Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The “H” in Evolution

Evolutionists say it is a fact that all of biology just happened to arise by accident, and they harshly criticize those who do not agree. But with amazing consistency their criticism is hypocritical—it applies to evolutionary thinking. Consider this recent paper about creationist movements:

In summary, while creationism has evolved diverse labels and strategies for legal and rhetorical purposes, its fundamental essence remains unchanged. That essence is advocacy of miraculous divine intervention, i.e., special creation, in the history of life, and the claim that science must acknowledge special creation or dire consequences for society will follow.

Dire consequences for society? This is precisely the sort of rhetoric used by evolutionists. Skepticism is routinely characterized as anti-science. Diseases will flourish and crops will fall prey to insects without evolution to guide our science. Indeed, the very premise of this paper is that evolution skepticism must be countered. It is a hazard which seeks to return the world to centuries past.

And the fundamental essence of evolution has remained unchanged for centuries. Passages from Lucretius read like modern evolutionary writings. And more recently, the urgings of Enlightenment thinkers laid the groundwork for Darwin and can be found throughout the post-Darwin literature. The essence is the rejection of miraculous divine intervention for a variety of religious and metaphysical reasons. They are repeated ad nauseam today as though they are scientific findings, but they are no different than the evolutionary genre from centuries past.

The persistence of creationism, and the necessity of understanding and effectively opposing creationist movements, can be extremely irritating to those of us who have devoted our careers to researching and teaching about evolution. Why should any time be wasted on those whose religious beliefs cause them to ignore or distort the scientific evidence? However, our situation should be kept in perspective: every science has to deal with the problem of pseudoscience to some degree.

Religious beliefs distorting science? Amazing, I couldn’t describe evolutionary thought any better. Evolutionists, including the author himself, have not hesitated to issue religious mandates for evolution, in spite of the evidence. It would be difficult to think of anything more hypocritical.

Figuring out what flavor(s) of creationism you are dealing with is particularly important in secular forums such as academia, public policy disputes, and court cases, in which creationists usually attempt to hide their underlying theology.

Hide their underlying theology? Unbelievable. This is precisely the evolutionist’s standard procedure. After making theological claims they, incredibly, claim to be doing mere empirical science.

The core idea unifying all the various forms of creationism is the conviction that divine intervention, i.e., special creation, is necessary to explain the diversity of life.

Truly amazing. The core idea behind evolutionary thought is that the diversity of life and origin of species must be explained exclusively by natural laws.

The whole point of the exercise of arguing against evolution is to argue for the interventionist, miracle-working God found in the creationists’ reading of the Bible. In other words, for ID creationists as well as other creationists, the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is on the line, along with the fate of society, over what seems at first glance to be a mere pedestrian question about the scientific correctness of evolution.

The whole point? The whole point of evolution is to argue against the interventionist, miracle-working God. That is yet another fact that evolutionist’s deny.

Everything is on the line? Yes indeed, evolutionists have no choice. They can brook no variation from their strict and dogmatic naturalism.

What should evolution scientists and educators learn from all this? The lesson is something that we already know: history is important. Specifically, history is crucial for understanding creationist movements and the forms they take.

Astonishing. Evolutionists whitewash their own history, or more commonly simply ignore it altogether. For them, Charles Darwin was a nice young man who got in a boat and sailed around the world where he happened to observe evolutionary signs all along the way and then turned into an intellectual revolutionary who practically single-handedly changed the tide of thought on origins. Yes, history, true history that is, is important.

Such a conclusion, if it can be documented, has obvious relevance for a court’s analysis of whether a policy is constitutional. But legal relevance is not the only reason history is important. Often, just asking the questions is enough: deep down, creationists and fundamentalists want to promote their religious views—that’s the whole point of all of this effort, in the end—and they do not require much prodding to do so. Once the sectarian goals are out in the open, it often becomes clear to cooler heads that politicians and courts have been in this position many times before, and that the antievolution policy is unwise because the government’s job is to teach science in science classes, and let people make up their own minds on religious issues.

Deep down? Deep down evolutionists are driven by religion, they are fanatics if ever there were any. Their theology drives them to asanine ideas which they then try to defend with inconsistent and contradictory circumstantial evidence. They are constantly promoting their religious convictions and conclusions.

Nevertheless, however frustrating the creationists may be at times, we should keep in mind the fact that our dispute with them is a peaceful one taking place in a democracy, and that creationism did not appear ex nihilo, but is the product of Western history and deep-seated, very human fears and desires. Exhibiting some empathy deriving from our shared history might go a long way towards reconciling evangelicals with evolution.

Evolutionary thought has a long history. It became particularly popular with the Enlightenment metaphysics and concerns about the role of God in creation. Today’s evolutionary tradition is very much the product of Western history and deep-seated, very human fears and desires.

Evolution is, if anything, a religious idea, and when evolutionists go on the attack watch for the hypocrisy.

An Evolutionist Changes His Ways

It is always good to see an evolutionist turn away from his religious fanaticism. This recent paper, well written and obviously well edited, is particularly remarkable because the evolutionist not only rejects his old ways, but shines a light on them for all to see. Consider these excerpts:

[Text under editorial evaluation for accuracy check]

It is not controversial that evolution is a religious theory, but evolutionists have always been in denial about this. Now there is hope.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Darwin Meets Orwell

Evolution’s corruption of science continues to reach new heights. Consider a recent paper written by an evolutionist in a leading journal about, of all things, our criminal justice system. That’s right, evolutionists now want to recast sentencing procedures according to their beliefs about origins. It’s another should-we-laugh-or-cry story as the underlying reasoning is so banal while the recommendations are so scary. I doubt even George Orwell could have envisioned this.

According to evolutionist Andrew Cashmore, we have no free will and therefore individuals should not be held responsible for their actions. What we do is simply a consequence of our genes (the key to our hardware design according to evolutionists), our environment, and the underlying random motion that has been held to be important ever since Lucretius.

And since we have no choice about all three of these factors, we therefore have no responsibility for our actions. You thought you chose to read this article, but that was just an illusion.

And how is Cashmore so sure we have no free will in spite of the steady stream of apparently free decisions we all continually make? I certainly thought I was choosing between chocolate or vanilla. So why is free will so obvious to people, if it is non existent? Because, of course, the illusion evolved via selection. As the peer reviewed paper reports, it is all an evolutionary illusion:

In discussing free will, Susan Blackmore has noted that “many scientists believe that the real causal factors are all those interacting neurons that do many things including creating a sense of self, and a sense of free will—both of which are illusions.” She goes on to say, “I think nature has played this enormous joke on us.” In addressing the same issue, Rita Carter has asked, “If free will is an illusion and each of our actions is determined by unconscious cognitive processes in response to external stimuli, why should our brains delude us into thinking otherwise?” A variation on this question is: what is the evolutionary selective advantage of consciousness? One answer to this question is that consciousness provides us with an apparent sense of responsibility: “Along with the illusion of control, our sense of agency brings the burdens of individual responsibility. Though this may sometimes weigh heavily on us personally, for society as a whole it is hugely beneficial. Our entire morality and judicial system is dependent on everyone accepting that they are agents of their own misdeeds, and those who don’t acknowledge this are—by legal definition—insane. We may not consciously control our own actions, but the cognitive mechanisms that create the illusion that we do keep society functioning.” A similar argument has been made by Wegner: “The ability to know what one will do … would seem to be an important human asset … This preview function could be fundamentally important for the facilitation of social interaction.” I find that the above are attractive explanations for the existence (the selective advantage) of consciousness. […]

In summary, then, I believe that free will is clearly an illusion. However, this is not to say that consciousness does not have a function. I believe it does, and from this I assume that it must give rise to an evolutionary selective advantage. Consciousness confers the illusion of responsibility. No wonder the belief in free will is so prevalent in society—the very survival of those “selfish free-will genes” is predicated on their capacity to con one into believing in free will!

The beauty of evolutionary theory is its tremendous elasticity in data interpretation. Evidence that can be interpreted as supporting evolution is viewed as legitimate whereas contradictory evidence is anomalous or even, as in this case, illusory. This most striking of evidences is, with a wave of the hand, dismissed as illusory—a evolutionary trick. Perhaps evolution also planted all those fossils and deviously constructed those adaptation mechanisms.

But dispensing with evidence is by no means Cashmore’s only proof. Amazingly, he weaves an even more banal argument into the narrative. Free will, according to Cashmore, is obviously a stretch for the simple reason that it could not be created by natural laws. Conjectures about free will lack “any hint of molecular details concerning mechanisms” and “Neither religious beliefs, nor a belief in free will, comply with the laws of the physical world.” Similarly, the evolutionist explains:

relatively few biologists seriously question the concept of free will. This holds in spite of the fact that we live in an era when few biologists would question the idea that biological systems are totally based on the laws of physics and chemistry.

So let’s see, biological systems are totally based on the laws of physics and chemistry, so therefore there is no free will. Got it.

As the fallacies mount up it is not surprising that Cashmore gives experimental evidence an evolutionary spin. He finds it significant, for example, that measured brain activity precedes conscious awareness of a decision.

By the time he finishes Cashmore is utterly convinced:

A belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs […]

The reality is, not only do we have no more free will than a fly or a bacterium, in actuality we have no more free will than a bowl of sugar. The laws of nature are uniform throughout, and these laws do not accommodate the concept of free will. […]

as living systems we are nothing more than a bag of chemicals.

With this conclusive dismissal of free will, the evolutionist moves on to critique our criminal justice system. Does he suggest all go free? After all, no one is to blame for his actions, so how can we justify incarceration? Unfortunately Cashmore suggests nothing so pleasant. Would that evolutionary thinking was so benign. No, the evolutionist suggests something far more scary:

The proposal is a pragmatic one, based on the belief that the welfare of society at large is more important than the welfare of the individual offender.

if a defendant were found guilty, then a court-appointed panel of experts would play a role in advising on matters of punishment and treatment.

But in the evolutionist’s two-dimensional world, what is an expert, and how would the court ever know it? After all, any such “expert” is merely acting according to those uncontrollable mechanical factors, as is the judge who anoints them.

I can see it now. The “offender” is brought into a chamber where he is examined by the panel. The group might consist of some social workers, administrators, one or two clerics, perhaps a philosopher, and so forth. These court-appointed “experts,” who of course are evolutionists, would have an air of all-knowing, thinly veiled condescension. They would pose questions creating various Catch-22’s, having little to do with the case.

“Did you ever cheat in school?” An affirmative indicates a hooligan while a negative indicates a pathological liar. After brow-beaten into submission the offender is escorted away while the experts decide on his punishment and treatment. Annual reviews evaluate the convicts “progress,” determine how much longer to extend the sentence and the appropriate punishments and treatments for the coming year.

Should we laugh or should we cry. The evolutionist believes evolution created the illusion of free will and in him the ability to see through the illusion. He now, as a consequence of his genes, environment, and those Lucretian swerves, argues against free will. He is right and those who don’t agree are wrong (even though we’re all just a bag of chemicals). And consequently we should now trade our criminal justice system for an evolutionary kangaroo court. It is, at once, both idiotic and disturbing. Religion drives science and it matters.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Atheism's (Not So) Hidden Assumptions

Evolutionist Jerry Coyne thinks atheism is true. But if atheism (in addition to evolution) is true, then how could Coyne know it? For if atheism and materialism are true, then Coyne's brain is nothing more than a set of molecules in motion. Its various configurations are simply a consequence of its beginning, subsequent inputs, and some random motion here and there.

What Coyne thinks is knowledge would merely be certain molecular states, not necessarily having any correspondence with truth. How do evolutionists reconcile their atheism with their convictions of knowledge and truth? This Hobbesian predicament is particularly ironic in light of the atheist's strong theological convictions and arguments. We know atheism is true because god wouldn't have created this world. Do you see why atheism is parasitic on (and much less dangerous than) theism?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

You Cannot Make This Stuff Up, Part 3

In your idiotic ideas file you no longer have to go back to the ancient myths, or even to centuries-old folly such as bloodletting, for we now have evolution--an idea that is promoted at this very time. One of the many inanities of evolution is its serendipity. If evolution is true, then we must believe that all manner of complex biological structures and machinery evolved (somehow) for one function, only then to enable new, revolutionary advancements to occur. Call it evolution's Law of Unintended Consequences.

Consider multicellularity. According to evolutionists, unicellular organisms aggregated and ultimately formed multicellular species. This would not have occurred without certain machines already present in the unicellular organisms. For instance, unicellular organisms have complex machines that secrete proteins whose function have nothing to do with working with other cells. But in multicellular aggregates such machines, according to evolutionary theory, were "recruited" (a favorite word in the evolutionist's lexicon) to fulfill an entirely new mission. Here is how Stuart Newman describes it:

Certain unicellular proteins and other molecules mobilize physical effects in the multicellular context that were unanticipated during their earlier evolution. To take a simple example, all single-celled organisms can secrete protein molecules into the environment around them. These molecules will generally float away, but they may serve to attract prey, repel predators, and so forth. When the external environment consists of other cells, as is the case in a multicellular cluster, the secreted molecule can form a distributed signal – a “morphogen” gradient – that can cause one end of the cluster to be different from another. The gene involved simply specifies the sequence of the secreted protein. What function the protein comes to assume in the new multicellular context has nothing to do with the evolutionary history of that gene, or the selection to which it had been subject. We have called such developmentally efficacious associations of ancient gene products with the physical effects they mobilize in multicellular aggregates “dynamical patterning modules” (DPMs). There are many other such examples.

It is another example of serendipity gone wild in evolutionary theory, but for evolutionist's it is just another event in a long Alice-in-Wonderland history of make believe events.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Wasp Evolution Forgot

New research on an old, misidentified, fossil specimen reveals that the fig wasp has remained virtually unchanged for over 34 million years. In spite of dramatic climate shifts, and who knows what else, this millimeter long fig tree pollinator, and its fig tree companion, somehow managed to persist. While primitive primates somehow developed the human brain and consciousness in a geologically brief time window, the fig wasp managed to avoid evolutionary change over a much longer time period. It is yet another example of stasis in the biological world.

Fig wasps are so named because they have a complex and highly specific relationship with fig trees. There are about 800 species of fig trees, and each is pollinated by just one or two species of fig wasp which otherwise ignore the other fig trees species. That’s quite a feat that evolution pulled off—800 or so variations on a theme.

At one fig tree a wasp collects pollen and stores it in pockets on the underside of its body before flying to another fig tree (of the same species of course) where it pulls out the collected pollen and spreads it on the flower. It’s amazing what unguided mutations will do (no, natural selection doesn’t magically design intricate systems like this, it merely kills off the loser mutations).

And what’s also amazing is how, after implementing such dramatic and nuanced changes, evolution then comes to a screeching halt. It created species, and relationships between them, that fortuitously would not only survive climate shifts and tens of millions of years, but wouldn’t even call for any more change. That’s a good design.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Evidence for Evolution is Actually Evolution of Evidence

In 1951 the leading evolutionist George G. Simpson stated that there really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question, concluded Simpson, has been decisively answered in the affirmative. Simpson was by no means the first to make this high claim—even stronger statements were made in the nineteenth and even eighteenth centuries—but in the twentieth century this sentiment came to dominate the life sciences. It became more than merely broadly accepted, it became mandatory. This set up evolutionary theory as what Thomas Kuhn would call “normal science.” Evolution became the standard, the dominant paradigm, within which the life sciences operated. From high school biology exams to university tenure and funding applications, all must work under the umbrella of evolution. New research is not merely described in terms of evolution, the very data are interpreted according to evolution from the first measurement. If a new fossil form is discovered, it is described as a result of gradualism if it is similar to known forms. On the other hand, it is described as a result of punctuated equilibrium if it is unique. One way or another, evolution is the narrative. And while it may be that, in practice, science needs to work in this way, this overwhelming dominance means that, ironically, evolutionary studies often fail to provide evidence for evolution. This is because evolution is assumed in the very interpretation of the data. This logical technicality, however, often does not stop evolutionists from making high claims about the evidence.

The assumption that evolution is true is baked into evolutionary studies. The results are not theory-neutral, and it would be circular to use the results as evidence for evolution. Nonetheless, evolutionists often cite the conclusions of such studies as powerful and compelling evidence for evolution. There is an incestuous relationship between the research work and the apologetics ministries, and it needs to be expunged. The practice of evolutionists explaining to us that the evidence leaves no other choice is reminiscent of the government that investigates it own misdeeds or the corporation that appoints its own auditor. What is needed is an independent audit.

Consider, for example, the problem of how the eye evolved. It might seem, Darwin agreed, “absurd in the highest possible degree.” But with evolution taken as a fact, whether or not vision systems evolved is no longer in question—they did. The only question is how they have evolved. As evolutionists explain in one paper, although Darwin “anticipated that the eye would become a favorite target for criticism,” the problem “has now almost become a historical curiosity” and “the question is now one of process rate rather than one of principle.” They estimate this rate using the usual heroic assumptions of evolutionary thought. They write:

The evolution of complex structures, however, involves modifications of a large number of separate quantitative characters, and in addition there may be discrete innovations and an unknown number of hidden but necessary phenotypic changes. These complications seem effectively to prevent evolution rate estimates for entire organs and other complex structures. An eye is unique in this respect because the structures necessary for image formation, although there may be several, are all typically quantitative in their nature, and can be treated as local modifications of pre-existing tissues. Taking a patch of pigmented light-sensitive epithelium as the starting point, we avoid the more inaccessible problem of photoreceptor cell evolution. Thus, if the objective is limited to finding the number of generations required for the evolution of an eye’s optical geometry, then the problem becomes solvable.

This paper and its results do not serve as evidence for evolution; rather, they serve as evidence for the rate of the evolution of an eye’s optical geometry, given that evolution occurred. Yet evolutionists cite this paper, and others like it, as powerful evidence that eye evolution is straightforward.

Another example of evolutionary heroics is the evolution of the cell’s intricate metabolic pathways which are constantly performing a wide variety of chemical gymnastics. For example, the Krebs cycle is a complicated and apparently optimal metabolic pathway that has been a problem for evolutionists to explain. One evolutionary study claimed to demonstrate the “opportunistic evolution of the Krebs cycle,” but what passed for a demonstration was really a series of speculations about what might have happened, with no actual details of the particulars. And again, the evolution of the pathway, one way or another, was assumed. The question was not if the pathway evolved, but rather how it evolved:

We have analyzed the Krebs cycle as a problem of chemical design to oxidize acetate yielding reduction equivalents to the respiratory chain to make ATP. Our analysis demonstrates that although there are several different chemical solutions to this problem, the design of this metabolic pathway as it occurs in living cells is the best chemical solution: It has the least possible number of steps and it also has the greatest ATP yielding. Study of the evolutionary possibilities of each one—taking the available material to build new pathways—demonstrates that the emergence of the Krebs cycle has been a typical case of opportunism in molecular evolution. Our analysis proves, therefore, that the role of opportunism in evolution has converted a problem of several possible chemical solutions into a single-solution problem, with the actual Krebs cycle demonstrated to be the best possible chemical design. Our results also allow us to derive the rules under which metabolic pathways emerged during the origin of life.

It is, in fact, typical for life science research to cast results in terms of evolution. And if the results don’t fit evolutionary theory very well, then they are described as informative. After all, we are learning more about how evolution really works. Here’s a representative example. Transcription factors are proteins that bind to DNA and influence which genes are used to synthesize new proteins. Counter to evolutionary expectations, where exactly along the DNA these transcription factors bind is not well conserved across different species. But a paper discussing such findings claims that it “reveals the evolutionary dynamics of transcription factor binding” and provides “insight into regulatory evolution.” This would be like seeing a ship disappear over the horizon and claiming to be learning more about how and why the earth is flat. Nonetheless, it is papers such as these to which evolutionists refer when they claim there is overwhelming research proving evolution. From the claims of the paper it certainly seems as though they are substantiating evolution. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brown Algae and The Serendipity of Multicellularity

The genome of Ectocarpus siliculosus, a brown algae, has been sequenced and analyzed. As usual the evolutionary model fits about as well as the flat earth theory. Evolutionists claim their theory is crucial for predicting the contents of such newly sequenced genomes. But in practice we see a different story. Most obvious are the many differences found between allied species. The E. siliculosus genome is no different in this regard:

Analysis of the Ectocarpus genome failed to detect homologues of many of the enzymes that are known, from other organisms, to have roles in alginate biosynthesis and in the remodelling of alginates, fucans and cellulose, indicating that brown algae have independently evolved enzymes to carry out many of these processes.


For example there are several additional membrane-localized proteins of interest, including three integrin related proteins. Integrins have an important role in cell adhesion in animals but integrin genes are absent from all the previously sequenced stramenopile genomes. The Ectocarpus genome also encodes a large number of ion channels, compared to other stramenopile genomes. These include several channels that are likely to be involved in calcium signalling such as an inositol triphosphate/ ryanodine type receptor (IP3R/RyR), four 4-domain voltage-gated calcium channels, and an expanded family of 18 transient receptor potential channels. Members of all these classes are found in animal genomes but are absent from the genomes of land plants. No IP3R genes have been identified in the sequenced diatom and oomycete genomes, but the presence of an IP3R in Ectocarpus is consistent with the demonstration of ‘animal-like’ fast calcium waves and inositolphosphate-induced calcium release in embryos of the brown alga Fucus serratus.

In all E. siliculosus has close to ten thousand ORFans, something evolutionary theory predicted did not exist. But beyond these massive differences between cousins, The E. siliculosus genome further elucidates evolution’s tale of multicellularity.

Instead of the expectation that multicellularity arose once and then proliferated, evolutionists now must say it arose independently several times. And instead of a sort of primitive multicellularity emerging and then undergoing evolutionary refinement, we must believe evolution first produced profoundly unlikely molecular machines, which then in turn enabled multicellularity.

Animal tyrosine and green plant serine/threonine receptor kinases form two separate monophyletic clades, indicating that these two families evolved independently, and in both lineages the emergence of receptor kinases is thought to have been a key event in the evolution of multicellularity. The Ectocarpus receptor kinases also form a monophyletic clade, discrete from those of animal and green plant receptor kinases, indicating that the brown algal family also evolved independently.

In other words, evolution just happened to evolve intricate machines that then were crucial in evolving a major new innovation—multicellularity. I guess we’re living in the right multiverse.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Did MicroRNAs Shape the Cambrian Explosion?

The fossil record reveals a history of life characterized by the abrupt appearance of new species followed by no change and eventual extinction in most cases. Needless to say, abrupt appearances and no change is not exactly what evolution expected. Much of this was known in Darwin's time and he figured that the fossil record was incomplete. Today such speculation doesn't work anymore. The evidence reveals even more clearly this pattern of abrupt appearances followed by stasis. As one recent paper explained:

Beginning some 555 million years ago the Earth’s biota changed in profound and fundamental ways, going from an essentially static system billions of years in existence to the one we find today, a dynamic and awesomely complex system whose origin seems to defy explanation. Part of the intrigue with the Cambrian explosion is that numerous animal phyla with very distinct body plans arrive on the scene in a geological blink of the eye, with little or no warning of what is to come in rocks that predate this interval of time.

As in Darwin's day, the fossil record does not match evolutionary expectations and evolutionists have been trying to solve the riddle. How can the empirical scientific data be explained by evolution? One new idea is to have the recently discovered microRNAs do the heavy lifting.

MicroRNAs are short snippets of DNA, about 20 nucleotides long, that help regulate protein production. The idea is that:

miRNAs might be instrumental in canalizing development such that phenotypic variation decreases through geologic time at the cost of increasing developmental precision, allowing for subsequent increases in morphological complexity.

The big words hide the fact that there is no substance to the proposal. Here is the proposal in English (my translation):

New forms abruptly appeared because evolution somehow created them. In fact, there was an abundance of these new forms, representing dozens of different designs, and many variations on each design. As luck would have it, evolution began creating microRNAs which suppressed much of that variation because, after all, microRNAs regulate protein production. So microRNAs explain the reductions in variation that follow the explosions. And, oh by the way, microRNAs also helped evolution create new wonders, not that it couldn't already, but you know, they helped.

This is the usual just-add-water view of science that prevails courtesy of evolution. Incredibly complex organisms which defy our understanding just appear now and then. They might give rise to more incredible creations, or maybe not. Meanwhile, the details of what actually happened remain a complete mystery.

For instance, the notion that microRNAs just began to proliferate on their own is absurd. They are one part of a mind-boggling regulation network. Indeed, the microRNAs themselves (which regulate protein production remember) are regulated by proteins. As new research is gradually elucidating, "MicroRNAs control the translation of mRNAs into proteins, and proteins in turn regulate the microRNAs at various levels.”

Not only is the production of microRNAs tightly controlled, but they are carefully removed from action as well, as a consequence of "a dense network of regulatory mechanisms."

But for a moment let's set all the problems aside. Let's give evolution every break and consider that this fanciful story may really be not the creation myth it appears to be, but the real thing. Taking this narrative at face value, it would mean that evolution produced the elaborate mechanisms and machinery (and sequences) of microRNAs, so that evolution then could really take off. It would be the ultimate Rube Goldberg device. Evolutionists, who are not the least abashed at presenting such tripe, are seriously telling each other that evolution created evolution. This is truly astonishing.

With each new failed expectation and each new unfounded absurd speculation, evolutionists are digging themselves deeper and deeper in their hole. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why Coyne is False

A Jerry Coyne apologist responded to my pointing out that Coyne misrepresents embryonic development, as evolutionists often do. In his discussion of vertebrate development, Coyne claims that "All vertebrates begin development looking like embryonic fish because we all descended from a fishlike ancestor with a fishlike embryo. We see strange contortions and disappearances of organs, blood vessels, and gill slits because descendants still carry the genes and developmental programs of ancestors." [79]

But humans—and most other vertebrates for that matter—do not "begin development looking like embryonic fish" and second humans do not have gill slits at any embryonic stage.

The Coyne apologist objected because Coyne is well aware that those "gill slits" are not literally slits. Rather, they are grooves between the branchial arches which Coyne simply refers to as gill slits. The apologist writes:

He [Coyne] introduces branchial arches starting on p. 78: "Perhaps the most striking fish-like feature is a series of five to seven pouches, seperated by grooves, that lie on each side of the embryo near its future head. These pouches are called branchial arches, but we'll call them "arches" for short. [...] As fish and shark embryos develop, the first arch becomes a jaw and the rest become gill structures: the clefts between the pouches open up to become the gill slits, [...]. But in other vertebrates that don't have gills as adults, these arches turn into very different structures - structures that make up the head." And there's a figure with a shark and a human embryo, with an arrow pointing at the pouches of both embryos labelled "branchial arches".

In other words, Coyne is not so uninformed as to think that this stage of human development sports actual slits. Of course, but that was not my point. I have no doubt Coyne is a smart person and knows his biology. The problem is he is an evolutionist and as a consequence he makes a mockery of science. The problem, in this case, is not so much with his use of the word "slit" but with his use of the word "gill." More on this below, but first, the apologist concludes:

In my opinion, if you actually read the book instead of looking for a quote that can be misrepresented, than there's no way in which you can claim that Coyne actually means that human embryos have gill slits like those in adult fish. Even embryonic fish do not have open gill slits like an adult fish.

If evolutionists are searching for misrepresentations they should look closer to home. As usual, evolution is guilty of what it accuses others of doing. Coyne and evolutionists misrepresent science when they contort the embryonic evidence in an attempt to find support for their absurd ideas. And yes, I did read Coyne's book. It is the apologist who apparently has not read it since he quotes from the Google books version. Here is what I wrote in an earlier blog:

Some books are difficult to read because they are not well written while others are difficult to read because the ideas don't make sense. There is turgid prose and then there is turgid logic. I have finally finished Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True which, if Coyne was not a leading evolutionist of international repute, I would have dismissed after the first chapter. Coyne is an excellent writer but Why Evolution is True is a laborious read because it doesn't make much sense. Thumbing through my copy, I see page after page with margin notes indicating various fallacies and inconsistencies. More later on this, but for now here are some aggregate statistics.

By my count Coyne affirms the consequent 21 times throughout Why Evolution is True. He begs the question 33 times and makes 35 theological claims. Coyne fails to mention important scientific problems that bear on his points 31 times.

I finally tired of counting but the volume is a veritable treasure trove of evolutionary thought. There are the usual just-so stories, unfalsifiable claims, presumptuous statements, ad hominem criticisms and so forth. In the evolution genre you can hope for quality writing but it seems there is no escaping problems with the content of that writing.

Yes, I read the book.

Now what's wrong with Coyne's description of vertebrate development? First, vertebrates simply do not begin development looking like embryonic fish. This is what evolutionary theory predicts, and what evolutionists want to see. Yes there are similarities, but this is yet another case of theory-driven, rather than data-driven, thinking.

Also, Coyne describes development as the usual just-add-water process so typical in evolutionary thought. Life just happened to arise, so evolutionists view it as simple. Coyne writes:

In fish and sharks, then, the development of gills from the embryonic arches is more or less direct: these embryonic features simply enlarge without much change to form the adult breathing apparatus. [75]

Sure, just add a few nerves, blood vessels, bone and cartilage and poof, there you have gills.

Next, Coyne begins immediately to refer to the grooves between the branchial arches, in human embryos, as gill slits. But humans don't have gills as adults. Humans never have gills at any stage. So there is no basis for referring to the grooves as "gill slits" aside from the silly evolutionary mandate that the branchial arches are an evolutionary leftover that today just happen to form structures such as the middle ear, larynx, Eustachian tube, and arteries and nerves.

So Coyne interprets the evidence according to the theory he thinks is true, and then presents the ludicrous interpretation as powerful evidence for the theory. I would have been astonished if I hadn't seen such circular reasoning so many times before in the evolution genre. There are other problems with this section, which I describe here. Once again evolution makes a mockery of science.

NT Wright Articulates Evolution's History of Thought

It is refreshing to see a leading thinker articulate the simple fact that evolution did not begin in 1859 and Darwin was not an intellectual revolutionary who single-handedly illuminated a new truth. In fact, the evolutionary foundation and framework was already in place. As N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, points out, the religious influences and environment which Darwin worked within were crucial, and that there was an "entire worldview already up and running" before Darwin came along.

Darwin, Wright suggests, "was as much a symptom as a cause of the deism or epicureanism which then came to be associated with him." If you're an epicurean, Wright explains, then while there may be god or gods somewhere, they are a long way away and the key is that "this world has its own processes which are rumbling along, and so evolution is basically an epicurean idea--read Lucretius."

As a rationalist program, evolution tends to use its own axioms to judge all ideas. For example, design must be false because organisms are not optimally fit (a key evolutionary concept). This parochial tendency is common, and Wright points out how it works in the infra dignatatum argument:

Once god gets pushed out of the process, then of course what happens must happen from within rather than from outside. Then you can caricature the idea of divine intervention. Because if you're a deist or an epicurean you've got this distant god, who if he's going to do anything in the world would have to reach down and rather incongruously mess around, and then go away again.

And since this sort of dabbling was beneath god's dignity, naturalistic explanations were required. This was the infra dignatatum argument used by the early botanist John Ray and others more than a century before Darwin.

But the history of thought behind evolution is fairly complex, and Wright does not venture into all its depths. For instance, Kant's opposition to the renewed interest in epicureanism in modern times was, ironically, one of the factors that motivated him to call for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. Beyond this, there were in fact a dozen or more metaphysical concerns that converged on naturalism as a requirement for any theory of origins. But Wright cogently articulates the big picture, and continues with this explanation of why Darwin's theory was so happily accepted:

This is why Darwin gets all the mileage that he does--because it is where people wanted to go. God can't tell us how to run the world, we'll run it our own way and then religion will be an escape from the world. ... The reason why people wanted to believe that stuff was not because they said "Oh my goodness, he's discovered some very interesting finches, this means we can't believe in Genesis anymore." ... I'm perfectly happy to say that species have evolved; I'm perfectly happy to say that that's how God was at work, and maybe is at work.

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with evolution, per se. After all, the species came about somehow, perhaps they evolved, somehow, some way. The idea is scientifically challenged and religiously motivated, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. But the idea that evolution might be true is not what Darwin and his followers are pondering. For them, evolution is mandated. It is a fact, and there is a world of difference.

What Wright comes ever so close to exposing, but does not seem to understand, is that the cultural mandate was not merely crucial in the motivation of Darwin's theory, but also in its justification. In other words, it is not as though there were these cultural-religious forcing functions, but then serendipitously the idea turned out to be a fact by virtue of compelling scientific evidence. No, the scientific evidence is interpreted according to our cultural-religious template. Theology is still queen of the sciences.

All those evolutionists who think they are free of religious influence, according to some great new "Enlightenment," are living a lie. They are the most dangerous of all, for their delusion of objectivity underwrites their self righteous indignation and vitriol. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jerry Coyne: Human Embryo Has Gill Slits

In his 2009 book Why Evolution is True professor Jerry Coyne, whom people pay to teach their children, informs his readers that "All vertebrates begin development looking like embryonic fish because we all descended from a fishlike ancestor with a fishlike embryo. We see strange contortions and disappearances of organs, blood vessels, and gill slits because descendants still carry the genes and developmental programs of ancestors." [79] There's only one problem: it isn't true.

First, humans—and most other vertebrates for that matter—do not "begin development looking like embryonic fish" and second humans do not have gill slits at any embryonic stage.

This is yet another example of evolution corrupting science. It is the worst of bad theory infecting science with misrepresentations of the empirical evidence.

All of this is the result of religious conviction that penetrated scientific thinking long before Darwin. Like a Trojan horse, evolutionary thinking injected religious mandates into science, and now science is constrained to the absurd. Garbage in, garbage out. You can see more examples here, here, here, here and here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Man Behind the Curtain

Nothing exposes the failure of a dogma more than the propaganda it hides behind. Pathetic ideas cannot stand the light of day. They run from open inquiry and call everyone a liar. Evolution is pathetic--not because it is a religiously motivated idea with little scientific support, but because of its deceitful cover up. It makes religious proclamations and then points the finger at others. It is scientifically absurd yet it claims to be a fact. And when probed, watch out.

Like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, evolution is vulnerable to the least bit of exposure. And like the man behind the curtain, evolution puts up a pathetic false front of self-righteous indignation and assumed authority. Even the normally dry pages of scientific journals now routinely run "editorials" attacking skeptics.

Witness the unauthorized films Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and The Voyage That Shook the World. These documentaries are tugging at the curtain and evolutionists are lashing out. And their fury is exceeded only by their absurdity (see examples here, here and here). Incredibly, they complain that they didn't know the films would have the temerity to raise questions, apparently unaware their umbrage reveals far more about themselves than about the documentaries.

When I was contacted by the producers of these films the thought crossed my mind that my interview could be used against me. I didn't know these people or what their respective projects were about. But I reminded myself that it would be awfully difficult for the producers to manipulate my interview for their film. You see, I have nothing to hide. The only way my words could be twisted would be with highly selective editing. What if they interviewed me for two hours, and picked out a 3 second sound bite out of context? Well then I would have a right to complain.

Nothing like this happened to the otherwise furious evolutionists. Their views were fairly and accurately represented. There was no message manipulation. There was no clever editing of the interviews to produce a false image of evolution; rather, the problem is that the interviews accurately show the real image of evolution.

You see, evolutionists have something to hide. Their message needs to be carefully managed and tailored. Otherwise, it looks pathetic.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Francis Collins: Evolution Versus Faith Conflict Unnecessary

The reason why the warfare myth is so enduring is because it is so useful. For the evolution camp it allows dismissal of skepticism as religiously motivated. Francis Collins continued this theme last year at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life. His message is summarized by the Pew Forum report on the event as follows:

Francis S. Collins, the former director of the Human Genome Project, discussed why he believes religion and science are compatible and why the current conflict over evolution vs. faith, particularly in the evangelical community, is unnecessary. Collins, an evangelical Christian, talked about his path from atheism to Christianity and his belief that science provides evidence of God. He cited the Big Bang theory and the fact that the universe had a beginning out of nothing. He added that the laws of physics have precisely the values needed for life to occur on earth and argued that would seem to point to a creator.

Conflict over evolution vs. faith? The perpetuation of this two-dimensional strawman (evolutionists are merely following the scientific data, skeptics are religiously-motivated fundamentalists) is unfortunate, but convenient for Collins. Here is a Collins' quote from the Pew Forum transcript of the event:

There are certainly voices out there arguing that you can't have both of those; you've got to take your pick. You either are going to approach questions from a purely scientific perspective or a purely spiritual perspective, and the two are locked in eternal combat. I don't happen to agree with that, so perhaps I should say a bit of a word about how I got there.

Voices out there arguing that you either are going to approach questions from a purely scientific perspective or a purely spiritual perspective, and the two are locked in eternal combat? Amazing. I suppose there are such voices, but dwelling on them conveniently misses the scientific absurdity of evolution.

And note that Collins disagrees with the straw man, not the use of the straw man. When a historian disagrees with the warfare thesis, it means he believes it is not an accurate description of the relationship between religion and science.

But when the evolutionist disagrees with the warfare thesis, it means he is using the contrived idea to argue for evolution.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are Gill Slits Really Powerful Evidence for Evolution?

A few years ago I debated an evolutionist who claimed that the human embryo's gill slits are powerful evidence for evolution. The idea is that as new species evolve, their embryonic development tends to build upon the embryonic development stages of the ancestral species. Imagine a 10-story building is constructed, and then years later a few more stories are added to the top of the building. The first 10 stories would remain unchanged. Similarly, nineteenth century evolutionists expected that the embryonic development of an organism would reflect its evolutionary history.

Darwin contemporary Ernst Haeckel gave this idea the memorable moniker “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” Its more technical title is "the biogenetic law." As with most evolutionary expectations it is now a relic. Indeed, even cousin species are found to have profound differences in their embryonic development.

Nonetheless evolutionists, like the one I debated a few years back, remain fond of the biogenetic law, if in a weaker form. Perhaps ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny, but those gill slits in the human embryo are obviously powerful evidence of an evolutionary history. Are they? Let's briefly review the biology.

Fish use their gills for gas exchange. The main problem for fish is in obtaining sufficient oxygen from the water. The oxygen content in water is about 20 times less than that of air. Both air and water breathers rely on the process of diffusion to obtain their oxygen, but that process is about 300,000 times slower in water. Also, because water is denser than air, more energy is required to move the fluid over the gas-exchanging surface. On top of all this, warm water presents even more of a problem for fish, because its oxygen content is reduced while the fish metabolism is increased, thus requiring more oxygen. Fish overcome these obstacles with a sophisticated active gas transport system--the gills--which transport oxygen from the water to the blood.

First, the many gill filaments that float off of the gill arches provide a large surface area over which the oxygen diffuses from the water into the bloodstream. Next, a near continuous flow of water over the gills is created by a combination of positive pressure from the mouth cavity upstream of the gills and negative pressure from the opercular flaps downstream of the gills. The opercular flaps also serve to protect the vulnerable gills. Finally, the diffusion rate is maximized by using unidirectional and opposing fluid flows. That is, the external water flow and the internal blood flow do not reverse direction (as with the air in our lungs, for example) but continues along in the same direction. Also the water and blood move in opposite directions. This counter current flow produces a higher diffusion rate than if they flowed along together in the same direction.

Of course none of these designs are apparent in the early stages of development. In these stages fish and human embryos take on different forms. One exception is the pharyngula stage in which the different vertebrate embryos have a fish-like form, including a series of paired folds or grooves. In fish these lead to gill slits while in other vertebrates they lead to various structures.

So why is this such powerful evidence for evolution? Simple, it refutes design and creation. As evolutionist Tim Berra explained, as though reporting on a scientific finding, "The passage through a fishlike stage by the embryos of the higher vertebrates is not explained by creation, but is readily accounted for as an evolutionary relic."

Similarly philosopher Elliott Sober, in a recent paper, informs the reader that human fetuses have gill slits, and that such structures are evidence for common ancestry precisely because they are useless in humans.

Aside from the fact that human fetuses, in fact, do not have gill slits and that therefore reports of their uselessness are greatly exaggerated, Sober's paper reveals the subtle, yet enduring reason why evolutionists find this evidence so persuasive. The reason does not come from science. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why Eyes Did Not Evolve in the Back of the Head

In a recent Scientific American (July, 2009) "Ask the Experts" column, evolutionist S. Jay Olshansky explains why humans have not evolved eyes in the back of the head. Olshansky makes the argument that (i) natural selection is limited to those designs that just happen to arise and (ii) what happens to arise is not driven by need. In other words, we don't have eyes in the back of the head not because they wouldn't be useful, but because early versions never happened to arise there in the first place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 7, 2010

Origins of the Left & Right Brain

A recent Scientific American article (July, 2009) explains the evolutionary roots of your right and left brain. The article, written by three evolutionists, explains that it was once thought that the hemispheric specialization of our brain (e.g., language in the left hemisphere, spatial thinking in the right hemisphere) evolved in our hominid ancestors, over the past few million years. But it now appears to have evolved orders of magnitude farther back in time. Why the half a billion year change? Mainly because of the accumulation of evidence of hemispheric specialization in a wide array of species. "So what" you ask?

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

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

Next add hemispheric specialization findings in birds, the sea lion, and in other species, and evolutionists must conclude that such profound complexity dates back to the early branches of the evolutionary tree. As the authors write:

Here we present evidence for a radically different hypothesis that is gaining support, particularly among biologists. The specialization of each hemisphere in the human brain, we argue, was already present in its basic form when vertebrates emerged about 500 million years ago.

This is a common trend, and today evolutionists must believe that incredibly complex designs mysteriously arose in the earliest stages of evolution.

But what about those species that contradict the hemispheric specializations? That authors admit:

Little is universal in nature, though, and in some animals a vocal response to highly emotional circumstances has also been linked to the left brain, not--as one might expect--to the right. ... But those animals may be expections.

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

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

In early vertebrates such a division of labor probably got its start when one or the other hemisphere developed a tendency to take control in particular circumstances ... In all vertebrate classes ... animals tend to retain what was probably an ancestral bias toward the use of the right side in the routine activity of feeding ...

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

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

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

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

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Falsifying Evolution and Moving Goalposts

Falsificationism has always been an important part of science. Many scientists argue that if a theory cannot be falsified, then it does not qualify as genuine science. That view may be overly simplistic—and it is not falsifiable by the way—but certainly falsificationism is an important tradition within science. Theories are based on empirical data, and it is the empirical data which should have the final say on whether the theory makes sense. Therefore it is curious that evolutionists, while insisting on falsificationism for theories they oppose, suddenly drop this favorite criterion when it comes to their own theory.

One of evolutionist’s favorite defenses against criticism of their theory is that mere criticism is insufficient. Criticism, they say, is nothing more than a negative argument. What is required, they say, is a replacement theory. So evolutionists, who when looking outward favor falsificationism as much as anyone, later deem it to be insufficient when the spotlight is turned onto their own theory.

When Darwin proposed his theory he asked for a fair-minded analysis. Compare the theory with the evidence. If the evidence does not support the theory, then it should be dropped. That is no longer the position of many leading evolutionists who reject any such analysis as insufficient.

This may be because evolution is, itself, a negative argument. Evolution is, and always has been, motivated by failures of creationism and design. If god did not design or create this world, then it must have evolved. Somehow. Evolutionists perform research to try to figure out how evolution could have happened, but it must have happened—that much they know. That is a metaphysical position, not a scientific position, based on a negative argument. It is not falsifiable.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Retrotransposons are not Free

You may have been taught in your high school biology class that DNA point mutations provide the raw material for evolution. Such mutations can cause biological variation which might lead to improved reproductive rates. In those cases such mutations would likely be selected, and evolution would have taken yet another small step. You may have wondered how such unguided point mutations could ever produce the wonders we find in biology. The answer, evolutionists will tell you, is that point mutations are only the beginning of the story. In fact there are a variety of mechanisms, many far more complex than a DNA point mutation, that can produce biological variation. For instance, new research has found that so-called jumping genes, or transposons, provide for even more biological variation than previously thought. As one evolutionist remarked, “This movement of genetic material provides the raw material of genetic evolution.” There’s only one problem: transposons aren’t free.

The advantage of DNA point mutations is they are simple. Given some organic compounds in a warm little pond, and of course the all important sunlight that makes evolution possible, and some sort of reproduction cycle, and … . Well the story does become far-fetched rather quickly, but if you will go with me this far, it is not too heroic to imagine the occurrence of point mutations, of some sort. In other words, point mutations are conceivably free. They just happen, courtesy of nature and the available ingredients that are lying around.

Not so for the many more sophisticated mechanisms in biology that produce variation and are claimed as evolutionary fuel. Consider the retrotransposons that, in addition to its promoter sequence that helps initiate the copying of its DNA into an single-stranded RNA molecule, carries its own handy reverse transcriptase gene which encodes the protein machine that copies the RNA back into a DNA molecule, for later insertion into the genome. This can certainly cause biological variation, but it is anything but free.

With evolution we must believe that so many of the sophisticated biological variation mechanisms, such as in retrotransposons, were produced by evolution. Do you see the problem? In this circular tale that even Hans Christian Andersen could never have imagined, evolution produces the intricate mechanisms that produce evolution.

Evolutionists insist that there is no problem because none of this is impossible. Why can’t evolution produce mechanisms that produce evolution? Unless one can prove this is impossible, evolution wins (an argument that goes back to the sage of Kent himself). Though the evidence fails to prove evolution, it nonetheless must be a fact. In this Alice-in-Wonderland world, that which is not false is a fact (if it is evolution, that is).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Evolution and Entropy: The Magic of Sunlight

Does the second law of thermodynamics pose a problem for evolution? Daniel Styer doesn't think so. In fact, in a recent paper he found that any entropy decrease here on Earth due to evolution would have been dwarfed by the entropy increase of solar radiation contributing to the cosmic microwave background. He writes:

Presumably the entropy of the Earth’s biosphere is indeed decreasing by a tiny amount due to evolution, and the entropy of the cosmic microwave background is increasing by an even greater amount to compensate for that decrease. But the decrease in entropy required for evolution is so small compared to the entropy throughput that would occur even if the Earth were a dead planet, or if life on Earth were not evolving, that no measurement would ever detect it.

In other words, entropy is a non issue. In fact, Styer shows it is a non issue by 12 orders of magnitude (it is actually 14 orders of magnitude but Styer makes a calculation error). How does he arrive at this conclusion? Styer compares individuals separated by 100 years and uses a factor of 1000 times reduction in microstates. This nicely turns out to solve the problem.

Interestingly Styer says his selection of a reduction factor of 1000 is "very generous." One can hardly argue with that. Am I 1000 times less likely than my great grandfather? Of course not.

But why not go further to strengthen the case? Styer could increase the factor to 100000 or 10^6, or 10^12, or 10^50, or 10^99, or ..., without harming the case. With Styer's method one could assume individuals separated by 100 years have a reduction in microstates that is tens or hundreds of orders of magnitude beyond Styer's "very generous" assumption. Styer could have made a "very, very, very, very, very ... generous" assumption and still reveal entropy to be a non issue.

But of course this would have revealed the silliness. Every individual, in every species, for all history could be 10^99 more improbable than an individual from a century earlier, and you're nowhere close to a problem. Amazing what a little sunlight does.

Evolution is a Fact, Or is it?

It's no secret that evolutionists insist evolution is a fact. They disagree amongst themselves about the theory of evolution but they agree about the fact of evolution. If there is one point of agreement within evolution-dom, it is that evolution is a scientific fact. This proclamation runs all through the literature. From the popular articles and books to textbooks, evolutionists constantly reassure themselves their idea is beyond a shadow of a doubt. You can read more about this here. But when you ask real evolutionistists about this, a funny thing happens.

The fact of evolution is so overwhelmingly established, explained Harvard's Ernst Mayr, that it would be irrational to call it a theory. Comparisons to the roundness of the earth, gravity, and heliocentrism are typical. Sure this existence could all be a dream, but aside from such philosophical conundrums, evolution is clearly a fact.

This evolutionary drumbeat is constant, but when I ask evolutionists about this monumental claim, they suddenly become circumspect. Repeatedly in discussions and debates, evolutionists strangely never seem to sign up to this claim.

You don't understand what we mean by "fact," you don't understand evolution, and you don't understand science, are typical retorts. Suddenly, I am the one who is to blame for their absurdity. But I am merely asking them to reaffirm the holy creed. I am not using the words "fact," "evolution," or "science" any differently.

Or sometimes they avoid the question altogether. In any case, the contrast is deafening. After shouting dogmatic claims of facthood through their megaphone, when personally asked for an account they suddenly become sheepish. All is suddenly quiet.

When confronted, no one seems actually to agree with the party line. But of course in their circles, no one disagrees. It is a position of convenience.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Arguing with Evolutionists or How I Could be Rich

If I had a nickel for every time evolutionists insisted that they are merely following the evidence, immediately after (or before) making religious arguments, I think I would be a zillionaire. You can read about Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers insisting on their innocence here and here, but this self contradiction is not limited to the big shots. From laboratories to sanctuaries, and dorm rooms to chat rooms, the constant refrain of evolutionists is that the raw data make their idea a fact, but then the supporting arguments are religious. Evolutionists are the proverbial fish that doesn’t know it’s in water, the lampshade partier who doesn’t know he is drunk.

Recently an evolutionist informed me that this idea that evolution is religious is all wrong. Oh really? Indeed, yes, utter nonsense. The evidence behind evolution is compelling and obvious. How embarrassing for anyone to question it. Like it or not, evolution is a fact.

Oh boy, here we go again. So what sort of evidence is so powerful that it can make such an unlikely idea into a fact? We’re supposed to think that the most complex designs known arose on their own, and indeed we must accept this as fact or we are ignorant. This must be very persuasive, powerful evidence. So what are some examples?

As usual, the evolutionist provided evidences that are indeed very powerful. But their power comes not from a scientific interpretation, but from a religious or metaphysical interpretation. For example, the evolutionist cited pseudogenes.

Pseudogenes are disabled genes and similar pseudogenes, with similar disabling mutations, are found in cousin species. Surely, as the argument goes, this is proof positive of common descent. There’s only one problem, the premise of the proof is not scientific.

This pseudogene example is a good one because it mirrors so many others that have come before. The evidence, from a scientific perspective, is circumstantial and mixed. Yes, some pseudogenes have similar disabling mutations in different species, the so-called shared errors. But there is evidence that mutations are not always random to begin with, and hot spots have been observed in pseudogenes. Furthermore, there are disabling mutation patterns in some pseudogenes that cannot be explained by common descent. So here even evolutionists agree that repeated mutations must have occurred independently.

We can certainly chalk up some instances of the pseudogene evidence as successful predictions of evolution, but on the whole it is not that simple.

So at best, from a scientific perspective, we have a successful prediction. But there are many failed predictions as well. In science we do not select the evidences the help our case and claim victory. We need to look at all the evidence.

Such details, however, are not a problem for evolutionists for there is another side to the pseudogene argument. As with so many other evidences that have been enlisted by evolutionists, the pseudogenes, they say, would never have been designed or created.

As Elliott Sober explained recently (though it has been obvious for centuries), the strength of the evolutionary argument is not in its driving up the probability of evolution, but in its driving down the probability of creation or design.

At its core evolutionary thinking is contrastive. It’s evolution versus creation—us versus them. In this zero sum game, either they’re right and we’re wrong, or they’re wrong and we’re right. And since the evidence shows that they’re wrong, then we must be right. There you have it, evolution is a fact. But the argument is not scientific. It relies on private, subjective premises about design or creation.

The logic is rarely spelled out as plainly as in Sober’s paper. A rhetorical question or snide comment will usually do to make the point. “We’ll leave others to figure out why god would create such junk,” is a typical taunt.

And so isn’t it obvious that in all of this evolution is just science? When probed about his metaphysics, the evolutionist has a variety of canards at the ready to separate himself from the religion he has planted. “Why, we’re just testing your theory of creationism,” is the usual first stop.

But that’s not my theory of creationism. And even if it was, your rebuke would then allow only for the conclusion that my particular theory of creationism is false—not that evolution is compelling.

In fact, most of the strong evolutionary arguments entail religious premises which are not found in creationism or design—instead they arose in various traditions within the web of evolutionary thought. As with so many other origin tales, evolution entails strong religious feelings about god and the world. If I only had a nickel.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ORFans and the Theory That (Never) Predicted Them

Because similar species are thought to share a relatively recent common ancestor, they are assumed to have not had much time to evolve differences between them. That explains why they are similar, and it also predicts that such species do not have significant differences. Their genome differences should be minor. This is because evolution is limited by the rate at which genetic variations can appear and subsequently spread throughout the respective lineages. But we now know of significant numbers of unique genes between allied species and even between different variants within the same species.

Evolutionist Ian Musgrave has the explanation for this unexpected finding. Illustrating the bend-but-don’t-break property of evolution, Musgrave explains that those truly unique genes that we find are actually de novo genes.

Of course, I should have thought of that—de novo genes.

But wait, isn’t that the point? Aren’t de novo genes an unexpected finding? Of course they are. They arise entirely too fast, and those de novo genes for whose origin which we have some understanding reveal anything but evolution. Indeed, there is compelling evidence that new genes can be manufactured in response to environmental pressures. You can read more here.

You’ve probably heard that evolution has not been falsified. That’s true—it is the predictions of evolution that have been falsified. Evolution is a fact.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Explosive Evolution of Whales Followed by Little Change

You know the drill, new forms appeared rapidly followed by little change. This time it’s whales, the late comers turned allstars of the ocean. Somehow the whale ancestors lost their hind limbs, grinding teeth and pelvises and developed a host of new features with great efficiency. These new features include the fluke tail with its unique vertical propelling motion, the huge filter-feeding jaw, and the ability to give live birth and raise its young in the marine environment. All this while acquiring superior skills in its new marine environment. The latest entry to the community could swim, dive and feed better than most fish and sharks. It all just happened to happen, and with great evolutionary speed.

The evolution of early whales has been described as explosively fast. As one evolutionist explained this week:

We could have found that the main whale lineages over time each experimented with being large, small and medium-sized and that all the dietary forms appeared throughout their evolution, or that whales started out medium-sized and the largest and smallest ones appeared more recently—but the data show none of that. Instead, we find that the differences today were apparent very early on.

It is remarkable how evolution has produced such amazing creatures.