Saturday, February 28, 2015

It’s Just Getting Worse: Our Retina Structure is “optimized for our vision purposes”

Theory of the Gaps

Research out of Israel continues to hammer away at the once powerful proof text for evolution, that our retina is one big kludge given that the photocells were obviously installed backwards. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the resulting neuron wire bundle had to go somewhere, and the result was a blind spot in our retina. Such a kludge could only be ascribed to the blind process of evolution. The problem with such arguments, aside being nonscientific, is that they are vulnerable to the inexorable march of scientific progress. The act has played out repeatedly: When we first observe a design we don’t understand it and conclude it must be mostly nonsense and another confirmation of evolution. Then, years later, science discovers a nifty function for the design.

So it is with our retina and its “backward” photocells. They were celebrated as an example of nature’s “errors and bungles” and yet another vindication of the Epicurean call for a designer-less world.

But that was then and this is now. It turns out those backward photocells, along with the retina’s Müller cells, work to focus the green-red part of the light spectrum onto the cone photoreceptors and pass the shorter-wavelength blue-purple light through to the rod photoreceptors. As Professor Erez Ribak put it, those backward photocells and the overall retina “optical structure is optimized for our vision purposes.”

This is another example of the danger of constructing theories on the gaps in our knowledge.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Here is Benjamin Jones’ Faustian Bargain

The Age-Old Sophism

In his Guardian piece this week Atheist Benjamin Jones is spot on when he says that science works. Cosmology and evolutionary biology, Jones explains, have answered the question of how the world came to be. Indeed, evolution is a fact. What Jones misses, though, is why evolution is a fact. It makes all the difference.

Simply put, evolution is known to be a fact by theology. The empirical evidence, on the other hand, does not show that the world arose spontaneously. Quite the opposite—Epicureanism has not held up well. The empirical data do not support evolutionary theories.

This leaves atheists such as Jones in a bit of an awkward position. They gain their comfort from theology, but then claim it isn’t real. You can’t make metaphysical claims about God and creation, and then conclude that matter and motion is all there is. You can’t have it both ways.

Atheists like Jones have entered into a Faustian bargain. They reap a short term gain, but it is unstable. They have landed in John Lennon’s “Imagine” guilt-free land with “No Hell below us,” but they have arrived there by judging God. Their fallacy cannot endure in the long run.

Jones makes it clear as he bemoans the religious wars. For atheists, Jones explains, “religion is a force for ill.” What Jones does not explain, and no doubt has not understood, is that for atheists, there can be no such thing as ill in the first place. There can be no true knowledge of good and evil because, according to them, matter and motion is all there is. Such a world has no good and evil, only molecular configurations with no truth value.

It is the age-old sophism that we can never shake. The short-term gain is just too attractive.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

This Piece by Lawrence Krauss is a Damning Indictment

Follow the Evidence

When Eric Metaxas wrote a Christmas Day piece in the Wall Street Journal about how science is lending support to modern-day arguments for design in the universe, he drew fire from all quarters. Apparently Metaxas arguments were full of fallacies. Of particular interest was a criticism by leading physicist, Lawrence Krauss. Surely a top scientist would leave no doubt about Metaxas’ flubs.

Krauss’ first point was that Metaxas is a “religious writer with an agenda,” and so his arguments cannot be trusted. But religious people in general, and Christians in particular, are all over the map when it comes to design. Indeed, many of Metaxas’ critics are Christian theologians.

Clearly Metaxas, qua “religious writer” or Christian, is not bound to an agenda regarding design. Why then does Krauss sense an agenda at work? Perhaps because, in fact, it is Krauss who is the one with the agenda. You see Krauss is an atheist, and when it comes to design, atheists are most definitely not all over the map. If you are an atheist, then you can’t accommodate arguments that the science strongly points to a designer. In fact, elsewhere, when not claiming others have an agenda, Krauss has advocated the abolishment of religion:

Religion will go away in a generation, or at least largely go away - and that's what I think we have an obligation to do.

And Krauss says Metaxas is the one with the agenda?

Unfortunately Krauss’ criticism goes downhill from there. Krauss explains that “The piece was rife with inappropriate scientific misrepresentations.”


Metaxas makes two basic arguments. First, evolution’s just-add-water view of life had led astronomers to expect that the universe is teeming with life. ETs should be common and if we point our radios to the stars we should eventually pick up some interesting signals. But no such signals have been found. It is a clear example of yet another falsified evolutionary expectation. In fact Metaxas cites some astronomers who have argued the probabilities for ET life is far lower than previously expected.

Second, Metaxas points out that the universe is fine-tuned for life. And while this is a more subtle point, no one questions that this is an interesting and powerful set of evidences that must be reckoned with. That is, except Krauss.

Metaxas is pointing to fundamental findings. While there is much more to say about them, there is no misrepresentation as Krauss charges.

In fact, again, it is Krauss who is the one who is guilty of his charges. Krauss makes the common evolutionary appeal to future findings. “We currently DO NOT know,” the publicly-funded professor begins, “the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe.” [emphasis in original]

I’ve seen this response many times. Evolutionists argue the science proves their theory, and when they are presented with the actual evidence they then make the argument from ignorance. So what if the evidence is against them, future science might switch things around.

Absolutely. That certainly is true. Who knows what science may discover in the future.

But that is irrelevant.

No one is talking about unknown findings at some unknown time in the future made by some unknown scientist. Metaxas is talking about the here and now. He made no sweeping metaphysical claims, as evolutionists do. He was merely discussing today’s science.

It gets worse.

Krauss next resorts to a silly straw man version of Metaxas’ simple point:

The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.

At this point Krauss wasn’t even wrong. Did he write this while standing in line to board his next flight?

Krauss continues with more misrepresentations of both science and Metaxas’ points. It is true that science isn’t going to prove anything for Krauss and the evolutionists. One can always interpret the evidence to support the chance-creationism hypothesis. Just look at how Krauss ends his rebuttal:

The appearance of design of life on Earth is also overwhelming, but we now understand, thanks to Charles Darwin that the appearance of design is not the same as design, it is in fact a remnant of the remarkable efficiency of natural selection.

The remarkable efficiency of natural selection?

Krauss is apparently unaware of the most basic biological research in the past half century. Yes, Charles Darwin hoped for such remarkable efficiency. And yes he presented many thought experiments for why he believed it to be true. But that was nineteenth century naturalism. There was no scientific evidence for it then, and we now understand much more about the many problems with that view.

Krauss’ criticism of Metaxas reveals the pathetic state of evolutionary thinking. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Christopher Booker: The Fiddling With Temperature Data is the Biggest Science Scandal Ever

Not Following the Data

Regardless of whether evolution it true, false, or somewhere in between, one of evolution’s many influences is the enlistment of science to support ulterior motives. In evolution, the science is enlisted to support a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. Simply put, thinkers such as Darwin became convinced that divine creation must be false. It was a purely religious and metaphysical argument. The empirical evidence does not support very well the idea that the biological world arose spontaneously, so evolutionary “science” is needed to reinterpret the evidence.

Charles Darwin was by no means the first to contort evidence to fit a preconceived notion, but since 1859 the creative use of science has become increasingly common. A recent example of this is the theory of AGW (anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming). Like evolution the theory must be true, regardless of the science. Hence there is substantial social, career advancement and funding pressures to obtain confirmations of theory. And as Christopher Booker reminded his readers in this weekend’s Telegraph, the data are adjusted to support the theory. It is, says Booker, the biggest science scandal ever:

When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically “adjusted” to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.

Even if this is all true, it does not mean AGW is necessarily false. But it is another example of how easily science is enlisted to support preconceived conclusions. Darwin’s friend TH Huxley said we should follow the data, like a child, wherever it leads. Huxley himself failed to do that, and that trend has continued ever since.

Celebrating Pornography

Evolution’s Many Influences

It is unfortunate that the checkout lines at so many stores continue to display pornographic images which our evolution-informed culture continues to condone and celebrate. Entertainment journalist Aly Weisman, for instance, approvingly reports on the latest Sports Illustrated reminder to young girls that they are inadequate. Meanwhile the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award consistently rewards evolutionists, such as Patricia Princehouse, Zachary Kopplin and Eugenie Scott, for their junk science. It is not that evolution created pornography, but evolution did reinforce and fuel a world view that did. Religion drives science, and it matters.