That is called cherrypicking patterns. A common argument against design in nature is that humans randomly evolved to see patterns where there are none. Many a Darwinian airhead advances such received wisdom at the usual bongfests.
He can be fairly sure that few bong-ees are going to point out the obvious: We evolved to see patterns that are there, for our own best interests. We are sometimes mistaken, but disparaging the seeking of patterns supported by evidence is hardly a solution.
Most often the patterns we see are there. Indeed, more people come to grief by not noticing than by noticing them. (“But I thought this would be an exception, you see…” or “But I never thought it would happen to me… ”)
Darwin’s followers themselves are constantly attempting to impose patterns in the fossil record, and watching them disintegrate in the light of evidence.
Casey Luskin notes that:
cladistics and other phylogenetics methods do not demonstrate common ancestry; they assume it. In other words, these methods don’t test whether all organisms fit into a nested hierarchy (i.e., phylogenetic tree). Rather, evolutionary systematics assumes that common ancestry is true and therefore all organisms belong within a nested hierarchy, and then it uses methods to force-fit any organism into the tree, even if that organisms has traits that don’t fit neatly within the tree.
Common ancestry, therefore, is a starting assumption about the data — not a conclusion from it. Another key lesson is this: just because you see evolutionary biologists creating an impressive-looking phylogenetic tree doesn’t mean that all of the organisms or their traits shown within that tree fit neatly into a nested hierarchy (i.e., a tree structure). One could cite many examples of organisms that don’t fit cleanly into a tree. Here are a few:
Sahelanthropus tchadensis is widely touted as a human ancestor that lived about 6-7 million years ago, sometime very soon after the supposed split between the human line and the chimp line. But it’s rarely mentioned that this specimen doesn’t fit into the standard hominin tree at all.
In any case, an evolutionary biologist could decide to group phyla according to early developmental processes, or according to symmetry, and that’s fine. If you weight one trait heavily, you’ll get one tree. But switch that weight to another trait and you’ll get another, conflicting tree. Either way, when you use one character set to create your tree, then the other character set is no longer distributed in a treelike fashion, and vice versa. That’s a major problem. More.
But they can get away with scuffing out serious discussion of genuine problems, questions, and puzzles to the extent that everyone “knows” that Darwinism is true. (“The debate is OVER, etc.”)
One of the serious harms done by court and other judgments demanding the teaching of “evolution” (that is, Darwinism) in the schools is that it helps raise generations not accustomed to asking intelligent questions when the data don’t fit. From Head Teacher Troll:
When the pattern doesn’t work, there is no pattern anyway, you see. Only ID people look for patterns… But now, if we can just tweak this, and then that, we could get our pattern to fit… You! You there! I can tell that you are thinking Wrong Thoughts! Stop thinking now!
Don’t believe me? See the Darwin in the schools lobby hard at work.
Rob Sheldon writes to say, re the claim about detecting patterns that aren’t there:
If all that is meant by this statement, is that people have an unusual gift to see teleology when mathematical algorithms cannot, then this is a truism that a man can be proud of.
But if this is a statement that only mathematical algorithms are justified in finding patterns, then I would have disagree, and ask if a computer made that judgment as well?
Or if this is a statement that you can fool people by claiming to find patterns that aren’t there, then I would say you are a naive Wall Street investor who has learned his first lesson.
The apparent pattern in the clouds may not be there; the apparent pattern in biotechnology stocks may be there after all.
ID is concerned not with finding patterns, which obviously exist in the mathematics of nature, (consider fractals or the golden ratio). Rather, ID studies patterns that look like they were generated by intelligence. A mere pattern endlessly repeats. A thought-out pattern stops at a point where purpose is detectible. See the CSI
formulation of ID.
This may be as good a place as any to note that I (O’Leary for News) will shortly be starting a series, “Talk to the Fossils,” at Evolution News & Views that talks about what we really know about situations where evolution does occur. What patterns do we really see?
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