Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yet More Evidence that ID doesn’t make any predictions

In a recent book titled "Signature in the Cell"), “design theorist” Stephen C. Meyer discusses 12 predictions made by ID. None of them are valid.

I think that the most interesting one is this:

“If an intelligent (and benevolent) agent designed life, then studies of putatively bad designs in life - such as the vertebrate retina and virulent bacteria - should reveal either (a) reasons for the designs that reveal a hidden functional logic or (b) evidence of decay of originally good designs.”

In other words, if you find bad designs in nature ID is falsified.

That actually seems to have an intuitive appeal and would make sense.

But we have a problem! That’s because possibly the LEADING “design theorist” – William Dembski – says that we are taking liberties if we assume that the designer is incapable of bad designs.

Dembski wrote a book titled “The Design Revolution”. In Chapter 6 of that book (titled "Optimal Design") Dembski writes:

"The word intelligent has two meanings. It can simply refer to the activity of an intelligent agent, even one that acts stupidly. On the other hand, it can mean that an intelligent agent acted with skill and mastery. Failure to draw this distinction results in confusion about intelligent design,"

"The intelligent design community understands...the intelligent in 'intelligent design' simply as referring to intelligent agency (irrespective of skill or mastery) and thus separates intelligent design from optimality of design.”

Note, in particular, that Dembski specifically separates “intelligent design” from “optimality”.

Clearly the claim from Meyer is contradicted by the statements from Dembski. If the test proposed by Meyer was found to be falsified, he would surely simply invoke what Dembski says and shrug it off.

One final point, since Dembski says that the “intelligent design community understands” this, I can only presume that Meyer is not a part of that community.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Bible as a “cook book”

One of my arguments against considering the Bible to be inerrant is that it really diminishes the amount of study that people give to it.

Consider Wikipedia as an example. Wikipedia is easily accessible and has articles on just about every sort of topic. So it is a frequently accessed source for quick information.

But many people, particularly conservatives, consider Wikipedia to be fallible. They point to the fact that many of its authors may not have strong academic credentials and even claim that the web site has a subtle, liberal and anti-religious bias.

So because of these perceived flaws, researchers are advised that each article should be examined and perused with a bit of skepticism. If anything is seen on Wikipedia that appears to have any liberal or anti-religious bias they recommend that additional references be used.

Contrast this with how encyclopedias were used before the Internet. Anything like the Encyclopedia Britannica was considered to be effectively inerrant. If you used it as a reference you simply copied the words you read with no need to look at it with skepticism.

So a lack of infallibility leads to additional thought and analysis.

Cook books are another example. If a well-known chef writes a cook book – maybe Julia Child for example – then most readers consider the book to be inerrant. They make the recipes without any real thought. If the cookbook says add a cup of water, people add exactly one cup of water.

There are, however, people who don’t look at such cookbooks as infallible. They look at them as good initial guides, but they think about the recipes. One cook may decide to, on their own initiative, add a chopped jalapeno because they like a bit more spice than the author of the cookbook recommended.

So, once again, we see that considering a book to be fallible increases the amount of study and thought that we give to it.

I believe that is also true of the Bible. People who consider it to be infallible may spend lots of time reading it and even memorizing it, but are they really thinking about it?

I think not.

Look at something like the Biblical Commandment: You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor..

I think that a Biblical literalist would read that, file it away in their memory somewhere and move onto the next commandment.

But someone who is not a Biblical literalist might ask themselves, “Is that really a sin? Surely it is wrong to steal from my neighbor, but is it wrong to ‘covet’ my neighbor’s 52 inch, high-definition TV? I might work harder to be able to buy a TV like that.”

Regardless of the final conclusion that they arrive at, surely the non-literalist is giving the matter much more thought than is the Biblical literalist.

A recent book supports this argument. The book is titled The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. The author is Kevin Roose. Roose was a student at Brown University. He decided he wanted to learn more about the culture of evangelical Christianity. So he transferred to Liberty University for a semester.
Here’s a passage from the book:

“Absolute truth exists. At Liberty, unlike many secular schools, professors teach with the view that there is one right answer to every question, that those right answers are found plainly in the Bible, and that their job is to transfer those right answers from their lecture notes to our minds. It's a subtle difference in ideology, but it makes for big changes in teaching style. Most of my classes use workbooks -- thin, self-published transcriptions of the professor's notes with one or two words blanked out per sentence. As the professor teaches, his notes appear on PowerPoint slides, and we fill in the missing words in our workbooks.”

So students at Liberty don’t make their own notes during a lecture – something that would involve more thought – they simply fill in the blanks, a process that is more associated with memorization than actual thought.

A comment on this process can be found on the blog titled “Evolutionblog”. On the web page
Jason Rosenhouse, an associate professor of mathematics at James Madison University adds these comments:

“The irony here is that at every creationist conference I have attended, the alleged desire of dogmatic, left-wing, secular professors to indoctrinate their students has been a major theme. “Indoctrinate” seems to mean teaching anything that conflicts with their own idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible.

“Roose is mistaken in describing Liberty's attitude as a subtle change in ideology from what most professors at secular colleges do (or at more moderate Christian schools, for that matter). What Roose describes is the polar opposite of what most professors do. You can count on one hand the number of college professors who see their job as the communication of knowledge from the brain of the professor to the brain of the student. We bristle at the very thought. Our goal is to get students to think for themselves. Sure, we want to communicate certain facts about our subject, and we don't want students to end up as little relativists who think anything could be true so long as enough people believe it with enough enthusiasm. But our main desire is for the students to make a good argument in defense of what they believe and to think critically about whatever subject is before them.”

So, yet again, we see evidence that Biblical literalism tends to reduce the amount of thought that is given to matters of theology, science and everything else.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Reused Components" in Nature

I received this comment from an Intelligent Design creationist.

>> Shared pseudogenes in chimps and humans is not evidence
>> for evolution because humans design with common components.

There are many problems with the "shared components" argument of ID advocates.

First, some of those shared components are failed components. For example, pseudogenes in chimps and humans don’t work. That's why they are called "pseudogenes". Intelligent human designers don't reuse components that don't work in multiple designs. It would be irrational to do that.

Second, there are only shared components in places where evolution would predict that they would be shared.

Example: dolphins and porpoises share the same environment as sharks and are comparable in size. So why don't they share the component we call "gills"? Being able to breathe in the environment in which you live is surely an advantage over having to return to another environment frequently. Imagine humans being required to stick their heads in a bucket of water every hour or so.

In fact, if dolphins are unable to return to the surface, such as when they are caught in fish nets, they drown. Sharks don't drown.

So why didn't the "designer" reuse the gill "design"?

Evolution has an explanation for this. That explanation is that cetaceans (whales, porpoises and dolphins) evolved from land mammals that had lungs. Cetaceans developed adaptations for living in water - such as the movement of the "nose" to the top of the head and the ability to "hold their breath" for very long times. But to redevelop gills like those in a distant common ancestor would have required far too many specific mutations to expect that it could ever happen.

In other words, gills in cetaceans would falsify evolution.

But we don't see gills. You would presumably expect an "intelligent designer" to reuse that component.

Third, one of the reasons that human engineers reuse components is in order to save costs. If Chevrolet engineers reuse the same bolts as Cadillac engineers General Motors can purchase those bolts in larger quantities, thereby lowering the cost per bolt.

There are no demonstrated cost savings in using different DNA nucleotide sequences. So this would not be a factor.

Fourth, the ONLY other reason that human engineers reuse components is because of reliability. If you use a component over and over again, eventually it is "burnt in" and just about all design flaws have been removed. So if you reuse that component it will most likely work reliably.

But in fact, all engineers that I've known would prefer NOT to reuse components under these circumstances. If an engineer is instructed to reuse a component You generally will hear a very unenthusiastic comment like, "I suppose I can get that to work". In the electronics industry the switchover from vacuum tubes to transistors and other solid state components was delayed longer than it should have been simply because the engineering managers were reluctant to switch to new components when they had components that had been "burnt in" over many years.
If it was up to the engineers themselves, the switchover would have taken place much sooner.

An "intelligent designer" - especially if that "designer" is an omnipotent, omniscient God - would not be constrained by this factor either.

The bottom line - we would EXPECT to see very few reused components in nature if it is intelligently designed. The ones we see can all be explained by evolution and only by evolution.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Things That Would Falsify Evolution

Evolutionists claim that evolution is science because it meets the modern requirement for something to be considered to be scientific: it is testable and potentially falsifiable.

Creationists argue that isn’t true. They say that evolutionists can always find some explanation for all of the fatal flaws that they see in evolution.

But that’s only because the “flaws” they identify either aren’t valid or don’t address the core requirements of evolution.

But such falsifiable tests exist.

At the web page http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ Dr. Douglas L. Theobald, who is a professor of Biochemistry at Brandeis University, lists more than 29 strong pieces of evidence for macro-evolution. For each one of those, he lists things which, if found and verified, would potentially falsify macro-evolution. Those falsifications of evolution are scattered over a number of different web pages. I thought that it would make sense to compile a large number of them into a single document. In total the number of specific things that he lists that would falsify evolution is probably over 100.

So that’s what I’m providing here. Where I use quote marks I am quoting directly from the web site I reference above.

The most important claim of evolution is common ancestry – all life descended from a single common ancestor. Some of the related hypotheses around that – things like “punctuated equilibrium” – if either confirmed or falsified wouldn’t falsify evolution itself. So all of the potentially falsifiable evidence mentioned here relates to that common ancestry claim.

One thing to emphasize is how specific these potential evidences are. An example: a mammalian fossil in pre-Cambrian rock is specific both in the type of fossil and in the type of rock.

Neither Biblical creationism nor Intelligent Design can be falsified. But some of their advocates will suggest things that will falsify their ideas. But their proposed evidences are always very vague.

I had one ID advocate tell me that ID would be falsified if scientists could produce life from chemicals. That wouldn’t REALLY falsify ID, but look at how vague it is!

What is “life”? There’s some debate about whether viruses are alive. If viruses were created from chemicals in a laboratory, would that count?

The problem with such vague requirements is that they give the person making the claim an easy opportunity to back out on their offer. Scientists are NOT going to produce Albert Einstein from chemicals. With a requirement as vague as the ones proposed, anything less can and will be surely disputed.

I don’t include the more technical examples (such as molecular evidence called Transposons and Redundant Pseudogenes). Those examples are very valid indeed, but too complex to be easily explained.

Shown below is a list of pieces of evidence provided by Dr. Theobold which, if found, would falsify evolution. In some cases there are many possible examples of the same type.

1. Descent from a Common Ancestor Requires certain Common Characteristics in the DNA of all Organisms on Earth

This evidence involves DNA. DNA consists of varying sequences of varying lengths of only four different nucleic acids: adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). All life on Earth consists of these nucleic acids. This is something that we would expect if all life is descended from a single common ancestor.

“Based solely on the theory of common descent and the genetics of known organisms, we strongly predict that we will never find any modern species from known phyla on this Earth with a foreign, non-nucleic acid genetic material. We also make the strong prediction that all newly discovered species that belong to the known phyla will use the "standard genetic code" or a close derivative thereof. For example, according to the theory, none of the thousands of new and previously unknown insects that are constantly being discovered in the Brazilian rainforest will have non-nucleic acid genomes. Nor will these yet undiscovered species of insects have genetic codes which are not close derivatives of the standard genetic code.”

Creationists insist that this is evidence for a common designer since human designers also reuse components. But the motives of human designers for doing so are not relevant to an intelligent designer.

As an engineer for more than 40 years I can surely confirm that human engineers often reuse components. They do so for two reasons.

First, it can lower costs. If, for example, the engineers who design a model of a car for Chevrolet use the identical bolt used by the engineers who design Cadillacs then General Motors can purchase those bolts in larger quantities from the bolt manufacturer. That will lower the cost of each bolt thereby lowering the cost of the car (especially when this is done with many components).

This factor isn’t relevant in living things. There’s no extra cost associated with using different nucleotides in DNA other than the four that we see.

The second reason why human engineers reuse components is because of reliability. Once a design component has been used over and over again it’s been “burnt in” (to use the phrase favored by engineers). To use a completely new component risks new human design flaws – things which haven’t been tested through extensive use. Such a new design is much more likely to be recalled than one that has been proven to work over and over again.

Most engineers actually are unhappy with this factor. When asked whether or not they can get a particular component to work, you will often hear them say something like, “I suppose I can get that to work” – a comment noticeably lacking in enthusiasm. As an Electrical Engineer for many decades, I can confirm that the switchover from vacuum tubes to transistors and other solid state components took longer than it should have and longer than the engineers would have preferred simply because technical managers were unwilling to take the risks of adopting a new technology that might have been unreliable.

Note that any omnipotent, omniscient God wouldn’t be troubled by this. An omniscient God would create no design flaws. Therefore based on our experience with this factor, we would actually expect that God would NOT reuse components.

It might very well be the case that plants might work better with a different set of nucleic acids than would animals. But that’s not what we see.

2. The “Nested Hierarchy” of living things required by common descent predicts common genetic characteristics above the DNA level

Evolution predicts that common characteristics wouldn’t end at the DNA level. We should see other shared characteristics at a higher level as well. But these might depend on when the common ancestor of various organisms lived.

Chimps and humans share a common ancestor. So chimps and humans should share characteristics of that common ancestor. But it is not necessarily the case that earlier common ancestors – such as the common ancestor of all primates – necessarily have all of those same characteristics.

“…the predicted pattern of organisms at any given point in time can be described as ‘groups within groups’, otherwise known as a nested hierarchy. The only known processes that specifically generate unique, nested, hierarchical patterns are branching evolutionary processes. Common descent is a genetic process in which the state of the present generation/individual is dependent only upon genetic changes that have occurred since the most recent ancestral population/individual.”

Because of that there are many potential pieces of evidence that would falsify evolution.

“…some nonvascular plants could have seeds or flowers, like vascular plants, but they do not. Gymnosperms (e.g. conifers or pines) occasionally could be found with flowers, but they never are. Non-seed plants, like ferns, could be found with woody stems; however, only some angiosperms have woody stems. Conceivably, some birds could have mammary glands or hair; some mammals could have feathers (they are an excellent means of insulation). Certain fish or amphibians could have differentiated or cusped teeth, but these are only characteristics of mammals. A mix and match of characters like this would make it extremely difficult to objectively organize species into nested hierarchies. Unlike organisms, cars do have a mix and match of characters, and this is precisely why a nested hierarchy does not flow naturally from classification of cars.”

3. Transitional Fossils should appear in the fossil record in the proper chronological order and at the proper times.

This only makes sense – an ancestral species should appear before its descendents.

This source of evidence is complicated by the imperfections in the fossil record and the fact that an ancestral species may live on after the descendents appear. Grandparents often co-exist with their grandchildren. In the same way that parents and grandparents don’t necessarily die when children are born, there is no need for all Archaeopteryx to become extinct the moment that later, more modern birds appear.

But where there are many millions of years between ancestors and descendent, the fossil record should be clear regarding the order of appearance. In the same way that we might expect grandparents and even great-grandparents to coexist with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we would never expect an ancestor from ten generations ago to co-exist with us. That fact allows very specific, potentially falsifiable predictions to be made.

“Based on the high confidence in certain branches of phylogenetic trees, some temporal constraints are extremely rigid. For example, we should never find mammalian or avian fossils in or before Devonian deposits, before reptiles had diverged from the amphibian tetrapod line. This excludes Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, and Silurian deposits, encompassing 92% of the earth's geological history and 65% of the biological history of multicellular organisms. Even one incontrovertible find of any pre-Devonian mammal, bird, or flower would shatter the theory of common descent.”

In other words, the discovery of a mammalian fossil in pre-Cambrian rocks would falsify common descent and thereby falsify evolution.

4. Any Vestigial Organ should be similar to something that was functional in an ancestor.

While there is some debate about the existence of vestigial organs with some creationists arguing that things like the appendix are actually functional, there is little dispute that some organs are vestigial. Sightless eyes in cave fish and cave salamanders are an example.

Any organ for which there is even a debate about whether or not it is vestigial should always have a verifiable and clearly useful function in an ancestral species. In other words we may debate whether or not the appendix is vestigial, but our ancestors should have a verifiable use for that organ.

“Shared derived characters and molecular sequence data, not vestigial characters, determine the phylogeny and the characteristics of predicted common ancestors. Thus, if common descent is false, vestigial characters very possibly could lack an evolutionary explanation. For example, whales are classified as mammals according to many criteria, such as having mammary glands, a placenta, one bone in the lower jaw, etc. Snakes likewise are classified as reptiles by several other derived features. However, it is theoretically possible that snakes or whales could have been classified as fish (as Linnaeus originally did). If this were the case, the vestigial legs of whales or the vestigial pelvises of snakes would make no sense evolutionarily and would be inconsistent with common descent. “

“It follows, then, that we should never find vestigial nipples or a vestigial incus bone in any amphibians, birds, or reptiles. No mammals should be found with vestigial feathers. No primates should ever be found with vestigial horns or degenerate wings hidden underneath the skin of the back. We should never find any arthropods with vestigial backbones. Snakes may occasionally have vestigial legs or arms, but they should never be found with small, vestigial wings. Humans may have a vestigial caecum, since we are descendants of herbivorous mammals, but neither we nor any other primate can have a vestigial gizzard like that found in birds.“

Note that vestiges can be functional. But any organ claimed to be vestigial must have a functioning organ in an ancestral species. Charles Darwin himself explained how to identify a vestigial organ (from The Origin of Species):
"An organ, serving for two purposes, may become rudimentary or utterly aborted for one, even the more important purpose, and remain perfectly efficient for the other. Thus, in plants, the office of the pistil is to allow the pollen-tubes to reach the ovules protected in the ovarium at its base. The pistil consists of a stigma supported on the style; but in some Compositae, the male florets, which of course cannot be fecundated, have a pistil, which is in a rudimentary state, for it is not crowned with a stigma; but the style remains well developed, and is clothed with hairs as in other compositae, for the purpose of brushing the pollen out of the surrounding anthers. Again, an organ may become rudimentary for its proper purpose, and be used for a distinct object: in certain fish the swim-bladder seems to be rudimentary for its proper function of giving buoyancy, but has become converted into a nascent breathing organ or lung. Other similar instances could be given."

5. Any Atavism should be similar to something that was functional in an ancestor.

An atavism is similar to a vestigial organ except that it is a genetic characteristic that isn’t an “organ”. Examples include extra toes on horses, hind limbs in whales, etc. The argument is the same as for vestigial organs. Something like atavistic wings in whales or any other Cetacean would falsify evolution because no ancestors of cetaceans had wings.

6. Existing closely related current species should only be found geographically close to each other

“The spatial and geographical distribution of species should be consistent with their predicted genealogical relationships.”

“From a limited knowledge of species distributions, we predict that we should never find elephants on distant Pacific islands, even though they would survive well there. Similarly, we predict that we should not find amphibians on remote islands, or indigenous Cacti on Australia. Closely related species could be distributed evenly worldwide, according to whichever habitat best suits them. If this were the general biogeographical pattern, it would be a strong blow to macroevolution.”

This particular proof of macroevolution is also the single proof that falsifies the flood story in the Bible. If all species of animals lived in only one place at one time – the area around Mt. Ararat – then there is no reason not to expect all animals to be centered around that geographic location.

Since Mt. Ararat is a desert area all desert animals should be found there and no where else.

All jungle animals should be found in the jungle closest to Turkey – probably Africa.

And so on…

There should certainly be no animals anywhere in the Western Hemisphere since every single habitat is found closer to Mt. Ararat than the Western Hemisphere.

Since all of those things are not found, we can be absolutely confident that the Flood account in the Bible is a complete myth. (There are probably something like 1000 other reasons why we can be completely confident that the flood account is a myth.)

7. Recently evolved animals should be only found in the geographic area close to their evolutionary ancestors based on the fossil record

This particular proof extends the previous proof back through the fossil record. Again the key phrase is “recently”. With that word in mind, evolution makes these potentially falsifiable predictions:

“We confidently predict that fossils of recently evolved animals like apes and elephants should never be found on South America, Antarctica, or Australia (excepting, of course, the apes that travel by boat).”
“It would be macroevolutionarily devastating if we found in South America an irrefutable Epihippus or Merychippus (or any of the intermediates in-between) from the Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, the Miocene, or anytime before the Isthmus of Panama arose to connect North and South America (about 12 million years ago). Moreover, we should never find fossil horse ancestors on Australia or Antarctica from any geological era.”

“We do not expect to ever find any Australopithicus, Ardipithecus, or Kenyanthropus fossils in Australia, North America, South America, Antarctica, Siberia, or on any oceanic islands removed from Africa. Any such findings would be catastrophically problematic for the theory of common descent.”

8. Any genetic characteristic should be explicable in terms of genetic characteristics of evolutionary ancestors.

This proof does not require that a specific genetic characteristic should be present in all evolutionary ancestors. Instead it says that any specific genetic characteristic should be traceable through the fossil record to evolutionary ancestors.

If, for example, the” Panda’s Thumb” is an extension of the sesamoid bone in the Giant Panda. If a sesamoid bone was not present as an existing bone in evolutionary ancestors of the Panda but was something completely new, then that thumb would falsify macro-evolution.

This is similar to but different from the vestigial organ evidence. In this case the genetic characteristic is undeniably functioning.

“…a strong falsification would be if it were positively demonstrated that the primitive structures of an organism's predicted ancestors could not be reasonably modified into the modern organism's derived structures. A clear fanciful example, though completely serious, is the macroevolutionary impossibility of ever finding an animal such as a Pegasus. Since a Pegasus would be a mammal closely related to the horse, its wings would be considered derived characters. However, Pegasus wings cannot be modifications of its ancestors' structures, since the immediate predicted ancestors of Pegasi and horses had no possible structures there to modify.”

9. Molecular Similarities will be understandable due to common ancestry

This is a more technical piece of evidence but I am including it because of how specific it is and how striking it is for evidence supporting common descent.

In the last few decades, scientists have been able to sequence DNA and determine the specific amino acid sequences that make up proteins. Some of these proteins are very important and are present in all living things. But in many cases not every amino acid is necessary. Evolution predicts that differences will be explicable through evolutionary history.

The best way to explain this is through an example. The prototypical example is cytochrome-c.

Cytochrome c is an absolutely essential protein found in all organisms, including eukaryotes (organisms with cells that have a nucleus) and bacteria. It is necessary for life in all organisms because it allows mitochondria - the energy fuel of cells - to function.Much of the cytochrome c protein is not needed (it is “functionally silent”). That part varies from organism to organism. Human cytochrome c has been confirmed to work in yeast - a single-celled organism - despite the fact that the naturally occurring cytochrome c found in yeast is very different from that found in humans (sharing only 38 amino acids).

The cytochrome C molecule has 104 amino acids (though even that number varies a bit from species to species). The table below gives the number of amino acids in Cytochrome C for each species that are different from those found in humans[1].

Chimpanzee 0
Rhesus monkey 1
Rabbit 9
Kangaroo 10
Pig 10
Dog 11
Donkey 11
Horse 12
Duck 10
Chicken 12
Turtle 14
Rattlesnake 13
Tuna 20
Moth 30
Candida (yeast) 50

Note how this so closely matches the proposed evolutionary history of life on Earth. Its power for confirming and potentially falsifying evolution is quite stunning. The evidence is even quantifiable.

Chimps and humans share a “recent” common ancestor and have no differences in their cytochrome-c molecule. The Rhesus monkey has a less recent common ancestor, and one amino-acid difference is found.

Note that these cytochrome-c molecules differ from each other in ways not shown in this table. Kangaroos and pigs both have 10 amino acid differences from humans. Yet those are not the same ten amino acid differences. That’s because kangaroos and pigs have cytochrome-c that varies by six amino acids from each other. That implies that kangaroos and pigs have evolutionary ancestors which are roughly equidistant from humans but they also diverted from each other at some time in the past.

Cytochrome-c is the most commonly cited example because it has been studied the most. But there are other such proteins. In fact one scientific paper estimates that there are some 250 of them[2].

Evolution predicts that because of common ancestry, all of these proteins should have differences which are explicable in terms of the evolutionary history of each species as is precisely the case for cytochrome-c. Note that many of these amino acid sequences have not been completed yet for all species so the potential falsification is still quite possible.

10. Genetic change in irreversible so we should never see specific genetic characteristics reappearing based on identical genes

Evolution asserts that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are descended from land mammals. Prior to that, mammals were descended from aquatic animals. But when the ancestral species came on land they lost many of the genetic characteristics associated with aquatic life.

But when mammals reentered the oceans many of those genetic characteristics that were lost would have been beneficial again.

For example, gills would be very useful.

Cetaceans have lungs – just as their evolutionary ancestors had. They have evolved the ability to “hold their breath” for very long periods of time, but lungs are still not as beneficial as gills. For example, dolphins and porpoises that have become caught in fish nets have actually drowned.

Evolution predicts that gills could not evolve again. That’s because genetic change is based on random inputs – mutations. Reversing a previous large set of mutations – while not physically impossible – is much too unlikely to actually expect to take place.

Evolution predicts that cetaceans would become increasingly well adapted to their aquatic environment – as is the case with their ability to” hold their breath” underwater – but the genetic changes making them better adapted would not be the same ones that had existed previously.

I like this evidence because it argues so persuasively against Intelligent Design. No one has ever come up with even a reasonable hypothetical reason why a “designer” wouldn’t give cetaceans the ability to breathe underwater.

11. The fossil record should be very different at different geological times.

This is a very obvious conclusion from the assumption of common ancestry. Evolution says that the diversity of life has changed over time. Because of that, even though the fossil record is imperfect, it should still be very different at every point in time.

“This falsification [of macroevolution] would be simple and facile—the sediments of the earth could contain a composition of species very similar to modern life as far back as we can see in the sequential layers.”

Rocks are typically dated using radiometric dating methods. Creationists don’t trust those methods. But if that was true, it would represent all the more reason to expect this potential falsification of macroevolution to be found by someone.

In the extreme case – where radiometric dates are completely random and a radiometric date says nothing at all about the actual age of a rock – we should certainly expect to see the same fossils in all rocks regardless of what the radiometric dates told us about the age of the rock.

So, in fact, this evidence confirming macroevolution actually also implicitly confirms radiometric dating as well.

[1] http://www.evolution-x.com/chimps.htm, referenced on November 7, 2008
[2] Bunn, H. F., and Forget, E. G. (1986) Hemoglobin: Molecular, Genetic, and Clinical Aspects. Saunders.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another Example Showing that "Specified Complexity" is a fraud

> Complexity is necessary to differentiate whether
> something was the result of ID or random processes.
> For example, [snip]

That is another example of the fraud of ID. They provide examples but don't address the examples that are provided by their critics.

OF COURSE any hypothesis will have examples that will support it!

Imagine that I develop the hypothesis that gravity causes all things to fall towards the Great Wall of China.

For my first example, I stand at a place exactly on the opposite side of the Earth from the Great Wall. I drop something. It falls straight down.

Voila! **I** have found an example that supports my hypothesis.

Then I fly in an airplane over China. As we are flying over the Great Wall I, once again, drop something.

Yet again, it falls straight down just as my hypothesis predicted.

Voila! ANOTHER example supporting my hypothesis.

Therefore everything falls towards the Great Wall, right?

Wait, you say. If your claim is true, then if I am standing next to the Great Wall and drop something then it should fall sideways.

That's YOUR example. It shows that my hypothesis is false.

So for the ID hypothesis to be correct, it must be able to answer the examples provided by skeptics, NOT just those that you provide for yourself.

I readily admit that some intelligently designed things are complex.

But some intelligently designed things are NOT complex.

So complexity has NOTHING to do with recognizing ID.

Here's another example.

Imagine two alien spaceships visit Earth. One of them lands in a forest filled with Oak Trees.

The other one lands in a large field with a line of telephone poles (with the wires removed).

Oak trees are MUCH more complex than telephone poles. Telephone poles, of course, are just straight, long, cylindrical, pieces of wood. Oak trees have branches that bend in many different directions.

Also the typical random arrangement of Oak trees in a forest is much more complex than the equidistant, straight line arrangement of telephone poles that is typical of what we see.

So the oak trees are much more complex.

Moreover the oak trees are more "specified". They have a clear purpose - living things that, among other things, create oxygen that support other living things.

A line of telephone poles without wires would have no apparent purpose whatsoever so they would be less "specified".

Which of the two scenarios would convince the aliens that they were visiting a planet with intelligent designers?

Obviously the LESS "complex" and less "specified" scenario - the telephone poles - SHOULD be more convincing. That's because those of us living on Earth know that the telephone poles have an intelligently designed purpose.

But "Specified complexity" doesn't explain that.

In fact if the “specified complexity’ argument was used it would cause the aliens to arrive at the opposite conclusion.

Therefore "specified complexity" is an intellectual and scientific fraud.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More evidence that Creationists don't understand Math

The video at http://tinyurl.com/lzy6gt offers a math challenge for evolution. It comes from Carl Baugh and a math "professor" (actually a high school and trade school math teacher). The math teacher calculates that evolution can't be true because it would mean that there would be too many people on Earth.

The math teacher uses the formula for compound interest that you would use for a bank account.

If you start with $100 and have a 5% interest rate, in a year you'll have $105. Then if you wait another year you'll have 1.05 times $105 or $110.25. That extra $0.25 is the interest on the $5 you earned last year. It adds up.

You can use the math teacher's formula to figure out how much money you will have after any number of years.

Is there anything wrong with that?

Probably the most obvious problem is that the formula for compound interest works only if you leave the money in the bank. If you took $5 out of the bank account after the first year, you wouldn't have $110.25 after the second year. You'd only have $105 again.

With bank accounts, that's OK.

But it's not OK for people. That's because people die.

The calculation assumes that people live forever and continue to reproduce at the same rate forever. It requires, for example, that Noah and his family are still reproducing somewhere.

I don't have any great-great-great-great...grandparents who are still alive and having children.

Do you?

There are many other problems with the assumptions used for the formula. For example it ignores things like plagues, wars and other disasters that actually cause human population totals to diminish. Also, censuses that we do have from ancient times show that current population growth rates are MUCH higher now that they were in the past. The main impetus for the current population growth rates was the Industrial Revolution. So when Baugh and his math teacher claim that they are being generous with their estimated growth rate of 0.456%, that's untrue.

Finally, their assumptions allow them to begin with eight people after the flood and come up with the current population of 6.5 billion people now. Those are the end points and the math works for those points.
But if the math is correct, it should also match population totals at intermediate dates.

It doesn't. It's wrong at every step

For example, the Census of Qurinius mentioned in the Book of Luke, showed that there were 4 million Roman citizens living within the Roman Empire. (See http://www.askelm.com/star/star014.htm)

Obviously that doesn't include any non-Roman citizens living within the empire (such as Mary and Joseph). Neither does it include anyone living outside of the Empire such as in the Western Hemisphere, Australia, China, etc.

Yet the formula comes up with only 35,000 people in the ENTIRE world! That's off by many orders of magnitude! (The estimated world human population was 200 million at that time,[1])

The math, along with the many false assumptions, would be laughed at by anyone who had completed junior high school.

But it impresses creationists.

Very interesting...

As a side note, actually far and away the biggest problem for growth rate calculations is that for the vast majority of human history, we were hunter-gatherers.

That fact means that we were nomadic. We would move from place-to-place in bands of 30 individuals or less, eat the grains and fruits and hunt the game found in that place and then move on.

There are problems with that life style if you have a significant growth rate.

For one thing, if the growth rate is large you can't migrate effectively with numerous small children. At MOST you could only have two children that couldn't walk long distances on their own.

The second problem is that if the population grows quickly then you can't stay in one place as long because the available food is used up more quickly in that single place.

That means that you have to move more often and find more places to live in over a year.

Inevitably you will run into other bands of hunter-gatherers who are using or would like to use these new places with available food. Inevitably conflicts will break out which will diminish the population.

The bottom line, hunter-gatherer societies reach a stable population and can't really grow at all past that point. So the effective human population growth for most of human history was, effectively, ZERO.

Another, possibly more obvious flaw, comes if we decide to use reproductions rates of other species. For example, some bacteria can reproduce every 15 minutes. They can double their population 96 times in a single day. Using the mathematics of Carl Baugh’s math professor the entire universe would be infested with bacteria within a week! Since that isn’t the case the Earth can’t be more than a day or two old.

Because of all of those reasons, human population growth rates can’t be use to calculate the age of the Earth.

[1] http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html, shows population estimates from the US Census Bureau, referenced on September 2, 2009