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Saturday, June 06, 2009

“Junk” DNA: Darwinism’s Last Stand?

Here Jonathan Wells writes about the junk that turned out not to be.

Suppose your genome was your late great aunt's attic. You think the stuff in her attic is all just a load of junk. But unknown to you, her great-great grandma's Georgian dressing table is worth US$50 000 on the museum market, and archivists would kill for her great-grandpa's letters from the front.

Darwinists assumed that everything that wasn't being used now was junk, but apparently they were wrong - because they neglected the value of information generally, and stored information in particular. They truly believe in randomness, not information. Anyway, here's Wells:
We are often told that the evidence for evolution is “overwhelming.” If “evolution” is defined as “change over time” or “minor changes within existing species,” this is a truism. But what if “evolution” means Charles Darwin’s theory? According to Darwin, all living things are descendants of a common ancestor that have been modified by unguided processes such as random variation and natural selection.

Despite the hype from Darwin’s followers, the evidence for his theory is underwhelming, at best.

Natural selection—like artificial selection—can produce minor changes within existing species. But in the 150 years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, no one has ever observed the origin of a new species by natural selection—much less the origin of new organs and body plans.

As a result, the only evidence that all living things are biologically descended from a common ancestor comes from comparisons of the similarities and differences among fossil and living species. When making such comparisons, however, Darwinists start by assuming common ancestry. Then they try to fit similarities and differences into the branching-tree pattern that would result from it, and they ignore the glaring inconsistencies that often remain.

Read the rest here at Evolution News and Views
See also Wells's book Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Regnery, 2006)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Creationism: Creationists visit temple of evolution

Steve Hendrix notes in the Washington Post (March 11, 2009) that "Creationist Students Take Field Trip to Hotbed of Evolution: The Smithsonian":
A 2006 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 42 percent of Americans believe humans have always existed in their present form. At universities such as Liberty, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, those views inform the entire science curriculum.

Like the Liberty students, avowed creationists across the country are making a practice of challenging the conventional wisdom at zoos (questioning the evolutionary explanation of giraffe necks), the Grand Canyon (dating the rock layers in thousands, not millions, of years), and cave parks (describing the formations as evidence of rapid drainage after the Great Flood).
Wow. I am certainly not a young earth creationist, but I suspect that many tax-supported establishment figures think that they should all be put in jail for questioning anything at all.

The conventional wisdom at a lot of temples of science (= museums and zoos) - apart from the curators or zookeepers' lore about how to actually prepare bones or keep an exotic animal alive - is often rubbish and deserves to be questioned:
Creationists have been popping up in enough mainstream institutions that one museum has produced a creation-vs.-evolution primer to help volunteer docents handle their sometimes-pointed questions. When the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, N.Y., published its guide, more than 50 museums called looking for a copy, according to director Warren Allmon.
Well, that'll give them all something to do. It may reduce the number of utterly stupid insults to intelligence that are commonly inflicted on museum-goers in the name of "evolution."


Darwinism and academic culture: Skepticism not allowed?

A friend draws my attention to an essay published in Nature (458, 30 (5 March 2009) doi:10.1038/458030a) by a sociologist, who advises that we cannot live by skepticism alone.
Scientists have been too dogmatic about scientific truth and sociologists have fostered too much scepticism — social scientists must now elect to put science back at the core of society, says Harry Collins.
Harry Collins is director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge Expertise Science at Cardiff University, UK. He is currently working on a book about tacit and explicit knowledge.

As a friend points out, this guy's views are chilling:
One can justify anything with scepticism. Recently a philosopher acting as an expert witness in a court case in the United States claimed that the scientific method, being so ill-defined, could support creationism. Worse, scientific and technological ideas are nowadays being said to be merely a matter of lifestyle, supporting the idea that wise folk may be justified in choosing technical solutions according to their preferences — an idea horribly reminiscent of 'the common sense of the people' favoured in 1930s Germany. Some social scientists defend parents' right to reject vaccines and other unnatural treatments because a lack of danger cannot be absolutely demonstrated. At the beginning of the century, President Thabo Mbeki's policies denied anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant mothers in South Africa. Some saw this as a justified blow against Western imperialism, given that the safety and efficacy of the treatment cannot be proven beyond doubt.
Well now, some responses:

1. The scientific method can support any evidence-based view, and that would include creationism (= the Big Bang, for example).

2. Common sense is the best deterrent to fanaticism based on ideological certainty. Fanaticism based on ideological certainty has killed far more innocent people than common sense ever did.

3. Compulsory vaccination is a bad idea because most people will simply choose to be vaccinated, which greatly reduces the prevalence - and danger - of an illness. That usually means that even the people who don't get vaccinated are much less likely to get it. So there is really no need for strong arm tactics.*

Because advanced modern societies can consistently exert more technical power over the average person than traditional ones could is all the more reason to be cautious about how that power is used.

4. I think that Mbeki's policies re anti-retrovirals must have been hatched on some planet other than Earth. But he is the head of South Africa. If South Africans do not care enough to do something about this problem, I would recommend that (1) we consider the possibility that they know something we don't; or (2) those of us who care should design inputs that do not cause more hostility to us than to him (easy to bring about, unfortunately, as the history of imperialism has shown).

In my view, there is currently way too little skepticism today, rather than too much.

Indeed, another friend writes to say that Collins's views sound like "consensus science" in the sense that outsiders have no access to truth, and have to rely on the votes of current science establishment figures. And they must not be skeptical. As my friend points out, this approach "closes the door to effective critiques, because the standard is 'expertise' rather than evidence."

*I remember when the Salk vaccine against polio came to Regina, Saskatchewan, in - I think - 1955. I was a small child in a lineup in front of the school house stretching way down the street, whining, "Mommy, I'm scared! I don't want a needle!" My mom was carrying my brother and holding my younger sister's hand, and she told me, "Just be quiet! You don't want polio either."

As per usual, it did not take long for average Canadians to figure out what science advances were really of use to us. We are way better at that than some would give us credit for.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Design: A military perspective

A friend points out an article written by two professors at the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, that addresses the question of design, in general:
In practice, design progress is neither smooth nor orderly, it is iterative and recursive as problems and solutions emerge, new experiments are conducted, consequences are evaluated, obstacles are overcome, and old problems are reframed. (p. 114)
We might expect this in a universe that, at the quantum level, is not absolutely determined. Some retooling is always needed to deal with current problems, whether they are foreseen or not.

Even if problems are foreseen, they cannot necessarily be fore-prevented, because they do not exist in the past, and efficiency prevents carrying a toolkit for all future occurrences, as opposed to developing a solution, using design principles, later on.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


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