the evolutionary argument comes not from its premises about common ancestry, but from its premises about separate ancestry. It always comes down to judgments about God.

This is a standard evolutionary argument and it is no surprise that evolutionists, though harsh in their criticism of Collins' skepticism of evolutionary explanations for altruism, stand mute as Collins promotes the usual religious arguments that mandate evolution.

It is the ultimate display of hypocrisy. Religion drives evolution, and yet evolutionists don the white lab coat and point fingers at anyone who dare make inferences from the data, castigating them as "religiously-driven." As evolutionist Jerry Coyne wrote, "I’d be much more comfortable with someone whose only agenda was science." Translation: "I’d be much more comfortable with someone whose only agenda was evolution."

Friday, July 10, 2009

NCSE Exposed

The National Center for Science Education is a religiously motivated organization that dogmatically promotes evolution. A scholarly analysis and critique of the origins debate is not part of their agenda and it shows when they criticize those who are not dogmatic about evolution. They created a website attacking the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, and now you can see the rebuttals to their charges here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Evolution is Intelligent Design

Did you know that evolution is a form of intelligent design? As Robert Costanza explains in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, the process of evolution is so sophisticated that is amounts to a form of intelligence:

One definition of intelligence is the ability to learn. Therefore, evolution is in a very real sense intelligent: it can learn from experience and improve. ... Therefore, evolution is an intelligent (as opposed to a "dumb") design process. ... "Stupid" alternatives do not improve the reproduction of the system and die out. But natural selection does not require an all-seeing and all-knowing intelligence to do its work. The intelligence is the multilevel evolutionary system itself.

Of course, evolutionists believe that the "smart" alternatives (that is, biological variations that lead to increased fitness) just happen to arise. Natural selection has no power over this amazing capability which must be built into nature.

No amount of "selection pressure," as evolutionists euphemistically call it, can induce these smart alternatives. They arise all by themselves--somehow. All natural selection does is kill off the stupid alternatives. And when the smart alternatives accumulate, you get something like a cheetah or an oak tree. That's just rock solid science.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nature: Evolution Wins Out in Hong Kong Curriculum Dispute

Nature magazine is reporting a victory for evolution in Hong Kong, where a new science curriculum released earlier this year was not dogmatically Darwinian. That new curriculum actually opened the door to the teaching of "other explanations for evolution and the origins of life." How dare they?

Now, a five-page clarification, released in June, explains that those "other explanations" refer to alternative ideas such as those put forth by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Alfred Russel Wallace, and that "non-scientific explanations" should not be taught.

Let's see, Lamarck believed that biological change was not independent of environment, and Wallace advocated design. Meanwhile, evolution's predictions have been falsified many times over and it relies on religious claims for its justification.

Evolutionists must be in search of victories if they claim this as one. Here's an idea. Instead of forcing children to believe the same crooked beliefs that you cling to, how about simply explaining why we should think evolution is a fact?

Jakob Wolf on Design Theory

Jakob Wolf has a thoughtful new article on design theory, demonstrating that anti intellectualism is not a prerequisite for design critics. He writes:

As long as it is not falsified, there is no reason why we should accept that our perceptual, phenomenological knowledge is an illusion. Why should we betray our senses and immediate experience of nature? The reason why we so readily betray our senses is that scientism has become such a strong ideology; and ideologies make blind.

The burden of proof is on the side of natural science. As the phenomenological recognition is spontaneous and universal, proof is not required to prove it is true, but proof is required to show it is false. The burden of proof rests with the person claiming it is an illusion.

The piece is insightful and scientism can be a problem, but unfortunately Wolf misses the important influence of theological naturalism. The reason we betray our senses, ultimately, is not scientism. Indeed, it couldn't be for the simple reason that science never discovered plausible naturalistic explanations for the origin of complexity in the first place. The mandate for such naturalistic explanations has always been theological. Wolf's insights are helpful, but they are missing the elephant in the room.

Al Gore Regurgitates Absurdities of Evolutionary Psychology

People are having fun at Al Gore's expense, but his ideas (at least some of them) come right out of evolutionary theory. As Geoff Brumfiel reports, in his talk this week at the close of the Smith School World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment in Oxford, Gore explained that "evolution had trained us to respond quickly and viscerally to threats. But when humans are confronted with 'a threat to the existence of civilization that can only be perceived in the abstract,' we don't do so well." Sound familiar? This is standard evolutionary psychology, as popularized lately by Nicholas Kristof, for instance. It may sound more silly coming from Al Gore, but he's not the one making this stuff up.

Another Layer of DNA Repair Complexity

New research finds the surprising result that two different pathways that repair double-stranded DNA breaks (where both strands of the DNA double helix are broken) are not independent as thought, but are linked. A double-stranded break is the most severe case of DNA damage, and a crucial repair job.

The researchers found that key proteins from the two pathways were both required to repair the double-stranded break they studied. Furthermore, one of the proteins was instrumental in attracting the other protein to the repair site. It is yet another layer in the complexity of DNA repair.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Reiss: When Religion is Science and Science is Religion

Evolutionist and Anglican Priest Michael Reiss has a new paper with the misleading title "The Relationship Between Evolutionary Biology and Religion." One might think, given the title, that Reiss' paper discusses the relationship between evolutionary biology and religion. That is, after all, what the title says. How refreshing that would be--a paper that discusses the various religious influences in evolutionary thought

Unfortunately the paper is about no such thing. Reiss carefully explains how it is that the evolution skeptics are religiously motivated while evolution itself is all about rock solid scientific evidence. In other words, the scientific problems with evolution are actually religious, and the religious mandates for evolution are actually scientific. This is the standard evolutionary defense.

Religion drives science and it matters. You can read more at the Truth in Science blog.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lane: Movement a Great Invention of Evolution

Going back to the ancient Greeks motion has always been a profound problem. In his new book Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, evolutionist Nick Lane says that animal movement is one of the the ten great inventions of evolution, to go along with photosynthesis, DNA, the origin of life and the complex cell. Indeed animal movement is incredible, but the idea that it evolved is motivated more by the assumption that Darwin's idea is true rather than actual evidence for the evolution of movement.

Animal movement is accomplished by the contraction of muscles. When you raise up your hand to scratch your head, certain muscles are contracting to cause the motion. And when you then lower your hand, different muscles contract to make that happen. Needless to day, the body is fashioned with a dizzying array of muscles, precisely oriented and sized to give us the grace to dance across a stage or perform brain surgery.

Those muscles are controlled by a vast network of nerve cells. These long thin cells transmit electrical signals from the brain. They are fused to the right muscles, at the right places to cause the muscle to contract. But it is not a simple process. The nerve's electrical signal is transformed into complicated chemical signals that cross over from the nerve cell to the muscle. Ultimately, proteins in the muscle act to cause the contraction in a complex process.

So when you want to scratch your head, your brain lights up the right nerve cells to make it happen. The idea that all this evolved is, of course, not well supported by the scientific evidence. If we believe evolution is true we can conjure up speculative just-so stories about how it occurred. But they are not motivated by science.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Evolutionary Five-Step Cycle

The latest findings on solar system stability finish a cycle of evolutionary research that seems to repeat ad nauseam. The five-step cycle goes like this:

1. Initial discovery. In our initial scientific investigation of a natural phenomena we are oblivious to the enormous complexity we have stumbled up. Like an ant trying to understand the dog it is crawling on, the observations are few and unknown variables are many.

2. Religious interpretation. In this early stage we are guided more by our metaphysics than our physics. Our great uncertainties about the problem are resolved with assumptions about what must be true. With an evolutionary mindset we interpret subtleties and nuances of the design as useless leftovers and the findings are chalked up to yet more confirmation that the world designed itself.

3. Scientific understanding. Years later those subtleties and nuances finally begin to be understood for what they are. We slowly are getting a peek at nature's enormous complexity. The new found understanding makes no sense on the evolutionary view but so what, by now evolution is a fact. It is the job of science to explain such quandaries and how they evolved themselves into place.

4. Evolutionary patchwork. Like a Rube Goldberg machine, the evolutionary theories become increasingly circuitous. They are as complex as the phenomena they are trying to explain. Nature is bearing a load it cannot bear as a long sequence of heroic feats are ascribed to its laws and processes.

5. Public relations. The metaphysics continues on its way, mandating strictly naturalistic origins and oblivious to its own failed track record. Evolution is pronounced as fact, results are presented as "just science," adherents are lauded, skeptics are castigated, and our religious sentiment is satisfied. At this point, most evolutionists are oblivious to the religious foundation they rest on.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Kristof: When Our Brains Short-Circuit

Nicholas Kristof is at it again. This time his New York Times op-ed piece warns us that the human brain misjudges certain risks because "evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought."

For example, notes Kristof, a snake will startle our senses but the specter of global warming destroying the earth is a yawner for our brains. Kristof quotes evolutionist Paul Slovic:

We humans do strange things, perhaps because vestiges of our ancient brain still guide us in the modern world.

Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. Do we really need evolution to understand our reactions to things like snakes and global warming? Kristof tries some other politically correct examples, and the piece gradually evolves into a not so subtle mixture of science and politics where evolution is used to explain all manner of deficient and wrong-headed viewpoints.

Though Kristof and his evo buddies have transcended such mind control, your average red neck resists global warming and its remedy--the cap and trade legislation, rising seas, slow melting of the glaciers, and the gradual rise in the Earth’s temperature (did I mention global warming?), all because of evolution.

On the other hand, said red neck becomes overly agitated by things like sexual variations and flag burning. Funny how evolution causes all these wrong ideas (in the people who have them, of course).

At times Kristof's evolutionary logic turns on itself. For instance, on the one hand evolution is supposed to have made us extra sensitive to the threat of spoiled food, but on the other hand it has led to deficient funding of the FDA "even though food-poisoning kills more Americans than foreign armies and terrorists." Oh well, I'm sure the evolutionists will figure it out.

The main thing, Kristof concludes optimistically, is to "understand and acknowledge our neurological shortcomings--and try to compensate with rational analysis." Fortunately evolution has not precluded Kristof and the evolutionists from figuring all this out and arriving at the right political attitudes. Last time Kristof explained that our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth. I guess that doesn't include Kristof.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not Even Wrong

The great physicist Wolfgang Pauli once criticized a scientific paper as so bad that it was “not even wrong.” It was so sloppy and ill conceived, thought Pauli, that to call it merely wrong would be to give it too much credit--it wasn’t even wrong. Today such a condemnation applies well to the theory of evolution which relies on religious convictions to prop up bad science. It seems that every argument for evolution wilts under scrutiny. Here is a classic example.

Evolutionary thinking has always appealed to the patterns found in nature’s designs as powerful mandates for a naturalistic origin. For instance, in the eighteenth century Daniel Bernoulli, Immanuel Kant and Pierre Laplace all argued that the patterns of the solar system revealed that it must have evolved via a naturalistic process. Different processes were hypothesized and no one knew exactly how it happened, but these Enlightenment thinkers considered it to be a fact that, one way or another, the solar system evolved strictly via natural law (sound familiar?).

Exactly why did the patterns of the solar system mandate such a narrative? Because if God had designed the solar system it would not have the patterns we observe. As Kant explained:

It is clear that there is no reason why the celestial bodies must organize their orbits in one single direction. … Thus, God’s choice, not having the slightest motive for tying them to one single arrangement, would reveal itself with a greater freedom in all sorts of deviations and differences.

In other words, we observe certain patterns, but they seem to be gratuitous and god would not so limit his designs. In the following centuries this argument became a cornerstone of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Here is one of Darwin’s many arguments that his theory must be true because god would never have created the patterns we observe in biology:

How inexplicable are the cases of serial homologies on the ordinary view of creation! Why should the brain be enclosed in a box composed of such numerous and such extraordinary shaped pieces of bone, apparently representing vertebrae? … Why should similar bones have been created to form the wing and the leg of a bat, used as they are for such totally different purposes, namely flying and walking? Why should one crustacean, which has an extremely complex mouth formed of many parts, consequently always have fewer legs; or conversely, those with many legs have simpler mouths? Why should the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils, in each flower, though fitted for such distinct purposes, be all constructed on the same pattern?

Today this argument is rampant in evolutionary thought. It runs throughout the literature and evolutionists invoke it when their theory is questioned. There are so many contradictions and absurdities in this evolutionary argument it is hard to know where to begin. Here are a few of its more egregious failures.

1. First, the argument obviates huge problems with evolution. The patterns we find in biology do not fit evolution, but this minor detail is glossed over by using this counter argument. Instead of demonstrating that evolution is a compelling story, evolutionists argue that god certainly did not design what we find in biology, so it must have evolved. No wonder they say evolution is a fact. We don’t know how it happened, but it must have happened. Consequently the bar is substantially lowered for naturalistic explanations. Speculative, untestable, and downright silly explanations are routinely contemplated.

2. Similarly, another problem is that conflicting data are not viewed as problematic because, after all, they are not random. There certainly is a pattern of sorts, and so evolutionists take this as profound support for their theory, even when the data are contradictory, under evolution. Evolution’s epistemological bar is lowered so far it is hitting the ground, as all kinds of observables become powerful supporting evidence. The massive convergence found in biology (profound similarities in otherwise distant species) become a non issue for evolutionists. I debated one professor who claimed that both similarities and differences between species are evidence for evolution. Talk about having your cake and eat it too. But it all makes perfect sense if you’re an evolutionist.

3. This leads to the next problem, which is that this argument is a science stopper. By removing the possibility that evolution may be false, a whole set of questions and research avenues are automatically eliminated. And of course, it makes evolution unfalsifiable. Different hypotheses within evolution can be tested, but evolution itself cannot be.

4. Indeed another problem, in addition to the sanctioning of raw speculation, is the massive data interpretation and filtering bias. Biological data are interpreted and filtered according to evolution. Contradictory data are usually filtered out long before the analysis step, thus improving the fit. Evolutionists make all kinds of erroneous claims about how astronomically well the data fit their theory.

5. Of course another problem is the argument is religious. It is a problem because evolutionists claim their theory is certainly not religious. Indeed, they argue strenuously that religion must absolutely be cleansed from science. Religion and science, they say, do not mix. But in fact they do mix, and quite well it seems.

A common canard is that any such religious claims do not reflect the beliefs of evolutionists; rather, it is merely a test of opposing ideas. That is, of course, irrelevant. When evaluating theories, personal beliefs are not part of the equation. When religious premises are used to prove a theory, then the theory is relying on the religious premises, period. Who actually believes or doesn’t believe in the premise is a separate matter.

6. But is it not reasonable to test opposing ideas? Can we not look for patterns as a means of rejecting the design hypothesis? Sure, but why do patterns refute design? Is there anyone (aside from the evolutionist) who says that a designer would not use patterns? A far more significant test would be to show that evolution is compelling. If naturalistic processes do the job, then design is superfluous. But evolution repeatedly fails.

7. The use of patterns to reject design reveals how arbitrary is the evolutionary criteria. Kant, for instance, realizing the data did not fit the patterns very well (and thus potentially raising problems for strictly naturalistic explanations), amended his “god wouldn’t use patterns” argument, with the additional argument that “and, oh by the way, if god were to use patterns, he would do it precisely.” So patterns prove evolution, and deviations from patterns do to.

Evolutionists can, in fact, contrive various criteria to refute opposing ideas. Imagine if nature really did consist of a series of random designs. Evolutionists could just as easily claim it as a powerful sign of natural processes. After all, a designer certainly would create according to patterns, whereas the unguided, blind forces of nature easily explain the randomness we observe.

The metaphysics in evolution run deep. It is one long religious argument, filled with non scientific claims and speculation. But it recognizes none of this in itself, and instead projects it onto opposing ideas. In the height of hypocrisy, evolutionists locate these problems in their neighbor’s eye. Opposing ideas, they say, don’t fit the evidence very well, are non falsifiable, are science stoppers, and are religious. All of this in defense of a theory that isn’t even wrong. Religion drives science and it matters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wetware by Dennis Bray

Three years ago I wrote a blog post about research into the various DNA repair mechanisms, entitled "Cellular Software." Those mechanisms are "programmed" in a sophisticated control network that one researcher described as "something akin to a computer program that becomes activated by DNA damage, and that program enables the cells to respond very quickly." Since then more has been learned of this amazing repair facility.

But of course the cell's sophisticated control network goes far beyond DNA repair. Enter Dennis Bray and his new book Wetware. Here is the publisher's description:

How does a single-cell creature, such as an amoeba, lead such a sophisticated life? How does it hunt living prey, respond to lights, sounds, and smells, and display complex sequences of movements without the benefit of a nervous system? This book offers a startling and original answer.

In clear, jargon-free language, Dennis Bray taps the findings of the new discipline of systems biology to show that the internal chemistry of living cells is a form of computation. Cells are built out of molecular circuits that perform logical operations, as electronic devices do, but with unique properties. Bray argues that the computational juice of cells provides the basis of all the distinctive properties of living systems: it allows organisms to embody in their internal structure an image of the world, and this accounts for their adaptability, responsiveness, and intelligence.

It's amazing how evolution can configure these logical operations to create bug-free cellular software, resulting in complex behaviors.