Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Evolutionists Say Evolution is a Fact

Evolutionists say evolution is a fact, every bit as much as gravity is a fact. That is remarkable. We see and even feel gravity everyday. Evolution, on the other hand, entails rather dramatic, one-time, events that were supposed to have occurred long ago, when no one was around to witness them. How could we be sure of such a theory? There must be some extremely powerful and compelling scientific evidence for evolution to make it a fact as gravity is a fact. That is what one would think. But, surprisingly, there is no such evidence. When evolutionists try to explain why evolution is a fact, it is a tremendous anticlimax. Consider this example from evolutionist Massimo Pigliucci:

Consider the following: if there is any obvious evidence of the fact that evolution has occurred, it ought to be the impressive and worldwide consistent fossil record. Moreover, using the geological column as a way to date events during the history of the earth predates Darwin (i.e., it was invented by creationists), and we keep discovering new intermediate fossils further documenting evolution every year.

This is astonishing.

The fossil record, of course, is not "obvious evidence" of the fact of evolution. If we want to speak of facts, the fossil record provides a wide spectrum of data which do not prove evolution. Indeed, the fossil record falsified several fundamental predictions of evolution. That is a fact. Another fact is that evolutionists make startling truth claims and then back them up with weak or even contradictory evidences. This raises the question of how evolutionists could have such certainty in light of such skimpy evidence?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scientific American: The Banality of Evil (ution)

Katherine Pollard's Scientific American article from last year, about what makes humans different from chimpanzees, is an unfortunate example of the banality of evolution. Charles Darwin's theory, updated to account for a variety of surprise evidences, is taken as fact and this leads to a remarkable level of credulity. Whatever we find in biology, it must be the product of evolution. This leads evolutionists away from a whole range of possible investigations and interesting questions. Instead, they drone on with the same, tired, evolutionary explanations that are so predictable. Here are a few passages of note from Pollard's article:

Six years ago I jumped at an opportunity to join the international team that was identifying the sequence of DNA bases, or “letters,” in the genome of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). As a biostatistician with a long-standing interest in human origins, I was eager to line up the human DNA sequence next to that of our closest living relative and take stock. A humbling truth emerged: our DNA blueprints are nearly 99 percent identical to theirs. That is, of the three billion letters that make up the human genome, only 15 million of them—less than 1 percent—have changed in the six million years or so since the human and chimp lineages diverged.

Humbling? Why is Pollard humbled? Did the brain evolve the feeling of humility to be activated upon learning of similarities with other species? If you think this is sarcasm check out what evolutionists have had to do to explain human behavior. It isn't your Daddy's evolution anymore. It seemed that evolution was as silly as could be. It was story telling on steroids. But then came the updated version of the theory, and evolutionists became their own best parody.

Evolutionary theory holds that the vast majority of these changes had little or no effect on our biology. But somewhere among those roughly 15 million bases lay the differences that made us human. I was determined to find them. Since then, I and others have made tantalizing progress in identifying a number of DNA sequences that set us apart from chimps.

Tantalizing progress? You've got to be kidding me. This "progress" is based on yet another evolutionary fumble; namely, an extreme over emphasis on DNA. In evolution-dom, DNA is king. Long ago evolutionists latched onto DNA as a Hail Mary explanation of how the information for macro evolution could be stored and passed on. Ever since then DNA has been viewed as the blueprint for biological design. Like a computer program, DNA was forced into the role of the biological "program" that determines the nature of an organism. The other parts of the organism, as with the computer, are viewed as merely mechanically performing tasks and following instructions.

Evolutionists need DNA to fulfill this role because they need unguided change to be heritable. Such change was viewed as created by DNA mutations, which could then be passed on to offspring. Scientific problems with this dogma are mounting, but evolutionists will be slow to adjust and reconcile such a fundamental failure.

Until recently the DNA dogma was even more narrow, as evolutionists viewed only the genes within the DNA as important. The remainder of the DNA (the vast majority) was often thought of as useless junk. Now that science, no thanks to evolution, is discovering that "junk" DNA can actually be important, evolutionists changed their view to include more of the DNA.

Now science is taking the next step, again no thanks to evolution, in finding that the nature of an organism may be influenced by players outside the exalted DNA. One obvious suggestion for this comes from precisely the data Pollard analyzes: the human and chimp DNA which are so similar. But Pollard's story is firmly rooted in the DNA dogma. Evolutionists make the absurd claim that a handful of genes, which stand out in humans, are the source of so much of the human-chimp difference.

Because most random genetic mutations neither benefit nor harm an organism, they accumulate at a steady rate that reflects the amount of time that has passed since two living species had a common forebear (this rate of change is often
spoken of as the “ticking of the molecular clock”).

Except that the "molecular clock" doesn't actually work. It is yet another false prediction that goes unmentioned.

Acceleration in that rate of change in some part of the genome, in contrast, is a hallmark of positive selection, in which mutations that help an organism survive and reproduce are more likely to be passed on to future generations. In other words, those parts of the code that have undergone the most modification since the chimp-human split are the sequences that most likely shaped humankind.

Do we really need evolution to tell us that the DNA segments with the most differences between the human and chimp are more important in understanding the sources of the human-chimp difference? Here we see the banality of evolution.

The fact that HAR1 was essentially frozen in time through hundreds of millions of years indicates that it does something very important; that it then underwent abrupt revision in humans suggests that this function was significantly modified in our lineage.

More banality. The gene is significantly different in humans as compared to a wide range of other species. So yes, this suggests its function is significantly different in humans. This conclusion is obvious and we don't need evolution to figure it out. The evolutionary wrapping is superfluous. The talk of how the gene is "frozen in time" and that it "underwent abrupt revision in humans" is gratuitous story telling. Science gives the important findings and evolution gives the meaningless extras.

In fact, what evolutionists do not mention is that HAR1 is yet another example of genome differences between species that are larger than evolution predicted. The human-chimp differences are more than an order of magnitude greater than what evolution predicts. Fortunately, this freak barrage of typos just happened to hit the mark, providing quantum leaps in design improvement leading to the human brain.

Furthermore, these typos simultaneously must have altered two other genes which overlap with HAR1. That's right, HAR1 lies in a region of overlapping genes. Imagine typing a paragraph which contains one message when read normally and a different message when read backward. Not only must evolution have created all of biology's genetic information, but it composed the information in overlapping prose. Someday evolutionists will figure out how.

It might seem surprising that no one paid attention to these amazing 118 bases of the human genome earlier. But in the absence of technology for readily comparing whole genomes, researchers had no way of knowing that HAR1 was more than just another piece of junk DNA.

It was technology, not evolution, that was needed.

The way to evolve a human from a chimp-human ancestor is not to speed the ticking of the molecular clock as a whole. Rather the secret is to have rapid change occur in sites where those changes make an important difference in an organism’s functioning. HAR1 is certainly such a place. So, too, is the FOXP2 gene, which contains another of the fast-changing sequences I identified and is known to be involved in speech.

I wish Charles Darwin could see the new levels of banality he has given us. The "fact" of his theory now underwrites the ascribing anything and everything to evolution, no matter how ludicrous. Evolution has become a tautology. Whatever we find in biology is simply chalked up to evolution's amazing powers. A core tenet of evolution is that the biological variation, upon which natural selection operates, is independent of need. This view has been falsified so many times that evolutionists such as Pollard no longer skip a beat when reporting on evolution's "secret" miracles. In this case, evolution's secret is to focus the multiple mutations where they are needed to construct jaw-dropping designs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Evolution's Appeal

Scientific problems with evolution don't really matter. This genre of thought scratches too many itches to let science bring it down. Traditionally those itches have mainly been theological and philosophical. Now, as the evolutionary narrative subsumes human nature, new itches emerge. Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist, provides a peek into this latest addition to evolution's appeal. This quote appears in a fancy, inside cover advertisement run by the John Templeton Foundation, in the May 2009 Scientific American:

In the last two decades, evolutionary psychology has cast new light on ever more facets of human nature. And contrary to popular critiques of the field, it has done so in way that are ever more intellectually thrilling, morally enlightening, spiritually satisfying, and socially progressive. What we mean by "evolution" and "human nature" continues to develop through mutual interaction, lie the passions of a whispering couple in a close-embrace tango.

What a coincidence that objective scientific research just happens to be "intellectually thrilling, morally enlightening, spiritually satisfying, and socially progressive." Any chance that is not really a coincidence? Any chance evolutionary research is not really scientific research? Miller continues:

During the 1990s, biologists developed a whole new toolbox of ideas about the nature of evolution, including theories based on life history, multi-level selection, strong reciprocity, good-genes sexual selection, and costly signalling. These terms may be unfamiliar to non-specialists, but they represent a revolution in Darwinian theory and have proven their value again and again in understanding aspects of human nature that defy simplistic "survival of the fittest" reasoning.

That's true, there has been a revolution in Darwinian theory. And the just-so stories have become even more unbelievable. This new toolbox of ideas does explain many aspects of human nature, but so does astrology. Ever since Darwin, evolution has become increasingly complex and circuitous. Today it looks like one massive Rube Goldberg machine, ready to collapse on itself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Histone Inspectors: Codes and More Codes

By now most people know about the DNA code. A DNA strand consists of a sequence of molecules, or letters, that encodes for proteins. Many people do not realize, however, that there are additional, more nuanced, codes associated with the DNA. For instance, minor chemical modifications (such as the addition of a methyl group) to the DNA provide bar-code like signals to the protein machinery that operate on the DNA. This DNA methylation influences which genes, along the DNA strand, are read off. And this DNA methylation itself may be modified to provide additional information.

Or again, the DNA is wrapped around histone proteins, and these histones are also bar-coded. The histones have a hub, around which the DNA wraps, and a tail that sticks out on which chemical tags are attached. Again these tags are signals for the protein machinery. Furthermore, these tags are removed as well. Such modifications and removal of these chemical tags means that these codes are dynamic, and there are protein inspectors that double-check these complex encodings.

These subtle codes are also context dependent. In one type of cell a histone modification may turn off a gene whereas in another type of cell the same histone modification may turn on the gene.

New research has elucidated some of the structural details of the histone inspectors. This is important research because these subtle codes, and associated machinery and mechanisms, are not yet fully understood. They have profound biological impact, but we still have much to learn about how it all works.

Needless to say the idea that all of this arose on its own, as a consequence mutations and the like, luckily putting together such intricacies, is beyond silly. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Does the Evidence Support Evolution, or does Evolution Support the Evidence?

For all their disagreements, evolutionists strongly agree that evolution is a fact, just as gravity is a fact. There is no question that evolution occurred. And since evolution is as certain as gravity, those who do not assent must not be rational, or they must have ulterior motives. If there are scientific questions about evolution (and there are), they merely relate to the question of how evolution occurred, not whether evolution occurred. Those who point out that the scientific evidence does not bode well for evolution must understand that such evidence can in no way call the fact of evolution into doubt. The scientific evidence can only bear on questions of how evolution occurred.

Now this logic might be reasonable if the scientific problems with evolution were minor compared to the supporting evidence. We certainly do not doubt the fact of gravity even though we do not understand the details of how it works. But then again, the evidence for gravity is rather strong. In the case of evolution, it is the other way around. In the case of evolution, it is the problems which are rather strong.

We don't understand how life could have first evolved, we don't understand how multicellular organisms could have evolved from unicellular organisms, we don't understand how identical unconstrained DNA sequences could be conserved in distant species, we don't understand how shocking differences could have evolved in otherwise similar species, we don't understand how consciousness could have evolved, we don't understand how adaptive mechanisms could have evolved, we don't understand how a thousand and one complex structures, superior to our best military machines, could have evolved, we don't understand how ..., well you get the idea.

In light of the scientific evidence, the fact that evolutionists shout down any dissent makes them look more like the Wizard of Oz than sober scientists. Consider, for instance, the problem of how multicellular organisms could have evolved from unicellular organisms. Bob Holmes reported on this last year in The NewScientist. One problem is that such an evolutionary move must have occurred quickly, without leaving any evidence. As one evolution admitted, "The different branches of the animal tree evolved very rapidly in a short period, a long time ago."

Another problem is that reconstructions of the evolutionary tree are not stable. Was the ancestor of multicellular organisms a choanoflagellate? Or was it a placozoan, or a ctenophore, or even a sponge larva? Different methods lead to different reconstructions. And of course the move to multicellular organisms required more complex designs. Not surprisingly, the details of early animal evolution are still hotly debated.

While evolutionists can provide plenty of guesses about how multicellular organisms could have evolved from unicellular organisms, the fact is evolutionists have no idea how they actually evolved. And if evolutionists have no idea how they evolved, can we really be sure that they did evolve? Evolutionists scoff at such skepticism. It is unwarranted, they say, because evolution is a fact. It seems that rather than the scientific evidence putting to rest problems with the fact of evolution, it is the fact of evolution that is putting to rest problems with the scientific evidence.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Junk DNA: The Real Story

By now you have probably heard about so-called junk DNA. In recent decades the genomes of a growing number of species have been mapped out. Not surprisingly, scientists did not understand how many of these DNA sequences worked. For instance, repetitive sequences are common, but what do they do? As these data accumulated evolutionists increasingly viewed such sequences as useless junk. Then, years later, various functions began to emerge as our knowledge grew. This junk DNA story is the latest version of what seems like a repeating bad dream that goes like this. Scientists discover something new in biology but don't understand it. Evolutionists, unaware that they are staring at a design whose complexity dwarfs their puny understanding, decide it is a useless evolutionary leftover. Such a useless design is pressed into service as an evolution apologetic. Later, when the function is eventually uncovered, evolutionists automatically claim the design as an evolutionary achievement. The structure goes from junk to treasure without a second thought.

A recent finding of "junk" DNA function involves repetitive elements which have been found to be active in certain tissues. The researchers concluded that this activity "has a key influence" on the overall activity of the mammalian genome. As one evolutionist admitted, "As a class [repetitive elements] are not just a junk DNA. They're not just parasites, but they can shape the architecture of the genome."

So what is the story here? That biological designs are complex? That evolutionary thinking does not anticipate nature very well? That evolutionists should think twice and speak once, rather than the other way around? Yes, these are all good lessons for us, but these are not the real story behind junk DNA (and the other rags-to-riches stories in the history of evolutionary thought).

The real story behind junk DNA is not that it is a show stopper for evolutionary theory. In fact, evolution never predicted junk DNA. And it can get by just fine, thank you, if there is no such thing as junk DNA. But if evolution is so ambivalent toward junk DNA, then why is it such a powerful apologetic? If the science doesn't hinge on the efficacy of DNA, then why is that very efficacy so important? And why is the finding of function so important to evolution's opposition?

Here we find the real story behind junk DNA. Junk DNA (and all examples of evil and dysteleology in nature), proclaim evolutionists, contradicts creation. The message seems so obvious and instinctive that it is not even thought through clearly. Is not junk DNA clear evidence for the scientific theory of evolution? No. The junk DNA apologetic is a religious statement about God. It is that simple.

Junk DNA mandates evolution because it denies creation on the basis of religious beliefs. God would never create DNA with no function. Such beliefs are not open to scientific rebuttal. Science has nothing to do with it. I cannot even begin to recount the number of scientists, professors and pundits I have heard proclaim, in the name of science, such religious conclusions as proof of evolution. They should be wearing a tiara and holding a scepter. This is the real story behind junk DNA.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Evolution: A One-in-a-Billion Shot

It is no surprise that there are scientific problems with evolution. Its predictions are continually turning out to be false. It undoubtedly ranks number one in faulty expectations. For instance, one of its primary predictions, common descent, has badly failed. The reconciliation of the molecular and the visible, morphological, features has been a major problem in trying to resolve the evolutionary tree. The molecular and morphological features often indicate "strikingly different" evolutionary trees that cannot be explained as due to different methods being used.

The growing gap between molecular analyses and the fossil record, concluded one researcher, "is astounding." Instead of a single evolutionary tree emerging from the data, there is a wealth of competing evolutionary trees. And often what evolutionists conclude is downright strange. Over time insects must have evolved wings, then lost them in the evolutionary process only then later yet again to evolve them (or less parsimoniously, the wings could have disappeared over and over throughout the tree). Or again, bats must have independently evolved, in separate lineages, the same intricate echolocation capability.

As one researcher put it, "Phylogenetic incongruities can be seen everywhere in the universal tree, from its root to the major branchings within and among the various taxa to the makeup of the primary groupings themselves." These are not minor statistical variations and the general failure to converge on a single topology has some researchers calling for a relaxation from "tree-thinking."

And this is but a sampling of the many falsified predictions of evolution. There are many more where these came from as evolutionists are constantly surprised. You can see 14 basic predictions that were falsified here. Predictions which evolutionists are absolutely sure of are routinely found to be false. "I about fell off my chair" is the typical refrain of evolutionists.

Obviously the scientific evidence does not bode well for evolution. One way to evaluate the theory is with Bayes' theorem which states that for any given scientific observation, O, the probability a theory, T, is true, given that observation, is the probability of the theory prior to the observation multiplied by the probability of the observation given that the theory is true, divided by the probability of the observation without knowing whether the theory is true or not. It sounds complicated but the formula is simple:

P(TO) = P(T) * P(OT) / P(O)

Bayes' theorem gives us a way to evaluate a theory given a series of observations. A difficulty, however, is that the probabilities are difficult to gauge. What is P(T), P(OT) and P(O)? What we can do is use a conservative computation, giving evolution favorable treatment at every turn.

Consider the ratio P(OT) / P(O). If an evolutionist is certain that observation, O, will not be observed, then the numerator should be quite low, say one in a million or one in a thousand. If P(O) is 0.5 then the ratio would be 0.000002 or 0.002, respectively. But to be conservative, and give evolution favorable treatment, let's set the ratio to 0.2, orders of magnitude greater than is reflected in the evolutionists expectations.

For our 14 falsified predictions, using these extremely conservative values, Bayes' theorem tells us that evolution is a one-in-a-billion shot. This calculation is conservative, and there are many more falsified predictions for which to account. But you can see the religion behind evolution did not lead to a very good scientific theory.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Evolution and Evolvability: A New Kind of Science

The basic idea behind evolution is rather simple: in times of difficulty not everyone survives, or at least not everyone reproduces. Those who are faster, bigger, taller, stronger, smarter, or whatever it is that makes for successful reproduction, will do just that. And those who lack the requisite capabilities will not reproduce, or not reproduce as prolifically. One way or another, the result is that, in those difficult times, future generations are more representative of the winners. The traits of the successful reproducers are passed on more often. This means the population undergoes a change—it evolves.

Just this sort of change has been demonstrated by the breeders and Darwin surmised that nature could do the same thing, except to a greater degree given long time periods and the ruthless, unending battle for survival. In all of this there is, however, the basic assumption that populations just naturally have significant variation.

Evolution relies on the fact that populations consist of individuals of various sizes, shapes and skills. For a given environment some individuals are going to be better reproducers than others. It is a simple fact that seems so obvious no one ever much questioned it.

But in the twentieth century a great deal was learned about genetics and how such biological variations arise in populations. It isn't simple.

Biological variation arises as a consequence of a profoundly complex Mendelian machine consisting of genes and their interactions, molecular machines that replicate and copy the DNA, other machines that translate the copied DNA into proteins according to the genetic code, and so forth. If the resulting biological variation is the fuel of evolution, then how did the variation, and its underlying machines, arise in the first place?

With evolution we must believe that evolution just so happened to create elaborate machinery which just so happened to enable further evolution to occur. Evolvability must have evolved.

I say "just so happened" not in derision, but rather to describe evolutionary theory. Remember, the idea behind evolution is that a population will change because the winners are better represented in future generation. In other words, we can expect the future generations to be better at reproducing. That does not mean we should expect more biological variation via incredibly complex molecular machines acting in coordinated fashion. As one evolutionist admitted in a recent paper:

If evolvability represents the long-term evolutionary potential of a population, there is no reason why individual selection will necessarily maximize it. On the contrary, logically, individual selection could have the effect of destroying evolvability. … one can imagine that fixation of the fittest genotype from those presently available might have detrimental effects on the population’s evolvability—its ability to adapt in the future. … It could be that individual species show a tendency to evolve towards an inability to respond adaptively to subsequent environmental changes—at the level of individual selection, non-evolvability could, in principle, be favoured.

This reveals a profound serendipity in evolutionary theory. Evolution relies on a biological variation machine which did not need to be present. It just so happened that evolvability evolved so evolution could occur.

But this is not all. This problem of complex biological variation, which has been known for many years, is now being amplified by new research showing that biological variation is not only awfully convenient, but that this variation in populations actually responds to environmental challenges.

When there is an environmental shift species amazingly, in direct contradiction to evolutionary theory, respond rapidly and effectively to the new challenge. Sometimes the response is an invisible molecular adjustment that alters the metabolism; in other instances the organism's entire body plan is modified. From molecular to morphological change, biological adaptations are rapid and effective.

As if evolution was not silly enough already, science increasingly reveals its absurdities. Only religious convictions can find such mythology to be fact. Evolutionists now speak of adaptive mutations and adaptive substitutions. And they wonder how their blind process could design such intelligence. How could differential reproductive success lead to organisms that amazingly adapt to change? How could evolution produce machines tuned and ready to adjust to the environment? Like physiological changes that adjust an individual to environmental changes, adaptive changes adjust a population to environmental changes. In both cases biology relies on profoundly complex mechanisms.

Since evolutionists are convinced their idea must be a fact, they must believe this all makes perfect sense. Somehow, in this mockery of science, evolvability evolves. For instance:

For Kirshner & Gerhart (1998), the developmental process, in animals in particular, is such as to enhance the probability that new mutations changing phenotype will be adaptive, and the adaptive substitutions occurring serve to reinforce the ability of the developmental process to subsequently change adaptively. Draghi & Wagner (2007) have argued on theoretical grounds that adaptive substitutions will tend to increase future adaptability.

Amazing. I guess we're just living in the right universe. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Genome of a Microbial Eukaryote: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

New research is confirming the evolutionary conundrum of early complexity. The research shows that a microbial eukaryote, Naegleria gruberi, shares a large number of genes in common with other eukaryotes. And why is this a problem? Evolutionists have resorted to many incredible just-so stories of convergence. From intricate spider web designs to entire vision systems, evolutionists have been forced to say such designs, because they are found repeated in distant species, have evolved more than once. And while the supposed independent evolution of these striking designs is silly, even these evolutionists have not yet said that similar genes evolve independently. Until and unless they resort to such a fantasy they must say that similar genes in different species have arisen from a common ancestor. And that leads to another problem.

According to evolution, similar genes in different species have a common ancestral gene. But a great many similar genes are found in a great many different species. Consequently evolutionists are forced to conclude the common ancestor was a super ancestor. For decades now evolutionists have been jacking up the capabilities of early life. All the high-tech innovations of biology were, apparently, produced in those warm little ponds of early life.

The new research tells us that with evolution we must believe that the last common ancestor of the eukaryotes must have had at least 4133 genes. This is up from the earlier estimate of 3417, and it is a lower bound. For several reasons the number must even be significantly greater than 4133 genes if evolution is true. This continues the theme of, as one evolutionist put it, "The Incredible Expanding Ancestor of Eukaryotes."

These gene numbers alone force evolutionists to conclude that the last common ancestor of eukaryotes was already a complex organism. This is also the conclusion when the biology is compared. That early eukaryote must have had not only the vast majority of the complex DNA replication, RNA splicing and interference, and protein translation machinery, it was also capable of advanced movement and was equipped with versatile energy conversion systems.

This is truly an astonishing story evolutionists are telling us. Incredible biological capabilities, crucial to advanced life, just happened to arise rapidly in those heady days of early evolution. It was, as evolutionists now say, a giant step to an amoeba, yet a small step to man. Right. I can hear the ball bearings already.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Religion Behind Skepticism of Evolution

If evolution is motivated by religious thought then what about skepticism of evolution, is it not also religiously motivated? Yes, there is religion behind evolution skepticism, but not in the way we are told. The constant drumbeat of evolutionists and their media groupies is that skepticism is all about creationism. I have lost track of how many times I have been called a creationist. In one debate I was asked if I accept the fossil record, as though it must conflict with my religion. Evolutionists never seem to tire of erroneously labeling their detractors as creationists.

It is not true that evolution skepticism is grounded in creationism any more than evolution is grounded in atheism. But skepticism does have a religious motivation, of a sort. Simply put, we do not accept that the religious mandates for evolution are necessarily true.

How did Charles Darwin know that God would not create the species as we find them? He argued over and over that the biological evidence disproved divine creation, and so evolution (somehow) must be true. Similar arguments were used by evolution co-founder Alfred Wallace. They were foundational and remain crucial today. How does Ken Miller know that God would not create the mosquito? How does Jerry Coyne know God would not design the sort of embryos we find?

The evolutionists may well be correct in their assertions, but we don't know they are correct. We believe the evolutionist's mandate that God would create the world according to their sentiment is an over reach. Our religious belief, on the other hand, is more of a minimalist approach. Yes, scripture tells us some things, but it does not tell us everything.

But you won't learn that from the nightly news or the evolution literature. You will be told that evolution skepticism has a religious ax to grind. A friend of mine was interviewed by NBC Nightly News. It was a lengthy interview but his scientific problems with evolution were not what the journalists were looking for. Not surprisingly he was not included in their lead story which informed viewers about "The Battle Between Science and the Bible."

The headlines won't tell you this but our religious motivation, as it were, is to keep a lid on religious beliefs that are unsupportable.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Evolution of Venomous Proteins

Imagine a Star Trek movie in which two strikingly similar planets are discovered. The planets are in different corners of the universe, yet their coastlines, mountain ranges, inhabitants and cultures are amazingly alike. Or again, imagine a new, yet fully-formed, planet is discovered. The planet was not there a few years earlier, but there it is, complete with inhabitants and civilizations. These two phenomena--convergence and rapid appearance--are common in biology and, needless to say, they contradict evolutionary expectations. These surprises are not often seriously reckoned with. Evolutionists do not engage the implications of these findings, and sometimes they even avoid or deny the findings altogether.

To explain convergence and rapid appearance evolutionists tack on unlikely and complex explanations to their their theory. These epicycles are, themselves, a sort of measure of the truth value of a theory. A large number of epicycles suggests the theory is merely a tautology--a description of what we observe rather than an explanation of an underlying fundamental aspect of nature. A recent study of animal venom is the latest example of this pattern of epicycles and denial.

The study compared toxic proteins across a wide spectrum of species. These molecular assassins are cleverly designed. In World War II, the Allies bombed German ball bearing factories as a way of disabling its larger war machine. Obviously such a strategy required detailed knowledge of the war machine, how it works, the single point failures, where they are located, how they can be disabled, and so forth. Similarly, these biological toxins are finely tuned to disable crucial processes, such as the conversion of food energy to chemical energy, or the nervous system to paralyze the prey. Beyond vague speculation, evolutionists have no explanation for how such finely tuned toxins could have evolved.

Beyond the problem of how such designs evolved, these toxic proteins also reveal patterns of convergence and rapid appearance. Evolutionists are trying to figure out how very different types of animals have such similar venomous proteins. And some of the proteins appear to be completely new, as there are no known proteins in biology that share any significant degree of similarity. This implies a massive degree of evolutionary change in a relatively short period of time (something the study fails to mention), ending with a finely tuned molecular machine.

How can evolutionists present such findings within their framework? A common literary device in the evolution genre is the use of teleological language, such as "evolution designed the hemoglobin molecule to perform several important functions." Of course evolutionists do not literally mean that evolution consciously designed anything. Their teleological language is useful shorthand. Useful because it masks the absurdity of the notion that the blind, unguided process of evolution stumbles upon incredibly complex designs, again and again.

And so, not surprisingly, in this study the evolutionists use a plethora of teleological language in their peer reviewed paper. The reader is told, for example, that the study "confirms that convergent protein recruitment" spans all major animal phyla. We also learn that "the proteins chosen" in the evolutionary process are from widely dispersed protein families. Such literary devices are ubiquitous in the evolution genre and crucial to maintaining a credible narrative.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gene Expression and Evolvability

The twentieth century unveiled the world of molecular biology, including DNA, the genetic code, proteins, and the molecular basis for modern genetics. Such findings, according to Neo Darwinists, nicely supported evolution. Evolutionary change was fueled by variation arising from genetic mutations. How the genes, and their supporting cast, arose in the first place was a more difficult question. But given their existence the evolutionary narrative was held with great confidence. This straightforward narrative is now understood, however, to be too simplistic. For instance, we now understand that biological variation often arises not from changes in the genes but rather from changes in the expression levels of the genes. Even those celebrated beaks of Darwin's finches appear to be changing via variation in gene expression levels. And more significant variation, such as body plan differences in related insects, also correlate with varying gene expression levels. These new findings do not bode well for traditional evolutionary theory.

From yeast to humans, studies reveal that biological variation can correlate with gene expression levels. Interestingly, as one recent paper explains, these varying levels of gene expression repeatedly show up in some genes but not others. The mechanisms that control the gene expression levels, though varied, focus on these genes.

For instance, recent studies have found that the similar genes in similar species may have substantial differences in expression levels, while other types of genes share conserved expression levels.

In fact, varying expression levels correlate with changes even within a species. New research published this week reveals that gene expression levels can vary significantly between people who otherwise, of course, share extremely similar genomes. As one researcher explained:

the bulk of the differences among individuals are not found in the genes themselves, but in regions we know relatively little about. Now we see that these differences profoundly impact protein binding and gene expression.

In fact, not only do gene expression levels vary between related species and individuals within the same species, they also vary within the same individual, for instance in response to different environmental changes. As one evolutionist explains, when the expression of a gene is strongly regulated between different conditions, it also evolves rapidly between related strains or species. It seems the line between physiology and evolution is blurred:

Thus, it is possible that genes differ in their capacity for expression flexibility, which is manifested at various timescales: during evolution in response to mutations; during physiological responses to environmental changes; and within a population of cells as a result of stochastic fluctuations.

He concludes:

As noted above, expression divergence (the extent to which expression of a gene evolves) correlates with expression responsiveness (the extent to which expression of a gene is changed in response to the environment). We believe that the promoter elements discussed above underlie expression flexibility of these genes on short timescales (responsiveness and noise), which are instrumental in the immediate response of a cell to the environment, as well as on longer timescales (expression divergence), which may allow evolutionary adaptation to novel conditions. In other words, the correlation between responsiveness and expression divergence may be due to their dependence on the same promoter properties.

But the mechanisms that influence the gene expression levels are not simple. They involve proteins and DNA sequences. With the traditional theory of evolution we must believe that mutations created such mechanisms, one step at a time while they had little or no ability to influence expression levels. We therefore must contrive imaginary functions that would conveniently lead to their powerful expression level control capabilities.

Furthermore these expression level mechanisms needed to be applied only to certain genes. Not only are the mechanisms complex, but they must arise in the right place.

But the problems do not stop there. For such mechanisms, even when fully operational, would have limited usefulness. They must await environmental challenges to reveal their true worth. When such challenges arise the expression levels of those certain genes must change in the right way. The mechanism, if it works correctly, becomes invaluable. But until then it waits.

So now evolutionists speak of the evolvability of gene expression. The right genes, they say, have an inherent capacity to evolve its expression. In other words, evolution created the mechanisms which caused more evolution to occur—evolution creates evolution.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Scandal of the Evolutionary Mind

I once had a discussion with an evolutionist who, not surprisingly, claimed that evolution is fact. “Have you ever seen a sea lion try to move across a beach?” It is obviously not a good design, he argued, and so must have evolved. The sea lion’s “design is not intelligent, but rather is a product of evolution,” he concluded, for “design would attempt to produce something that works well, if it is intelligent design, and this does not work well and so is not intelligent design.”

This evolutionist also made a series of erroneous claims about the evidence for evolution. He began with the remarkable statement that “DNA sequences provide an absolute and irrefutable record” that evolution is a fact. “Virtually every single gene sequence we examine,” he explained, “can be seen to be represented in closely related species and in more distantly related species with increasing numbers of nucleotide changes as we look at more distant species.”

It was, he triumphantly concluded, “absolute proof, in hard copy, reiterated in every single gene of every single organism.” It sounded good but it was wrong. The real data, in the real world, simply do not fit the evolutionary pattern as evolutionists envision.

He also claimed that every piece of evidence in biology supports the conclusion that evolution is a fact. But how could this be? I responded that there are many evidences that do not support this conclusion, such as (i) nonhomologous development pathways, (ii) the abrupt appearance of fossil species in the geological strata and (iii) the complexity and circularity of cellular protein synthesis.

To this he responded that these three examples “are not facts.” But these are facts—well known facts. It would be non scientific to say that the abrupt appearance of fossil species, nonhomologous development processes and the complexity and circularity of cellular protein synthesis are not facts. Protein synthesis in the cell is “circular” because it requires pre existing proteins. A leading undergraduate textbook calls the process “inexplicably complex.”

His claim that my examples are not facts, coupled with his insistence that evolution is a fact, raised questions about how he was arriving at his conclusions. How could an evolutionist possibly state that such well known and well documented biological phenomena are not to be considered as facts?

We can argue about what these observations portend. We can debate how well they do, or do not, comport with evolutionary theory. But not facts?

Was this some anonymous internet rant? Was I wasting my time with an ignorant and dogmatic lurker who had nothing to offer but silly and fallacious canards? Hardly. This was a life science professor at a university who was chair of the Biology department. Yes, chair of the Biology department. And his arguments were, unfortunately, typical. I have seen them, or arguments like them, over and over.

This extreme level of anti intellectualism is the scandal of the evolutionary mind. It is always the first shock to those who allow themselves to question the paradigm and venture into the debate with skepticism. Evolutionists are full of bluster, but their position is astonishingly dull.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gene Expression Differences Between the Zebrafish and Sea Squirt

The zebrafish and the sea squirt, for all of their differences, share a common development stage. At an analogous development stage the two species share a tadpole larval body plan. But new research shows some surprising differences in the gene expression at this stage.

Regulatory proteins influence form, so evolutionists expect to find conserved gene expression of regulatory proteins at this conserved development stage. But this was not found. In fact, the expression of regulatory genes was no more conserved than other genes, in spite of the evolutionary expectation. As evolutionists admitted, the finding is “particularly puzzling.”

Embryonic development was an area of evidence Darwin thought substantially supported his theory. But myriad problems have been found. Evolution is not supported by all biological evidence, as is so often claimed. Indeed, much of the evidence is downright puzzling. In this case, what we must believe is that while these separate lineages evolved, they maintained this development stage while the expression of the relevant regulatory genes diverged. It is yet another false evolutionary expectation explained away with just-so, “gee isn’t evolution clever,” stories. How curious.

Darwin's Legacy

It would not be easy to overestimate the impact of evolution. It is probably the most influential idea in the history of modern science. In addition to science, Darwin's legacy persists in medicine, education, media, law, public policy and of course religion. All of this highlights the enormous responsibility shouldered by life scientists. Their scientific opinion makes a difference far outside their daily circles. They can shed light or allow ignorance to fester in a wide range of fields. Unfortunately too many misrepresent science, or more often simply look the other way while the science is twisted. The result is increasing levels of ignorance. Consider this message I received:

There is nothing religious about evolution. It is a fact. It has been proven time and time again, in every medium currently available to science. Predictions based upon existing species, the fossil record, microbiology, genetics, observable behaviors, physical characteristics etc... are always proven to jibe with the process of evolution through random mutation, heritability, and natural selection. No evidence has ever arisen that can falsify the truth of evolution. That is why it is AGAINST THE LAW in this country to teach creationism, intelligent design, or any other religious nonsense in our public schools. No REAL scientist doubts the fact of evolution by natural selection. You sir, occupy a lonely place in the world of those who have been trained in the sciences. You are truly a member of the lunatic fringe. Your motivation is obviously NOT rooted in the pursuit of true knowledge for the betterment of the human race. You have chosen to waste your one lifetime advancing pseudo-scientific nonsense, which is truly quite sad. I do pity you, and hope that someday you may choose to do something useful with your life.

That message should alarm life scientists everywhere. This is where their misrepresentations have led. My critic's sentiment is certainly understandable. Every textbook, biology class, TV special, interview and popular magazine article on the subject sends the same false message. Evolution is a fact, there is no contradictory evidence, and those who agree are anti science. This is Darwin's pathetic legacy, and it is vigorously promoted by the life sciences today. From Dawkins and Coyne to Miller and Collins, evolutionists carry an enormous burden.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

BioLogos Workshop: A Dialog on Creation

The BioLogos Foundation is planning a workshop entitled "A Dialog on Creation" for this summer:

The BioLogos-Gordon workshop provides a unique opportunity to explore questions at the intersection of science & faith. In this inaugural BioLogos workshop, held on the beautiful campus of Gordon College on Boston’s historic North Shore, participants will explore the compatibility of evolution and Christianity. Thee three-day program will be led by the senior staff of the BioLogos Foundation -- Peter Enns, Darrel Falk and Karl Giberson.

Speakers for the conference include Enns, Falk, Giberson and Claudia Beversluis, provost of Calvin College. The event is intended for scholars of all fields and will provide a relaxed, open setting to explore issues related to origins with leading scholars who believe in the harmony of science and faith.

The workshop will be led by "scholars who believe in the harmony of science and faith." This is code for "evolution is fact and those who disagree put their faith in conflict with science." In this perspective there is no room for understanding the scientific problems with evolution. There also is no room for historical analysis of the metaphysical motivations for evolution. And there is no room for admitting to the religious proofs for evolution.

Far from exploring "questions at the intersection of science & faith," this perspective lacks the resources to engage in the relevant issues.

Fine Tuning and the Intellectual Necessity

You have probably heard about the multiverse--the idea that the universe is really a large number of universes. The multiverse helps to explain why our particular universe seems so special. Our universe seems to be a finely tuned machine and the evolution of life would require low probability events. Is our universe special? The multiverse helps to deflect such thinking. If there is a large number of universes, then perhaps each has a different set of natural laws. And perhaps intelligent life can only be supported by a very particular set of laws. So the only life forms that would exist to observe their universe would be those that live in special universes. Presto, we're not special and fine tuning and evolution are explained.

There is, however, another type of fine tuning that evolutionists have not explained. In addition to physics and biology, philosophy is also fine-tuned. I suspect it can also be explained with the multiverse, but we need to start keeping a list of all the little things we sweep under the multiverse rug. Philosophy is fine-tuned in the sense that evolutionary theories of origin are both (i) fact and (ii) intellectually necessary. Let me explain.

On the one hand, evolutionists say they know that evolution (of one sort of another) is a fact, every bit as much as gravity is a fact. Life and all the species arose strictly by purely naturalistic processes. If you doubt this, it is equivalent to doubting the existence of gravity. It is remarkable that evolutionists have this level of certainty, but keep in mind they are very smart people.

On the other hand, evolutionists say that evolution (again, of one sort of another) must be assumed in order to do science. We saw how evolutionary thinkers, from the Joseph LeConte in Darwin's day to PZ Myers today, have illuminated this requirement. Here is another example from another evolutionist, Barbara Forrest:

Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order. ID thus brings with it, as does supernatural theism by its nature, intractable epistemological difficulties. ... I examine the ID movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their supernaturalism, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their creationist claims.

In other words, in order to avoid "intractable epistemological difficulties" and get along with the business of doing science, evolution is a must. So, evolution is both a fact and intellectually necessary. These are two independent properties. It didn't have be this way. We could live in the universe where evolution is not a fact, but yet intellectually necessary. Or we could live in the universe where evolution is a fact, but yet not intellectually necessary. Either way things would be very confusing. I'm glad we're not stuck in one of those universes. Thanks to the multiverse, there are options. We live in a universe that is finely-tuned for truth, and full of evolutionists to explain this to us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

DNA Repair Proteins: Efficiently Finding Genome Errors

The heroics of the cell's DNA repair system are well known, but new research is adding yet another incredible facet to the story. Experimentalists tagged DNA repair proteins with nanocrystals that light up. They then observed how they interact with DNA molecules. As reported:

They watched while UvrA proteins randomly jumped from one DNA molecule to the next, holding on to one spot for about seven seconds before hopping to another site. But when UvrA formed a complex with two UvrB molecules (UvrAB), a new and more efficient search technique emerged: the complex slid along the DNA tightrope for as long as 40 seconds before detaching itself and jumping to another molecule. ... In addition to random jumping and sliding, the researchers also observed what they called "paused motion," in which UvrAB's motion seemed slower and purposeful.

Proteins certainly do perform remarkable functions. As one researcher explained:

How this system works is an important unanswered question in this field. It has to be able to identify very small mistakes in a 3-dimensional morass of gene strands. It's akin to spotting potholes on every street all over the country and getting them fixed before the next rush hour.

It would be extremely unlikely for blind variations to stumble upon such protein designs. With evolution we must believe that such proteins just happened to arise and then were selected because they helped in the DNA repair system. If you believe that then I have a bridge to sell you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Camp Quest: A Religion-Free Experience?

Want to indoctrinate your children with bad philosophy? Try Camp Quest, a camp designed for the children of nonbelievers. The idea is to focus on science and strictly avoid religion. "The whole thing," said Kentucky lawyer Edwin Kaginv who started the camp in 1996, "is to show the virtues of evidence and inquiry and reason over visions and faith."

Unfortunately avoiding religion isn't always so easy. In fact, those who claim to be religion-free are probably soaking in it. For example, how does Camp Quest handle evolution's religious claims. One would think Kaginv's religion-free zone would avoid altogether Darwin's metaphysical theory. Or perhaps the camp elucidates the religious foundations of evolution so young minds can be on the look out when they encounter it in their public school science class.

Predictably enough though, Camp Quest does neither but instead deceptively presents evolution as a scientific theory. Last year one camp featured a week-long session based on evolution. And the outspoken evolutionist Richard Dawkins supports Camp Quest. Nonbelieving parents should know that Camp Quest is hardly a religious-free experience for their children.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Hydra's Opsin: Doubling Down on Early Vision Complexity

As discussed here, even the so-called third eye, which merely provides light sensitivity to its owner such as the iguana, involves incredibly complex biochemistry. Whereas evolutionists have always envisioned a neat ladder-like pathway of increasing functionality in vision systems, even rudimentary vision such as the third eye reveals stunning complexity. This notion of increasing functionality and complexity was advanced by Darwin who, after admitting that the evolution of the eye seemed absurd in the highest possible degree, decided that unless a critic can falsify his evolutionary thought experiment it must be a perfectly reasonable idea:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

In short order Darwin converted the profound into the mundane. But the facts of biology wouldn't cooperate. The farther back evolutionists peered in time the more complexity they found.

The third eye is a good example but new research takes the complexity farther back yet to 600 million years ago. The research found that the light sensitivity of the humble hydra is based on the same type of key opsin protein used in human vision.

We must believe not only that such an incredibly complex protein evolved somehow, but that it just happened to work splendidly in the as yet unforeseen incredible mammalian vision system. Imagine if a contraption your 5-year-old banged together in the basement just happened to work perfectly in a jet airliner. As the lead researcher commented:

This work picks up on earlier studies of the hydra in my lab, and continues to challenge the misunderstanding that evolution represents a ladder-like march of progress, with humans at the pinnacle. Instead, it illustrates how all organisms -- humans included -- are a complex mix of ancient and new characteristics.

It was all just a misunderstanding--now we understand. But with each new surprise, evolution becomes less likely and more complex.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Evolution Creates Evolution as Fire Creates Fire

Evolutionists have discussed a wide variety of mechanisms to produce the biological change their theory requires. Horizontal gene transfer, cell fusions, directed mutations and domain shuffling are some of the more exotic mechanisms to go along with the more traditional mechanisms such as genetic mutations. But these mechanisms were not available in that warm little pond (or deep sea vent, or comet hurtling toward earth, or ...) where evolution got its start. The very mechanisms of evolution had to have, at some point, evolved. You can read more about this here and here. We now hear evolutionists speaking of "the evolution of evolvability," and "preprogrammed evolution." Simply put, evolution had to have created evolution. Does this make sense?

Evolutionists see no problem with their idea that evolution creates evolution. As one evolutionist rhetorically explained, "Does fire create fire?" Indeed, fire certainly does create fire. Does this resolve the problem that evolution must have created evolution?

Global Warming Effect and Evolution

New research shows that in the span of just fifty years songbirds have become slightly smaller, probably as a consequence of global warming. This is no big surprise as it has long been understood that size is inversely correlated with temperature. The Darwin contemporary Christian Bergmann first observed this trend, in terms of a correlation with latitude, and the trend became known as Bergmann's Rule. But how did the change come about?

The new research, which accounts for more than 100 species and almost half a million birds, shows a rapid reduction in size as the earth warmed in recent decades. The change is slight, but the statistics in the massive study are undeniable.

Perhaps the change is a consequence of natural selection shifting the populations to slightly smaller sizes, as the smaller individuals have greater reproductive success. Or perhaps the change is a result of built-in biological responses to the temperature change.

However the changes arose, the process involved complex structures and mechanisms--structures and mechanisms that must have evolved if the theory of evolution is true. Under evolution, we must believe that not only have the world's species evolved, but their various response mechanisms have as well.

Evolutionists explain that evolution happened to construct such response mechanisms. When needed those mechanisms were helpful, and so were selected for.

Speciation is About “Happy Accidents”

A new large-scale, computational study of a hundred groups of plant and animal species finds that speciation occurs as a result of rare, lucky events. The research, which is from an evolutionary perspective, fitted genomic data to assumed evolutionary trees to evaluate the supposed speciation events that evolution requires. The research found that if evolution is true, then the speciation events occur differently than many evolutionists have expected. As reported in the journal Nature:

New species might arise as a result of single rare events, rather than through the gradual accumulation of many small changes over time, according to a study of thousands of species and their evolutionary family trees. …

“What we've shown is that speciation is about happy accidents — rare events that happen in the environment that cause a species to speciate,” says Pagel. These events could include a mountain range being thrust up or a shift in climate, he says.

The team’s findings might stir things up in the world of evolutionary biology. “It really goes against the grain because most of us have this Darwinian view of speciation,” says Pagel. “What we’re saying is that to think about natural selection as the cause of speciation is perhaps wrong.”

It is difficult to imagine a more fundamental prediction of evolution. Natural selection is practically synonymous with evolution, and this research raises yet another contradiction to this long held prediction.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Evolutionist Say the Darndest Things, Part II

Evolution, say evolutionists, is both fact and theory. It is a fact in the sense that we know it occurred. It is a theory in the sense that we don't know how it occurred. The theory part seems obvious enough. The biological evidence reveals many problems for evolution and so we don't know how it could have occurred. But if we don't know how it occurred, how is it that we know that it did occur?

The answer to this question is obvious. For two thousand years Christians have debated the relative importance of primary versus secondary causation--miracles versus laws. Evolutionary thought arises from the secondary causation camp. It is a rather extreme position, mandating that the world's origins must have occurred strictly via naturalistic causes. From Roman Catholics such as Nicolas Malebranche to Anglicans such as Thomas Burnet and John Ray to Lutherans such as Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Wolff, seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionary thought was not merely growing, it was supremely confident. Here is a typical example of this sentiment, as expressed by Wolff, a leading Lutheran theologian between Leibniz and Kant:

The natural way, as the superior way, must always be preferred over the way of miracles, and therefore miracles cannot occur except where God cannot achieve his goal in the natural way.

And by the way, as Wolff explained, there are no such instances except in the initial creation act. Enlightenment thinking mandated evolution, one way or another. Darwinian thought was the result. It lies safely within this genre of thought, and Darwin rehearsed the many Enlightment mandates for naturalism in his arguments for the new theory of biological origins.

Today nothing has changed. Evolutionists share the metaphysical certainty of their progenitors from earlier centuries, and their proofs are based on those same Enlightenment beliefs about what god would and wouldn't do.

None of this is speculative. Anyone can read what the evolutionists have been saying. From Thomas Burnet three centuries ago to Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne today, the writings of evolutionists are available for all to see. They are certain of evolution, and their reasoning is religious. Evolutionists give plenty of proofs for their certainty, and the proofs always entail metaphysical assumptions which are imposed on the science.

But a curious thing happens when evolutionists are confronted with their own words. When you repeat back what they have been saying for centuries, and what their proofs are based on, they suddenly deny their entire thesis. None of this, according to evolutionists, is relevant. All those arguments for why evolution is a fact, they were just an aside. All those metaphysical interpretations of the evidence that contorted biology, they are meaningless.

Upon sober reflection, it seems that all the theological and philosophical arguments, used for so many centuries, actually have nothing to do with evolution. Those statements, after all, were made in haste. And those evolutionists who made them were simply lazy, or angry, or both. And weren't those statements merely retorts to those creationists in the opposing camp?

Certainly you will find no such statements being made today by serious evolutionists. Wrong. Certainly you will find no such statements being made today in serious textbooks. Wrong. Certainly such statements play no role today in evolutionary thought. Wrong.

Of course evolution's metaphysics are in opposition to the creationists. That's the whole point. Evolution's traction arises in its contrastive reasoning. The creationists are wrong, so we're right. It is not the metaphysics that are irrelevant, rather, it is the evidential problems that are irrelevant.

Evolutionists are certain of their theory, and their certainty arises from their metaphysical position. They cannot then drop the metaphysics and maintain the certainty.

Evolutionist Say the Darndest Things, Part I

It is amazing what evolutionists say when confronted with their own words. Perhaps the most consistent claim of evolutionists is that evolution is a fact. For centuries evolutionary thinkers have been making high truth claims, and the evolution-is-fact claim is now standard in the literature. But when confronted with this claim in light of the facts of biology which contradict their idea, evolutionists retort that you don't understand the concept of a "fact." But what is there not to understand? Evolutionists say their idea is a fact as much as is gravity. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt, and it would be perverse to doubt it.

Evolutionists have made their claim of facthood quite clear. The facts of biology are also quite clear, and so there is a contradiction. The facts of biology certainly do not demonstrate evolution to be a fact. Not even close. There is biological evidence for evolution, but there is also plenty of contradictory evidence. There certainly is room for debate about how badly evolution fares in light of biology. And of course certain facets of the idea fare better than others. But a fact it is not. It may be true, but we cannot know that from the evidence at hand.

Such problems induce a curious reaction on the part of evolutionists. They say you do not understand what constitutes a fact. Just because evolution is a fact doesn't mean we understand it completely. Just as there are questions about how gravity works, so too there are questions about how evolution works. But both remain as facts. The laws of nature do not suspend themselves, as Stephen Jay Gould once explained, while scientists debate the particulars.

It is true that no one would doubt gravity just because we don't fully understand the mechanism. After all, we observe and feel gravity everyday. It is an empirical fact. But evolution is not an empirical fact. We do not observe a fish evolving into a giraffe over eons of time. It must be inferred from evidence, and this brings us back to those thorny biological facts.

But wait, evolutionists just explained that biological facts don't matter--that evolution is a fact regardless of whether we have it figured out. Their explanation is that evolution has an ontological status that transcends the scientific details. There is the fact of evolution, and then there is the theory of evolution. This fact-theory dichotomy is a key apologetic in evolutionary thought. Notice that it decouples evolution from the evidence and makes the theory immune to the facts of biology. You can point out all the evidential problems you want--they don't affect the facthood of evolution.

But if the facts of biology can't hurt evolution, then they can't help either. How then do we know evolution is a fact? If evolution is not an empirical fact, and we cannot infer it from the evidence without substantial speculation and heroics, then why are evolutionists so sure?

Evolution's Junk is Biology's Treasure

Here is another "junk DNA" claim that needs to be junked. And this time in rather dramatic fashion. The headline reads "Research team finds important role for junk DNA." That's putting it mildly. The "junk" DNA genes "spur an almost acrobatic rearrangement of the entire genome" of the humble protozoan, Oxytricha.

Early discoveries of "junk" DNA function were a bit more mundane. For instance, some segments were found to have a structural role. To be sure, structural roles actually are complex, and it is not good science to think mutations constructed such a marvel. Later, the "junk" DNA was found to be responsible for massive, sophisticated gene regulation. Pretty amazing. But now we have the rearranging of the entire genome. Biology doesn't seem to understand evolution. But evolutionists don't give up easily--after all, it's a fact.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Male and Female Shopping Strategies Show Evolution at Work in the Mall

Evolution continues to lead scientists to crucial new findings. Consider the latest ground-breaking research on shopping strategies:

Daniel Kruger, research faculty at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, says it's perfectly natural that men often can't distinguish a sage sock from a beige sock or that sometimes women can't tell if the shoe department is due north or west from the escalator.

From an evolutionary perspective, it all harkens back to the skills that women used for gathering plant foods and the skills that men used for hunting meat. The contrast emerges because of the different foraging strategies for hunting and gathering used throughout human evolution.

Sex-specific strategies can be seen in the modern consumer environment, according to Kruger's new study, "Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors," scheduled for the December issue of the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, & Cultural Psychology.

The study examines shopping through the framework of evolutionary psychology to understand why so many more women enjoy spending a day picking through racks of clothes with friends, while most men can't get out of the mall fast enough.

So evolution creates the hunting and gathering strategies. Amazing. But there's more:

"We have evidence that the kind of skills, abilities and behaviors that are important for hunting and gathering in current foraging societies emerge predictably in our modern consumer environment," said Kruger, who decided to conduct the study after a winter holiday trip with friends across Europe.

After exploring sleepy little villages and reaching Prague, the first thing the women wanted to do was shop, Kruger said, and the men couldn't understand why.

"But that is not so unreasonable if you're thinking about a gathering strategy," Kruger said. "Anytime you come into a new area you want to scope out the landscape and find out where the food patches are."

So the shopping habits of women actually are not unreasonable after all. Thankfully evolutionists are enlightening the rest of us about these profound truths.

Spiral Motion of Proteins Along DNA

When the great chemist Linus Pauling guessed at the DNA molecular structure he envisioned the bases to be pointing outward rather than being neatly stacked within the double helix as we know them to be. One virtue of Pauling's design is that the information-bearing bases are easily accessible. As it is, the DNA molecule must be unwound and the two strands separated when a gene is transcribed. And even before this happens the protein machines, that do the unwinding and other functions, need to determine where to go on the long DNA double helix. They do so very quickly, but how?

The protein machines that work on the DNA molecule find their starting location quickly. This means they must not be searching randomly within the cell, but instead must be intelligently moving along the DNA.

But do they actually spiral around the DNA in the grooves of the double helix molecule? New research indicates that they do, even though such a spiraling action has considerably more resistance than a non rotating motion would have. This means the the rate at which these proteins slide along the DNA is quite sensitive to the protein size, and therefore controllable by adjusting the protein size.

Catfish Convergence

There are two kinds of evolutionists: Those who deny the massive convergence in biology, and those who deny the implications of the massive convergence in biology. Let me explain. The similarities between species are one of the favorite evidences of evolutionist's. They argue these similarities, sometimes striking, reveal the underlying evolutionary pathways. There's only one problem: Striking similarities also show up in patterns that cannot be ascribed to common descent. In fact, such convergences are abundant in biology. But you would hardly know it from talking to evolutionists who say the species form a neat common descent pattern. Yes, they do fit a neat common descent pattern with the data are pre filtered according to the neat common descent pattern. And what about those similarites that do not fit the pattern? No big deal. According to evolutionists, those similarities evolved independently. Here is a typical example dealing with venom glands in poisonous catfish:

Wright's analyses indicate that there are at least two independent evolutionary origins of catfish venom glands. In addition, the toxic peptides show strong similarities with, and might be derived from, previously characterized toxins found in catfish epidermal secretions. "Further examination of the chemical composition of the venoms will provide valuable insight into the mechanisms and potential selective factors driving venom evolution in fishes," comments Wright.

How did such similar glands evolve independently? By the action of natural selection, evolutionists will tell you. With similar environments you have similar selective factors and, therefore, similar designs.

This explanation avoids the awkward detail that natural selection never created anything. It kills off the designs that don't work, but the selected designs had to be created, one step at a time, in the first place. Those steps don't simply appear spontaneously given selective factors, no matter how many times evolutionists suggest this.

So we must believe evolution is continually generating untold myriad designs from which to choose. It is mostly worthless junk since evolution is all a fluke in the first place, but rare gems luckily appear now and then, and sometimes they are strikingly similar. How odd. Oh well, I guess we just live in the right universe.

There are evolutionists who deny the massive convergence in biology, and those who deny the implications of the massive convergence in biology. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Evolutionist is "Shocked, Shocked to Find Religion in Here"

Religious doctrinaire PZ Myers claims there is no religion in evolution. That was after he said he believed god wouldn't make this world, and before he ridiculed a journalist for believing in miracles. But after seeing Paul Nelson and Ronald Numbers discuss the issue, Myers reveals he is deeply in denial:

The argument from biological imperfections is not theological, no matter how vociferously Nelson asserts that it is, because no biologist is simply saying what [Nelson] claims they are; the interesting part about imperfections like the recurrent laryngeal nerve or the spine of bipeds or mammalian testicles isn't simply that they seem clumsy and broken in a way no sensible god would tolerate, but that evolution provides an explanation for why they are so. We can build a case that these structures are a product of historical antecedents, and have a positive case for them as consequences of common descent. Nelson is misrepresenting the argument, and Numbers just went along with it.

It is not news that people live in denial of their own commitments and convictions. But the degree to which evolutionists are in denial is remarkable. The metaphysics embedded in their thought is exceeded only by their denial of it. It is a truly fascinating mythology.

The reason given by evolutionists such as Myers for why their theological proclamations don't count is that "evolution provides an explanation for" the imperfections. This reasoning is so problematic it seems unnecessary to rebuke. Can evolutionists really be serious? Unfortunately they are, so here goes.

First, as a simple matter of logic, the evolutionary so-called "explanations" for imperfections do nothing to remove the theological claims. Second, as Elliott Sober pointed out with logical rigor, it is precisely from the metaphysical premises that the argument from imperfection derives its strength. Third, the notion that "evolution provides an explanation" is absurd. That's like saying bed-time stories provide an explanation. See here, here, here, here, here and here for the evolutionary aburdity that vision (and that imperfect blind spot) just "evolved." Fourth, the theology has historically and continues today to drive evolutionary thought.

The seventeenth century cleric Nicolas Malebranche argued for simple, blunt means of creation to explain imperfections and evil in the world. His theodicy laid the groundwork for Leibniz and others. And the seventeenth century botanist John Ray argued that the world's “errors and bungles” reveal indirect creation mechanisms. These are merely two examples of how evolutionary thought was being formulated centuries before Darwin. And here are just a few examples from later thinkers:

“Thus, God's choice, not having the slightest motive for tying [the planets] to one single arrangement, would reveal itself with a greater freedom in all sorts of deviations and differences” –Immanuel Kant, 1755

“I needed all my skeptical and metaphysical subtlety to elude [the design argument, but] here [referring to imperfections and evil] I triumph.” –David Hume, 1779

The hierarchical clustering of the species is "utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations.” –Charles Darwin, 1859

“I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or the cat should play with mice.” –Charles Darwin, 1860

“The strange springs and traps and pitfalls found in the flowers of Orchids cannot be necessary per se, since exactly the same end is gained in ten thousand other flowers which do not possess them. Is it not then an extraordinary idea to imagine the Creator of the Universe contriving the various complicated parts of these flowers as a mechanic might contrive an ingenious toy or a difficult puzzle? Is it not a more worthy conception that they are some of the results of those general laws which were so co-ordinated at the first introduction of life upon the earth as to result necessarily in the utmost possible development of varied forms?” –Alfred Wallace, 1870

“If whales were made at once out of hand as we now see them, is it conceivable that these useless teeth would have been given them?” –Joseph Le Conte, 1891

Unless “one is prepared to believe in successive acts of creation and successive catastrophes resulting in their obliteration, there is already a strong presumptive indication that evolution has occurred.” –Sir Gavin de Beer, 1964

"Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce." –Stephen Jay Gould, 1980

What could have possessed the Creator to bestow two horns on the African rhinoceroses and only one on the Indian species?” –Douglas Futuyma, 1983

“It has turned out to be easier to evolve variations on the five-digit theme, than to recompose the limb structure. If species have descended from common ancestors, homologies make sense; but if all species originated separately, it is difficult to understand why they should share homologous similarities.” –Mark Ridley, 1993

Would God “really want to take credit for the mosquito?” –Ken Miller, 1999

“There are too many deficiencies, too much cruelty in the world of life. To assume that they have been explicitly created by God amounts to blasphemy. I believe God to be omniscient and benevolent. The design of organisms is not compatible with such beliefs.” –Francisco Ayala, 2002

Evolutionary thought is, and always has been profoundly religious. Of course that is nothing new--religious mandates have always been influential. What is remarkable is the denial of evolutionists about their own arguments and convictions.