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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Creation versus Evolution - Utter Paucity of Great Evolutionist Ideas

"...When he burst on the scene a century and a half ago, in the Eric Hufschmid role, Darwin offered precisely a conspiracy theory: a radical overturning of common sense, in this case the understanding that nature reflects design. That was replaced now with an unseen and unseeable material mechanism that simply and comprehensively explained how everything we thought we knew about life's development was totally wrong."
- Darwinism and 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: The Parallels by David Klinghoffer

Darwin saw a world in which scientists saw design and accepted design and therefore were confident that they could study that world and get logical and repeatable results.   He began, like a match lighting a brush pile that turns into a massive multi-state forest fire, to destroy science by replacing design with completely undirected, inexplicable and totally random chance.  Gleeful atheists took the Darwinist ball and ran with it, armed with the two pillars of Darwinism - it explains both simplicity and complexity, it brings life from the ocean to the land and from the land to the ocean.  In other words, without either observable evidence or common sense Darwinism can answer every question without requiring any proof at all.  The rule of Scientism has made Darwinism the accepted answer for still-unanswered questions.   This is actually superstition overcoming reason while pretending to be reasonable.   I now present two articles by ID proponents that illustrate what happens to Darwinists when they come to the end of their belief systems.  Oops, Naturalistic Materialism is the screen door on the submarine of science.  It is okay sitting in dry dock or even next to the pier.   But when we dive into the most basic foundations of both science and philosophy Darwinism sinks like a stone, er, a submarine with a screen door. 


The new documentary Metamorphosis presents, as ENV readers will know, the case for intelligent design in a powerful way. The metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is a spectacular example of "irreducible complexity," and here is one way of explaining why that's so.

In my 2000 Mathematical Intelligencer article "A Mathematician's View of Evolution," I compared the development of the genetic code of life with the development of a computer program, such as my finite element code PDE2D. I pointed out that the record of PDE2D's development would be similar to the fossil record, with large gaps where major new features (new orders, classes and phyla) appeared, and smaller gaps where minors ones (new families, genera or species) appeared (see also this short video). I argued,
Whether at the microscopic or macroscopic level, major, complex, evolutionary advances...also involve the addition of many interrelated and interdependent pieces. These complex advances, like those made to computer programs, are not always "irreducibly complex" -- sometimes there are useful intermediate stages. But just as major improvements to a computer program cannot be made 5 or 6 characters at a time, certainly no major evolutionary advance is reducible to a chain of tiny improvements, each small enough to be bridged by a single random mutation.
In the real world of biological evolution, or of computer programs, "climbing up Mount Improbable" involves not just taking large numbers of tiny steps upward, but scaling many steep cliffs. You not only have to explain how the giraffe's neck grew longer, but how the bacterial flagellum developed, with dozens of parts (each essential for function) similar to those of an outboard motor, or how aquatic bladderworts developed their carnivorous traps. These traps
have trigger hairs attached to a valve-like door, which normally keeps the trap tightly closed. The sides of the trap are compressed under tension, but when a small form of animal life touches one of the trigger hairs the valve opens, the bladder suddenly expands, and the animal is sucked into the trap. The door closes at once, and in about 20 minutes the trap is set ready for another victim.
The problem with making this argument, as all who have tried it know, is that Darwinists have very fertile imaginations, they can imagine some alternative uses, some selective advantages, for the individual parts of a bacterial flagellum, or for a partially constructed vacuum chamber before it could catch small animals. No matter what example of irreducible complexity is set before them, they will propose far-fetched functions for 2 or 3 intermediate stages and consider the problem solved. Sometimes they can actually find the intermediate stages in Nature.
But metamorphosis is different. The process of transforming a caterpillar into a butterfly is surely far more complex than anything ever accomplished by man. The information needed to control this process, stored somewhere in the caterpillar's cells, must be far greater than that stored in any man-made computer program. And explaining how this enormous program arose through many "5 or 6 character" improvements is even more challenging here, because now the intermediate stages are not just useless, they are fatal.

Metamorphosis involves the destruction of the caterpillar: the butterfly, with an almost completely new body plan, is constructed from dissolved and recycled tissues and cells of the caterpillar. Now we are not talking about climbing Mount Improbable, we are talking about building a bridge across an enormous chasm, between caterpillar and butterfly. (Ann Gauger and Paul Nelson use this metaphor in the free companion e-book to Metamorphosis.)

Until construction of this extremely long and complicated bridge is almost complete, it is a bridge to nowhere. Unless a butterfly (or another organism capable of reproduction) comes out at the end, the chrysalis only serves as a casket for the caterpillar, which cannot reproduce. Now we do not have to simply imagine uses for not-quite-watertight vacuum chamber traps, we have to imagine a selective advantage for committing suicide before you are able to reproduce, and that is a more difficult challenge!

Of course, if Darwinism fails to explain metamorphosis, we just have to wait for science to come up with an alternative theory; there is no need to resort to intelligent design, which, we are told, is not scientific. Well, we can define science to exclude intelligent design and wait as long as we want, but intelligence will still be the only force of Nature that can look ahead to see a desired function and keep adding useless lines of computer code until the code can perform that function, and it will still be the only force that can guide the development -- gradual or not so gradual -- of new organs through their initial useless stages.

And it will still be the only thing that can imagine a butterfly as the final product and develop a gigantic code for metamorphosis, through intermediate stages that would produce nothing but the destruction of the caterpillar.


A scientist (Embriette) who occasionally drops by to comment suggests reading Meyer's Signature in the Cell, which I have read in part and admired.   I have many books, movies, scientific journals and magazines only partly read or viewed or sometimes not yet cracked open.   Life is too fast, I need to stop the world for three months just to catch up on reading (and I read really fast.   Like read-Great-Expections-in-an-afternoon fast).
The world does not seem to want to cooperate. 

We have Metamorphosis and have been saving our first viewing until Sunday after church, when a couple of friends are coming over to have dinner and watch a couple of compelling movies and discuss philosophy and science.   It sits with the wrapper still intact, like a fine wine not yet uncorked, waiting to be opened and enjoyed together with friends.

So now article two (and I could have presented twenty along the same lines):

Our local U. of Washington psychology professor and Darwin advocate David P. Barash comes from the "My Back Hurts Therefore It Wasn't Designed" school of evolutionary thought, as he wrote in an L.A. Times op-ed a few years back ("Does God Have Back Problems Too?"). It's a nice surprise, then, to find him confessing what he regards as the seeming impossibility of imagining a material explanation for the "hardest problem in science."

Which is? "How the brain generates awareness, thought, perceptions, emotions, and so forth, what philosophers call 'the hard problem of consciousness.'" Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Barash concedes that to say the problem is "hard" considerably understates the problem. He writes as "an utter and absolute, dyed-in-the-wool, scientifically oriented, hard-headed, empirically insistent, atheistically committed materialist, altogether certain that matter and energy rule the world, not mystical abracadabra." Yet:
It's a hard one indeed, so hard that despite an immense amount of research attention devoted to neurobiology, and despite great advances in our knowledge, I don't believe we are significantly closer to bridging the gap between that which is physical, anatomical and electro-neurochemical, and what is subjectively experienced by all of us ... or at least by me. (I dunno about you!)
To be sure, there are lots of other hard problems, such as the perennial one of reconciling quantum theory with relativity, whether life exists on other planets, how action can occur at a distance (gravity, the attraction of opposite charges), how cells differentiate, and so forth. But in these and other cases, I can at least envisage possible solutions, even though none of mine actually work.
But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can't even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don't even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run. Let's say that a particular cerebral nucleus was found, existing only in conscious creatures. Would that solve it? Or maybe a specific molecule, synthesized only in the heat of subjective mental functioning, increasing in quantity in proportion as sensations are increasingly vivid, disappearing with unconsciousness, and present in diminished quantity from human to hippo to herring to hemlock tree. Or maybe a kind of reverberating electrical circuit. I'd be utterly fascinated by any of these findings, or any of an immense number of easily imagined alternatives. But satisfied? Not one bit.
Barash can get away with saying this, but we congratulate him for doing so all the same. Our friend James Le Fanu said it already, however, with his characteristic elegance in his wonderful book Why Us? ENV's David Klinghoffer summarized in our review:
[P]hysical explanations of how [the brain] gives rise to the mind consistently explode upon takeoff. The brain is no computer, where every operation can be traced to physically describable events: "Neither the findings of the PET scanner nor Professor [Eric] Kandel's scientific explanations can begin to account for the power of memory to retain...visual images over decades and retrieve them at will, any more than they can account for remembering the words of a familiar hymn or recalling a telephone number."
That's just for starters. The brain-computer analogy utterly fails to clarify how "just a few thousand genes might instruct the arrangement of those billions of neurons with their 'hardwired' faculties of language and mathematics."
And a good thing that is, too. Because if the mind really did reside entirely in the brain, if the mind were genuinely reducible to the brain, that would mean the end of free will -- a computer ultimately can do only what it's programmed to do (in this case, programmed by a mindless nature) -- and that in turn would spell the end of moral responsibility.
Of course Barash says he's confident that a solution will be found, and that would have to be so, since he's also said that science compels us to reject a belief in free will: "There can be no such thing as free will for the committed scientist."

We've long thought that the issue of whether men and women are free and thus morally responsible is the real nub of all the issues that divide materialists from theists.


"There can be no such thing as free will for the committed scientist."  Wow.   Think about that statement.  So when a scientist decides to do something and he is a committed scientist, he didn't actually decide at all but only thinks he has decided.   In actuality,  he is just doing what he has been evolved to do...he thinks!

It does not take long to see how preposterous Darwinist philosophies must be.   There is actually no right and wrong, there is no moral code at all, everything is simply a matter of individuals following their evolved predetermined next steps.  If true, what vanity it is to pontificate upon it or to argue the concepts with those who disagree. 

Darwinists blithely claim to have figured out where the Universe came from, how it happened and how long it has been around.  That is, until you ask them to actually explain all of it in detail and discover they just have a bunch of stories based on mostly nonexistent matter and forces and no actual beginning or ending identified.

There are no Great Evolutionist ideas.   Evolution has rotted science like water vapor degrades steel and oxidizes it, producing iron oxide and eventually nothing but rust.  Evolution has proven to be the problem that has united Darwinists into that ring of Musk Oxen, protecting their vulnerable hypothesis and fending off all new ideas and dissidents against the ruling paradigm.  


The problem is that in real science, the ideas are not protected but are rather exposed to investigation and rigorous testing and repeatable testing.  Protecting Darwinism from criticism or investigation reveals the fear of the defenders like the NCSE and talk origins and the typical Darwinist commenters, a fear that Darwinism would not hold up to scrutiny but would be swept aside by real science marching on looking for answers rather than holding on dearly to excuses.