Sunday, November 6, 2016

The BBC on Why Evolution is Fact

A Series of Mistakes That Build Up

Last year science writer Chris Baraniuk wrote an article for the BBC that began with this: “Evolution is one of the greatest theories in all of science.” Baraniuk quoted liberally from several leading evolutionists, such as Steve Jones, Nancy Moran, Richard Lenski, and Chris Stringer, and he discussed the work of several others. The purpose of the article was to explain how we know evolution is a fact, as evolutionists claim. And by “fact,” evolutionists are not trying to apply a nuanced or artful spin to their claim. Quite the opposite, by “fact” evolutionists intend that their idea is beyond all reasonable doubt. Baraniuk well explains the claim:

For scientists, evolution is a fact. We know that life evolved with the same certainty that we know the Earth is roughly spherical, that gravity keeps us on it, and that wasps at a picnic are annoying.

Baraniuk appropriately reflects the certainty of evolutionists.

Baraniuk also makes several other good points. For instance, he doesn’t shy away from the heroic levels of Darwin’s idea. Baraniuk explains that under evolution humans must be descended from worms—an ancestor with more biblical allusions than Wilberforce’s “mushrooms.” Either way, such examples quickly reveal the sheer magnitude of the claim. It is, as Wilberforce winsomely put it, a “most unsuspected cousinship.”

Natural selection as creator

It is all the more unsuspected today given that it is supposed to have occurred by strictly random mutations. Natural selection, in contradistinction to how it often is presented, does nothing to induce these mutations. Selection doesn’t guide the evolutionary process like a Plastik Nature, it merely kills off the lesser designs. Death, in evolutionary theory, becomes the engine of progress and here Baraniuk correctly understands that selection “weeds out” those lesser organisms, but Baraniuk unfortunately also slips in the requisite teleological cover, stating that much of evolution is “driven by natural selection”:

Descent with modification, which is caused by random mutations in genes, ultimately leads to gradual changes and the formation of new species – much of it driven by natural selection, which weeds out those organisms that are less suited to their environments.

But evolution is not “driven by natural selection,” it is driven by random mutations. Their metaphysics require a random creation narrative, but for public consumption—and their own sanity—evolutionists quickly replace chance with natural selection.

Everyone knows that the Epicureans’ randomly swerving atoms—or randomly mutating nucleotides, as evolutionists would have it two thousand years later—do not a world create. Chance doesn’t work. Random mutations do not create millions of species, let alone a single protein. And so not too surprisingly evolutionists fall back on Aristotle’s teleological, goal-oriented, narrative. Natural selection is said to “drive” the evolutionary process. (You can see examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,)

Darwin’s genius, if such banality can be described as genius, was in his formulation of natural selection as a concept that would simultaneously allow for the needed chance while providing the needed direction.

Natural selection was the director. Endless just-so stories have been told since 1859 about how natural selection drives the evolutionary process and its resulting biological wonders, producing X for the purpose of Y. But like the Emperor’s new clothes, it was all a fiction. Natural selection does not “drive” anything. A more accurate image is that of a weed out mechanism. Natural selection, stripped of its teleological gloss, merely kills off the failed or less prolific designs, leaving the more prolific designs as the evolutionary winners.

But stripping natural selection of the smuggled in Aristotelianism leaves the evolutionary process with nothing but those random mutations to create the species. Every organism, every structure, and every metabolic pathway, must have been constructed by an unimaginably long series of strictly random events occurring in an unimaginably high-dimensional design space. The curse of dimensionality, and the rugged, flat, fitness landscape both conspire to make clear what was obvious to the Stoics—this is absurd.

Baraniuk doesn’t understand this and his evolution informers have left him none the wiser. Baraniuk rightly explains that natural selection “weeds out those organisms that are less suited to their environments,” but he then applies the same old teleological gloss when he informs his readers that much of the evolutionary process is “driven by natural selection.”

The creature discovers the creator

An interesting consequence of evolutionary theory is that not only did it create the species, but it created a species which, in turn, discovered evolution. That is, evolution created a biological world including humans who eventually repaid the favor by discovering their chance creator. Baraniuk explains:

Given enough time, these changes mount up and lead to the appearance of new species and new types of organism, one small change at a time. Step by step, worms became fish, fish came onto land and developed four legs, those four-legged animals grew hair and – eventually – some of them started walking around on two legs, called themselves "humans" and discovered evolution.

But this doesn’t make sense. For if humans are the creation of a randomized world of matter and motion, then the result is no better. We are simply the result of a big long chemical experiment where the products have a lower free energy than the reactants. Our minds—which evolutionists will explain as nothing more than an emergent property which deceives us into thinking that our consciousness is something real and distinct from the moving molecules encased in our skulls—would have no knowledge of truth. In fact they would have no knowledge, period. It would be remarkable bit of luck if those moving molecules happened to formulate thoughts corresponding to reality. As Darwin stated in a letter:

But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

This is one of the greatest own-goals of all time. Darwin’s point was that we should not trust the conclusion that chance is an insufficient creator. But the Sage of Kent was apparently oblivious that his argument was simultaneously circular and devastating to his own theory. If we are created rather than evolved from the lower animals, then Darwin’s “horrid doubt” is erased and poses no problem for creation. Yet if we are not created but rather evolved, then Darwin’s argument demolishes his own theory. As usual, the evolutionist’s criticism points right back at himself.

The evidence

It’s downhill from there as Baraniuk presents the scientific evidence for this new brand of Epicureanism. For example, Baraniuk’s survey of the fossil evidence, aided and abetted by Steve Jones, is a case study in fallacies. There is the equivocation that “the fossil record makes it clear that life has changed over time,” and the false history, from Steve Jones, that Darwin “knew that [the fossil record] was an irrefutable case that evolution had taken place.” (Darwin mostly apologized for the fossils which clearly showed abrupt appearance). And while Baraniuk correctly explains that the fossil record is characterized by the wrong pattern and so must be viewed as full of gaps:

The fossil record is only so much help here, because it is incomplete. "If you look at most fossil records, what you actually see is one form that lasts quite a long time and then the next bunch of fossils that you've got is quite different from what you had before," says Jones.

Baraniuk nonetheless claims that transitional fossils have more or less filled the gaps (they haven’t).

Baraniuk next presents the mandatory poster-child example of Darwin’s Finches, dramatically misrepresenting the evidence, which shows rapid, directed response to environmental challenges—the opposite of what evolution expects.

Baraniuk then moves on to Richard Lenski’s long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) at Michigan State University, an experiment which for several decades has revealed how little change comes about in laboratory bacteria, E. coli. The biggest observed change was the utilization of citrate in aerobic conditions (normally E. coli utilizes citrate only in anaerobic conditions). That adaptation has been represented as an important example of evolutionary change observed in the laboratory. Unfortunately Baraniuk swallowed it and the result is more pseudoscience.

Baraniuk informs the reader that E. coli cannot digest citrate (false, it cannot digest citrate under certain conditions), and that the observed change represented “a huge leap forward” and “radically new abilities.”

These are ridiculous pseudo science lies.

Evolutionists want so badly for evolution to be true they will pervert science to make their case. Baraniuk also explained that “This would be like humans suddenly developing the ability to eat tree bark.” That is an absurd analogy. E. coli expanding its citrate utilization to include aerobic conditions is nowhere close to humans developing the ability to eat tree bark. Statements such as these reveal an agenda rather than a search for truth.

In fact it is worth mentioning that this same, minor, adaptation has been observed to occur in a matter of weeks (this was not fully appreciated until after Baraniuk’s article). Lenski has tried to dismiss those findings as inconsequential because three weeks were required rather than merely a day or two:

While that’s a lot faster than 15 years, it’s still much longer than typical “direct selections” used by microbiologists where a readily accessible mutation might confer, for example, resistance to an antibiotic after a day or two.

This is an astonishing statement. Lenski did not elaborate on why three weeks versus two days is an important distinction because, well, it isn’t. What these short term experiments suggest is that E. coli can expand its citrate utilization using mechanisms other than evolution’s random mutations. Instead, it looks to be yet another example of directed adaptation—exactly the opposite of what evolution expects. The fact that E. coli can develop aerobic citrate utilization in a matter of weeks rather than years renders Lenski’s LTEE finding a big fat “So what?”

Lenski attempted to cast this LTEE finding as a significant evidence of evolution in action. This is not true simply because the magnitude of the change is tiny (an existing capability was now enabled when it ordinarily would be disabled). Beyond this, the fact that the change can occur in weeks further negates the claim of evolutionary significance. What Lenski and evolutionists should be asking themselves is not “How can we ignore this finding?”, but rather, “How did organisms, such as E. coli in this case, get the ability to respond directly to environmental challenges?” This makes no sense under evolution.

It also confirms another lesson.

Whenever adaptation is observed in a living organism, it should not simply be assumed it is due to the evolutionary concept of random mutations and natural selection. This view has failed repeatedly as so many adaptations have been found to be not due to the action of chance events, but directed mechanisms responding to the environment. This is yet another example of how evolutionary expectations have failed, and failed badly. It is inappropriate to interpret adaptations in living organisms as signs of evolution in action, yet evolutionists continue to do this.

Lost function

One example of change is apparent lost function. These are terrible evidences for evolution because evolution requires new functions to be created. The losing of existing functions does nothing to resolve the basic conundrum that evolutionists struggle with: How could biology’s wonders have evolved? Yet evolutionists, in a sign of how weak the evidence is, consistently resort to these examples of lost function, such as cave animals losing their vision, as one of their key evidences. Not surprisingly, but unfortunately, Baraniuk follows along, aided by Nancy Moran:

"It really shows the process of evolution," says Moran. "It's not all just adaptation and things getting better, there's also this big potential for things to get worse."

This is pathetic. Evolution has failed to show how the species and their many designs could have evolved, yet they claim the loss of such complex functions is evidence for evolution.

Baraniuk’s article is yet another good example of how ludicrous evolution is. Evolution is nothing more than our modern-day Epicureanism, and it is pathetic. Perhaps the best explanation for evolution comes straight from the evolutionist himself:

"That's what evolution is," says Steve Jones of University College London in the UK. "It's a series of mistakes that build up."

Of course what Jones means here is that the evolutionary process is the accumulation of a series of mistakes. That alone reveals the scientific absurdity. And so, a more accurate interpretation of Jones’ statement is the it is not the process of evolution, but the theory of evolution, that is a “series of mistakes that build up.”

So true.


  1. That sure seemed like a rather pointless bit of creationist whining. Just need to let off a little steam?

    1. Hmm, that's a rather strong conviction.

      But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind? --Darwin

    2. A critic lacking substance to the same degree as the article. That must explain the mind that can believe in evolution. A strong capacity for

    3. the convictions of a monkey's mind ...

  2. Dr.Hunter: Good to see you 'up and posting' again.

    Here's the latest example of directed adaptation:

  3. "These are terrible evidences for evolution because evolution requires new functions to be created. "

    What evolutionary scientists say this? Any references/papers?

    1. What evolutionists don't say it? This is a common argument for evolutionists. You can see Nancy Moran making this point in the article. If you want more elaboration, you can see Jerry Coyne's *Why Evolution is True,* first section of the third chapter.

    2. I'm assuming you are referring to Coyne's discussion of vestigial features? I think the point I was making is that features at least can become redundant (e.g., losing sight) so not everything results in something "new" - only different. Maybe you are using the word "function" differently. What then is your explanation of why these vestigial features have appeared?

    3. I think the point I was making is that features at least can become redundant (e.g., losing sight) so not everything results in something "new"

      So what? The argument was these are strong evidence for evolution, not that evolution can merely accommodate them.

    4. If it is not evidence for evolution than, what is it evidence for? How does your position then explain vestigial features? That's kind of rhetorical of course, because I know from reading this blog for a while you are focused only on criticizing evolution. Your blog of course, but in the end is it really going anywhere? Good snacks I suppose to keep the choir satiated!

    5. Why do you think Coyne and the rest finger these apparent "loss of function" examples (where you have similarities between species but in one species the structure appears to be non functional) as strong, compelling evidence? There are many examples of similarities between species. Why focus on the apparently non functional examples?

    6. I suppose there can be several ways to look at it. One is that species A has functional feature X and species B has the vestiages of functional feature, perhaps call it Y. Of course we could have a long discussion as to why we think Y is a derivation of X but for sake of argument, it's clear (perhaps something like a human tail, although perhaps not the best example).

      We could say of course that the Designer wanted it that way and of course creationists have come up with elaborate examples of way feature Y really is in fact functional,

      Or another example is that for what reason, feature Y used to be like feature X, but has now changed over a long period time.

      Or there are other explanations, or do you think it doesn't even need explaining or thinking about?

    7. Well you're getting a little warmer. If you consider all the myriad similarities between species, why focus on the seemingly nonfunctional ones? If similarity confirms an evolutionary relationship via CD, then why not just use the functional ones that make sense? There are many more of them, and they would make for better evidence anyway.

      In fact, as Sober has pointed out, evolution / CD is *less* likely given such nonfunctional structures. These make evolution / CD *less* likely.

      But, they make creation/design even less likely--quite a bit less likely. So they are powerful evidences. Consider this, and think about it.

    8. Why does Sober think it is less likely that evolution occurred with nonfunctional features? Any reference?

  4. "But evolution is not “driven by natural selection,” it is driven by random mutations."

    Ignoring the allusion to intelligence that your use of words like "driven" imply, you have written a lot of words to assert nothing more than "evolution is wrong".

    Evolutionary theory is predictable and testable. ID "theory" is wishful thinking.

    1. Nice own-goal. Baraniuk is the one who used "driven." Never underestimate Aristotelianism.

    2. So, your only argument against evolutionary theory is when someone uses an inappropriate word? Like "driven"? Or "design"? Or "machine"? Or "purpose"? Don't you think that a better argument against it would to provide substantive logical arguments against it, supported by evidence? Just a suggestion.

    3. No, that's not my only argument. You apparently have not been reading this blog very much.

    4. Actually, I have read everything in it. Many times. It's not my fault that you have not been able to raise a cogent argument against evolution, or for ID.

    5. First it was no arguments. Now it's no cogent arguments. What next?

    6. WS:

      You state: "Evolutionary theory is predictable and testable."

      How is this statement true?

  5. William Spearshake

    Don't you think that a better argument against it would to provide substantive logical arguments against it, supported by evidence?

    First the IDiots would have to find such evidence. Have you seen the latest from Ann "green screen" Gauger? She announced at the DI today the whole science of population genetics is wrong and she has a "realistic" population model showing all humans arose from a single pair in the Middle East just a few thousand years ago. All science so far! :)

  6. "First it was no arguments. Now it's no cogent arguments. What next?"

    Let's examine this statement. My first comment that included the word "argument" is as follows:
    "Don't you think that a better argument against it would to provide substantive logical arguments against it, supported by evidence? "

    My second comment was:
    "It's not my fault that you have not been able to raise a cogent argument..."

    Where, exactly, did I mention that you had no arguments. People can makes arguments for any side of an argument and provide evidence. But bad arguments and poor evidence will only convert the already converted.

    1. You can't convert the already converted because they've already been converted.

      Bad arguments and poor evidence are irrelevant when you're already converted. Indeed, no arguments are relevant.