Monday, December 21, 2015

Get Rid of Evolution With This One Weird Trick

A Limited Time Offer

People have been begging me to tell them about this one weird trick to get rid of evolution. But up until now I have been hesitant. It’s almost too easy. Plus, getting rid of evolution would mean not having evolutionists around anymore, and what fun would that be? But now, for a limited time, you too can get rid of evolution with this one weird trick.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jason Rosenhouse: “I Think You Get the Idea”

The New Priesthood

I once heard an evolution professor insist that all of the biological evidences support and confirm the theory of evolution. Since then I found that this view occupies the consensus position. All of the findings in the life sciences are exactly what we would expect from an evolutionary perspective. You can see it everywhere from textbooks to evolutionary journal papers. A good recent example of this thinking comes from professor Jason Rosenhouse.

The idea that all of the biological evidences are exactly what evolution would expect is a misrepresentation of the science. The misrepresentation is striking given the extent to which the evidence contradicts evolutionary theory. You can see examples of these contradictions here.

It is important to understand that evolutionists are not merely saying their theory is an interesting idea that merits investigation. They are not merely saying their theory deserves to be considered or has some degree of merit. Such circumspect sentiment is not, and never has been, what evolutionary thought is about. Evolutionary thought is about high truth claims, with complete certainty, which contradict what we know about the world.

This cognitive dissonance is maintained by evolutionists using two moves. First, because evolution is taken to be true from the start (for non scientific reasons), the evidences naturally undergo interpretation and filtering.

The body of evidence, as understood by evolutionists, is what philosophers refer to as theory laden. For instance, contradictory evidences are often set aside. They may be viewed as incomplete, erroneous, not normative, or anomalous. One way or another they are not ready for prime time.

For example, evolutionists compare homologous genetic sequences between species to evaluate their evolutionary relationship. But the very act of comparing homologous sequences ignores, and filters out, the many sequences for which there is no homology.

The second move is to discount and delegitimize scientific objection as insignificant or nefarious. If you point out the many scientific problems with the Epicurean belief that chance events, coupled with natural laws, explain the origin of the world, then ironically the tables will be turned and you will be blamed for having the religious agenda.

Rosenhouse expresses these points, in typical fashion:

every scrap of evidence discovered by scientists points strongly in that direction [naturalism and evolution]. If evolution is false, for example, then it should have been trivially easy to disprove. And yet every scrap of data we have is consistent with what evolution tells us to expect.

Every scrap of evidence points strongly in the direction of naturalism and evolution? Even though I have seen such claims many times now, I still wince. They are, as they say, not even wrong. This is one of those rare times where superlatives really are appropriate. This is not just absurd, it is very absurd. Not just a misrepresentation but a perversion. Not just a lie, but a damn lie.

From the age-old evidence of breeding and twentieth century fly experiments to the more modern protein evolution studies and the violations of the common descent pattern across the species (a mere four of many examples), the “scraps” of evidence we actually have unequivocally do not point in the direction of naturalism and evolution.

This is simply a bald faced lie.

Rosenhouse then proceeds to discount the actual science as insignificant and merely the product of those religiously-driven creationists trying to prove their creator. What would evolutionists do without the Creationists?

Of course there is a reason for all the machinations. Evolutionists do not insist their modern-day Epicureanism is a fact, in spite of everything around us, without reason. Not surprisingly, that reason is really no different than that of the Epicureans. Modern thinkers have substantially elaborated on the theological details, but it boils down to religious beliefs about how a Creator would and should interact with the world.

First, if a creator were specifically design and create a world, it certainly would not look like this one. Beyond that, a truly great god would not use miracles anyway, and even if he would, the lowly things of this world are beneath his dignity to begin with. Furthermore science becomes impossible with an interventionist god.

The arguments go on and on, and they mandate a naturalistic origins. So not surprisingly, Rosenhouse explains that whatever concerns one might have with evolution, the real problem lies with the alternative:

For example, those biomolecular systems we were talking about never look quite so impressive after you study them in detail. … However superficially implausible they [the problems with evolution] seem, the only alternative on offer is much harder to believe.

After all, we just can’t really understand God:

Whatever mysteries you think you have found in the naturalistic view of life pale in comparison to what happens when you try to comprehend an entity with the attributes God is said to have.

For instance, how can God cause physical actions if he has no physical existence?

God is said to be mind without brain. For all the experience we have with actual minds and actual brains, that just looks like a contradiction in terms. God has no physical existence, yet acts of His will can cause whole universes with finely-tuned fundamental constants to appear where there was nothing before. How does He do that?

And what is the connection between His will and the creation of matter? Did you ever think of that?

What’s the connection between His will and the creation of matter? God knows what everyone is thinking at every moment of every day. How is that possible? How can he process and store all of that information? He exists “necessarily,” whatever that means, in contrast to the more mundane sort of existence we see all around us each day. I could go on multiplying the implausibilities, but I think you get the idea.

Yes, we certainly do get the idea. Evolutionists are driven by religious dogma in spite of the obvious evidence staring right at them. As even Rosenhouse must admit:

Personally, I find it incredible that the four fundamental forces of physics, operating from the moment after the Big Bang, could rearrange matter into everything that we see today. That unintelligent causes can ultimately lead to the creation of intelligent creatures, who can then rearrange matter and energy in clever ways, is, I entirely agree, hard to believe. And Darwinian evolution strains credulity as well. I am very sympathetic to the view that natural forces do not construct delicate, biomolecular machines.

But of course none of that matters because, after all, don’t forget the creationists. We must not allow God to interact with the world.

Young children are content with magical, supernatural explanations for things. But as we grow up most of us come to realize that invocations of God never really explain much of anything. They just create big mysteries where only small ones existed before.

Of course they are evolutionists, their religion requires it. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Evolution is a Scientific Fact: A Proposition

Evolutionists disagree amongst themselves about the theory of evolution but they agree about the fact of evolution. If there is one point of agreement within evolution-dom, it is that evolution is a scientific fact. A few years after Darwin died Joseph Le Conte explained that evolution is a law, not a theory, and it is a law to which every department of natural studies must adhere. It is not merely as certain as gravity, "Nay, it is far more certain." Similarly, Teilhard de Chardin maintained that "evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow—this is what evolution is."

In 1951 George G. Simpson wrote that there really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question, concluded Simpson, has been decisively answered in the affirmative. Scientist and social critic Ashley Montagu elevated evolution beyond all other theories. It was, according to Montagu, "the most thoroughly authenticated fact in the whole history of science."

In his biology textbook Neil Campbell informed the student that “The term theory is no longer appropriate except when referring to the various models that attempt to explain how life evolves … it is important to understand that the current questions about how life evolves in no way implies any disagreement over the fact of evolution.”

For Douglas Futuyma evolution “is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth’s revolution about the sun,” and Richard Lewontin says it is time “to state clearly that evolution is a fact.” Niles Eldredge claims that “Evolution is a fact as much as the idea that the earth is shaped like a ball.”

The National Academy of Sciences explains that in science the word “fact” can be used “to mean something that has been tested or observed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing or looking for examples. The occurrence of evolution in this sense is a fact. Scientists no longer question whether descent with modification occurred because the evidence supporting the idea is so strong.”

And Harvard's Ernst Mayr explained that the fact of evolution is so overwhelmingly established that it would be irrational to call it a theory.

That evolution is a scientific fact is an important claim. Let’s look at exactly what evolutionists are saying:

Evolution: For evolutionists this word refers to the idea that all the species arose via natural laws. God did not use miracles to create the biological world, instead everything arose by the play of the natural processes and laws we observe. Moths changing color or bacteria gain resistance to antibiotics do not constitute evolution. They are at best tiny examples of evolution. Such examples of adaptation do not prove evolution any more than a flat parking lot proves the flat earth theory. Evolution is a big theory.

Is: This evolutionary claim is not tentative. Evolutionists are not merely saying that some evidence supports their theory. They are not saying parts of evolution are true, or that evolution might be a fact. There is no wiggle room here. Evolution is a scientific fact.

Scientific: What type of fact is evolution? It is a scientific fact? This means that this conclusion is arrived at via logic. Scientific reasoning is, if anything, logical. Fallacies are rooted out and eliminated. And the evidence used in the reasoning is public. There is no private knowledge required to understand evolution and its status as a fact. Also, the premises of scientific reasoning are objective. There are no subjective axioms. One need not adhere to Buddhism or Baptism to understand and agree with scientific reasoning.

Fact: This word can mean different things to different people, but in this context evolutionists are quite clear about their usage. A favorite comparison, as demonstrated by Le Conte above, is with gravity. Evolution is a fact every bit as much as is gravity (or more so according to Le Conte). There’s not much nuance here. Sure evolution may not be true, but only in the sense that gravity might not be true. This existence could be a big dream, with none of what we experience being real. But aside from such Berkeleyan quandaries, we can count on the veracity of evolution.

Now that we understand just what evolutionists are claiming, what can we say about it? There is indeed much to say, but the most important observation that is immediately obvious from the evolution genre is that while evolutionists consistently make this claim, it is nowhere demonstrated.

To be sure evolution is often proved to be a fact, but in every case metaphysical premises are involved. If god wouldn’t have created the mosquito then yes, evolution in one form or another must be a fact. But such theological musings (yes, evolutionists really do assert this very premise) fall far outside of the objectivity criterion.

And while the evolution literature is often scientific, in those cases the theory is never shown to be a fact. This problem is not slight. It is not the case that evolution is quite convincing but just shy of fact-hood. Darwin’s theory, in whatever form it is presented, comes nowhere close to being a fact when we restrict the premises to the realm of empirical science. In fact—if we want to speak of facts—the fact is evolution is highly problematic.

For many years I have searched the evolution genre. I have scanned the journals and reviewed the texts. From Darwin and Le Conte to Carroll and Coyne, I have pored over the literature. I have nowhere found an exposition of this most important fact. I have seen evolution proven to be a fact, and I have seen evolution presented as science, but I have never seen evolution shown to be a scientific fact.

And so I have a proposition for evolutionists. Show me your fact and I will promote it. Explain why evolution is a scientific fact and I will retract my criticisms as unfounded. Back up your claim and I will be an evolutionist.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Biologos and Science: The Case of the OOL

Evolution is at a Tipping Point

Evolutionists claim their theory is a fact and one way they support this claim is by construing the relationship between religion and science according to what is known as the Warfare Thesis, a mythological retelling of history where scientific skepticism is marginalized as anti intellectual. But the Warfare Thesis is more than merely a perversion of history. When Biologos appeals to the Galileo Affair, for example, to support its evolutionary beliefs it is propagating a false history, but the misrepresentations do not stop there. The Warfare Thesis also relies on a false witness of science.

The Galileo Affair is the posterchild of the Warfare Thesis myth. As the story goes, poor old Galileo was a great scientist just doing his job when, after inventing the telescope, discovered the Earth goes around the Sun and this led to a firestorm of religious opposition from biblical literalists who naively and dogmatically referred to those passages of Scripture that say the Sun revolves around the Earth, and all this led to merciless persecution, torture and imprisonment of Galileo.

Furthermore, just as the literalists opposed poor old Galileo in the seventeenth century, so too they are opposing the innocent evolutionists today. If you admit that Galileo was right about heliocentrism back then, then you must agree that evolutionists today are right about mutations creating the species. It is just good solid science at work.

But this is a false argument on every count. First, this retelling of the Galileo Affair that we hear so often today is all wrong. Galileo did not invent the telescope, he did not discover, or otherwise prove, heliocentrism, he was not just a humble scientist, the serious opposition and legal problems he faced did not stem from biblical literalists, the Scripture does not say the Sun revolves around the Earth, and Galileo was not tortured and did not go to jail.

Yes, there were those who viewed heliocentrism as violating scripture, but generally they were easily dissuaded. There was much more serious resistance that Galileo would face. For example, his ideas unquestionably violated Aristotelian physics and ideology which not only was still active but at times had been elevated practically to the status of official church doctrine. Furthermore (i) Galileo’s caustic personality, and his penchant for humiliating people and making enemies (including his one-time friend, the Pope), (ii) the fact that leading astronomers of the day by no means were in agreement on this cosmological question and often held to opposing views, and (iii) the turbulent politics of the day, all conspired to make the going tough for Galileo.

It is misleading and a misrepresentation of history to hold up the Galileo Affair as an example of biblical literalism opposing scientific progress. Yet there it is.

But false history is not the only fruit of the Warfare Thesis, it also leads to false science. Just as historians prevaricate on the history, scientists prevaricate on the science. Consider, for example, the origin of life (OOL) problem.

The spontaneous generation of life was once accepted, but Darwin contemporary Louis Pasteur demonstrated it does not happen. His Law of Biogenesis stated Omne vivum ex vivo (all life from life), and the burden of proof fell to the evolutionists to prove that over time evolution gets lucky, or that there was something different about the early Earth that changes the rules. Well the early Earth was indeed different, but not in ways that help evolution. And deep time doesn’t help either. Evolutionists have been trying to demonstrate the plausibility of life arising spontaneously, over millions of years, from non living chemicals for almost a century now with no luck. And luck is exactly what is needed, an astronomical amount of luck.

Evolutionists have explored every conceivable mechanism, and then some, to tackle the OOL problem. Perhaps life evolved in a warm little pond, or in bubbles, or in crystals, or at deep sea vents, or in clay, or by hypercycles, or from comets. Some have even said it must have been planted here by extra terrestrials because otherwise the OOL problem requires a miracle to solve.

Not only have evolutionists failed but we now have an enormous body of work confirming what common sense (and Pasteur) indicated all along—the most complicated thing in the universe probably didn’t arise spontaneously by chance events.

But none of this changed the evolutionist’s high claims that their idea is a fact, beyond all reasonable doubt. Scientific evidence didn’t seem to matter. In fact for many years evolutionists were not shy about claiming victory, in spite of the obvious failures. Mainstream evolutionists, organizations, and textbooks insisted the OOL problem was essentially solved, with only the details to be ironed out.

That, of course, was an enormous misrepresentation of science. More recently evolutionists have fortunately been more forthcoming about the empirical findings. They have agreed that the problem has not been solved, and that solutionists are not right around the corner.

For evolutionists that was quite a concession, but it did not change their overall truth claims. Evolution is still an undeniable fact and the misrepresentation is now at more of a philosophical level. This is obvious, for example, at the BioLogos presentation on the evidences for evolution. which makes this argument:

The fact that there is no answer today does not mean there will be no answer tomorrow. Though an explanation for the origin of life is currently elusive, this does not mean divine intervention is the only possible explanation.

The religious agenda is obvious. God must not be an intervening God—special divine action must not be allowed. The state of the art must not be reported as indicating any serious problem for OOL; rather, the problem merely has not yet been solved. This opens the door to scientific misrepresentations which come next:

Although we do not know the path that led to these early bacterial forms, it seems likely DNA had emerged as the information molecule by this time. Microbiologist and physicist Carl R. Woese suggests there was a considerable amount of lateral gene transfer among the first forms of bacteria called archaebacteria. Lateral gene transfer, which is the movement of genes from one bacterium to another, would have enabled the exchange of genetic material, and it would therefore expedite the process of diversification of biological function acted upon by natural selection.

Most in the BioLogos audience won’t recognize the falsehoods in these technical claims. It is easy to fudge the facts when no knows any better but these are, nonetheless, serious misrepresentations. No, it is not “likely” that “DNA had emerged as the information molecule by [a 100 million years of the Earth cooling].” That would be a tremendous breakthrough in OOL research if that were true.

But it isn’t true.

There is no experiment or even calculation show that this is likely. In fact it is the exact opposite. Such a scenario is not likely by today’s science, and that is one of the many problems for OOL.

Next, to say that Carl Woese called for “a considerable amount of lateral gene transfer” is another misrepresentation. Woese called for an entirely different scheme which might be called lateral gene transfer on steroids. This is important because Woese’s idea has no analog in reality. Nothing of the sort has ever been observed in the field or synthesized in the laboratory. What Woese needed was a fanciful world of communities of unicellular organisms which somehow spontaneously arose and then engaged in a highly organized, complex process of sharing genetic material which, if not carefully controlled, would have wreaked havoc even if it somehow could have arisen spontaneously (for which Woese presented no evidence).

The article concludes with more philosophical and fallacious misrepresentations:

Life on this Earth appeared approximately 3.85 billion years ago, yet serious scientific study of its origins began just 60 years ago. A convincing scientific explanation may still emerge in the next 50 years.

Question: What do 3.85 billion, 60, and 50 have to do with each other? Or more to the point, why would an older event require more time to figure out? Would the OOL problem be easier if it was supposed to have occurred 1 billion years ago? And why is 110 years required to solve the problem rather than 60?

The answer, of course, is that this is simply more machinations to avoid the clear and obvious fact that the scientific state of the art does not support evolution. Another machination is the use of false dichotomies:

it is dangerously presumptuous to conclude the origin of life is beyond discovery in the scientific realm simply because we do not currently have a convincing scientific explanation. Although the origin of life is certainly a genuine scientific mystery, this is not the place for thoughtful people to wager their faith.

Wager their faith? Beyond discovery? Dangerously presumptuous? These warnings speak volumes for here we have a window into evolutionary thought. We must be evolutionists for otherwise we would be lost in a world of fideism where one’s very faith is staked to scientific failure. No wonder evolutionists are committed naturalists—their religion depends on it.

Finally, there is the ultimate argument which firewalls OOL off from evolution.

Finally, as a purely technical matter, the theory of evolution does not propose an explanation to the question of the origin of life at all. The theory of evolution becomes relevant only after life has already begun

As if sensing a problem, and just in case we were beginning to have doubts, we are told to forget about the whole thing. Forget about all those journals, conferences, textbook claims about the origin of life, popular books and newspaper articles, speeches and blogs. It all has nothing to do with evolution after all.

Evolutionists believe that the species, life, the Earth and planets, the Sun, the galaxies, yes the entire universe arose by chance events. There is no limit to what evolution can create, but when problems arise, the topic is simply dismissed as extraneous to the theory.

The fact, which evolutionists are at pains to avoid, is that OOL research has not merely failed to find a solution. It has positively succeeded in scientifically demonstrating that such a solution is unlikely. That is, according to today’s state of the art. Could that all change with future findings? Of course. Are philosophical end-arounds available such as redefining “evolution,” or invoking the anthropic principle and multiverse? Again, of course. But none of this changes the scientific facts.

Evolution is at a tipping point. In recent years evolutionists have increasingly had to admit that OOL research has not succeeded. The problem has not been solved save for a few minor details. Nor is there an obvious solution just around the corner.

But what evolutionists have not admitted to is what this implies about the fact of evolution. Evolution never was a fact and evolutionist’s insistence that it is has always been metaphysical. But the OOL problem is a good case study to make this crystal clear. It is abundantly obvious, to any objective observer, that evolution is not a fact. But evolutionists will not go there. At least not yet.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

BioLogos: Ex YEC Tells All

From the Frying Pan to the Fire

Movements need converts and evolutionists are now revealing yet another ex young Earth creationist who has seen the light. Growing up he was an enthusiastic apologist for creationism. As a teenager he spread the word on the radio and made trips to Kentucky to work with Ken Ham’s young-earth creationism (YEC) organization. He believed YEC was the only acceptable interpretation of the Bible. Without it he would lose his faith.

When he went to college for his biology degree his parents thought the teaching might sway him to evolution. But instead, he became even more convinced. His conversion to evolution would come later, when he went to seminary.

It was then that he realized the scriptures presented a far grander story and that evolution revealed a greater god. It was invigorating think of science as exploring the unknown and God became all the more wondrous. Science provided the mechanism by which life develops, and religion provided the agency behind the mechanism. It all fit so well. Science and religion were not in opposition, but rather complemented each other.

He also realized that it is a dangerous fallacy to demand that evolution provide answers to every possible question. Just because evolution cannot explain every detail does not mean it is false. And in fact evolution does provide good answers based on solid scientific research.

That, in a nutshell is the evolution story. It is the story of one man’s journey to Epicureanism, but it is also the story of countless others, including Charles Darwin. The road goes through religion, not science. It was the seminary rather than the biology degree that convinced the young man that the world arose spontaneously. It is not science, but religion that drives men to absurdity. And once there, it seems so right. After all, it makes for a more wondrous theology and it frees up our scientific inquiry. Epicureanism is needed for both God and man.

Religion drives science, and it matters.