Saturday, December 31, 2016

Philosopher: Today We Segregate Science and Religion


Mythologies do not arise from the ignorant, but from the elite. This timeless truth is nowhere more evident today than with the Warfare Thesis myth. This myth has many tentacles, including: (1) Christianity often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances, (2) Science is a strictly empirical endeavor, free of religion, (3) The modern scientist has no metaphysical influences. And while good historians and philosophers are attempting to disabuse everyone else of these falsehoods, there seem to be just as many others who continue to repeat them. To wit, yesterday’s National Geographic quotes philosopher James Force as follows:

What set Whiston and Newton apart from modern scientists is their assumption that the Bible was literally true, and that God’s “book of nature” could be used to understand God’s other book, the Bible. Today, we tend to keep science and religion in strictly segregated boxes. Not so Newton and Whiston.

It is not that there have been no changes in the way naturalists think since the seventeenth century, but the idea that scientists today don the white lab coat and are free of religious influence is simply false. This is evident in the literature, as we have pointed out many times.

Outgoing NASA Chief Scientist: Life Probably Evolved on Mars

A Sign of What’s to Come: Life = Evolution

Outgoing NASA Chief Scientist, Ellen Stofan, recently remarked that life evolved on Earth, and probably on Mars as well. The irony is that while Stofan is advocating the scientifically-challenged evolutionary theory, NASA has, for many years, been reticent to acknowledge the rather compelling scientific evidence of extraterrestrial (ET) life. From Mars to meteorites, on a microscopic level there is reasonably strong evidence for life right here in our own backyard.

But (i) the existence of life, and (ii) the chance evolution of life, are two different things. Simply put, life does not equal evolution. Just because we find ET life does not mean we have found the work of chance evolution. Those are two different things, but Stofan’s remarks suggest this might be the next shoe to drop in evolutionary thought:

People have long wondered if we are alone, and we are now actually going to answer that question in the next few decades. We are exploring Mars, where it is very likely that life evolved at around the same time life evolved here on Earth. It will likely take future Mars astronauts to find the best evidence of Mars life.

In other words, on Mars we’re going to discover even more evidence of ET life, and for evolutionists it will prove evolution, yet again.

Look for NASA to gradually acknowledge the evidence of extraterrestrial (ET) life, look for that to be presented in an evolutionary context, and don’t underestimate the impact.

U.S. Says Evolution Directed Hacks to Influence Science

A Most Grave Risk

The administration on Friday formally accused evolutionists of stealing and manipulating experimental data from leading scientists and a range of other institutions and prominent individuals, immediately raising the issue of whether the President would seek sanctions or other retaliation.

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the stolen data that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the scientific process.”

The data were posted on the well-known EvoLeaks site and two newer sites, and Guccifer 2.0, identified as being associated with evolutionists.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Evolution’s senior-most leadership could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

The statement from the Department of Homeland Security, which is primarily responsible for defending the country against sophisticated evolution attacks, said the intelligence agencies were less certain who was responsible for “scanning and probing” online experimental data in laboratories around the country. It said that those “in most cases originated from servers operated by an evolution company,” but stopped short of alleging the Evolution leadership was responsible for those probes.

The official accusation against Evolution comes after anonymous American intelligence officials told Darwin’s God in July that they had “high confidence” that Evolution was behind the hack of science.

The months of subsequent silence frustrated some in Congress, and several weeks ago the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees, Adam Schiff and Dianne Feinstein, both of California, said Evolution and its leaders were responsible, citing classified briefings.

Mr. Schiff, who had urged the administration to name Evolution and better prepare Americans for the possibility of interference with the scientific method, on Friday praised the decision “to call out Evolution on its malevolent interference in our scientific affairs.”

“I hope this will establish a deterrent to further meddling,” he said. “I don’t think the Evolutionists have decided yet how much they plan to continue their interference, so I think this attribution is very timely. We’re also encouraging the administration to work with our European partners, who have been the subject of even worse meddling, to coordinate a response to this.”

Mr. Schiff said he was afraid Evolution hackers might attempt to delete or manipulate even more scientific evidence.

But as “profound” as that concern is, Mr. Schiff said, he and others see as “the most grave risk” something else: Evolution could take emails it has already stolen, and manipulate them to create a false impression that evolution is supported by science.

That, he said, “could have a science-altering effect.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Current Biology: RNA-Only Life Coming Soon

It Fills “A Gaping Hole”

Here is a trade secret: Evolutionists acknowledge scientific problems only after they find solutions. We have seen this repeatedly. Evolutionists evade the science, and ridicule their critics, only later to confess readily that the problem was real. The difference is they have found what they think is a solution to the problem they once so steadfastly denied. To wit, our latest example comes from Michael Gross’s recent article in Current Biology on the RNA world praising the progress made in developing the on-again / off-again RNA World hypothesis. Gross is sufficiently confident that the hypothesis is “on-again” that he can now agree with critics that the origin of life was once a big problem:

Just how the transition from non-life to life may have happened was indeed a gaping hole in our understanding of evolution in the 20th century, which a few inspired experiments like Stanley Miller’s famous 1952 primordial soup kitchen couldn’t quite bridge.

Indeed a gaping hole? Couldn’t quite bridge?

You would never know this from the evolutionist’s rosy assessments, and ridicule of anyone suggesting the science indicated otherwise. As Carl Zimmer wrote more than 15 years ago, scientists “have found compelling evidence that life could have evolved into a DNA-based microbe in a series of steps.” Perhaps he had read the National Academy of Science’s 1999 claim that

For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life could have originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components. The question instead has become which of many pathways might have been followed to produce the first cells? [1]

Of course for the Mother of all such absurd, non scientific, statements we can go back to Alexander Oparin’s 1924 prediction that origin of life research would be solved “very, very soon.”

But now, almost a century after Oparin’s slightly premature forecast, the evolutionists feel they have finally arrived. And so now Gross can admit to what we have been inconveniently pointing out all along: There has been “a gaping hole in our understanding of evolution.”

Evolutionists can finally admit to this because they are rather confident that they are on the cusp of a profound break-through: A compelling demonstration of the feasibility of the origin and operation of RNA-based life. That is, the RNA World hypothesis:

it appears conceivable that a working model of RNA-only life could be synthesized soon.

At least Gross did not say “very, very soon.” Nonetheless, we think evolutionists are, yet again, speaking a bit prematurely.

That, however, is neither here nor there. For our purposes what is important about Gross’ article is not his proclamation of imminent success—which until it actually happens carries no more weight than the boatload of other failed evolutionary expectations—but rather the delayed admission of “a gaping hole in our understanding of evolution.”

Now that we have that cleared up, we can apparently all agree that until the RNA World, or some other miracle breakthrough, is demonstrated, evolutionary theory has “a gaping hole.” That’s progress.

1. National Academy of Sciences, Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1999) 6.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Single Mutation Makes Humans

The fix Was In

When evolutionists found out that the chimp and human genomes were practically identical they went ape, claiming the evidence all but proved our shared lineage, with the chimp, to a small, primitive, ancestral primate. There was only one problem: With so few random genetic changes, how would such dramatic and complex changes come about? Far from a confirmation, our similar genes posed a dilemma for evolution. For how could so little genetic change cause so much significant evolutionary distance be traversed? And if the answer is, as it always seems to be, that those rare and random genetic changes were able to achieve such monumental results because the requisite parts and pieces that would be used were, fortuitously, already in place (because they just happened to have evolved for some other reason), then we have entered the realm of just-so stories. For the theory then amounts to the claim that “the fix was in.” The various key ingredients to making a human were all there, lying around, perhaps in disguise, or perhaps doing some other job. And then they were systematically recruited, coming into their own by virtue of a few, rare, mutations finally occurring and enabling the puzzle pieces to come together. It would be like a supersonic jet aircraft just happening to come together because its various parts just luckily were lying around. That is serendipity on steroids.

Well it just gets worse. More recently evolutionists were forced to conclude that most of the mutations affecting protein-coding genes led to “neutral and slightly deleterious alleles.” So not only are evolution’s random mutation resources meager, but even worse, those mutations mostly led to “neutral and slightly deleterious alleles.”

In fact the beneficial mutations in protein-coding genes, which presumably would be important in evolving the human from a small, primitive ape, literally number only in the hundreds. It would be astonishing if the human could be evolved from so few mutations.

But again, it just gets worse. For now evolutionists must conclude that not only are there few random mutations that must somehow create Newton and Einstein (to name just a couple of humans), and not only are most of those mutations neutral or slightly deleterious, and not only would evolution probably have only a few hundred genes undergoing selection, but that a monumental part of that evolutionary change, so important in creating humans, must have arisen from, yes, a single mutation. To wit:

What distinguishes humans from monkeys and apes? The gene ARHGAP11B is probably among the things that make humans special: This gene is only present in humans and contributes to the amplification of brain stem cells. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden have now made a spectacular finding: It is a single base pair substitution in the ARHGAP11B gene that ultimately is responsible for the ability of the ARHGAP11B protein to amplify brain stem cells, a process thought to underlie the expansion of the neocortex in modern humans.

Spectacular indeed. As one of the researchers explained:

This change is tiny on a genomic scale but substantial in its functional and evolutionary consequences – it’s a single base substitution that likely drove brain size evolution and that may have set the stage for what makes humans special.

A single mutation? Here we have evolution reductio ad absurdum. A single mutation essentially worked the magic to create humans. How lucky we are.

Of course such absurdity entails the idea that an army of molecular components were serendipitously in place, ready and waiting for the single mutation to unleash their creative powers.

The fix was in.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dennis Venema, Galileo, and Protein-Protein Binding

Don’t Count on the Duchess

We have looked at Dennis Venema’s articles on evidences for common descent here, here, here, here, here, and here. In a recent discussion with Venema, he made the erroneous claim that the mammalian immune system, with its search for, and production of, antibodies, is a good example of why evolving protein-protein binding sequences is not a problem. In fact the mammalian immune system is yet another enormous problem for the theory of evolution. Furthermore, the mammalian immune system is not a good example because it is designed for this job of creating protein-protein binding sequences. It searches a well-defined design space extremely rapidly, and measures the success of its search experiments accurately and quickly. The fact that our immune system successfully designs antibodies in short order does nothing to address the problem of how random mutations occurring throughout the genome is supposed to have found myriad binding sequences, crucial for life. Venema also referred to another example which he has written about. Unfortunately this example also fails to demonstrate Venema’s claim of “evolution producing a new protein-protein binding event.”

The problem with evolving protein-protein binding is that too much gene sequence complexity is required to achieve the needed binding affinity. You could say it is an “all-or-none” type of problem.

One or two mutations will not generally do the job—you usually need more mutations before the two proteins stick together very well. And stick together they must, on a massive scale, in order to perform their necessary tasks. Even the simplest, unicellular, organisms contain massive protein machines, consisting of dozens of different proteins binding together to perform crucial life functions.

The study Venema referred to did a beautiful job in confirming this “all-or-none” character of protein-protein binding sequences. The study showed that in order for a viral protein to perform a relatively simple switch from one protein to a very similar protein required four types of mutations.

Anything less and no dice.

The twist in this study was that subsets of the four mutation types were apparently useful for a different function (strengthening the binding affinity to the original protein). So while in general the evolution of protein-protein binding sequences is astronomically difficult because too many simultaneous mutations are required, in this case the four mutation types could be accumulated, with useful benefit realized at some of the intermediate steps.

This is not a general result. It is not a revolutionary new finding that reverses our understanding of protein-protein binding sequences.

It confirms our knowledge, and adds a fascinating outlier case where the “all-or-none” character is circumvented by intermediate functions which, fortuitously “push” the design in the right direction. As the study explains:

The “all-or-none” epistasis among the four canonical phage mutations implies that it would have been unlikely for the new function to evolve on the scale of our experiments, except for the lucky fact that some of the mutations were beneficial to the phage in performing their current function, thereby pushing evolution toward the new function.

The study provides no indication that the untold thousands upon thousands of protein-protein binding problems in molecular biology would enjoy this type of setup. And if they did, oh what a most suspicious sign of design that would be.

Venema is mistaken in his failed attempt to recruit this study as a solution to the evolution of protein-protein binding sequences.

Strangely enough not only had Michael Behe provided his explanation of this study, but Venema was aware of it at the time of his writing. Venema explained that in his next article he would address Behe’s explanation, but in fact Venema simply rehashed Behe’s original explanation for why protein-protein binding is a problem for evolution.

Venema did not address Behe’s explanation but simply concluded that Behe’s original explanation must be false because, after all, this new study demonstrates the evolution of just such protein-protein binding sequences.

This is an unfortunate misrepresentation of a study that most readers will not understand. Venema completely misappropriated the study, and force-fit it into an evolutionary proof.

Additional problems

In addition to this basic problem of serendipity, this confirmation of the “all-or-none” character of protein-protein binding sequences was possible only with a very contrived, designed, laboratory experiment.

Simply put, a virus population was provided with a willing, and well fed host to live off of. In the meantime, many more host targets awaited the virus population. So a few mutations helped the virus’ infect the initial hosts, and mere single additional mutation then allowed the virus’ to infect the second group of hosts.

It was an entirely artificial, laboratory, environment, that wasn’t even intended to replicate a realistic evolutionary environment. Venema nowhere explained this.

Second, the study also discovered even more serendipity. Not only were there “luckily” intermediate fitness benefits, but the finding of the four mutations types also required certain mutations in the host genome.

Without them, no dice.

[Ed: Final section on the absence of synonymous substitutions removed, given the short timeline of the experiment.]

Sunday, December 4, 2016

More Teleological Language: Hox Gene Function Was Coopted

When RM+NS Just Doesn’t Cut It

Evolutionists are now saying that in embryonic mammary buds, Hoxd gene regulation evolved “by hijacking” a preexisting regulatory landscape. Or as the press release explains:

A team of geneticists demonstrated that the emergence of mammary glands in placental mammals and marsupials results from recycling certain 'architect' genes. The latter, known as Hox genes, are responsible for coordinating the formation of the organs and limbs during the embryonic stage. Such genes are controlled by complex regulatory networks. In the course of evolution, parts of these networks were reused to produce different functions. Architect genes were thus requisitioned to form the mammary bud and, later, for gestation

Hijacking and recycling?

The teleology becomes particularly obvious, as usual, with the infinitive form: Networks were reused to produce … . And genes were requisitioned to form … .

The incessant use of such Aristotelian language is another sign of the failure of evolutionary thought.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Another Warfare Thesis Tidbit

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

In his recent Washington Post opinion piece, Harvard astrophysicist Howard Smith began with yet more Warfare Thesis history:

There was a time, back when astronomy put Earth at the center of the universe, that we thought we were special.

Actually we “put Earth at the center of the universe” as a consequence of Aristotelian physics, not because of any anthropomorphism. That is the imaginary history, foisted on us by the Warfare Thesis, which can be traced back to Voltaire, but rose in prominence in the 19th century.