Skip to comments.Can America Survive Evolutionary Humanism?
Posted on 06/20/2007 5:24:39 AM PDT by spirited irish
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Interesting. I never noticed that before, although I read it a bazillion (well not quite) times.
tactical...You’re arguing that they’re establishing a “logical consistency” based on “chance and continuous change”.
Irish...Absolutely! And here’s the catch tactical...there’s not supposed to be anything ‘logical’ about a ‘chance and continuous change’ system-—yet there it is. And why? Because evolutionary humanism is a phantasmagoria of massive narcissism, fantasy, deception, outright lies, delusion, wishful thinking, imagination-gone-wild, and hypocrisy.
Although for the wrong reason, you did finally see it. Congratulations.
Although for the wrong reason, you did finally see it. Congratulations.
Apparently you've finally figured out the only way you can win an argument is if you get to argue both sides of it.
I’m trying to figure why he pinged me to witness idiocy.
Maybe he's a dyslexhibitionist.
Haven't you read anything by Haeckel or J. Huxley? Watch my FR page, I'll get around to putting all that up there.
This thread is about dead, I think, but I’ll go ahead and post here anyway. I’m sorry it took me so long to respond — I’ve a newly minted “crawler” who is getting into everything and making it hard for me to spend any substantial time on “grown up” stuff. Post a response here, or feel free to send me an email if you’d like to continue this conversation any further.
You said, back at Post 448: “Evolution does not predict that the algorithm would produce the same results on a second run, so evolution is not obligated to explain the exact list of things currently alive. All that evolution seeks to describe is the process by which a branching tree forms.”
I disagree. You assume that evolution is a simple mathematical exercise in algorithm development. We have the algorithm and the rules, and the outcome is irrelevant because assuming that the rules are true then the outcome — whatever it may be — must be true. Further, you assume that evolution is a one-shot algorithm - its rules are valid only for one run, so the algorithm only has to run one time and is under no obligation to repeat itself. It couldnt be more simple than that.
My observation - -and therefore, the assumption driving the process of scientific inquiry — is that we have an outcome, and that any attempt to describe it must be able to successfully reproduce it. Therefore, we are not starting with abiogenesis — where time=zero and and then simply conducting a mathematical exercise that does not care about the outcome. Rather, evolutionary theory is about starting with now and working backward (e.g. through morphology studies, genetic studies, etc.) and forward (e.g. through archaeology and paleontology) to prove the outcome.
Thats not about algorithm development and rule sets. Thats a modeling effort. In this application, they are very different.
And, as I’ve been saying, thus far not only have our attempts to develop the model failed but so too have our attempts to find all of the variables, rates, and validation data needed to even run it.
And despite this, despite the fact that evolutionary science — and I use the term with skepticism — has failed to meet even the minimum requirements of the scientific method, we have adopted it as the unifying theory for all of biology.
And, broadening the scope, because popular culture has embraced science as some sort of false god, not only is evolutionary theory the unifying theory for biology but it has been misappropriated for use as some sort of “personal” unifying theory to explain all sorts of things it was never intended to explain — the origin of life, meaning, purpose, yada yada yada.
So is weather. Evolution and weather are physical phenomena that require no supernatural interventions, but outcomes diverge quickly based on initial conditions.
I agree that models of evolution are not adequate to explain or replicate every feature of life. I draw no philosophical conclusion from that. Do you?
I see attempts by some to conclude from the inability to explain everything right now, the argument that the methods and assumptions of science are wrong. The problem with this argument is that there is no point in the history of science in which this could not be argued. It is the time honored trick of placing dragons on unexplored regions of the map. Or asserting that there are things mankind was not meant to know.
“...I agree that models of evolution are not adequate to explain or replicate every feature of life. I draw no philosophical conclusion from that. Do you? ...”
As to your question to me: I suppose so. Without suggesting that science is a means through which I justify or validate my belief in God, or my faith in the inerrancy of His word and the Creation account, I suppose that one philosophical basis for my criticisms of the notion of evolution is that I have observed an array of deliberate functional relationships between living form and inanimate features in nature that could not exist outside of the presence of an external, controlling designer. The failure of evolutionary theory to yet accomplish a satisfactory accounting of life today is, then, not surprising to me.
My question to you, then: If evolution is not adequate to explain or replicate every feature of life...then (assuming for a moment that you have curiosity about such things) what is it that you believe does? Anything? Nothing? Is “nothing” itself an answer for you? I am curious about what you believe.
If true, that would make you unique among all people. Behe, who has a genuine PhD in the relevant subject, and is a tenured professor, could not list any such features while testifying as an expert witness under oath.
You ask me what I believe. I believe, along with St. Augustine, that when well established science appears to contradict a literal reading of scripture, that the reading and interpretation need to be adjusted. I share his belief that when Christians and Muslims deny that the earth moves, or the earth orbits the sun, or that the earth is billions of years old, or that living things are all related by descent, then religion looks foolish, and the people making religion look foolish are destroying the thing they claim to protect.
Incidently, qualified people like Behe, do not deny common descent.
Evolution is possible, isn't it?
As to irreducible complexity, complexity is apparently easy to achieve. Turing showed that in 1936, and Wolfram showed pictures a few years ago. Five lines of code could produce the entire universe.
nope....can't defy God forever and placing faith in Messianic Humanism does just that
Which is enough to prove that "every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers" is false.
my father was one of 12 children, eleven of whom lived and married
Which is enough to refute both Mayr's assertion "all the individuals of a population... are exposed to the adversity of the environment, and almost all of them perish or fail to reproduce" and your assertion: "the process of reproduction creates far more offspring than survive to reproduce."
I am not at all unique in my ability to observe the obvious, and I am hardly the first person with a natural sciences background to criticize the notion of evolution.
...Behe, who has a genuine PhD in the relevant subject, and is a tenured professor, could not list any such features while testifying as an expert witness under oath...
Im familiar with Behe, and Im sure that he testified in conformance with what he believes to be true. But possessing a PhD does not, in and of itself, qualify anyone to serve as an accurate guide to true north on any topic.
You also mentioned that when asked for his expert opinion in court, Behe could not come up with any discrepancies in evolutionary theory of the sort that I mentioned in my previous post.
The implication seems to be that Behe must have been telling the truth because not only does he possess a PhD but he was under oath and swore to tell the truth...the whole truth, so help him God. Thats an interesting and somewhat ironic thing for you to put your trust in, arguing as you have from a position that does not recognize God as a transcendent source of ultimate and unchanging truth.
...I believe, along with St. Augustine, that when well established science appears to contradict a literal reading of scripture, that the reading and interpretation need to be adjusted...
This is perhaps the crux of our disagreement. It is a disagreement, first and foremost, of world view. You follow the secular line of thought that there is a dichotomy between science and religion (e.g. Science does not deal with God), and appear to follow the naturalistic assertion that nature is all that exists, life arose from chance, evolving eventually into life as we have it today. A consequence of your beliefs is that faith in a transcendent God is not rational, and that when it comes to questions about the world it is science that will reveal objective facts and that these facts represent ultimate truth.
I have elsewhere been clear that my faith is in God and that I am a Christian, so I am obligated to disagree with you. Belief in God is actually quite rational, although Christians today generally do a very poor job of arguing that and many buy into the false dichotomy argument and allow their faith to be compartmentalized and thus marginalized. But genuine Christianity is a complete world view: it is a way of seeing and comprehending _all_ reality.
This has a profound impact on scientific inquiry. To paraphrase from a book I am reading right now: The scriptural basis for understanding Christianity to be a comprehensive world view is the Creation account - everything that exists comes into being at his command and is therefore subject to him, finding its purpose and meaning in him. God created the natural world and natural laws, just as God created our minds and the laws of logic and imagination.
The implication is that in every topic we investigate, the truth is found only in relationship to God and his revelation. Thus, the assertion that science -- a term that collectively embraces the means through which humanity exercises its curiosity about the natural world -- is ever really independent of the relationship between people and God is an illusion. Similarly, the claim that science does not deal with God and the claim that others make acknowledging the role of a transcendent God in creation is irrational is false. In point of fact, Christ is actually referred to as the logos in the original Greek of the New Testament -- literally, Christ is the idea, the word, the rational pattern of creation, the order of the universe.
So, while many Christian scientists have unfortunately bought in to the secular and postmodern notion that Christianity can be or should be reduced to mere religious practice or observance, a proper understanding of and application of biblical teaching compels the Christian scientist to understand Christianity as the all encompassing-truth, the light in which everything else is seen and understood.
Thus, your quote -- while perfectly in accordance with a secular and postmodern world view -- is incompatible with a biblical world view because it suggests that biblical revelation about creation should be subject to revision and reinterpretation according to the vagaries of human revelation.
"...Incidently, qualified people like Behe, do not deny common descent..."
From what you have said so far, youve made it pretty clear that you place a great deal of faith in the ability of science -- and its pantheon of august intellectual bright lights -- to reveal truth. A Biblical world view means recognizing that people are fallible and that they are not the ultimate source of truth. Thus, I cannot and do not share your faith. While I have met or known many well-educated, articulate, and even visionary scientists, their observations and assertions of truth must always be held up in light of Gods greater wisdom.
Consistent with his character, God has clearly and undeniably organized the natural world according to law and order. As I have said elsewhere, common descent -- which is predicated upon the chaos inherent to evolutionary theory and contradicts the biblical creation account -- is not compatible with Gods revealed word or his character. Thus, it is not God's revelation that must be reconsidered but rather humanity's errant efforts to understand it through the secular lens of evolutionary theory and common descent.
Nor are you the first person on these threads to make a lonng post without saying anything.
Lets have your "obvious" list of structures that couldn't have arisen through evolution.
As to your complaint about long posts: I'm sorry but this one is quite long, too. For my part, Ive little time for posts so I prefer to be thorough the first time. Further, this is an important topic and Im not interested in a conversation that needs to be cut into bite-sized pieces. Unless Ive overestimated you, I suspect you can handle it.
In no particular order, here are several observations that I believe make the current body of evolutionary theory flawed and the notion of evolution by random forces a non-starter:
1. The problem of abiogenesis.
There are several well-known experiments that have shown that it is possible to produce amino acids -- and therefore the building blocks of life -- in lab conditions. However, all such efforts have required vigorous controls; thus, even the most successful origin of life experiments have really told us nothing about what happens under natural conditions. Furthermore, none has successfully dealt with the issue of chirality. Finally, while many have tried, no one has developed a plausible explanation for proto-cellular development that would account for the leap from non-life to life while still remaining within the bounds of known physical and chemical laws.
2. The problem of vanishingly small chances.
Computer analysis using information theory has shown that the probability of evolution by chance processes is essentially zero, no matter how long the time scale. The work of Murray Eden, Marcel Schutzenberger, and others, as presented at the Wistar Institute in 1966, all showed quite clearly that the complexity of the biochemical world could not have originated by chance even within the time span of ten billion years. These findings have since been refined and confirmed by application of the first and second laws of thermodynamics to living systems. As Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel Prize-winning thermodynamicist, put it: The probability that at ordinary temperatures a macroscopic number of molecules is assembled to give rise to the highly ordered structures and to the coordinated functions characterizing living organisms is vanishingly small.Let me repeat that: Vanishingly. Small.
3. The problem of DNA
Naturalism and evolutionary theory require that the complex-yet-orderly arrangement of DNA information that comprises living things must arise by natural forces alone, and that it can be explained only in terms of physical-chemical laws. But information theory has consistently shown that both chance and law lead to structures with low information content, whereas DNA has very high information content. In fact, the amount of biological information contained in DNA that is required to construct even a simple organism is staggering. Studies using information theory have shown that it would be impossible -- again, in the absence of vigorous external control -- to construct a simple set of instructions for synthesizing even the simplest form of bacteria. Essentially, there are no known natural laws capable of creating a structure like DNA with high information content.
4. The problem of variation.
Classical Darwinism asserts that the mechanism of natural selection acting on random variation suffices to explain the diversity and complexity of life. However, it is a commonly accepted observation that variation does not in fact produce novel types of organisms (this includes selective breeding), and that Darwinian natural selection cannot account for macro-scale complexity. Further, it is also accepted that all variation occurs around a mean, organisms tend to stay true to type, and species tend to appear in the fossil record fully formed and unchanged from their modern counterparts.
5. The problem with relying on mutation.
As I just noted, it is commonly accepted that genetic variation cannot account for major change because variation is simply the reordering of material that is already present -- e.g. a child will always tends to resemble its parents. The only new source of genetic variation is, thus, mutation. There are two major problems with invoking mutation as the primary causal agent driving the massive amounts of change that would be required to progress from simple unicellular to complex multicellular life forms: 1) mutation is quite rare; 2) while mutation may sometimes be neutral in its effect, it is seldom ever beneficial. Mutation -- a chance, rare, often fatally flawed event -- cannot account for the diversity and complexity of life forms living today or in the fossil record. Yet it is still considered to be the spark that ignites the evolutionary engine.
6. The Cambrian problem.
Neo-Darwinism and punctuated equilibrium have each tried to accommodate the above observations via various contortions of natural selection and other principles of classical Darwinism. But consideration of the Cambrian explosion alone repudiates both the claims of neo-Darwinism and punctuated equilibrium. Cambrian fossils have no transitional intermediates linking them to previous time periods, and all display morphological features that have no clear precedent. Considering that the Cambrian fossil record includes the 1st appearance of over 40 separate phyla (the highest taxa in the animal kingdom) and accounts for approximately 2/3 of the body plans seen on earth today, this is a substantial problem for evolutionary theory.
7. The problem of non-evolution.
There are hundreds of known examples of living fossils. These organisms represent both warm- and cold-blooded animals, plants (including both angiosperms and gymnosperms), and insects, and they occupy a wide range of niches. The ancestors of these organisms did encounter events and conditions that should have triggered at least one or more of the 4 mechanisms that drive all evolutionary change. For example, the KT boundary event, various glacial and interglacial periods, continental drift, intercontinental changes in habitat and macro-/micro-scale climate resulting from ongoing orogenic activity and changing hydrology are all events that these living fossils have survived without any change. Yet, they are all events that had impact across multiple spatial and temporal scales and which should have produced countless opportunities for migration, genetic drift, and/or natural selection to have occurred. But, the ancestral chain of hundreds of organisms today went through those occurrences completely unchanged.
8. The problem of missing miscreants in the family tree
From a common ancestor we are to believe we now have oak trees, bacteria, fish, and people. Ignoring the massive pileup of improbabilities resulting from the above observations for a moment, such a feat would have required an exponential increase in complex life forms. Given the importance of mutation in the process, such expansion should have been accompanied by a tremendous number of false starts -- those necessary intermediary organisms with mutant features that didnt survive the selective cut. In every single branch of the phylogenetic tree there should be a related chain of unsuccessful false starts and miscreants somewhere in the fossil record. To date, no such evidence has been found.
9. The problem of fitness.
Some of the living fossil species have had hundreds of millions of years to deal with the challenge of survival of the fittest. And yet, some of these species are hardly the fittest of their group. For example, the Quercus genus is known for its ability to suppress the growth of other nearby species. After 100 min years, survival of the fittest would predict that the oak trees reproducing today would be as fit as they could be -- meaning, they would not only be efficient at suppressing other plant growth, but they would also be extremely efficient in their reproductive strategy and therefore dominant where ever they occur. But oaks are actually not very good competitors and in healthy plant communities, they exist in mixed settings not huge monocultures.
10. The problem of the Ouroboros.
Finally, functional relationships between form and external environment -- for example, mimicry and camouflage -- are all over creation, but they cannot be accounted for by mutation (which, again, is rare, accidental, and usually harmful). There is plenty of discussion out there about the role of co-evolution and/or convergent evolutionary processes in explaining these phenomena, but despite lofty language they do come up short. Achievement of, for example, protocryptic character requires an awareness of external environment and control over genetic expression of expressed morphology and other features that is impossible (not mention silly to suggest unless youre into biosemiotics) through mutation. The character of these relationships precludes their development from a chaotic and random process that is centered at the genetic level and which is under the control of nothing more than chance mutation and which has no awareness, either of the external environment or of the impact of its own activity on the organism.
So, for all that I expect complete disagreement from you given that we are diametrically opposed on the most basic issues, I suppose theres a list for you.
A problem for chemistry, and one that has made quite a bit of progress. What is the alternative?
2. The problem of vanishingly small chances.
No one asserts that biodiversity arose through chance. Change and diversity arises through variation, superfecundity and selection. Variation merely explores the limited universe of changes possible at any given moment -- a number possible to observe in laboratory experiments.
The problem of small chances assumes that variation has a prespecified goal. No one has ever observed such a tendency, and lots of people have looked.
Essentially, there are no known natural laws capable of creating a structure like DNA with high information content.
The origination of DNA is the problem of biogenesis. Once replicators exist, variation, superfecundity and selection comprise an algorithm that could be describes as intelligent. Hubert Yockey, the most influential writer in this field, has investigated this process at length. He would agree with you that the origin of life is an unsolvable problem, but he also asserts that common descent via Darwinian processes has been proven beyond doubt.
4. The problem of variation.
This is an interesting claim, since the first paper on natural selection was titled, On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type, written not by Darwin, but by Wallace, in 1858. Your claim is rubbish. Reversion to the mean only affects large populations that never get separated into separate breeding populations.
5. The problem with relying on mutation.
Your paragraph is factually wrong at every point. Mutations are common. Statistically speaking, you carry several alleles not carried by either of your parents. Living and developing systems are not so fragile that change automatically causes death. Most changes in alleles produce subtle somatic changes, exactly the kind of change required by evolution.
Not that death is uncommon. Sperm cells are the product of many more generations of divisions than egg cells and have more mutations. The majority are non functional. Less than one in a billion are capable of fertilizing an egg. In humans, as many as two thirds of conceptions are naturally aborted. Superfecundity and selection.
6. The Cambrian problem.
Creationist rubbish. As more fossils are found it becomes obvious that most phyla predate the Cambrian. The problem with dating the first appearance of body plans is that accent life forms had no hard parts to fossilize.
The rest of your list just repeats previous arguments from incredulity. Basically, if you aren't smart enough to deduce the origin of things from first principles, then you are obviously smarter than all the tens of thousands of biologists who have ever lived. Quite a claim.
We now hear less about irreducible complexity, with good reason. In Darwins Black Box, Behe simply asserted without justification that particular biological structures (like the bacterial flagellum, the tiny propeller by which bacteria swim) needed all their parts to be in place before they would work, and therefore could not have evolved incrementally. This style of argument remains as unconvincing as when Darwin himself anticipated it. It commits the logical error of arguing by default. Two rival theories, A and B, are set up. Theory A explains loads of facts and is supported by mountains of evidence. Theory B has no supporting evidence, nor is any attempt made to find any. Now a single little fact is discovered, which A allegedly cant explain. Without even asking whether B can explain it, the default conclusion is fallaciously drawn: B must be correct. Incidentally, further research usually reveals that A can explain the phenomenon after all: thus the biologist Kenneth R. Miller (a believing Christian who testified for the other side in the Dover trial) beautifully showed how the bacterial flagellar motor could evolve via known functional intermediates.
Behe correctly dissects the Darwinian theory into three parts: descent with modification, natural selection and mutation. Descent with modification gives him no problems, nor does natural selection. They are trivial and modest notions, respectively. Do his creationist fans know that Behe accepts as trivial the fact that we are African apes, cousins of monkeys, descended from fish?
The crucial passage in The Edge of Evolution is this: By far the most critical aspect of Darwins multifaceted theory is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept.
What a bizarre thing to say! Leave aside the history: unacquainted with genetics, Darwin set no store by randomness. New variants might arise at random, or they might be acquired characteristics induced by food, for all Darwin knew. Far more important for Darwin was the nonrandom process whereby some survived but others perished. Natural selection is arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind, because it alone as far as we know explains the elegant illusion of design that pervades the living kingdoms and explains, in passing, us. Whatever else it is, natural selection is not a modest idea, nor is descent with modification.
But lets follow Behe down his solitary garden path and see where his overrating of random mutation leads him. He thinks there are not enough mutations to allow the full range of evolution we observe. There is an edge, beyond which God must step in to help. Selection of random mutation may explain the malarial parasites resistance to chloroquine, but only because such micro-organisms have huge populations and short life cycles. A fortiori, for Behe, evolution of large, complex creatures with smaller populations and longer generations will fail, starved of mutational raw materials.
If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behes theory, what would you do? Youd take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: lets call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that youd wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.
Dont evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of), but Behe, having lost the argument over irreducible complexity, is now in his desperation making a completely different claim: that mutations are too rare to permit significant evolutionary change anyway. From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.
If correct, Behes calculations would at a stroke confound generations of mathematical geneticists, who have repeatedly shown that evolutionary rates are not limited by mutation. Single-handedly, Behe is taking on Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Lewontin, John Maynard Smith and hundreds of their talented co-workers and intellectual descendants. Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think?
The best way to find out is for Behe to submit a mathematical paper to The Journal of Theoretical Biology, say, or The American Naturalist, whose editors would send it to qualified referees. They might liken Behes error to the belief that you cant win a game of cards unless you have a perfect hand. But, not to second-guess the referees, my point is that Behe, as is normal at the grotesquely ill-named Discovery Institute (a tax-free charity, would you believe?), where he is a senior fellow, has bypassed the peer-review procedure altogether, gone over the heads of the scientists he once aspired to number among his peers, and appealed directly to a public that as he and his publisher know is not qualified to rumble him.
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