Saturday, December 31, 2005

Darwinism hailed as breakthrough of year in snub to creationists

First, a happy New Year to you and yours! Here is a news item on Science journal's naming of Darwinian evolution as the breakthrough of the year 2005 (that's funny, I thought Darwinian evolution was the breakthrough of the year 1859)! :-) My comments are bold and in square brackets.

Darwinism hailed as breakthrough of year in snub to creationists, The Independent, 29 December 2005, Steve Connor ... 23 December 2005 American scientists have cocked a snook at new-age creationists who peddle the idea of intelligent design by voting Darwinian evolution as breakthrough of the year. [See also BBC, Livescience, MSNBC & USA Today. Again, this is simply false to claim that that intelligent design is creationism. See my new ID FAQ: 1) Unlike creationism ... ID is based solely on the evidence of nature; 2) Leading creationist organisations recognise that ID is not creationism; & 3) Critics of ID falsely conflate it with creationism ... to ... discredit ID.]

The editors of the journal Science said several studies published in 2005 have shown beyond any doubt how evolution underpins all aspects of modern biology. [Since "evolution" is the only explanation allowed, then by definition it "underpins all aspects of modern biology"! But the real issue is whether "evolution" is true? That is, if by "evolution" is meant, "the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process'":

"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)
and if Christianity is true (which it is), then "evolution", as so defined, would then be false.]

"Painstaking field observations shed new light on how populations diverge to form new species -the mystery of mysteries that baffled Darwin himself," they wrote. "Ironically, also this year some segments of American society fought to dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution. [By "dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution" they presumably mean teaching the controversy, including teaching students "the main scientific arguments for and against Darwinian theory."]

With all this in mind, Science has decided to put Darwin in the spotlight by saluting several dramatic discoveries, each of which reveals the laws of evolution in action." [This is just hype. There is nothing "dramatic" in these discoveries-they are just normal, incremental, scientific discoveries. Quite clearly, the scientific establishment is worried that the polls (e.g. CBS, Pew, and Zogby) consistently show that the majority of the public don't accept the "the standard scientific theory" of evolution above and want both evolution and its main alternatives (including ID) taught in schools.]

In 2005, scientists decoded the genome of the chimpanzee to confirm that the chimp is our closest living relative, descended from a common ancestor. [This is hardly a "dramatic discovery"! It was confirmed in 1975 (i.e. over thirty years ago), that "the chimpanzee ... is our closest living relative, descended from a common ancestor", in that we share ~99% of our proteins and DNA:

"Both estimates indicate that the average human protein is more than 99 percent identical in amino acid sequence to its chimpanzee homolog ... the nucleic acid sequence difference of human and chimpanzee DNA is about 1.1 percent." (King M.-C. & Wilson A.C., "Evolution at Two Levels in Humans and Chimpanzees," Science, 11 April 1975, Vol. 188, p.112)
But this only confirms common ancestry, which is not necessarily evolution. And, apart from some leading IDists like Mike Behe (and mere foot-soldiers like me) accepting common ancestry:
"I want to be explicit about what I am, and am not, questioning. The word `evolution' carries many associations. Usually it means common descent - the idea that all organisms living and dead are related by common ancestry. I have no quarrel with the idea of common descent, and continue to think it explains similarities among species. By itself, however, common descent doesn't explain the vast differences among species." (Behe M.J., "Darwin Under the Microscope", New York Times, October 29, 1996)
ID theorist Bill Dembski has pointed out that "intelligent design is compatible with ... all organisms in... one great tree of life":
"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110)]

Other researchers sequenced the genome of the 1918 flu virus retrieved from the frozen corpse of an Alaskan victim of the pandemic. A second team of scientists used the sequence to rebuild the virus in the laboratory in order to analyse why it was so deadly. They also found that it had evolved directly from a bird flu virus. "Understanding the evolution of last century's deadly bird flu may help us to predict and cope with the current bird flu threat," said the Science editors. [Again, this is hardly a "dramatic discovery" that a "1918 flu virus" is related to a modern flu virus!]

Other studies showed how small changes or mutations in the DNA of a species can result in dramatic evolutionary transformations, such as the creation of two species from one. "Researchers found that a single genetic change can be all it takes to turn one species into many, as in the case of the Alaskan stickleback fish that lost its armour and evolved from an ocean-loving species to a variety of landlocked lake dwellers," the journal said. David Kingsley, professor of developmental biology at Stanford University in California, said the stickleback research in 15 different species of fish showed for the first time that a single genetic mutation was responsible for evolutionary changes. [I have no problem with this if it was true, since from beginning to end it is still a stickleback fish. But the actual article (Pennisi E., "Changing a Fish's Bony Armor in the Wink of a Gene, Science, Vol 304, 18 June 2004, pp.1736-1739) does not say that, "a single genetic mutation was responsible for evolutionary changes. It says:

"This new research adds weight to a provocative idea that a little DNA-perhaps just a single gene-can control many traits that affect an organism's ability to thrive" (p.1736); "A gene or set of nearby genes is causing the loss of certain parts of the fish's armor" (p.1737); "Although the DNA sequence has not been identified, `it could well be the same gene everywhere'" (p.1738); "a change in the gene's regulation-and not in the gene itself- caused the lake sticklebacks to lose their spines" (p.1739). (My emphasis)
And the freshwater and saltwater sticklebacks are not even different species (according to the usual biological species concept definition of "species"), since they can interbreed:
"`These remarkably divergent populations have created a unique resource,' in part because freshwater and saltwater populations can interbreed." (p.1737) (My emphasis)
And finally, far from supporting "Darwinian evolution", this further discredits it:
"Since the 1930s, the prevailing view has been that evolution moves in a slow shuffle, advancing in small increments, propelled by numerous, minor genetic changes. But some have challenged this dogma, notably H. Allen Orr, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Rochester in New York. . In 1992, he and his colleagues argued that just a few genes, perhaps even one, could power long-term change" (p.1736).
"Now that "prevailing view" since "the 1930s" is of course none other than Neo-Darwinism! That this is so, is evident in what Orr wrote in "1992":
"We conclude-unexpectedly-that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak, and there is no doubt that mutations of large effect are sometimes important in adaptation." (Orr H.A., & Coyne J.A., "The Genetics of Adaptation: A Reassessment," The American Naturalist, Vol. 140, No. 5, November 1992, p.726)
So it is either incompetence, or dishonesty, to tout these three examples, particularly the third, in support of "Darwinian evolution as breakthrough of the year".]

"People who believe in intelligent design argue that such major changes cannot come about through Darwinian evolution but this is obviously false, said Professor Kingsley. ["People who believe in intelligent design" would not even call these "major changes" since they are (as Kingsley himself says in this paper), within a species (Gasterosteus aculeatus):

"The threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus offers a unique biological opportunity for detailed study of the genomic and genetic basis of species differences in vertebrates. This small marine fish has undergone one of the most recent and dramatic adaptive radiations on earth Sticklebacks normally live in the ocean but migrate into freshwater streams and lakes every spring to breed. At the end of the last Ice Age, widespread melting of glaciers led to dramatic changes in sea level and land elevation. As a result of this global climate change, tens of thousands of new freshwater lakes and streams were created in formerly ice-covered regions throughout the Northern hemisphere. Ocean sticklebacks colonized many of these newly created lakes and streams, and in many cases became isolated in new environments following the end of widespread melting and subsequent land elevation. These newly established populations have diverged over the course of only 10 to 15,000 years in response to different ecological conditions in each lake and stream, including large differences water temperature, depth, color, and salinity; food sources; predators; day length; and seasonal stability of different environments. Thousands of evolutionary experiments throughout the Northern Hemisphere have since given rise to new populations of sticklebacks with marked changes in body size, body shape, feeding specializations, size and pattern of skeletal structures, presence or absence of defensive armor, salinity tolerance, temperature preference, parasite resistance, lifespan, and behavior. These differences are as large as those normally seen between different species or genuses of animals, and the divergent stickleback types were originally classified as over 40 different species. Although many of the specialized forms are known be reproductively isolated even when in contact with each other (a formal definition of species), the reproductive barriers between forms are largely either behavior or mechanical. As a result, fully viable and fertile F1 and F2 hybrids between most forms can be generated using laboratory matings or in vitro fertilization. The ability to generate crosses between widely different forms provides an unprecedented opportunity to use formal genetic analysis to study the number and location of genomic that underlie evolution of natural species differences in a vertebrate system" (Kingsley D., "Sequencing the genome of threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus)," 20 September 2005.
i.e. microevolution. Nor would they have a problem if "Darwinian evolution" could explain them, but in fact, as the Science article itself indicates, "Darwinian evolution" (i.e. "the prevailing view [since the 1930s that] ..."evolution moves in a slow shuffle, advancing in small increments, propelled by numerous, minor genetic changes") could not explain them. ]

"Sticklebacks with major changes in skeletal armour and fin structures are thriving in natural environments. And the major differences between forms can now be traced to particular genes." [Leaving aside the exaggeration of "major" - they are after all still classified as variants of the one species, Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) - IDists do not dispute that "differences between forms can ... be traced to particular genes." This is another example of the Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis, i.e. purporting to refute ID with examples that ID has never disputed, while failing to address what ID has disputed, e.g. the bacterial flagellar rotary motor, the vertebrate blood-clotting cascade. I will add a summary of the above to a new section of my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Ignoratio elenchi (irrelevant thesis, conclusion) ]

The editors of Science wrote: "Today, evolution is the foundation of all biology, so basic and all-pervasive that scientists sometimes take its importance for granted." ... [Darwinists rarely (if ever) define what exactly they mean by "evolution", which is both a tactic making it impossible to falsify a claim like "evolution is the foundation of all biology", but also I am sure evolutionists themselves don't know what they mean by such claims! Here is another quote by Ernst Mayr, this time under the heading, "The Manifold Meanings of `Evolution', pointing out that Darwin had at least "five major theories relating to different aspects of ... evolution":

"The Manifold Meanings of `Evolution' ... Darwin's Origin of Species established five major theories relating to different aspects of variational evolution: (1) that organisms steadily evolve over time (this we might designate as the theory of evolution as such), (2) that different kinds of organisms descended from a common ancestor (the theory of common descent), (3) that species multiply over time (the theory of the multiplication of species, or speciation), (4) that evolution takes place through the gradual change of populations (the theory of gradualism), (5) and that the mechanism of evolution is the competition among vast numbers of unique individuals for limited resources, which leads to differences in survival and reproduction (the theory of natural selection)." (Mayr E.W., "This is Biology: The Science of the Living World," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1997, Sixth printing, 1998, pp.176-178. Emphasis original)
I have added this and the previous quote by Mayr to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Equivocation (fallacy of ambiguity).]

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

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