Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Vestigial organs, anyone? The humble appendix begs to differ

Despite its name – which means “hanger on” – the human appendix works for a living, according to recent research (helping kill germs). As British physicist David Tyler notes, despite the claim of evolutionary biologists from Darwin to the present day that the appendix is junk left over from evolution, the appendix actually has a function – and the current crop of evolutionary biologists try hard to avoid acknowledging that they were wrong about that. He comments, It might be hoped that Darwinian evolutionary biologists would acknowledge that errors have been made; that Darwin’s claim for the appendix being useless was a claim made from ignorance rather than knowledge; that their theory had coloured their understanding of the data; etc. Read More ›

Darwinism predicts “X.” Oh, you tell me the opposite of “X” happened? Well Darwinism predicted that too.

Marx (Karl, not Groucho) predicted that under capitalism workers were bound to become more and more dissatisfied and therefore a workers’ revolution was inevitable.  When workers’ conditions actually improved under capitalism, Lenin modified the theory — of course the workers’ lot is improving; the capitalists are bribing them to keep them pacified, just what the theory predicted would happen. In Edge, Behe talks about Ernst Mayr’s 1960’s prediction that on Darwinian grounds the search for homologous genes would be quite futile.  Now Darwinists use homologous genes as evidence for the theory; after all the existence of such genes was predicted by the theory (after the fact). What can you say about a theory that can just as easily predict “X” and Read More ›

E. O. Wilson on ID

Here’s what E. O. Wilson writes in THE NEW SCIENTIST: . . . Many who accept the fact of evolution cannot, however, on religious grounds, accept the operation of blind chance and the absence of divine purpose implicit in natural selection. They support the alternative explanation of intelligent design. The reasoning they offer is not based on evidence but on the lack of it. The formulation of intelligent design is a default argument advanced in support of a non sequitur. It is in essence the following: there are some phenomena that have not yet been explained and that (most importantly) the critics personally cannot imagine being explained; therefore there must be a supernatural designer at work. The designer is seldom Read More ›

Melanie Phillips on Secular Fanatics

The real nutters are the fanatics who despise religious belief by Melanie Phillips 26th November 2007 . . . the antipathy to religious faith goes far wider and deeper than fear of terrorism. It is the outcome of a dominant secularism which claims that faith and reason are irreconcilable, and that belief in a supernatural creator is the equivalent to believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden. Though most people still say they believe in some kind of God, religious faith has become progressively more enfeebled and unable to resist the secular onslaught. . . . MORE

Time Magazine: Science is Close to Demonstrating Morality is a Function of Brain Activity

From the December 3 issue of Time:  “Morality and empathy are writ deep in our genes.  Alas, so are savagery and bloodlust.  Science is now learning what makes us both noble and terrible.” “The deeper that science drills into the substrata of behavior, the harder it becomes to preserve the vanity that we are unique among earth’s creatures.” “Sociobiology has been criticized as one of the most reductive of sciences, ascribing the behavior of all living things — humans included — as nothing more than an effort to get as many genes as possible into the next generation.  The idea makes sense . . .” “The brain activity that most closely tracked the hypothetical crimes . . . occurred in the Read More ›

The Sri Aurobindo International Center in India

The Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education, in Pondicherry, India, has recently launched a new on-line journal Anti-Matters , which naturally has a strong Eastern flavor, but is solidly anti-materialist and anti-Darwinist; it provides further evidence that ID, at least the rejection of Darwinism, is not a uniquely American Christian phenomenon. The editor, Ulrich Mohrhoff is a German physicist with apparently a strong quantum mechanics background. This issue has an article discussing my A Second Look at the Second Law essay, which I believe the editor found from a link here at UD.

Taking Science on Faith

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. The problem is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way, that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. The very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships. Until science comes up with a Read More ›

We have the hat, but where’s that rabbit? High levels of information in “simple” life forms

In Tuesday night, a guest speaker spoke to my adult night school class in why there is an intelligent design controversy. He talked about the central problem of evolution: The fact that high levels of information are present in life forms that are supposed to be early and simple.

Some guests attended the talk, and one of them announced that if intelligent design is correct, scientists would not see the need to do any research because Goddunit. Or something like that.

The more I thought about what he was saying, the more it puzzled me. Finally, I realized:

For the materialist, the PURPOSE of science is to show that high levels of information can be created without intelligence.

Therefore, in looking for causes of events, the materialist accepts ONLY a solution that shows that high levels of information can come from random assembly (= without intelligence).

He has not shown that high levels of information can be created without intelligence. He assumes that his assertion is true and looks for evidence to support it.

Discoveries that disconfirm his initial belief are not treated as evidence.

Keep looking, he says, keep looking … that magic information mill has GOT to be somewhere! Read More ›

The Origin of Life: Unsolved problem now shopped to off-market solutions?

In a most interesting recent article in Scientific American (November 19, 2007), origin of life expert Paul Davies coments:

The origin of life is one of the great unsolved problems of science. Nobody knows how, where or when life originated. About all that is known for certain is that microbial life had established itself on Earth by about three and a half billion years ago. In the absence of hard evidence of what came before, there is plenty of scope for disagreement.

Yes indeed. Three decades ago, he notes, no one would have expected it to happen twice in the observable universe, because it was so unlikely:

That conservative position was exemplified by Nobel Prize–winning French biologist Jacques Monod, who wrote in 1970: “Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance.”

Yet researchers are now willing to entertain the very possibility St. Monod rejected. The mood has shifted in favour of a “cosmic imperative.” Read More ›

Cyclic microevolution with cyclic weather

Posted by DLH at , PBS Nova Discussion on Judgment Day, The Design of Life, Nov. 13, 2007 It appears that the predictive essence of (micro) evolution is summarized in the principles we learned in kinder garden. Namely: The Grand Old Duke of York The grand old Duke of York, He had ten thousand men. He marched them up to the top of the hill And he marched them down again. And when they were up, they were up; And when they were down, they were down. But when they were only halfway up, They were neither up nor down! Now applying this to Darwin’s Finches: The Grand Old El Nino The grand old El Nino He drove ten thousand Read More ›

Human Origins: The Darwinian left discovers “group selection”

At the Huffington Post, Dan Agin has announced that  Dawkins’s famous selfish gene is laid off. Terminated. Pink slipped. Out of a job:

For nearly half a century, the evolution of human behavior has been presented to the public framed by the ideas of Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and a cohort of sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists, and media gene-mongers. The scientific basis for the frame is the idea that the focus of Darwinian natural selection is the selfish gene, selection always acting within groups and never between groups — individual selection rather than group selection, the unit of selection the gene. From this has followed the selfish-gene evolutionary analysis of various human behaviors, especially the analysis of altruism.

Well, it seems that the father of sociobiology, E.O. Wilson has changed his mind: in the current issue of New Scientist (November 3, 2007), evolutionary biologists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson effectively end the hegemony of the selfish gene idea: they review the field and declare in a voice loud and clear that group selection was mistakenly cast aside during previous decades, that the evidence for group selection is too strong to be ignored, and that the current ideas about how evolution works need to be revised.

The scientific revision, well-known to professional biologists, has actually been in the works for more than a decade (see, Wilson, D.S. & Sober, E. (1994). Reintroducing group selection to the human behavioral sciences. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17(4): 585-654) but with this new article in the popular media the public revision begins.

Groups with more altruists (people who care about you) do better than groups with fewer altruists?

Okay, if that’s a big surprise, we need to change our idea of what constitutes a “big surprise.” But what big revision is now foreseen? Didn’t everyone except the village atheist know this already?

Akin goes on to enthuse, Read More ›

The Evolution of Flying Squirrels

I never quite believed in the evolution of flying squirrels from regular squirrels (i.e., by increasing skin folds that allowed for better and better gliding) until I watched this video:

Darwinism and popular folklore: Neanderthal man died out on account of equal opportunity?

Music to some ears this: According to a recent article in the boston Globe, Neanderthal man died out because Neanderthal woman had to help him hunt. The Neanderthal extinction some 30,000 years ago remains one of the great riddles of evolution, with rival theories blaming everything from genocide committed by “real” humans to prehistoric climate change. But a recent study introduces another explanation: Stone Age feminism. Among Neanderthals, hunting big beasts was women’s work as well as men’s, so it’s a safe bet that female hunters got stomped, gored, and worse with appalling frequency. And a high casualty rate among fertile women – the vital “reproductive core” of a tiny population – could well have meant demographic disaster for a Read More ›

From the academic literature: Fred Flintstone vs. the law

Here are some thoughts from law profs Brian Leiter (University of Texas at Austin – School of Law & Department of Philosophy) and Michael Weisberg of the University of Pennsylvania on why evolutionary biology is so far irrelevant to law. Note in particular, We argue, in particular, that (a) evolutionary psychology is not entitled to assume selectionist accounts of human behaviors, (b) the assumptions necessary for the selectionist accounts to be true are not warranted by standard criteria for theory choice, and (c) only confusions about levels of explanation of human behavior create the appearance that understanding the biology of behavior is important. What they are saying, I suspect, is that we are not entitled to assume that whatever we Read More ›