Evolution, Specificity, and Falsifiability

A recent commenter Mynym wrote (I hope he doesn’t mind my re-posting his comment in full):

I would like to register my disagreement that that is what “evolution requires.” What is required is that evolution be a more plausible explanation than the alternatives.

If that’s the case then evolutionary theory hasn’t really yet been specified in a way that leaves it open to empirical verification or falsification, even its critics are still looking for possible “edges.” For example, as it stands now it “predicts” any genetic change. Ironically Darwinism was actually more specified and open to empirical verification or falsification than the modern forms of hypothetical goo that the elastic term “evolution” has degenerated to. The problem is, Darwinism was falsified by the evidence to the extent that it was specified and so its specification and requirements had to be blurred away. Now even proponents are left with a theory specified only as opposed to other theories rather than the empirical evidence. Darwin did the same thing to some extent but not to the same extent, i.e. he would often “verify” his arguments as opposed to creationism instead of based on the empirical evidence. For example, to argue that you do not believe that God would design the panda’s thumb the way it is or to engage in theology is not using the theory of natural selection to predict the emergence of panda’s thumbs based on a process of filtering random mutations and so on. It’s not the same thing as using a scientific theory to predict a trajectory of adaptation or to really predict anything. If the predictions, specifications and requirements of evolutionary theory are defined by their opposition to other theories or to creationism then taking the case of creationism as an example all that has really been said is: “I don’t believe that God would make thumbs like this.”

One of the thing I’ve been insisting upon, and will continue to insist upon, is that the explanatory power of the evolutionary hypothesis is drastically underestimated by people whose understanding of the hypothesis is based on misunderstandings, if not caricatures.

That’s just it, the explanatory power of the evolutionary hypothesis is too great and too “overwhelming” because it explains everything. It hasn’t been specified so it “explains” all possible empirical observations. It is often said to explain one set of facts as well as their exact opposite. If men are homosexual then it explains that, yet it also explains why men are heterosexual as well as why they are promiscuous, yet also why they are monogamous and it even contains explanations as to why they are celibate. How can you verify a theory based on empirical evidence when it explains everything? Many “explanations” can be proposed given the vast explanatory powers attributed to a theory that was never specified based on a rational view of the empirical evidence in the first place. Its explanatory power is a mental illusion brought about by its own lack of specification. After all, what biological observation would not comport with evolution?

The simple fact is that anyone criticizing the hypothetical goo typical to the theory of evolution will seem to be making a caricature out of it because it’s up to the critic themselves to specify it or to attempt to find its edge. There is no edge that has been specified by its modern proponents, thus its predictions are typically mental illusion which it never really predicted in the first place. Even in disagreements among themselves over their ridiculously low epistemic standards biologists have to point out that they’re not making a caricature out of that type of hypothetical goo:

The viewpoint of Coyne et al. (1988) is one in which past events are argued to explain, in a causal sense, the world around us. Such explanations cannot be verified or tested, and the only biological observations they require are that variation and differential reproduction occur. This is not a caricature, as a reading of Coyne et al. will verify. In keeping with this general viewpoint, proponents claim that species are explained with reference to history. Important characters are hence “mechanisms” that have established and maintained the separation between diverged lineages of an ancestral population. According to Coyne et al., even the adaptive purpose of the changes that resulted in these mechanisms is irrelevant.
We would ask where biology enters into this schema.
(Points of View
Species and Neo-Darwinism
By C. S. White; B. Michaux; D. M. Lambert
Systematic Zoology, Vol. 39, No. 4. (Dec., 1990), :400-401) (Emphasis added)

It seems that because of the imagery and mental illusions brought about by such reasoning* it sounds better in your own mind but when someone else repeats exactly what you’ve specified back at you then suddenly it’s not what you said at all. Instead it’s a caricature, etc.

*Which is linked back to the modern philosophy that did away with Aristotle, a mechanical philosophy which actually denies a scientific understanding of present causal patterns in favor of imagining things about the past.

Mynym, I think you make a great point with the lack of specificity with Darwinism. The refrain of neo-Darwinists seems to be, “But we can explain that!” It doesn’t matter what it is. No matter what the criticism, they have an explanation. No matter what the phenomena, they have an explanation. They can explain everything from buttered bread to flyswatters to deodorant. There is no falsifiability, because “Evolution is true!” They can spin just-so stories all day long1, and it doesn’t matter because “Evolution is true! If you don’t believe it, then just ask scientists.” Often to me, the argument is no better than, “Evolution is true; therefore it happened. And anyone who believes it didn’t happen is stupid; therefore, evolution is true….Praise Science!”

And while Darwin posited a couple of ways his theory could be falsified (i.e., a lack of millions of transitional fossils and irreducible complexity), there are many religious arguments that are made on behalf of evolution as Mynym points out. Current Darwinists assert that Darwin was wrong on both accounts. These factors cannot falsify evolution, because evolution is true. And anyone who doesn’t believe it is well obviously a Cretard or an IDiot.

1 Darwin says “just so…” While I’ve written a number of naturalistic fairy tales going back well before the beginning of time, this site chronicles many naturalistic fairy tales of Darwinism. Even more than the 15 I have written thus far.

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The Fossil Record Problem-Part III

Have you ever seen a fossil plant series in a museum display or textbook on evolution? I haven’t. When I studied botany at university in the 1960s they taught us evolution and paleobotany (the study of plant fossils) but not a single fossil series was ever presented as evidence that plant evolution actually did occur. So, when I saw a new book recently entitled The Diversity and Evolution of Plants, dated 1995 and published by the CRC Press, a reputable publisher of top quality scientific manuals and textbooks, I was keen to see what new evidence had arisen during the last 30 years of research. The author, Dr Lorentz Pearson, appeared to be well qualified, being a Professor of Botany with a string of credits to his name. 1

Yes, apparently plants evolved from bacteria.  All flowering plants from pine trees, and bacteria, from bacteria.

Mushrooms are also from bacteria, as are humans (sorry different tree).  By rights, I think we really ought to pay homage to bacteria.  To them, we owe our lives.  I’m proposing a new type of polytheism here perhaps.

But perhaps I’ve been a bit premature because:

In all 18 chapters, not a single fossil series was quoted or illustrated to support the phylogenetic trees! Many groups have excellent fossil records, but not once does he indicate that there is unequivocal evidence of transition from one to another, as evolution requires.

I think that’s because evolution is true, as is known by a majority of scientists. Therefore, it would be silly to give evidence for something that is true. I think you really ought to just present the truth in the way that everyone agrees and call it good, because the only people that care if you have evidence for you phylogenetic tree are Creationists and IDists. Why waste your time right?

Like so many other people, Professor Pearson appears to have just assumed that evolution is a fact, and has filled in the gaps in the evidence with imagination.

Hey, I say at least nobody will accuse him of making an argument from lack of imagination2, which is apparently a most damning thing to do in science.

1 Did plants evolve? AiG, Williams, A. (1997)
2 Argument from ignorance, Wiki

The Fossil Record Problem–Part II

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.” — Stephen J. Gould

In Part I, I laid some foundations for my personal skepticism in the fossil layer. As noted above, one of the worlds biggest proponents of evolution (now dead), makes an honest statement about the fossil record.

My coauthor1,2 asks:

So if the newbies are virtually unchanged from the “millions of years” old fossils, then where is the evidence for evolution? Why are there not hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of fossilized variations (evolutionary stages) of these creatures, which I would think that you and others, including scientists, would have found as you explored? Were these particular creatures an exception to the rule of evolution? In other words, were these particular creatures created whole from the beginning? If so, then the theory of evolution has some really inventive explaining to do!

The frequent and insightful commenter Mike3 notes:

Consider the modern shark species, which have remained more or less unchanged in the last 100 million years (where they just start “appearing”). And ancient sharks are thought be have been around for as much as 400 million years. Yet sharks have always been predatory fish and nothing else according to the fossil record.

William Dembski speaks to the problem:

Gould’s solution to this problem was to propose his idea of punctuated equilibrium, in which evolution takes place in isolated populations that are unlikely to be fossilized, with the result that the fossil record exhibits a pattern of sudden change followed by stasis. But this patch has its
own problems. For one, it does not address the mechanism of evolutionary change. Also, it is
largely untestable because all the interesting evolution happens where it is inaccessible to
scientific observation.4

So there you have it. Evolution takes place in isolated populations which are unlikely to be fossilized. Isn’t it amazing how we seem to be in a stage of stasis right now?

Uniforimitarians claim that these fossilization takes place over 10000+ years.5

So, in this picture, you can see what ancient man was doing 10000 years ago. Yes, those appear to be fossilized sneakers, teddy bears, and other things.

1 An Outsider’s Perspective
2 An Outsider’s Sojourn
3 Massdream Musicworks
4 Expert Witness Report: The Scientific Status of Intelligent Design, Dembski, W., (2005), pp 6.
5 Wiki – Fossilization

The Fossil Record Problem-Part I

Ever since my earliest days, I was always fascinated with, and collected, fossils. I was a country kid (still am–although the kid part is euphemistic–I hope). There were no close neighbors or friends for me to play with during one period. But there was plenty to do. We had a big woods behind our house (probably 4 square miles). I spent enumerable hours exploring. My father showed me two of his childhood discoveries, which gave me a great deal of pleasure. One was a limestone-bottom creek that was fed by a spring, and the other was a cave system. Both the creek, and the cave were lined with fossils of ancient marine life. Beware, there are chiggers out in the sticks.1 I became accustomed to having scabs on my legs from poison ivy, chiggers, and mosquito bites. That was just part of summer.

There were entire sheets, or masses, of limestone with the same type of fossils. Certain of which, must have been rapidly covered and fossilized. Brachiopods2 were at the top of my list of most coveted fossils (most often Neospirifer or Derbyia).

My father gave me the standard uniformitarian view–that this part of middle America was once an ancient sea bed–millions of years ago.  He also told me that he thought it could be from the great flood, because it was clear that the ancient life forms had been covered rapidly.  I think I just imagined then that it was from millions of years ago, but the wonder of the sheets of fossils stuck with me.  Millions of years is a quite compelling romantic notion for youth (of the tall and short variety).3

Most of these forms are extinct today. But the ones that continue to live are virtually unchanged from their fossilized forms.4,5

So, as always, the problem of the blind search of evolution will be up to you to decide. It’s difficult for me to look at the illustration above, and believe that a virtually blind process can create the complexity of this organism. Perhaps that’s a failure of my imagination, or perhaps I am correct. Your personal beliefs and views will determine what you decide.

    References:

1 City folk warn on the ‘disaster’ of chiggers for fossil hunting (amusing)
2 Wiki – Brachiopods
3 Milton Erickson — “You will see many children in your practice. Some of the short variety and some of the tall variety.”
4 Wiki – Craniidae
5 Wiki – Rhynchonellida

Some Recent Writing on the Genesis Flood

Creation on the Web has a recent article entitled, “Golden evidence of the Genesis Flood.”1 The article starts out with:

Most people would be surprised to learn that smooth water-worn gold nuggets are frequently found not only in rivers and streams but on hills and even mountain tops. For example, several years ago, while prospecting on Cape York Peninsula in Northern Queensland, my brother and I detected about 30 nuggets on a hillside and even on the top of the hill. The nuggets ranged from two grams to over an ounce and were all at least partly smooth. The water-worn nuggets were intermingled with partly smoothed rocks from the size of marbles to a pumpkin. Many prospectors wonder how these high-country nuggets became so smooth, but to me it is explained by the world-wide Flood described in the Bible.

Although this account is somewhat anecdotal, and should be taken as such, it is interesting.

1 http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/6043/

Design Detection-Part I

In this video,Note: 1 Kirk Durston, who cites Douglas Axe,1,2,Note: 2 talks about the role of Intelligent Design in science.  As a programmer for the Navy during the Cold War, he developed software for detecting design in acoustics underwater.  Of course, this is essential in this application to be able to differentiate sounds that come from “apparently designed” sources versus “purely natural” sources.

Mr. Durston gives a useful definition of Intelligent Design:

Intelligent Design: An effect that requires a mind to produce.

Mr. Durston discusses areas where design detection is already important in science:

1. The SETI institute3 has to discover if a signal is designed or natural.
2. In forensic science, it must be determined if foul play was involved.
3. In archeology it is frequently utlized for determining if an artifact is designed or natural.

He then raises the scientific question: “Are biological systems the product of intelligent design?”

He then goes on to address the question of how design can be detected.  There has been recent research and theoretical work on this matter.1,2

Denyse O’Leary addresses this issue in detail, and explains the equation presented by Mr. Durston in the lecture.4

References:

1 Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds, Axe, D.D. (2004)
2 Extreme functional sensitivity to conservative amino acid changes on enzyme exteriors, Axe, D.D. (2000)
3 SETI Institute
4 http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com/2008/02/iv-functional-information.html

Notes:

1 Bobxxx, a frequent atheist troll of ID and Creationist blogs has submitted a typical bigoted comment.  We’ve seen him here before and witnessed his maturity level (I’d estimate 2 to 3 years of age–potty training time–he likes crapping on folk).
2 Yes, science is about making money. You can read the abstract without paying, but if you want to read the full article, you have to pay.

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XV

We must skip back a bit. Then did we discover that volcanoes were possibly, and therefore compellingly, responsible for life’s origins. When one is faced with a dilemma, that seems unsolvable, we do find it best to take a shotgun approach. We do hope we throw out enough different ideas to establish that we have sufficient imagination, if not, we do have more waiting to be conceived (Praise Science).  We do not suffer from the Creationist lack of imagination.  We do never
make those kinds of arguments unless it does involve God or miracles, which are clearly ridiculous, naturally. From the zapping of the old soup,2 and our modern technology, did we learn that when we injected gas, that comes from volcanoes, into that old soup, did we find 10 amino acids which were not found by our hero. Silly, did we first think that the early atmosphere was composed of methane, hydrogen, and ammonia. As that wrong fact has been corrected as always (only slightly of course), we do now know that the early atmosphere was composed of 3 elements: carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. And we do now know that this did give rise to life (Praise Science).

1 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27284025/
2 http://www.issol.org/miller/miller1953.pdf