Sunday, November 27, 2005

'Design' Vs. Darwin #2

Part 2 of an older article which appeared during the Dover trial. My comments are bolded and in square brackets.

[Continued from part 1]

'Design' Vs. Darwin, CBS, Oct. 23, 2005 ... Darwin theorized that all living things evolved from the same simple organisms. Over countless generations, random mutations, or changes have occurred, [That is the begging of the question fallacy which is the unproved (and unprovable) fundamental assumption of Darwin's theory, that all mutations in the history of life have been "random" (in the sense of undirected):

"There is a fifth respect in which mutation might have been nonrandom. We can imagine (just) a form of mutation that was systematically biased in the direction of improving the animal's adaptedness to its life. But although we can imagine it, nobody has ever come close to suggesting any means by which this bias could come about. It is only in this fifth respect, the 'mutationist' respect, that the true, real-life Darwinian insists that mutation is random. Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random in this fifth sense. Mutation is random with respect to adaptive advantage, although it is non- random in all sorts of other respects. It is selection, and only selection, that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom with respect to advantage." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," [1986], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.312. Emphasis original)
But as Denton pointed out, "this is the fundamental assumption upon which the whole Darwinian model of nature is based ... that all mutations in all organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution have all been entirely spontaneous" but this is just an "unquestioned article of faith":
"One of the major obstacles within the biological community in the way of any widespread acceptance of the idea of directed mutation is the very deeply held belief in the so-called spontaneity of mutation. According to the authorities Dobzhansky, Ayala, Stebbins, and Valentine, writing in a standard text on evolution, `Mutations are accidental, undirected, random or chance events in still another sense very important for evolution; namely if that they are unorientated with respect to adaptation.' [Dobzhansky T.G., et al., `Evolution,' W.H. Freeman: San Francisco CA, 1977, p.65]. The idea of the spontaneity of mutation is taken as a proven fact by a great many biologists today. And this is the fundamental assumption upon which the whole Darwinian model of nature is based. If it could be shown that some mutations, even a small proportion, are occurring by direction or are adaptive in some sense, then quite literally the whole contingent biology collapses at once. What is very remarkable about this whole issue is that, as is typical of any `unquestioned article of faith,' evidence for the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation is hardly ever presented. Its truth is nearly always assumed. In nearly all the texts on genetics and evolution published over the past four decades, whenever the author attempts to justify the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation, he refers back to a series of crucial experiments carried out in the late forties and early fifties on the bacterium E. coli that were associated with the names of Salvador Luria, Max Delbruck, and Joshua Lederberg. [Dobzhansky, et al., 1977, p.65]. These experiments were based on the very simple observation that when bacterial cells are suddenly subjected to a particular selection pressure (for example, the addition to a culture of cells of an antibiotic which is lethal to wild-type cells) invariably a small proportion of cells survive because they contain a mutation that confers resistance to the antibiotic. Ingenious tests were carried out which proved conclusively that the mutations were present in the surviving cells before the antibiotic was added to the culture. It was concluded that the mutations were spontaneous events. But the fact that some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous does not necessarily mean that all mutations in all organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution have all been entirely spontaneous. ... During the course of the past 4 billion years of evolution, countless trillions of changes have occurred in the DNA sequences of living organisms. There is simply no experimental means of demonstrating that they were all spontaneous." (Denton M.J., "Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe," Free Press: New York NY, 1998, pp.285-286. Emphasis in original)
with the strongest specimens surviving and reproducing, a process known as "natural selection." [This is false about "the strongest specimens surviving." Long ago the Darwinists realized that "the strongest specimens" did not always survive. Here is a recent example of "the most fearsome predator in the sea" in "the late Jurassic to the early Cretaceous", yet today "The entire family is extinct":
Underwater Godzilla the terror of the seas, The Australian, Leigh Dayton, November 12, 2005 ... GODZILLA was a big sea-going crocodile with a flesh-ripping bite to rival that of T-rex. The newly found 140 million-year-old creature, Dakosaurus andiniensis, has earned its cinematic nickname from its short snout, massive bullet-shaped skull and large interlocking serrated teeth. Living from the late Jurassic to the early Cretaceous periods, it would have been the most fearsome predator in the sea ... Asked if Godzilla had living descendants, Dr Salisbury said: "The entire family is extinct. Maybe that's a good thing."
So "fitness ... was redefined to mean `having the most offspring'" which however "has nothing to do with the common understanding of the term":
"It has never been possible to break out of the circle by finding a better word than fittest. But, since something had to be done to restore logical respectability, a new meaning was foisted on the old word. Fitness was redefined to mean `having the most offspring.' Mayr says: `...those individuals that have the most offspring are by definition...the fittest ones.' [Mayr E., `Animal Species and Evolution,' Harvard University Press, 1963, p.183] ... Simpson, the dean of the evolutionists, nails the point down even more firmly, stating that among geneticists fitness has nothing to do with the common understanding of the term: `If genetically red-haired parents have, on an average, a larger proportion of children than blondes or brunettes, then evolution will be in the direction of red hair. If genetically left-handed parents have more children, evolution will be toward left-handedness. The characteristics themselves do not directly matter at all. All that matters is who leaves more descendants over the generations. Natural Selection favors fitness only if you define fitness as leaving more descendants. In fact geneticists do define it that way, which may be confusing to others. To a geneticist fitness has nothing to do with health, strength, good looks, or anything but effectiveness in breeding." [Simpson G.G., "This View of Life," Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964, p.273]" (Macbeth N., "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason," Gambit: Boston MA, 1971, pp.63-64. Emphasis and ellipses original).]
That process eventually led to the formation of new species and higher forms of life, including humans. [That's the Darwinist claim, but as the late leading Darwinist Ernst Mayr admitted, there is "no clear evidence for any [Darwinian] change of a species into a different genus or for the gradual origin of an evolutionary novelty":
"Paleontologists had long been aware of a seeming contradiction between Darwin's postulate of gradualism, confirmed by the work of population genetics, and the actual findings of paleontology. Following phyletic lines through time seemed to reveal only minimal gradual changes but no clear evidence for any change of a species into a different genus or for the gradual origin of an evolutionary novelty. Anything truly novel always seemed to appear quite abruptly in the fossil record." (Mayr E., "Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1988, pp.529-530).]
But in this country, Darwin's theory met resistance from the outset. [This is not surprising, considering the gap between the grandiose claims of "Darwin's theory" and the evidence for it. The Swedish biologist Lovtrup maintains that "Darwin's theory" had (and has) so many difficulties that it should not have been published:
"Even in the first edition Darwin had a chapter dealing with the difficulties of his theory. It begins like this: `Long before the reader has arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to him. Some of them are so serious that to this day I can hardly reflect on them without being in some degree staggered; but, to the best of my judgement, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to the theory.' (My italics) Darwin's admirer's, then and now, have praised him for the honesty and candour he thus displayed. I am not so sure that this attitude is justified. If a theory has too many `difficulties' it should not be published, but rejected; indeed, I believe this is the procedure adopted by most scientists." (Lovtrup S., "Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth," Croom Helm: London, 1987, p.126)]
Back in 1925, Tennessee high school science teacher John Scopes was put on trial, and banned from teaching evolution. [This is misleading. The fact is that Scopes was the "High School's football coach [and] ... never taught evolution":
"John Thomas Scopes (August 3, 1900 - October 21, 1970), a teacher in Dayton, Tennessee at the age of 24, was charged on May 25, 1925 with violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools. ... In Dayton he took a job as the Rhea County High School's football coach, and occasionally filled in as substitute teacher when regular members of staff were off work. .... When asked about the test case Scopes was initially reluctant to get involved, but after some discussion he told the group gathered in Robinson's Drugstore, `If you can prove that I've taught evolution and that I can qualify as a defendant, then I'll be willing to stand trial.' .... The case ended with a guilty verdict, and Scopes was given a $100 fine, which Bryan and the ACLU offered to pay. .... Ironically, in reality Scopes never taught evolution and was therefore innocent of the crime to which his name is inexorably linked. After the trial Scopes admitted to reporter William K. Hutchinson `I didn't violate the law,' explaining he had skipped the evolution lesson and his lawyers had coached his students to go on the stand: the Dayton businessmen had assumed he had violated the law. Hutchinson did not file his story until after the Scopes appeal was decided in 1927. Scopes also admitted the truth to the wife of the Modernist minister Charles Francis Potter. Scopes was not allowed to take the stand at his trial for fear he would reveal his ignorance and turned down a $50,000 offer to lecture on evolution on the vaudeville stage because he did not know enough about the subject." ("John T. Scopes," Wikipedia, 15 November 2005).]
Today, of course, religion has been banished from the science class. But now, notes Braver, there's a court case going on over teaching intelligent design, in Dover, Pa., where the school board says it should be allowed. [This is misleading too. All that the Dover did was have "read a one-minute statement at the beginning of biology classes explaining evolution is a theory that continues to be tested and informing students of alternatives" and "the school district is not teaching intelligent design, creationism or religious doctrine in its biology class":
"A Pennsylvania school district sued by the ACLU for a controversial change to its biology curriculum sought judgment in its favor in federal court. The Dover Area School District, represented by the Thomas More Law Center, became the first in the nation officially to inform biology students of the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin's theory of Evolution. The new policy requires teachers to ... Teachers said they would not read the required statement, but the assistant superintendent carried out the reading Jan. 26 to two biology classes at Dover High School. . The school provided an opt-out, allowing students to join teachers in the hall outside the classroom when the statement was being read, but only 15 out of 170 made that choice. The Thomas More Law Center, which filed papers in federal court Thursday, said that contrary to many press accounts, the school district is not teaching intelligent design, creationism or religious doctrine in its biology class, as its policy expressly forbids that. The school district is teaching the Darwinian theory of evolution pursuant to state standards, insists Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Law Center. ... Thompson said the America's founders `would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change 'established religion' in violation of the Constitution that they drafted.' ... `It is ironic that the ACLU after having worked so hard to prevent the suppression of Darwin's theory in the Scopes trial, is now doing everything it can to suppress any effort to challenge it,' said Thompson." ("ACLU fights 1-minute statement: District wants students informed that alternatives exist," WorldNetDaily, July 16, 2005).]
Just to show how complicated this issue is, the folks at the Discovery Institute, the major proponents of intelligent design, don't support the school board, because of reports, says Meyer, that, "They justify the policy using an explicit statement of religious purpose, which is not only unconstitutional, it's incongruous with what we're trying to do, which is make a scientific case for the idea of intelligent design." In fact, although Meyer and his colleagues say that the theory of intelligent design is purely scientific, they also say it's too new to be a requirement in public school science classes. But they're demanding something else. "We think," says Meyer, "that students should be informed about the growing criticism of Darwinian evolution." [That is, the controversy should be taught. That is, in the words of the Santorum amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act, a "good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science" and "Where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and prepare them to be informed participants in public discussions."]

[To be continued in part 3]

PS: See tagline quote being my next installment of Paley's design argument.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

"And not- less surprised to be informed, that the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result of the laws of metallic nature. It is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative, cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode, according to which an agent proceeds: it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; is nothing. The expression, `the law of metallic nature,' may sound strange and harsh to a philosophic ear, but it seems quite as justifiable as some others which are more familiar to him, such as `the law of vegetable nature'-' the law of animal nature,' or indeed as `the law of nature' in general, when assigned as the cause of phænomena, in exclusion of agency and power, or when it is substituted into the place of these." (Paley W., "Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature," [1802], St. Thomas Press: Houston TX, 1972, reprint, p.5. Emphasis original).

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