Tag Archives: Observation

Is it better to form beliefs based on evidence or based on consensus?

Stuart Schneiderman linked to this Wall Street Journal by Matt Ridley.

Take a look at this:

Last week a friend chided me for not agreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is likely to be dangerous. I responded that, according to polls, the “consensus” about climate change only extends to the propositions that it has been happening and is partly man-made, both of which I readily agree with. Forecasts show huge uncertainty.

Besides, science does not respect consensus. There was once widespread agreement about phlogiston (a nonexistent element said to be a crucial part of combustion), eugenics, the impossibility of continental drift, the idea that genes were made of protein (not DNA) and stomach ulcers were caused by stress, and so forth—all of which proved false. Science, Richard Feyman once said, is “the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

My friend objected that I seemed to follow the herd on matters like the reality of evolution and the safety of genetically modified crops, so why not on climate change? Ah, said I, but I don’t. I agree with the majority view on evolution, not because it is a majority view but because I have looked at evidence. It’s the data that convince me, not the existence of a consensus.

My friend said that I could not possibly have had time to check all the evidence for and against evolution, so I must be taking others’ words for it. No, I said, I take on trust others’ word that their facts are correct, but I judge their interpretations myself, with no thought as to how popular they are. (Much as I admire Charles Darwin, I get fidgety when his fans start implying he is infallible. If I want infallibility, I will join the Catholic Church.)

And that is where the problem lies with climate change. A decade ago, I was persuaded by two pieces of data to drop my skepticism and accept that dangerous climate change was likely. The first, based on the Vostok ice core, was a graph showing carbon dioxide and temperature varying in lock step over the last half million years. The second, the famous “hockey stick” graph, showed recent temperatures shooting up faster and higher than at any time in the past millennium.

Within a few years, however, I discovered that the first of these graphs told the opposite story from what I had inferred. In the ice cores, it is now clear that temperature drives changes in the level of carbon dioxide, not vice versa.

As for the “hockey stick” graph, it was effectively critiqued by Steven McIntyre, a Canadian businessman with a mathematical interest in climatology. He showed that the graph depended heavily on unreliable data, especially samples of tree rings from bristlecone pine trees, the growth patterns of which were often not responding to temperature at all. It also depended on a type of statistical filter that overweighted any samples showing sharp rises in the 20th century.

I followed the story after that and was not persuaded by those defending the various hockey-stick graphs. They brought in a lake-sediment sample from Finland, which had to be turned upside down to show a temperature spike in the 20th century; they added a sample of larch trees from Siberia that turned out to be affected by one tree that had grown faster in recent decades, perhaps because its neighbor had died. Just last week, the Siberian larch data were finally corrected by the University of East Anglia to remove all signs of hockey-stick upticks, quietly conceding that Mr. McIntyre was right about that, too.

So, yes, it is the evidence that persuades me whether a theory is right or wrong, and no, I could not care less what the “consensus” says.

I think that one of the most troubling things about college students today is that they are so much under the influence of their professors that they regularly just parrot whatever their professors say in order to pass their classes. They can’t afford to ask questions and disagree – they’ve already paid their money, and their job is to agree with the professors in order to pass. This is especially true with secular leftist professors who are often woefully incapable of respecting views other than their own. The ivory tower is not the best place for having one’s views tested by reality, as Thomas Sowell has argued. This is especially true outside of the fields of engineering, math, science and technology. So, young people tend to come out of university parroting the view of their professors, who often don’t know how the real world works at all. The right thing to do to fix this problem is for universities to promote a diversity of views. But that’s not likely to happen in universities that are dominated by progressives. Non-progressive views are not just wrong, but evil. Rather than be viewed as evil by professors and peers for the crime of thinking critically, most students prefer to stick with the consensus views, whether they are defensible or not.

The Talk Origins speciation FAQ and the problem of citation-bluffing

The thing to be explained by Darwinism (in addition to the origin of life) is how can you get new, different body plans and organ types by the mechanisms of mutation and selection. Everyone admits that you can get cases where animal A mutates in a small way so that it can no longer breed with animal B. That is speciation of a sort, because the animals can no longer breed. But the real question is whether we can generate species with different body plans using these naturalistic Darwinian mechanisms of mutation and selection.

Here are two podcasts featuring Casey Luskin that discuss how much morphological change has really been observed according to research.

Here is the MP3 file from part one. (14 minutes)


On this episode of ID The Future, Casey Luskin discusses Talk Origins, a resource often used by supporters of Darwinian evolution to refute arguments made by proponents of intelligent design. After taking a closer look, Luskin found FAQs on Talk Origins guilty of citation bluffing, overstated claims, and other misleading tactics. In particular, the Talk Origins FAQ on speciation claims to provide evidence of “observed instances” of new species. On further review, this turns out to be far from the case. Tune in to Luskin as he explains why.

Here is the MP3 file from part two. (21 minutes)


On this episode of ID The Future, Casey Luskin continues his discussion about Talk Origins, a resource often used by supporters of Darwinian evolution to refute arguments made by proponents of intelligent design. After taking a closer look, Luskin found FAQs onTalk Origins guilty of citation bluffing, overstated claims, and other misleading tactics. In particular, the Talk Origins FAQ on speciation claims to provide evidence of “observed instances” of new species. On further review, this turns out to be far from the case. Tune in to Luskin as he explains why in this conclusion to a two-part series.

Basically, he takes a look at the details of cases of “speciation” claimed in the Talk Origins FAQ, and finds that the changes are minor changes, and not changes in morphology. This is not the change that we are looking for to support the hypothesis of macro-evolution. In order to become Darwinists, we need to observe change driven by mutations that leads to changes in body plans. And the mutations have to be heritable.

Highly recommended. You’ve got to love the directness of Casey Luskin explaining what needs to be proved and what has been proved. By the way, here is a more detailed written assessment of speciation claims of the Darwinists.

Nature publishes discovery of fossil with complex brain dated just after the Cambrian explosion

New fossil discovery shows advanced brain structures
New fossil discovery shows advanced brain structures

Casey Luskin writes about it at Uncommon Descent.


Over at PhysOrg.com, there’s a study being reported highlighting a 520 million year old fossil arthropod with a highly-developed brain. So soon in evolutionary time, and an already developed brain??? (To go beside the very complex eye of the Trilobites)

Here’s what one scientist said:

“No one expected such an advanced brain would have evolved so early in the history of multicellular animals,” said Strausfeld, a Regents Professor in the UA department of neuroscience.

Sorry, Darwinists, but IDers would expect it.

Let’s keep track of the problems that this good scientific discovery creates for naturalists.

Problem #1: Darwinism does not support rapid change from single-celled organisms just before the Cambrian explosion to complex brains just after the Cambrian explosion. Darwinian evolution has to go gradually from simple to complex.

Now for some more:

And, to add insult to injury for our Darwinist brethren, here’s this confirmation of “genetic entropy” and Behe’s QRB “rule”:

“The shape [of the fossilized brain] matches that of a comparable sized modern malacostracan,” the authors write in Nature. They argue the fossil supports the hypothesis that branchiopod brains evolved from a previously complex to a more simple architecture instead of the other way around.

So, that’s another problem.

Problem #2: Darwinism does not support going from more complex to less complex organisms, in general. This is especially true for complex biological systems like brains. Darwnists must explain how complex brains can be built from simpler parts through a long sequence of likely mutations. 

And more:

Here’s how the article ends:

The fossil supports the idea that once a basic brain design had evolved, it changed little over time[Translation: ID is completely correct!!!], he explained. Instead, peripheral components such as the eyes, the antennae and other appendages, sensory organs, etc., underwent great diversification and specialized in different tasks but all plugged into the same basic circuitry. “It is remarkable how constant the ground pattern of the nervous system has remained for probably more than 550 million years,” Strausfeld added. “The basic organization of the computational circuitry that deals, say, with smelling, appears to be the same as the one that deals with vision, or mechanical sensation.”

Yet another problem.

Problem #3: Darwinism does not work if organisms are observed to remain changeless and static over time. Darwinism requires change over time from simple to complex. Backwards change or no change falsifies Darwinism.

Read the whole post.

It’s just another prediction of Darwinian orthodoxy falsified by experimental evidence published in the top scientific peer-reviewed journal. Will this cause Darwinians to revise their theory to fit the evidence? Not likely. Their motivations for clinging to naturalism, the religion that undergirds Darwinism, are entirely beyond correction by evidence.

I wonder what people like P.Z. Myers and Larry Moran do when their religion comes into conflict with scientific evidence? Do they bitterly cling to their mythology from the 19th century? Or do they adjust their worldview to be in line with the progress of science?

Let Richard Dawkins explain evolution and the role of evidence:

“My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” — p. 287, Blind Watchmaker” (1986)

Or Richard Lewontin:

“Our willingness to accept [naturalistic]  scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our own a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, not matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” (Richard Lewontin in New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, p. 28)

Last month, we saw a peer-reviewed published paper that falsified the Darwinian predictions about junk DNA. Recently, the Darwnists were proven wrong again about vestigial organs. Before that, we had another discovery of oxygen on the early Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks naturalistic origin of life scenarios. Did these scientific discoveries stop the worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by the Darwinian faithful? Of course not. And they don’t want to debate it with you, either.

Naturalists don’t want to have to explain why they are always believing things that are falsified by the progress of science. Naturalists fought the Big Bang tooth and nail, trying to save their eternal universe from the progress of science. Naturalists invented the now discredited oscillating model of the universe in order to “explain” the evidence for a cosmic beginning. Naturalists invented the unobservable, untestable multiverse to “explain” the cosmic fine-tuning. Unobservable aliens were posited in order to “explain” the origin of life so soon after the cooling of the Earth. Precursor fossils are invented without evidence in order to “explain” the Cambrian era explosion in biological complexity. And so on.

Evidence doesn’t matter to people who are motivated by naturalistic faith. Like belief in a flat-Earth, the delusion of naturalism is not accountable to scientific evidence. They believe what they want to believe. It’s not up for debate. For some people like Richard Dawkins, a prior lifestyle commitment makes theism (and the moral law!) an impossibility a priori. But rational people know that believing something just so that your actions are “justified” doesn’t make what you believe true.

Speaking of Richard Dawkins, if you haven’t seen the video of that coward being “Eastwooded” by William Lane Craig, here’s the link. Dr. Craig has obviously seen a lot of Clint Eastwood movies, and he manages to work in about a half-dozen Clint Eastwood lines into a careful philosophical and scientific refutation of Dawkins’ faith-based atheist delusions. I don’t mind if Dawkins wants to have his religious beliefs for comfort in the privacy of his home or church, but I don’t think that we should be making policy off of his subjective preferences. In the public square we need to be guided by public evidence – like the evidence from science.