Monday, April 11, 2011

Karl Giberson: Broken Genes Prove Evolution

In yesterday’s CNN blog evolutionist Karl Giberson bemoans the influence of religious thinking in beliefs about origins and then, in evolutionary typical fashion, hypocritically mandates evolution’s own religious beliefs.

when it comes to the truth of evolution, many Christians feel compelled to look the other way … While Genesis contains wonderful insights into the relationship between God and the creation, it simply does not contain scientific ideas about the origin of the universe, the age of the earth or the development of life.

So religious beliefs should not inform our views on origins, got it.

And all life forms are related to each other though evolution. These are important truths that science has discovered through careful research.

Scientific research has revealed on such thing. Not even close.

Anyone who values truth must take these ideas seriously, for they have been established as true beyond any reasonable doubt.

This is the universal claim of evolutionists, but it has never been even remotely demonstrated scientifically.

There is much evidence for evolution.

There is much evidence for geocentrism.

The most compelling comes from the study of genes, especially now that the Human Genome Project has been completed and the genomes of many other species being constantly mapped.

In particular, humans share an unfortunate “broken gene” with many other primates, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and macaques. This gene, which works fine in most mammals, enables the production of Vitamin C. Species with broken versions of the gene can’t make Vitamin C and must get it from foods like oranges and lemons.

These similar broken genes (the so-called pseudogenes) are found with broken parts that do not fit the expected evolutionary pattern. In these cases even evolutionists admit that the breaks are not due to common descent. It is therefore the fallacy of special pleading to claim that when such breaks fit the expected evolutionary pattern they serve as proof texts for evolution.

Of course none of this matters because the argument was never scientific to begin with.

Thousands of hapless sailors died painful deaths scurvy during the age of exploration because their “Vitamin C” gene was broken.

How can different species have identical broken genes? The only reasonable explanation is that they inherited it from a common ancestor.

The only reasonable explanation is common descent? It is the umpteenth time evolutionists have proclaimed their metaphysics in the guise of science. And it is the umpteenth time they have done this right after insisting religion must have nothing to do with origins science. You can read more about this here, here, here, here and here. Simply put, this claim that the only reasonable explanation for pseudogenes is common descent does not come from science—it can’t.

Such evidence proves common ancestry with a level of certainty comparable to the evidence that the earth goes around the sun.

True, given the evolutionist’s religious mandates, evolution is highly certain. But from a scientific perspective the idea has substantial problems.

This is but one of many, many evidences that support the truth of evolution

True, evolution’s religious view converts a great many unlikely evidences into proof texts. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Evolutionists: Skepticism is a Science Stopper

It began practically as soon as Origin of Species was published. In the second half of the nineteenth century and even more so in the twentieth century, questioning evolution was cast as anti science. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense. If evolution is an obvious and undeniable scientific fact, then is not skepticism tantamount to an attack on science itself? But once again, evolution’s criticism is more of a reflection of evolution itself.

Not long after Darwin introduced evolution to the world his friend and advocate Thomas H. Huxley declared that:

I really believe that the alternative is either Darwinism or nothing, for I do not know of any rational conception or theory of the organic universe which has any scientific position at all beside Mr. Darwin’s.

Aside from Darwinism there was no legitimate scientific position. The die was cast and later apologists would return to this formulation. Later in the century University of California professor Joseph Le Conte wrote that to doubt purely natural causation is to “doubt the validity of reason.” It was, in effect, a marginalization of skepticism.

Such marginalization has become common today. Richard Lewontin writes that “To deny evolution is to deny physics, chemistry, and astronomy, as well as biology.” Douglas Futuyma writes that the challenge to evolution touches us all, for “in short, all the sciences are under attack.” Sean Carroll (the geneticist) writes:

It is absolutely astonishing and often infuriating that some take it so far as to deny the immense foundation of evidence and to slander all the human achievement that foundation represents.

These are but a few examples of evolutionist’s assault on any and all skepticism. Not surprisingly this template has spread far and wide. Journalists rarely allow skepticism of evolution to reflect genuine scientific issues. Chris Matthews, for instance, has explained that such skeptics “don’t accept the scientific method.”

In fact this sentiment is now a principle of our constitutional jurisprudence. In the remarkable Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District legal decision, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones reasoned that if an explanation is not based on natural causes then it simply is not science. Indeed, Jones ruled that “attributing unsolved problems about nature to causes and forces that lie outside the natural world is a ‘science stopper.’”

Where is the science stopper?

According to evolutionists, skepticism is anti science. But why is this so? In fact it is evolution that, in spite of the empirical evidence, claims life just happened to arise in a puddle somewhere, and then that it proliferated into millions of different species with their fantastic designs. Not surprisingly evolutionists cannot explain exactly how this occurred. All they have is vague speculations and even those consistently are found to be at odds with the evidence. And yet, in spite of all this evolutionists insist that their idea is a fact beyond all reasonable doubt. Does this sound much like science?

To make matters worse, evolutionists blackball anyone expressing dissent from their dogma. Evolutionists literally maintain lists of names, in order to ensure that there are no promising young scientists who advance in the sciences while harboring doubt about the dogma. Such a scientist must not be given a passing grade or good letter of recommendation or acceptance into graduate school or doctorate degree or post doctorate appointment or faculty interview or tenure or funding. Whatever level such a scientist is at, evolutionists will make every attempt to terminate their career and smear their good name. All this for skepticism of evolution’s unscientific claims. Does this sound much like science?

Worse yet evolutionists, while rigidly mandating strictly naturalistic explanations, maintain completeness and realism. Explanations must be strictly naturalistic, no topic is off limits, and the evolutionary explanations are assumed to represent, at least approximately, reality. But of course this set of assumptions means that all of reality must be naturalistic. How can evolutionists know this to be true? Does this sound much like science?

Even worse, this evolutionary dogma has produced an environment where naturalism itself is now unfalsifiable. Both their philosophy, as well as their imposed social and funding constraints, has resulted in a closed system in which evolutionists reject, out of hand, legitimate intellectual inquiry. Does this sound much like science?

Finally, evolutionists resort to the ultimate protectionist device. They point the finger at skepticism, branding it as anti science. While promoting their theologically-motivated idea that is contradictory to the empirical evidence, they insist their unfalsifiable idea is an undeniable fact, they blackball skepticism and they enforce a non scientific philosophy—all of this while hypocritically castigating any skepticism as a science stopper. Religion drives science and it matters.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Is Spontaneous Formation a Fact?

I recently explained how evolutionists are astonished that the public does not buy their idea that the universe and everything in it—including all of biology—must have spontaneously arisen on its own. I further explained they are in denial of their own claims:

This in spite of the enormous scientific challenges to this Epicurean mythology. It is incredible that evolutionists insist that spontaneous formation is a fact, beyond all reasonable doubt. Evolutionists resist this plain description of their theory, but in doing so they are their own judge. For this is precisely what their theory claims. Swerving atoms, no matter how much they are adorned with Darwinian rhetoric, are not likely to create biosonar, consciousness and the entire cosmos.

My point was quickly confirmed when an evolutionist professor responded “Why do you keep conflating evolution with ‘the universe must have arisen spontaneously on its own’ - whatever that is supposed to mean?”

Whatever that is supposed to mean? It means exactly what evolutionists have been claiming for centuries. In the eighteenth century philosophers and scientists such as Gottfried Leibniz, Immanuel Kant and Pierre Laplace insisted that the cosmos (focused primarily on the solar system at that time) must have arisen spontaneously, via natural laws and processes.

And the mandate was soon applied to the origin of life as well. Darwin’s theory of biological evolution, and its subsequent variations, all say that life arose from non life, and then proliferated madly into millions and millions of species, on its own. It was a spontaneous process, according to evolutionists.

It is difficult to speak of evolution in measured terms. For scientifically this is, frankly, rather silly. But to make matters worse, evolutionists insist that their idea is a fact, beyond all reasonable doubt. And when you repeat their rather amazing claim back to them, evolutionists erroneously claim you are misrepresenting them. How could that be, we are simply repeating their own claims. But their denial is understandable given their dubious position. So why not just give it up?

Is Evolution Criticism Anti Science?

There is no question that science has made tremendous progress over the centuries, but what exactly does that tell us about science? For some, science’s seemingly inexorable march of progress means that scientific theories are either true or headed in that direction. Scientific ideas, particularly if they are successful, must be revealing something about how the world works. Perhaps they are not exactly correct, but future research will iron out the rough spots. Sure science has had plenty of failed upstarts, but the scientific method provides a feedback loop that rapidly and ruthlessly eliminates those ideas that don’t match up to reality. Scientific theories that are mature, on the other hand, have endured this testing and are well on their way to taking their place as an accurate description of nature. This assessment of science, or at least portions of it, are sometimes referred to as scientific realism, for science is viewed as describing reality. Today, scientific realism plays an important role in evolutionary apologetics but the argument is problematic.

If you question evolution you will, at some point, be told that you are opposing science. Anyone who doubts such a mature, well-established theory must be anti science, whether he knows it or not. Has not the success of science proven the naturalistic approach? As Sean Carroll (the cosmologist, not the geneticist) explains:

Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement.

But such raw realism relies on a whiggish understanding of the history of science. Scientific progress, while undeniable, has been accompanied by massive failure. And how to distinguish between the two is not always obvious. Theories that are thought to represent reality often turn out to be miserable failures. And very successful scientific theories are routinely later taken to be a false representation of reality. They were not slightly modified but dropped altogether. But in their day such theories were held with great confidence.

And so it is not terribly surprising that, as a recent paper explains, most published research findings are false. Like the weather forecast, what science tells us is often not true:

There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.

Published research findings are sometimes refuted by subsequent evidence, with ensuing confusion and disappointment. Refutation and controversy is seen across the range of research designs, from clinical trials and traditional epidemiological studies to the most modern molecular research. There is increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims. However, this should not be surprising. It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false. Here I will examine the key factors that influence this problem and some corollaries thereof.

None of this means that science does not progress, but science’s progress is not straightforward. It is not as though science smoothly and efficiently gains knowledge of the natural world, like the turning of a Baconian crank. And while careful formulations of realism are possible, there is little basis for the evolutionist’s marshalling of it as an apologetic for naturalism. What is amazing is how often realism is so naively employed. As Larry Laudan once commented:

It is little short of remarkable that realists would imagine that their critics would find the argument compelling. As I have shown elsewhere, ever since antiquity critics of epistemic realism have based their scepticism upon a deep-rooted conviction that the fallacy of affirming the consequent is indeed fallacious. …

No proponent of realism has sought to show that realism satisfies those stringent empirical demands which the realist himself minimally insists on when appraising scientific theories. The latter-day realist often calls realism a “scientific” or “well-tested” hypothesis, but seems curiously reluctant to subject it to those controls which he otherwise takes to be a sine qua non for empirical well-foundedness.

There simply is no basis for the evolutionist’s common retort that criticism of his theory is anti science. In fact, this seems to be more of a protectionist ploy than a genuine defense of truth. Perhaps it is no coincidence that such a ploy is used to defend the empirically problematic evolutionary claim that the universe, and everything in it, spontaneously arose on its own.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Evolutionists: The People do Not Even Believe Evolution is Real!

In their review of the new edited volume Evolution Since Darwin: The First 150 Years, evolutionists Joel Kingsolver and David Pfennig wonder why the new volume does not take up the question of why evolution remains controversial at a societal level. After all, “the majority of the public do not even believe it is real!” Evolutionists are astonished. The public does not buy their idea that the universe and everything in it—including all of biology—must have spontaneously arisen on its own. This in spite of the enormous scientific challenges to this Epicurean mythology. It is incredible that evolutionists insist that spontaneous formation is a fact, beyond all reasonable doubt. Evolutionists resist this plain description of their theory, but in doing so they are their own judge. For this is precisely what their theory claims. Swerving atoms, no matter how much they are adorned with Darwinian rhetoric, are not likely to create biosonar, consciousness and the entire cosmos. Once again, the people are ahead of the pundits.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sean Carroll: Does the Universe Need God?

In his forthcoming chapter, Does the Universe Need God?, Sean Carroll (the physicist, not the geneticist) argues that while invoking god as an explanation for natural phenomena was once reasonable, now we can do much better. It is an example of the extent to which otherwise very smart people resort to special pleading to get the right answer.

From Aristotelianism to Newtonian physics, relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory, cosmologists have produced ever more accurate and plausible explanations for the origin and operation of the universe. For Carroll this march of progress seems inexorable. Are we not headed for a completely naturalistic explanation of the world?

Consider, for example, the multiverse idea where instead of a single universe, there are a great many universes. This multiverse allows evolutionists to overcome the low probabilities of this world, such as the fine-tuning of nature and the evolution of life. Astronomically unlikely events don’t matter if you have an astronomical number of chances. And while the multiverse hypothesis is often criticized as a just-so story, in fact it arises from what seem to be a reasonable set of hypothetical natural laws. The inexorable march of progress continues and Carroll concludes:

Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement.

Carroll’s thesis, it would seem, is a robust appeal to the successes of empirical science. From a scientific perspective, the world just happened, or so it appears. Any appeals to anything more than natural law is just an argument from ignorance.

But there are some flies in this Leibnizian ointment. For instance, what if there is no multiverse? For this Carroll falls back on the hypothesis that life is extremely robust. Yes, life seems to need this finely-tuned world, but who knows what other types of life there are. Carroll laments that not nearly enough credence is given to this option. Perhaps that is because it is so weak. It is not merely an argument from ignorance, it goes against what science is telling us. Yes, we certainly can’t make any firm conclusions, but the idea that life is extremely robust is not what science indicates.

Then there are those aspects of nature that are finely-tuned beyond what life requires. While fine-tuning to the requirements of life can be explained, in principle, as a result of selection in the multiverse (if there is one), what about those extremely fine-tuned parameters.

One such example is the universe’s initial entropy which is way too low. It is one part in a number that is so large it is difficult to describe. Usually with large numbers we use the exponential form. For example, for a one followed by fifty zeros, we write 10^50. But for the universe’s initial entropy, even the exponent is too large. It is, as Carroll writes, “a preposterous number,” and well beyond what is required for life.

For this problem Carroll once again appeals to our ignorance. Yes, it seems strange, but researchers are working on this problem. Perhaps they will succeed in figuring out why life would, in fact, require such an incredible level of fine-tuning.

But this is only Carroll’s warm up argument. He merely needs to show that a naturalistic account is not impossible. The strength of his argument is that god wouldn’t do it this way so, as usual, a naturalistic account is mandated.

If anything, the [excessive] tuning that characterizes the entropy of the universe is a bigger problem for the God hypothesis than for the multiverse. If the point of arranging the universe was to set the stage for the eventual evolution of intelligent life, why all the grandiose excess represented by the needlessly low entropy at early times and the universe’s hundred billion galaxies? We might wonder whether those other galaxies are spandrels – not necessary for life here on Earth, but nevertheless a side effect of the general Big Bang picture, which is the most straightforward way to make the Earth and its biosphere. This turns out not to be true; quantitatively, it’s easy to show that almost all possible histories of the universe that involve Earth as we know it don’t have any other galaxies at all. It’s unclear why God would do so much more fine-tuning of the state of the universe than seems to have been necessary.

So the excessive fine-tuning renders the multiverse impotent unless we can somehow manage to make life contingent on such a preposterous quantity. But no matter, this is really a problem for the god hypothesis. After all, such grandiose excess is capricious. If god were to create the world, he would do it to mimic selection. Evolutionists usually argue that god would not mimic selection, but when the need arises god’s role can always be reversed.

Finally there is the problem of why there is anything. If science is ultimately to provide “a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe,” as Carroll confidently expects, then how will it explain why there is anything? Does not a beginning, according to Kalam, necessitate a cause? The answer, for Carroll, is simply “no.” Some things we simply need to understand as brute facts:

It can be difficult to respond to this kind of argument. Not because the arguments are especially persuasive, but because the ultimate answer to “We need to understand why the universe exists/continues to exist/exhibits regularities/came to be” is essentially “No we don’t.” That is unlikely to be considered a worthwhile comeback to anyone who was persuaded by the need for a meta-explanatory understanding in the first place.

Granted, it is always nice to be able to provide reasons why something is the case. Most scientists, however, suspect that the search for ultimate explanations eventually terminates in some final theory of the world, along with the phrase “and that’s just how it is.”

Here Carroll’s special pleading reaches new heights. Where naturalism can explain the world, it serves as evidence for a materialistic understanding of ultimate reality. And where naturalism is inadequate, well so what. That doesn’t matter.


The fact that “most scientists” suspect ultimate explanations will never really be ultimate does not resolve the problem; rather, it is an acknowledgment of the problem. It is simply a reflection of their intuition of the limits of science.

For evolutionists the world spontaneously arose all by itself. No amount of evidence will change that conclusion, because the conclusion is theologically mandated. Without an evolutionary account we would have to conclude that god created the world. And we can do much better than that.