Monday, December 31, 2012

Science and the Dogma of Common Descent

 I recently found myself involved in a lengthy facebook discussion over the ideas of the age of the earth and evolution, and I wanted to share some of my thinking on the evolution topic here as well.

As a former research and development engineer, I'm used to proving ideas in the lab with real data.  I think that's where common descent has fallen short.  Yes, evolution, defined as change over time, is a fact.  We can see it.  But there seems to be limits to the amount of change which can take place, as experienced with the "artificial" breeding of dogs, for example.   Common descent, on the other hand, seems to me to be scientific dogma, due to it's many failed predictions.  Here are a few of them:
                                                                                                                                                                                                           1.     The fossil record lacks the transitional forms expected if common descent were true.  In The origin of the Species, Darwin wrote, “[Since] innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them imbedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?  Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory”.  One hundred and fifty years later the situation is much the same.    Only a handful of controversial transitional forms have been offered.  The fossil record is characterized by sudden appearance and stasis, not revealing the gradual change predicted by Darwin.

2.    Another prediction of common descent is that genomic and morphological phylogenies would agree.  In other words, “there is one ancestral tree describing how species are related” or “if species are related in a certain way then all lines of evidence should reveal that relationship”.  But this is not the case at all.  The more genetic data collected, the more relational conflicts are found.   A recent philosophical journal reported that, “Incongruence between phylogenies derived from morphological versus molecular analyses, and between trees based on different subsets of molecular sequences has become pervasive as datasets have expanded rapidly in both characters and species.” (Liliana M. D├ívalos, Andrea L. Cirranello, Jonathan H. Geisler, and Nancy B. Simmons, "Understanding phylogenetic incongruence: lessons from phyllostomid bats," Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol. 87:991-1024 (2012).)

3.     The change over time evolution which we do observe in organisms tend to show loss of function and fitness rather than the opposite, predicted by evolution.  Where “beneficial change” is noted, it is usually the result of temporary “genetic drift” or some loss of function which happens to be beneficial in a certain environment.  Evolution seems to be headed the “wrong” direction.  In fact, mathematical models show we are headed for trouble.  In the January 2010 abstract of his article Rate, Molecular Spectrum and Consequences of Human Mutation, National Academy of Sciences member Michael Lynch wrote, “Finally, a consideration of the long-term consequences of current human behavior for deleterious-mutation accumulation leads to the conclusion that a substantial reduction in human fitness can be expected over the next few centuries in industrialized societies unless novel means of genetic intervention are developed.”  I have commented more extensively on this topic in my first blog article.

So, it seems that common descent survives not because of the data, but in spite of it.  From Wikipeda we see that:

"Dogma is the official system of belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization.[1] It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself. Although it generally refers to religious beliefs that are accepted regardless of evidence, they can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, or issued decisions of political authorities."

In fact common descent holds up liberal education (learn everything because there is no truth), atheism, nihilism,and many other "-isms".  Common descent needs to go away but it won't because it's too important to too many people who run from The Truth (Please note my implied dogma here).


Thursday, September 6, 2012

High Level "Detractors" From Evolution

I found something today that I thought I should pass along.  Apparently, lately more high profile scientists have been willing to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that means breaking with the "central dogma" of evolution.

A professor at Dartmouth is stiring things up by proposing a radically different "tree of life", based on data he feels is solid (read more here).  It turns out that depending on which protein, DNA or RNA (structural form) you choose to trace an organism's history, you get a different relationships between organisms.  If evolution were true, you would see the same relationships no matter which data subject you study.

It seems that evolution has been falsified, but this idea does not go down easy.  There is much at stake philosophically.

An ardent defender of evolution is bemoaning the "fall" of some of his colleages on his blog "Why Evolution is True".  It's an interesting look at what is happening at the top of the scientific battle over evolution, from the Darwinist perspective.  Check it out here.

My thanks to my friends at who tipped me off with this article.

Things are getting interesting!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Random means Random!

When I first saw the title of Alvin Plantinga's new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies, I immediately wanted to buy and read it, especially after reading the description at

"This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, on one of our biggest debates -- the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. Plantinga, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. His theme in this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord.

"Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist -- evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion -- as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning" in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way -- as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise."

I have not read the book, but apparently much of it is helpful in reconciling faith and science.  But as Jay Richards of the pro intelligent design, Discovery Institute points out, perhaps he is trying too hard.  Richards claims that Plantinga uses a non-standard definition of the word "random" which allows the idea that God could intervene in the process of evolution, thus imputing purpose and meaning - something which neither Darwin nor current leading evolutionists intend to allow.  In his review, Richards says that at times this non-standard definition is used when it is politically useful, as in appeasing a school board member, but when it comes to textbooks and teaching in the classroom, philosophical naturalism, denying God any place in the process of evolution, is the standard procedure.

In short, Plantinga is defending theistic evolution, a flawed idea I've written much about in my blog.

You may read Jay Richard's review here.

Let's not fool ourselves.  Darwin and his followers do not intend to give God any role in the creation.  Today, secular historical scientists (those who try to explain how the world and humanity came to be) start by assuming He does not exist, promote theories explaining as much as possible without Him, and then say that Christians are "unscientific" if we doubt their conclusions.  What a farce!