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.