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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Darwinism: The myth that Darwin matters

In "These men would've stopped Darwin" (The Guardian, Tuesday May 12 2009), George Monbiot writes, "Science research in Britain is now all about turning knowledge into business, rather than the beauty of exploration," complaining,
Even judged by its own objectives, this policy makes no sense. The long-term health of the knowledge economy depends on blue skies research that answers only to itself: when scientists are free to pursue their passions they are more likely to make those serendipitous discoveries whose impacts on society and the economy are both vast and impossible to predict. Forced to collaborate with industry, they are more likely to pursue applications of existing knowledge than to seek to extend the frontiers of the known world.
Oh yes? If they had stopped Darwin, they might have spared the world "scientific" eugenics.

I could live with that just fine. I don’t think Darwin made any important contribution to science, only to atheist ideology.

But the critical question – at least to me – is this: In times of great economic hardship, what should the taxpayer be expected to fund? Obviously, the taxpayer is thinking about his (/her) job or business, or home or groceries or health care or ...

“Blue skies” research is fine. I love it - and I agree it is the fount of innovations in the long run. But it should be funded by eccentric billionaires, not by Joe Schmeazle and Jane Schmoe who are losing their job and/or their home, and can't afford groceries. To think otherwise is like Marie Antoinette telling the poor to eat cake if they can’t afford bread – a dangerous form of arrogance.
(But I doubt Marie Antoinette really said that anyway. She was a bubblehead, but even a bubblehead had to be more realistic in those days than many people have to be today.)

And while we are here: Darwin married into the enormous Wedgwood fortune and did not need public funding.

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Darwinism: More tales from the Altenberg - a prof who questions and thinks

A friend draws my attention to this article in the University of Minnesota Daily by Katherine Wolfe (05/03/2009), about one of the Altenberg 16 - the 16 guys who started to confront the Darwin cult: "Prof making philosophy out of science: Philosophizing about science, assistant professor looks to the questions not the answers."
University of Minnesota assistant professor Alan Love is focusing in on how and why researchers ask questions and conduct experiments.

“Alan is the kind of guy that can engage anthropologists, developmental biologists or geneticists,” he said. “He always seems to have something insightful or provocative to say.”

Part of his insightfulness comes from his amazing memory, Doyle said.

Love commonly cites books and papers from memory, remembering both the dates they were published and their content, Doyle said.

“He has this way of processing or remembering all the stuff he reads and [uses] it in his courses and research,” Doyle said.

Love, whose small office is lined wall-to-wall with hundreds of book s, said he finds science “amazingly interesting” and hopes his work might someday help attract more people to the field.

I hope so too. Darwinism tends to attract narrow and unimaginative people who simply keep trying to prove their central thesis, that life arose by chance, when it is becoming more and more obviously implausible all the time. Students deserve better.

See also The Top Ten Darwin and Design Stories of 2008, of which #1 was the Altenberg conference.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


The 99% chimpanzee myth again - from an ailing magazine, no less

In Scientific American Magazine (April 20, 2009), Katherine S. Pollard asks, "What Makes Us Human?", explaining "Comparisons of the genomes of humans and chimpanzees are revealing those rare stretches of DNA that are ours alone." Interestingly, shse begins by repeating the myth that the human and chimpanzee genomes are 99% similar:
Six years ago I jumped at an opportunity to join the international team that was identifying the sequence of DNA bases, or “letters,” in the genome of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). As a biostatistician with a long-standing interest in human origins, I was eager to line up the human DNA sequence next to that of our closest living relative and take stock. A humbling truth emerged: our DNA blueprints are nearly 99 percent identical to theirs. That is, of the three billion letters that make up the human genome, only 15 million of them—less than 1 percent—have changed in the six million years or so since the human and chimp lineages diverged.
This is simply not a realistic picture.

If it were, it would only tell us that the genome is not as useful a source of information as we might have thought - because the actual differences between humans and chimpanzees are dramatic and obvious. Here's geneticist Richard Buggs on this point:
Looking closely at the chimpanzee-like 76% of the human genome, we find that to make an exact alignment, we often have to introduce artificial gaps in either the human or the chimp genome. These gaps give another 3% difference. So now we have a 73% similarity between the two genomes.

In the neatly aligned sequences we now find another form of difference, where a single 'letter' is different between the human and chimp genomes. These provide another 1.23% difference between the two genomes. Thus, the percentage difference is now at around 72%.

We also find places where two pieces of human genome align with only one piece of chimp genome, or two pieces of chimp genome align with one piece of human genome. This "copy number variation" causes another 2.7% difference between the two species. Therefore the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%.

This figure does not take include differences in the organization of the two genomes. At present we cannot fully assess the difference in structure of the two genomes, because the human genome was used as a template (or ”scaffold”) when the chimpanzee draft genome was assembled.
One person who contested Buggs's theories put the similarity at 76%. But whether you like it or not, you are far more closely related to Ronald Reagan than to Bonzo.

So I am not exactly sure why some people are keeping the 99% story alive. It's not even plausible, and probably has more to do with ideology. Or to protect chimpanzees? A necessary cause - but one that is best addressed by recognizing the fundamental differences between them and us, not camouflaging them.

We are trying to protect them; they are not trying to protect us.

See also: Darwinism: Scientific American in trouble?

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Interview with Turkish Darwin doubter Adnan Oktar

On March 2, 2009, the controversial* Turkish intellectual Adnan Oktar responded to my questions about doubting Darwin in Turkey.

Turkey is of increasing interest in Western circles because of its application for membership in the European Union. And materialist atheists have been freaking out in the pop science press about Darwin doubt in Turkey.

Modern Turkey emerged from the breakup of the Ottoman empire, under secularist Kemal Ataturk.**

I became interested years ago when a Turkish friend kindly sent me a number of the books produced by Adnan Oktar and his associates, under the pen name Harun Yahya. I finally got a chance to correspond with him. Here are his responses to my questions. (I will also shortly post a review of Evolution Deceit, the most succinct and comprehensive of the critiques of overblown claims for Darwinian evolution that I have ever read.)

O'LEARY: How did you become interested in the evolution controversies? The conventional wisdom offered by many media sources in North America is that doubts about Darwin are a product of American evangelical Christianity in the deep rural South, and can only be understood with reference to that culture. Unless I have lost the plot, your doubts could not stem from that culture. From what, then, did they stem?

ADNAN OKTAR: I realized while I was still in high school that there was something odd about World War I, World War II and revolutions. Because people do not suddenly wake up one day and decide to start slaughtering their neighbors or ruining and devastating a country. I did some investigation and saw that the Darwinist materialist mindset lies behind all wars, revolutions and anarchy. I was terribly distressed by the way people were suffering so much, by the oppression and injustice they were being subjected to, and decided to wage an intellectual campaign against Darwinism to the utmost of my powers.

Darwin teaches people that they are supposed animals, that all life is the work of chance and they have no responsibility to anyone. There can obviously be no peace and order in a society made of people who regard themselves and others as so-called animals, who believe that the strong must survive and who consider ruthlessness a virtue. In other words, there is no need to have any particular cultural roots in order to see what a scourge Darwinism is.

In addition, this, the idea that Darwinism is only criticized by a few evangelicals, is itself Darwinist propaganda. Darwinists try to give the impression that nobody apart from a handful of individuals is opposed to Darwinism. But the fact is that the entire world sees that Darwinism makes irrational claims and that those claims have nothing to do with science.

But Darwinists have established a dictatorial regime. The great majority of people are afraid to raise their voices under pressure from that dictatorial regime. If school students fail to provide answers in favor of evolution in their exams, they have to repeat the year again. Academics, teachers or scientists lose their jobs if they so much as hint that they harbor doubts about evolution. There is generally almost no chance of a politician who is critical of Darwinism coming to power. That is why there are so few people who have the courage to openly say that Darwinism is a lie.

Of course, by Allah’s leave, major changes have been taking place in the wake of my book Atlas of Creation. You will have seen, if you follow the European press, how students listen with smiles on their faces to teachers who tell them about evolution and how even if they provide the kind of answers their teachers want, they also attach a note on the back page saying they do not in fact subscribe to evolution.

People openly say they do not believe in evolution in opinion polls, and that will continue growing in the future. Darwinism has totally collapsed in the present century, and Darwinists’ throes of death will benefit them nothing at all.

O'LEARY: Many claim that if people do not embrace Darwin and his followers’ theories, they cannot have an advanced technological culture. Others point out that the United States, arguably the world’s leader in science, features a population of which the majority doubts Darwin. Would you care to comment on that?

ADNAN OKTAR: This is totally classic Darwinist propaganda. Darwinists often resort to the idea that anyone who thinks scientifically has to be a Darwinist. For one thing, Darwinism is a pagan religion whose roots go back to the Sumerians and Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians also believed that life emerged spontaneously from the muddy waters of the Nile. The theory of evolution is a superstitious belief that has been around ever since and that is not supported by a shred of scientific evidence.

On the contrary, no matter what branch research or investigation may be conducted in, it has every time been proven that evolution is not possible. It is in fact Darwinists themselves who fly in the face of science, reject the facts revealed by science and who blacken the name of science by frauds of one kind and another.

If they really think rationally and scientifically, let them offer a scientific explanation of how the first cell came into being. Chance has no place in science, yet if you ask them, they will answer in terms of chance. We ask how the first protein formed, and they say by chance. We ask how the eye or wing formed, and again they say by chance. In other words, all we are looking at is a string of fantastical tales.

Yet we have come up with 100 million fossils, fossils belonging to fully formed and perfect life forms that all show evolution never happened, and they have no rational answer to give. A profound silence reigns whenever the subject of fossils is raised. And everyone can see that. That is why Darwinists are desperately striving to keep Darwinism propped up with slogans and propaganda.

O'LEARY: How do you see the intelligent design controversy playing out in Turkish culture today?

ADNAN OKTAR: The number of people in Turkey who believe in Darwinism has fallen almost to nothing over the last 30 years. Turkey is the country with the lowest level of belief in Darwinism in the world, because the Turkish people are highly intelligent and foresighted.

There has been a huge intellectual struggle going on in Turkey for the last 30 years, millions of works have become accessible to everyone, more than 2000 conferences have been held and, most important of all, people have seen fossils at exhibitions with their own eyes. They have personally witnessed how there is no difference between life forms dating back 100 or 200 million years and life forms of today. There is no need to say anything more.

If a life form has remained unchanged for tens of millions of years, if it possesses the same characteristics today as it did 200 million years ago, then it is impossible to speak of evolution. That is why people in Turkey are fully aware. Nobody can easily deceive the Turkish public with Darwinist lies any more.

O'LEARY: By the way, you published for some years under the name Harun Yahya? Is there a special significance to that name?

ADNAN OKTAR: The Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) asked Allah for a helper. And Allah gave him his brother Aaron (pbuh) as an assistant. John (pbuh) is the helpmate who so loved and supported the Prophet Jesus (as). John is the light of Allah. He supported the Prophet Jesus (as) with all his might and told everyone of him. Since it is also my intention to serve the faith of our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) I have taken these names in order to emphasize my role as helper of the faith.

[Note: the Arabic form of Aaron is Harun and that Yahya is the Arabic (Turkish) name for John the Baptst.]

*Here is a pro statement and here is a con statement. It is a messy business.

** Ataturk, like Darwin, became the object of a secularist cult.

(Note: This story was also posted at Uncommon Descent , and attracted some comments, to which I posted this response:

Some commenters here depressingly confirm a problem that many journalists have noted over recent years: the rapid growth of “new authoritarians”, perhaps akin to “new atheists”.

I wanted to hear from Oktar - in his own words - in order to start to understand what is going on in Turkey.

This does not imply identification with or agreement with any of his causes. I was aware of all the issues raised above, but that is a matter for a subsequent story.

First, I wanted readers to hear him in his own words.

It makes sense, of course, that Darwinists would not see the point of such primary evidence, because primary evidence so rarely assists their own causes.

It’s always been fundamental to mine.)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


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