Some of Them Read the Book

As usual, a bunch of theists are pissed at Richard Dawkins and are saying foolish things. At least it seems that some of them have actually read his bookunlike some people I know.

Re “Gods and earthlings,” Opinion, April 18

Atheism has its fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins. Everyone has faith in something that is beyond science to prove. Science itself is based on the assumption that the universe is rational and logical and not absurd. Dawkins has a similar problem to those who cannot explain where a complex God came from. Where did the Big Bang come from, and what existed before? If the anthropic principle (the laws of nature seem to have been crafted for the emergence and sustenance of life) was inherent in the Big Bang, then where did that complexity come from? If it was all random, that is a faith assumption also.

Ken Savage

Palm Desert

I applaud you Ken. You have demonstrated that you have actually read the book and did not babble incoherently. However, you said that there is such a thing as a fundamentalist Atheist. Perhaps somebody could explain to me exactly what a fundamentalist Atheist is. For my definition of fundamentalism, I turn to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Fundamentalism

  • a. A religious movement, which orig. became active among various Protestant bodies in the United States after the war of 1914-1918, based on strict adherence to certain tenets (e.g. the literal inerrancy of Scripture) held to be fundamental to the Christian faith; the beliefs of this movement; opp. liberalism and modernism.
  • b. In other religions, esp. Islam, a similarly strict adherence to ancient or fundamental doctrines, with no concessions to modern developments in thought or customs.

So, could somebody please tell me what doctrine Atheism is supposed to follow fundamentally? We have no holy books. No strict rules on morality. The only thing that Atheism is is a lack of belief in God. Doesn’t that make every Atheist a fundamentalist Atheist?

The theist continues by missing the point of the Anthropic Principle, and asking about the Big Bang. The answer to the question about the Big Bang: nobody knows. Oh noes! Then we must throw all of science out the window and replace it with the Judeo-Christian god!

Alright, you got me again. I’m not entirely Atheist. I’m an agnostic on the technicality that you can’t disprove the deist god (yet) for that reason. However, there is the issue of explaining how this intelligence could have popped into existence if you’re going to use an intelligence to explain the Big Bang making the deist god all the more improbable and the Judeo-Christian god even less possible.

Dawkins’ atheistic rants about creationism and God’s existence are tiresome. Fundamentalist creationists are equally wrong. It is not logically contradictory to hold both that God is the author of all that exists and that the Big Bang and evolution are the ways God created and continues to create everything that exists. Neither statement can be proved nor disproved by science. Even Jesus didn’t worry about proofs for God’s existence.

James McDermott

Pasadena

True, science can’t necessarily disprove theistic evolution, but there certainly is no evidence that evolution was guided (hence, dinosaurs as an entirely inconvenient and unecessary evolutionary offshoot). And besides, natural selection works well enough on its own. Postulating another intelligence is, again, harder to explain and Occam’s razor makes a nice clean cut.

Dawkins argues that if vastly superior beings from some distant planet did indeed seed life on Earth, they could not be considered gods because someone must have created them. Thus, the only true God must be the one who created the universe itself.

This is, of course, the position that is reflected in Christian teaching. During my Catholic upbringing, I was taught that God “is,” meaning he always was and always will be. Defining God in that manner is another way of saying that no matter how sophisticated our theories become, ultimately we cannot explain how the universe got started from nothing and why the world exists. This notion embodies the ultimate mystery of life, which is beyond our power to penetrate from a purely logical and philosophical point of view, and which we must accept on that basis and learn to live with.

Paul Rosenberger

Manhattan Beach

Can I just ask why he’s so sure that science will never find the answer? What “unsolvable” mysteries have been solved by science before? I’ll leave him to think of some examples of his own.

Dawkins argues that “intelligent design” is not science. He is correct. But after that, he moves into less certain territory in which his reasoning inevitably moves to the problem of first causes. There he pretty much avoids the details. In the end, he, like everyone else, must confront one of two choices: Either the universe has always existed, or it was created by someone who has always existed. If the latter is improbable, as he claims, then why is not the former also? Without saying so explicitly, he clearly favors the former, which he is free to do. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to know why he favors one and not the other. Could it be that the latter might make moral claims on all of us, something that would threaten our desire to be morally autonomous?

William S. LaSor

Apple Valley, Calif.

Now there’s an interesting postulation. Either the universe has always existed or someone created it? Again, Occam’s razor. And secondly, if the universe needs somebody to bring it into exsitence, then who brought the deist god into existence? If the deist god can be passed off as being “outside of time” then why can’t the universe also be passed off as being “outside of time” as well?

And, lastly, it has nothing to do with morality. If somebody started the universe, it’s likely to be the deist god who probably doesn’t give two shits about our morality.

How could natural selection create the first living cell? There is no advantage to non-living material becoming a living cell, so the process had to be pure chance, a result of random atoms forming thousands of extremely complex molecules within a few micrometers of each other at the same time. It is statistically a highly improbable probable event, and it bears all the earmarks of design.

As a former evolutionist, I have seen the results of following the data to the most logical conclusion in today’s scientific community. Evolutionists control the scientific community, and any questioning of the current paradigm is cause for ridicule, harassment and sometimes destruction of careers. They should be ashamed, for they have created a totalitarian science community in which everyone must parrot the party line and independent thought is not allowed.

Elaine Fleeman

Bakersfield

Does the argument from personal incredulity ring a bell? Off the top of my uneducated head, I reckon that having a cell could be good protection for the self-replicating molecules. There’s all sorts of chemicals that can destroy DNA or cause “unwanted” mutations.

The ramblings about science being totalitarain are just characteristic of another person brainwashed by Expelled.

But I’ve gotta hand it to them, they were pretty darn coherent and used proper grammar. Most of them even seem to have read The God Delusion though have apparently missed some of the points. As usual, they ignore evolution now and try to use the Big Bang to prove the existence of the Judeo-Christian god. They’re evolving!

Advertisements

26 responses to this post.

  1. “Alright, you got me again. I’m not entirely Atheist. I’m an agnostic on the technicality that you can’t disprove the deist god (yet) for that reason.”

    Well that doesn’t stop you from being entirely atheistic, though you’re clearly not entirely a-deistic 🙂

    “As usual, they ignore evolution now and try to use the Big Bang to prove the existence of the Judeo-Christian god”

    I’m sceptical. As soon as they’re back in the safe environment of their local prayer group, it’ll be “evolutionism” denial all the way…

  2. This is crazy. There is no proof for either side and there is noting more than a battle of words to try to prove one side or the other.

    Science proves itself wrong on a daily basis, but wants it’s “Doctrine” taught as fact.

    There is no proof of “God” in the physical sense that science requires.

    A childish arguement at best. Must be great to have the mentality of a child.

  3. Hm… Perhaps I do have the mentality of a child. The great thing is… I have the excuse of being a child.

    Right then. I am agnostic towards the deist god because that’s the only god that wouldn’t be provable or disprovable because… it doesn’t interfere in our daily lives and we don’t know enough about physics yet. Such a god would be useless to believe in anyway.

    As for a god that supposedly plays a roll in our lives, that god would have to be leaving a lot of evidence of their existence because they are impacting the “physical world”.

    “Science proves itself wrong on a daily basis, but wants it’s “Doctrine” taught as fact.”

    That is one of the most confused statements I have ever read. Of course science is constantly proving itself wrong. Unlike religious texts, it is constantly changing to fit the new evidence. As it changes, school curricula are changed. Back in the day, they only taught Newtonian physics in schools. Einstein came along, and now they teach relativity.

  4. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 4, 2008 at 1:56 am

    I was certainly never “brainwashed” by “Expelled”. A friend of mine was denied his Ph.D. because it bacame known in his department that he questioned the evolutionary paradigm. I have seen others in the science departments I was in ridiculed if they expressed any doubt of neo-Darwinism. The message was clear. Toe the party line or have your career destroyed. There was no room for questioning.

    The point on self-repicating molecules ignores the point that the molecules required for the first cell to exist are enormous, extremely complex and highly ordered. Having a single amino acid in the wrong place in a protein, for instance, can kill the entire cell. The proteins, DNA, RNA, and other molecules must be in a precise order and these molecules are hundreds or even thousands of base pairs (DNA and RNA) or amino acids (proteins) long. In addition the proteins all are made of L- amino acids in a world where amino acids are 50% L- and 50% D- amino acids. How did they all become composed of a single isomer? Again, it is statistically impossible. Impossibility, in statistics, is defined as any event which would occur in less that 1 time in 10 to the 50th power events. (This is a one followed by 50 zeros.)

    As I pointed out in my original letter, all these molecules have to come together in the same place at the same time. They also have to be in a particular order, and have the correct isomers. Then they must not be destroyed or changed in any way before they could be surrounded by the lipo-protein envelope. They all have to be just perfect. If you know anythng about biochemistry and cell biology, you know that this is just not going to happen.

    I could go on, but I started doubting Darwinism over 30 years ago, and the more study I did in biochemistry, genetics and cell biology, the more I could see that I had been misled for many years. My doubts solidified over many years, until I fianlly realized that the “wizard” (scientists) was really just a man behind a curtain after all, pretending to be all knowing, all seeing, all powerful. Guess what, scientists are just people, they make mistakes, and are too stubborn to admit it just like everyone else. What are they so afraid of that they will not allow open discussion?

    I think they protest too much.

  5. […] someone else do this for me. Thank you to Chalmer from the MSCD Atheists group for responding to a commenter on one of my earlier […]

  6. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 5, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    By the way, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a “self-replicating” molecule. Every molecule, even DNA, requires other molecules to be replicated. In fact a cellular mechanism is required. Viruses, for example, which are DNA or RNA surrounded by proteins and sometimes a lipid or lipoprotein envelope, require a cell to use in order to replicate. A virus without a cell will eventually just fall apart. It has to hijack the cellular machinery in order to reproduce.

    A cell is the basic unit of life. Anything that is alive has cells. Therefore the question remains. What is the mechanism by which the first cell was formed? Richard Dawkins postulated in his article “Gods and Earthlings” that natural selection was a “better explanation” than God or space aliens. My response was an effort to point out that natural selection has some severe limitations.

    In his book, “Darwin’s Black Box”, Michael Behe quotes Jerry Coyne, of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, as writing, “We conclude- unexpectedly- that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view: its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak.” (Orr, H.A., and Coyne, J.A (1992), “The Genetics of Adaptation: A Reassessment”, American Naturalist, 140, 726)

    Got that? He works in the Department of Ecology and Evolution and he did not expect these results. Very few scientists are brave enough to say or write such a thing, even if they truly believe it, because of the repercussions. I did not set out to disprove neo-Darwinism over 30 years ago, either. It was an unexpected conclusion for me as well. I believed everything that I was taught up to that time, and even then, it took me years to really understand the full ramifications.

    Many scientists believe it because this is what they were taught, and they do not really investigate to find that they have been duped. Yes, duped. The biology books are full of errors. Read “Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?” by Jonathan Wells. He exposes some of the most egregious errors continually re-printed in today’s biology texts, even though many have been disproven for years. Do a bit of research for yourselves before you conclude that the highly trained and intelligent scientists who disagree are incorrect.

  7. Ok, first of all, the problem is not neo-Darwinism. Not everybody in evolution is a fan of neo-Darwinism. Mostly it’s just semantics, but they like to argue over how important natural selection is and that’s where “Darwinism” comes in. By your definition, Larry Moran is one of the very few scientists who is brave enough to question neo-Darwinism but he does not deny that evolution is a fact.

    I have to go get food. Chalmer will educate you.

  8. Posted by Chalmer on July 5, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    According to this, self-reproducing molecules do exist:

    http://w3.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/1990/may09/23124.html

    That’s just one example.

    Micheal Behe’s comments aren’t relevant without his reason for denial. The fact that he has a PhD doesn’t make him right; it just makes him worthy of consideration. However, all the evidence he as posed has been refuted, so I see no reason to take him seriously unless he can come up with something new. You’re making an appeal to authority, which just isn’t good enough. His reason should be sufficient.

    Also, I would ask that you give some evidence that scientist just believe this stuff because it is what they are taught. I could say the same thing about religious evolution deniers. The fact that you can sit their and pretend to know why scientist believe anything is pretentious, arrogant, unreasonable, dishonest, and distracting. Why scientist believe evolution is irrelevant. If the evidence dictates evidence to be the most reasonable conclusion, it is, no matter how many people recognize it. That fact that you attack the scientist instead of the science is a poor reflection of your character.

    These experts are not being dismissed because of their position, but because of their reasons. Their reasons aren’t good enough. That is why the scientific community ignores them.

    You demand that your evidence is heard, but when someone actually consideres it you resort to ad hominem attacks, fallacies, and conspiracy. If you want to be taken seriously, stay on topic. Stop ranting about exlcusion, becuase every single anti-evolution publication as been weighed, measured and found wanting. Experts have taken signifigant portions our of their lives to address the concerns raised by Behe and others. They do recieve consideration, and they are found inadequate.

    Many scientists believe it because this is what they were taught, and they do not really investigate to find that they have been duped. Yes, duped. The biology books are full of errors. Read “Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?” by Jonathan Wells. He exposes some of the most egregious errors continually re-printed in today’s biology texts, even though many have been disproven for years. Do a bit of research for yourselves before you conclude that the highly trained and intelligent scientists who disagree are incorrect.

  9. Posted by Chalmer on July 5, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    damn my spelling

  10. Posted by Chalmer on July 5, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I didn’t type the last paragraph. I forgot to delete it.

  11. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 5, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I’m not sure that it is fruitful to continue this. You say that I am arrogant, dishonest and unreasonable. I don’t appreciate the ad hominem attacks. I was attempting to show why I believe what I believe and you have obviously made up your mind and do not wish to be presented with the facts. Your reply is inflammatory.

    Have you actually read the material that I referenced? If not, please do so before declaring that it’s all a bunch of hooey. Again, you seem to have already made up your mind before you have even read the material.

    As for the self-replicating amino adenosine triacid ester molecules, I am not sure how that applies to DNA as amino adenosine triacid ester is not found in cells as far as I know. I’ll look into that a bit more though.

    Bye.

  12. Posted by Chalmer on July 5, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    I did not call you arrogant, dishonest, and unreasonable. I said your conduct was arrogant, dishonest, and unreasonable. A single act doesn’t define an individual’s character.

    I do want to be presented with the facts. That was my whole point! Your not presenting facts, though. Your presenting fallacies and unsupported accusations. I want facts, I’m asking you for facts, and for reasons, that aren’t laden false accusal’s.

    I have read the material you referenced, and then some. I want to address the issues Behe brings up, but you haven’t brought them up. I know Behe’s work, so lets discuss it. Forget this stuff about scientific conspiracy, and the psychology of the scientific community, and lets talk about the science. Stop presuming that I have dismissed objections based on convention and lack of research. I have seen your objections, and I have researched them extensively. I routinely address these objections becuase it challenges me to understand the science more completely.

    I have looked into more objections than I care to mention, and I have never found any reason to think they discredit evolution. I have studied evolution extensively and have every reason to believe it. Nearly every objection I hear is usually born from disinformation, misunderstanding, and lack of research.

    Your right that it is not found in cells, but it demonstrates that self-sufficient chemistry is possible.

    I’m sorry if I offended you, but its extremely frustrating when I am seriously considering someones evidence against evolution, and in the midst of it I have to try and filter our things like “Many scientists believe it because this is what they were taught, and they do not really investigate to find that they have been duped.” Its an irrational and irrelevant, you don;t offer a shred of evidence, and in my experience its false. Believe it or not, I found your post just as insulting as you did mine.

  13. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 5, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Oh, one last thing before I go. I know you will probably argue that the amino adenosine triacid ester molecules don’t have to be in cells because they were pre-cellular. I would think, however that if they were somehow involved in per-cellular evolution that they would be found in cells as well. As I said, I will have to look into this more.

    Also, one more book for you to read: “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” by Michael Denton. Dr. Denton is not a theist and niether is Dr. Behe, the author of “Darwins’ Black Box” menitoned above. I don’t know about Jonathan Wells. However, I find it interesting that some of the most convicning arguments for me come from non-theists.

    Bye.

  14. Posted by freelunch on July 6, 2008 at 12:14 am

    A friend of mine was denied his Ph.D. because it bacame known in his department that he questioned the evolutionary paradigm.

    I don’t believe you.

  15. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 6, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Chalmer- I guess we posted at about the same time. I didn’t see your post until after I posted mine. You focus on the place where I said,”Many scientists believe it because this is what they were taught, and they do not really investigate to find that they have been duped.” I don’t have time at the moment to respond with all the reasons that I said that. I have errands right now and will have to get back to you next week. It is, however, the way I felt when I realized that everything that I had been taught could not be true. I felt duped.

    I accept your apology. I apologize as well. I was not trying to be offensive, but there are reasons that I feel that I was duped and that others are being duped now. If, after you read my reasons later, you feel that the use of the word “duped” was incorrect, let me know what you think would have been a better way to word it.

    As for Freelunch- sorry, can’t help you if you don’t believe it. It happened at Arizona State University many years ago, in the 1980’s. My friend is deceased now. He had Cystic Fibrosis and died from complications of a heart/lung transplant that he had to try to cure the disease. I don’t think anything I say will convince you, but this is a part of the reason that I feel the way I feel. I was only trying to show that some of my opinions are based on personal observation and experience. Don’t we all do that?

  16. […] 7, 2008 The mini-debate on biochemistry that’s been going on in the comments of one of my older posts just keeps reminding me of […]

  17. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 8, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I felt that I was duped in my early studies in biology in part because of because of the statistical analysis of the probability of even a “simple” polymer of the kind found in cells coming into existence and being perfectly matched with all the other polymers to do the jobs required in a cell. I mentioned this above, but will mention it again. For example, there are 20 proteins which are used in cells to make proteins. There are actually many more kinds of amino acids out there, but proteins are limited to just 20 of them. As I mentioned before, there are L- and D- isomers (left- and right- handed molecules, if you will. It is the difference in the configuration of the atoms and the direction that they turn polarized light), doubling the number of possibilities for the particular amino acid placed in a given location in the protein. If there was a solution of just the 20 amino acids used in living organisms (this is stacking the deck in favor of producing a particular functional protein) with both the L- and D- isomers, the odds for a specific amino acid in the first position would be 1/40 or 0.025. (Remember that proteins have to have the amino acids in a particular order, and have no more and no less than the number required to be functional.) The odds of the specific amino acid in the second position is also 1 in 40, but the odds of both amino acids being the required ones to begin the formation of a functional protein is
    0.025 time 0.025 or 6.25 x 10 ^ -4 or 0.000625. (The carat indicate that the number that follows in an exponent) For three amino acids in this solution to be the correct ones necessary the odds are 1.5625 x10^ -5. For fifty of the amino acids to come together and form a polymer in the correct order the odds are 7.89 x 10 ^ -81. This is infinitesimally small. So, how many amino acids do proteins have? Well, it varies, but a small protein has only about 100 amino acids, others have thousands. My scientific calculator can not calculate the precise probability of even a small 100 amino acid protein coming into existence because the number is too small. It just gives me an answer of 0. Remember that I said above that anything with a probability of less than 1 in 10 ^50 is considered to be statistically impossible. Statistically the probability of most of the polymers required for life is impossible.

    The mammalian genome has approximately 3 x 10^ 9 DNA base pairs. These must be in an almost exact order. There is some slight variation, but not a lot. Other organisms have less, but we are still talking about many millions of base pairs. Not only do the proteins have to have amino acids in a particular order to be functional, they also must be able to work in concert with the particular DNA, RNA and the other proteins in the cell. I believe Behe’s idea of irreducible complexity is valid. And Chalmer, you claim that,” All the evidence that (Behe) posed has been refuted…”, but I notice that you offer no evidence for that. There may be a controversy over it, but as far as I know it has not been disproved.
    The odds of all this happening by random interactions of molecules in some “primordial soup” or even developing over billions of years through natural selection is nil. The numbers, if one were able to do a statistical analysis, would be so enormous as to be really beyond our comprehension.

    Then I came to the realization that a lot of what is taught is just pure speculation. In “Molecular Biology of the Cell” by Bruce Alberts and his colleagues, a graduate level textbook, it says, “Clearly there are dangers in introducing the cell through its evolution: the large gaps in our knowledge can be filled only by speculation that are liable to be wrong in many details. We can not go back in time to witness the unique molecular events that took place billions of years ago.” Who is Bruce Alberts, by the way? He is the president of the National Academy of Science and recognized for his work in biochemistry and molecular biology. There you have it : a lot of this is just speculation, not the hard science that I was led to believe.

    Then I started realizing that there were a lot of other “happy coincidences”, as Dr. Jay Wile calls them, in this universe that had to have happened before life on Earth could have begun. For example protons, neutrons and electrons have to be of an exact weight or there could not even be formation of atoms and molecules in the first place. These have a very narrow range that would work for an atom to be able to form and form chemical bonds with other atoms. The electrical charges must be within a very narrow precise range, as well. The major forces in the universe, such as gravity, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force must also be very close to what they are. The planet on which life forms must orbit a star of a size close to our sun and at a particular distance. The chemical composition of the planet and the atmosphere must be within a narrow range, with enough carbon, oxygen, nitrogen available, with no strong toxins to kill the cells and with protective measures like the ozone on our atmosphere to protect from UV radiation and a magnetic field to protect the cells from cosmic radiation. The planet must be of a mass close to that of Earth. The tilt of the planet towards the star it orbits must be close to that of Earth or the temperatures would be too extreme for life. The list goes on, but I think you get the point. The odds of a planet like this coming into being are also infinitesimal. Sir Frederick Hoyle, a noted English astrophysicist, said, “ A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” (Quoted in “Reasonable Faith” by Dr. Jay Wile.) I came to agree with him. It takes more faith to believe that the world we know just happened through random processes than to believe that there is an intelligence that guided the process. If that is your belief, then fine. Just understand that it is as much a religion as any other.
    I also have seen text books use outdated information. A high school biology book that I saw a few years ago had pictures of Haeckel’s embryos in it with a caption that implied the “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” hypothesis is true. I looked up the Haeckel’s embryos in a biology book copyrighted in 1972, “Biological Science”, second edition, by William Keeton, which says, “Ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny in any strict or literal sense. An individual’s developmental stages do not correspond to its successive adult ancestors. A mammalian embryo never develops into a fish or an amphibian, and it doesn’t even come close to doing so.” Haeckel’s drawing of embryos had been disproved years ago (in fact Haeckel faked some of the drawings) , but here it was in a modern high school biology book which implied that it was true.

    I also saw in the “National Geographic” a few years back an article about some ostensibly human bones which were said to be among the oldest known. These bones were purportedly from a child. The drawing accompanying the article, however, looked for all the world to me to be an orangutan. I read more to find out how they had determined that these bones were human. The article said that they were human because of he shape of the hips. So I went to the page where the picture of the bones was and lo and behold, no hips. They had most of the other bones, but no femur and no pelvis. ( The hips are formed by the head of the femur fitting into the acetabulum of the pelvis) Now how do they determine that it is human by the hips if they have no hips? This seemed dishonest to me.

    Niles Eldridge, curator of he American Museum of Natural History has admitted that his own museum has an inaccurate display. He writes, “I admit that an awful lot of that has gotten into the textbooks as though it were true. For instance, the most famous example still on exhibit downstairs [in his own museum-my note] is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps 50 years ago. That has been presented as the literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that that is lamentable…” (From “Darwin’s Enigma :Fossils and Other Problems”, 1988) If he thinks it is so lamentable, why in the world does he leave this exhibit up?

    The Miller-Urey experiment is another one. It is depicted in The Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts and company, mentioned above and in the biology book my daughter just used for her college biology class, “Biology: Concepts and Connections” by Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reece, Martha R. Taylor and Eric J. Simon (Fifth edition, Pearson Education, Inc. /Benjamin Cummings, 2006) At least in my daughter’s biology book, they are honest enough to say that “Scientists now think that the composition of the atmosphere of the early Earth was somewhat different from what Miller assumed in his historic first experiment.” and that “Controversy exists over whether the atmosphere contained enough H4 and NH3 to be reducing.” However, this is buried in the text, while the picture is still prominently displayed and the text spends more time on the experiment itself and what it produced before finally saying that the assumptions were incorrect,.leaving the impression that the Miller_Urey experiment is correct. In “Icons of Evolution” Jonathan Wells notes that the Miller-Urey experiment scenario would not have not worked on the early Earth anyway. Ammonia absorbs Ultraviolet light and would have been rapidly destroyed. If large amounts of methane had been present in the primitive atmosphere , “the earliest rocks would have contained a high proportion of organic molecules, and this is not the case.” Geochemists now believe that there was a significant amount of oxygen in the primitive atmosphere as well. Had there been oxygen in the flask when Stanley Miller pushed the button to send the spark through the mixture, it might have been his last act. There would have been a tremendous explosion. There is no evidence for the methane-ammonia atmosphere on primitive Earth as hypothesized by Miller and Urey, yet it is still depicted in modern biology books. Wells also discusses Haeckel’s embryos, structural homology, Darwin’s tree of life, peppered moths, Darwin’s finches, etc. and shows how they are misused in biology texts.
    If you don’t think it is duping people to have museum exhibits that the curator admits are false, to call a set of bones human because of the hips when you have no hips, to use Haeckel’s embryos in modern textbooks, when it has been disproved, and to use the Miller-Urey experiment to bolster the argument that life could have come from non-life when it is known that it could not have happened that way, I don’t know what is.

    There are many assumptions in science experiments, such as the composition of the early Earth atmosphere in the Miller-Urey experiment, that we are often never told about. Science is full of assumptions. Some are correct, some are not, some we don’t know about. Scientists are human and interject their biases and assumptions into their work. Evolutionary scientists start with the assumption that only the natural world is at work. They preclude any possibility of the metaphysical. This has seemed odd to me, because quantum physics has made interesting pronouncements that sound more metaphysical than physical to me. No bats and eye when they speak of electrons that spin two directions at once or move form one place to another without occupying any space in between, or of eleven dimensions, five or six of which are “compactified”, whatever that means. No one seems concerned that physicists are not even sure what most of the universe is made of. They call the mysterious substance which they say makes up most of the universe, “dark matter”. Worm holes and other dimensions, curvature in time and space -none of that stuff bothers anyone, but mention the possibility of something outside the physical when it come to evolution and you will be derided as an imbecile by the likes of Richard Dawkins. In general I have found the attitude of the evolutionists to be condescending and derisive. Even on this page, it says that my writings are “characteristic of another person brainwashed by Expelled”, which is pretty inflammatory. In fact, I wrote that editorial to the L.A. Times before I had seen the movie, but that didn’t stop anyone from jumping to conclusions.

    I also feel that some of the data is extrapolated way too far, as when adaptation is used to bolster the argument for macro-evolution. Extrapolation of data is o.k. to do, to a point, but if one tries to extrapolate the data too far, there is likely to be error introduced.

    I also see that “freelunch” says he doesn’t believe me when I said my friend had been denied his Ph.D. , essentially saying that he thinks I am lying. On what basis does he disbelieve me? What does he know about me? He seems to be rejecting evidence out-of-hand because I am not an evolutionist. What about Dr. Jay Wile who says that he was ridiculed after he became a Christian, first as a graduate student, then by his colleagues after he became a professor. (See “Reasonable Faith” by Dr. Jay Wile) Is he lying, too? What about those who were in the movie “Expelled” and said they were discriminated against because they questioned evolution. Are they all liars, too?

    I fully realize that this is an emotional issue on both sides of the controversy. It is sometimes difficult to separate fact from emotional appeals, or to know if evidence has been misused, or if some inconvenient evidence omitted. Whichever side of the controversy that you are on, though, you are taking things on faith. You have to have faith in the people who perform the experiments, that their speculations and assumptions are correct, their equipment measured it correctly, they recorded it correctly, they had no biases that they inserted in some way, etc. We can’t perform all the experiments ourselves, so we have to look to those in authority to find out more about the subject. Ultimately, whatever you believe is by faith.
    Biology is a “soft” science though, unlike, say engineering and things are not always as cut and dried as the textbooks might have you to believe. A sign in a microbiology lab at Oregon State University, when I was a student there, said, “ Given the strictest control of temperature, nutrient density, oxygen tension, sand waste removal , the bacteria will do as it damn well pleases.” Living organisms don’t read the books. They do as they please and it is not always predictable.
    One could have a flask full of cells, rip open the cell membranes of all the cells, thus killing them and have all the chemicals necessary for life in a flask. Ask yourself, how long will it take for that flask to have another living organism develop in it from those chemicals, even given ideal conditions? I would say ,“never”. We’ve never seen it happen, and though there is a lot of speculation that it did somehow happen on a primitive Earth, I just don’t have the faith to be an evolutionist. As long as you have the faith to be an evolutionist, go ahead. It doesn’t bother me if that is your faith that random processes can create the universe and life on this planet. When I look at the numbers, though, it is just too much faith for me to have. Just let those of us who have another faith alone, without the ridicule and discrimination, and allow us to speak up without retribution.. That’s all we ask.
    I would like to write more, but this is already too long and taking up too much time. I have a lot of other things I need to get done, like preparing for the biology class that I’m teaching this fall.
    Later.

  18. Elaine, it’s not that I don’t enjoy getting your essays in the comments of my blog but a few things:

    1. Controversies over details like which specific chemicals were prominent in primordial Earth do not indicate that it’s impossible that organic molecules could have formed. And yes, scientists make mistakes. Inaccuracies are exposed. But none of these inaccuracies show that evolution is impossible.

    2. The whole business about base pairs, amino acids and proteins has already been addressed. It doesn’t have to be 100% exact for the organism to survive.

    3. We may have to have faith that the people doing the experiments aren’t fudging data, but the beauty of science is they tell us their methods so that we can replicate the experiment to see for ourselves. If you do lie about your data, that is a reason to be black-balled by the scientific community so most scientists are smart enough not to do it. At least we’re actually doing experiments and your folk are just reading books that are thousands of years out of date.

    4. On the topic of being inflammed by my suggestion that you had been “brainwashed by Expelled propaganda,” that is not a personal attack. If it were a personal attack, it would be aimed at the makers of Expelled for spreading disinformation. Either way, even though ad hominem attacks aren’t looked highly upon, it’s not like we don’t have the right to offend people.

    5. The burden of proof rests on you that the only reason your friend was denied their PhD was because of their personal beliefs and not because they were simply incompetent.

  19. Posted by rdthrawn on July 9, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Elles doesn’t do personal attacks when debating people. That’s my job. I throw in logic to make things interesting. Nice discourse, though.

  20. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 9, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    In “Icons of Evolution:Science or Myth” by Jonathan Wells the material cited is mostly form the 1990’s and some from 2000, the year the book was first published. Not exactly thousands of years old.

    Other books that I mentioned also refer to some pretty recent discoverys. Again, please read the books. The information is not old and outdated. They make the particular point that the most RECENT evidence contradicts the old hypotheses.

  21. I read that book (Icons of Evolution). It’s inaccurate. For one thing, evidence for the tree of life is found in molecular evidence (analyzing genomes and the like). I personally searched every Biology textbook I could get my hands on for Haeckle’s Embryos and found no references to it. References to embryology (which does give evidence for evolution), yes. Nothing about his acknowledged scientific fraud.

    If you want evidence, do go to any natural history museum. There are many transitional fossils. Talk to any serious biologist at any serious university. They’ll tell you that evolution is a fact and they’ll tell you why. Read any book about evolution that’s not creationist literature. Some names which I’d recommend to you are Kenneth Miller, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Jay Gould.

  22. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 9, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    The biology book which I quoted above, by the way, was printed in 2006 and is in current use in college biology classes. It IS an evolutionary textbook, and so is the molecular biology text by Bruce Alberts and company. It is in the evolutionary textbooks that I have found confirmation of some of what Jonathan Wells says. The biology book my daughter used just this past year is where I found confirmation that the Miller-Urey experiment is incorrect. The molecular biology book by Bruce Alberts and company says that much of what is said is speculation. And evolutionary biologists have admitted that Haeckel’s embryos, which are not used a lot in texts today and why I was surprised to find a reference to it in the high school biology book, and the peppered moths, which have been used in biology books in the past, were faked. I quoted a museum curator who admitted to having an outdated display in his own museum. When the evolutionists admit to having used faked and outdated information, and that much of what they teach is speculation, why should I believe them on anything else? I do have and read current biology texts. I just don’t swallow it hook, line and sinker.

  23. Is it impossible for organic molecules to form even if it got small details like those wrong? Even if organic molecules couldn’t form on the Earth, we’ve found organic molecules everywhere in space from gas clouds in deep space to comet tails.

    And I don’t appreciate your suggestion that evolutionists swallow it “hook, line and sinker” because I remember being rather sceptical of the theory. That’s why I spent so much time reading books about evolution and talking with serious biologists.

    Museum exhibits are out of date sometimes. I volunteer in a museum so I’ve noticed this stuff. For example, one exhibit says that we haven’t found definitive evidence that there was water on Mars. But science is always changing and the rovers Spirit and Opportunity found structures in Mars rocks that could only have formed in water so that is a bit out of date. However, those are little details. Just because there’s evidence for water on Mars that we didn’t know about before does not mean that the Solar Nebular Theory is wrong.

    There is some speculation in evolution, but it’s not over whether or not it actually happens. There is some speculation over whether natural selection is more important than other types of selection, over contingent history, all stuff that you can read about in books about evolution. There is, however, no speculation over whether or not evolution happens.

  24. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 14, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I only said that I did not swallow it hook, line and sinker. I said nothing about what your or anyone else did. I’m sorry if it offended you, but if you were once skeptical, are you now? No one, not creationists or evolutionists have a lock on truth. It seems that you are very skeptical of non-evolutionary hypotheses. But if an evolutionist says it, does that make it true? Keep being skeptical. Verify, verify, verify.
    And remember, you were the one who said above, “ it’s not like we don’t have the right to offend people.” Does it just depend on who’s being offended, or does everyone have that right? I also note that you offer no evidence that the “Icons of Evolution” book is incorrect, just the vague generalization that it is incorrect. What is the evidence? I understand that some of these things are controversial, but that is not the same as disproving anything.

    I have tried to relay why I became skeptical of the evolutionist’s claims in the discourse above, in part because I was charged with having been “brainwashed” by “Expelled”, which as I pointed out, I had not even seen yet. I tried to show that some of my earlier experiences and encounters changed what I thought, from my friend who was denied his Ph.D. because of his beliefs (whether you believe me or not is of no consequence- it is just a part of my experience and what helped changed me) to discovering the changes in the teachings. It was because of my friend being denied his Ph.D. that I started to realize that the reason that “credible” scientists believe evolution is that they could not receive their Ph.D., which makes them “credible” in the science community, unless they believe evolution. Otherwise they have to come to the conclusion that evolution is not true after they receive the Ph.D., and even then, I understand that there is considerable pressure put on researchers and professors to toe the line or they won’t get the research grants, be allowed to teach, etc.

    I remember being taught about Haeckel’s embryos, the pepper moths, the Miller-Urey experiment, evolution of horses, etc., which now shown to be falsified, incorrect, or disputed. At the time they were touted as huge evidences for evolution. Funny, no one ever mentioned the controversies going on even then. The books and professors conveniently left that out, and I did not find out until years later all the controversies raging behind the scenes. There are things today, like the molecular evidence for the “tree of life” over which I understand there is still quite a bit of disagreement. Certainly the assumptions made in calculating the “molecular clock” are disputed and the attempts to date evolutionary branches with “molecular clocks” have resulted in widely different dates given by different researchers. I don’t think that it is all as cut and dried as the text books, profs and museum curators would have us believe. It is all based on assumptions, conjecture and speculation. Notice how many times, if you read very carefully, a biology text book will use indefinite phrases like “ might have”, “could have”, possibly”, or even “we can imagine”. In other words, it is stuff that they just make up. Who knows if it has any relation to reality at all.

    As for museums being out-of-date sometimes, this one was particularly notable because Niles Eldridge said the exhibit on horse evolution had been up far about 50 years and he was lamenting how people still believe this stuff is true! This was not just a minor error or something where a recent discovery changed it. It had been around quite a while and the evidence that it was not true has been around a while too. As I noted above, if this was so lamentable, why didn’t he change the exhibit as soon as it became known that the exhibit was wrong?

    The Cambrian explosion also raised a good number of questions concerning evolution that we don’t often hear about. Here is a link to an article that discusses some of the controversies.

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?id=119

    Also, remember how much money, grants, etc. the scientists stand to lose if evolution is not true. There are billions of dollars and many careers on the line if evolution is not true. Many of the scientists have spent most of their careers doing research and teaching classes based on the assumption that evolution is true. Do you think that they want to say that everything that they have done and taught over the span of their careers is false? I doubt it. There is also a lot of grant money, publishing rights, their status and reputations at stake. There is a huge industry built up on the foundation of Darwin’s evolutionary hypothesis, and a lot of dollars down the drain if they admit it was not true. There are more indications of discrimination in favor of protecting Darwinism, even at the expense of academic freedom and encouraging critical thinking in students. Here is an article about one such instance. Notice the comments by Dr. William Provine of Cornell University in which he clearly states that evolutionary biology teaches atheism.

    http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/FloydandMaryBethBrown/2008/07/05/evolutionists_fear_academic_freedom

    In the end, there is a philosophical divide between those who refuse to allow for the possibility of anything but naturalism and those who will consider that possibility and that is what this all comes down to. Which philosophical lens do you view the evidence through? If you start with the assumption that there can be nothing supernatural, then you wind up with Darwinism, which is essentially atheism. If you start with allowing for the possibility of the supernatural, you will probably wind up considering that there was an intelligence which was involved in the creation of life on this planet. Either way, it is religion, and we should not favor one religion over another in our public schools. Right now the religion of atheism is the favored religion.

  25. “I also note that you offer no evidence that the “Icons of Evolution” book is incorrect, just the vague generalization that it is incorrect. What is the evidence? I understand that some of these things are controversial, but that is not the same as disproving anything.”

    I pointed out that the biology textbooks I looked through had nothing on Haeckle’s embryos, that he ignored a lot of molecular evidence, or would you like page-by-page commentary instead?

    The Miller-Urey experiment isn’t in anyway thought of as a scientific dogma of how the origin of life happened. Scientists try different combinations of gasses all the time. They try different energy sources. They see what they can do to speed up the process so that they aren’t sitting around for the millions of years it originally took to happen. Most of the time they get a nice brown goo rich in amino acids. The ingredients are quite simple. A source of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen.

    Again, how are you sure that your friend’s PhD was denied to him not because he was simply incompetent but because he did not accept evolution?

    Science is simply not cut and dried. If your teachers have given you that impression, then I would say they didn’t do a very good job of science education. Certainly there are differences of opinion when it comes to stuff dated by the “molecular clock” and as it gets further back these dates get more and more uncertain, but dating things by molecular clock is still rather new so one oughtn’t be surprised that it still has a few kinks to work out. Besides, it’s not like they’re dating the common ancestor of humans and rabbits to have been in the Cambrian.

    “Notice how many times, if you read very carefully, a biology text book will use indefinite phrases like “ might have”, “could have”, possibly”, or even “we can imagine”. In other words, it is stuff that they just make up.”

    As has been said before, science isn’t cut and dried. Things are always changing. When there isn’t enough evidence yet to be sure about a certain thing they don’t just postulate something which science hasn’t shown the existence of and would be harder to prove (i.e. God, aliens, Niburu) and sit down (that would be making stuff up), they keep going. They make educated guesses and keep testing these guesses. If they stand up to the evidence, then you get to have a theory.

    Either way, they’re not saying “life on Earth MIGHT have evolved.” Life on Earth did evolve. We can see that with molecular evidence. We can see that just by looking at the fossil record. The fact that life on Earth evolved is accepted by the vast, vast, vast majority of serious scientists with a few exceptions. The “might haves” come in with a few uncertain details.

    Explosion in the scientific sense means “sudden and great diversity of life”. Sudden doesn’t mean POOF! Trilobite! POOF! Opabinia! Sudden means sudden in terms of geological time.

    The Earth is old. Really old. Seriously, you have no idea how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly old Earth is. I mean, you may think it’s a long walk down to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to the age of the Earth!

    Excuse my rip-off of the Douglas Adams quote.

    When we say “sudden and great diversity of life” we mean “a great diversity of life appears in the space of six million years.”

    Have you any idea how much money you can get by appealing to religious people? That’s why you have millions of dollars going to the Discovery Institute, the Templeton Foundation… Hell, scientists could live well off of finding evidence for Intelligent Design. The money donated to secular organizations pales in comparison.

    Those are William B. Provine’s personal views. I know of many evolutionists who are not Atheists. Kenneth Miller, for example. Certainly, if you’re looking for evidence of God you’re not going to be holding up evolution, but evolution mostly disproves the literal account of Genesis at best. Then again, so would Intelligent Design if it were a testable verifiable valid scientific theory which until then is just a hypothesis.

    “If you start with the assumption that there can be nothing supernatural…”

    Which I don’t. I just start with the assumption that anything which is supernatural that can affect the natural world in any way will leave evidence. If there is something which is supernatural but it doesn’t leave evidence, then it probably does not affect the natural world in any way and is really not worth believing it.

    Until there is quite a bit of evidence for the supernatural then I’ll keep my razor of Occam nice and sharp.

  26. Posted by Elaine Fleeman on July 19, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I don’t believe that Jonathan Wells is overlooking molecular evidence. He quotes other scientists who agree with him that the phylogenetic tree is more confused by the molecular data, so at a minimum he has company in his view. He quotes University of California molecular biologists James Lake, Ravi Jain, and Maria Rivera as saying in 1999, “ when scientists started analyzing a variety of genes from different organisms and found that their relationship to each other contradicted the evolutionary tree of life derived from rRNA analysis alone.” And French biologists Herve Phillippe and Patrick Forterre as saying“ with more and more sequences available, it turns out that most protein phylogenies contradict each other as well as the rRNA tree.” (Pgs. 49-50) Wells then says that ,“different molecules lead to different phylogenetic trees.”, and quotes University of Illinois biologist Carl Woese as saying, “No consistent organismal phylogeny has emerged from the many individual protein phylogenies so far produced. Phylogenetic incongruities can be seen everywhere in the universal tree, from its root to the major branchings within and among the various [groups] to the makeup of the primary groupings themselves.”

    He also notes , for example, the lack of correspondence between genes and structures – that is non-homologous structures arising from identical genes and homologous structures from different genes. Michael Denton, a non-theist by the way, confirms this in his book “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” (Adler and Adler, Publisher, Inc., 1985). Denton says on page 149, “ The evolutionary basis of homology is perhaps even more seriously damaged by the discovery that apparently homologous structures are specified by quite different genes in different species.” On page 151 Denton says, “ A convincing explanation for the mystifying ‘unity of type’, the phenomenon of homology that Darwin thought he had so adequately explained by descent from a common ancestor, is probably still a very long way away. With the demise of any sort of straightforward explanation for homology one of the major pillars of evolutionary theory has become so weakened that its value as evidence for evolution is greatly diminished. The breakdown of the evolutionary interpretation for homology cannot be dismissed as a triviality and casually put aside as a curiosity for, as Sir Alister Hardy reminds us in his book “The Living Stream” : “ The concept of homology is absolutely fundamental to what we are talking about when we speak of evolution – yet in truth we cannot explain it at all in terms of present day biological theory.”

    Denton also notes on page 148 that “ ‘homology’ cannot be traced back to similar embryonic processes and events.

    We could argue the data ad nauseam, though and just go around in circles. The larger point to me is that, even if you don’t believe that evolution necessarily leads to atheism, it is a philosophy, not science. Certainly many prominent scientists such as Richard Dawkins, and William Provine have argued that the conclusion one should reach form Darwinism is atheism and I think that many students get this message from their teachers and books as well. I think that many have been led into atheism or at least agnosticism because of the evolutionary teachings in most textbooks and classrooms today.

    In addition, Darwinists have claimed that evolution is a “fact”. They often tolerate no doubt on the subject at all. Richard Dawkins, for instance, in his book, “The Selfish Gene” (Oxford University Press, 1976), says on page 1 that “The theory is about as much in doubt as the earth goes around the sun.”

    Michael Denton, again in “Evolution: a Theory in Crisis” on page 75, says in response to those such as Dawkins and Huxley who claim that Darwinism is a fact “Now of course such claims are simply nonsense. For Darwin”s model of evolution is still very much a theory and still very much in doubt when it comes to macroevolutionary phenomena. Furthermore, being basically a theory of historical reconstruction, it is impossible to verify by experiment or direct observation as is normal in science. Recently the philosophical status of evolutionary claims has been the subject of considerable debate. Philosophers such as Sir Karl Popper have raised doubts as to whether evolutionary claims, by their very nature incapable of falsification, can properly be classed as truly scientific hypotheses. Moreover, the theory of evolution deals with a series of unique events, the origin of life, the origin of intelligence and so on. Unique events are unrepeatable and cannot be subjected to any sort of experimental investigation. Such events, whether they be the origin of the universe or the origin of life, may be the subject of much fascination and controversial speculation, but their causation can, strictly speaking, never be subject to scientific validation.”

    Evolution is taught exclusively in most public schools and it is often taught as a fact, not a philosophy or even an hypothesis. In the Townhall article above, it appears that The New York Times feels that it would be very threatening for students to be allowed to think critically, have open discussions and evaluate any other possibility other that Darwinism in public schools. I object to my tax dollars being used to indoctrinate students into Darwinism without even allowing them to consider what other scientists think. It is an abrogation of the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and should not be supported by public money. The Discovery Institute at least is not taking tax dollars to disseminate it’s beliefs. Tax money is acquired by the government through coercive means. You go to prison if you don’t pay taxes. If evolutionists want to disseminate their views through donations, that’s fine with me. Using coerced tax dollars to indoctrinate naive school children in a philosophy which is antithetical to many Americans and disguising it as science is outrageous. At least the Discovery Institutes does not have its hand in your pocket.

    Occam’s razor, by the way, is also a philosophical argument , so you are trying to make a scientific case using philosophy. It is a generalization and may or may not be applicable to a specific situation

    As for my friend, and I hope this puts this to rest at long last, he said that his scholarship was not questioned. Usually only those who are required to come to a doctoral dissertation will come, but apparently , after his views became known in the department, nearly everyone in the department came and questioned him on his views on evolution. They were apparently not very concerned about the subject of his doctoral dissertation. I understand that most of the questions were about his views on evolution. If he were still alive, I would contact him and ask for more information, but of course, that is not possible. He was a very honest and upright man and I have no reason to doubt what he said.

    As for Haeckle’s embryos, I said that I was surprised to see them used in a newer textbook because most science book publishers are smart enough not use them anymore. They have certainly been used a lot in the past, however.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: