Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Whitney Tilson’s Diatribe Explains Why Science (Still) Doesn’t Matter

The conviction that the world must have arisen spontaneously dates back to antiquity and is no less strong today. Its contemporary label is evolution and if you want your funding, or just respectability, you must accept it. Skepticism of the power of spontaneity is not allowed as this latest post from investor and all-around smart-guy Whitney Tilson makes clear:

Even if Romney is a pragmatic centrist, I question his ability to act independently of a party that I fear has become beholden to people I view as extremists – anti-intellectuals who are hostile to women, minorities, the poor, immigrants, and gays, and who don’t believe in evolution, diplomacy, protecting the environment, equality for women, global warming, and gun control.

Can you imagine doubting evolution in the company of elites such as Tilson? You would automatically qualify, in their view, as an extremist. To question whether all of biology could have somehow arisen by itself makes you an anti-intellectual. On the other hand the evolutionist’s insistence that they hold the truth is the intellectual approach.

For evolutionists, their views are true and good and anyone who so much as doubts is automatically linked to all manner of nefarious thoughts and deeds.

Ironically all this comes after Tilson complains that “the political environment has become very toxic.” So while pointing the finger and castigating those who don’t silently go along with their dogma, evolutionists simultaneously bemoaning the toxic environment.

Religion drives science and it matters.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In a Few Minutes Felix Baumgartner Will Jump

In a few minutes Felix Baumgartner will jump from his capsule at an altitude of 120,000 feet.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mohamed Noor: Evolution is True Because We Say So

Today’s first set of lectures in Mohamed Noor’s Introduction to Genetics and Evolution course would seem downright bizarre to anyone not familiar with evolutionary thinking. Noor is teaching this course via through the coursera on-line service and the Earl D. McLean Professor and Associate Chair of Biology at Duke University is maximizing accessibility to his material by minimizing the course prerequisites. Non specialists are welcome and many newcomers to evolutionary thought, now seeing what it is—or should we say what it isn’t—have sunk back in their chairs with blank stares wondering what in the world evolutionists such as Noor are thinking.

Framing the debate

This first day of class was mostly about evolution and why it is a no-brainer. Noor repeatedly and triumphantly declared evolution to be true. With such a startling claim students naturally had their interest piqued and expectations raised. What secrets would the confident professor unveil to make good on his incredible claim. How does he know evolution to be true?

Things turned strange however, at least for those not familiar with evolution, when Noor attempted to justify his heroic claim. Noor began with the usual equivocation when he defined evolution as “change through time” that occurs over multiple generations. We’ve seen this fallacy many times before as it is standard amongst evolutionists (see here, here, here and here and here). So red flags were raised as students sensed a canard. Was Noor’s celebration merely about “change through time”?

As if to confirm suspicions Noor next used an absurd example of a population of light and dark colored moths. Due to industrial pollution the predominant color in the population shifted from light to dark due to predation by birds. Eyes rolled as even newcomers could see this had nothing to do with evolution’s claim that millions of species arose from a warm little pond or deep sea vent.

Next Noor took the absurdity one step further. Noor claimed confidently and unequivocally that evolution is “a mathematical inevitably.” There is no way to avoid having evolution by natural selection, Noor assured the students, if some very simple conditions are met.

And what are those simple conditions? Students were astonished as Noor presented a cartoon example of a population of squirrels, some of which feared asphalt and so avoided being run over by automobiles, and the rest which did not fear asphalt and so were not able to leave as many offspring. In all seriousness Noor worked through this trivial example as though it actually proves evolution to be “a mathematical inevitably.”

Things turned from bad to worse when the students next had to endure yet another round of evolution’s whig history. Noor began with the mandatory retelling of the mythical 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial which the professor was only too happy to propagate. And it ended with Noor’s scolding of the people of Kansas who have had the audacity to request that the science be taught in their schools without first presuming evolution to be true.

Noor’s next canard was the typical equating of evolution with antibiotic resistance. Harmful bacteria gain resistance to antibiotics so new antibiotics are then designed and the bacteria then follow in turn, gaining yet more resistance. For evolutionists such as Noor, it is all part of the evolutionary lore. How could we possibly understand this critical public health issue without his truth that all of biology spontaneously arose?

It’s called framing the debate. Before evolutionists present their evidence, they frame the theory and its evidences in a cultural mandate. First and foremost, evolution is true from the start. Next evolution is cast as objective science in pursuit of the good. And skeptics are cast as forces of ignorance and darkness. It is the standard presentation of evolution that is full of bad science and bad history.

The evidence for the truth of evolution

When professor Noor finally arrived at the evidence for evolution it was, not surprisingly, a let down. In fact, Noor did not even attempt to show that the evidence demonstrates evolution to be true.

He simply continued to insist it is true while proceeding through a list of evidences, making various unscientific and fallacious claims as he went and ignoring monumental scientific problems.

For instance, Noor claimed that evolution’s prediction that early life should be simple has been confirmed. The professor is apparently unaware of life science research showing the enormous complexity that must have existed in early life if evolution is true. From our brain to vision, DNA repair mechanisms, the last universal common ancestor (LUCA), the genome and the proteome, high complexity is ubiquitous and must have existed early in evolutionary history. As one report explained:

Simple cells like bacteria are supposed to be, well, simple. They might have transformed Earth because of their unimaginable numbers, but they’re little more than tiny, solitary bags of chemicals. Or so we thought. Here, New Scientist looks at the growing number of exceptions to the rules. The most recent discoveries are challenging our ideas about the nature of early life.

For instance, evolutionists have been forced to conclude that the last common ancestor of eukaryotes must have had not only the vast majority of the complex DNA replication, RNA splicing and interference, and protein translation machinery, it was also capable of advanced movement and was equipped with versatile energy conversion systems. Or as one evolutionist conceded, it is the “Incredible Expanding Ancestor of Eukaryotes.” Incredibly, evolutionists now view the origin of the amoeba as a giant step, and of man a small step.

Indeed, even the LUCA must have possessed incredible complexity. As one evolution admitted, “In short, then, the last common ancestor of all life looks pretty much like a modern cell.” Or as another report explained:

It is commonly believed that complex organisms arose from simple ones. Yet analyses of genomes and of their transcribed genes in various organisms reveal that, as far as protein-coding genes are concerned, the repertoire of a sea anemone—a rather simple, evolutionarily basal animal—is almost as complex as that of a human.

You can read more about these here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But Noor’s blunder did not stop there. Not only has the science falsified evolution’s prediction that early life is simple, Noor next explained that “only later would more ‘modern’ forms appear.” That, of course, is a tautology. Species that come later are more “modern” to evolutionists because they come later.

From there Noor moved to na├»ve falsificationism, explaining to the student that “There are no rabbits in the Precambrian era.” This is a famous low hurdle that evolutionists like to set for themselves, and Noor used it to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent as he explained:

That [the rabbit] has not been found, so there has not been an observation to refute the truth of evolutionary common ancestry.

There are no rabbits in the ancient strata so therefore “there has not been an observation to refute the truth of evolutionary common ancestry”?

Evolutionists are known for sloppy logic and fallacious reasoning, but with this statement jaws were dropping. “Refute the truth of evolutionary common ancestry”?

Noor next wanted to demonstrate evidence of species gradually changing. Amazingly the best he could do was to show the horse lineage—an example that has endured much evolutionary abuse. Indeed, what the horse lineage shows is long periods of stasis and abrupt appearance of new species—precisely the opposite of what Noor sought to demonstrate.

For transitional forms Noor showed a feathered dinosaur and the whale lineage, ignoring the actual data and instead showing a clean, sanitized lineage of creatures leading to the modern whale. The empirical evidence looks more like a bush, but evolutionists carefully draw the best lineage they can and carefully edit out the rest of the bush, giving the student an entirely false impression of the scientific data.

Next the professor proclaimed that vestigial organs are “very difficult to explain except in the context of common ancestry.” What he didn’t explain is that the term “vestigial” presupposes that said organs are evolutionary leftovers. In other words, evolution is assumed in the very interpretation of the organs. Noor’s question-begging did not stop there as his next topic was “vestigial” genes.

Noor followed this with examples from biogeography. Oceanic islands have many native birds and insects, but lack native mammals, amphibians, and freshwater fish. And new species introduced to the islands competed very well. Also, these islands often have species that are similar to those on the nearest mainland.

At this point Noor’s presentation was increasingly incoherent. He didn’t attempt to provide predictions or otherwise explain how this biogeographical evidence confirmed evolution as he claimed it did. He finished up with an equally bizarre discussion of inefficient designs, using the laryngeal nerve as his example.

There was no explanation of how inefficient designs and the other evidences prove evolution to be a fact. There were no prior or conditional probabilities, no treatment of contradictory evidences, not even a discussion of how one would, in principle, prove evolution to be a fact.

It was all just an obvious truism to Noor for which the details could be left up to the student. Noor simply threw up a sequence of evidences—oblivious to their warts and fallacies—and at the end was as certain evolution is true as he was at the beginning. The evidence really didn’t matter. If it did Noor wouldn’t be an evolutionist.

And what are we to learn from this exercise in banality? A top professor at a top university gave a lecture on how something comes from nothing and how he knows it is true. In the process he exposed evolutionary thought for all to see. There were fallacies and misrepresentation galore and it was downright embarrassing. Students who wanted to understand the gist of evolution got what they paid for.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Evolutionists Now Claim Directed Adaptation is Evolution in “Real Time”

If you remove the caterpillars from an evening primrose population, the plants will adjust, and adjust fast. Within even a few generations intelligent changes arise reflecting the absence of the predator. For instance, in plots protected from insects, the flowering time and defensive chemicals against the insects adjust. The plant’s resistance to insects is reduced, which makes sense since the insects are no longer attacking the plant. And in exchange, the plant’s competitive ability is improved. In other words, remove a threat that the plant had to defend against, and the plant population immediately and intelligently exploits the opportunity. It is yet another fascinating example of biology’s many built-in adaptation capabilities. Yet evolutionists claim it demonstrates evolution occurring in “real time.” To understand this move we need to begin with three underlying concepts: deep time, the definition of evolution and blowback.

Deep time

When Darwin was developing his theory, the age of the earth was not well understood. Darwin himself advocated a 400 million year or more age for the earth, which he considered to be required for the new species to evolve. Not surprisingly, arguments that the earth must be younger were one of Darwin’s “sorest troubles.” As Cherry Lewis of the University of Bristol has explained, “The age of the Earth was hugely important for people like Darwin who needed enormous amounts of time in which evolution could occur. As Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s chief advocate said: ‘Biology takes its time from Geology’.”

Eventually those arguments fell by the wayside and in the twentieth century the age of the earth was extended into the billions of years. All was well as evolution had its much needed deep time. You can read more about this here. The point is that because evolution is based on random chance, it would require a very long time to construct biology’s many wonders.

But a century later the story is changing. What science reveals is remarkable changes can come about in only a few years time as populations respond to environmental shifts and challenges. The reason such change can arise quickly because it is not by chance. It is not brought about by random mutations undergoing natural selection. Instead, it is directed by complex adaptation mechanisms, built-in to the species.

Amazingly, the response of evolutionists has been to claim this is yet more proof of evolution. They do this by equivocating on evolution.

The definition of evolution

As we have pointed out before the word evolution can take on different meanings. Probably the most concise definition of evolution is: the origin of species by strictly natural means. More generally evolution refers to cosmological origins as well as biological origins. In other words, the naturalistic origin of everything.

For centuries now theologians, philosophers and scientists have insisted upon the truth of this naturalistic origin of the world for religious reasons. Today we simply say that evolution is a fact. The problem, however, is that the origin of species by strictly natural means runs afoul of the science. Over and over evolution’s explanations and expectations turn up false or unlikely. One problem, such as with the evening primrose, is that the biological change we do observe tends to be in the form of rapid and effective directed adaptations to environmental changes brought about by built-in sophisticated mechanisms.

Not only is this change not caused by chance events such as random mutations, but evolution does not explain scientifically how such sophisticated adaptation mechanisms could have evolved in the first place.

So one strategy evolutionists have adopted is simply to redefine evolution merely as change over time, or as changes in allele frequencies over time. You can see examples of this here, here, here and here.

Of course such definitions are vacuous and trivial. Indeed they would render creationism as a form of evolution. But they make evolution undeniably true. And they immediately transform contradictory findings, such as directed adaptations, from problems to confirmations. This brings us to the problem of evolutionary blowback.

Evolutionary blowback

Evolution is motivated and justified by theological concerns. As such evolution is a vector for religious influence and control of science. But the harm does not stop there. To absorb and sustain science’s many refutations of their dogma, evolutionists equivocate on evolution and redefine it as the unfalsifiable concept of change over time. Consequently all new findings, no matter how contradictory, are simply interpreted as some new form of evolution, no matter how absurd.

In the evening primrose study, evolutionists now use the term real-time evolution as a euphemism for the observed rapid adaptation. As one report explained, “evolution can happen more quickly than was previously assumed, even over a single generation.” The report also included explanations from evolutionist Marc Johnson making clear the equivocation:

Johnson says that evolution, which is simply a change in genotype frequency over time, was observed in all plots after only a single generation. … “What this research shows is that changes in these plant populations were not the result of genetic drift, but directly due to natural selection by insects on plants,” says Johnson. “It also demonstrates how rapidly evolutionary change can occur -- not over millennia, but over years, and all around us.”

It is the ultimate form of blowback. Evolution is redefined as mere genetic change over time and so then mere genetic change over time becomes yet more confirmation of evolution. The evening primrose response to the lack of insects is not interpreted scientifically as an adaptation, but rather as a demonstration of evolution, even real-time evolution.

Of course there is nothing in these new findings to suggest the adaptations of the evening primrose could somehow accumulate to provide the large-scale changes evolution requires to explain the origin of species. Indeed evolutionists have no scientific explanation for such large-scale and complexity occurring spontaneously, as they claim it must have.

But none of that matters because evolution is now genetic change over time. When it comes to confirming evolution, evolutionists point to the trivial. And then when it comes interpreting evolution, evolutionists insist it is a fact that the biological world arose by itself. Should we laugh or cry?

Religion drives science, and it matters.