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 naïve 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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "So red flags were raised as students sensed a canard...Eyes rolled..."

    How were you able to see these reactions? Online courses normally only allow you to see the teaching materials and the instructor, but not others taking the course.

  3. Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is, like the peppered moth example a minor change in gene frequencies (there are still lots of malaria bacteria out there not resistant to chloroquine). And even then, the micro-evolution of resistance has been tremendously exaggerated by injection of human information in the form of the many researchers who have refined or synthesized the antibiotics, and the public policy officials who have intentionally and intelligently planned, organized and carried out the equivalent of a program of genocide (aimed at the bacteria of course). This is not truly natural selection after all.

  4. I suppose wiser students have decided that refuting Cornelius in defense of Noor would be an exercise in futility. So before I proceed to my argument, I think it is worth noting that mr. Hunter did ***not*** complete the class. I did. With that out of the way, I proceed to my argument which goes like this:

    Noor is the best! His class was amazing! And you, Sir, missed out... Big time. (or maybe big bang time?)