Sunday, April 26, 2015

Richard Lenski: “It is an incontrovertible fact that organisms have changed, or evolved”

The Mother of All False Dichotomies

Practically since Darwin the various species of finches on the Galápagos Islands have been declared to be decisive, powerful examples of evolutionary theory. An undeniable confirmation of the age-old Epicurean idea that the world arose spontaneously. But exactly how do some bird species on an island group in the middle of the ocean demonstrate such a bold claim?

The answer involves much more than science. For these cute little birds do not tell us that single-celled bacteria somehow arose from a lifeless collection of chemicals. They don’t tell us that those bacteria gave rise to the complicated eukaryotes, and then to multicellular organisms, and then to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The Galápagos finches don’t even tell us how they themselves could have evolved.

What they do tell us is that nature’s organisms can change. Darwin inferred this, and more recent studies have uncovered some of the specifics. With changing weather patterns and food supplies, the birds respond accordingly. They adapt—a feature that is ubiquitous in biology.

The various species have some fantastic adaptation capabilities, and it’s nothing like evolution’s story of blind mutations hitting on better designs on rare occasion. Instead, it is a rapid shifting between preexisting designs, enabled by preexisting and very complicated mechanisms.

But it is change. And that, for Darwin and later evolutionists, is all they need. You see Darwin and evolutionists in general hold to a doctrine of creationism where the Creator constructs the species to be unchanging. In the eighteenth century it was referred to as the “fixity” or “immutability” or “stability” of species.

So if the finches could, in fact, change, then for evolutionists the fixity of species—and all of creationism along with it—must be false. And if creationism is false, then evolution must be true. As Darwin wrote in his notebook, if there was the slightest foundation for this idea, it “would undermine the stability of species.” Thus the template was cast for evolutionists to come.

What is striking is the heavy reliance on metaphysics. Nothing about the science here tells us, or even hints, that the biological world arose spontaneously as evolutionists insist is true. The underlying foundation of evolutionary thought is religious. As NT Wright recently quipped, “Oh my goodness, he [Darwin] has discovered some very interesting finches, this means we can’t believe in Genesis anymore.”

One recent study highlights this gap between the metaphysics and the science. The study further demonstrates the adaptive capabilities of species such as the finches. It also further demonstrates that adaptation is not evolution. The birds are quick to adapt but they are simply tracking the environment and food supply. The hallmark is their flexibility and adaptiveness.

As one scientist put it, “there has been no long-term specialised evolution.” For many years now even evolutionists have recognized that adaptation does not add up to the large-scale change evolution requires. Some other mechanism is needed.

Nonetheless the Galápagos finches continue to be celebrated as a proof text of evolution. They are an example of change, and evolution is equated with change—any kind of change. Even a mere altering of gene frequencies in a population is, for evolutionists, nothing less than full blown evolution. Such a trivial change becomes proof that the biological world arose spontaneously. It is the mother of all false dichotomies.

As evolutionist Richard Lenski put it, “It is an incontrovertible fact that organisms have changed, or evolved, during the history of life on Earth.” Yes, it is an incontrovertible fact that organisms have changed. But it is not an incontrovertible fact that they have evolved. The equating of change with evolution rests on deeply-held religious beliefs.

As NT Wright might say, “Oh my goodness, Lenski has discovered some very interesting bacteria, this means we can’t believe in Genesis anymore.” The idea that changing gene frequencies, or an occasional genetic mutation, proves that the species spontaneously arose is truly one of the greatest leaps of logic you will ever see. You can see more such examples here and here.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Trichodesmium Genome “defies common evolutionary dogma”

More Junk Science

A new study has found that Trichodesmium or “sea sawdust,” a genus of oceanic bacteria described by Captain Cook in the eighteenth century and so prolific it can be seen from space, has a unique, lineage-specific genome. Less than two-thirds of the genome of this crucial ammonium-producing bacteria codes for proteins. No other such bacteria has such a low value, and conversely such a large percentage of the genome that is non coding. This lineage-specific genome, as one report explains, “defies common evolutionary dogma.”

Indeed, but it is no mistake as different Trichodesmium species, in different corners of the world, show the same anomaly. Furthermore most of the non coding segments are expressed, suggesting they perform some function. Nonetheless, evolutionists believe that selfish or “junk” DNA is an important factor in the evolution of the Trichodesmium genome. Such explanations are gratuitous and add nothing to the science, but are commonly used in evolutionary theory which holds that the biological world spontaneously arose.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Darwin’s Finches Continue to Reveal More About Evolutionists Than Evolution

Interbreeding and Hybridization

Forty years ago biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant began an ongoing study of the different finch species on the Galápagos Islands. They gathered valuable data and during drought years they observed the finches adapt to the environmental challenges. In particular, the population of medium ground finches, Geospiza fortis, shifted toward a larger beak. This was because the drought left smaller seeds in scarce supply, and so those G. fortis with smaller beaks died off. These initial observations were followed with detailed studies of the changes that took place at the molecular level. The latest such study, published in February of this year, describes how a particular protein affects the embryonic development of the finch’s beak. All of this makes for a good case study in adaptation. Unfortunately, it also is a good case study in the misrepresentation of science by evolutionists.

The Grant’s observations of how the Galápagos finches adjusted to shifts in the food supply led to four important findings: the adaptation was rapid, preexisting, cyclical and complicated.

First, the finch populations adjusted to food supply changes just as the temperature in a room changes with your setting of the thermometer. Adjust the thermometer upward and the temperature in a room soon rises. Adjust the thermometer downward and the room cools. The one tracks the other. The finches were not randomly searching some design space—a process which would require long periods of time.

In fact, second, the finch populations were not finding any new designs that were not already present. Just as the room temperature varies between the same old values, the G. fortis shifted between preexisting beak shapes and sizes.

So not surprisingly, third, the G. fortis beak design oscillated back and forth along a cyclical trajectory, morphing between preexisting designs, as the weather and food supply oscillated.

Finally, fourth, these beak designs are varied by extremely complex embryonic development mechanisms. The latest paper, for instance, reports on the ALX1 gene which encodes a transcription factor that influences the finch beak shape and size.

What is a transcription factor? It is a protein that binds to special places in the DNA and regulates gene expression. In other words, a transcription factor is a protein that regulates the creation of other proteins. That is a complicated affair, but the story does not end there. The latest paper finds that this gene must have been transferred between species via hybridization events.

All of these four findings are directly opposed to evolutionary theory and expectations. The process is supposed to be slow, not rapid. The process is supposed to construct new designs, not choose from preexisting ones. The process is supposed to continue off in a direction and arrive at new species, not oscillate back and forth. And the process is supposed to arise naturally, from brute, simple events. The process is not supposed to be based on complex, preexisting, mechanisms.

None of this makes any sense on evolution. In fact Darwin was persuaded that the finches were powerful evidence for evolution because they were different species, not mere variants. In other words, for Darwin they were powerful evidence because, he believed, they did not interbreed.

But interbreeding between the finches is precisely what science has been finding. In this case, the adapting beaks are influenced by the hybridization of the ALX1 gene. Precisely the opposite of the premise which led to the celebration of the Galápagos finches as compelling evidence for evolution in the first place.

Nonetheless, evolutionists have consistently misrepresented the story of the Galápagos finches as an ongoing, powerful modern day confirmation of Darwin’s findings and arguments. The Wall Street Journal calls the new finding “a vivid illustration of evolution working,” and Science Daily informs readers that changes in the finches beaks are “all driven by Darwinian selection.” The new paper, meanwhile, begins with the statement that Darwin’s finches “constitute an iconic model for studies of speciation and adaptive evolution.”

I don’t mind if evolution is true, but I do mind defending it, or any scientific theory, with gross misrepresentations of the evidence.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No Anesthesia Allowed For a Child

Junk Science

Advocates of legalized abortion are now arguing that new legislation in several states, restricting abortion access, is based on junk science. To be fair, the new legislation does not actually restrict access but rather adds an additional step to the process. And what is that step? Simply to make available anesthesia to the soon to be aborted unborn child.

The problem, as the Los Angeles Times reported this week, is the scientific evidence for the capacity of the unborn to feel pain is not settled. As a 2005 paper stated, the evidence is “limited,” but it is “unlikely” that the child perceives pain prior to the third trimester.

One might think that if the scientific evidence is limited and uncertain, then debate would cease. Would we not all agree that such anesthesia should be made available?

No, evolutionists insist that such relief not even be an option. It is reminiscent of laws that deny rights to children who survive abortion attempts. As advocate Elizabeth Nash put it, “We’re seeing more unsubstantiated science. The problem is that legislators are buying into it and using it.”

It is difficult to fathom this level of cruelty. And as always, the perpetrators are certain of their righteousness.

It is equally difficult to fathom this level of absurdity. Unsubstantiated science? The premise that an unborn child is not a human being is the height of unsubstantiated science. Of course such children are human beings—from a scientific perspective that is beyond question.

William Jennings Bryan famously opposed evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial. He was concerned that evolution was dehumanizing and was undermining morality. Unfortunately he seems to have been correct.