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Darwin himself insisted that “nothing can be effected” by natural selection “unless favorable variations occur.” Or as Swedish evolutionary biologist Soren Lovtrup succinctly explains: “Without variation, no selection; without selection, no evolution. This assertion is based on logic of the simplest kind….Selection pressure as an evolutionary agent becomes void of sense unless the availability of the proper mutations is assumed.” Yet the “proper” kinds of mutations—the mutations that produce favorable changes to early-acting, body-plan-shaping, regulatory genes—do not occur.

Microevolutionary change is insufficient; macromutations—large-scale changes—are harmful. This paradox has beset Darwinism from its inception, but discoveries about the genetic regulation of development in animals have made this paradox more acute and cast serious doubt on the efficacy of the modern neo-Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for the new body plans that arise in the Cambrian period. (264)

Stephen C. Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt

"Yet the ‘proper’ kinds of mutations—the mutations that produce favorable changes to early-acting, body-plan-shaping, regulatory genes—do not occur.

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posted 4 / 19 / 2014
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Richard Dawkins has noted that scientific theories can rely on only so much “luck” before they cease to be credible. But the second [neo-Darwinian] scenario, involving gene duplication and neutral evolution, by its own logic, precludes natural selection from playing a role in generating genetic information until after the fact. Thus, it relies entirely on “too much luck.” The sensitivity of proteins to functional loss, the rarity of proteins within combinatorial sequence space, the need for long proteins to build new cell types and animals, the need for whole new systems of proteins to service new cell types, and the brevity of the Cambrian explosion relative to rates of mutation—all conspire to underscore the immense implausibility of any scenario for the origins of Cambrian genetic information that relies upon random variation alone, unassisted by natural selection. […] On the other hand, any model for the origin of genetic information that envisions a significant role for natural selection, by assuming a preexisting gene or protein under selective pressure, encounters other equally intractable difficulties. […] Indeed, our growing knowledge about the rarity and isolation of proteins and functional genes in sequence space implies that neither neo-Darwinian scenario for producing new genes is at all plausible. Thus, neo-Darwinism does not explain the Cambrian information explosion. (206-8)
Stephen C. Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt
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posted 4 / 15 / 2014
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My point in summarizing these disputes [in the scientific literature] is simply to note that the molecular and anatomical data commonly disagree, that one can find partisans on every side, that the debate is persistent and ongoing, and that, therefore, the statements of Dawkins, Coyne, and many others about all the evidence (molecular and anatomical) supporting a single unambiguous animal tree are manifestly false. (124)

Stephen C. Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt

I haven’t made up my mind yet on this issue—there are so many angles!—but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the mainstream scientific establishment’s public-facing unified front on evolution is very cracked underneath all the public pronouncements of “there is no controversy.” It smacks of the global warmism movement.

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posted 4 / 9 / 2014
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Attempts to infer a consistent picture of the history of animal life based on analyzing the anatomical characteristics of different animals have also proven problematic. In the first place, there is a general and long-standing problem with attempts to infer the evolutionary history of the animal phyla from similar anatomical traits. At the level of the phyla—that is, when one compares the phyla to each other and tries to determine their branching order—the number of shared anatomical characteristics available for inferring evolutionary relationships drops off quite dramatically. There is an obvious reason for this. For example, an anatomical character such as the “leg”, that is useful for diagnosing and comparing arthropods, which possess legs, proves useless for making comparisons between (for example) brachiopods or bryozoans, which do not. In the same way, basic structural features of human-designed systems, such as the distinctive submarine “trait” of an encapsulating watertight hull, might help to distinguish it from a cruise ship, which is only watertight on its underside. But this “trait” would be irrelevant for comparing and classifying, say, suspension bridges, motorcycles, or flat-screen televisions. In a similar manner, biologists find that there are only a handful of highly abstract characters, such as radial versus bilateral body symmetry, the number of fundamental tissue layers (triploblasty, three layers, versus diploblasty, two layers), or the type of body cavity present (true coelom, pseudocoelom, or no coelom), available for morphological comparisons of the many diverse animal forms. Yet evolutionary biologists have often disputed the validity of these rather abstract traits as guides to evolutionary history. (125-6)

Stephen C. Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt

Fascinating stuff.

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posted 4 / 9 / 2014
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In his presentation, [Chinese paleontologist J. Y. Chen] highlighted the apparent contradiction between the Chinese fossil evidence and Darwinian orthodoxy. As a result, one professor in the audience asked Chen, almost as if in warning, if he wasn’t nervous about expressing his doubts about Darwinism so freely—especially given China’s reputation for suppressing dissenting opinion. I remember Chen’s wry smile as he answered. “In China,” he said, “we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

Stephen C. Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (52)

This book has been very fascinating thus far.

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posted 3 / 26 / 2014
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hilker:

"Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications…assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations.
And if humans are the cause of only, say, 50% of the warming (e.g. our published paper), then there is even less reason to force expensive and prosperity-destroying energy policies down our throats.
I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good.
Yet, that is the direction we are heading.”
(via 95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong | Watts Up With That?)

hilker:

"Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications…assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations.

And if humans are the cause of only, say, 50% of the warming (e.g. our published paper), then there is even less reason to force expensive and prosperity-destroying energy policies down our throats.

I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good.

Yet, that is the direction we are heading.”

(via 95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong | Watts Up With That?)

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posted 2 / 11 / 2014
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Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man--The Central Worldview Clash of the Ham-Nye Debate
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posted 2 / 10 / 2014
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Software for Sex by Richard W. Stevens

A fascinating article about how the sheer volume and complexity of the information (“software”) contained in DNA is even more difficult for Darwinian evolution to explain than the physical adaptive changes between species.

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posted 9 / 20 / 2013
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Sam Harris and Scientism

The pursuit of knowledge about the universe is definitionally integral to science (you can look it up!), and you are simply not a scientist if you don’t embrace the assumption that the universe is intelligible to reasoned, evidence-based investigation. But the aim of “avoiding the worst possible misery for everyone” is not definitionally integral to morality; it is one possible definition of the good that morality pursues. And, once again, the scientific method cannot settle the question of whether that definition is correct.

I have no problem, and nor should anyone, with Harris declaring that he favors a particular moral system, defining its terms to the best of his ability, and then explaining why he thinks scientific inquiry can help us maximize the end that system privileges. If you know what moral ends you’re driving at, then clearly science can be of assistance in your quest; the idea that the two spheres of inquiry never overlap is obscurantist and silly. But he would be much more persuasive on that narrower point if gave up on the broader one, and reconciled himself to the fact that his style of utilitarianism is not the self-evident and scientific foundation for all sensible moral inquiry that he believes it to be.

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posted 9 / 6 / 2013
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To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

Steven Pinker - “Science Is Not Your Enemy”

This paragraph is a pitch-perfect example of assuming what you are trying to prove.

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posted 9 / 5 / 2013
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Now this scientific racism (in which Darwin fully participated) got all tied up with the eugenics craze, as well as tied up with the increasingly accepted theory of evolution, and lots of scientific, chin-stroking words like biogeography. In the Introduction to The Descent of Man, Darwin said that one of the three goals of his book was to show “the value of the differences between the so-called races of man.” He needed that as part of his argument.

This was before eugenics and the rest of all this foolishness covered itself with dishonor in the heyday of scientific racism, the German version, and so it was still possible back then for scientists to talk about differences in humans the way Coyne talks about finches. Since they could, they did. Since Coyne can’t, he doesn’t, but I would love to be present at a Q & A session where for some reason they couldn’t turn my microphone off. I will put it this way — on the principles Coyne has been arguing for here, the theory of evolution justifies scientific racism as a clear possibility. It must be on the table. If we all evolved from a common ancestor, and if there are diverse populations of us, and if the rate of evolution is not a fixed constant like 9.8 meters per second squared, it follows that somebody could easily be a lot closer to that common ancestor than somebody else. Follow the argument wherever it leads, man. I thought scientists were supposed to be courageous.

Douglas Wilson, blogging through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True.
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posted 8 / 21 / 2013
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The problem with the theory of Natural Selection is similar to the concept of utility—both claim to be an all-explaining cause of human behavior or social and natural development. Even in the case of natural selection—be it biological or social—are we not able to say in advance what would have to happen for this theory to not be valid? In other words, how would it look if the market (nature) did not select the most adatpable? It is actually a bit of a tautology: Those who survive are always those who are the most adaptable. But who actually are (how can we tell?) the most adaptable? Well, those who survive. We can only know this expost, from hindsight. So, if we only paraphrased this famous saying slightly, it would say only this: Those who survive are the most capable of surviving (instead of the word adaptable). In other words: Those who survive are those who survive. And so it happens that everyone who survives is pronounced the most adaptable. It is therefore necessary to agree with this “theory” because it cannot be disagreed with. So Social Darwinism is a truism. (263-264)
— Tomas Sedlacek in Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street.
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posted 8 / 11 / 2013
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The problem is that if a certain approach is recognized as scientific by the scientific community, then it becomes a scientific topic. The opposite is understandably true; scientific truth is not, then, a matter of some kind of objective appraisal, but a matter of appraisal by its own academic community. Here, too, it is certainly possible to suspect the scientific community of a tendency leaning toward the political or scientific fashion. In this respect, we should be careful with trendy ideas. And we are not at all discussing how it is the scientific community that “creates” the truth and those who “appraise it” are one and the same. In the scientific world there is none of the division of power we know and carefully watch over in the world of politics. For this reason, Marxism-Leninism and, in the long run, even racism were entitled (at the time) to appropriate the title of “scientific.” The fact that our scientific era is among the bloodiest in history was one of the serious cracks in the religion of secular progress. The sociologist Zygmunt Baumann argues that the Holocaust was not a mistake or misstep of modernity, but its direct result. (239)
— Tomas Sedlacek in Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street.
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posted 8 / 10 / 2013
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So appealing to it might not be helpful

You and I might be looking at the same deck of cards, but if I’m playing spades and you’re playing poker, Occam’s Razor looks completely reasonable to me and utterly absurd to you, and vice versa.

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posted 7 / 14 / 2013
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The place where modern scientific hubris really kicks in is with the whole subject of “junk DNA.” and “dead genes” (pp. 66-73). How long have we even known about DNA? Since April of 1953, which means that our knowledge of the existence of DNA is two months older than I am. For pity’s sake! It is as though a couple archeologists discovered that the library of Alexandria didn’t really burn down, because they found the whole thing buried under sand, got into the first chamber, read two books, and declared the rest of the library worthless. They knew it was worthless because there were countless languages in there that they didn’t understand. Just a bunch of gibberish. For an example of some of the pronouncements that ought not to have been made about this, you can check out the book trailer here.
Douglas Wilson, blogging through Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True.
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posted 7 / 8 / 2013
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