Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Your Own Evidence For Evolution

The Nature of Evidence

Charles Darwin would approve of this video showing evidence for evolution found in the human body.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What Does Abortion Portend For Evolution?

An Unsolved Puzzle

While much has been said about the link between evolution and abortion, and how the former sanctions the latter, little has been said about the reverse. If evolution supports abortion, what does abortion say about evolution?

To appreciate fully what we can learn about evolution from abortion, we first need to understand the evolution of behavior. In the past half century evolutionists have elucidated how complex behaviors, such as altruism, evolved. A key concept is kin selection, and much of the early theoretical work was done by William Hamilton in the early 1960s.

For our purposes here, what is important is that studies in the evolution of behavior have been forced to resort to enormous levels of complexity, nuance and precision. Somehow unguided genetic modifications must have resulted in genes for a wide range of attitudes and behaviors. The list is staggering. There are of course the obvious behaviors such as love, hate, guilt, retribution, social tendencies and habits, friendship, empathy, gratitude, trustworthiness, a sense of fulfillment at giving aid and guilt at not giving aid, high and low self-esteem, competition, and so forth.

These behaviors are supposed to have evolved according to the kin selection criteria, along with many more nuanced behaviors. For instance, love not only evolved, but in varying degrees depending on the degree of shared genes. It is weaker within the extended family than within the family. Low self-esteem behavior not only evolved, but the art of not hiding it can be advantageous and so also evolved. Sibling rivalries evolved, but only to a limited degree. In wealthy families, it is more advantageous for siblings to favor sisters while in poor families siblings ought to favor brothers. So those behaviors evolved. Mothers in poor physical condition ought to treat daughters as more valuable than sons. Likewise, socially or materially disadvantaged parents ought to treat daughters as more valuable than sons.

We’ll stop here but the list of incredibly detailed, subtle behaviors that evolution must have precisely crafted goes on and on. Evolution must have an incredible ability to produce finely tuned and highly specific behaviors.

With that understanding, we are now ready to consider abortion. The question is: how and why did evolution produce such a behavior? What fitness calculation is satisfied by terminating the life of your own child?

I can just imagine evolutionist’s contriving just-so stories to justify such an absurdity. Killing your own child would, after all, allow one to avoid the costly physical and emotional investment of raising a child. One would be better off, and so better prepared to … To do what?

To have another child.

The whole point of “fitness,” in an evolutionary context, is reproduction. One has higher “fitness” if one can have more offspring. Fitness does not refer to physical fitness in the colloquial sense. It does not refer to financial fitness. It refers to having babies. Lots of babies.

That’s what evolutionary theory is based on. Reproductive advantage. Not physical, spiritual, emotional, or financial advantage, but reproductive advantage.

Abortion as a behavior is a flat contradiction and falsification of evolutionary expectations. It makes no sense.

If I can't run very fast for some reason, then that indirectly reduces my fitness as it may impact my survivability or otherwise my reproductive abilities (or it may not). But if I kill my child, that directly deducts from my evolutionary fitness. Abortion is a much bigger, more direct, fitness penalty.

Indeed, abortion is the ultimate fitness penalty. All the positive fitness attributes I may have are instantly and completely wiped out if I engage in abortion. Selection would weed it out immediately.

Under evolution abortion would be rapidly eliminated. Remember, in the past half century evolutionists have insisted that evolution must have crafted our many nuanced behaviors with incredible precision and specificity. Abortion would not have accidentally evolved.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Creationists Demolish Evolutionists in Annual Football Game

Don’t Know What They’re Doing

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Galileo and a New Climate Study

A Durable Myth

Science writer Katherine Ellen Foley has another article on anthropogenic global warming, or AGW, in Quartz this past week. The AGW theory states that civilization’s production of green-house gases, such as carbon dioxide, is causing a hockey-stick like rise in the Earth’s temperatures. This has led to a range of dire environmental warnings in recent decades, some of which have already failed. Nonetheless AGW is the consensus theory amongst virtually all climate scientists. How much of this consensus is formed by non empirical factors—more common in science than is often understood—is an open question. Leaked emails have revealed strong-arm tactics—including pressure on publishers—used to squash dissent. Of course none of this means AGW is necessarily anything less than completely true. But it does compromise unsupported claims that AGW is a strong, empirical theory. Press conferences claiming a case closed won’t cut it—that kind of trust and legitimacy was lost years ago. The guiding light here must be the raw science.

All of this means that AGW appears to be another fascinating example of how science, for better or for worse, works. What I find particularly interesting are high truth claims for ideas that are politically or metaphysically charged and not obviously empirically supported. The problem with science, as Del Ratzsch has pointed out, is that it is done by people. Non empirical influences are, gasp, sometimes at work and we simply must understand the underlying science rather than blindly accept authoritarian pronouncements.

I am not arguing for or against AGW, but I am arguing for a depth of understanding that too often is missing from partisan accounts. This, unfortunately, characterizes Foley’s Quartz article, which asks the question: What about the research papers questioning AGW? While the vast majority of the literature falls squarely within the AGW-is-true paradigm, there is nonetheless a tiny sliver of papers questioning the theory.

To be sure those papers aren’t having much influence, but according to Foley AGW critics often invoke Galileo as a comparison. Just as Galileo met stiff opposition, so do these AGW dissenters. The implication is that, like Galileo, these researchers will prevail in the end.

Foley explains this is all wrong, both because it is a false analogy and because those papers are scientifically flawed. Specifically, Foley explains that Galileo’s “fellow scientists mostly agreed with his conclusions—it was church leaders who tried to suppress them.” And furthermore, a study of those dissenting papers found them to be biased and faulty.

Foley’s article hit the mark. It has instantly been reposted and retold across the Internet, on blogs, forums, and even videos, such as this one by Jeff Waldorf. Unfortunately Foley’s article is little more than AGW cheerleading, and Waldorf and the others are only too quick to pile on, assigning nefarious motives to anyone who would doubt the consensus theory. It is precisely this kind of hostile, social atmosphere which can be so stifling to science.

Foley’s article is largely a copy and paste job from other sources, and she employs the usual rhetorical devices, such as labelling her targets as “climate-change-denying papers.” Of course they are no such thing. The papers are questioning AGW, not “denying” climate change.  This sort of rhetoric, targeted at reasonable skepticism, is a sign of fake news.

The next problem is with her retelling of the Galileo Affair which is all Warfare Thesis. No it wasn’t science versus religion—that is the myth that Foley is propagating. Galileo did not heroically lead a scientific consensus with powerful and unambiguous empirical evidence against ecclesiastical resistance. Church leaders did not “tr[y] to suppress them.”

Nonetheless this gets picked up and amplified by Waldorf and the others, and historians now have yet another round of Galileo mythology to reckon with. The Galileo myth serves as yet another non empirical mandate for ideas like AGW and evolution, and that is why it is so resistant and durable.

As if to support her Galileo claims, Foley links to a 2011 phony New York Times article by Henry Fountain who provides this absurd retelling of the myth:

Galileo, whose astronomical observations confirmed the Copernican theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun, was basing his assertions on empirical knowledge and faced opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which supported the Ptolemaic view of an Earth-centered universe.

Of course Galileo’s observations did not “confirm the Copernican theory.” Nor were his “assertions based on empirical knowledge.” Galileo flatly ignored Kepler’s finding that ellipses perfectly described the planetary orbits (as opposed to the lousy circles Galileo advocated which required epicycles). And the lack of stellar parallax observed in the seventeenth century flatly refuted Galileo’s heliocentrism. Furthermore Galileo studiously avoided mentioning Tycho Brahe’s hybrid model which competed well against heliocentrism. Galileo carefully framed the debate as strictly heliocentrism versus geocentrism.

Nor did Galileo face any kind of unified opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. That is another myth. There were many in the church who had no problem with Galileo pursuing his ideas, and the Pope had been a benefactor of Galileo before, that is, Galileo turned on him.

The Galileo Affair is far more complex and nuanced than these pathetic retellings would have it. As one historian put it, it was Galileo’s religion versus the Church’s science. But that, of course, would not service Foley’s message.

Next Foley appeals to a 2015 paper—passed off as something of recent importance—arguing that research papers skeptical of AGW are all flawed.

That’s curious.

Why does Foley now resurrect a 2015 review of even older AGW skepticism? Foley generously draws upon a 2015 Guardian article to fill in her story.

Could this retelling of an old story have anything to do with more recent research posing serious challenges to AGW? Could this be an attempt to forestall emerging skepticism, and delegitimize research that points to AGW’s on-going problems?

Consider a new study by John Abbot and Jennifer Marohasy that is suggesting a rather fundamental failure of AGW. The study shows that pre industrial climate data robustly models twentieth century temperatures.

That should not be the case if AGW is true.

If later nineteenth and twentieth century greenhouse gas emissions are causing a hockey stick temperature rise, it should not be consistent with the older data. AGW says that the climate has changed.

Now perhaps Abbot’s and Marohasy’s new research is flawed. Perhaps they have made a mistake, and so AGW is unharmed by their work.

But doesn’t that make for a more interesting article in 2017 than rehashing old myths?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kneecaps: “Ultimately, there might not be a simple pattern”

We can only say that so it is

Why do ostriches have four, rather than two, kneecaps? A new study has found several possible biomechanical advantages. Perhaps they allow the ostrich to straighten its leg more quickly, helping the animal to run quickly. Perhaps the lower kneecap protects the joined tendons crossing the front of the knee. One reason that does not help to explain the ostriches four kneecaps is evolution. That is because this unique design is not predicted, and makes no sense, on the theory. As one article admits: “Bizarrely, many of the ostrich’s closest relatives don’t have kneecaps at all.” Similarities across the species were a strong argument for evolution, but in fact biology is full of unique designs, particular to one or a few species. Such one-off, “lineage specific,” designs are “bizarre” for evolutionists. So while there are design reasons for the ostriches four kneecaps, on the ordinary view of the evolution of each being, we can only say that so it is.