Thursday, July 20, 2006

Evolution -- That Old Time Religion

Charles Darwin was a scientific dilettante, he was relatively well educated for his time and certainly he was a capable observer. But observing something does not mean you understand it. Nevertheless, Darwin attempted to understand and explain what he observed and to this end he turned to the works of Charles Lyell and his Theory of Uniformitarianism. The result was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as described in his somewhat misnamed The Origin of the Species”, which doesn’t really address the origin of species, a point generally overlooked by the proponents of Darwinism. Both of these Theories have endured unchanged until relatively recently and have been viewed as possible explanations for unexplained geological observations. But increasingly these theories have begun to crumble under the weight of scientific investigation. Uniformitarianism has been reconciled with Catastrophism but Evolution seems unable to bridge the gap between observed fact and fanatical belief that something other than divine intervention is at work.

It is worth noting that the Theory of Evolution was heavily criticized by the scientific community when Darwin first published it. The Paleontologists at the time maintained that it did not fit the fossil record – which admittedly was less robust than it is today. Consequently the fossil record at the time did not allow for Evolution to be repudiated but neither could it be verified so it lingered on into the twentieth century as a Theory where it languished in the scientific community as an interesting idea, but one never fully accepted by the scientific community. It remained a Theory and as a possible explanation for the observed development of life and then in 1925 John Scopes elected to teach Evolution in his class room. The upshot of this decision was the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial”, which was fought over the right of Scopes to teach Evolution. Scopes lost, much to the amusement of the intellectuals of the day. The snide and patronizing tone of the reporters – H. L. Mencken in particular – reflect the air of intellectual superiority that permeates the media even today. However, this trial did serve to put Evolution on the fast track for acceptance as the cornerstone Dogma for the new religion of Darwinism.

So the Theory of Evolution gradually gained acceptance and became part of the science curriculum in most schools and universities, where it was taught as a “Theory”. Apparently in the interest of brevity, the “Theory of” was dropped although it was generally accepted and understood that it was still a “Theory”. But somewhere along the way it stopped being a theory and became a scientific fact, endorsed by important scientific journals like the New York Times and such eminent scientists as Carl Sagan, of course other eminent scientists like Sir Fred Hoyle (an avowed atheist) and more recently Michael Behe, disputed Evolution as even a rational theory much less a fact. But all objections – even those coming from reputable scientists – were ignored and fortunately for these dissenting scientists heretics are no longer burned at the stake even though the criticisms coming from the true believers in Darwinism indicate that would be a desirable reaction to disbelievers.

Instead of a theory Evolution has developed into Scientific Dogma and is accepted as fact. Challenges are not accepted and challengers are immediately branded as Yahoo’s or “Creationists”. There is no middle ground either you believe in “science” or you are cast into the pit of ignorance, stupidity, and religious zealotry. The similarity of the latter with Darwinism totally escapes the members of this new religion, which has all of the trappings of the Old Time Religion minus the picnics and revival meetings. So what beliefs does this new religion of Darwinism rest on? Actually it is necessary to distinguish between “Adaptation” and “Evolution”. Generally when Evolution is challenged the proofs offered tend to be examples of “adaptation”, which is where a species becomes modified over time becoming larger, smaller, or a different color, but remaining the same, like dogs, which come in many forms but remain canines. That is a dog does not become a fish or a mosquito or a horse. Evolution is where one species changes into another, like a horse becoming a giraffe or an ape becoming a human and this brings us to the very foundation of Evolution.

The Theory of Evolution rests on three fundamental factors that must exist for Evolution to become an accepted scientific reality.

Transformation Fossils: The fossil record should contain fossils that clearly demonstrate the “evolution” of one species into another – e;g; an elephant into a whale. The fossil record which grows more robust every year does not contain any evidence of any transitional forms – not one!! Darwin himself recognized this was a weakness in his theory and stated that these transitional forms must be found in order for his postulation of Evolution to be verified. These transitional forms have not been found and paleontologists today (e.g. Stephen Gould) have stated categorically that they have not been found and that they probably won’t be found in the future because they don’t exist.

Natural Selection: The belief here is that nature will weed out those least able to survive in their environment and through time new species would evolve, through mutation or gradual improvements through genetic inheiritance. This would be demonstrated in the fossil record. New and improved forms would exist in the newest strata with the original and more primitive forms being found in the older strata. The horse was cited as an example of this. Unfortunately and in spite of all the Neo-Darwinists could do or contrive, the fossil record has let them down. The evolution of the horse isn’t as neat as postulated and older forms and newer forms seem to co-exist. The famed “Tree of Life” showing the development of Eohippus into the modern horse is not supported by the fossil record. Even if this weren’t true at best all the horse fossil record could provide would be an example of adaptation of a little horse into a bigger horse.

In order to overcome this fatal flaw Gould et al. postulated “punctuated equilibria” For us mere mortals this semantic alchemy is how magic is transformed into science, because it means that the division of one species into another takes place over thousands of years and not millions so no fossils proving evolution would exist. This neatly eliminates the need for the fossil record to answer one of Darwin’s principal tests for proof of Evolution. Gould’s Theory of course is a great improvement over the long held theory that aliens from the planet Krypton used genetic engineering to create new species, so its acceptance has been immediate.

Random Mutation: This is actually the corollary to Natural Selection because it postulates that new species appear through a series of mutations that gradually change into a new species. Of course initially “mutation” was spelled M A G I C, but to improve its credibility in the scientific community the decision was made to call it “mutation”. How this mutation occurs is never completely explained although mutations do occur in nature so these can be observed. What is ignored is that many mutations are not improvements and in the animal world weird offspring like Michael Moore are frequently abandoned at birth. The reality is no new species has ever been demonstrated as being the result of a mutation although it does allow the requirement for transitional forms to be ignored.

Of these fundamental issues clearly the most difficult one is the actual origin of species. This has never been demonstrated by any empirical evidence and the famous “missing link” has never been found. There are hundreds of thousands of fossils in existence today that span thousands of species and millions of years but no transitional form has ever been found. The theory of “punctuated equilibria” has its proponents but then so does the theory of extra-terrestrial intervention by aliens from Krypton. Actually, it was Sir Fred Hoyle who determined that the mathematical probability that the basic enzymes of life arising from random processes was so great as to be miniscule. Based on this Study Sir Fred determined that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was absurd. However, Sir Fred couldn’t abandon “science” so he postulated “Pan Spermia” which holds that life began in space and spread to the Earth through infectious agents delivered to Earth by comets. Science triumphs once again!!

A more bothersome problem is the fossil record between the Cambrian and Pre-Cambrian. It has long been believed that the life forms in the Pre-Cambrian were all soft bodied organisms and thus unsuited for fossilization, although some fossils of algae did exist. Then some other and more complex Pre-Cambrian fossils were found. These were simple worms and similar soft bodied life forms so the argument that these soft bodied life forms could not be preserved turned out to be untrue. This has really created a problem for Darwinism because the fossil record of the Cambrian is filled with complex life forms like Star Fish and Trilobites, complete with eyes, shells, and mouths. Worse, these life forms tend to suddenly appear in the fossil record and persist for millions of years unchanged.

“But fossil species remain unchanged throughout most of their history and the (fossil) record fails to contain a single example of a significant transition”.
Professor D. S. Woodruff (UCSD) “Science” Vol 208 1980

So not only do life forms suddenly appear and remain unchanged for millions of years, they disappear and are replaced with completely new ones who appear just as suddenly and have no transitional forms in the fossil record. At this point we can conclude that although Darwinism may persist like an Old Time Religion, it doesn’t hold up as fact and has little credibility as a theory because the fundamental requirements for proof – as defined by Darwin – have not been met. So once again Stephen Gould jumps into the fray – determined to save Darwin and thus save Science itself.

“Transitional Life Forms are generally lacking at the species level but they are abundant between larger groups”
Stephen Gould (Harvard

Although it appears that Gould is actually saying something profound what he is actually saying is that within a group there is evidence that a life form has changed from large to small and that reptiles, birds, and mammals are different and appear in different forms at different times but no evidence exists that shows the transitional life forms between a reptile and a bird. So what Gould is actually saying is there are no transitional life forms showing the creation of a new species but evidence that some species do change through time but remain much like the were and certainly remain the same species.

Outside of the true believers who cannot accept the reality that Evolution is unproven and is growing shakier by the minute many legitimate members of the scientific community are quietly moving away from it or certainly being equivocal in their support. And this brings us to the most recent critic and the one under heavy attack from the Religious Left (Darwinians) – Michael Behe.

Michael Behe is a Biochemist at Lehigh University who studies – not surprisingly – cells. Now Darwin stated that “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.” This test of course is very close to the “ do you still beat your wife” test, but then we already know that these transitional life forms do not exist in the fossil record and the punctuated equilibria theory is simple semantics for fairy dust. Faced with no evidence of a transitional form and a very robust fossil record Evolution could only be saved by determining that “transitional life forms” were not necessary. Thus by a liberal (no pun) sprinkling of fairy dust the need for transitional forms is dispensed with and the simultaneous existence of the older and newer forms is explained. This is all explained in the book “Fossils” written by Niles Eldredge who happens to be a protégé` of Stephen Gould and the co-author of -- your guessed it “Punctuated Equilibrium”. Alternative titles could be “Fairy Dust – The Key to Darwin” or “Evolution is True Because I Said So”.

Nevertheless Professor Behe – without intending to – disproved Evolution by meeting Darwin’s test mathematically, by determining there are “irreducible” systems. Or at least to anyone with a rational mind, Behe disproved Evolution via gradual modifications over millenia, but the jury of the New York Times and the NEA is still out. They seem unable to accept facts that run counter to their belief system, besides Professor Behe is a Catholic which by definition makes him a NUT and a Neo-Creationist. But Professor Behe felt his model was either correct or not correct and submitted it for review. So far the attacks have focused Behe’s temerity to question Evolution rather than the actual model. So what prompted the Professor’s heresy? How could this well known and highly respected Scientist have strayed so far from the True Faith?

Professor Behe not unexpectedly was studying the flagellum which is a little bacterial motor that propels bacteria. This flagellum requires the coordinated interaction of about 30-40 complex protein parts and the absence of any one of them would render the flagellum useless. With this as a starting point Behe compared this to a mousetrap, which has only a few parts but requires all of them to function properly and the absence of anyone of them renders the mousetrap useless. From this simple model Professor Behe veered off into Darwinian Apostasy by demonstrating it is a mathematical impossibility for all 30 parts of the flagellum or 200 parts of the similar Cilium to have been brought together by the numerous and successive slight modifications required by natural selection, because no transitional form would function – meaning they would die and not be available for march of mutation on their road to becoming a whale or mosquito. All parts must be present all of the time because the “flagellum is an irreducible form”. Then Professor Behe committed the ultimate sin and declared that life at the molecular level “is a loud, clear, piercing, cry of design”. In a feeble attempt at tact, Professor Behe omitted the word “intelligent”, but it didn’t save him. The true believers grabbed their torches and pitchforks and were in full cry before the ink of this heresy had dried.

What Behe actually did was to postulate the irreducibly complex system:

By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution.

Behe illustrated his irreducible system by using a simple mouse trap as a model. A mouse trap has a platform, a lever, a spring, and the staple or killing device. Each one must be present and the removal of any one renders the trap unusable.

H. Allen Orr a Biologist wrote a lengthy and scathing review of Behe’s work but without actually demonstrating that Behe was wrong. Orr presents a critique of the Mouse Trap model showing how useless parts could be added without actually causing the Mouse Trap to malfunction. Of course it might not function as well but Orr skips that part. Orr then concludes that genetic changes could occur over millions of years and ultimately result in a new life form. Of course this is the very basis of Darwin’s view of Evolution. What Professor Orr ignores is that if the number of mutations occurs over millions of years it would result in transitional life forms which other scientists have already accepted don’t exist. Perhaps Professor Orr needs to review the scientific material already available.

Although the scientific community was clearly uncomfortable with having to admit it, they did concede that Behe had a point because they had no real data that could be used to refute him. So they danced all around the point but my very favorite, which really sets the tone for true believers comes from Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago who stated

“...We may never be unable to envisage the proto-pathways. Or it could take hundreds of billions of years! But by then, maybe we’ll have evolved into a species that doesn’t exhibit anti-religious hysteria whenever anyone questions the theory of evolution.”

Of course the translation of this statement is “Don’t dare attack my religious beliefs by using science.” Coyne knows God is dead and there is no God but Darwin.

Another favorite rebuttal to Behe comes from Keith Robison of Harvard who attacks Behe’s Mouse Trap Analogy. Robison maintains he can simplify the mousetrap and eliminate parts, specifically the platform by nailing the parts to the floor. Remember Robison is a Harvard Professor so he not unexpectedly is light on abstract thinking because he cannot see any similarity between the floor and the platform. But then he is striving to salvage his pride and religious belief in the infallibility of Darwin and Evolution, so he glosses over the flaw in his rebuttal and presumes no one will question him because he is defending the faith..

Coyne asserted that it was possible for irreducibly complex systems to arise from natural selection even though there is no evidence or demonstrable proof of this. The reality is that AT BEST Evolution remains a shaky theory based on the tests postulated by Darwin himself, and at worst it fails the test and is in fact false.

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