Monday, May 30, 2011

Evolutionist: Our Best Defense Against Anti-Science Obscurantism

Evolutionists say undirected, random events, such as mutations, accumulated to create the entire biological world. An analogy once used for this claim is that of a room full of monkeys pounding away at typewriters and producing Hamlet. Today the analogy needs to be updated from typewriters to computer keyboards, but otherwise remains apropos. When the letters are selected at random, a page (or screen) full of text is going to be meaningless. And the problem is no easier in the biological world. Whether English prose or molecular sequences, the problem is that there are relatively few meaningful sequences in an astronomically large volume of possibilities. Nor does selection help because the smallest sequence that could be selected—such as a small gene—is not very small. All of this is rather intuitive and for centuries evolutionists have been trying to solve the problem. Their latest solution is being called natural genetic engineering.

Heat death

It is obvious that randomly selected letters aren’t likely to form a meaningful message. The exact probability is difficult to compute but it is astronomical. As physicist Gerald Schroeder has pointed out, even a simple Shakespearean sonnet of only 488 letters would never be produced by those monkeys (there are 10^691, or a 1 followed by 691 zeros, different possible transcripts). As Schroeder explains:

Convert the entire 10 to the 56 grams of the universe (forget working with the monkeys) into computer chips each weighing a billionth of a gram and have each chip type out a billion sonnet trials a second (or 488 billion operations per second) since the beginning of time, ten to the 18th seconds ago. The number of trials will be approximately ten to power of 92, a huge number but minuscule when compared with the 10 to power 690 possible combinations of the letters. We are off by a factor of ten to power of 600. The laws of probability confirm that the universe would have reached its heat death before getting one sonnet. We will never get a sonnet by random trials, and the most basic molecules of life are far more complex than the most intricate sonnet.

And the fact that there are many possible sonnets, not just one, does not make a meaningful dent in these astronomical probabilities. Both prose and proteins are not going to arise by chance.

But evolutionists say it is not a matter of chance because natural selection guides the way. Evolution is not required to create a complete organism or even a complete gene, it needs only small victories which natural selection preserves.

Consider the word “selection.” It has 9 letters and for a 26 letter alphabet there are 26^9, or 5 million million different possible combinations of letters. The monkeys would never type out even this single word.

But what if a correct letter, whenever it happens to be typed, is preserved by natural selection? Then the search shrinks from 26^9 to 26*9 different possibilities. The search space reduces from 5 million million to 234 different possible combinations of letters.

From Charles Darwin to Richard Dawkins, evolutionists have elaborated on how natural selection largely removes the random element from evolution and makes the origin of the complex biological world all but inevitable. As Darwin wrote:

Although the belief that an organ so perfect as the eye could have been formed by natural selection, is enough to stagger any one; yet in the case of any organ, if we know of a long series of gradations in complexity, each good for its possessor, then, under changing conditions of life, there is no logical impossibility in the acquirement of any conceivable degree of perfection through natural selection.

Darwin explained that his theory “would absolutely break down” if we found a design that could not possibly have arisen gradually. Not surprisingly Darwin concluded that he could find out no such case. What he didn’t tell the reader is that his falsification criteria was impossible. It is obvious to objective observers that the biological world abounds with such designs, but showing this to an evolutionist is another matter.

Evolving even a single protein under carefully controlled laboratory conditions has proved to be elusive. You can see the details here, here, here, here and here. The problem is that blind gradualism, even with perfect selection, doesn’t magically produce fantastic designs as Darwin, Dawkins and the rest had hoped.

The specific difficulties with their fanciful idea are many. From the rough fitness surfaces to the smallest unit of selection not being small, it is difficult to coax intricate designs from a warm little pond.

Consider again, for example, the word “selection.” It seemed impressive that selection could reduce the search space from 5 million million to 234 different possibilities. But this cannot actually happen because selection cannot select individual letters. What good is an “s”? The word “selection” doesn’t make sense until you have the entire word.

Recognizing these problems evolutionists are now searching for non gradualistic mechanisms to do the job. Proteins must form not by the gradual accumulation of mutations but by sudden rearrangements and new designs may evolve by macromutations.

Perceptive readers will see the obvious problem: replacing gradualism with saltationism does not solve the underlying problem. For instance, from where did the protein modules come? Or from where did the macromutation mechanisms come?

Ultimately, no matter how many thought experiments and just-so stories are brought to bear, the problem remains the same. Evolutionists claim that incredibly complex designs just happened to arise all by themselves.

Natural genetic engineering

This silliness reached new levels in a recent review paper which attempted to summarize this emerging, non gradualistic view of evolution. Even evolutionists admit that biology has turned out to be complex. And this complexity is no less observed at the cellular and molecular levels of biology. As the review paper, for example, explains:

Molecular cell biology has uncovered sophisticated networks in all organisms. They acquire information about external and internal conditions, transmit and process that information inside the cell, compute the appropriate biochemical or biomechanical response, and activate the molecules needed to execute that response. These information-processing networks are central to the systems biology perspective of the new century.

The genome is not like a blueprint as evolution once envisioned, but more like an interactive read-write memory system. The cell’s ability to monitor, detect and repair genome damage is astonishing. But the complexity doesn’t stop there. Yes the genome often needs a repair, but it also sometimes needs a redesign.

The twentieth century discovered that cells can read and write information onto their genomes at several levels. Beyond this, cells can even restructure their genomes to meet environmental challenges. And these redesigns can be passed on to future generations.

All of this means biology possesses incredible capabilities evolutionists never envisioned. And it also means that biological change responds intelligently to the environment. Biological variation is not according to blind, undirected processes such as mutation, as envisioned by evolutionists. Evolutionists thought that such variation was random with respect to need and that adaptation was merely the result of the useful variations surviving via natural selection. This unintelligent process would require long time periods but biology revealed intelligent, fast adaptation.

There was strong resistance to this paradigm in the evolution camp but now evolutionists are increasingly finding it to be a convenient enhancement to the ailing gradualism. If organisms can restructure their genomes to meet environmental challenges, then could they not have evolved via such brilliance? This would remedy the problems with strict gradualism, and fit the abruptness of the fossil record.

Cells redesign proteins by shuffling their modules, and genes are shared between organisms via complex horizontal transfer mechanisms. To these add even greater mechanisms such as cell fusions and whole genome doublings and you have nature’s version of genetic engineering. Is this natural genetic engineering not capable of evolving the species?

Once we were breeders, so evolution was viewed as a natural breeder. Now we are genetic engineers, so evolution is viewed as a natural genetic engineer. Evolution somehow created this marvelous genetic toolkit with which to create the biological world. And fortunately the tools cooperate, working when and where needed, and not when and where not needed.

Now evolutionists can continue to speculate about “the origins of complex adaptive novelties at moments of macroevolutionary change.” For instance, is it not evident that retrotransposons were necessary for the emergence of mammals in evolution?

According to evolutionists, evolution just happened to create the retrotransposons which later just happened to be needed for the emergence of mammals. This and the many other fantastic mechanisms that form the natural genetic engineering toolkit first had to be created by evolution so they then could cause evolution to happen.

Evolutionists ignore such serendipity while they debate the nuances of how evolution occurred, secure in their knowledge that it did occur. As the review summarizes:

Thus, novel adaptations that require changes at multiple locations in the genome can arise within a single generation and can produce progeny expressing all the changes at once. There is no requirement, as in conventional theory, that each individual change be beneficial by itself.

Just as genetic engineering has many advantages over the old breeding techniques, evolutionists find that the new natural genetic engineering version of evolution works so much better than the old breeding version of evolution.

Anti-science obscurantism

Natural genetic engineering is the most recent version of evolutionists’ attempts to explain how the entire biological just happened to arise spontaneously. A fluke that now amazes us.

Evolution is a religiously motivated mandate that, from a scientific perspective, is unlikely. But as Michael Polanyi once explained, they will “come so firmly to uphold this fiction that they will regard it as ‘the scientific view’ of life and condemn anyone challenging this fallacy as an anti-scientific obscurantist.”

Polanyi was often prescient and no less so here. For the evolutionist’s certainty comes not from the science, but from the underlying religion. And crucial to this dogma is the turning upside down of science. The legitimate scientific concerns, that evolution is profoundly improbable, are themselves cast as an anti-scientific obscurantist, just as Polanyi put it. As the review paper concludes:

In other words, our best defense against anti-science obscurantism comes from the study of mobile DNA because that is the subject that has most significantly transformed evolution from natural history into a vibrant empirical science.

It is truly difficult to know whether to laugh or to cry. Evolution is, at once, both hilarious and dangerous. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Evolutionists: Larry Moran Still Correct!

In my previous posts I discussed Larry Moran’s undefendable claim that the vitamin C pseudogene is powerful evidence for evolution and common descent. In response evolutionists continue to comment that I have it all wrong and Moran’s claim is quite correct. Here is what one evolutionist wrote:

Common descent is well supported by the evidence in the broken GULO gene (along with myriad other independent lines of evidence in the haplorhine primates). The fixed mutations in the broken gene form a nested hierarchy that matches phylogenies for functional genes. Interestingly, the substitutions differ from those in guinea pigs, which appear to have had an independent loss of GULO. These threads of evidence amount to more than claiming that common descent is only better than pure chance.

But common descent is, in fact, not “well supported” by this evidence. Evolutionists continue to repeat their mantra, but this evidence does not support common descent anymore than a pig with a cold nose supports the claim that pigs can fly. It is true that if pigs can fly, then we would expect to find pigs with cold noses. But we would hardly conclude that the hypothesis that pigs can fly is strongly supported by pigs with cold noses.

Nor do the “independent lines of evidence” support common descent any better. Indeed, the evidence leaves little doubt that what seemed obvious is, in fact, obvious. Common descent not only is intuitively silly, it is scientifically silly as well.

There is, for starters, that little problem of mechanism. Though they can’t supply the details, evolutionists say that a long, lucky, series of garbled, random mutations and other flukes of variation led to the millions and millions of species with all their incredible designs.

Or again, there is the problem of the biological patterns that don’t fit. From the striking similarities found in distant species to the profound differences in otherwise allied species, the predictions of common descent have been falsified many times over.

If ever there was an idea that doesn’t work scientifically, this is it.

It is true that there are patterns that, when taken in isolation, do fit common descent. The vitamin C pseudogene is an example. But this doesn’t magically dissolve the multitude of scientific problems. Yes, the evidence is consistent with common descent, but so too is the rising sun consistent with geocentrism.

As if sensing a problem the evolutionist, in typical fashion, makes a quick switch to metaphysics with a series of rhetorical questions:

If we were to reject common descent, is there some theory dealing with common design that provides a better explanation for a shared, broken gene in a line of otherwise apparently closely related species?

This is the heart of evolutionary thought. It is not that evolution makes sense (it doesn’t), it is that evolutionists believe it is the only choice. Rhetorical questions such as this one are common with evolutionists. A key to understanding evolution is that evolutionists think this line of reasoning is scientific, that such questions can be answered with a high level of certainty, and that in particular the answer is “no.”

But of course, contra evolutionists, science has no way of making such ultimate truth claims. It cannot know all possible explanations. As such scientists do not make sweeping claims that no such reasonable explanation is possible for observations, such as the vitamin C pseudogene patterns. Evolutionists, on the other hand, do.

Another evolutionist wrote that the vitamin C pseudogene pattern is a prediction of evolution given that it is found in certain species. He writes:

For example, given that humans, gorillas and orangutans all have this pseudogene, common descent predicts that chimps will also have it.

This seems reasonable, but since evolution and common descent have made so many false predictions, then certainly we must conclude they are false by modus tollens. If evolutionists use successful predictions to promote their theory, then shouldn’t the many false predictions mean something?

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Evolutionist: Larry Moran is Correct!

In my previous post I discussed Larry Moran’s undefendable claim that the vitamin C pseudogene is powerful evidence for evolution and common descent. In response an evolutionist in the know commented that I had it all wrong and Moran’s claim is quite correct:

We can calculate the likelihood of those mutations being shared via common ancestry. This likelihood is much higher than the likelihood you get under the hypothesis that the mutations were independently acquired by chance. This is strong support for the common ancestry model in the usual way that statistics are used to support hypotheses throughout all hypotheses in science.

It is worth elaborating on this argument to reveal the depths of evolutionary thinking. For this argument dates back centuries (at least to 1734 when Daniel Bernoulli used it) and hinges on, like all evolutionary arguments, deep metaphysics.

The term “likelihood” here refers to the probability of the evidence (the vitamin C pseudogene patterns in this case) we observe given a hypothesis of how they arose. So the likelihood of common descent, in this case, is the probability of the vitamin C pseudogene patterns given that they arose via the process of common descent.

Now the trick evolutionists use is to compare this likelihood of common descent with the likelihood of random design (or as our elite evolutionist puts it above, “independently acquired by chance”).

Don’t worry if you haven’t understood a word of this explanation. Here is the plain English version: Evolutionists claim that similarities (and in particular similarities that are harmful) between species are powerful evidence for their theory because it is obvious that such similarities did not arise by chance.

This certainly is the Mother of all false dichotomies. When put into plain English it is astonishing.

To be sure, who would disagree that most similarities between species—including the vitamin C pseudogene patterns—probably did not arise by chance? That seems reasonable enough.

But evolutionists then claim that, therefore, their unlikely theory is compelling.

In other words, simply put, it’s either evolution or chance. Those are your choices. That’s it. This argument is prima facie absurd and it is astonishing that evolutionists are serious. But they are, and that makes it important. Until you understand the depths of these fallacies you will not understand evolutionary thought.

Of course what evolutionists have actually shown is that their theory is better than origin by pure chance. That’s what their argument reveals—one silly theory is more likely than another silly theory. And they call this science? Sorry but this does not make evolution a fact. In fact, evolution and common descent still have all the monumental problems they had before evolutionists made the argument. None of those problems went away just because of the non random vitamin C pseudogene patterns.

But this argument is typical, and it speaks volumes. Evolutionary thought is not merely science gone wrong. It is not the consequence of a faulty experiment or flawed theorem. It is an utterly ridiculous mandate, tracing back to antiquity, that the universe and everything in it must have just happened to arise spontaneously. The scientific absurdity of the idea is exceeded only the evolutionist’s certainty it is true. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Larry Moran: Vitamin C Pseudogene is Powerful Evidence

In his on-going criticism of Jonathan Wells’ new book, The Myth of Junk DNA, evolutionist Larry Moran now asserts that the much discussed vitamin C pseudogene is powerful evidence for evolution and common descent:

The main argument of scientists like Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne is not that the GULOP pseudogene exists. It's that the GULOP gene and its pseudogene are at the same location in the genomes of all mammals. In the primate lineage this gene is non-functional due to a number of mutations that make it impossible to produce a functional protein. Some of the same deactivating mutations are found in related species such as humans and chimpanzees. This suggests strongly that the non-functional pseudogene was inherited from a common ancestor.

How did Moran arrive at such a conclusion? Why is the vitamin C pseudogene such strong evidence for inheritance via common descent? Unfortunately, Moran fails to explain his reasoning. He simply asserts this amazing claim.

Evolution and common descent have failed to explain how the original vitamin C gene could have arisen. In fact they fail to explain how any protein could have arisen. They have also failed to explain how all of biology could have arisen.

This is not a good start. So far this evidential claim of Moran’s seems unlikely. But let’s look at the pseudogene in particular. Perhaps there is something about this pseudogene that will make the evidence more obvious. For example, perhaps evolution made a strong, heroic prediction about this pseudogene.

In fact, evolution and common descent made no such prediction.

Well is there, at least, a powerful retrodiction? Again, no. Well perhaps evolution and common descent would absolutely be falsified if there were no such vitamin C pseudogene. Again, the answer is no.

No prediction, no retrodiction, and no falsification. Evolution and common descent do not predict the vitamin C pseudogene, and they are not harmed if there was no such thing. This in addition to the fact that evolution and common descent do not explain how the original gene could have arisen in the first place.

Moran’s assertion that the vitamin C pseudogene is powerful evidence for his unlikely idea appears to be just that, an empty assertion.

The Evolution of Mat-Hugging

Did early multicellular animal life obtain its oxygen from floating microbial mats? Oxygen would have been scarce and this raises questions of how early animal life could have evolved. Evolutionists are now speculating that mats of photosynthetic bacteria might have supplied local high concentrations of oxygen:

Modern atmospheric oxygen levels average around 0.21 atm, but when multicellular life was evolving, levels of around 0.10 atm would have been the norm — too low for most multicellular organisms. "Daily fluctuations in oxygen would have made it very difficult for animals other than simple creatures like sponges to exist," explains Jim Gehling, a palaeontologist at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.

Gingras and his colleagues propose that the mats had a key role in helping early animals to get the oxygen they needed. "We think that animals used the small but highly oxygenated zones as oases," says Murray.

But even this idea has its challenges. Night time oxygen levels would have been too low and large animals might have had difficulty accessing the oxygen in the narrow mats. Perhaps, Gingras hypothesizes, evolution solved these problems with “mat-hugging behaviours.”

This sort of unfounded speculation is typical in evolutionary theory. It brings a creative, story-telling, element into science, where unlikely scenarios with little empirical support are routinely set forth as though they are genuine scientific explanations.

And, as in this example, these just-so stories often entail substantial serendipity. In this case, the evolution of multicellular animals is made possible by the earlier evolution of particular microbial mats and special mat-hugging behaviors.

Evolution must have first produced the needed lagoons, photosynthetic bacteria, and mat structures to set the stage. Then came multicellularity that just happened to have nearby mats available. Even with all this, however, problems remained. Evolution luckily just happened to produce the much-needed mat-hugging behavior. It was sheer luck (remember, evolution has no brains), but when that behavior happened to arise, it must have been wildly successful.

This, then, is science in the hands of evolutionists—a vehicle for story-telling. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Education of a Science Writer

Last week science writer John Farrell discussed the genetic evidence for evolution in his Technology article at Forbes. Farrell referenced evolutionist Stan Rice to argue the genome could not have been designed. Not only is it a clumsy design but it is susceptible to terrible, debilitating mutations. Such a design would never have been intended and must have evolved via the mindless play of natural processes.

Farrell’s other source was evolutionist Larry Moran, who has convinced Farrell that Jonathan Wells has it all wrong in his new book, The Myth of Junk DNA. As Farrell summarizes:

From which we are to conclude, the creationist argument goes, that most scientists are knee-jerk ideological Darwinists, and isn’t this another good reason to get a better theory like intelligent design into the public school science classrooms.

But Farrell’s conclusion does not stand up very well to a simple fact check. First, Wells is not a creationist. Second, Wells makes no argument for teaching intelligent design in public school science classrooms. Perhaps Farrell is confused because his source, Larry Moran, makes similarly erroneous claims.

Moran erroneously refers to Wells as a creationist. Moran also makes liberal use of the pejorative term “IDiot.” Why the harsh rhetoric? Let’s have a look.

Moran cries foul when Wells is asked in an interview to explain junk/non-coding DNA “for those who dropped science after Grade Ten.” Here is how Wells answered the question:

“Non-coding” in this context means “non-protein-coding.” An important function of our DNA is to specific the sequences of subunits (amino acids) in the proteins that (along with other types of molecules) make up our bodies. When molecular biologists discovered in the 1970s that about 98% of our DNA does not code for proteins, some biologists called non-protein-coding DNA “junk.”

This is a straightforward, factual response for those “who dropped science after Grade Ten.” But Moran warns that it is misleading. After all, there is non coding DNA, such as regulatory sequences and RNA genes, that we all agree is functional and not junk.

Anyone familiar with the subject matter will recognize this as a canard. Of course Wells is not referring to that small fraction of non coding DNA whose function was known in the 1970s. Wells is not giving a dissertation on the subject. He is giving a brief response, explaining why long stretches of DNA with no known function and not thought to be transcribed (not all non-protein-coding DNA), was considered to be junk DNA by some.

This is why discussions with evolutionists are often tedious. It is tiresome to stretch out explanations with lengthy caveats. And so, like lawyers, evolutionists follow the rule of “least charitable” reading to castigate those who doubt their dogma.

For sympathetic readers who are less familiar with the details of molecular biology, such as many science writers, Moran’s attempt to discredit will seem convincing.

Moran next thinks Wells has wrongly associated junk DNA with selection:

Implying that junk DNA has anything to do with Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is totally wrong. No matter how you define “neo-Darwinism” the fact remains that most biologists who believed in adaptation were very skeptical of junk DNA precisely because it didn’t fit with Darwin’s view of evolution.

But Wells made no such assertion. Wells explanation was thoughtful and circumspect. He explained that “According to Charles Darwin’s theory, all living things are descendants of common ancestors that have been modified solely by unguided natural processes that include variation and selection. In the modern version of his theory—neo-Darwinism— genes control embryo development, variations are due to differences in genes, and new variations originate in genetic mutations.”

In fact, Moran’s assertion that junk DNA can have nothing to do with evolution by natural selection is an overly simplistic, black-white version of the theory. While advocating natural selection Darwin’s book was full of examples of dysteleology, and the same is true of today’s literature. Those who view selection as more important tend to look for adaptive explanations, but that by no means absolutely rules out non adaptive explanations.

Moran also objects to Wells’ reference to Richard Dawkins and the concept of selfish DNA. Moran writes:

Dawkins was writing about selfish DNA when he wrote that passage in The Selfish Gene. Selfish DNA is not junk DNA. It has an adaptive purpose and a function. It is completely wrong to claim that Richard Dawkins was a big fan of junk DNA in the 1970s. Dawkins makes that very clear in The Extended Phenotype when he proposes various explanations for the extra DNA in our genome.

Completely wrong? Selfish DNA is not junk DNA? It has an adaptive purpose and a function? Dawkins proposes various explanations?

Once again, to the uninformed reader this criticism may seem damning. Most readers will not have read The Extended Phenotype and so will trust Moran. But again Moran’s criticisms are obvious canards to those more familiar with the material.

Dawkins does not propose various explanations for the extra DNA in our genome in The Extended Phenotype. He reviews a couple of concepts by way of introducing the selfish DNA concept which, contrary to Moran’s canard, does not have an adaptive purpose. Dawkins writes:

the thing to notice in the present context is that [adaptive explanations] are hypotheses made in the traditional mould; they are based on the idea that DNA, like any other aspect of an organism, is selected because it does the organism some good. The selfish DNA hypothesis is based on an inversion of this assumption: phenotypic characters are there because they help DNA to replicate itself [158]

Dawkins goes on to explain the concept of intragenomic selection that he views as selecting for selfish DNA:

“Intragenomic selection” can therefore lead to an increase in the amount of certain types of meaningless, or untranscribed, DNA, littered around and cluttering up the chromosomes. [161]

In other words, contrary to Moran’s canard, the selfish DNA concept did not include adaptive purpose and Dawkins did not propose various explanations.

These criticisms of Wells are not only unfounded, they come from Moran who, as an evolutionist, believes the world just happened to arise by chance. The entire biological world is a fluke that spontaneously arose. Indeed, Moran believes this is an obvious fact. After all, DNA, and the rest of this world, certainly would never have been designed:

It’s true that well-established bits of junk DNA—like known pseudogenes—have been effectively used to challenge the idea that our genome appears designed. Those examples remain powerful, and true, examples of evolution that cannot be explained by Intelligent Design Creationism. They have not been refuted and they have not been explained by the IDiots.

If it is true that junk DNA is impossible under creationism or design, then sure, they are probably “true” examples of evolution. But how does Moran know such truths? Metaphysical certainty is a dangerous thing. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From Philosopher to Science Writer: The Dissemination of Evolutionary Thought

Last week science writer John Farrell discussed the genetic evidence for evolution in his Technology article at Forbes. Farrell’s sources are evolutionists Larry Moran and Stan Rice. It is an interesting example of how evolutionary thinking is handed down and disseminated.

A strong framework

Three hundred years ago the famous and influential Lutheran polymath Gottfried Leibniz argued strenuously for what today is sometimes called naturalism. The idea that the world arose and operates strictly via the natural laws we observe has, historically, been mandated by a framework of interrelated theological and philosophical arguments.

The theological arguments deal mainly with the nature and attributes of a divine creator. The philosophical arguments, on the other hand, deal mostly with knowledge and how we obtain it. Or simply put, the theological arguments deal with god and the philosophical arguments deal with man.

While some of these arguments trace back to antiquity, the complete framework was developed and refined in the early years of modern science when Christian thought was applied to the growing movement of describing and understanding nature. By the mid eighteenth century—a century before Darwin wrote his book—the framework was largely complete.

As a leading intellectual Leibniz contributed substantially to the emerging framework. For example, Leibniz ruled out divine intervention, for it surely was a sign of a lesser, incompetent, creator whose natural laws were insufficient to do the job.

But Leibniz was by no means the only, or even the central, figure in the construction of this framework. What is interesting is how ubiquitous was the urge for naturalism. It was not confined to one genre of thought. It did not come from a particular discipline, or region or religion. Scientists, philosophers and theologians, on the continent and in Britain, Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic all contributed. And today we could add atheist to the list. As PZ Myers wrote:

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

Believing that god does not exist does not preclude believing things about god. In fact, ironically, atheists often hold their theological views more intensely than do “religious” people.

And not surprisingly, with his Lutheran background, Myers’ religious sentiment is nothing new. The idea that an omniscient, omnibenevolent creator would never have created this world comes right out of that seventeenth century framework for naturalism. Whether god creates via natural laws or whether, with Myers, we dispense altogether with this superfluous Prime Mover, matters little. The basic story line was already told long ago.

Understanding John Farrell (and all of evolution)

This centuries old framework for naturalism is key to understanding evolution today. Science writers such as Farrell report that scientists have discovered, for instance, “just how not-so-intelligently designed the human genome actually is,” but this is not a scientific conclusion. For unlike the target of his criticism (the ID theory) which refers to complexity rather than goodness of design, evolutionary thought and its underlying naturalism framework refer to the design’s metaphysics. As Farrell explains:

Many mutations are neutral, or can be easily overcome by technology. And some of them cause a great deal of psychological suffering, such as the mutation that causes trimethylaminuria, which is physically harmless but causes the victims to smell like rotten fish no matter how clean they are. But many other mutations are deadly or, worse yet, can cause a person to have a lifetime of suffering. Perhaps the most disturbing mutation is the one that causes Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. This one mutation, of a single amino acid in a protein, causes the victim to have an uncontrollable compulsion for self-mutilation: they chew their own lips and fingers, and find sharp objects to stab their faces and eyes. The victims are fully able to feel their pain and they know what they are doing, but cannot control it.

Obviously to argue such mutations are the product of intentional design is to suggest the deity or intelligence responsible, is something of a monster.

Indeed. Leibniz was concerned about the evil in the world, but he had no idea how deeply it runs. It is truly abominable, and it makes for a moving and powerful argument that no good creator who has the power to create a universe would ever create this one.

Whether by the Epicurean’s swerving atoms, or science’s natural laws, the world must have arisen on its own.

How could anyone deny this obvious conclusion? This and other metaphysical arguments leave no room for debate. Evolution must be true. We may not know how it occurred, but it is a fact.

The powerful theory of evolution hangs on this framework of thought that mandates naturalism. The science is weak but the metaphysics are strong. This is the key to understanding evolutionary thought. The weak arguments are scientific and the strong arguments, though filled with empirical observation and scientific jargon, are metaphysical. The stronger the argument, the more theological or philosophical.

Oblivious to this context Farrell continues:

But it’s even more problematic, Rice argues: the very structure of the genome itself—not just the mutations—is inconsistent with the idea that the genome, or the human body, or the world was directly designed by an external agent.

The human genome is full of stuff that interferes with the use of genetic information to produce healthy and functional enzymes and bodies. First, consider the fact that only about 1 percent of human DNA codes for those enzymes. About 68 percent of the DNA consists of non-coding DNA that is between the genes, and about 31 percent of the DNA consists of non-coding DNA that is inside of the genes. This is, at best, a clumsy system, because whenever a cell divides, all of this DNA is copied, not just the DNA that the cell will use. In addition, since each gene is broken into little “exon” fragments by a large amount of internal “intron” DNA, the genetic information must be spliced together in order to be put to use. That is, to get a functional enzyme, the genetic information from lots of exon fragments has to be cobbled together. If it works, there is no problem, but the whole system is so cumbersomely complex that it often fails. Not only are many genetic diseases caused by mutations in the genes themselves, but many genetic diseases are caused by (or also caused by) failures of the cell to deal properly with the non-coding DNA and the splicing.

Science writers are at the end of the dissemination chain. Evolutionary thought began with the theologians and philosophers. Their ideas informed institutions and culture. By the time Darwin developed his theory the ground was well prepared and all his strong arguments were non scientific. Nothing has changed today except the details. Evolutionists continue to issue their scientifically absurd proclamations that everything spontaneously arose by itself. They are absolutely certain of this, and inform us that doubters must be religious fundamentalists. Next historians, philosophers and intellectuals apply these evolutionary truths to their respective fields. The world is explained in terms of evolutionary thought. Finally the science writers regurgitate the dogma that is handed down to them. At this point the story line cannot be changed or questioned. The authorities are too intimidating and institutions too overwhelming. The ridiculous must be true. In fact, it must not even be ridiculous.

Next we’ll look at Farrell’s other source, Larry Moran.