Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Metaphysics From John Ray to Nima Arkani-Hamed

An Ad Hoc, Capricious Creation

When John Ray refused to conform to the 1662 Act of Uniformity—aimed mainly at the Puritans—and so was forced to leave his position at Cambridge University, he roamed Europe for three years doing what he loved: observing nature. Ray and his companions were in for a surprise: unfathomable diversity. They found thousands of different kinds of insects, animals and plants. Every place had a different flora and fauna, and with different interactions. Life did not seem to follow the kind of compact formulas Isaac Newton was discovering for the new physics. With the overthrow of Aristotelianism, physics was becoming more parsimonious in line with Occam’s Razor. But biology was headed in the opposite direction. Were all these organic life forms and their detailed life histories really necessary? Ralph Cudworth had warned that the immense details of the world, while refuting Descartes’ rejection of final causes, were surely beneath the sovereign Creator’s dignity, and Ray’s three-year tour upped the ante. The Infra Dignitatem argument for a less hands-on creation story was born. There must have been something between the majestic Creator and this ad hoc, capricious, gritty creation. Like the Gnostics, the Aristotle of England, who would also become the father of natural theology, called for a separation between the Creator and the world.

The ancient Greeks described the cosmos as a set of concentric spheres that rotated and rubbed against each other producing harmonious tones. We have always wanted a simple, beautiful world. Certainly that is what God would have wanted too. But nature has not lived up to our expectations.

In fact ever since Newton, physics has been backsliding and becoming increasingly complex. All this was well explained in a Quanta magazine article from last week about leading physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed:

in recent years one question about the universe has come to preoccupy him, along with the field as a whole. Particle physicists seek to know whether the properties of the universe are inevitable, predictable, “natural,” as they say, locking together into a sensible pattern, or whether the universe is extremely unnatural, a peculiar permutation among countless other, more mundane possibilities, observed for no other reason than that its special conditions allow life to arise. A natural universe is, in principle, a knowable one. But if the universe is unnatural and fine-tuned for life, the lucky outcome of a cosmic roulette wheel, then it stands to reason that a vast and diverse “multiverse” of universes must exist beyond our reach — the lifeless products of less serendipitous spins. This multiverse renders our universe impossible to fully understand on its own terms. As things stand, the known elementary particles, codified in a 40-year-old set of equations called the “Standard Model,” lack a sensible pattern and seem astonishingly fine-tuned for life. Arkani-Hamed and other particle physicists, guided by their belief in naturalness, have spent decades devising clever ways to fit the Standard Model into a larger, natural pattern. But time and again, ever-more-powerful particle colliders have failed to turn up proof of their proposals in the form of new particles and phenomena, increasingly pointing toward the bleak and radical prospect that naturalness is dead.

Like Ray’s seventeenth century findings about biology, today’s physicists are finding what seems to be a capricious creation. There is no natural explanation as the world seems to consist of a long list of ad hoc, randomly selected designs. One thing they know for sure: no creator would have done this. It must have arisen by chance.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Evolution’s Junk Science at the University of Maine

It’s Not About Science

Thinking about taking CHY 431—Structure and Mechanism in Biological Chemistry next semester at the University of Maine? If so you likely will be fed junk evolutionary science like this page:

The page compares the amino acid sequences from the protein cytochrome c across 38 different species. A few of the residues are conserved across all 38 species. For example, position 10 consistently has the amino acid phenylalanine. And what’s the conclusion?  That “Clearly, evolution selects against any change at these positions.”


Actually this evolutionary reasoning has long since been demonstrated to be false with another, even more highly conserved protein—histone IV. If this was about science then students would at least learn what the observations, rather than the dogma, have to say.

Furthermore, the idea that the cytochrome c proteins from all of these species (from cows and ducks to yeast, fungus and bacteria) are related via common descent means that evolution must have created cytochrome c very early in evolutionary history. Certainly earlier than the advent of the electron transport chain (ETC) for which cytochrome c plays an important role. In other words, random mutations somehow created cytochrome c (a feat which itself has no scientific explanation), and then eons later the protein just happened to fit in with one of the most fantastic inventions in all of biology.

The serendipity is astonishing.

Later the page discusses the cytochrome c sequence positions that are highly variable. Here the student is told that “evolutionary drift randomizes these residues.” This is unfortunately yet more evolutionary dogma. In fact there is no scientific evidence that these residues have been “randomized.” That notion comes from the belief that evolution is true, in spite of the science. It may be true that those positions are neutral with respect to function and so can be “randomized,” but that is hardly obvious. Evolution has a long history of claiming structures are random and useless junk, only later to be corrected by scientific findings of function.

Finally the page compares the evolutionary tree based on the cytochrome c protein sequences with the traditional evolutionary tree and makes the ridiculously false claim that “Such trees tend to agree closely with those constructed by evolutionary biologists using morphological data, and provide independent evidence of common descent.”

In fact such trees often do not agree closely with trees based on morphological data. The differences are so significant that they cannot be explained merely as evolutionary “noise.” Therefore by modus tollens, according to the page’s own logic, the science falsifies common descent. No sense in telling the students about that though.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Yockey and a Calculator Versus Evolutionists

Zero Probability is Not a Problem

In a 1977 paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, Hubert Yockey used information theory to evaluate the likelihood of the evolution of a relatively simple protein. Yockey’s model system was cytochrome c, a protein consisting of about one hundred amino acids. Cytochrome c plays an important role in the mitochondria’s electron transport chain (ETC) which helps to convert the chemical energy in carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds, in the food we eat, to an electrochemical potential energy in the form of hydrogen ions (or protons) stored within the mitochondria’s inner membrane. Like water pressing against a dam and turning its turbines to generate electricity, the high-concentration hydrogen ions drive the ATP synthase “turbine” to create the high-energy ATP molecule. Like the electrical outlets in your house, the ATP molecule provides a standardized form of energy that is used for a wide range of applications in your body, such as muscle contraction and nerve signals. There is no scientific explanation for how the ETC evolved. There also is no scientific explanation for how a single protein, such as cytochrome c, evolved. Yockey explained this in 1977, and since then the problem has only gotten worse.

Given 20 different amino acids to choose from, then for a protein with a sequence of 101 amino acids, such as cytochrome c, there are 20 raised to the power of 101, or 20^101, different possible amino acid sequences. That represents an astronomically (and impossible) number of sequences for evolution to search through to find a functional cytochrome c protein.

The problem is more complicated than this, however, since the different amino acids are not equally likely and there are many different sequences that will form a functional cytochrome c protein.

Yockey accounts for these factors to determine the effective number of sequences evolution would have to search through to find cytochrome c. For instance, Yockey uses the known cytochrome c proteins at the time, from many different species, to get an idea of the different amino acids that are possible at each position, within the sequence of 101 residues. Some residues allow for quite a few different amino acids while others seem to be more stringent.

This approach is reasonable, but by no means the only way of estimating the number of different amino acid sequences that could work. One way or another, the bottom line is this: while the number of different sequences that could form a successful type of protein, such as cytochrome c, is a pretty big number, it doesn’t solve the problem.

Yockey found that the probability of evolution finding the cytochrome c protein sequence is about one in 10^64. That is a one followed by 64 zeros—an astronomically large number. He concluded in the peer-reviewed paper that the belief that proteins appeared spontaneously “is based on faith.”

Indeed, Yockey’s early findings are in line with, though a bit more conservative than, later findings. A 1990 study of a small, simple protein found that 10^63 attempts would be required for evolution to find the protein.

A 2004 study found that 10^64 to 10^77 attempts are required, and a 2006 study concluded that 10^70 attempts would be required.

These requirements dwarf the resources evolution has at its disposal. Even evolutionists have had to admit that evolution could only have a maximum of 10^43 such experiments. It is important to understand how tiny this number is compared to 10^70. 10^43 is not more than half of 10^70. It is not even close to half. 10^43 is an astronomically tiny sliver of 10^70.

Furthermore, the estimate of 10^43 is, itself, entirely unrealistic. For instance, it assumes the entire history of the Earth is available, rather than the limited time window that evolution actually would have had. And it assumes the pre existence of bacteria and, yes, proteins. In fact, the evolutionists assumed the earth was covered with bacteria, and each bacteria was full of proteins. That of course is not an appropriate assumption for the question of how proteins could have evolved in the first place. In fact, it is circular.

Of course the evolution of a single protein is only one of many problems for evolution. Consider, for example, the cellular apparatus that constructs proteins—the protein synthesis machinery. One paper used a back-of-the-envelope, simple and conservative calculation to show that the probability of such an apparatus evolving by chance is one in 10^1018. That’s a one followed by 1,018 zeros. Normally in science this would be considered far beyond impossible, so therefore evolutionists are considering an infinite universe, or multiverse, to solve the problem. In such a universe, it does not matter how improbable any event is, it will eventually occur:

Origin of life is a chicken and egg problem: for biological evolution that is governed, primarily, by natural selection, to take off, efficient systems for replication and translation are required, but even barebones cores of these systems appear to be products of extensive selection. The currently favored (partial) solution is an RNA world without proteins in which replication is catalyzed by ribozymes and which serves as the cradle for the translation system. However, the RNA world faces its own hard problems as ribozyme-catalyzed RNA replication remains a hypothesis and the selective pressures behind the origin of translation remain mysterious. Eternal inflation offers a viable alternative that is untenable in a finite universe … In an infinite universe (multiverse), emergence of highly complex systems by chance is inevitable. Therefore, under this cosmology, an entity as complex as a coupled translation-replication system should be considered a viable breakthrough stage for the onset of biological evolution.

There you have it. Probabilities don’t matter. You can point out how unlikely evolution is, and evolution remains a fact. Science is done by people, and people seek certain answers, regardless of the data.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Evolutionists: We Now Have Empirical Evidence For the Evolution of Kin Recognition

Here We Go Again

In a new study out of the University of Liverpool evolutionists now say they have found empirical evidence that a genetic complex, involving dozens of protein-coding genes related to altruism, can evolve. Such a finding would be truly ground-breaking given that, at least up until now, the evolution of even a single protein has been found to be scientifically unlikely. It would be astonishing if now evolutionists have overturned a substantial body of work establishing molecular evolution to be effectively impossible. But of course evolutionists have done no such thing. There was no finding of molecular evolution, no new proteins or genes, no empirical evidence, nothing. Just another ridiculous claim made by evolutionists. It’s the same old pattern—evolutionists look at profoundly complicated biological structures, assume they evolved, and then claim they have found evidence of evolution.

Altruistic behavior creates many problems for evolution. You can see my explanation of some of them here. One problem I did not explain was the starting point: kin recognition. As I explain, evolutionists unsuccessfully tried to explain altruism using the concept of kin selection, and while that creates many scientific problems, you can’t even get to kin selection without kin recognition. How do animal siblings or cousins recognize each other.

The new study out of the University of Liverpool has found a genetic basis for kin recognition. It is a genetic complex of a couple dozen protein-coding genes and the problems with this are several.

First, it means that kin selection hinges on several proteins working together. Evolving a single protein is, from a scientific perspective, so unlikely as to be effectively impossible. But here evolution needs several proteins. Evolve just one protein and you still don’t have kin recognition. You would have to evolve several others, so the problem is even more difficult.

Second, the genetic cluster is species-specific. Apparently there is no common kin recognition mechanism across the vertebrates as evolutionists had assumed. Of course evolutionists had assumed this, for to have different mechanisms, particular to species or groups of species, would make their theory even more absurdly improbable. Kin recognition would have to re-evolve, in various ways, over and over. Well that is exactly what this new finding is suggesting. As usual, biology shows specific, particular, solutions that are unique to one or a few species, rather than falling into the expected common descent pattern.

Once again, common descent fails to serve as a useful guide. And once again evolutionists, in spite of the science, claim more proof for their theory.