Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shifting the Burden of Proof

Evolutionists say their theory is a fact but they don't know how it happened. Beyond vague speculation about natural selection acting on blind biological variation, evolutionists have no idea how most of biology's wonders arose. Some animals are equipped with their own sonar tracking kits that outperform our best military equipment. Did this just evolve? Perhaps, but we don't have scientific evidence for it. Evolution does not seem like a good theory so evolutionists, like a good debater, shift the burden of proof.

One argument Darwin used is the anthropomorphic warning which you can read about here. Another argument Darwin used is that there really isn't any problem for evolution so long as evolution cannot be disproved.

Can you imagine a scientist proposing a dubious theory and then claiming it is true because an impossible falsification criterion has not been met? This is precisely what Darwin did. He wrote:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

This was hardly a concession. Darwin may sound generous here, allowing that his theory would “absolutely break down,” but his requirement for such a failure is no less than impossible. For no one can show that an organ “could not possibly” have been formed in such a way. So in short order Darwin reduced what seemed to be a dilemma for his theory into a logical truism.

Evolution was protected from criticism and all that was needed to explain complexity was a clever thought experiment. Darwin so lowered the requirements that anyone with a pen and a vivid imagination can now claim to have solved the problem of complexity. It is now common to see in the evolution literature vague explanations, which rely on such dubious mechanisms as “chance” or “opportunism,” put forth as though they are solutions to the problem of complexity.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Anthropomorphic Warning, Part II

It's not my dog, it didn't bite you, and besides you hit the dog first anyway. --Anon

An evolutionist has criticized my previous post about Darwin's warning that we must not anthropomorphize God. Darwin argued repeatedly that God would never have created this inefficient and capricious world, but when it came to complex designs such as the eye, Darwin suddenly backtracked.

In his book Darwin made several failed attempts to reckon with the problem of how his blind process of evolution could create such wonders as the eye. The idea that the eye evolved on its own seemed absurd, but Darwin argued that while it is tempting to see God as the master engineer who crafted complex organs such as the eye, this would make God too much like man.

Darwin agreed that the perfection of the eye reminds us of the telescope which resulted from the highest of human intellect. Was it not right to conclude that the eye was also the product of a great intellect? This may seem the obvious answer but Darwin warned against it, for we should not "assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man." Better to imagine the eye as the result of natural selection's perfecting powers rather than having God too much involved in the world.

So according to Darwin, God would never create inefficient designs, God would never create capricious patterns, and besides we can't know the mind of God anyway. It seems contradictory but nonetheless my critic complains:

Religion drives your 'science' Mr Hunter (although you don't ever seem to have really done any) every bit as much as the people at Answers In Genesis or ICR. You have an agenda, an a priori commitment to defending your favourite set of ancient fables, and folklorish poetry.

So in other words, I believe in ancient fables and folklorish poetry, these beliefs drive my scientific research, and besides I haven't done any scientific research anyway.

It's not my dog, it didn't bite you, and besides you hit the dog first anyway.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Contradiction of Darwin's Anthropomorphic Warning

It's not my dog, it didn't bite you, and besides you hit the dog first anyway. This funny example of childish reasoning is reminiscent of the arguments for evolution. For example, evolutionists say that God would never create inefficient designs, God would never create capricious patterns, and besides we can't know the mind of God anyway. In other words, we must not think this complex world was designed or created because there are inefficiencies and confusing patterns, and besides we could never know how God would design a world anyway. Evolutionists simultaneously claim (i) we know how God would create and (ii) we can't know how God would create. And why can't we know? Because to know how God would create it is to project human qualities onto God and, evolutionists warn, we must not do that.

The anthropomorphic warning

This anthropomorphic warning can service several needs. In the seventeenth century Spinoza used it to defend his pantheism. Were not theists making out God to be something like themselves but with a deeper voice? "I believe," Spinoza wrote to a friend, "that if a triangle could speak, it would say, in like manner, that God is eminently triangular, while a circle would say that the divine nature is eminently circular."

On the other hand, Antoine Arnauld warned that the seventeenth century theodicies (solutions to the problem of evil) were guilty of anthropomorphizing God. The Jansenist rejected the theodicies of Malebranche and Leibniz which he thought subjected God to human reasoning.

But it was in the hands of the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume where the anthropomorphic warning found its application in evolutionary thought. Hume had argued that God could not have designed this world for all its misery. After all, wrote Hume, "A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures," and nature is so arranged so as "to embitter the life of every living being."

Hume obviously was not concerned about Arnauld's warning as he assumed he knew what God would and would not create. Indeed, Hume amazingly retooled Spinoza's version of the warning to attack design from the rear. Not only did the problem of evil rebuke design, but any such appeal to design was faulty to begin with because we can't know God anyway:

we ought never to imagine that we comprehend the attributes of this divine being, ... let us beware, lest we think that our ideas anywise correspond to his perfections ... He is infinitely superior to our limited view and comprehension; and is more the object of worship in the temple, than of disputation in the schools.

Worship God, yes, but do not peer into the mysteries of the divine. Except, that is, when it comes to the problem of evil. It's not my dog, it didn't bite you, and besides you hit the dog first anyway.

Christ in the House of His Parents

The anthropomorphic warning reached a fever pitch a decade before Darwin published his book when the child prodigy John Millais unveiled his painting, Christ in the House of His Parents, first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1850. Look carefully at the painting (above) before reading further.

In his painting, Millais portrays the young boy Jesus as, well, a young boy. He is very human and in fact has injured his hand in his father’s carpentry shop. Mother Mary attends to the boy while Joseph continues with his work; outside the door sheep patiently await their future savior. The scene is both symbolic and realistic, with wood scraps lying all about and workers going about their duties.

But the setting was altogether too realistic for a culture that separated the creator from the creation. The scriptures said that God became flesh and dwelt among us. He knew anxiety, sorrow, pain, temptation and joy. But this view of God was lost on the Victorians. They emphasized God’s wisdom, power and transcendence. Could he really have bruised his hand in a messy carpenter’s shop?

The Times complained that the painting was revolting, for its "attempt to associate the holy family with the meanest details of a carpenter’s shop, with no conceivable omission of misery, of dirt, even of disease, all finished with the same loathsome meticulousness, is disgusting …" Blackwood’s Magazine said "We can hardly imagine anything more ugly, graceless and unpleasant," and Charles Dickens called the painting "mean, odious, revolting and repulsive."

Next stop: Darwinism

According to many Victorians we ought not to think that God is like us and it is hardly surprising that Darwin would reuse Hume's argument. In Chapter Six of Origins Darwin made several failed attempts to reckon with the problem of how his blind process of evolution could create such wonders as the eye. It seemed absurd, but Darwin argued that while it is tempting to see God as the master engineer who crafted complex organs such as the eye, this would make God too much like man.

Darwin agreed that the perfection of the eye reminds us of the telescope which resulted from the highest of human intellect. Was it not right to conclude that the eye was also the product of a great intellect? This may seem the obvious answer but Darwin warned against it, for we should not "assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man." Better to imagine the eye as the result of natural selection's perfecting powers rather than having God too much involved in the world.

After Hume, Darwin had made strong arguments that God most certainly would never have created this world. There were, for example, many similar crustaceans, fish and other marine animals inhabiting the seas off the eastern and western shores of North America, the Mediterranean and Japan, and the temperate lands of North America and Europe. This, Darwin argued, was "inexplicable on the theory of creation" because God never would have used such a capricious design.

We cannot rationalize such similarities as due to the nearly similar physical conditions of the areas for elsewhere we find similar physical conditions (such as South America, South Africa and Australia) with utterly dissimilar inhabitants. Likewise, deep limestone caverns on different continents presented nearly identical conditions yet harbored dissimilar species.

Another problem for the doctrine of creation was that native plants and animals were often overtaken by those introduced by man. Darwin pointed out that many of "the best adapted plants and animals were not created for oceanic islands; for man has unintentionally stocked them far more fully and perfectly than did nature." If God had created the species they would have been optimally designed for their specific environments.

Similarly, frogs, toads and newts were only found on certain islands, such as New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the Andaman Islands. Darwin argued these were not genuine oceanic islands. Aside from these islands, the lack of frogs, toads and newts was "very difficult to explain" on the theory of creation.

These are but a few of the dozens of such religious arguments Darwin used to prove his new theory. The science was weak but the religion was strong. Like Hume, Darwin knew what God would and would not design.

And yet, on the other hand, when all else failed Darwin, after Hume, invoked the anthropomorphic warning. The eye may appear to be designed, but surely such thinking is guilty of anthropomorphizing God. It's not my dog, it didn't bite you, and besides you hit the dog first anyway.

Hume critic John Earman recently lamented, "I find it astonishing how well posterity has treated 'Of Miracles,' given how completely the confection collapses under a little probing." Unfortunately the confection did not end with Hume. Religion drives science and it matters.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Inherit the Myth, Part II

This week Celeste Biever, writing for the NewScientist, perpetuated the Inherit the Wind myth. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee wrote the play to illustrate the threat to intellectual freedom posed by the anti-communist hysteria of the 1940s McCarthy era. They used as their platform a highly fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 which relied heavily on the discredited warfare thesis (which holds that science and religion are locked in a deep conflict). Inherit the Wind has now become a propaganda instrument in the hands of evolutionists and Biever further propagated the lie this week when she informed her readers that the play rightly illustrates opposition to evolution as ignorant and fundamentalist.

But Biever did not stop there. She then added some propaganda of her own as she recounted what has become yet another evolution propaganda instrument: the 2005 Dover trial on the teaching of intelligent design.

In that trial lawyer Eric Rothschild asked Michael Behe about the definition of science. Wasn't Behe's definition of science too broad? Biever erronously recounted that Behe had to agree that astrology would come under his definition of science, and the court erupted in laughter. That is as false and misleading as is her interpretation of Inherit the Wind.

When I pointed this out evolutionists came rushing to her defense. One evolutionist in the know, who was at the trial, asked about my source. He writes:

There were no recordings allowed of the trial, but I know for sure that I and several others laughed, or at least giggled, when the astrology thing from Behe's deposition (where Behe had said, flat out, that astrology qualified as a scientific theory under his definition of theory) came up. If I recall correctly the astrology thing was included in the newspaper stories the reporters wrote that night for the next morning. It definitely made an impression on the audience, and the reporters sitting over in the jury box.

PS: The right answer answer to the astrology question was "no, it's not science."

My source was at the trial and tells me that Biever is engaging in Whig history. My source did not tell me there was dead silence. Were there a few people in the back row giggling? That certainly is possible, but the courtroom did not erupt in laughter. That simply is a false, self-serving misrepresentation.

But this giggling evolutionist does not stop there. He says that the reason for the eruption of laughter (which didn't happen) is that Behe "said, flat out, that astrology qualified as a scientific theory" (which didn't happen).

In this case the evolutionary lie cannot hide behind hearsay. Fortunately we have the transcipts of precisely what was said. Rothschild was pursuing another one of his absurd line of questionings and Behe was trying to set him straight.

Rothschild asked if astrology qualifies as science according to Behe. Rothschild, who probably never heard of the Chaldeans, was entering foreign territory. He may have thought he had cleverly made his case, but in fact he was revealing how sophmoric is evolutionary thought. This is not about angry fundamentalist mobs with pitchforks and torches.

Behe made it clear that tarot cards and mind readers don't cut it. But he also explained what historians and philosophers already know: whether astrology qualifies as science is a question that is more subtle than simply rejecting this morning's horoscope. Behe did not "flat out" say anything--he gave extended responses which were appropriate given the questions posed to him.

For instance, what if (as some claim) there are significant statistical correlations between the celestial objects and earthly events? Should we disallow, a priori, any such empirically-based conclusion? Should we smear any such investigation as non scientific? Behe makes it clear that his definition of science allows for such empirically-based approaches.

I have difficulty believing that such correlations exist (though I have never looked at the data) but, with Behe, it is also not clear to me that such an investigation must be considered as non scientific simply because we do not have a causal mechanism. If that were the case then Darwin and Wallace were not doing science either.

Of course there are examples of astrology that do make religious assumptions up front (such as with the Chaldeans). In these cases the astrology is no different than evolution, and the evolutionist's rebuke to astrology becomes hypocritical.

The bottom line is that questions of astrology immediately raise more questions. It is not particularly amenable to black/white answers as evolutionists would have it. For instance, how much up front restriction should we place on the answer? Should empirical investigation be allowed even if a causal mechanism is not known? Should we allow ourselves to ask dangerous questions? Here is the part of questioning where Behe reiterates his empiricism:

Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?
A Yes.
Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?
A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.
Q The ether theory of light has been discarded, correct?
A That is correct.
Q But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?
A Yes, that's correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can t go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless theories.

Rothschild next undercuts his line of inquiry when he asked Behe "Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory," apparently oblivious to the actual history of astrology.

Do lawyers know about Kepler? Apparently not. Rothschild later pursued the ridiculous line of reasoning that design, like geocentrism, it is based merely on appearances:

Q Now, you gave examples of some theories that were discarded?
A Yes.
Q One was the ether theory?
A Yes.
Q And the other was the theory of geocentrism, right?
A That's correct.
Q And what you said yesterday was that there was some pretty compelling evidence for observers of that time that that was good theory, right?
A Yes, sure.
Q Look up in the sky, and it looked like the sun was going around us, correct?
A That's right.
Q And we know now that those appearances were deceiving, right?
A That's correct.
Q So what we thought we knew from just looking at the sky, that's not in fact what was happening, right?
A That's right.
Q So the theory was discarded?
A That's correct.
Q And intelligent design, also based on appearance, isn t it, Professor Behe?

The notion that we should exclude from science theories that are based on appearances is silly. If, on the other hand, Rothschild's point was merely that ID might be false, then so what? No one has claimed otherwise. It is naturalistic evolution, not ID, that is not falsifiable.

I once asked Rothschild about the problem that evolution entails religious premises. Does that make the teaching of evolution unconstitutional? Would he like to learn more? Not a chance.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Evolution Versus Miracles

An Enlightenment tradition that paralleled deism was the growing sentiment against supernatural miracles. In the early eighteenth century the debate raged in England and, once again, theological concerns were at the center of the move toward naturalism. Thomas Wollaston and Peter Annet, for instance, put forth a series of arguments against miracles and their tracts numbered in the tens of thousands. Wollaston ridiculed the idea of Jesus casting devils out of a madman and into a herd of pigs: "I could even now laugh at the thoughts of the Hoggs running and tumbling down-hill as if the Devil drove them."

As with the deists, Wollaston and Annet found divine intervention, this time in the form of miracles, to be theologically awkward. God has infinite knowledge, including foreknowledge, and power and wisdom. Hence God must be capable of so arranging and designing the natural order from eternity so as to accomplish his aims without violating the natural order.

Furthermore, as Annet argued, God's immutability mandates naturalism. God was the cause, and the laws of nature were the effect. A change in the effect—the natural order—means a change in the cause. But God does not change. And if such a change were required it would reveal a blundering creator, or worse:

If God ever determined for moral ends and reasons to interpose, if needful, by a different method, than that of his standard laws; it must be either because he could not foresee the consequences, which is like blundering in the dark; or he foresaw it would be needful; and then it would be like a blunder in the design and contrivance; or he foreknew and determined his own works should not answer His own ends, without His mending work, which is worst of all.

David Hume later refined and expanded these arguments, and by the time Darwin boarded the HMS Beagle miracles were increasingly viewed as passe. Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), the Lord Chancellor of England and advocate of natural theology, argued that miracles proved nothing but the exercise of miraculous power and they left the Creator's trustworthiness in question.

With that as background, it is hardly surprising that Darwin's theory of evolution was warmly received by cultural elites and many religious leaders. They may not have understood all of the underlying biology, but they understood the underlying metaphysics.

And it is hardly surprising that this opposition to miracles remains today as a core fundamental of evolution. This was made clear, yet again, this week by evolutionists Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. Dawkins revealed this underlying metaphysic in an interview, as Myers recounts:

RD: Okay, do you believe Jesus turned water into wine?

HH: Yes.

RD: You seriously do?

HH: Yes.

RD: You actually think that Jesus got water, and made all those molecules turn into wine?

HH: Yes.

RD: My God. (spoken with astonishment)

HH: Yes. My God, actually, not yours. But let me…

RD: I've realized the kind of person I'm dealing with now.

Myers mercilously berates the interviewer for such irrationalism. This isn't about science--it never was.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Inherit the Myth

History is written by the winners and yes, that means your history book is not always an objective account of how we got here. The winners, not surprisingly, are sometimes portrayed in an overly sympathetic light. Such Whig histories can be dispassionately assessed when their subject is from centuries past. When the subject is no longer controversial, and the history is long gone, then it is safe to criticize. But what happens when the subject is still hot? How can we understand and respond to Whiggish accounts that are occurring before our very eyes? This week we have yet another evolutionary retelling of history that should tell us something about evolution.

Evolutionists have always relied on fictionalized accounts of how their theory in particular, and rational thought in general, have fought through anti intellectual resistance. Not long after Darwin published his book in 1859 evolutionists were constructing what would become known as the warfare thesis, where religion was cast as being at war with science. Everyone from Columbus to Copernicus was reinvented as intellectual heroes combatting the forces of resistance.

And Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace were cast as scientific investigators who presented a new and powerful finding that conflicted with religious sentiment. In fact, evolutionary thought arose from metaphysical interpretations of nature and theological mandates, in spite of the absence of a known mechanism. As one historian put it, both Wallace and Darwin believed in transmutation, and so they sought a suitable mechanism.

The Scopes Monkey Trial

A more recent but no less fictional example is Inherit the Wind, a fictionalized account of the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee wrote the play to illustrate the threat to intellectual freedom posed by the anti-communist hysteria of the 1940s McCarthy era. And what better platform to use than religious fundamentalists opposing scientific truths—even if the story is fictionalized. The play was a Broadway hit, and movie and TV versions followed. It is now a classic, and is regularly restaged everywhere from the local theater to international venues.

But few people are aware of the story behind the story. This allegory is a fictionalized account, but for many it nonetheless reveals what they believe to be the core essentials of the origins debate: objective science versus religious dogma. Particular skirmishes may have their own nuances, but isn't this the underlying framework? How important are the details of the summer of 1925 in Dayton? Inherit the Wind, so the thinking goes, is an allegory that captures the reality of political and religious dogma opposed to heroic intellectualism.

But it doesn't. John Scopes was not a humble and tireless science teacher, and he was not hauled off to jail by an angry mob of fundamentalists led by a Reverend Jeremiah Brown for trying to enlighten his science students. And no he did not, in fear for his life, contact journalist Henry Louis Mencken for help in securing a lawyer.

This is the beginning of the myth of Inherit the Wind. The reality is that the ACLU (never mentioned in the script) placed an ad in the Chattanooga Times seeking a volunteer to test Tennessee law on the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Local boosters in Dayton saw this as a wonderful opportunity to put them on the map and recruited Scopes, a coach and part-time teacher, to break the law. Of course he was never incarcerated but rather spent most of his time hob knobbing with reporters. There was no angry mob and no vitriolic preacher.

What the play did get right is that the Monkey Trial was actually a referendum on the creationism and the Bible. Technically John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution, but all of that was merely logistical. The reason why the Monkey Trial is important to evolution, and the enduring message from Dayton, was that the Bible and its creationism are passe. This was established in the showdown at Dayton when the two famous lawyers squared off. Clarence Darrow called William Jennings Bryan to the stand as a Bible expert and grilled him on its foolishness.

The exchange was entirely religious (can we really believe the story of Jonah? Surely god would never do such a thing) and the result was yet another proof of evolution. It was another great moment in evolution's long history of theological mandates for a strictly naturalistic origins.

While the opposition to evolution in Inherit the Wind is portrayed as an intrusion of religion into things scientific, in fact evolution itself is the better symbol of such an intrusion. The story behind the story is that Lawrence and Lee's cultural icon is itself now part of a new kind of anti intellectualism. The widespread popularity of Inherit the Wind and its cultural stereotypes is not a sign of healthy intellectual freedom triumphing over religious intolerance. Rather, it is an unfortunate sign of yet more ignorance and intolerance, as evolutionists are cast as benevolent and objective while skeptics are cast as narrow minded fundamentalists.

This cultural stereotype is now baked in. News reporters instinctively report on the religion of anyone who would question evolutionary theories, while the naturalists are portrayed as mere scientists. With each new skirmish over the teaching of evolution in our public schools, we are treated to another round of Bible-vs-science headlines. No matter that the skeptics raise scientific concerns, they will be grilled about their religious habits and motives. Evolution, meanwhile, is assumed to be grounded in nothing but empirical observation.

The retelling of Dover

This week Celeste Biever, writing for the NewScientist, perpetuates the Inherit the Wind myth and adds a few twists of her own. In her review of the latest production of Inherit the Wind at the Old Vic in London, Biever tells us that the trial divided a tight-knit town and found the singing of gospel songs between scenes by the cast to be a great touch.

Biever happily concludes that the play properly reveals opposition to evolution as ignorant and fundamentalist but she remains concerned because the play so powerfully reminds us of the comfort provided by religion and why it is so hard for some people to accept Darwin's theory.

There you have it. For historians Inherit the Wind is a living example of the warfare myth, but for evolutionists it remains a cogent truth. And Biever adds some myth of her own in recounting the recent Dover trial. The play reminds her of the 2005 trial in Pennsylvania where the lawyer Eric Rothschild asked Michael Behe about the definition of science. Wasn't Behe's definition of science too broad? Biever erronously recounts that Behe had to agree that astrology would come under his definition of science, and the court erupted in laughter.

Had not Rothschild shown that design theory is unworkable just as Darrow had demolished the Bible? Is not Behe, along with Bryan, to be pitied as he doggedly defended his ridiculous theory?

Certainly that is the message for Biever and the evolutionists, but again reality is more complex. In fact there was no such response in the courtroom. Yes, laughter did erupt but only when Rothschild asked Behe if he thought the human body was a beautiful design. Behe hesitated and responded whimsically that he was "thinking of some examples."

The evolutionary narrative is that evolution is free of religious premises and there is no scientific basis for skepticism. The reality is precisely the opposite.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Richard Dawkins and the Spectacle of Evolution

Richard Dawkins' new book about evolution is aptly titled The Greatest Show On Earth, for evolution is an incredible show. In fact it is a spectacle. Evolutionists routinely make false claims, commit logical fallacies, and contradict themselves, all with the air of absolute confidence. But this is not all. This spectacle has been on stage for centuries now, and the players have remained oblivious to their blunders. We may as well be watching a group of belligerent teenagers for some sign of intelligence. Here are some of the latest absurdities from this greatest show on earth.

Overwhelmingly powerful evidence

In a Reuters interview last week, Dawkins explained that the genetic differences and similarities between the different species are precisely as evolution would predict.

You can actually plot a picture of the pattern of resemblances and differences between every animal and plant and every other animal and plant, and you find out that it fits on a beautiful, hierarchical, branching tree, which can only sensibly be interpreted as a family tree. When you do the same thing with a different gene, you get the same tree. Do the same thing with a third gene, and you get the same tree. It’s overwhelmingly powerful evidence. And by the way, it also works for pseudogenes, which don’t do any work at all but which are still recognizably there and still readable. They too fall on the same hierarchical tree pattern.

This claim is typical but there is only one problem: it is false. From a scientific perspective it simply is not true. Evolutionists repeat this mantra so often one would think it would lose its shock value. But I still squint in disbelief as I read the words: "you find out that it fits on a beautiful, hierarchical, branching tree. When you do the same thing with a different gene, you get the same tree."

This is unequivocally, unquestionably, false. There's no nice way to put it. The scientific data are available for all to see, but evolutionists continue their march to the sea. The spectacle here is that, despite the obvious evidence, evolutionists continue to shout this absurdity ever louder, as though the problem is that their message is not being heard.

But now for the real problem. Evolutionists follow this scientifically false claim with a philosophically false claim. They misinterpret the scientific data and they then claim it proves evolution.

As Dawkins puts it, the pattern is "overwhelmingly powerful evidence." What is worse, false science or false philosophy? For even if the scientific data are as they claim, it would not be overwhelmingly powerful evidence for evolution. Yes, it certainly would be evidence, but it certainly would not be overwhelming. Not, that is, unless one brings religion into the picture. As Darwin put it, such patterns are "utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations."

Now the logic becomes clear. The failures in the pattern don't matter to evolutionists, for the species would never have been created with even a hint of a pattern. Today this remains a key argument for evolutionists.

The DNA code

At the University of Virginia this week, Dawkins issued another standard evolutionary blunder. As the university newspaper reported, Dawkins cited the fact that DNA code is universal among all living things as another obvious and compelling evidence for evolution.

But beyond vague cartoons evolutionists have little idea of how the code could have evolved. Indeed, what we do know is that the code is difficult to change--not a very good candidate for a narrative of gradual evolution.

Such scientific conundrums, however, are not part of the evolutionary reasoning. Once again, evolutionists know that if the species were independently created there would be no such consistency. There would be many codes, not a single universal code. As usual, it is religious reasoning that provides the certainty.

The fact of evolution

Also this week Dawkins was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt. Unlike most interviewers, Hewitt understands the importance of the claim that evolution is a fact. He asked Dawkins about his equating of evolution skeptics and Holocaust deniers. If informed people doubt evolution and yet Dawkins demonizes them as such extremists, then doesn't Dawkins' judgment come into question?

No, Dawkins assured that the evidence for evolution is airtight. Anyone doubting evolution really is an extremist. This overreach by evolutionists is a key to understanding the genre and Hewitt rapidly homed in the target.

It quickly became a Bogey Moment which reached its climax when Dawkins became aghast upon learning that Hewitt believes in miracles. "Do you realllllllyyyy believe that Jesus turned water into wine?" Dawkins incredulously asked. "Oh my god," exclaimed the evolutionist, "now I realize the type of person I've been dealing with."

Evolutionary thought is about as sophisticated as a pile of rocks and Dawkins' transparency revealed all. Hewitt unmasked Dawkins and the charade of Dawkins dispassionately evaluating scientific evidence for evolution was revealed.

In the first half of the eighteenth century a massive debate over miracles took place in England. Later in the century David Hume collected the arguments and for many made a persuasive case against miracles.

By Darwin's day miracles were increasingly viewed as myths and not becoming of advanced thinkers. It was one of several trends that formed the religious foundation of and mandate for evolutionary thought. Dawkins is squarely in this tradition and is astonished that anyone not in the backwoods could believe in miracles.

Of course Darwin must be right--one way or another the species must have evolved, regardless of the empirical evidence may say. Religion drives science and it matters.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stuart Newman and Evolution's Testability

What is evolution? Is it natural selection acting on random biological variation? Is it gradualism or punctuated equilibrium? Is it the slow accumulation of neutral changes that eventually become useful? No, these are all sub hypotheses of evolution. Evolution is the theory that naturalistic causes are sufficient to explain the origin of species.

The idea that the world must have arisen naturally became increasingly popular before and during the Enlightenment period a century before Darwin. Christian thinkers such as Malebranche, Cudworth, Burnet, Ray, Leibniz, Wolf and Kant argued for a naturalistic origins. These traditions grew and by Darwin's day were increasingly accepted in the Anglican broad church, and Victorian society in general.

For instance Henry Peter Brougham, Lord Chancellor of England and one of the most famous people in England when Darwin was a young man, argued for such a naturalistic origins. It is hardly a shocker that Darwin and Alfred Wallace would independently "discover" that, you guessed it, the species had arisen naturally. Funny how this new "discovery" just happened to scratch old itches.

Of course Darwin and Wallace didn't know quite how this could have happened, and so they were willing to negotiate the details. As Darwin once pointed out:

Whether the naturalist believes in the views given by Lamarck, by Geoffroy St. Hilaire, by the author of the ‘Vestiges,’ by Mr. Wallace or by myself, signifies extremely little in comparison with the admission that species have descended from other species, and have not been created immutable ...

Darwin and Wallace knew the species arose naturally because they knew the species did not arise supernaturally. Darwin did not provide incontrovertible evidence that naturalism worked, but rather that supernaturalism did not work. Their arguments against supernaturalism were, not surprisingly, straight out of that earlier Enlightenment period, but applied to biology. Yesterday's theology and philosophy had become today's science.

The greater god (it is beneath god's dignity to manually create the species), problem of evil (god wouldn't create this gritty world) and intellectual necessity (naturalism is needed for good science) were a few of the non scientific arguments that were shaping today's science.

The common thread, and key to evolution, was naturalism. This is why evolutionists refer to their idea as a fact and a theory. The "fact" is that the species arose from strictly naturalistic causes. The "theory" is how this is supposed to have happened--the details behind the fact.

And this is why evolution can sustain substantial empirical contradictions. Such contrary evidence doesn't falsify evolution, it merely falsifies sub hypotheses. A recent paper by evolutionist Stuart Newman demonstrates how well protected evolution is from the empirical evidence. Early in the paper Newman reiterates the need for naturalistic explanations for all things:

The program of advancing materialism against supernaturalism and superstition is clearly a necessary one.

This is not a call for atheism, but merely naturalistic explanations. But how can naturalism be advanced in the face of apparent scientific problems? After all:

when it comes to the innovation of entirely new structures (‘‘morphological novelties’’) such as segmentally organized bodies (seen in earthworms, insects, and vertebrates such as humans, but not jellyfish or molluscs), or the hands and feet of tetrapods (vertebrates with four limbs), Darwin’s mechanism comes up short. This is a reality that is increasingly acknowledged by biologists, particularly those working in the field of evolutionary developmental biology, or “EvoDevo.”

Contrary to the expectations of the Darwinian model, the fossil record is deficient in transitional forms between organisms distinguished from one another by the presence or absence of major innovations. Niles Eldredge and the late Stephen Jay Gould emphasized this point when they propounded their scenario of ‘‘punctuated equilibria’’ almost four decades ago. And although our current knowledge of the cellular and genetic mechanisms of the development of animal forms is relatively sophisticated, it is difficult to come up with plausible scenarios involving incremental changes in developmental processes that would take an organism from one adult form (e.g., an unsegmented worm) to one embodying an innovation (a segmented worm).

And these are not the only apparent problems with evolution:

Gregor Mendel, in performing his remarkable experiments on various plants, carefully picked traits to study whose different versions were uniquely tied to alternative states of specific genes. Much genetic research in the first half of the 20th century, using a similar strategy, also identified strict gene-trait correlations (particularly with regard to simple biochemical pathways) in other organisms. This led to a deep-seated conviction that the Mendelian mode of inheritance was essentially applicable to all traits in all organisms at all stages of their evolutionary histories. But even Mendel himself, who cautiously described his most famous findings as ‘‘the law valid for peas,’’ did not suggest this, and it is demonstrably not the case.

The Mendelian paradigm deals with factors, or genes, that are associated with biological characters. As such, it focuses on the logic of intergenerational transmission of traits (the alternative forms of characters) rather than the mechanisms of character generation.

Unfortunately many evolutionists continue to insist that this failed paradigm is one of the most powerful ideas ever produced by science.

Evolution has led to many false expectations, and failures to inquire into important observations such as the incredible ability of organisms and populations to adjust to their environment:

Phenotypic plasticity, a relatively common property of developing organisms, which was appreciated by many 19th century biologists and which provided the basis for Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s (generally mischaracterized and not entirely incorrect) pre-Darwinian evolutionary concepts, is only now reentering biology after becoming an all-but-taboo subject within evolutionary theory during the 20th century.

Darwin’s theory, in holding that the competition between individuals marginally different from one another with respect to the small, inherited, morphological, physiological, or behavioral variations encountered in any natural population, has been sufficient to generate the entire array of biologically distinct types seen on the face of planet, avoided cases in which the same organism could take on different forms under different conditions. Indeed, a major impact of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was to marginalize the concept of phenotypic plasticity. Once the theory’s scientific hegemony was established, all phenomena that fit this description were consigned to a theoretical limbo.

Given scientific problems such as these, how can evolutionists promote their naturalistic agenda? For starters Newman encourages his fellow evolutionists to be more forthcoming about problems with their theory. A century ago physicists had the courage to acknowledge that the old ideas were not adequate, but:

The present-day neo-Darwinists provide a poor contrast to this, insofar as they persist in the hand-waving consignment of all problematic aspects of the origination of complex subcellular entities to the putative universal mechanism of random variation and natural selection. ... Unless the discourse around evolution is opened up to scientific perspectives beyond Darwinism, the education of generations to come is at risk of being sacrificed for the benefit of a dying theory.

While such truth in advertising is certainly laudable, note what is not on the table. For the evolutionist, sub hypotheses can be freely discarded but the core theory is not testable. After all, it is a fact, regardless of the science. Religion drives science and it matters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Richard Dawkins and the Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve

In his never ending world tour evolutionist Richard Dawkins has been issuing typical arguments for evolution which are in his latest book. Here is one example:

The recurrent laryngeal nerve is a remarkable piece of unintelligent design. The nerve starts in the head, with the brain, and the end organ is the larynx, the voice box. But instead of going straight there it goes looping past the voice box. In the case of the giraffe, it goes down the full length of the giraffe's neck, loops down one of the main arteries in the chest and then comes straight back up again to the voice box, having gone within a couple of inches of the voice box on its way down. No intelligent designer would ever have done that.

Having never built a giraffe evolutionists do not actually know whether or not their recurrent laryngeal nerve is a shoddy design. In fact, it may well be that there are good reasons for the devious routing of the nerve.

But that is beside the point. Evolutionists forfeit nothing if the giraffe's recurrent laryngeal nerve has some reason to go down and back up its long neck. Regardless of the functions that are discovered, it obviously isn't efficient or elegant--it isn't an intelligent design.

Do you see the metaphysics that is deeply embedded in evolutionary thought? Regardless of how you feel about such designs, put yourself in the place of the evolutionist for a moment. Pretend that you genuinely believe that biology is an endless trail of hodge podge designs. That no creator or designer, otherwise capable of designing such incredible machines, would insert such clap traps into his designs. It would be like finding the steering wheel on backwards in a Ferrari. It makes no sense.

There are many scientific problems with evolution, but evolutionists are not in a position to contemplate any other possibility. Evolution--in one way or another--must be responsible for what we find in biology. Evolutionists have no other choice, regardless of the evidence. If you are convinced that "No intelligent designer would ever have done that" then guess what you will believe about evolution?

This argument from bad design may seem to rebuke the intelligent design theory, but it doesn't. ID is an appeal to the design in nature, not to the quality of those designs. The word "intelligent" is not a claim that the designs are smartly made--it is merely used to distinguish true design from apparent design.

We may not like a design, but that does not mean it was not designed. There may be evidence for evil or inefficiency, but that does not counter the evidence for design. Snake venom may be deadly, but it also is complex.

Judgments of the quality of a design can certainly be scientific. The efficiency, according to some metric, can be computed. The toxicity can be measured. But the use of such findings to determine whether a designer would have designed what we find in nature is necessarily not scientific. Such determinations require metaphysical assumptions.

The point here is not that evolution or ID are good or bad theories, or are true or false. The point is that, regardless of how one judges these ideas, evolution is a metaphysical theory whereas ID is an appeal to the empirical data and our scientific knowledge. This is why evolutionists are certain their theory is true. There is no way to conclude that evolution is as certain as gravity without non scientific premises at work.

Religion drives science and it matters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Questions for a Sympathetic Witness

Misconceptions about evolution abound and Todd Wood, who is not an evolutionist, wants to set the record straight. Wood rightly points out that there is plenty of evidence for evolution, that it is not a theory in crisis and that it does provide a research framework. But Wood also says that evolution is not a religion and "there has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory."

The question for Wood is: How are we to understand the religous foundation of evolution? How are we to understand Darwin's writings which were loaded with religious and metaphysical mandates for evolution? How are we to understand the writings of evolutionists since Darwin who have used these same arguments? How are we to understand Darwin's Principle? How are we to understand the consensus position that evolution is a fact, and the religious arguments that are used to arrive at that conclusion? Evolutionists claim their idea is a fact, and their justifications for this eyebrow raising claim--in every case--entail metaphysical claims. How are we to understand this?

And regarding the science, how are we to understand the many fundamental predictions of evolution that have gone wrong? Evolution consistently leads us down the wrong path. Its ideas about what we should find in biology so often turn out to be wrong. Yes, there are successful predictions, but there are a many important predictions that were flat wrong. How are we to understand this?

It certainly is true that there is plenty of evidence for evolution, but there is also plenty of evidence the earth if flat. There are also monumental scientific problems with both ideas. Religion drives science and it matters.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Complex Patterns of DNA Positioning in the Nucleus

Inside each of the hundred million million (or so) cells in your body there is a nucleus which holds the cell's DNA. All of that DNA, if stretched out, would reach to the moon and back many thousands of times. But in the nucleus it is cleverly arranged and compacted to fit in such a small space. Of course the genes that are being used in any given cell are not so compacted. Now, new research is telling us more about how the DNA is arranged in the nucleus.

The new findings reveal that typically the silent and compacted DNA regions sit along the outer edges of the nucleus while the active and less compacted genes cluster around the the center of the nucleus.

In a fascinating exception to this pattern, the arrangement is reversed in the nucleus' of retina cells of nocturnal mice. The compacted, silent, DNA resides at the nucleus center while the less compacted, active, DNA is in the outer regions. This same pattern was found in 38 such species. These species see better in low light conditions, and presumably this rearrangement helps achieve that capability.

Of course such DNA arrangements are highly complex, and changing the arrangement is unlikely to be achieved by a single mutation.

How curious it is that such complexities and interdependencies are so often found in biology.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Elaborate Biological Clock

The biological clock influences many biological processes, but now researchers are finding that the influence goes both ways. John Hogenesch, Steve Kay and co workers have pieced together a multi-level genetic network associated with the cell's biological clock. Hogenesch's diagram of the network (above) illustrates how biological processes provide feedback to the clock. As Hogenesch explains:

Clock biologists all appreciated that the communication went one direction--from the clock to biological processes--but I don't think anyone anticipated that there would be this level of integration with cell metabolism and the cell cycle, or all these other pathways impinging on clock function.

Of course this level of sophistication was not anticipated by evolutionists because, like the Epicureans, they believe those "veering atoms" just happened to create the most complex structures known. And now that the biological clock's elaborate genetic network is better understood, evolutionists believe it just built up due to a series of mutations that just happened to occur. Amazing.

This might seem improbable but remember, we're not allowed to be incredulous regarding evolution. After all, it is a fact.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Graeme Finlay: Evolution is True, Part II

In his article on human evolution Graeme Finlay states that duplicated DNA segments prove evolution. Finlay's proof is straightforward. These duplications of DNA segments arise randomly and yet identical duplications are found in cousin species, such as humans and chimpanzees. Finlay uses as his example opsin genes which produce proteins that are light sensitive. Different opsin genes produce proteins that are sensitive to different colors of light. The proteins are found in the hundreds of millions of photocells in our retina and they allow us to sense the different colors of light that we see. By combining the signals from these different photocells, our brain can assemble a full color image.

Two of our opsin genes are close to each other in our DNA, and they are very similar (except that they are tuned to different colors of light). The evolutionary hypothesis is that the one opsin was formed when the other was duplicated and was inserted into the DNA. At first glance it seems like a perfectly reasonable hypothesis.

But Finlay and the evolutionists go much further--they say it is yet another compelling proof of evolution. Finlay concludes that these genetic similarities demonstrate "that the duplication arose in a unique event, and that it has been inherited by all the species that now possess it."

Can we really be so sure? In fact there are three major problems with this evolutionary logic.

1. Is the genome really so random?

Recall that Finlay's assumption is that these duplications of DNA segments arise randomly. This of course is standard evolutionary reasoning. Everything occurs randomly until proven otherwise. But the empirical evidence does not bear this out and the argument is circular. Indeed, even if evolution is true there are similar DNA duplications in cousin species that violate the evolutionary expected pattern. Evolutionists must explain these convergent duplications with non evolutionary mechanisms. So by their own admission, evolution is not required to explain such duplications.

2. It is at most only a successful prediction.

Ignoring problem #1 above, even if we grant the observed DNA duplications as perfectly fitting evolutionary expectations, they are at most only a successful prediction. They certainly cannot be said to require evolution as an explanation (that would be the fallacy of affirming the consequent). They cannot prove evolution to be true. They would have to be compared with all the false predictions and the totality of the evidence would have to be accounted for before making pronouncements about evolution.

3. A plethora of problems ignored.

Finally, as I have discussed before, Finlay's evidence raises profound problems for evolution. Most obviously, the evolutionist takes for granted the pre existence of the color-coding gene, the photocells, the retina, and the remainder of the vision system and brain. From where did this incredible system come? Are we to believe that it too is simply the result of evolution because evolutionists think a DNA duplication event added more color resolution?

Another problem is that evolutionists vastly underestimate the complexity of the supposed evolutionary change required. A DNA duplication event followed by a few mutations to tweak the color sensitivity does not instantly provide enhanced color resolution. That is only the beginning of what would be required. The product of the new color-coding gene would need to be used in certain photocells. The quantity and locations of these photocells are important.

And on the receiving end, downstream cells would need to be reprogrammed, to interpret properly the new color information. This is because the photocells do not signal their color. The output of the photocell is merely a nerve impulse (action potential), and its interpretation is an extremely complex process. Modifying a color-coding gene without concomitant downstream reprogramming just confuses things.

And yet Finlay is sure these genetic similarities prove evolution. Religion drives science and it matters.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Samples of Evolution's Anti Intellectualism

If you ask an evolutionist for the best evidence against their theory they won't have much to say. In fact they have difficulty admitting to any evidence against their theory. Evolutionists hold to the non scientific view that there literally are no evidences against their theory. I once listed off a dozen problematic evidences in a debate, to which the evolutionist calmly responded: "Those are all fallacies." Metaphysical certainty and counter evidence don't mix very well.

Here are two recent examples of this dogma. In Alabama last week evolutionist Lee Meadows stated that evolution is important to understand because it explains so much. Meadows wrote in his new book, The Missing Link: An Inquiry Approach for Teaching All Students About Evolution, that students "will never achieve the level of scientific literacy they need to make sense of even everyday practicalities such as how human viruses work."

There's only one problem: understanding how viruses work has precisely nothing to do with evolution. Even a six-day creationist could be an expert in viruses without losing a step.

Meanwhile in nearby Oklahoma last week, evolutionist Michael Mares, Director of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History stated in a press release that the museum's exhibits illustrate:

the fact of evolution by natural selection as first described by Charles Darwin and continually supported by all branches of science ever since that time.

The truth, on the other hand, is that evolution has not been "continually supported by all branches of science." In fact, evolution has been consistently shown to be problematic by various branches of science.

This sampling of anti intellectualism from Meadows and Mares comes from prepared statements. They were not stray comments and they are typical of the evolution genre. Religion drives science and it matters.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Replicating Damaged DNA

You probably remember that before a cell can divide into two daughter cells its DNA must be replicated into two duplicate copies. But what you didn't learn in high school biology class is what happens when the DNA is damaged. First let's review normal DNA replication.

Normal DNA Replication

DNA consists of pairs of long molecular strands, and a small army of proteins performs a series of fascinating and complex tasks to make a copy of these paired strands. At designated starting points the strands are separated and each strand then serves as a template upon which a new copy of the other, complementary strand is synthesized.

In the end, the result is two pairs of strands where originally there was just one pair. One intriguing aspect of this operation is that the synthesis is performed in opposite directions on each strand. That is, as the strands are unzipped a "Y" is formed. On one of the single strands, the proteins synthesize a new strand continuously as the original DNA strands are unzipped. This way, as more strand becomes exposed it quickly is covered with a newly synthesized strand.

On the other single strand, however, the proteins synthesize the new strand in the opposite direction, away from the unzipping action. This makes sense because paired DNA strands are chemically anti-parallel. But this makes for a complex process.

As the strand is exposed due to unzipping, the proteins start close to the intersection of the "Y" at the location that has most recently been exposed. The proteins then move away from the intersection as they synthesize the new strand.

At some point the proteins halt, move back toward the intersection of the "Y", and begin the process again on the newly exposed section of strand. Hence on one of the strands replication is continuous (the "leading" strand), and on the other strand replication is discontinuous (the "lagging" strand).

Did it Evolve?

Can you see why evolution is not a very good scientific theory? Evolutionists want us to believe that, in addition to the DNA molecule and its information, this incredible DNA replication process just arose all on its own. And of course this is only the beginning (the DNA has to be used somehow, for instance).

How do evolutionists respond to such criticism? They say that with evolution we are not allowed to be incredulous. Why? Because such disbelief is not scientific.

This means that with evolution one need not search for likely explanations. It is the perfect venue for speculation. Of course anything can happen, but the evolution narrative makes fairy tales appear likely by comparison. How many miracles are we supposed to swallow? Well here is one more.

The normal DNA replication process won't work very well when DNA is damaged, by radiation for example. When such damage is detected the normal copying machines are paused and a special "sloppier copier" is ushered in to do the job. This backup copying machine is able to replicate a damaged section of DNA by not reading it so precisely. This means that there are more copying errors, but a copy with more errors is better than no copy at all.

So now we are to believe that in addition to the normal DNA copying machines, this "sloppier copier" also just happened to evolve along with helper machines that tell it when and where to go to work.

It is remarkable that the theory of evolution is taken seriously. What is utterly astonishing, though, is that evolutionists insist that, every bit as much as gravity, it is a fact.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amazing Preparations for Cell Division

The basic unit of life is the cell and in addition to the various functions it performs it also divides itself into two every so often. Cell division is incredibly complex as the cell contents must be duplicated and segregated before the cell splits into two identical daughter cells. External forces that deform the cell could easily disrupt this delicate process so the cell needs to sense such distortions and recover from them. New research is learning more about how this happens.

Working with single-celled protozoa the researchers found that two proteins monitor and adjust the cell geometry to ensure successful cell division. These proteins congregate at the location of distortions and perform structural functions. As one of the researchers explained:

What we found is an exquisitely tuned mechanosensory system that keeps the cells shipshape so they can divide properly ... It's clear that the two [proteins] need each other to operate as a cellular mechanosensor.

It is yet another example of life's exquisite tuning.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stephen Matheson: Talking Trash About Junk DNA

A reader upbraided me for my recent post on “junk” DNA and pointed me to the harsh words of evolutionist Stephen Matheson on “junk” DNA, which I had not seen before. Let’s have a look:

"Junk DNA" is a very popular subject among anti-evolution commentators. At the Discovery Institute (DI) and Reasons To Believe (RTB), as well as other creationist outlets, you can find ample discussion of "junk DNA" and why it matters to Christians who don't like evolution.

I've mentioned this topic several times myself, because I believe that the misuse of science by creationists is seldom more in evidence than when opponents of evolution confront genetics and genomics.

The opening move by evolutionists is to equate any and all skeptics as creationists.

As I've noted before, common descent provides a superior explanation for the extraordinary facts gleaned through comparative genomics

In the evolution genre, phrases like “common descent provides a superior explanation” are code for “the evidence falsifies creation.” The reasoning is always contrastive as Elliott Sober points out. Evolution and common descent are problematic, but there is no alternative. Of course that is a religious claim. But wait …

and there is no competing scientific explanation.

Not only is common descent the superior explanation, it is the only scientific explanation. This is a standard argument in the genre: make up your own definition of science which just so happens to exclude empirical approaches.

As I see it, a knowledgeable Christian person considering these data has exactly two rational alternatives: 1) acknowledge the explanatory power of common ancestry and accept its reality; or 2) acknowledge the appearance of common ancestry but deny its reality.

Well at least non Christians are allowed to follow the data. This is the usual “it’s either common descent or a cosmic conspiracy” false dichotomy. Appearance of common ancestry? That's strange, beyond speculation there is no explanation of how it would work. Matheson states that his writings are about scientific explanation. So far we have the usual evolutionary metaphysics and dogma.

Any other choice is indicative of ignorance or of some form of intellectual dishonesty.

It is the height of hypocrisy for evolutionists to be lecturing skeptics about their supposed intellectual dishonesty. Evolutionary thought is based on and motivated by non scientific, religious and philosophical, concerns which they mask as “just science.” It is rationalism masquerading as empiricism. And they then castigate skeptics as dishonest.

I have advocated the use of the concept of folk science to account for the tendency of some apologists (e.g., the "scholars" at Reasons To Believe) to misrepresent science

The ad hominem is another standard evolutionary attack. Credentials don’t matter. One can be a genuine scholar only if one accepts evolution.

in defense of their preconceived interpretive framework.

More hypocrisy as the evolutionists, who openly mandate naturalism, divine a preconceived framework in the work of those who (i) express none and (ii) find scientific problems with evolution.

Creationists insist that "junk DNA" is functional and therefore that evolutionary claims regarding its origin are mistaken.

This is not universally true, but it is a strong tendency that is worth pointing out. The “nature must be functional, and even perfect” view goes back to Paley and eighteenth century English natural theology, and was/is an important foil for Darwin and today’s evolutionists. However, history is on the natural theologian’s side as we continue to discover function for what evolutionists thought were useless structures.

Creationists of various stripes commonly claim that because evolutionary biologists automatically assumed that non-coding DNA lacked function, little or no research on the subject occurred for decades. That claim is doubly false: biologists have always adopted various stances on the functional roles of non-coding DNA, and consequently research into its function has proceeded apace.

Matheson freely generalizes about creationists but resists generalizations about evolutionists. It is true that various stances were adopted vis-à-vis “junk” DNA, but the view that it is non functional has been prevalent and used as an evolutionary apologetic.

Enormous numbers of DNA elements that make up the bulk of the human genome -- and most of its non-coding "junk" segments -- have been identified and are being actively investigated by molecular biologists. These elements are anything but mysterious: they are so-called mobile genetic elements of various kinds, with well-known properties. Their properties, and their use in scores of analyses of evolutionary relationships, are systematically omitted from creationist writings on the subject.

Good point. More needs to be written on these successful predictions of evolution. For instance, it needs to be pointed out that evolutionists turn these successes into compelling evidence by applying Darwin’s Principle.

The proteins that enable animals to smell are called olfactory receptors (ORs). The human genome contains about 800 OR genes, but more than half of them have been inactivated by mutation, yielding what are called pseudogenes. These "fossil genes" are found in precisely the same locations within the genome as are the fully-functional versions in other mammals (i.e., mice). Analysis of these genes and their properties has led to the construction of a highly coherent explanatory framework that accounts for the existence of these pseudogenes and the evolution of smell in vertebrates. Looking for a creationist approach to these data? The word 'olfactory' appears nowhere on RTB's website; at the DI, you'll find it in lots of articles...about stem cells.

Well I’ve written on pseudogenes, but that appears nowhere on Matheson’s website. Indeed, Matheson seems to avoid those pseudogenes that contradict the evolutionary expectations. Nor does he seem to consider non evolutionary explanations.

It certainly is true that there are plenty of evidences in biology that fit the evolutionary expectations. But there are plenty of evidences that do not, and many of them are staggering—far more so than the positive evidences (which are mainly circumstantial) are supportive.

The preponderance of empirical evidence does not bode well for evolution. Of course we can argue about how to weigh this evidence and that, and just where the theory stands. But the theory is unquestionably not a fact. This is different than saying it is not true.

When we say evolution is not a fact we are pointing out the state of our knowledge. We cannot conclude with any level of confidence that evolution is true or compelling. We certainly are in no position to equate it with the fact of gravity (something we sense every waking moment).

But this is precisely what evolutionists claim. They say evolution is every bit as much a fact as is gravity. They argue we know this from the scientific evidence. But this is unquestionably false.

The problem is not that evolutionists are hypothesizing a scientifically questionable theory—it is that they are mandating a scientifically questionable theory. This is what is so telling about evolution.

Sure evolution might be true. It does not seem likely from the science, but perhaps somehow, some way, it occurred.

Nonetheless evolutionists are certain they are right, and of course theirs is a metaphysical certainty. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Michael Behe: The Latest on Evolution's Limits

Remember the evolutionists who realized that five mutations can halt their magic? Michael Behe makes his usual cogent comments here.

Junk DNA Beneficial in Cells

"Discovery May Prove Invaluable In Quest For Gene Therapies" reads a recent headline. And what was that discovery? The research uncovered details of how an incredible protein machine can remove sections of DNA from one spot and insert it somewhere else. The research also points to the importance of the so-called "junk" DNA. As one science writer explained:

Junk DNA, which accounts for almost half of the human genome, was originally believed to have no purpose. However, it is now emerging that movement of junk DNA, in a cut-and-paste mechanism, can lead to beneficial changes in cells.

The term "junk" DNA, of course, derives from the evolutionary view that life is a fluke. The most complex structures known, which no one could have imagined, just arose on their own. And when evolutionists can't imagine how something works, then they label it "junk."

They might be right sometimes, but so far quite a bit of "junk" has been found to be functional. Even some of the "junk" DNA is turning out to be important.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Open Letter to Karl Giberson

Dr. Karl Giberson
President, BioLogos Foundation

Dear Dr. Giberson:

As a professor, author and President of the BioLogos Foundation, you have powerful communication tools at your disposal. You have access to major media outlets and you speak with scientific authority. In short, you are a teacher with a very large audience. This is an enormous teaching responsibility which I am sure you take seriously. For this reason I want to alert you to a fundamental mistake which you and the BioLogos Foundation have made. Given the magnitude of your teaching responsibility I hope that you will carefully consider this situation and take the appropriate corrective measures.

Your mistake is that you present evolution as a well-established scientific fact. For instance, in a recent USA Today opinion piece you (with Darrel Falk) wrote that evolution "is as well-established within biology as heliocentricity is established within astronomy." You continued:

In the years since Darwin argued natural selection was the agent of creation, the evidence for evolution has become overwhelming. The fossil record has provided evidence of compelling transitional species such as whales with feet. The discovery of DNA now provides an irrefutable digital record of the relatedness of all living things. And even the physicists have cooperated by proving that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, providing plenty of time for evolution.

In the follow-up chat a USA Today reader asked about the evidence for macro evolution, to which you responded:

By far the strongest evidence for this--evidence that I think is essentially proof--comes from genetics. The site has an entire FAQ on this question. I think, if you look at how species share genes, even ones that don't do anything, you will be convinced that they must have evolved from common ancestors.

Your statements here, which are similar to those made the previous BioLogos President Francis Collins, are a dramatic misrepresentation of science. Let me explain why.

Affirming the consequent

The evidences that you cite (and of course more evidences could be cited) match evolutionary expectations. Therefore certain predictions of the theory have been confirmed. It is a logical fallacy, however, to conclude that confirmed predictions prove the theory to be true. This fallacy is known as affirming the consequent. Therefore, the age of the earth, transitional fossils such as whales with feet, similar genes and other such evidences do not prove evolution.

Ignoring contradictory evidence

In addition to this logical error, you also mistakenly ignore falsifying evidence. For while there are evidences that are consistent with evolution as you cite above, there is a wide range of staggering evidences against evolution. These include fossils and genetic data, among others. For instance, dramatic similarities are found in otherwise distant species and significant differences are found in otherwise similar species. These findings were great surprises to evolutionists. While it is true that after-the-fact circuitous explanations can always be contrived, certainly the substantial body of contradictory evidence should have some bearing on the status of evolutionary theory.

Relying on metaphysics

Unfortunately the claim that evolution is a fact, as much as is gravity or heliocentrism, has always been motivated by metaphysical assumptions. These assumptions trace back to the Enlightenment, and Darwin and Wallace built upon them. The conclusion ever since was that evolution had to be true, not because of the empirical science but because of the metaphysical mandate. The BioLogos Foundation falls into this tradition. Francis Collins has consistently promoted evolution’s religious premises, such as when he wrote:

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.

Likewise, your suggestion that shared genes, including non functional ones, prove common ancestry is equally metaphysical. From a scientific perspective these are merely confirmed expectations, but given the evolutionary metaphysics such similarities prove common ancestry.

In summary, you have ignored standard principles of scientific reasoning and have presented to the public metaphysical reasoning as science. I hope this letter helps you to see the seriousness of your mistake. You have a tremendous teaching responsibility—I hope you meet the challenge.

Sincerely, Cornelius Hunter