Sunday, December 14, 2014

Origin of Life Research Has Failed to Generate a Coherent and Persuasive Framework

A Maze of Madness

Because while Franklin Harold wonders in 2014 if “we may still be missing some essential insight” (given that a century of origin of life research “has failed to generate a coherent and persuasive framework that gives meaning to the growing heap of data and speculation” and has “remarkably little to show for” for all the effort expended), it was, in fact, just over a century ago when evolution’s co-founder, the great Alfred Russel Wallace, provided exactly what Harold may be looking for, to wit:

there was at some stage in the history of tile earth, after the cooling process, a definite act of creation. Something came from the outside. Power was exercised from without. In a word, life was given to the earth. … Postulate organization first, and make it the origin and cause of life, and you lose yourself in a maze of madness. An honest and unswerving scrutiny of nature forces upon the mind this certain truth, that at some period of the earth's history there was an act of creation …

But who is capable of such “honest and unswerving scrutiny”? For as I explained in Science’s Blind Spot, this never was about honest, objective scientific inquiry:

Naturalism has no way to distinguish a paradigm problem from a research problem. It cannot consider the possibility that there is no naturalistic explanation for the DNA code. This is science's blind spot. If a theory of natural history has problems—and many of them have their share—the problems are always viewed as research problems and never as paradigm problems. … Problems are never interpreted as problems with the paradigm. No matter how badly naturalism performs, when explanations do not fit the data very well, they are said to be research problems. They must be, for there is no option for considering that a problem might be better handled by another paradigm.

The problem with evolutionary theory is not that the naturalistic approach might occasionally be inadequate. The problem is that evolutionists would never know any better.

And so what Harold does not, and cannot, tell his readers is that our problem in figuring out the evolution of life may be more serious than merely “missing some essential insight.” Our problem may be that our methodological naturalism mandate has planted us firmly in the belly of anti realism. Or more simply put, there may be no naturalistic explanation. It may not be that we are missing some essential insight, but rather that there simply is no such insight to be found.

In fact that is what the science has been indicating for a long time. The strictly naturalistic evolution of life, of eukaryotes, of multicellular species, of fish, of reptiles, of amphibia, of mammals, and of a thousand other novelties is unlikely. Period. That is what the science is telling us, like it or not.

But evolutionists cannot say that. They cannot admit to the scientific truth. In fact, quite the opposite and quite unbelievably, they insist evolution is a fact beyond all reasonable doubt.

Evolutionists say that their skeptics oppose science, present theories that are driven by presupposition and are unfalsifiable. But all of that precisely describes evolution. Why can't we just tell the truth?

[h/t: The Man]

Saturday, December 13, 2014

This Paper Explains How Potassium Channels Evolved

Promoting Evolution Literacy

The evolution of proteins such as potassium channels, according to a recent paper, occurs easily and is a good opportunity for communicating evolutionary principles, promoting evolution literacy, and refuting the misleading message of “design creationism” which is empirically unfounded and conceptually wrong. Nothing more than mutations and natural selection are sufficient to explain the origin of highly specialized proteins such as potassium channels. Those are important claims given the consistent message from both experiments and theory that protein evolution is so astronomically unlikely it can safely be put in the “impossible” category. There is only one problem: the paper is all wrong.

One problem with evolutionists writing papers which are peer reviewed by other evolutionists, for consumption by yet other evolutionists, is the lack of scientific scrutiny. In this case the paper presents a silly calculation for the evolution of a potassium channel protein that wouldn’t stand up even to minimal legitimate peer review. The calculation multiplies a nominal mutation rate per generation by a nominal generation rate per year by several millions of years to obtain 483, which is the length of the protein coding gene sequence.

In other words, all that is needed are millions of years and roughly a mutation per nucleotide and, there you have it, a potassium channel gene emerges. Along the way the paper sports the usual teleological language (natural selection is a “tinkerer”), evolution is full of serendipity (the cellular chemical apparatus that magically generates new proteins is itself a product “of Darwinian evolution”) and so forth. The paper, as they say, isn’t even wrong. But at least it promotes evolution literacy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Evolution: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Man’s Imagination

Evolutionary thinking did not begin with Darwin, but it did receive a substantial boost when the Sage of Kent published his theory in 1859. It is often said that evolution is the most influential scientific theory in areas outside of science. That certainly is true, though with the caveat that evolution is hardly a scientific theory. Demarcating just what is and isn’t science is notoriously difficult, but when advocates are dead certain their idea is an undeniable fact because their metaphysics requires it, in spite of overwhelming empirical contradictions, you can be sure we are nowhere close to that Baconian ideal of natural philosophy. Evolution isn’t merely about mutations and fossils. It is an overarching creation story with deep metaphysics that has spread throughout the world. As such it has enormous influence.

Evolutionary thinking goes back centuries and it deals with the fundamental question of origins. Tell me where you think you came from, it is said, and I’ll tell you everything else you believe—at least everything that is important. The answer for evolutionists is that we are the product of happenstance. The world arose by itself, the result of chance and necessity—random events driven by blind natural laws while the Creator, like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, meditates on a distant Mount Olympus.

That idea, in the history of thought, is highly unfortunate. Yes it is scientifically unlikely (I’m being kind), but that is only the beginning. Ideas have consequences and in a chilling anticipation of what was to come, the early critic Adam Sedgwick lamented to Darwin that with evolution humanity would suffer damage that “might brutalize it” and sink the human race “into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen”:

Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.

If only Sedgwick could have read Nietzsche’s warning that it was the sick, the oppressed, the broken and the weak, rather than evil men, who were the greatest threat to humanity. If only Sedgwick could have seen the onset of eugenics, the Holocaust, abortion, and other forms of genocide. Sedgwick correctly foresaw the terrible consequences of the modern day resurrection of the Epicurean idea that something, and in fact everything, came from nothing.

Unfortunately these are hardly the only influences of evolutionary thought. We are, for example, awash in pornography which is incredibly demeaning of women. No, pornography is not a healthy, artful expression as many evolutionists argue.

The evolutionist’s support of such ills as eugenics, abortion and pornography is telling. It reveals once again that ideas have consequences. Not only did evolutionary thought lead historically to a host of downfalls, today’s evolutionists readily confirm the link.

Sedgwick warned that Darwin had made claims well beyond the limits of science. Darwin had issued truths that were not likely ever to be found anywhere “but in the fertile womb of man’s imagination.” Unfortunately that is precisely where it counts.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Potassium Channels Even More Clever Than Thought

What Was Thought to be the Problem is Actually the Solution

At the cellular level our bodies depend on a delicate balance of ions that is constantly adjusted. Potassium ions, for example, are atoms with one missing electron which are constantly streaming into or out of our cells. These positively charged ions enter and exit the cell via huge protein machines called channels which are imbedded in the cell wall and, like a donut, have a hole in the middle through which the ions flow. What is astonishing is how well these channels work. Not only do they open and close as needed, but they have two seemingly impossible design features. On the one hand they are extremely selective, allowing only a particular type of ion to flow through it. But on the other hand, they allow the chosen ions to flow through incredibly fast. It would seem that high selectivity would come at the cost of a slow transmission rate. But no, potassium channels for instance filter out practically everything but potassium ions, and yet their flow rate is practically at the maximum speed that is physically attainable. Now a recent study has added more information about how potassium channels perform their amazing feats.

One of the conundrums with ion channels is how ions of like charge, which therefore repulse each other, could be stuffed through the small hole in the ion channel protein machine. One possible answer is that the ions are separated from each other. For more than a decade now it has been thought that the potassium ions flowing through potassium channels are separated by water molecules. This would avoid the problem that the positively charged potassium ions repel each other, not making for a very smooth or concentrated flow.

The new study, however, persuasively argues that, in fact, the potassium ions travel together, not separated by water molecules. This higher concentration of potassium ions is achieved with a subtle, complex design of the charge contour within the channel. In fact, as the paper explains, the “repulsion between adjacent ions is found to be the key to high-efficiency K+ conduction.”

That's incredible, and this poses a problem for the theory of evolution because it means that random mutations, rather than forming a gene that produces some simple, easily formed molecular donut, instead must have discovered an astronomically unlikely design. Final causes and teleology which are so much despised by evolutionists are clearly the better explanation for the potassium channel. No that doesn’t mean science comes to an end, no that is not a religious explanation, and no that isn’t the final word in the matter. That is just what the science is telling us, loud and clear.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Chemist: “They Just Stare at Me”

“Because it’s a Scary Thing”

Yesterday James Tour, who in 2009 was ranked one of the top 10 chemists in the world, explained that evolutionists do not understand how evolution could have created life. What’s worse, Tour explains that there is a lack of clarity about this scientific fact. In public, evolutionists insist evolution is a fact beyond all reasonable doubt. But in private, they admit there is no such scientific knowledge:

“Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science—with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners,” Tour stated. “I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public—because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said—I say, ‘Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?’”

The answer he inevitably receives, Tour explained, is: “no.”

“Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go, ‘Uh-uh. Nope.’” Tour said. “And if they’re afraid to say ‘yes,’ they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.”

The truth is a scary thing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Evolution Professor: We Evolved to be More Complex

Serendipity and Aristotelianism

We recently saw how evolutionists are elaborating on what they view as an evolutionary arms race within our genome. Rival elements battle it out as transposable elements invade and repressors seek to shut them down. The transposable elements are “continually evolving to escape repression,” while the repressors adjust and find new ways to defeat the transposable elements. It is “a never-ending race” according to one evolutionist. The backstory here is the on-going historical feud between those who view nature as perfect and those who view nature as evil. In the eighteenth century, for instance, the English natural theologians presented a decidedly optimistic, rosy version of the world, to which Hume responded that “A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures,” and that nature is so arranged so as “to embitter the life of every living being.” So who is right? The answer, of course, is that both are right. Nature is both wonderful and dangerous at the same time. As usual the heresy is not in recognizing these obvious truths, but in emphasizing and dwelling on one side of the spectrum, to the exclusion of the other. Creation and Scripture—general revelation and special revelation—are studies in contrast. Science requires recognizing both sides of the contrast, and keeping them both in view together. Show me a cult, either religious or scientific, and I’ll show you people who are fixated on one end of a spectrum. The result is a lopsided theory that makes no sense.

Consider the genomic arms race idea, for example. First, it requires rapid evolution of astonishing complexity. Not likely. Second, it calls upon a monumental amount of serendipity. Humans and frogs have “basically the same 20,000 protein-coding genes as a frog, yet our genome is much more complicated, with more layers of gene regulation.” How did that happen? Those astonishing levels of sophistication and subtlety in the human genome arose with the help of these invading transposable elements. The incredible regulation machanisms that arose to repress them, just happened to take on other roles as well. This resulted in primates and ultimately humans. Really? Evolution just happened to produce transposable elements, and they then became evolutionary mechanisms? In other words, evolution created evolution. As the report summarizes, “repressor genes that originally evolved to shut down jumping genes have since come to play other regulatory roles in the genome.” That was lucky.

Furthermore, to understand and communicate this story, evolutionists dive deep into the waters of Aristotelianism. It is the ultimate internal contradiction, for the theory that is supposed to represent the triumph over teleology is, itself, immersed in it. Consider these examples:

a transposable element changed to become expressed and replicated itself throughout the genome

The way this type of repressor works, part of it binds to a specific DNA sequence and part of it binds other proteins to recruit a whole complex of proteins that creates a repressive landscape in the genome. This affects other nearby genes, so now you have a potential new layer of regulation available for further evolution.

the transposable elements are themselves continually evolving to escape repression

This paper shows how important it is to integrate computational and experimental approaches to fundamental scientific problems, such as how and why we continuously evolve to be more complex.

For each wave, the host eventually finds a way to repress retrotransposon transcription and prevent further insertions.

KZNF genes rapidly evolved to repress these two distinct retrotransposon families

evolved earlier to repress the primate L1 lineage

followed by mutations in these retrotransposons to evade repression

Evolving to escape repression? Changed to become? We evolved to be more complex? This is not science, this is story telling. We need to stay with the evidence.

Here’s Another Finding Against Junk DNA

Heterochromatin More Complicated Than Thought

A new study is revealing yet more evidence that the so-called “junk” DNA is much more complex than evolutionists had predicted. As one report explains:

The game-changing discovery was part of a study led by Texas A&M biology doctoral candidate John C. Aldrich and Dr. Keith A. Maggert, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, to measure variation in heterochromatin. This mysterious, tightly packed section of the vast, non-coding section of the human genome, widely dismissed by geneticists as “junk,” previously was thought by scientists to have no discernable function at all.

There is still much to learn about these non-coding sections, but each new finding reveals yet more complexity. As professor Maggert explains:

The heterochromatin that we study definitely has effects, but it's not possible to think of it as discrete genes. So, we prefer to think of it as 30,000 protein-coding genes plus this one big, complex one that can orchestrate the other 30,000.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Findings: Human Genome was Shaped by an Evolutionary Arms Race

From Hume to Carlin

In our cells there are mobile genes and there are complex genetic regulatory systems, and sometimes these two come together. Mobile genes with complex genetic regulatory systems is a challenge for evolution to explain for in a relatively short amount of time evolution must have developed these amazing regulatory systems. But just has Hume explained that “A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures,” and that nature is so arranged so as “to embitter the life of every living being”; and Malthus explained that populations struggle for limited resources; and Spencer characterized life as the survival of the fittest, so too today’s evolutionists describe these unlikely findings as the result of an on-going war, this time within our genome (please watch the 30 second video above before reading the abstract below):

Throughout evolution primate genomes have been modified by waves of retrotransposon insertions. For each wave, the host eventually finds a way to repress retrotransposon transcription and prevent further insertions. In mouse embryonic stem cells, transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons requires KAP1 (also known as TRIM28) and its repressive complex, which can be recruited to target sites by KRAB zinc-finger (KZNF) proteins such as murine-specific ZFP809 which binds to integrated murine leukaemia virus DNA elements and recruits KAP1 to repress them. KZNF genes are one of the fastest growing gene families in primates and this expansion is hypothesized to enable primates to respond to newly emerged retrotransposons. However, the identity of KZNF genes battling retrotransposons currently active in the human genome, such as SINE-VNTR-Alu (SVA) and long interspersed nuclear element 1 (L1), is unknown. Here we show that two primate-specific KZNF genes rapidly evolved to repress these two distinct retrotransposon families shortly after they began to spread in our ancestral genome. ZNF91 underwent a series of structural changes 8–12 million years ago that enabled it to repress SVA elements. ZNF93 evolved earlier to repress the primate L1 lineage until ~12.5 million years ago when the L1PA3-subfamily of retrotransposons escaped ZNF93’s restriction through the removal of the ZNF93-binding site. Our data support a model where KZNF gene expansion limits the activity of newly emerged retrotransposon classes, and this is followed by mutations in these retrotransposons to evade repression, a cycle of events that could explain the rapid expansion of lineage-specific KZNF genes.

In evolutionary theory death is the engine of progress and existence is an on-going battle.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Here’s Why the Problem of Evil is a Religious Argument

Not Just Philosophical

Election season is upon us and we hope for clarity in the debates to come. Too often campaign strategies involve ambiguity, avoiding difficult questions and political calculation. But sometimes the candidates’ positions on the issues, and their point of disagreement, are clear for all to see. I would rather have such clarity, even if I disagree on some of the issues. As with politics, the origins debate also sometimes lacks clarity. I don’t have a problem with disagreement, but I hope people understand what they are disagreeing on. A good example is the problem of evil. It is often at the heart of disagreements in the origins debate, and because it deals with ultimate issues it offers a clear distinction between positions. There’s just one problem: many people do not understand it, including those who use it.

Consider evolutionist Jerry Coyne. Coyne uses the POE, but doesn’t understand it (see here, here, here and here, for example).  The POE, and variations of it such as the problem of dysteleology, are based on the premise that if God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, then there would be no evil (or no dysteleology, which, in practice is simply a catch-all term for anything that we don’t think God would have created). Evil and dysteleology exist, so therefore there is a problem. Ever since antiquity the problem has been solved by distancing God from creation. From the Gnostics and Epicureans to the Darwinists, the solution is that the world arose on its own. From the randomly swerving atoms of the Epicureans to the random mutations of the Darwinists, God is not responsible for this world because intermediate causes were to blame.

Now there are multiple problems with this reasoning, but here I’ll focus on just one: although Coyne claims arguments from dysteleology and imperfections are merely scientific, they are not. They are religious.

I’m not saying that religious arguments are, by definition, bad things. I’m just saying they shouldn’t be confused with science. PZ Myers made such an argument from the pages of the Los Angeles Times, and then, like Coyne, claimed it was not a religious argument.

In fact this is a running argument in the evolution literature. Make arguments that entail claims about God, and then claim there is no religion.

Sorry but arguments that entail assumptions about God are religious.

Evolutionists make three different arguments attempting to refute this obvious fact. Let’s look at each one.

First, evolutionists say the POE is simply a philosophical observation. There is no religious premise involved. In other words, given that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is a necessary consequence that there would be no evil (or dysteleology, imperfections, etc.). God simply wouldn’t allow it, period. That just follows from simple logic.

The problem with this argument is that it is just false. There is no nice way to put it. And when I say it is false, I am not making a religious claim. Now we’re talking about a philosophical observation. Given the premise that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is not a necessary consequence that there would be no evil.

The only way to arrive at that conclusion is to add another, unspoken, premise. And, yes, it must be a religious premise. You see Coyne is the one who brought religion into the discussion. And he is the one who is in denial about it. And he is the one who points the finger at the other guy for doing what he did.

Second, evolutionists say they are merely testing the creationist model. They aren’t making any religious claims, but merely evaluating those who do. But if that were the case their argument would do nothing for evolution. All they would have proved is that some creationist somewhere has a failed model.

In fact Coyne never cites creationists. For instance, one of Coyne’s myriad examples of dysteleology is lanugo, a fine, downy coat of hair humans have in an embryonic stage. According to Coyne this makes no sense and “can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry.” [Why Evolution is True, 80]

Coyne gives no reference to creationists, but even if there was a creationist who said God would never create lanugo in human embryos, it would not mean that lanugo could only be explained with evolution. Such metaphysical certainty requires a strong underlying premise. Lanugo could not have been intended or created by the Creator, period. Not according to some creationist. Only religion can provide such certainty. The claim that Coyne, Myer and the rest are merely testing the creationist model is a canard.

Third, it is sometimes said that evolutionists such as Coyne and Myers are atheists. It is as though, qua atheists, they can make whatever religious claims they like without it counting as religion.

Evolution relies on religious premises—it is a religious theory. I don’t mind disagreement, religious or otherwise. But let’s understand what the disagreement is.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Evolution Professor: DNA Code Indicates Common Descent Because ... Why?

Makes No Sense

In my previous post we saw that evolutionist Jerry Coyne claimed that “Darwin showed that ‘design-like’ features could arise from a purely naturalistic process.” That whopper was not even thinly disguised. What is particularly striking about Coyne’s lie is that the science ever since Darwin has not demonstrated this either. It is not as though Coyne was merely confusing something Darwin showed with something that was discovered after Darwin. We are nowhere remotely close to showing that “design-like” features can arise from a purely naturalistic process. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. But Coyne wasn’t referring to theoretical possibilities. Unfortunately it turns out this was not simply a rare fib from the University of Chicago evolutionist. In another post from the same day Coyne informed his readers that the universal genetic code indicates common descent from a single ancestor:

It is the near-universality of this code … that gives us confidence that modern life traces back to a single ancestor. If there was more than one origin of life, and its descendants independently developed the DNA—>protein system, it would be very unlikely that all modern species would have the same code.

In other words, we find the same DNA code in all the species, therefore they must have evolved from a common ancestor which had that code. The same elaborate code would not have evolved more than once.

Sorry but evolutionists cannot even explain how the DNA code evolved, period. In fact the universality of the code, according to evolutionary theory, means that it is essentially impossible to change. Over billions of years and billions of species, evolution hasn’t been able to nudge the code. The DNA code is one of the most extreme examples of a conserved design in all of biology. It is biology’s Rock of Gibraltar—it cannot normally be changed.

But if the code cannot be changed, then how did it evolve in the first place? The very universality which Coyne celebrates undercuts the theory Coyne is so sure is a fact.

Imagine the gradual evolutionary steps leading to the DNA code. In the penultimate step, the code was slightly different. And in the step before that, it was a slightly more different code. And so forth. The code must have been evolving—it must have been changing. And yet suddenly the code could no longer evolve. It makes no sense and, beyond hand-waving, evolutionists have no explanation for it.

Furthermore the code is also unique and special. It has several profound properties that are very helpful. For instance its arrangement is such that the effects of copying errors are minimized. Not only did the code just happen to evolve in early evolution, evolution just happened to find a one-in-a-million code.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Door Number Two: The Existence of Evil is the Most Powerful Argument

It’s All About Religion

In my previous post I discussed David Barash’s op-ed piece in the New York Times reviewing the usual religious beliefs that motivate evolutionary thinking. Barash’s piece is not peculiar, it is standard evolutionary reasoning. For instance, another evolution professor, Jerry Coyne, responded today, in support of Barash’s arguments. Coyne explains that he agrees with Barash “100%” and adds a few additional comments of his own.

First, Coyne echoes Barash’s non scientific claim that evolution explains how the wonders of the biological world evolved spontaneously. Coyne writes:

The argument from complexity. As we all know, evolution dispelled this most powerful argument for God when Darwin showed that “design-like” features could arise from a purely naturalistic process. 

There’s only one problem. That is a lie. What Coyne writes here is not an exaggeration, not a controversial point, not a questionable point, not an unsupported suggestion. There simply is no nice way to put it—this is a bald faced lie, period.

Darwin showed no such thing. That is not my opinion. I’d be delighted to tell you Darwin and the evolutionists have made such a discovery. How cool that would be. But anyone even remotely familiar with Darwin’s work knows that this just didn’t happen. Not even close. Coyne’s claim is just laughable.

But the more important part of Coyne’s response is the religious part. Here, again, he supports Barash fully. Coyne writes:

The existence of evil. This, to me, is the most powerful of Barash’s arguments for incompatibility between science and religion. Theists must perforce explain evil—both “moral” evil (humans doing bad things to other humans) and “natural” evil (diseases like childhood cancer, earthquakes, and other stuff that kills innocent people)—as part of God’s plan. There’s no easy way to reconcile these with a loving and all-powerful god, though the entire discipline of theodicy is devoted to the effort. I haven’t yet seen a successful reconciliation, and theists know, deep in their hearts, that the problem remains. But such “evils” are, as Barash explains, easily understandable in a naturalistic universe: they’re an inevitable result of either evolution, physics, or geology.

No easy way to reconcile the world’s evils with a loving and all-powerful god (Coyne forgot the all-knowing part)? Coyne obviously has strong religious beliefs that drive his thinking. Imagine that you too believed what Coyne believes. Then of course you would be an evolutionist.

This religious theory drives evolutionists such as Coyne to abuse science (as we saw above). But of course there is nothing new here. As we have discussed before, Coyne elaborates on his religious views (that is before he denied them) in his book, Why Evolution is True. It’s all about evil and dysteleology and how this world would never have been intended by any creator or designer.

Should we laugh or should we cry. Evolutionist are so drunk with their own metaphysics they can’t even see it. They are oblivious to their own shtick.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Evolution Professor: Every Year I Give My Students “The Talk”

Your Tax Dollars at Work.

Well it’s fall again and the beginning of a new school year. That means evolution professors will be warming up their religious indoctrination messages for their unsuspecting students. A cynical and unfair criticism? No, actually, metaphysical and value-laden messages, sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit, are rampant in the life sciences. In fact evolutionists are certain they area right and so make no attempt to hide their absurdities. Consider David Barash, evolution professor paid by your tax dollars at the University of Washington. Barash gives a special lecture each fall to indoctrinate his young charges. He calls it “The Talk” (yes, evolutionists really are that pompous and condescending) and he happily tells the world about it today in the New York Times.

Barash explains that in “The Talk” he reveals to his students three hard truths that have demolished pillars of religious faith and undermined belief in an omnipotent and omni-benevolent God.

First, evolutionists have discovered and demonstrated that evolution is fully capable of creating the incredible world of biology. Evolutionists such as Barash do not deny the “wonderful complexity” of the biological world. But they are certain that “an entirely natural and undirected process, namely random variation plus natural selection, contains all that is needed to generate extraordinary levels of non-randomness.”

To understand what evolutionists mean by this rather astonishing claim of spontaneous generation it is worth returning to Chapter 6 of Origins where Darwin explained the evolution of the eye. Darwin went through some mental gymnastics about how a light sensitive spot could have arisen and then enhanced through slow, gradual change via natural selection. And he made a religious argument straight from the pen of David Hume about how God wouldn’t work like man, so we ought not infer design from complexity anyway. And finally Darwin shifted the burden of proof to the skeptic, saying it was up to the skeptic to prove his idea of spontaneous generation to be impossible—otherwise it stands.

This defense of Darwin’s became the template of how evolutionists handle complexity. They set the bar very low for themselves. So when Barash informs his students that the evolution of biology’s “wonderful complexity” is a solved problem, he is simply misrepresenting the science.

In fact, since Darwin the science has revealed the exact opposite. The inexorable march of science has shown over and over that biology is more exotic, subtle and complex than Darwin and the evolutionists ever dreamed of. Even the blind evolution of a single protein is impossible by any realistic measure.

Barash’s second “hard truth” for his students is that human beings are not distinct, other than being a separate species, from the other animals. Furthermore, no “supernatural trait has ever been found in Homo sapiens.” You may think you are conscious, but that is merely a manifestation of so many molecules in your skull.

And finally Barash reveals to his class that evolutionists have shown belief in an omnipresent, omni-benevolent God to be futile. After all,

just a smidgen of biological insight makes it clear that, although the natural world can be marvelous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death — and that suffering (like joy) is built into the nature of things. The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.

In other words, there is unmerited suffering, therefore the species must have been created by the blind, amoral process of evolution. An all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator would never have intended for such a thing.

It’s all about religion.

Imagine for a moment that you believed in this religion, that you believed in Darwin’s God. Then of course you would require evolution to be true. It would have to be. And of course you would see complexity as a minor bump in the road.

You see the science is driven by the religion. It always has been.

So there you have it, The Talk. The evolutionist’s scientific absurdity is exceeded only by his religious fundamentalism and hypocrisy.

It is pathetic and sad to see the silliness of evolution. But what is truly astonishing is that evolutionists are oblivious to their own shtick. They shout it from the rooftops, unaware of their own absurdity. They are like the drunk at the party who doesn’t know he is drunk while everyone else stands back in embarrassment for him.

Your tax dollars at work.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Workshop on Scientific Imperialism

An Abundance of Material

Don’t miss the Workshop on Scientific Imperialism in Helsinki next April where attendees will consider whether “conventions and procedures of one discipline or field are imposed on other fields, or more weakly when a scientific discipline seeks to explain phenomena that are traditionally considered proper of another discipline’s domain.” Keynote Speaker Stephen Downes will ask  “Is the Appeal to Evolution in Explanations of Human Behavior a Case of Scientific Imperialism?”

The answer is “yes,” but human behavior is only the beginning of a long list. Evolution is by far the most influential theory in the history of science and its influence spreads not only to other areas of science, but well outside of science as well.

One of evolution’s early moves outside of science was in historiography where Darwin’s friend and champion Thomas Huxley began the construction of the history of thought from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary theory was motivated and mandated by religious premises, but Huxley reversed the roles and cast evolution as objective, truth-seeking science and the opposition as misguided religious believers. Thus, in this Warfare Thesis, science was opposed by religion, rather than informed and constrained by religion.

An important tool that was instrumental in spreading the Warfare Thesis far beyond evolutionary studies and into the broader culture was the play and movie Inherit the Wind. The Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee script was all that Huxley could have dreamt of, casting the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial as a conflict between the rational evolutionists and the irrational faithful.

Inherit the Wind is fictional propaganda that evolutionists continue to use to this day and remains widely influential. As Judge John Jones astonishingly explained, he wanted to see Inherit the Wind a second time in preparation for the 2005 Dover case, over which he presided, because the film puts the origins debate into its proper “historical context.” Jones later reminisced about the trial, explaining that “I understood the general theme. I’d seen Inherit the Wind.” The federal judge’s over-the-top naiveté was a manifestation of evolution’s anti-intellectualism.

Another important early evolutionary spinoff was eugenics “science” and abortion. Nietzsche proclaimed that it was the sick, the oppressed, the broken and the weak, rather than evil men, who were the greatest threat to humanity. And Margaret Sanger promoted her racism and sexual immorality in what would become the abortion movement. The American eugenics movement and both World War I and later the horrors of the German Nazis were all influenced by evolution’s pseudo science.

More recently the abortion movement has grown and eugenics continues to be advocated. Lawlessness and immorality escalated with the legalization of abortion in the Roe v. Wade decision and its inherent racism. As Roe v. Wade lawyer Ron Weddington explained to the newly elected President Bill Clinton, “You can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country,” with inexpensive abortifacients. Weddington explained that he was not advocating mass extinction of these unfortunate people because “Crime, drugs and disease are already doing that. The problem is that their numbers are not only replaced but increased by the birth of millions of babies to people who can’t afford to have babies. There, I’ve said it. It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it, because as liberals who believe in individual rights, we view any program which might treat the disadvantaged differently as discriminatory, mean-spirited and … well … so Republican.”

Likewise Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described Roe v. Wade as intended to control population growth, “particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” And you know what that means. And restrictions on abortion simply exacerbate the problem because “the impact of all these restrictions is on poor women,” and “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.”

It is little wonder that University of Texas evolutionist Eric Pianka receives standing ovations and awards for his advocacy of the elimination of 90% of the human population.

Eugenics, abortion and population control are, unfortunately, by no means the end of evolution’s deconstructionism. Evolution does away with law, common sense and morality. Scientific laws, as evolutionists explain, are not appropriate when explaining the creation of the world. For despite appearances and the hard scientific evidence, the world must have arisen spontaneously. It is a narrative of sheer absurdity. But we control it, and one consequence is moral relativism. Morality is seen as the result of evolutionary history. Right and wrong are determined by the haphazard configurations of molecules in our head.

Yes, there is plenty of material for Workshop on Scientific Imperialism in Helsinki next April.

Without Evolution, Life Itself Would Be Impossible

A Case Study

Have you heard the one about the evolutionist who defined life as things that evolve? Evolutionists have never been too humble about their theory. Farmers must be evolutionists to grow their crops. Doctors must be evolutionists to heal their patients. Scientists must be evolutionists to do their research. In fact without evolution, life itself would be impossible. A sarcastic caricature? Not at all, for evolutionists say all these things. Listening to evolutionists one would think that the life sciences would be crippled without evolutionary theory to guide the way and explain all things. A delusion or simply the hard truth? Let’s have a look at a case study in the life sciences.

At Jacob Sivak’s lab at the University of Waterloo researchers have studied snakes and their vision. Snakes do not have eyelids. Instead they have a clear scale called a spectacle that protects the eyes. Now how a snake just happened to randomly develop a clear scale, so it could see and be selected by natural selection, is unknown.

Did each of the snake’s many scales occasionally develop to be clear due to some strange mutation? And at one point, in the evolution of the snake, did that mutation make the scales over the snake’s eyes clear? How did the snakes survive before that lucky mutation? They would have been blind.

But back to our story. When researcher Kevin van Doorn was examining a snake his instrument detected something strange. van Doorn wasn’t looking for it, but he discovered that blood vessels in the snake’s spectacles might obscure the snake’s vision.

How common it has been in the history of science that researchers have made such accidental discoveries. van Doorn’s discovery is a reminder not of how crucial theories are in guiding researchers to their discoveries, but how capricious the process can be. Breakthroughs often are not so much because of our theories, but in spite of our theories, and this should engender some humility, rather than certainty, about our theories.

But getting back to our story, van Doorn’s next move was to study the blood flow through those blood vessels under different conditions. That was the obvious and natural next move. Sivak and van Doorn didn’t need a theory to tell them what to do. van Doorn found that under normal conditions blood flow through the spectacle was cyclical, with periods of reduced and periods of increased flow, thus allowing improved vision at regular intervals.

But when the snake was exposed to a threatening environment the cycle ceased and the flow was minimal, “thus guaranteeing,” Sivak and van Doorn concluded, “the best possible visual capabilities in times of need.”

It was all reminiscent of Leibniz’ theodicy which recognized that while, yes, evil exists in the world (at least some evil is required, Malebranche had pointed out, otherwise the creation would be no different than the perfect Creator), and in fact a great deal of evil exists, what is optimized is the good-to-evil ratio. There could be less evil, the co-inventor of calculus pointed out, but in that case there would be a great deal less good.

Like a good polynomial, the world could be optimized, and it was. This is the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire sarcastically panned the whole idea with his character Dr. Pangloss, but now science seemed to have the last laugh. Perhaps the snake’s spectacle’s are a necessary evil, but their designs are optimized to minimize the negative impact of the blood vessels obscuring the snake’s vision. As van Doorn concluded, “This research is the perfect example of how a fortuitous discovery can redefine our understanding of the world around us.”

But back to our story, we now ask, How exactly did evolution contribute to the research? For that we need to look at the abstract of the journal paper:

The eyes of snakes are shielded beneath a layer of transparent integument referred to as the ‘reptilian spectacle’. Well adapted to vision by virtue of its optical transparency, it nevertheless retains one characteristic of the integument that would otherwise prove detrimental to vision: its vascularity. Given the potential consequence of spectacle blood vessels on visual clarity, one might expect adaptations to have evolved that mitigate their negative impact. Earlier research demonstrated an adaptation to their spatial layout in only one species to reduce the vessels' density in the region serving the foveal and binocular visual fields. Here, we present a study of spectacle blood flow dynamics and provide evidence of a mechanism to mitigate the spectacle blood vessels' deleterious effect on vision by regulation of blood flow through them. It was found that when snakes are at rest and undisturbed, spectacle vessels undergo cycles of dilation and constriction, such that the majority of the time the vessels are fully constricted, effectively removing them from the visual field. When snakes are presented with a visual threat, spectacle vessels constrict and remain constricted for longer periods than occur during the resting cycles, thus guaranteeing the best possible visual capabilities in times of need. Finally, during the snakes' renewal phase when they are generating a new stratum corneum, the resting cycle is abolished, spectacle vessels remain dilated and blood flow remains strong and continuous. The significance of these findings in terms of the visual capabilities and physiology of snakes is discussed.

As you can see, in the journal paper the research results have been cast into the evolution template. The eyes of snakes are “well adapted” yet there is the presence of the blood vessels. Therefore one would predict that evolution would mitigate such an impact. In other words, it was evolutionary theory that led to the discovery.

But of course evolutionary theory did no such thing. So this is the role of evolution, as an after-the-fact framework to which the results must be conformed in a fictional reconstruction of events.

Like the wicked witch of the west, evolution threatens and demands acquiescence from its soldiers while adding nothing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Science Has All Kinds of Non Scientific Influences and Motivations

Zombie Science

Philosophers of science well understand that everything from enticements (prestige, publishing, etc.) to threats (tenure, funding, etc.) influence scientists and science, but perhaps no one has said it better than Dr. Bruce Charlton:

Although the classical ideal is that scientific theories are evaluated by a careful teasing-out of their internal logic and external implications, and checking whether these deductions and predictions are in-line-with old and new observations; the fact that so many vague, dumb or incoherent scientific theories are apparently believed by so many scientists for so many years is suggestive that this ideal does not necessarily reflect real world practice. In the real world it looks more like most scientists are quite willing to pursue wrong ideas for so long as they are rewarded with a better chance of achieving more grants, publications and status. The classic account has it that bogus theories should readily be demolished by sceptical (or jealous) competitor scientists. However, in practice even the most conclusive ‘hatchet jobs’ may fail to kill, or even weaken, phoney hypotheses when they are backed-up with sufficient economic muscle in the form of lavish and sustained funding. And when a branch of science based on phoney theories serves a useful but non-scientific purpose, it may be kept-going indefinitely by continuous transfusions of cash from those whose interests it serves. If this happens, real science expires and a ‘zombie science’ evolves. Zombie science is science that is dead but will not lie down. It keeps twitching and lumbering around so that (from a distance, and with your eyes half-closed) zombie science looks much like the real thing. But in fact the zombie has no life of its own; it is animated and moved only by the incessant pumping of funds. If zombie science is not scientifically-useable – what is its function? In a nutshell, zombie science is supported because it is useful propaganda to be deployed in arenas such as political rhetoric, public administration, management, public relations, marketing and the mass media generally. It persuades, it constructs taboos, it buttresses some kind of rhetorical attempt to shape mass opinion. Indeed, zombie science often comes across in the mass media as being more plausible than real science; and it is precisely the superficial face-plausibility which is the sole and sufficient purpose of zombie science.

Sound familiar? It may sound like a worn out cliché, but we need to follow the evidence and let science speak for itself.

It’s Not What They Don’t Know That Scares Me

Evolutionary Certainty

As the old saying goes, it’s not what they don’t know that scares me, but what they know for sure. Nowhere is that more applicable than with evolution as The Guardian’s Andrew Brown reminds us today when he writes, “Evolution is actually true.” Don’t blame the messenger, Brown is merely repeating what evolutionists say. And while it is true that evolution in a limited sense it true (change over time, adaptation, and so forth), no such nuance is intended by evolutionists. When evolutionists inform their audiences that evolution is true, they are referring to the origin of species via blind processes. The problem here is not that this claim of knowledge is questionable or controversial—the problem is that the claim is unequivocally false. Evolution may or may not be true—that is debatable. But we do not know it to be true—that is not debatable. We can argue about how the scientific evidence bears on the theory of evolution (not well), its predictions (mostly false), how likely is it that evolution is true (not very), and so forth. Some may be more charitable toward the theory that says the species arose spontaneously. But we certainly do not know evolution—in the broad sense as intended by Brown and the evolutionists—to be true.

Not from a scientific perspective anyway.

What this never-ending truth claim reveals is the underlying metaphysics at work in evolutionary thought. Everytime evolutionists insist that evolution is a fact, is true, is undeniable, and so forth, they are making it clear, yet again, that this is not about science. From a scientific perspective no such truth claim would be possible, not even close. If anything we would be discussing whether we can say evolution is false, or merely astronomically unlikely.

But evolution has an internal contradiction. It is not that there is anything wrong with religious arguments and proofs. But evolutionists insist they are all about science. Their theory, they say, is a scientific theory. Yet they continually make religious premises and arguments, and make truth claims that are far beyond, and contradictory to, science.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Evolutionist: “In a Very Real Sense, Our Species Invented Itself”

The Aristotelianism Just Keeps on Getting Stronger

Evolution is a narrative, not a law-driven theory, and narratives are all about plot lines, conflicts and resolutions, good guys and bad guys, value-laden themes, motives, goals, objectives and so forth. These elements repeatedly appear in the evolution literature. For instance, in evolution there was at one point a “push” toward smaller dinosaur sizes, and the smaller sizes in dinosaurs helped to “trigger” a host of different traits. A wing-like surface area would have developed “to help glide” from tree to tree. After all, dinosaurs “were experimenting” with flight in various modes and finally “made the crucial leap” to powered flight, and so birds “were born.”

Cells worked together for a common goal of reproducing more cohesive units, and thereby worked in a concerted way toward increasing their fitness.

Conserved non-coding DNA was the result of regulatory innovations.

The genetic code emerged to avoid random protein sequences.

Small-headed snakes rapidly evolved “to probe eel burrows.”

Oxytricha trifallax, a profoundly complex single-cell organism, was “one of nature’s early attempts to become more complex.”

The brittlestar’s distributed and multifunctional vision system was “designed to minimize spherical aberration and birefringence.”

New proteins evolved because “Nature probably uncovers new topologies in order to fulfill new functions, and optimizes existing topologies to increase their performance.”

The amazing leaproache “evolved to do what grasshoppers do—jump between stems.”

The harp sponge evolved its elaborate candelabra-like structure “in order to increase the surface area.”

The list goes on and on and these are but a tiny sampling of the teleological Aristotelianism one finds in the evolution literature (see more details of these examples here, here and here).

So we were not too surprised to see Peter Corning’s 2013 paper on how behavior has shaped evolution. Corning explains that the behavior of organisms has had a significant influence in the evolutionary process of creating new species. There has been, Corning explains, “a flood of research on how behavioral influences contribute to the ongoing evolutionary process but “the theoretical implications of this paradigm shift still have not been fully integrated into our current thinking about evolution.”

Indeed. Gone is the evolutionary notion of random variation subject to natural selection, otherwise known as “chance and necessity.” Instead, organisms, whose behavior is driven by goals, play an active and major role in evolution. Simply put, as Corning concludes, “our species invented itself”:

Behaviour has a purpose (teleonomy); it is ends-directed. Living organisms are not passive objects of ‘chance and necessity’ (as Jacques Monod put it). Nor is the currently popular concept of phenotypic plasticity sufficient. Organisms are active participants in the evolutionary process (cybernetic systems) and have played a major causal role in determining its direction. It could be called ‘constrained purposiveness’, and one of the important themes in evolution, culminating in humankind, has been the ‘progressive’ evolution of self-determination (intelligence) and its ever-expanding potency. I call this agency ‘Teleonomic Selection’. In a very real sense, our species invented itself. For better and worse, the course of evolution is increasingly being shaped by the ‘Sorcerer's Apprentice’. Monod's mantra needs to be updated. Evolution is a process that combines ‘chance, necessity, teleonomy and selection’.

There is, as always, a problem in this Greek drama. Those organisms, and their behaviors, had to be created by evolution. In other words, evolution just happened to create incredibly complex biological agents with incredibly complex behaviors which then just happened to be crucial influences on the evolutionary process. In short, just as Corning concludes that our species invented itself, we must also conclude that evolution invented itself.

Whereas evolution once called on fairly basic mechanisms such as random variation, it now is at the other end of the spectrum, calling on diploid genetics, horizontal gene transfer, etc., and now human behavior—the most complex mechanisms one can imagine. And those mechanisms must have been created by evolution. Perhaps it is time for a Deus ex machine, for this level of serendipity is beyond silly. At least evolution is entertaining.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Here’s That Story in the Los Angeles Times about Global Warming

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Because when the Los Angeles Times runs a piece questioning the A in AGW (anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming), then you know something is wrong:

A new study makes the case that human activity played very little role in the warming of the northeast Pacific Ocean over the past century or so. … Naturally occurring changes in winds, not human-caused climate change, are responsible for most of the warming on land and in the sea along the West Coast of North America over the last century, a study has found. … This latest research shows that similar changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation can drive trends that last a century or longer, overshadowing the effects of human-generated increase in greenhouse gases, the study's authors said.

It is not news that AGW is has its share of scientific challenges. But give credit to the Los Angeles Times for running such a story in the politically-charged environment we are in. We need to let the science speak for itself.

Climate Justice: It’s Only Getting Stronger

The Warfare Thesis in Action

James Lawrence Powell holds a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, taught Geology at Oberlin College for over 20 years, served as Acting President of Oberlin, President of Franklin and Marshall College, President of Reed College, President of the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, and President and Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. President Reagan and later, President George H. W. Bush, appointed Powell to the National Science Board, where he served for 12 years. He is the author of eleven books and currently serves as Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium. James Lawrence Powell also believes in AGW (anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming).

Powell has created what some are calling the one chart that proves AGW. It is a pie chart comparing scientific papers about “global warming,” “global climate change,” or “climate change.” Powell has reviewed these papers and found that only a couple dozen of them, out of almost 14,000, reject AGW. So what can we conclude, Powell asks.

According to Powell, these papers demonstrate that there is a mountain of scientific evidence in favor of AGW and no convincing evidence against it. That those who deny anthropogenic global warming have no alternative theory to explain the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. And that these two facts together mean that the so-called debate over global warming is an illusion, a hoax conjured up by a handful of apostate scientists and a misguided and sometimes colluding media, aided and abetted by funding from fossil fuel companies and right wing foundations.

An over-the-top caricature? No, I’m quoting from Powell’s site. For Powell it is all about the Warfare Thesis, with the truth-seeking scientists in their unstained clean white lab coats on the one side, and the unwashed, unruly superstitious mob fueled by sinister forces on the other side:

On the one side, we have a mountain of scientific evidence, on the other, ideology and arm-waving. On that basis, we are endangering our grandchildren’s future and pushing humanity toward the destruction of civilization.

I have no idea what Powell’s motives are, but given his background it would be surprising if Powell actually believed any of this. Perhaps so, but anyone vaguely familiar with the world of science knows that counting papers is not the way to scientific realism and truth. There are so many obvious, well known problems with Powell’s logic here it is difficult to know where to begin.

First, notice that Powell did not actually say that the 14,000 papers proved or demonstrated AGW. That’s because they don’t. Powell is an inside player and he knows not to make such a mistake.

In science, research programs tend to work within paradigms. Scientists are not forever questioning theories as the textbooks like to say; rather, they explore the details of the paradigm they are working within, whether or not they are true or make sense of the data. That’s a generalization, but in many fields it is often true.

If you look for papers with keywords such as “global warming,” “global climate change,” and “climate change,” as did Powell, then you’re going to find papers that are exploring AGW not questioning it.

That’s the way science works, and Powell of course knows this.

Imagine 50 years ago searching through papers about neo Darwinism and the New Synthesis and wondering whether the papers will be for or against evolution. That would be silly. The ratio would be at least as skewed as Powell’s pie chart.

But of course today we know that neo Darwinism is false. Mutations are not neutral, and the adaptation we observe is not slow and caused by the selection of blind variation. And even evolutionists agree that there must be some other mechanism to account for large-scale evolutionary change.

This is by no means an isolated example. The history of science is full of examples of paradigms gone wrong, masses of scientists who go along to get along, and non scientific influences. Social pressures, political pressures, funding pressures, career and prestige pressures—they are part of the job.

And no less so in the field of climatology where heavy-handed AGW zealots have engaged in political maneuvering, peer review manipulation, blackballing, and so forth.

Meanwhile AGW has not fared well on the science. To the point that serious thinkers are voicing concerns. The science is just not that simple.

But it never was about the science. As usual, this is not about the facts, it is about the narrative. Powell had that part right, and it is only getting stronger. Academics are calling for the incarceration of AGW skeptics, and powerful politicians, only a little less enraged, want malpractice suits. NASA scientist James Hansen told Congress that oil company CEOs “should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.” You can see more examples here, here.

It really doesn’t matter whether the Earth is cooling, warming, or maintaining an equilibrium, any scenario can be cast into the narrative of the good guys versus the bad guys. That narrative was nowhere more obvious than in yesterday’s Climate March in New York City where Leonardo DiCaprio refused to answer questions about his yacht and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. accused industrialists who do not agree with AGW of treason and said they should be imprisoned as war criminals. Likeminded politicians are “contempable human beings,” though the son of the late great Attorney General lamented that they could not be prosecuted.

What we are seeing are classic defamation tactics. Evolution’s Warfare Thesis has lit all kinds of fires and emotions are running high. With evolution there is no law, just narrative. Today it focuses on climate, but it could jump to any number of issues.

So is AGW true? I have no idea. But neither does Powell, Kennedy and the rest. And we’re not going to figure it out with vigilante justice fueled by pseudo science.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Study Says it Explains Our High Facial Variability, But it is a Tautology

Good Study, But They Go Beyond the Science

I once debated an evolution professor who attempted to make the point that evolution has great explanatory power. That is one of several claims evolutionists make about their theory—other such claims include that evolution doesn’t make false predictions, evolution is based on scientific observation, evolution is required for good science, and evolution is a fact—which are not correct. In fact, what is striking is that these claims evolutionists make are completely false. One hardly knows where to begin.

Take for example the question of human facial variability. Our faces are remarkably variable and unique, far more than most other animal species. Also, our facial traits are more variable than other human traits.

Now a recent evolutionary study explains why. The evolutionists discovered that we have high facial variability because we evolved to have high facial variability. After all, the facial variability was matched by genetic variability. Amazing.

As one of the authors explained:

Our study now shows that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognizable. It is clearly beneficial for me to recognize others, but also beneficial for me to be recognizable. Otherwise, we would all look more similar.

In other words, high facial variability evolved because it was selected for. And why was it selected for? Because it is beneficial. And why is it beneficial? Because otherwise, we would all look more similar.

If that was not clear, the other author add this:

The idea that social interaction may have facilitated or led to selection for us to be individually recognizable implies that human social structure has driven the evolution of how we look.

In other words, high facial variability evolved because human social structure drove the evolution of high facial variability.

It is all one big tautology. It evolved because it evolved. Studies like this are then cited as examples of the great explanatory power of evolution.

Let’s stick to the science.

Stephen Hawking: No Hay Ningún Dios. Soy Ateo

They Will Turn Their Ears Away From the Truth, and be Turned Aside to Fables

In today’s El Mundo Stephen Hawking makes the sophomoric mistake of equating atheism with knowledge. Was the universe created by miracles or did it evolve by natural law? This is Hawking’s false dichotomy and his conclusion is that science has now surpassed religion. Science now “offers a more convincing explanation.” And so Hawking says that he is an atheist. In fact Hawking is confident that science will soon explain everything:

I do believe that we shall end up understanding the origin and structure of the Universe. In fact we are already close to it. In my opinion, there is no one aspect of reality beyond the scope of the human mind.

Hawking’s entire argument is built upon theism. He is, as Cornelius Van Til put it, like the child who must climb up onto his father’s lap into order to slap his face.

Take that part about the “human mind” for example. Under atheism there is no such thing as a mind. There is no such thing as understanding and no such thing as truth. All Hawking is left with is a box, called a skull, which contains a bunch of molecules.

Hawking needs God in order to deny Him.

It’s funny how atheists are the first ones to make high claims about their knowledge, to appeal to the truth, to cast their judgments about right and wrong. Knowledge, truth, right and wrong? These are all concepts that, qua atheists, they have already forfeited.

Man’s hatred of God drives him to all kinds of internal contradictions.

As Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

Here’s That New Study Demonstrating the Inheritance of Directed Change

An Example of Science at Work

Ever since Darwin, evolutionists have resisted the idea of directed change. The twentieth century’s neo Darwinism codified the idea that biological variation must be random with respect to need. And with that codification came certainty. As Jacques Monod unequivocally proclaimed in 1971:

chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. And nothing warrants the supposition—or the hope—that on this score our position is likely ever to be revised.

That is a good example of evolution’s metaphysical certainty. And that certainty led to dogma. Evolutionists dismissed, delegitimized and blackballed anything and anyone hinting of directed change.

But as with the other predictions of evolution, this one turned out to be false as well. What Monod proclaimed as the “sole conceivable hypothesis” is now routinely refuted. In fact this has been known for many years but progress has been slow due to evolutionary resistance.

To this day many evolutionists continue to fight the science. But with the inexorable march of science, it just continues to get worse for evolution. Last week a new study out of UC Santa Cruz added yet more confirmation. It showed at the molecular level how certain kinds of directed changes are inherited across generations. As one report explained:

A growing body of evidence suggests that environmental stresses can cause changes in gene expression that are transmitted from parents to their offspring, making “epigenetics” a hot topic. Epigenetic modifications do not affect the DNA sequence of genes, but change how the DNA is packaged and how genes are expressed. Now, scientists have shown how epigenetic memory can be passed across generations and from cell to cell during development.

The lead researcher explained that this field has been controversial:

There has been ongoing debate about whether the methylation mark can be passed on through cell divisions and across generations, and we’ve now shown that it is,” said corresponding author Susan Strome, a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UC Santa Cruz.

That “ongoing debate” is mainly due to evolutionists resisting the science because it is fundamentally at odds with their theory. With this new study the science becomes that much more difficult to deny:

“Remarkably, when we watch the chromosomes through cell divisions, the marked chromosomes remain marked and stay bright, because the enzyme keeps restoring the mark, but the naked chromosomes stay naked, division after division,” Strome said. “That shows that the pattern of marks that was inherited is being transmitted through multiple cell divisions.”

These sorts of findings, which are becoming increasingly difficult to deny, are splitting evolutionists into different factions. For years now some evolutionists have recognized these findings and have carefully and diplomatically suggested evolutionary theory needs some modification. Other evolutionists, however, continue to vigorously hold that neo Darwinian change remains a fact and these new findings are merely a minor addition to the story.

What none of these factions have seriously reckoned with is that these directed change mechanisms and processes are contrary to and make no sense on evolution. This is an utter refutation of traditional evolutionary theory. There is no scientific explanation of how these directed change mechanisms and processes evolved.

Given this and so many other contrary findings, what we need to do is back off of the high claims. We need to drop the metaphysics and dogma. Yes organisms adapt and change—in that sense evolution is true. But that is a very different kind of evolution than how the term is normally understood. Let’s narrow the scope of the term “evolution” to what we know from science.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Influence of Biogeography on Evolutionary Thought

Let’s Reevaluate Where We Are

It is not that evolution is not true. Of course evolution is true—I evolved when I had breakfast this morning. As evolutionists like to say, evolution is mere change over time. Thus the changing of gene frequencies is a favorite proof text for evolution. But by broadening the definition of evolution to include anything and everything aside from absolute stasis, the term becomes essentially meaningless and ripe for equivocation.

One of the scandals of evolutionary thought is that it actively trades on this equivocation. The result is a false dichotomy where the falsification of a silly foil—absolute stasis—is equated with the truth of evolution in the Darwinian sense. That is, that the biological world arose spontaneously. The biological world, and by extension everything else because evolutionary thought is by no means limited to biology, arose by itself as the chance outcome of the strictly blind interplay of natural law.

For instance, Isaac Asimov once wrote that mere color changes in the peppered moth prove evolution. How could such trivial change prove evolution? Of course it doesn’t—this is an equivocation on evolution.

Similarly Steve Jones wrote that the changes observed in HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) contain Darwin’s “entire argument.” According to science writer Jonathan Weiner, the changes in the beaks of birds show us “Darwin’s process in action.”

Likewise Professor Marta Wayne tells us that “Evolution is change in gene frequency” and science writer Emily Willingham defines evolution as “a change in population over time.” Professor Pamela Bjorkman states that a mutating virus is “evolution at work” and that “In the same way, people have evolved, but over a much slower time scale.”

These are at best irresponsible mistakes. At worst they are simply lies. I’m not here to apologize for this conduct. However, as usual these lies do not arise out of nowhere. There is a history behind evolutionary thinking, and it helps to understand that Jones, Bjorkman and the rest are operating in a larger tradition that goes back for centuries. One of the strong influences on that tradition is biogeography. Here is a brief recounting of that influence, from evolutionist and science historian Frank Sulloway:

Darwin’s revolutionary theory was that new species arise naturally, by a process of evolution, rather than having been created—forever immutable—by God. According to the well-established creationist theory of Darwin’s day, the exquisite adaptations of many species—such as the hinges of the bivalve shell and the wings and plumes on seeds dispersed by air—were compelling evidence that a “designer” had created each species for its intended place in the economy of nature. Darwin had wholeheartedly accepted this theory, which was bolstered by the biblical account in Genesis, until his experiences in the Galápagos Islands began to undermine this way of thinking about the biological world.

Legend has it that Darwin was converted to the theory of evolution, eureka-like, during his visit to the islands. How could he not have been? In retrospect, the evidence for evolution seems so compelling. Darwin tells us in his Journal of Researches, first published in 1839, that his fascination with the “mystery of mysteries”—the origin of new species—was first aroused by a chance discussion on Floreana with Nicholas Lawson, the vice governor of the islands. Based in part on differences in the shape of a tortoise’s shell, Lawson claimed that “he could at once tell from which island any one was brought.” Darwin also noticed that the mockingbirds seemed to be either separate varieties or species on the four islands he visited. If true, he speculated, “such facts would undermine the stability of Species”—the fundamental tenet of creationism, which held that all species had been created in their present, immutable forms.

Gould’s taxonomic judgments finally caused Darwin to embrace the theory of evolution. Stunned by the realization that evolving varieties could break the supposedly fixed barrier that, according to creationism, prevents new species from forming, he quickly sought to rectify his previous collecting oversights by requesting island locality information from the carefully labeled collections of three Beagle shipmates. Two of these collections, by Captain FitzRoy and FitzRoy’s steward, Harry Fuller, contained 50 Galápagos birds, including more than 20 finches. Even Darwin’s servant, Covington, had done what Darwin had not, labeling by island his own personal collection of finches, which were later acquired by a private collector in England. The birth of the Darwinian revolution was a highly collaborative enterprise.

For Darwin, creationism was the dominant idea. And by creationism, as Sulloway explains, we mean the idea that the species were created forever immutable.

As Ernst Mayr has pointed out, “The fixed, essentialistic species was the fortress to be stormed and destroyed; once this had been accomplished, evolutionary thinking rushed through the breach like a flood through a break in a dike.”

Sulloway recounts Darwin’s famous journal entry that tiny variations between birds and tortoises from the different islands in the Galápagos Islands “undermine the stability of Species.”

That was an epiphany for Darwin. As Sulloway writes, Darwin was later “stunned” by the realization that evolving varieties could break the supposedly fixed barrier that, according to creationism, prevents new species from forming.

If there is anything that is stunning it is that a scientist could conclude that tiny changes between birds and tortoises would imply that the entire biological world must have spontaneously arisen by itself.

So strong is the influence of religious ideas.

There was no scientific evidence here for Darwin’s broad, sweeping conclusions about evolution. Darwin had no idea how those tiny differences could have arisen, much less how the entire biosphere could have been spontaneously generated. Yet that is what he claimed, on the basis of a one-dimensional, black-white, simplistic dichotomy.

Darwin was operating from an assumption that he knew all of the possible alternative explanations. And there were two: either the species were forever immutable, or they arose from blind chance. This is the problem of unconceived alternatives (see here and here for examples).

It is no different today. As exemplified above, evolutionists continue to operate from this false dichotomy. This is sad because today we understand far more about biology. Today we know what Darwin did not know, that from physiological changes taking place in less than a second to genetic adaptations spanning decades and multiple generations, the story of change in biology is far more exotic, creative and nuanced than anything Darwin imagined. The built-in capacity organisms have for directed, responsive change is profound. There is still more to the story we do not yet understand, but let’s move on from nineteenth century religious convictions.