“Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed” Thomas Henry Huxley (ardent early supporter of Darwin)
Accepted theories don’t simply die, asserts Nessa Carl, The Epigenetics Revolution “Instead, there is a prevailing theory which dominates a field. When new conflicting data are generated, the theory doesn’t immediately topple..It may get tweaked slightly, but scientists can and often do continue to believe in a theory long after there is sufficient evidence to discount it.”
Years back, Dr. Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, published Darwin’s Black Box, in which he questioned tenets of official Darwinism. It was a grave no-no-no, akin to doubting the divinity of Christ or the value of diversity. The Darwinian establishment started as if stung. Dr. Behe was soon viewed in Big Academe as Edward Snowden is viewed by NSA. In the sciences there are dogmas One Does Not Question.
So incensed were his fellows in the Department of Biology that he was duly anathematized on the university’s website. The couldn’t fire him because he has tenure, and poisoning went out of style with the Borgias. The denunciation is worth reading in is entirety:
The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of “intelligent design.” While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.”
There is nothing of substance in this pledge of allegiance other than the attestation of the highness of their motives. However, there is in the lab world considerable dissent. Many of the unconvinced hold doctorates in biochemistry, molecular biology, and mathematics. For example:
The headline is a trifle overwrought. What the statement actually says is, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
Which seems to be exactly what the Department of Biology at Lehigh University does not want. The university is against examination of evidence. Why? Of what are they afraid? Does science advance by not examining evidence?
The foregoing manifesto of dissent, note, does not say that evolution did, or did not, occur, or that natural selection does or does not occur, or to what extent, or anything at all about the origin of life. It is a careful statement about one of the shakier tenets of the Darwinian philosophy. It says nothing about religious ideas of creation, which are sillier than Darwin’s. Presumably all religions with a creation myth will welcome evidence against the vast Neo-Darwinian edifice. For example, the Cargo Cult probably believes that Boeing created the universe. This is logically unconnected with doubts of the official story.
However, the manifesto does make clear that disagreement with Darwinian apodicticism exists in many scientific quarters. Since severe professional damage remains associated with open doubt, you can bet that many others are skeptical but know better than to say so. What is going on here?
“A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a “thought collective”: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.
“This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error.
As an interested layman of lukewarm but engaged intelligence, I would say thusly to the Department of Biology: “If you want to discredit Mr. Behe and persuade the thoughtful public of your views, perhaps you should go beyond assertions of virtue and actually answer some of Mr. Behi’s questions. And mine. The best way to quash dissent is to show it to be wrong. Please do so.”
I would further say to the Department, “Consider Dr. Behe’s flagellum. Inasmuch as it has been the focus of heated accusations of actionable heresy regarding irreducible complexity, and that you at Lehigh University have denounced his views, you would do the cause of Darwin a service by explaining how the flagellum could have evolved by small steps, and from what. Huffiness is not,, or should not be, part of the sciences, and arguments from authority (“Because I say so”) are better suited to Popes than cell biologists. In providing an explanation, you need to avoid the appearance of evasion. The boobitry won’t notice, but the intelligent increasingly will. Either you can clearly refute Dr. Behi’s case for irreducible complexity, or you can’t, in which case it will remain viable. Which?”
That is what I would say.
(For the reader unfamiliar with the dispute: “Irreducible complexity” refers to biological mechanisms, such as the immensely complex bacterial flagellum, which apparently cannot have evolved by gradual modification because all of their parts, individually useless, would have to appear all at once.)
My own question: Since evolution proceeds by the accumulation of small changes, all of them reproductively beneficial, in principle it should be possible to trace these changes back step by step to seawater. In practice this would be impossible in the case of, say, a blue whale, or even of Archaea.. But consider something far simpler (in its basics anyway). the synthesis of proteins. A protein of course is a catenation of amino-acid residues. DNA codes for aminos via codons, groups of three nucleotides. Since there are four nucleotiedes, A,T,C, and G, there are four-cubed or sixty-four possible combinations. These can code for the twenty aminos with sufficient left over for control codons and some degeneracy.
This I think is high-school biology. But, according to Darwin, the three-nucleotide codon system must have evolved from something simpler. What? Two nucleotides per codon? This would allow only sixteen aminos with no control with no control codons. This seems to me a clear, simple, and reasonable question about a simple and well understood coding system. Why is this not irreducible complexity?
Hauteur is not a coding system.
The question of complexity. On the principle that the more complex an event, the less likely it is to happen by chance, the likelihood that life came about by chance grows rapidly more remote If this is not true, tell me why it is not true.
Darwin began with the idea that life originated as an agglomeration of goo in a warm pond, not a foolish idea in light of what he knew–nothing–about cells. But then came DNA, mRNA, tRna, nc RNA, microRNA, two-part ribosomes, the nucleus, active transport, post-transcriptional modification,, endoplasmic reticula, nucleotides, amino acids, methylation of cytosine, acetylation of histones, deactivation of X chromosomes, introns, exons, replication complexes, reading frames, and so on for pages. Every succeeding discovery seems to increase the known complexity of life. Will the Biology Department at Lehigh University state, however approximately, when complexity overcomes probability?
“Scientific theories don’t change because old scientists change their minds. They change because old scientist die” Max Planck (he of the constant)
Abiogenesis? The fact is (tell me why it is not a fact) that the Biology Department does not know of what the ancient seas consisted, does not know what seas would be necessary for life to appear, bearing in mind that reactions depend crucially on concentrations, pH, reducing or oxidizing atmosphere, temperature, half-life of intermediates, and so on; cannot reproduce the event in the laboratory; cannot draw a reproducing, metabolizing molecule on paper; and cannot show the event to be mathematically probable. What reason, really, is there to believe that it happened, other than that the Biology Department cannot think of another acceptable explanation?
The response of the orthodox is usually “billions and billions of years,” and “lots and lots of seawater.” This is so vague as to embarrass a football player majoring in Breathing for Credit.
Next: An example of a large class of problems with Darwin appears in the horn of the rhinoceros, which (presumably) evolved to protect the beast from predators (“evolved to….: always the language of purpose) Since Darwinian evolution works through the accumulation of many small. changes, each of which must favor survival, there should be many intermediate fossils in different states of hornization. I can find nothing online about these intermediates, I am sure that someone in the Biology Department could point me to them. These would establish the fact of the horn’s evolution, though not the mechanism. (Remember, it is the mechanism that the thousand scientists specifically doubt.)
To show that the horn might have evolved through the accumulation of mutations, would it not be necessary to show which and how many genes code for the horn? And thus how many mutations and and which? If,reuctio ad absurdem, one mutation could do it, then the nutational theory would be plausible. If a hundred and fifty mutations were necessary, it would be mathematically infeasible. And of course each of these mutations would have to be beneficial enough to become fixed in the population.
To a layman, even at the macro level the the horn’s evolution makes no sense. Help us. The horn is made of keratin, the protein of hair, not of bone. This seems to imply that the horn must have formed from congealed hair. This would require (excuse the flip tone, but it has the virtue of being compact) a Hair Sticke’m Together mutation, assuming that one mutation would suffice. But why on the forehead and not all over, or on the left hind leg? So now we need a highly specific Hair Sicke’m Together Laterally Centered on Forehead mutation. Presumably we would then have a clump of clotted hair of no use whatever to the semi-rhino. Next, a Stuck Hair Grow Like Crazy mutation, since the thing would be of no value until long enough to poke lions. Then we need another mutation to give it a perfectly ovoid shape, not an obvious measure for survival, and then a Grow Faster In Middle mutation, to give the aborning horn a point. Pleasurably there is a Don’t Grow Too Much mutation to keep from growing and growing and turning the rhino into a nasal unicorn.
I cannot doubt that someone in the Department of Biology can give a clear answer to these questions as otherwise Darwin would seem inadequate.
At no risk of making friends in the Department: Darwin’s idea was less scientific than metaphysical, more akin to the elan vital or the will to power than to the Principia Mathematica. Like Communism, Christianity, Islam, and Freudian psychiatry, it was an overarching explanation of vast tracts of existence. These have emotional appeal and attract ardent adherents. Evolution inevitably was interpreted by the common run of men as a sort of biological Coueism, “Every day in every way, we are getting better and better.” as a human progression toward the more advanced and admirable. Of course it said no such thing, but few noticed.
Darwin’s vague idea took hold and grew in other directions. The idea of God as creator gave way to the Big Bang, which logically was no better as a theory of origins–where did either God or Big Bang come from?–but sounded scientific. Soon we had evolutionary psychology, which purports to show that all human behavior arose through evolutionary mechanisms. It was herd-think on a magnificent scale, complete with persecution of dissenters. This Inquisition was not as brutal as its predecessor, but as effective.
Herd-think can have curiosities when there are multiple overlapping herds. Consider the intersection of Darwinism, the political correctness of the sciences, with radical egalitarianism, the political correctness of politics. The politically correct hold tightly to Darwinism as a counter to religion and as a sort of membership card in the cognoscenti. When it is pointed out that different races, exposed to different selective pressures on different continents, might evolve differences, as for example in intelligence…ah, um, uh…urg. Darwin goes overboard. What, I wonder, does the Department of Biology at Lehigh University have to say about this matter?
FOE goes to dark side! Earth wobbles in orbit! Follow this swamp of sedition and malfeasance on Fred Reed @FredRee05010728
Note: I recently asked readers to help me by writing the company AT Guys regarding a problwm I was having receiving a product I had bought. Many readers did, and have my gratitude. The result was that the president of the company contacted me and we solved the problem, which as it happens involved no evil-doing but only bureaucratico-computaional confusion. Again, my appreciation