Thursday, January 20, 2011

Evolution Just the facts Pt. 4

Hi all,

So it has come to my attention that I missed a character in my last post, Malcom Reynolds from Firefly/Serenity who has lost his faith. To my friend who pointed that out, I will be using him as an example in an upcoming post looking at the popular theme in pop culture of the "crisis of faith". So stay tuned.

Now to continue my discussion of Conservapedia's Evolution page:

Statements of Design:

Phillip E. Johnson cites Francis Crick in order to illustrate the fact that the biological world has the strong appearance of being designed:
"One of the world's most famous scientists, probably the most famous living biologist, is Sir Francis Crick, the British co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, a Nobel Prize winner... Crick is also a fervent atheistic materialist, who propounds the particle story. In his autobiography, Crick says very candidly biologists must remind themselves daily that what they study was not created, it evolved; it was not designed, it evolved. Why do they have to remind themselves of that? Because otherwise, the facts which are staring them in the face and trying to get their attention might break through. What we discovered when I developed a working group of scientists, philosophers, et al., in the United States was that living organisms look as if they were designed and they look that way because that is exactly what they are." - Evolution And Christian Faith by Phillip E. Johnson

- I don't know exactly where Johnson got this quote because in the source conservapeida sites there is no references to find what Crick meant by those words, if he said them. What it sounds like to me is that he is addressing is the appearance of design and explaining that the appearance of the design and how things seem suited to their environment, but may have been talking about the natural processes of design, the evolutionary process, the environment and the natural processes designed the organisms being examined. (go ahead quote mine this, I dare you!).

Stephen C. Meyer offers the following statement regarding the design of the biological world:
"During the last forty years, molecular biology has revealed a complexity and intricacy of design that exceeds anything that was imaginable during the late-nineteenth century. We now know that organisms display any number of distinctive features of intelligently engineered high-tech systems: information storage and transfer capability; functioning codes; sorting and delivery systems; regulatory and feed-back loops; signal transduction circuitry; and everywhere, complex, mutually-interdependent networks of parts. Indeed, the complexity of the biomacromolecules discussed in this essay does not begin to exhaust the full complexity of living systems. As even the staunch materialist Richard Dawkins has allowed, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." Yet the materialistic science we have inherited from the late-nineteenth century, with its exclusive conceptual reliance on matter and energy, could neither envision nor can it now account for the biology of the information age." - The Origin of Life and the Death of Materialism by Stephen C. Meyer, Ph.D.

- First do a google search for Stephen C. Meyer, and you will find that he works for the Discovery Institute, which is a think tank of people arguing for Intelligent Design, or creationism. His Ph.D is also in history and philosophy of science, not biology and therefore is not an authority on evolution. I plan on getting my Ph.D in Anthropology, and that will not make me an authority on physics, having a Ph.D does not make you an expert in everything. He is also taking Dawkins out of context he stated that they appear to be designed, not that they are. Now that his methods and expertise are in question it is time to look at how seemingly complex things have evolved this video explains the origin of genes.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states the following regarding a candid admission of Charles Darwin:
In 1885, the Duke of Argyll recounted a conversation he had had with Charles Darwin the year before Darwin's death: In the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the Fertilisation of Orchids, and upon The Earthworms, and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature—I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of Mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked at me very hard and said, “Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,” and he shook his head vaguely, adding, “it seems to go away.”(Argyll 1885, 244)

- I really don't know what the point of this quote is... maybe it's because I have a cold and can't think clearly... but this doesn't seem to point to anything about design, no argument for design has been put forward, and all they are doing is trying to discredit evolution by putting Darwin's opinions into question, which is irrelevant to the theory. We have evidence and Darwin's personal views are meaningless.

Theory of Evolution and the Scientific Journals:
Advocates of the theory of evolution have often claimed that those who oppose the theory of evolution don't publish their opposition to the theory of evolution in the appropriate scientific literature (creationist scientists have peer reviewed journals which favor the creationist position). Recently, there has been articles which were favorable to the intelligent design position in scientific journals which traditionally have favored the theory of evolution.

- Let's put this theory to the test shall we? go to and type in Intelligent Design, yes you will find just over 1,000,000 articles, but the majority of them are engineering related, as in machinery, not related to the idea of intelligent design in biology. To limit your results go to advanced search and limit the results to biology, life sciences and environmental sciences and suddenly we have about 13,600 papers, and most are referring to the public debate about Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution and none of favorable to the theory of Intelligent design. Isn't it nice when they give you a statement that you can test so easily?

Effect on Scientific Endeavors Outside the Specific Field of Biology:

Stephen Wolfram in his book A New Kind of Science has stated that the Darwinian theory of evolution has, in recent years, "increasingly been applied outside of biology." 

- Yeah this is true, evolution has been applied to anything that forms and changes over time, and is even used in anthropology to examine culture as a living organism that changes over time. Though I don't completely agree with the practice because of it's implications, social Darwinism is an atrocious practice.. but let's examine what Conservapedia has to say.

Evolutionary theory played a prominent role in regards to atheistic communism. Communists, in particular Stalinism, favored a version of Lamarckism called Lysenkoism developed by the atheist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. Lsyenko was made member of the Supreme Soviet and head of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Later Lysenko became President of the All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Many geneticists were imprisoned and executed for their bourgeois science, and agricultural policies based on Lysenkoism that were adopted under the Communist leaders Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong caused famines and the death of millions.

- First off I want to say that yes these regimes were terrible, and I would never condone this abuse of power or loss of life. Now, that being said, conservapedia, admitted that Lynsenkoism is based on Lamarckism, which is not a valid theory, that acquired traits are transmitted to the offspring. This was also what was behind the eugenics movement because DNA was not well understood and what was actually transmittable to the offspring. This has nothing to do with the theory of evolution as it is understood today.

Medical Science:
he theory of evolution has had a negative effect on the field of medical science. According to Dr. Jerry Bergman the list of vestigial organs in humans has gone from 180 in 1890 to 0 in 1999. Furthermore, Dr. Bergman states the following:
Few examples of vestigial organs in humans are now offered, and the ones that are have been shown by more recent research to be completely functional (and in many cases critically so, see Bergman and Howe)...
One popular book on the human body which discussed vestigial organs stated that next to circumcision
‘… tonsillectomy is the most frequently performed piece of surgery. Doctors once thought tonsils were simply useless evolutionary leftovers and took them out thinking that it could do no harm. Today there is considerable evidence that there are more troubles in the upper respiratory tract after tonsil removal than before, and doctors generally agree that simple enlargement of tonsils is hardly an indication for surgery...’

- Alright, we didn't know then, and we know now. However, this does not disprove evolution and evolutionary science is actually very beneficial in medical science. Take for instance the bacteria which become antibiotic resistant through evolutionary processes, the understanding of zoonoses, diseases which are transmitted from animal to human, it is also used to explain the vestigial tail that some children are born with, stem cell research also utilizes evolutionary science (don't freak out pro-lifers, the best stem cells come from the umbilical cord not from aborted fetuses). For more information on evolutionary medicine I would suggest googling it yourself and see all of the advantages evolutionary science gives to medicine.

Young earth creation scientist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati states that evolutionary thought has been applied to the field of astronomy. Sarfati's claim is supported by the fact that astronomers do refer to the "evolution of the universe". Sarfati asserts the evolutionary view has had a negative effect on astronomy and that arguments to support the proposed evolutionary time scales of billions of years via the field of astronomy are invalid. Creationists can cite examples of scientists stating that evolutionary ideas in astronomy have failed to have any explanatory power:

- how exactly? I'm not a physicist, or an astronomer, but Andromeda's Wake on Youtube is... and he has a great series called CrAP (Creationist Astronomy Propaganda) debunked which you can watch here. 

“...most every prediction by theorists about planetary formation has been wrong.” Scott Tremaine, as quoted by Richard A. Kerr, “Jupiters Like Our Own Await Planet Hunters,” Science, Vol. 295, 25 January 2002, p. 605

- If you think that this is quote mined then you are right. Here is the whole thing:
Astrophysicist Scott Tremaine of Princeton University sees these results and Lineweaver and Grether’s extrapolation as reasonable quantifications of trends hinted at by the discoveries so far, and he looks forward to coming discoveries. As some monitoring records approach the requisite 12 years, Doppler detection of extrasolar Jupiters may not be far off. And searches are in the works for terrestrial-sized planets by looking for planets passing in front of their stars. But Tremaine remains cautious about what these searches will turn up. Speaking as a theorist, he notes that “most every prediction by theorists about planetary formation has been wrong.”
- as you can see he is preforming what is known as academic honesty... being cautious about trying to make a definitive statement because these don't hold up well in the past.

"Attempts to find a plausible naturalistic explanation of the origin of the Solar System began about 350 years ago but have not yet been quantitatively successful, making this one of the oldest unsolved problems in modern science.” - Stephen G. Brush, A History of Modern Planetary Physics, Vol. 3 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 91

- Just because something has not been solved yet is no reason to determine that it will never be solved. This is a classic god of the gaps trying to fit god into anything that is not yet explained, but as time goes on those gaps are getting smaller and smaller. I also could not find this quote to determine whether or not it has been mined, but I think you get the idea about the god of the gaps arguments.

“We don’t understand how a single star forms, yet we want to understand how 10 billion stars form.” Carlos Frenk, as quoted by Robert Irion, “Surveys Scour the Cosmic Deep,” Science, Vol. 303, 19 March 2004, p. 1750.

- Guess what? This was quote mined as well, and quote mined to create another god of the gaps argument... but here is the entire passage:
"Current theories of galaxy formation can’t explain why concussive waves of star birth swept through some early galaxies but not others—and why some of those fierce stellar fires got snuffed after a few billion years. Startled by their own data, a few observers have implied that modelers of the cosmos need new ideas to describe our universe’s combustive childhood (Science, 23 January, p. 460).
Theorists aren’t yet ready to revise equations on their cluttered whiteboards, but they agree that the surveys illuminate serious flaws. “We’re starting from a shaky foundation,” says cosmologist Carlos Frenk of the University of Durham, U.K. “We don’t understand how a single star forms, yet we want to understand how 10 billion stars form.” Fellow theorist Simon White of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, concurs: “The simple recipes in published models do not reproduce the star formation we see. Theorists are now having to grow up.”

“We cannot even show convincingly how galaxies, stars, planets, and life arose in the present universe.” Michael Rowan-Robinson, “Review of the Accidental Universe,” New Scientist, Vol. 97, 20 January 1983, p. 186.

- Alright, I cannot verify if this was quote mined or not because I only have access to New Scientist back to 1990... but just because we may not know is no reason to throw our hands up and say "I give up!"

In 2001, Cristina Chiappini wrote concering the Milky Way galaxy:
". . . it is an elegant structure that shows both order and complexity. . . . The end product is especially remarkable in the light of what is believed to be the starting point: nebulous blobs of gas. How the universe made the Milky Way from such simple beginnings is not altogether clear. - Cristina Chiappini, "The Formation and Evolution of the Milky Way," American Scientist (vol. 89, Nov./Dec. 2001), p. 506.

- It appears whoever has quote mined this passage did not bother reading the next paragraph:
"These models need to account for not only the large-scale gravitational forces involved in assembling the Galaxy, but also the chemical composition of its primary components, the stars. It turns out that the chemistry of the stars holds clues to how the Galaxy was made and how it has changed through time. The gas blobs that evolved into the Milky Way consisted merely of hydrogen and helium (and a smattering of lithium), the elements that were created in the Big Bang. All the other elements were literally created by the stars. Unlike the medieval alchemists, the stars can actually transmute one element into another-they are prodigious chemical factories. Nevertheless, even today hydrogen and helium make up about 98 percent of the normal matter in the universe. It's the distribution of the elements that make up the final 2 percent that makes all the difference to studies of galactic evolution."

Dr. Walt Brown provides numerous citations to the secular science literature that cite the failings of current old universe paradigm explanations in regards to the planets, stars, and galaxies.

- yeah but since you don't provide them I can only assume that they are misinterpretations and quote mined...

Origin of Life
Evolutionary thought has had an influence on origin of life research as well. For example, a 2004 article in the International Journal of Astrobiology is titled On the applicability of Darwinian principles to chemical evolution that led to life. It is also clear that early origin of life researcher Aleksandr Oparin who proposed materialist ideas regarding the origin of life was influenced by evolutionary thought. However, the current naturalistic explanations for the origin of life are inadequate.

-No! That's a bad Conservapedia! Evolution only deals with things once they exist, and not how they exist. If you want to argue against abiogenesis then use the correct terms. Evolution has never been used in science to explain how life began, it only explains how it changed once it got here. So this is completely irrelevant.

Alright, I think that is good for tonight and we are slowly getting through it, next time Dawkins and Pseudoscience... it should be fun!

Until next time,

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