Tag Archives: Evolution

Does the new Ida fossil prove evolution?

Well, if it does, doesn’t that mean that evolution wasn’t proved before?

But I digress. Whenever you have questions about evolution and culture, there is only one blog that you really need to read, and that’s Denyse O’Leary’s Post-Darwinist. She has written no less than THREE stories on the Ida fossil, so let’s take a look at see what she’s found.

First, on May 19th, she noted that the lemur-like fossil contradicted the current best naturalistic theory of human origins.

[The] fossil doesn’t “explain” human evolution; it complicates the picture. The theory that was gaining ground was that humans were descended from tarsier-like creatures, but this fossil, touted as a primate ancestor, is a lemur-like creature.

Second, on May 21st, she added:

This recent Messil Pit find bolsters the case of the lemur supporters against the previously dominant tarsier supporters.

That only creates more confusion about origins, it seems to me, rather than resolving anything.

Where you have opposing histories, evidence that strengthens one history must weaken the other.

It does not necessarily add up to a gain in information.

What if the tarsier advocates find a fossil that bolsters their case in, say, 2012?

And who’s to say that won’t happen – as it has happened already?

Everything gets so complicated, once you look past the “missing link” sound-bites. But many people looking for validation for their atheist lifestyle will never bother – so long as the cultural authorities can offer them some Piltdown Man or Archaeoraptor or Haeckel’s embryos or Peppered Moths, etc., to justify their atheistic faith.

Denyse also points to a round-up of links from Access Research Network, as well as a New Scientist story that is skeptical of Ida’s status as *the* missing link.

Third, on May 25th, she linked to this story from the UK Times Online:

… in the research paper detailing the discovery, the scientists had painted a rather different picture. Ida, they said, “could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates (including humans) evolved but we are not advocating this here”.

And more:

Robert Foley, professor of human evolution at Cambridge University, believes many people misunderstand the huge timescales involved in assessing fossils.

“This animal lived around 47m years ago but human-like creatures only appeared in the last 2m years,” he said. “That’s a gap of around 45m years with many other species lying between us and that era. Any one of them could be called a missing link. Really, the term is meaningless.”

Now I know what my many atheist readers are saying: “we’re only skeptical of your beliefs! Not our beliefs!”. Well, I’m sorry, true believers, to throw cold water on you.

How religious faith drives the delusion of Darwinism

Commenter ECM alerted me to Cornelius Hunter’s new blog “Darwin’s God”. Cornelius is a software engineer like me who rose up the ranks of the firm through “sweat equity”, and was able to eventually pursue a PhD in Biophysics from the University of Illinois. I have his first book “Darwin’s God” and I read it. His thesis is basically that theological beliefs about what God would and would not do are the driving force behind evolution.

Evolution and the problem of evil

Here is his latest post about a debate that occured at Westminster Abbey between an atheistic evolutionist and a theistic evolutionist.

Here’s what the theistic evolutionist said:

Alexander is a theist and Jones an atheist. But they both agree that God would not have created what we find in this world. Everything from programmed cell death to the extinction of so many species and the food chain points to a massive economy of death in nature. With this sort of evidence, “What kind of a designer,” asks Alexander, “are you going to end up believing in?

…According to Alexander, this problem of death and evil does not leave much room for a divine creator. Alexander concludes that God did not create the details of the world. He is thus absolved of the world’s many evils. He implemented a framework of sorts, but let unguided processes do the rest.

And here’s what the atheist evolutionist said:

As with Alexander, Jones also finds that biology does not meet with his expectations of divine creation. “The feeblest of designer,” Jones has written, could improve the design of the human eye. This and other examples, says Jones, shows that complex organs are “not the work of some great composer but of an insensible drudge: an instrument, like all others, built by a tinkerer [i.e., the evolutionary process] rather than by a trained engineer.” As with Alexander, Jones’ religious sentiment mandates some sort of evolution to be true.

So let’s think about what causes people to become evolutionists, beyond the normal answers of peer-pressure, career preservation, wanting to be thought of as smart, wanting to rebel against parents, wanting to have sex and drink alcohol, etc. Is it about science? No. It’s about knowing what God would do and observing that the world does not correspond to these ideas of what atheists think God would do.

Remember that post I wrote a while back about Christopher Hitchens’ case against God. None of his arguments against God were based on evidence, but only on his personal preferences. God wouldn’t have done it that way. God should have done it this way. I don’t like this theology. I don’t like that feature of the universe. It’s just a long-running temper tantrum against any kind of authority, regardless of the evidence.

Here’s Dawkins explaining how unobservable aliens must ave evolved, even if Dawkins doesn’t have any evidence:

He doesn’t even need to see the evidence that we evolved. He knows that God wouldn’t have created the life this way, and so the evidence is irrelevant.

Evolution and the problem of sub-optimal design

Another way that assume that evolution is true, other than childhood trauma and the desire to be morally evil, is by assuming that if material forces did not do the creating, then the design must be optimal. Now I am a software engineer, with undergraduate and graduate degrees, a published paper that I presented at the IEEE and a patent in wireless technology. My specialty is architecture. So I will tell you.

There is no such thing as an optimal design.

As part of my graduate course work, I had to study the work done at the Software Engineering Institute at the Carnegie-Mellon University. They have invented an entire methodology for designing software based on analyzing trade-offs between alternative architectural candidates. They use use case scenarios, disaster scenarios, maintenance scenarios and other scenarios in order to evaluate how well each architecture performs.

All of the architectures can satisfy the so-called “functional requirements”. But the architectures differ in their ability to satisfy non-functional requirements, the “-ilities”. These can include performance, maintainability, security, extensibility, testability, simplicity, re-usability. This is the bread and butter that software engineers like me have to deal with every day.

Here’s an excerpt from a related post from Uncommon Descent:

It is simply impossible for one architecture to have all the “ilities” because many conflict. For instance, if I want high “security” I am going to have to give up a good deal of “interoperability”. A large part of architecture is actually deciding what you are going to give up, which incidentally affects how the architecture can change in the future (i.e. usually it cannot “evolve” to conform to different “ilities”). This is all still fairly new, but we are now able to judge architectures in terms of the “ilities” they match and the “ilities” they do not match. A better understanding of the conflicts between certain “ilities” is gradually developing.

When I worked in the embedded space on operating systems like VxWorks, we regularly traded-off memory against speed. It’s the nature of the engineering business. And make no mistake – God is a software engineer. He writes code.

Conclusion

Hunter’s article concludes with this:

Have the theists sold out? Have the theists been duped? Are they afraid to stand up for themselves? Are the atheists taking over? No, no, no, and no. The theists and atheists are united in their religious beliefs about God and how he would interact with the world. They may have their differences, but regarding evolution those differences are irrelevant. Their shared religious convictions mandate evolution. Religion drives science and it matters.

I have an idea. Let’s keep religion out of science and decide how we really got here, no holds barred. Instead of blocking debates and persecuting dissent, let’s actually have a debate about origins, and not rule intelligent causes out before we look at the evidence.

Further study

Atheist responses to scientific arguments for theism are fun to understand. Atheists attribute the beginning of the universe to untestable theories and the fine-tuning to an unobservable multiverse. (And don’t forget their lame responses to galactic, stellar and planetary habitability arguments)

How Darwinian fundamentalists burn their critics at the stake

It’s the story of Galileo and the Catholic Church. Only this time, the Darwinians refuse to look through the microscope, and the penalty isn’t house arrest. Read Jerry Bergman’s story in the Toledo Blade. (H/T Access Research Network)

Who is Jerry Bergman?

Jerry Bergman is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and balding college professor, author, and member of Mensa – a group of people whose IQs are in the top 2 percent of the population.

And what happened to him?

“In 1979, I was let go by Bowling Green State University openly due to my increasing disillusion with Darwinism,” he said in a lecture Monday night at WLMB-TV, Channel 40, Toledo’s Christian television station.

What has he been up to since?

For the last 30 years, Mr. Bergman, 62, has interviewed hundreds of people in academia and documented cases in which he contends that careers were derailed because of doubts about evolution.

The results of his interviews and research are compiled in his latest book, Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters, published last fall by Leafcutter Press.

Well, these cases must deal with young-earth creationists, right?

The students, professors, and scientists suffered not because they were advocating the teaching of biblical Creationism or Intelligent Design, he said, but for questioning or debating aspects of Charles Darwin’s famous theory.

Well, this guy is a fringe scholar with fewer degrees and published papers than Richard Dawkins, right?

Mr. Bergman has nine academic degrees, including a doctorate in education from Wayne State University, and currently teaches at Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio, and the University of Toledo’s Health Science campus. In 35 years as an educator, Mr. Bergman has taught college-level courses in biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, pathology, anthropology, geology, and statistics, among other subjects, and has published more than 800 academic papers.

But surely this is an isolated case?

Publicity over the lawsuit, however, led other academics to contact him with similar stories, he said. He has since compiled a list of 3,000 cases alleging discrimination due to religious beliefs, and personally has interviewed more than 300 people in such situations.

“It’s unlikely today that an out-of-the-closet Darwin doubter will survive in academia,” he said. And there’s much at stake because a PhD requires a huge investment in time and money, averaging nine years of school and $300,000 and $500,000 in costs, he said.

Rather than risk losing everything over one’s personal beliefs, Mr. Bergman said he advises people to “stay in the closet until things change” and to seek change through legislation.

Is it possible that Darwinists could be so blinded by faith in materialism, that they would protect their monopoly in the the public square by censorship of their opponents?

BONUS:

Here is a video of Casey Luskin, whom I blogged about before, on Fox News, explaining how well leftists in academia respond to scientific evidence contrary to their own assumptions of naturalism and materialism. And click here for some examples of how well Darwinians do in debates with the top atheist scholars, like Michael Shermer.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie “Expelled” yet, what are you waiting for? You get to see Richard Dawkins attribute life to unobservable aliens.

This is a must-see movie that explains how freedom of inquiry is being violated by Darwinian fascists in the academy. You can tell how warranted an idea is by how willing supporters are to defend them in public. If the true believers start to resort to judicial activism, threats and intimidation, it’s a blind-faith religion!

Further study

Atheist responses to scientific arguments for theism are fun to understand. Atheists attribute the beginning of the universe to untestable theories and the fine-tuning to an unobservable multiverse. (And don’t forget their lame responses to galactic, stellar and planetary habitability arguments)

UPDATE: This post seems to be quite popular! Commenter ECM sent me this additional post from Denyse O’Leary’s Post-Darwinist blog. She has a citation from a scholar that, if expressed publicly in an academic setting, would be sure to doom the career of whoever uttered it. Click the link, read the quote.

Round-up of stories about intelligent design, from the Discovery Institute

The Discovery Institute is the headquarters for ID research and advocacy in the United States. They send out a newsletter by e-mail and I though this week’s hit on all cylinders. Below are some of their stories from the newsletter. Thanks to commenter ECM for an earlier tip on the Junk DNA story.


When “Junk DNA” Isn’t Junk: Farewell to a Darwinist Standard Response

Richard Sternberg, research scientist at the Biologic Institute supported by the Center for Science and Culture, is now blogging at Evolution News & Views, weighing in on the latest research showing that so-called “Junk DNA,” which Darwinists have discounted as “rubbish,” are actually “anything but that.”

Sternberg writes:

In the Darwinist repertoire, a standard response to evidence of design in the genome is to point to the existence of “junk DNA.” What is it doing there, if purposeful design really is detectable in the history of life’s development? Of course this assumes that the “junk” really is junk. That assumption has been cast increasingly into doubt. New research just out in the journal Nature Genetics finds evidence that genetic elements previously thought of as rubbish are anything but that. The research describes tiny strands of RNA, previously thought to be junk, that now turn out to play a role in gene expression. Another finding by Dr. Geoff Faulkner shows that “retrotransposons,” a further variety of “junk” as the dogma previously taught, play a similar role.

Also at ENV, Dr. Sternberg takes a look at the old Darwinian tripe that biological systems couldn’t possibly have been designed because they exhibit “shoddy engineering”:

We often hear from Darwinians that the biological world is replete with examples of shoddy engineering, or, as they prefer to put it, bad design. One such case of really poor construction is the inverted retina of the vertebrate eye. As we all know, the retina of our eyes is configured all wrong because the cells that gather photons, the rod photoreceptors, are behind two other tissue layers. Light first strikes the ganglion cells and then passes by or through the bipolar cells before reaching the rod photoreceptors. Surely, a child could have arranged the system better — so they tell us.

The problem with this story of supposed unintelligent design is that it is long on anthropomorphisms and short on evidence. Consider nocturnal mammals. Night vision for, say, a mouse is no small feat. Light intensities during night can be a million times less than those of the day, so the rod cells must be optimized — yes, optimized — to capture even the few stray photons that strike them. Given the backwards organization of the mouse’s retina, how is this scavenging of light accomplished? Part of the solution is that the ganglion and bipolar cell layers are thinner in mammals that are nocturnal. But other optimizations must also occur. Enter the cell nucleus and “junk” DNA.

Jerry Coyne Recycles: Why Darwinism Is False

Jonathan Wells is reviewing Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True over at ENV, and already the list of problems with Coyne’s book is mounting:

On Earth Day 2009, we are reminded of the ecological importance of recycling. As a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago, Jerry A. Coyne must be keen on recycling: He even recycles worn-out arguments for Darwinism.

If “evolution” meant simply that existing species can undergo minor changes over time, or that many species alive today did not exist in the past, then evolution would undeniably be true. But “evolution” for Coyne means Darwinism — the theory that all living things are descendants of a common ancestor, modified by unguided natural processes such as DNA mutations and natural selection.

Coyne discusses the fossil record, embryos, vestigial structures, the geographic distribution of species, artificial and natural selection, and the origin of species. In the process, (1) he ignores the Cambrian explosion — which Darwin considered a “serious” problem — and he rearranges the fossil record to fit Darwin’s theory; (2) he defends Ernst Haeckel — who faked some drawings of vertebrate embryos to provide support for Darwinism — and he dredges up the doctrine that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; (3) he claims that much human DNA is useless junk — despite abundant recent evidence that this is not true — and he relies on theological arguments that have no legitimate place in natural science; (4) he invokes “the well-known process called convergent evolution” to explain many cases of the geographic distribution of species — even though the “well-known process” is merely speculation — and he again falls back on theology to justify a supposedly scientific theory; and (5) he describes examples of natural and artificial selection — none of which show anything more than minor changes within existing species — and he misrepresents experimental evidence to make it sound as though the origin of species by natural selection has been directly observed.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Other stuff

The newsletter also discussed historian A.N. Wilson’s return to faith from atheism, which is really interesting because he seems to be well-rounded in his reasons for rejecting atheism. And the newsletter mentions that Jay Richards’ forthcoming book, “Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem” is out May 6th! Jay gave a great lecture on basic economics for Christians and another great lecture on what Christians should think about global warming.

How well do Darwinists do in debates with skeptics?

UPDATE: Welcome Post-Darwinist readers! Thanks for the link Denyse!

I thought that I would introduce a couple of my favorite critics of Darwinian fundamentalism, Stephen C. Meyer and Jonathan Wells. Here they are debating with Michael Shermer. I like Michael Shermer for two reasons – fiscal conservatism and engagement with his opponents. I’ve seen him MC sessions at Christian conferences. So let’s give him a chance to make his case.

Biographies of our debaters

Michael Shermer

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com), the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991).

Stephen C. Meyer

Stephen C. Meyer is director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, in Seattle. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin of life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences. Previously he worked as a geophysicist with the Atlantic Richfield Company after earning his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Geology.

Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells has received two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and he has taught biology at California State University in Hayward.

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he conducts research on the ecology of plant populations and the evolution of adaptations…. He received his doctorate in genetics at the University of Ferrara in Italy, his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Ph.D. in philosophy of science at the University of Tennessee.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Let’s start with a short 15-minute debate between Michael Shermer and Stephen Meyer, moderated by Lee Strobel.

Meyer starts with these points:

  • the origin of the universe implies a Creator who exists outside of time, space and matter, because he created time, space and matter
  • the physical constants and ratios of physics must be fine-tuned in order to support the minimal requirements for life
  • the cell is filled with molecular machines that are identical to machines built by humans, such as rotary engines
  • the cell contains biological information in the DNA, and the origin of this information cannot be explained by evolution

Shermer makes these points:

  • we should never infer intelligent causes, we should keep searching for a materialistic explanation and say we don’t know until we find an explanation that allows me to continue to be an intellectually-fulfilled atheist
  • who made the designer?
  • maybe the big bang will be overturned and then we can go back to the eternal universe that I want to be true in spite of the evidence
  • we can speculate (without any experimental evidence) about alternative theories of how the universe got here, unlike the standard big bang theory which is backed by multiple lines of scientific evidence

Then a dialog ensues:

Shermer: The design of life is sub-optimal – if God did it, it should be perfect, with no trade-offs between non-functional requirements, just like Wintery Knights’ software architecture designs and Java code are perfect

Meyer: There is no such thing as a perfect design. Software architects, like Wintery Knight, who have studied software design, will tell you that non-functional requirements must be traded-off against one another. (Source: Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University)

Shermer: Let me commit the ad hominem fallacy by attacking the motives of intelligent design proponents instead of dealing with their arguments and evidence.

Meyer: Two can play at that game, since evolutionists are atheists and secular humanists. But who cares? let’s stick to the arguments and evidence, ok?

Strobel: Meyer, are evolution and Christianity compatible?

Meyer: No, because evolution requires that the natural processes that create the diversity of life be random and unpredictable.

Shermer: Well, maybe the natural forces could be caused by the designer but in a totally undirected and undetectable way, so you Christians could have blind faith and we could run the public square.

Meyer: But Darwinism says and that no design is detectable in those processes, so they processes cannot be actually directed on Darwinism.

Shermer: But the designer could use natural selection and mutation.

Meyer: If so, then why did Darwin explicitly reject God having a role in these processes?

Shermer: I don’t believe in God because there isn’t enough evidence and it would require too many changes in my life. I like having autonomy from God and his moral demands. Also, we must always prefer material explanations, we can never infer that an intelligence played a role. I will only allow you to have two explanations of natural phenomena: 1) God didn’t do it, or 2) we don’t know.

Meyer: I like that you allow “we don’t know” as an explanation if we don’t know, because that is a rejection of dogmatic explanations that don’t fit the available evidence. But the arguments for design are based on what we do know, not what we don’t know – science gave us these arguments – and the progress of science has only strengthened them.

Conclusion

Well, I think it’s pretty clear who won, and who had the evidence! I like Michael Shermer, though, and I hope that he comes around to our point of view in time. At least he’s willing to debate, and he has a pretty moderate view compared to other Darwinian fundamentalists.

Other debates on Darwinism vs intelligent design

Michael Shermer debates Jonathan Wells at the pro-Darwinism Cato Institute (in 7 parts), MP3 audio is here.

Massimo Pigliucci debates Jonathan Wells for the pro-Darwinism PBS, downloadable video and audio.

John Lennox debates against Michael Shermer about the existence of God.

Further study

Here are posts on cosmological argument and the fine-tuning argument. I’ll respond to hopeful, but unwarranted, speculations about quantum mechanics and chaotic inflationary models, which I will be blogging about later. I’ll blog about molecular machines in a future post.

An essay on the origin of biological information by Meyer is here and a debate between two software engineers on it is here. I’ll also mention Meyer’s forthcoming book Signature in the Cell. Don’t forget about the upcoming debate between William Lane Craig and Francisco Ayala!

By the way, William Lane Craig has also debated Massimo Pigliucci on the topic “Does God Exist?”.

UPDATE: Did you see my post on why Darwinists don’t allow debates like this to happen in school classrooms?