Saturday, October 30, 2010

Finding: Bees Solve The Traveling Salesman Problem

It is a classic problem in the field of computer science: In what order should a salesman visit his prospects? The traveling salesman problem may appear simple but it has engaged some of the greatest mathematical minds and today engages some of the fastest computers. This makes new findings, that bees compute their route before pollinating flowers, all the more remarkable.

Zerah Colburn’s greatest achievement may have been defeating William Rowan Hamilton in feats of calculation. Colburn was a nineteenth century American child prodigy. As a young boy he could multiply large numbers in an instant, compute square roots of large numbers, and determine the number of hours or seconds between distant dates. Colburn’s father capitalized on his son’s astonishing mental capabilities, taking him on tours across the country and in Europe for others to see, and sometimes to compete with the lightning calculator.

But the local talent was not always a walk-over. While in Dublin, Colburn went up against the twelve year old Hamilton. While Colburn mostly was victorious, the older Irish boy was sometimes the faster of the two. The matchup was probably the first time that Hamilton, who knew a dozen languages by that time, had been shown up in anything intellectual and it may have motivated him.

Hamilton went on to become one of the greatest mathematicians in history. He is probably most famous for his reformulation of Newtonian mechanics and today the Hamiltonian operator is well known to physicists everywhere. Hamilton also discovered quaternions while on a Sunday stroll with his wife. The fundamental relationships

came to him in a flash and he immediately carved them into the Brougham bridge so as not to forget them. Though quaternions have rather narrow applications today, where used they are quite valuable in providing faster and more robust computations. For instance, from molecular dynamics to computer graphics to spacecraft navigation, coordinate transformation algorithms are required. Quaternion-based transformations both minimize the number of multiplications and avoid singularities.

Hamilton also was interested in early forms of the traveling salesman problem. The problem was well known to salesmen of the day, but had not yet been formalized in mathematics. Hamilton invented a mathematical puzzle called the icosian game in which the objective was to create a path that visits twenty points without doubling back on itself.

The traveling salesman problem is interesting, and important, because the seemingly obvious strategy of simply moving to the next closest location after each visit does not generally work. The traveler’s objective is to minimize the total distance traveled, or more generally the total cost. The cost may be directly proportional to the distance traveled, or it may be more complicated. For instance, the cost of travel may vary by location and direction of travel (going uphill versus downhill, for instance).

In computer science the problem is known to be what is called NP-hard. It's complexity is thought to increase exponentially with the number of locations to be visited.

All of this makes new findings, that bees regularly solve their own routing problem, rather remarkable. As one report explained:

Bees can solve complex mathematical problems which keep computers busy for days, research has shown. The insects learn to fly the shortest route between flowers discovered in random order ... Bees manage to reach the same solution using a brain the size of a grass seed.

Dr Nigel Raine, from Royal Holloway’s school of biological sciences, said: “Foraging bees solve travelling salesman problems every day. They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because bees use lots of energy to fly, they find a route which keeps flying to a minimum.”

Using computer-controlled artificial flowers to test bee behaviour, his wanted to know whether the insects would follow a simple route defined by the order in which they found the flowers, or look for the shortest route.

After exploring the location of the flowers, the bees quickly learned to fly the best route for saving time and energy.

How does the bee, with a brain the size of a grass seed, optimize its route?

“Despite their tiny brains bees are capable of extraordinary feats of behaviour,” said Raine. “We need to understand how they can solve the travelling salesman problem without a computer.”

Indeed, we do need to understand the amazing feats of bees. The bee’s routing problem is much less complex than the problems today’s computers solve. But the bee does solve its routing problem. Did random mutations just happen to construct what our greatest minds have been unable to conceive (no, natural selection doesn’t help)? Perhaps, but this certainly is not a fact as evolutionists insist it is. Far from it. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

GTAs: Agents of Change

Oceanic bacteria can swap genes remarkably fast, new findings reveal. Such horizontal gene transfer is facilitated, in this case, by tiny gene-transfer agents, or GTAs:

In the ocean, genes can hop between bacteria with unexpected ease, thanks to strange virus-like particles that shuttle genes from one species to another. These particles, called gene-transfer agents (GTAs), insert DNA into bacterial genomes so frequently that gene transfer in the ocean may occur 1,000 to 100 million times more often than previously thought. This suggests that GTAs have had a powerful role in evolution.

A powerful role in evolution? Indeed these GTAs must have been important in evolution, but from where did they come? From evolution of course. So evolution just happened to create GTAs which then enabled more evolution to occur:

"GTAs are very peculiar," says Eugene Koonin, an evolutionary biologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. "Their only function seems to be transferring genes."

The GTAs are so efficient the evolutionists were “absolutely amazed.” And why would evolution create a molecular machine whose sole function is to transfer genes? Well no reason really. It just happened to happen, but when the new marvel worked its magic the bacteria survival rate improved. And so then those GTAs harbored by those bacteria survived longer. And then, well you know, somehow it all just worked.

If this just-so story sounds unlikely, keep in mind this was all predicted by evolutionists:

Last year, Koonin and his colleagues examined genomic analyses of marine viruses and predicted GTAs to be major contributors to gene transfer in the ocean. He says that the current paper confirms his prediction by finding frequent GTA-mediated gene-transfer events in a marine microbial community.

The only catch is the prediction had nothing to do with evolution. Nonetheless evolutionists tout findings such as GTAs as powerful confirmations of evolution. Is this not, after all, an observation of evolution in action?

As usual, what evolutionists claim as “direct observation” is in reality a complex adaptation mechanism that calls for yet more evolutionary heroics. GTAs are the latest in the long list of complex structures and mechanisms that evolutionists reinvent as powerful evidences for their theory. Yet these biological wonders do not produce the type of change evolution requires, nor can evolutionists explain how or why Darwin's imaginative process produced them in the first place. Once again the absurdity of evolutionary doctrine is exceeded only by the fervor of its believers.

Religion drives science and it matters.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Framing the Debate With Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal’s piece in the New York Times this week examines what he believes are mistakes in past attempts to explain how evolution created altruism. The emphasis, according to de Waal, has been inappropriately focused on selfishness. The result is that altruism is viewed as not genuine, but ultimately hypocritical. In this flawed view morality is, explains de Waal, “just a thin veneer over a cauldron of nasty tendencies.” While he provides plenty of criticism of this “Veneer Theory,” as he dubs it, de Waal fails to provide much detail on just how evolution so cleverly produced the incredible spectrum of behaviors we find in nature (not to mention everything else). Not to worry though, de Waal first ensures the reader is properly intimidated so as not to be in a questioning mood.

Before presenting the meat of his thesis (which apparently isn’t very meaty), de Waal ensures that the reader is properly oriented. Could it be that behavior in general, and altruism in particular, pose any sort of a problem for evolution? Could it be that there are any serious problems for evolution, at all? Of course not. Right up front de Waal writes:

Don’t think for one moment that the current battle lines between biology and fundamentalist Christianity turn around evidence. One has to be pretty immune to data to doubt evolution, which is why books and documentaries aimed at convincing the skeptics are a waste of effort.

There you have it. The battle is between biology and fundamentalist Christianity. These are the battle lines. Those who doubt evolution are religious “fundamentalists,” while evolutionists are merely scientists in white lab coats busy following the data, as Huxley prescribed. There is no religion in evolution, none at all.

And failure to convince skeptics could not be a sign of anything problematic in the theory of evolution. After all, it is undeniably true. The problem, of course, lies with the skeptic, err that is, fundamentalist. Got it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back to School Part VI

Evolutionists are adamant that science must be free of religion or anything that smacks of religion. And while that sounds good, evolutionists are all-the-while driven by religion. They are sure all of biology is a fluke because of their religious convictions. Religion is both the source of evolution’s certainty and the target of its wrath. When not proclaiming that science must be free of religion, evolutionists make a wide spectrum of religious claims that mandate their theory.

Religious and metaphysical thought pervades the evolution genre. Even the dry textbooks indoctrinate students of evolution’s unobservable truths. Here is a subtle example from George Johnson’s and Jonathan Losos’ popular textbook which portrays the fossil record as decisive evidence for evolution:

If the theory of evolution is not correct, on the other hand, then such orderly change is not expected. [George Johnson and Jonathan Losos, The Living World, Fifth Edition, McGraw Hill, 2008, p. 296.]

Unsuspecting students and instructors will not likely discern the powerful doctrine in this seemingly innocent sentence. There is no mention of a god or holy book, and no appeal to authority. It seems to be an objective, scientific statement about the theory of evolution.

And that makes it all the more dangerous. These powerful non scientific claims are common in the evolution genre, but they can be subtle. Here this insertion of metaphysics is likely to escape detection while laying the groundwork for evolutionary doctrine.

These types of statements make ultimate truth claims. In this case Johnson and Losos claim to know all the possibilities aside from evolution and why none of them predict the orderly change we observe in the fossil record. Evolution, and only evolution, predicts such an outcome. In other words, if-and-only-if evolution is true would we expect to see such orderly change.

Therefore evolution must be true. This is one of the powerful arguments used to prove evolution to be a fact. But it is not from empirical science.

Johnson and Losos did not dream this up on their own. These IF AND ONLY IF statements have a long history in the evolutionary genre. They date back centuries to Enlightenment theology when theists of various persuasions were grappling with how god would have created the world. Their conviction was that creation must have been strictly via natural law, and this laid the groundwork for Charles Darwin’s and Alred Wallace’s theory of evolution.

Yet in seeking legitimacy, evolutionists portray their religiously-motivated, bizarre idea as scientific. And their hypocrisy comes full circle as they insist that science be free of any religious influence. As our textbook authors explain in the very next section:

Explanations that cannot be tested and potentially rejected simply aren’t science. [301]

But how can the explanation that the fossil record’s orderly change is expected only by evolution be tested? How could it be rejected? Evolution fails to qualify as science by the evolutionist’s own definition. The evolutionists are their own judge.

The lie of evolution is not that the species originated via natural law. As scientifically unlikely as that appears to us today, it just may be possible. Let’s not reject ideas just because they appear to be silly.

But evolution claims to be an undeniable scientific fact—a no-brainer. This is the lie of evolution. Evolution excoriates religious influence while insisting on its own religious truths. Though often subtle, evolution is a hypocritical lie. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For What Profit?

The 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case was a disaster for evolution. This may seem strange given that the ruling struck down the teaching of the opposing Intelligent Design idea. Evolutionists celebrated the decision, how could it be a disaster for them? It was a disaster because, as is sometimes the case in politics and law, the cost of victory is far greater than the spoils.

As I discussed here, here, here and here, evolutionists won the day in the Kitzmiller case. But their victory came at a cost. There were substantial legal costs, but evolutionists paid a far greater cost which can’t be measured in dollars. They gave up their soul.

In the Kitzmiller case evolutionists misrepresented science and their own theory. They issued a series of blatant lies in that very public forum for all to see. And later they celebrated their lies in books, videos and web pages.

Even now, years later, when I point out the misrepresentations and lies, evolutionists remain steadfast. The response of evolutionists is 100% indignant and 0% contrite. Consider this response from evolution expert Nick Matzke:

Cornelius, your arguments, if true, would also apply against paternity testing, DNA fingerprinting, etc. It's precisely the same concept -- shared genetic similarity is evidence of genetic relationship. Courts accept it routinely in the forensic situation -- where people's lives are literally on the line! -- yet it magically becomes "lies" all of the sudden when used in support of evolution.

You wonder why creationists keep on losing in court? Your post is an example of why. You couldn't critically examine your own argument or provide a balanced assessment of it if you tried. Which you don't. You have no sense of the weak spots, or the damage your arguments would do to vast areas of science, law, etc., which even you accept, if applied consistently...

But paternity testing and DNA fingerprinting are completely unrelated to the pseudogene example presented by evolutionist Ken Miller at the Kitzmiller trial. This comparison of forensic tests with evolutionary homologies is another common evolutionary canard that evolutionists use to mislead those not familiar with molecular biology.

Forensic tests are performed where genealogical relationships are known to exist because they are empirically observed. There’s no question that people have children, and those children’s DNA sequences derive from their parents, grandparents, and so forth. This we know.

Forensic tests do not rely on heroic hypotheses about unobserved biological phenomena. Forensic tests deal with relationships that are known to exist and the only question is, what are the particular relationships in the case at hand?

This is completely different from the evolutionist’s misrepresentations of how “shared errors” mandate common descent. In both cases DNA comparisons are made, but forensic tests check for genealogical relationships which are known, a priori, to be plausible. We know they exist.

Evolutionary homology tests, on the other hand, argue for common descent relationships that are not known to exist. We do not observe lower primates, as in the case at hand, evolving into humans. Indeed, the DNA comparisons are being used by evolutionists to argue for such types of relationships.

Furthermore, the type of evidence presented in the Kitzmiller trial can be found in cases where common descent doesn’t work and so even evolutionists must agree the DNA matches must have arisen independently.

And of course forensic testing has no built-in religious claims as evolution does. Criminal investigators are not hiding crucial metaphysical assumptions as did the evolutionists at the Kitzmiller trial.

Unfortunately, such facts don’t seem to matter to evolutionists as they continue with their false claims. At some point, however, the web we weave will snare us. Though it may have been a great victory at the time, ultimately the Kitzmiller trial will likely lead to a downfall for evolutionists. For what does a man profit if he gains the whole world but loses his very soul?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ken Miller and Chromosome Fusion

In the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case, federal judge John Jones was heavily influenced by the first expert witness, evolutionist Ken Miller. As Jones later recalled, he “was taken to school.” Unfortunately what Miller “taught” Jones was a series of scientific misrepresentations. Miller focused on two examples from molecular biology: a pseudogene and a fused chromosome. In both cases Miller gave Jones many facts but the lessons were carefully tailored to misrepresent both the science and evolutionary theory.

As I explained here, Miller’s pseudogene example included four key misrepresentations: that the pseudogene has no function and is broken, that the pseudogene DNA sequence has “errors” or “mistakes,” that there is no reason for broken genes aside from common descent, and that the evolutionary interpretation of such pseudogenes is objective science.

As was well known and documented when Miller and the ACLU lawyers devised Miller’s testimony, pseudogenes that had been investigated often exhibited functional roles, such as gene expression, gene regulation, generation of genetic diversity. Pseudogenes were found to be involved in gene conversion or recombination with functional genes. Pseudogenes sequences were found to be conserved with reduced nucleotide variability, excess synonymous over nonsynonymous nucleotide polymorphism, and other features that are expected in genes that have functional roles.

Any expert witness testifying on such a narrow topic would have been well aware of these well known results which were published by leading researchers in top tier scientific journals. And yet Miller gave no such perspective to the Dover court, and instead unequivocally represented his pseudogene example as non functional and broken. That was the evolutionary interpretation of pseudogenes, not what the scientific evidence was indicating.

And even if Miller’s selected pseudogene was truly broken, that would not mandate an evolutionary explanation as Miller unequivocally stated to the court. Miller told judge Jones that a pseudogene found in different cousin species, with common mutations, “must mean that these two organisms are descended with modification from another organism” and “leads us to just one conclusion,” which is evolution’s common descent. But this too was a lie, as any expert witness on this topic would know of the many instances of pseudogenes with mutations common to multiple species that do not fit the evolutionary pattern. In these cases even evolutionists must admit that common descent does not explain the mutations.

Perhaps most importantly, Miller’s pseudogene testimony misrepresented the evolutionary argument as objective science whereas Miller and the evolutionists, when not in federal court, make one religious argument after another. The religious foundation of evolution goes back to 18th century Enlightenment and before, and would automatically expel evolution from our public schools.

Miller’s pseudogene argument was just another example of a centuries-long history of religious mandates for evolution. Miller had been making such religious arguments for many years before Dover. He argued that life revealed features “that no engineer would stand for” so they must have evolved. That may be true, but such knowledge cannot come from objective science.

As Miller informed the Dover court, his pseudogene example was “just a mess.” That’s one of his favorite ways of making evolution’s religious argument. As he wrote more than 10 years before Kitzmiller:

In short, this sixth gene [the same pseudogene Miller testified of in the Dover court] is a mess, a nonfunctional stretch of useless DNA. From a design point of view, pseudogenes are indeed mistakes. So why are they there? Intelligent design cannot explain the presence of a nonfunctional pseudogene, unless it is willing to allow that the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles.

It is a powerful argument, but it is not scientific. Miller routinely makes these religious arguments in his books and presentations, but they were carefully edited out for his testimony to the Dover court.

The ACLU lawyers and evolutionists argued that Intelligent Design is a religious theory because there was religious intent. They carefully traced this in early documents. But in evolutionary theory no such careful tracing is needed. The religious claims are boldly pronounced by evolutionists all through their literature. Darwin’s book was chocked full of religious claims, and today’s evolutionists are no different.

This hypocrisy of evolutionary thinking was equally evident in the second of the two examples Miller presented to the Dover court. In that example, Miller showed evidence that two of our chromosomes have been fused together and claimed it was powerful evidence for evolution: “the closer that we can get to looking at the details of the human genome, the more powerful the evidence has become.”

But from a scientific perspective, the fusion event occurred in, and spread through, the human population. There is no evolutionary relationship revealed. Even if evolution is true, this fusion event would give us no evidence for it. The fused chromosome did not arise from another species, it was not inherited from a human-chimp common ancestor, or any other purported common ancestor.

The reason why evolutionists find this argument to be so powerful is, once again, from a religious perspective. According to evolutionists, the evidence mandates evolution because it disproves creation and design. As evolutionist Barry Starr explains:

An alternative explanation is that the designers fused the two chromosomes together when they created humans. ...

The difficulty with this idea is that there is no obvious advantage to having 46 chromosomes instead of 48. ...

And even if there were, a designer who can easily put in the 60 million or so differences between humans and chimpanzees should be able to accomplish whatever results a chromosome fusion gives more elegantly than sticking two ape chromosomes together.

The power of the argument is not that evolution is confirmed, but rather than design is falsified. As Denis Alexander elaborates in his book Creation or Evolution, the fused chromosome “reveals our shared ancestry with the apes.” [211] Of course the chromosome reveals no such thing. It provides no more evidence for evolution than any other similarity. Starr, Alexander and the evolutionists may as well be discussing similarities we share with the apes in our bones or our biochemistry. But the evolutionists focus on cases such as the fused chromosome because these cases provide far more powerful religious evidence. As Alexander explains:

The suggestion that God has planted misleading ‘molecular fossils’ in our bodies is parallel to the suggestion that God planted misleading physical fossils in the rocks to test the faith of the believer. The obvious and profound theological problem with such a suggestion, as we considered in Chapter Six, is that it makes God into a deceiver on a grand scale. It would mean believing in a God who deliberately confuses people, making it look certain that we had shared common ancestry with the apes, when really this was not the case. [213]

And likewise Miller, when not deceiving federal judges, makes this same argument about the very evidence he presented in the Dover court:

So all we have to do is to look at our own genome, look at our own DNA, and see, do we have a chromosome that fits these features?

We do. It's human chromosome number 2, and the evidence is unmistakable. We have two centromeres, we have telomere DNA near the center, and the genes even line up corresponding to primate chromosome numbers 12 and 13.

Is there any way that intelligent design or special creation could explain why we have a chromosome like this? The only way that I can think of is if you're willing to say that the intelligent designer rigged chromosome number 2 to fool us into thinking that we had evolved. The closer we look at our own DNA, the more detailed a glimpse we get of our own genome, the more powerful the evidence becomes for our common ancestry with other species.

In his testimony, Miller told the Dover court that:

the closer that we can get to looking at the details of the human genome, the more powerful the evidence has become.

And when out of court, he makes the same statement:

The closer we look at our own DNA, the more detailed a glimpse we get of our own genome, the more powerful the evidence becomes for our common ancestry with other species.

The difference is he carefully omits the religion when in court. Nor did Miller reveal to the court that evolution is in no way required to explain the chromosome fusion evidence.

Miller also omitted several other inconvenient truths. Judge Jones said he received the equivalent of a degree in the expert testimony, but that degree didn’t include the fact that, beyond speculation, evolution has no explanation for how chromosomes evolved in the first place. And Miller did not explain the great number (more than a thousand) genes unique to the human genome. Again, beyond speculation evolution does not explain the rapid appearance of these novel genes. Indeed, as one evolutionist admitted, the secret to evolving a human from a chimp is to make fast changes in just the right places:

The way to evolve a human from a chimp-human ancestor is not to speed the ticking of the molecular clock as a whole. Rather the secret is to have rapid change occur in sites where those changes make an important difference in an organism’s functioning.

Finally, Miller presented the chromosome fusion evidence as a “beautiful” confirmation of an evolutionary prediction. What he didn’t explain to the court is that science is full of theories known to be false which yet make all kinds of confirmed predictions.

The Kitzmiller trial was one long series of misrepresentations. Yes judge Jones was schooled, but he didn’t learn the truth.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Judge Jones: I was taken to school

In reflecting on the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case over which he presided, federal judge John Jones recalls that he “was taken to school.” Ever since his liberal arts days at Dickinson College, Jones has never doubted evolution. But his knowledge of the biological details, what little there was to begin with, was by 2005 quite stale. All that changed in the Kitzmiller case where Jones learned from various expert witnesses. It was, Jones recalled, “the equivalent of a degree in this area.” And Jones is confident his new knowledge served him well. “Folks who disagree with my opinion will tell you I never got it right,” he explains, “but I'm confident that I did.” Did he? The answer is both “yes” and “no.”

Science is a human endeavor with all the messiness that such endeavors entail. From ego battles to funding concerns, there is much that doesn’t look very much like science. But somewhere in between there is, at least sometimes, a search for truth. Hypotheses and models may be rough and approximate, but most scientists think of their work as driven by how the world really works.

Law is a very different endeavor. One of the basic tenets law students learn is to apply the law. That is not always as obvious as it may seem. Both the law and the evidence may be complicated, and the application may violate your knowledge or even common sense. So be it, that is how our legal system works.

In fact judge Jones did not research evolution or Intelligent Design for the Kitzmiller case. The law is applied to the evidence, and the evidence is provided in the court case itself. Jones understood the law and its application, but the evidence would be given to him. As Jones recalls:

The very first witness for the plaintiffs was Ken Miller. He is very invested in this issue. He writes a textbook that is used substantially in high school biology classes throughout the country. And I think it's fair to say that the plaintiffs knew what they had in terms of their judge. They knew that I was not a scientist, but hopefully that I had a reasonably good head on my shoulders, that they were going to need to take me to school. So their first witness did just that.

Yes Miller did take Jones to school. Jones was heavily influenced by Miller’s testimony which contained several compelling evidences for the fact of evolution. Unfortunately those evidences were not true.

Before the trial Miller and the ACLU lawyers had carefully designed Miller’s testimony to persuade the Dover court lay audience that Darwin’s idea was scientific and absolutely undeniable—a no-brainer.

But to do so they would need to twist the truth. Ever so slightly they manipulated the scientific evidence. And in science, subtle adjustments can make all the difference. Here are some of the lies that Miller fed to Jones.

Lie #1 A pseudogene has no function and is broken

Miller’s first powerful evidence for evolution came from pseudogenes, DNA sequences that are similar to genes but have important differences. Miller’s example was the beta globin pseudogene which he described as non-functional and broken:

2 If you could advance the slide, please.
3 I've zeroed in on the six copies of the beta-globin
4 gene sequence. Each of these copies is a set of
5 instructions for how you build this polypeptide. Five
6 of them work, but one of them doesn't. It's given the
7 Greek letters psi, beta, and then the number one. And
8 the psi-beta-1 sequence isn't a gene. It doesn't
9 work. It's a pseudogene, and a pseudogene is
10 recognized as a gene because it's so similar to the
11 other five in its DNA sequence, but it has some
12 mistakes. It's broken, and it has a series of
13 molecular errors that render the gene non-functional. [79]

The lie here is not in the word “broken” but in the word “is.” It is reasonable to think that the beta globin pseudogene is broken, but we don’t know this for certain. I suspect it is, but we can’t say with certainty that it is broken. In fact we still have much to learn about the biomolecular world.

Whether the pseudogene is simply broken or has some subtle, perhaps rarely used, function is difficult to say. My guess is the former, but to be sure the history of evolutionary thought is full of such claims gone wrong. From the appendix to the thyroid gland, evolutionists have been quick to claim non function for structures that years later are found to do various jobs. And this holds even for some pseudogenes.

And while a consistent function has not been found for pseudogenes in general, it is difficult to be sure that the beta globin pseudogene, for example, is non-functional and broken, as Miller unequivocally informed the court. The distinction may seem to be minor, but it was crucial to Miller’s case.

Lie #2 Pseudogene DNA sequences have “errors” or “mistakes”

While informing the court that the beta globin pseudogene is broken, Miller also explained that its DNA sequence has “errors” or “mistakes.”

14 Now, I'd like to show you exactly what those
15 molecular errors are in the next slide. This is a
16 blow-up of the pseudogene. These are the portions
17 that actually do the coding, if it was coded in red
18 here. And you'll notice that there are six distinct
19 mistakes in this gene.
20 Now, I don't know if I really want to try
21 the patience of the Court in terms of going into the
22 details of molecular biology, but in a very simple
23 way, the altered initiator means that the signal that
24 exists at the front of the gene that says "copy me" is
25 missing. And therefore RNA preliminaries, the
1 molecule that copies genes, can't bind, and it never
2 gets expressed.
3 But even if it did get expressed, it has
4 five other errors that would keep this, the RNA copy
5 of this gene, from being translated. It's missing the
6 start signal. It's got stop codons that would cause
7 the synthetic apparatus to grind to a halt. It's just
8 a mess. [79-80]

Just as we are not certain that the pseudogene has no function and is broken, likewise we are not certain that its DNA sequence contains “errors” or “mistakes,” caused by mutations. That certainly could be the case, but it may not be.

As we will see shortly, Miller will use this claim as circumstantial evidence for evolution. What Miller did not inform the court of is that globin genes (from which the pseudogene is supposed to derive) have about 140 amino acid residues, and since there are 20 different amino acids this means there are 20^140 sequences for evolution to choose from in creating a globin gene. This number, 20^140, is astronomically huge. It is equivalent to a 1 with more than 180 zeros after it.

And of all those different sequences, only a tiny fraction result in a functioning globin protein, meaning that it is highly unlikely evolution could have luckily hit upon the globin design in the first place. This is to say nothing of how the molecular machinery to construct the protein, and make use of it once constructed, could have already been in place.

Furthermore, there are a great many proteins that are far bigger, and so even less likely to have evolved, than the globin protein. Evolutionists have little more than just-so stories to explain how such genes arose, but judge Jones’ new biology degree did not include such conundrums.

Lie #3 There is no reason for broken genes aside from common descent

Miller next move was to evolution’s venerable “shared-error” argument that has swayed so many. If these DNA errors or mistakes are found to be repeated in different species, then those species must have evolved via a common ancestor.

9 Now, the reason that this is important in
10 evolution is actually very simple, and that is, these
11 errors appear in a gene, they have no functional
12 purpose. And you might ask yourself, what would I do,
13 what would you do if we were to find another organism
14 that didn't just have similar genes but also had a
15 pseudogene in the same spot and had the same set of
16 errors?
17 There's no reason why evolution would
18 produce a duplicate set of mistakes in two copies of
19 things. It must mean that these two organisms are
20 descended with modification from another organism that
21 had the same set of mistakes.
22 And if you go on to the next slide, what I'd
23 like to show you are three organisms, the gorilla, the
24 chimpanzee, and the human being that share the exact
25 same set of molecular mistakes.
1 Now, why is this significant? One of the
2 core principles of evolution is common descent. One
3 could always argue that because the three species that
4 I've depicted on this slide are all African species,
5 that's where they all come from, they're all primates
6 and they all probably started out living in similar
7 environments, that the functional parts of this gene
8 locus, they might work the same. But you cannot argue
9 that the mistakes should match.
10 And the fact that all three of these species
11 have matching mistakes leads us to just one
12 conclusion, and that's the same conclusion that
13 Charles Darwin predicted almost a century and a half
14 ago, and that is that these three species share a
15 common ancestor. Matching mistakes are evidence of
16 common ancestry. [80-81]

But as any expert witness would know, this is not true. Assuming that the beta globin pseudogene is indeed broken, and that the DNA sequence “errors” are indeed errors, there is no reason to conclude they must have arisen via a common ancestor. Even evolutionists agree with this obvious fact.

Shared errors can arise from the independent occurrence of like mutations. Indeed, from viruses and bacteria to primates, like mutations that must have occurred independently (even if evolution is true) have been repeatedly observed. Similarly, mutational “hotspots” are common and, of relevance here, have been observed in pseudogenes.

In fact, comparison of pseudogenes in different species have forced evolutionists to conclude that like mutations must occur independently. Urate oxidase pseudogenes are just one such example, and it simply is false that such similarities can only be explained by common descent.

Lie #4 This is objective science

Even if there were no examples of independent, shared mutations such as in the urate oxidase pseudogenes, Miller’s argument is not objective science as he presents it to be. Miller gave testimony about how science works, but here uses the shared-error argument which is a metaphysical argument that goes back centuries.

Miller informed the court that these shared errors “must mean that these two organisms are descended with modification from another organism” and “the fact that all three of these species have matching mistakes leads us to just one conclusion, … that is that these three species share a common ancestor.”

But how does Miller know that common descent is the only possible explanation? As I have discussed before, this is one of the many entry points of evolutionary metaphysics into science. Evolutionists consistently make this claim that only their theory can explain what we find in biology, and such a claim requires knowledge unavailable to science.

The short explanation is that this shared-error argument is a form of an IF-AND-ONLY-IF statement, which is non scientific. The long explanation is that the non scientific element arises from Enlightenment theology, supplied by Lutherans and Roman Catholics on the continent and Anglicans in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. It entered into science mainly via evolutionary thought. Darwin repeatedly used the argument and it is now rampant in the evolutionary apologetics literature. As Stephen Jay Gould explained:

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

Elliot Sober, a philosopher who analyzes evolutionary arguments in great detail has explained how the argument works in terms of likelihood ratios. Sober refers to the argument as Darwin's Principle. As he explains,

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

Miller’s “broken” pseudogenes with their DNA “errors” were the perfect example of such useless similarities. And why are useless or deleterious similarities so helpful? It is not because they raise the probability of common ancestry, but rather because they lower the probability of separate ancestry. In other words, the reason common descent is a no-brainer is that the alternative, separate creation or design, is extremely unlikely.

From before Darwin to Miller this argument has been a crucial weapon in evolution’s apologetic arsenal. Miller began using this non scientific argument against Intelligent Design when the new movement first began. He was well practiced by the time the Kitzmiller opportunity arose, and the small-town Lutheran lawyer from Pennsylvania coal country didn’t stand a chance. Did judge Jones “get it right” as he so confidently asserts? Yes, he correctly applied the law, but he applied it to a set of lies.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Aub's World

In Isaac Asimov’s 1958 futuristic short story “The Feeling of Power,” Myron Aub is a technician who rediscovers arithmetic. Aub’s future world is one dominated by computers which do all the number crunching and people who not only are mathematically-challenged but, more importantly, don’t see the point. What good is math anyway? Today evolution has had a similar effect on our thinking. Just as computers can dull our mathematical skills, evolution dulls our critical thinking skills.

According to evolutionists everything from the quasars and galaxies in the cosmos to the millions of biological marvels on earth are a fluke. They all just happened to happen. And though evolutionists don’t know how all this happened, they know for certain that it happened. And their certainty justifies oppression of skepticism. They suppress any intellectual curiosity that doubts their dogma with lawsuits and black lists.

Modern evolutionary thought traces back to the early days of science in the seventeenth century. Over the centuries it gained strength and today it dominates the sciences and beyond. As the evolutionist Teilhard de Chardin proclaimed, evolution is much more than merely a theory, system or hypothesis:

It is much more—it is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow—this is what evolution is.

That sort of dogma is frightening. But with evolutionists, there can be no alternative. The world must have evolved naturally. Particular hypotheses may come and go, but naturalism cannot be false.

In a word evolution has created an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism. And as de Chardin forecast, evolutionary dogma has spread far beyond science. Not only does evolutionary thought pervade academia in general, but the culture at large as well. From journalism and education to public policy and law, evolution is the gatekeeper. Deep thoughts that doubt evolution’s dogma are not allowed.

This is nowhere more evident than in the various court rulings on the teaching of origins in our public schools. The most recent significant ruling was in 2005 when federal judge John Jones ruled that Intelligent Design could not be taught in Dover, Pennsylvania public schools. As with the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, the particular ruling in Dover was less important than the underlying message. In the Scopes Monkey Trial John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution, and in the Dover trial the School Board was instructed not to teach ID.

These rulings were not controversial or of lasting importance. Of course Scopes was guilty of teaching evolution, and of course the School Board was guilty of “breathtaking inanity” as Judge Jones concluded.

What was important about the Dover trial, like the Scopes Monkey Trial, was the underlying anti intellectualism that each advanced. Both trials were specifically targeted and used by the ACLU and evolutionists to promote their naturalistic agenda. As Judge Jones wrote, science limits itself to “natural explanations about the natural world.” [66-7] What Jones apparently failed to realize is no one disagrees with that limitation. Of course science must limit itself to natural explanations about the natural world. But what is the “natural world?”

Judge Jones apparently never asked himself that question and instead was swayed by the ACLU’s reasoning. ID, wrote Jones, “takes a natural phenomenon and, instead of accepting or seeking a natural explanation, argues that the explanation is supernatural.” [66-7]

It is astonishing that such a silly canard could be seriously set forth as a characterization of ID. It does, of course, no such thing. Indeed, Jones and the ACLU not only mischaracterize ID, but they evade the crucial issue. The Dover opinion makes the circular assertion that phenomena are natural and so therefore ought to be explained by naturalistic causes. Of course natural phenomena ought to be explained by naturalistic causes, but how do we know if a phenomenon is natural? How do we know that human consciousness arose by strictly natural causes? We don’t, of course.

There are different ways to handle this conundrum. ID is only one approach and certainly can be criticized. But evolutionists have not even begun to reckon with the problem seriously. Instead they evade the deep issue altogether and when asked simply lay the blame with ID.

Unfortunately, rather than transcend evolution’s low-brow critiques, the Dover decision joins right in. Yes, ID should not have been taught as Jones rightly ruled, but that was inconsequential. I was not in favor of teaching ID long before the Dover trial, and I knew no one who was. But the message from Dover was about much more than just teaching ID. Evolution’s religious dogma took another step further into our constitutional jurisprudence.

The Dover trial’s anti intellectualism will breed more of the same, just as did the Scopes Monkey Trial. Indeed, when asked about his education for the Dover case, Jones explained that “I understood the general theme. I'd seen Inherit the Wind.” That is as astonishing as it is frightening. How could a federal judge be so profoundly naïve? It would be like saying I understand the general theme of lung cancer because I’ve seen a Phillip Morris video. Like a trojan horse, evolution’s anti intellectualism has gone viral. It is now widely accepted and even federal judges take it as normative. Like Myron Aub rediscovering basic arithmetic, we need to rediscover basic critical thinking skills.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An Elephant in the Court

It is no secret that evolution is, at bottom, an idea driven by metaphysical concerns. Even people unfamiliar with the details of evolutionary thinking have a sense that it goes well beyond mere scientific inquiry. What is less well understood and more subtle is how evolution has managed to get away with this. How is it that, in the land of the ACLU and the Establishment Clause, evolution has not only escaped scrutiny but its teaching and promotion are actually mandated by law?

Evolutionists have promoted their theory as “just science” while employing and relying on crucial metaphysical premises. Hume argued that the existence of evil refutes design, and likewise Darwin argued that homologies such as the pentadactyl pattern revealed the lack of design. So much of biology was, for Darwin, “utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations.” There is, of course, no scientific experiment one could do to gain such knowledge. It is metaphysical.

Obviously Darwin needed a naturalistic explanation for the species—his religious beliefs ruled out design. And likewise for today’s evolutionists. According to George Williams, there was “no evidence that God has any engineering expertise.” Evolution must be true.

For Williams and the evolutionists, the many evils and inefficiencies in nature mandate evolution. Evolutionists don’t know how life evolved, but they know it must have evolved. Evolution is not a fact because the empirical evidence says so, evolution is a fact because our religious belief says so. Fossils appear abruptly and remain unchanged for eons, cousin species reveal profound differences, distant species carry identical designs, adaptative mutations occur in response to environmental challenges, and life is packed with profound engineering secrets. The evidence certainly does not make for the fact of evolution.

Rather, the conviction that evolution is true, as is so often the case with convictions, comes from religion not science. As Stephen Jay Gould explained, “Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread.” As usual, religion trumps science.

Evolution makes little scientific sense. Science does not indicate that complex designs arise from warm little ponds, no matter how much time is available. The DNA code, hemoglobin, vision, consciousness, and a thousand other designs are not explained scientifically by evolution. Yet we are told it is a fact because we cannot accept design.

This evolutionary sentiment is no big surprise. It dates back to long before Darwin. It is no surprise that people have strong religious feelings about God and nature. But how has this religious movement escaped the watchful eye of American jurisprudence? How could the ruling in the 2005 trial in Dover, PA, for instance, possibly miss the metaphysical elephant in the room?

The Dover trial itself was obvious enough. Evolutionist Ken Miller used various examples of evolutionary theology to make his case. For instance, he made the usual metaphysical argument that pseudogenes mandate evolution. Darwin and later evolutionists are moved by designs that don’t seem to work. But this proof from dysteleology is reinforced when the apparently flawed designs are shared amongst different species.

There are thousands of similarities between similar species, but similarities that are dysfunctional in both species are a prize for evolutionists. For we know that the Designer would never create such “shared errors.” What was rather unremarkable evidence for evolution (similarities between species bring confounding as well as supporting evidences) suddenly becomes an undeniable proof for evolutionists.

How did genes evolve against astronomical odds? Who knows, but they must have, for the pseudogenes decisively disprove design. They are now a favorite example for evolutionists, and what better evidence for Ken Miller to use in his Dover testimony.

There was only one problem: the deep metaphysics of the “shared error” argument would expose evolution for what it is. One cannot argue that evolution is just science using the usual metaphysical arguments.

Miller was attempting to argue that intelligent design is religious and that evolution is just science, and furthermore that evolution is a scientific fact. But the arguments for evolution are metaphysical. Hence Miller had a dilemma. He could not argue for the fact of evolution using empirical scientific evidence, for those evidences bear against evolution. Yes, there are the powerful metaphysical arguments, but they would reveal to the court the nature of evolution. Miller’s solution was to use the powerful metaphysics, but with careful wording. Here is the relevant passage from his Dover testimony on pseudogenes:

9 Now, the reason that this is important in
10 evolution is actually very simple, and that is, these
11 errors appear in a gene, they have no functional
12 purpose. And you might ask yourself, what would I do,
13 what would you do if we were to find another organism
14 that didn't just have similar genes but also had a
15 pseudogene in the same spot and had the same set of
16 errors?
17 There’s no reason why evolution would
18 produce a duplicate set of mistakes in two copies of
19 things. It must mean that these two organisms are
20 descended with modification from another organism that
21 had the same set of mistakes.

On line 17 Miller uses the word “evolution” rather than the usual “God” or “the Designer.” Consequently the passage makes no sense but sounds like powerful empirical evidence to an unsuspecting audience. By swapping in “evolution” for “God” Miller misrepresented evolution as a scientific theory. This misrepresentation is, of course, material to the case at hand and so amounts to perjury.

Elsewhere evolutionists make this argument without deception. Terry Gray, for instance, has argued that the pseudogene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, an enzyme in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) biosynthesis must have evolved:

Now we could argue that in God’s inscrutable purpose he placed that vitamin C synthesis look-alike gene in the guinea pig or human DNA or we could admit the more obvious conclusion, that humans and primates and other mammals share a common ancestor.

Likewise for evolutionist Edward E. Max, pseudogenes are errors that “cannot reasonably be interpreted as having been ‘designed.’”

And we need not look to other evolutionists for examples of metaphysical interpretations of pseudogenes. While not under oath in federal court, Miller himself has made the argument crystal clear. Pseudogenes, proclaims Miller, must have evolved, for otherwise they would reveal a designer who “made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles.”

And Miller’s embracing of evolutionary theology is by no means limited to pseudogenes. Miller echoes the evolutionary interpretation of extinctions when he informs his readers that without evolution, they leave us with a designer who “just can’t get it right the first time. Nothing he designs is able to make it over the long term.”

Who needs scientific evidence when evolution is the only alternative? There is also the problem that fossil species sometimes are similar to the living species in the same region. “Why,” asks Miller, “should such a unique set of animals be found in exactly the same place as their closest fossil relatives?” Surely God would not create similar species in the same locale. “There could be just one answer,” states Miller, “a process of descent with modification linked the present to the past.”

But if the fossil record evinces too much order it also has an arbitrary aspect that, for evolutionists, does not accord with creation. For the fossil species do not always seem to progress in any particular direction. For instance, Miller finds evidence against the creator in the elephant fossils. There are, explains Miller, dozens of elephant or elephant-like fossil species dating back to as much as 50 million years ago. Trends in the design of the trunks and tusks can be found amongst these species. Using these trends, the species can be compared, classified, and even arranged in an evolutionary tree if one believes in evolution. And we should believe in evolution, according to Miller, for can we possibly believe there is a Creator behind this haphazard arrangement?

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

In fact, tallying up all the millions of different species ever found, the Creator must have been constantly at work and this too, for Miller, is hard to believe. And do not the evils of nature also disprove a designing hand? As Miller rhetorically asks, would God “really want to take credit for the mosquito?” The answer for Miller is obvious.

Following the centuries long evolution genre, Miller provides a consistent stream of powerful religious arguments which for evolutionists disprove design and creation. Evolution is a deeply metaphysical theory, and Miller’s misrepresentation of it as nothing more than empirical science is serious because his testimony influenced the Dover judge, and was cited in the opinion.

Evolutionist’s arguments entail metaphysical premises, and this is how they can claim their theory is a fact. Without their religious arguments they would be left merely with empirical evidence which fails to support evolution as a fact because there is substantial negative evidence.

Evolution’s use of metaphysical premises is well documented. And Miller relies on these heavily in his own apologetics. But so long as legal testimony represents evolution as just science, courts will continue to miss the elephant in the room.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back to School, Part V

Shortly after World War II Mochitsura Hashimoto was summoned to the United States to give testimony in the trial of Charles McVay. Hashimoto’s and McVay’s fates intersected just after midnight, July 30, 1945, when the Japanese submarine I-58, commanded by Hashimoto, sunk the cruiser, the USS Indianapolis, commanded by McVay.

The Indianapolis quickly sank and its distress signal went ignored by the different naval stations that received it. To make matters worse the Navy failed to notice the absence of the Indianapolis, even when it didn’t show up at the Phillipines. This left the almost one thousand sailors on their own to battle for their survival and their sanity, floating in the middle of the ocean. With little more than life preservers, they suffered from severe exposure, dehydration, starvation, salt water poisoning, dementia, hallucinations, and shark attacks. One sailor was saved by his canteen which kept him afloat under his back. When accidentally discovered four days later, the crew was down to only a few hundred survivors.

Robert Shaw’s memorable retelling of the story in the movie Jaws was brilliant (for Richard Dreyfus it was a rare moment in which he didn’t need to act) but it only begins to reveal the horror—a horror for which the Navy was responsible. Imagine how the country would react to such a story. We will never know because the Navy covered it up and instead wrongfully blamed McVay.

Imagine being court martialed by those who made the mistakes, and then having testimony brought by the one who sank your ship. But Hashimoto’s testimony was far from damning. In fact it might have exonerated McVay except that it was in Japanese, and it seems the translation was less than faithful. Hashimoto’s English was weak, but good enough for him to understand the sham. And he was in no position to complain. As he later explained, “I was then an officer of the beaten country, you know, and alone, how could I complain strong enough?”

McVay was convicted and would receive his share of hate mail from Americans convinced he was to blame. He eventually committed suicide and so was not there when the Navy cleared his name in 2000.

Hashimoto and McVay experienced first hand how, as the saying goes, history is written by the winners. Sometimes people make mistakes, and sometimes they make matters worse by covering it up with lies. And when the winners do this, the lies become part of the historical record. Shaw’s monologue, as good as it was, is riddled with thirty year old Navy lies.

History as told by the evolutionists

As with wars and politics, science also has a history that is sometimes tailored by the winners. The history of evolutionary thought is easily the most egregious example today. Evolutionists, beginning with Darwin himself, portray evolution as an obvious and compelling scientific theory that overcame ignorant theological resistance. Here is how one of today’s leading textbooks [George Johnson and Jonathan Losos, The Living World, Fifth Edition, McGraw Hill, 2008] turns history on its head:

Of all the major ideas of biology, evolution is perhaps the best known to the general public, because many people mistakenly believe that evolution represents a challenge to their religious beliefs. Because Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is the subject of often-bitter public controversy, we will examine the objections of evolution’s critics in detail, to see why there is such a disconnect between science and public opinion.

This is how evolutionists view themselves and the world around them. They represent science and those who do not accept their dogma are the problem. There is a war between science and religion because, while they merely pursue good scientific research, religious opposition stands in the way.

Immediately after publication of The Origin of Species, English clergymen attacked Darwin’s book as heretical; Gladstone, England’s prime minister and a famous statesman, condemned it.

So the publication of Origins was met with harsh opposition and the religious fervor was not limited to the clergy. Leading figures, and even the prime minister, condemned Darwin’s scientific conclusions.

Civil rights groups used the case of high school teacher John Scopes to challenge the Tennessee law [banning the teaching of evolution] within months of its being passed in 1925. The trial attracted national attention—you might have seen it portrayed in the film Inherit the Wind. Scopes, who had indeed violated the new law, lost.

It would be difficult to imagine a more misleading version of the early history of Darwin’s theory and its critics. The evolutionary rendition is misleading not because it is all false, but for more subtle reasons. The worst lies are not those that are blatantly false, but those that twist the truth ever so slightly to achieve a completely different story.

Yes Gladstone and others opposed evolution, yes there was religious opposition in the early 1900s, and yes John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution. But these tidbits portray an entirely false history.

Gladstone’s skepticism was well informed and thoughtful. The polymath had been seriously contemplating the idea for twenty years before 1859. And while there certainly was less considered opposition, the response of mid century Victorians to the emerging evolutionary ideas was hardly the unified front portrayed by evolutionary histories. In fact Origins was an instant hit. It quickly sold out and was welcomed by many Anglicans including many in the clergy. Indeed there was as much scientific doubt as there was religious doubt about Darwin’s new theory.

Likewise religious reaction in America in the early 1900s was mixed. Yes there certainly was opposition, often ill-informed, but there also were leading thinkers such as BB Warfield and fundamentalists such as RA Torrey who believed in an old earth and were open to evolutionary ideas. Torrey did, however, have scientific doubts about evolutionary theory.

And the Scopes Monkey Trial is far more complex than the incredibly lopsided tale presented in Inherit the Wind. 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 that evolutionists continue to propagate. 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. 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.

Unfortunately evolutionists do not tell history from an objective perspective, but from the viewpoint that evolution must be true. Therefore opposition must be caricatured as naïve or nefarious. Skepticism must be religiously motivated.

But in fact evolution was motivated and justified by metaphysical mandates. These began centuries before Darwin and continue today. While the opposition to evolution is portrayed as an intrusion of religion into things scientific, in fact evolution itself is the better symbol of such an intrusion.

Evolution’s retelling of history is both mythological and hypocritical. But this is nothing new when history is told by the winners.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Long-Term Fruit Fly Experiment Raises Questions

One of the arguments that evolution is a fact is that we observe it in the laboratory. Evolutionists monitor, for instance, the adaptations of fast-reproducing unicellular organisms such as bacteria. But these species are far simpler than the multicellular eukaryotes. Now new experiments are studying the more advanced fruit fly. The results are telling.

New results published last week report on an experiment that monitored more than 600 generations of the fruit fly. In this laboratory experiment fly populations were selected for accelerated development. But new genes did not arise and take control in these populations as evolutionary theory predicts. The results suggest problems for evolution in the wild:

Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles. This is notable because in wild populations we expect the strength of natural selection to be less intense and the environment unlikely to remain constant for ~600 generations. Consequently, the probability of fixation in wild populations should be even lower than its likelihood in these experiments.

In other words, evolution must work differently than expected. Just how it works, in this case, is yet to be determined, but we can add yet another entry to the seemingly never ending list of evolution's failed expectations.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Euthanasia and the Search for Morality

Virginia Ironside and Bob Brown advocate euthanasia. If Ironside had a child who was in terrible pain, she would hold a pillow over its head, as she would for any living creature that was suffering. Likewise Brown, the Australian Greens leader, explains that abolishing the federal statute that outlawed euthanasia would be his first legislative priority.

Are Ironside and Brown wrong? If evolution is true then isn’t life a game of the survival of the fittest? If so then it would seem Ironside and Brown are merely playing by the rules.

Some evolutionists protest such obvious reasoning. Euthanasia is all wrong, they explain, because evolution has made it wrong. It was the very evolutionary process that created empathy and altruism, virtues that led to improved reproduction rates.

But even this contorted explanation falls short. If the evolutionary process magically rearranged our neurons to produce empathy and altruism, that wouldn’t make them “right” and euthanasia “wrong.”

The most an evolutionist can say is that euthanasia violates evolutionary theory. But in fact euthanasia—the idea and the action—exists and so must have been produced by evolution. So our evolutionist is yet once again incorrect. Euthanasia doesn’t violate evolutionary theory—it was created by evolution.

The evolutionist may disagree with euthanasia, but that wouldn’t make it wrong as he has claimed. It simply means that he disagrees with it. And what he won’t admit is that, with evolution, any other view is just as legitimate.