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Unguided Evolution – Can it be falsified?

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Steve Reuland over on Panda’s Thumb is babbling about whether some ID strawman du jour can be falsified. Let’s examine the real issue.

First of all, we’ll use this definition of evolution given to the Kansas Board of Education in a letter from 38 (count ’em) Nobel laureates better known as the Weisel 38.

“Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”

an unguided, unplanned process

As all of us who don’t cling to strawman versions of ID know, the only bone we have to pick with that definition is the unguided, unplanned part. We are of the position that evolution, in part or in whole, was a guided or planned process.

So how does one go about falsifying unguided evolution? By demonstrating that the process was guided, of course.

ID is the means by which this theory of unguided evolution can be falsified. If ID cannot be falsified and is itself just religion disguised as science, where does that leave unguided evolution? Why it leaves unguided evolution as unfalsifiable pseudo-science.

Sorry Steve Reuland, but you don’t get to have your cake and eat it to. Either ID is science or unguided evolution is pseudo-science. Takes yo pick and let me know when you have a final answer.

Comments
me: “IC is an undecided question. do we agree on that?” patrick: Not quite. And that leads to… me" “well, i think it is extremely hard to test IC, actually, for reasons discussed. how is it easy to test something is IC?” patrick: ...As for Indirect Darwinian Pathways while not 100% certain IC still poses quite an information barrier. well, I'm not sure this informaton barrier has been rigorously proved to exist. and i would include indirect darwinian pathways as part of Darwinian RM+NS. so i still feel that IC is an undecided question. i think the basic difference is as I said in #85---ID supporters feel the onus is on darwinians to make pure RM+NS more plausible. Darwinians feel the onus is on ID supporters to prove that pure RM+NS is not sufficient. So there is a question of POV, there. Do you agree?physicist
January 25, 2006
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"Well, I agree it would make the design detection methods unreliable—but it doesn’t stop you developing better methods, so i don’t think showing that the bacterial flagellum can be produced by RM+NS disproves ID in all cases. Why would it? Obviously it might make RM+NS more plausible for some people, but I don’t think you’d have falsified ID in general." Good point. It might be possible in very, very specific types of circumstances that indirect Darwinian pathways may be able to overcome IC. But it's likely these circumstances may not occur in the vast majority of cases. So if that turned out to be the case we'd have to tweak the design detection methods to deal with those circumstances. Either way, it's speculation at this point. "Well, I’m not sure about that. I think that is a matter for much debate! I think IC has to become more than an assertion for it to become compelling for biologists to supplement RM+NS with ID." I'm not expecting wholehearted acceptness at the beginning of a paradigm shift but I'd just be happy if when interpreting the data they'd at least mention Intelligent Design as one of the possibilities and not ignore it entirely. "IC is an undecided question. do we agree on that?" Not quite. And that leads to... "well, i think it is extremely hard to test IC, actually, for reasons discussed. how is it easy to test something is IC?" For something to be IC you primarily need to consider DIRECT Darwinian Pathways. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. This is easy to test with any knowledge of engineering and is the main claim by Behe. The problem is that Indirect Darwinian Pathways claim to take systems with completely different functions (and whether or not those other systems are IC according to their function just compounds the problem) and Co-Opt them into a new functional system. In short, I'd say IC is definitely a decided question when it comes to Direct Darwinian Pathways. As for Indirect Darwinian Pathways while not 100% certain IC still poses quite an information barrier.Patrick
January 23, 2006
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i think that's a fair summary of the ID skeptic's position---I'd be interested to know what you think.physicist
January 23, 2006
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In fact, let me supplement that with what I think is a summary (after contributing here for a little while). It has not been proved rigorously that any organism is IC. Neither has it be proved that no organism is IC. IDers would find RM+NS (without ID) more plausible if a detailed pathway were shown for one of the claimed IC organisms. (This would not prove that solely RM+NS underlies *all* cases, so it is only a plausibility argument.) So I think IDers feel that the onus is on biologists to provide at least this one case to make RM+NS seem more plausible. I think this is the crucial point---this `onus' is a matter of opinion. For biologists, the evidence of RM+NS in simple cases is compelling enough not to invoke new laws for more complex cases. They feel the onus is on IDers to prove IC, or to demonstrate ID in action. THis is analgous I think to many cases in physics, where we test our theories in experimentally idealised set-ups, but assume that no additional laws are needed for more complex physical situations where the precise results are hard or impossible to test. I suppose this is the scientists belief that nature has so far yielded to description by relatively simple, well-ordered and consistent laws.physicist
January 23, 2006
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Hi Patrick yes, I think I do have adifferent viewpoint from you but let's see if i can answer your questions. you: So in your view there cannot be any doubt before ID could be valid. No. Intelligent design could be valid. my statement is that IC has not been rigorously proved for any cases. you: But let’s consider this question: in your view to “rigorously prove” the RM+NS-based Darwinian narrative would you have to provide (direct evidence/thorough documentation) of every transition that has occurred where RM+NS was the cause? That goes along with your previous statement. yes, and I don't think RM+NS has rigorously been proved (solely) to underly evolutionary processes. there is evidence, in that for simple systems in the lab one observes RM+NS. but i'm not sure how you could rigorously prove RM+NS is the sole cause. IC is an undecided question. do we agree on that? 1. The IC barrier has not been documented has having been overcome by means of RM+NS. Well, I guess it is not universally accepted that it is a barrier. but yes, I agree, I don't think anyone knows every step in say the evolution of the flagellum. I think it's actually even harder than just writing down a possible pathway in isolation---you'd have to know the interactions with other organisms too. 2. All you have to do is find ONE instance of non-intelligence producing IC or CSI by means of the modern synthesis in order to make ID’s design detection methods unreliable, thus invalidating ID. Well, I agree it would make the design detection methods unreliable---but it doesn't stop you developing better methods, so i don't think showing that the bacterial flagellum can be produced by RM+NS disproves ID in all cases. Why would it? Obviously it might make RM+NS more plausible for some people, but I don't think you'd have falsified ID in general. 3. Until that occurs Intelligent Design is the best explanation for these mechanisms we’re finding. Well, I'm not sure about that. I think that is a matter for much debate! I think IC has to become more than an assertion for it to become compelling for biologists to supplement RM+NS with ID. 4. The problem with testing the modern synthesis is that there are so many possible indirect Darwinian pathways. We might be able to test some to our satisfaction but then people could just say “well, it must have occurred by another pathway”. but this is true, right? unfortunate, but true. 5. In short, it’s relatively easy to test IC but very difficult to test RM+NS as an explanation. well, i think it is extremely hard to test IC, actually, for reasons discussed. how is it easy to test something is IC? if you meant to type that it is easy to test ID---well in a sense I agree with you, in that it is difficult to imagine any system which cannot have arisen by ID. yes, it is very difficult to test RM+NS as an explanation of the evlution of *all* biological systems. but this is a very complex interacting system and four billion years is a long time. you can at least see RM+NS in action in lab for simple systems, right? the same with many other scientific theories, you test them for idealised situations, and hope they work in more complex situations until someone proves they *can't* work. anyway, hopefully that set of responses is at least consistent, even if the POV is different from yours.physicist
January 23, 2006
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So in your view there cannot be any doubt before ID could be valid. But let's consider this question: in your view to "rigorously prove" the RM+NS-based Darwinian narrative would you have to provide (direct evidence/thorough documentation) of every transition that has occurred where RM+NS was the cause? That goes along with your previous statement. My original observation was simple: 1. The IC barrier has not been documented has having been overcome by means of RM+NS. 2. All you have to do is find ONE instance of non-intelligence producing IC or CSI by means of the modern synthesis in order to make ID's design detection methods unreliable, thus invalidating ID. 3. Until that occurs Intelligent Design is the best explanation for these mechanisms we're finding. 4. The problem with testing the modern synthesis is that there are so many possible indirect Darwinian pathways. We might be able to test some to our satisfaction but then people could just say “well, it must have occurred by another pathway”. 5. In short, it's relatively easy to test IC but very difficult to test RM+NS as an explanation. If you disagree, why? Personally I think you're arbitrarily defining unreasonable standards for "rigorously proving" IC and being easy on RM+NS.Patrick
January 23, 2006
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PS Patrick just to clarify, if you can work out P(T|H) and apply dembski's law maybe it will be possible to show it is extremely unlikely for an organism to evolve via RM+NS (but has this been done for any case?). What I mean above is that checking by brute force whether there exists an evolutionary pathway is an intractable problem. Surely we agree on that?physicist
January 23, 2006
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Hi Patrick Yes, I think irreducible complexity for a given organism is a very difficult assertion to rigorously prove. Don't you?physicist
January 23, 2006
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I have nothing more to add to this thread as nobody is listening anyway. Each has his own ax to hone. That is the way it is supposed to be. Enjoy. I think I will write another paper and get it published. That is all that matters in the long run anyway.John Davison
January 23, 2006
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"I think you are talking about Behe’s assertion that certain organisms are IC. Indeed this assertion is practically not possible to prove, as you point out." Let me see if I'm understanding your viewpoint. Are you saying in order to "prove" IC we'd first have to test the trillions, etc. of possible indirect Darwinian pathways?Patrick
January 22, 2006
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Davescot I follow your logic to some extent. Except (1) that you and other people here have been trying to convince me that RM+NS is *not* the complement of ID. And (2) I find it strange that whether ID is falsifiable is a question you feel you cannot answer. Can anyone else here answer that?physicist
January 22, 2006
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physicist RM+NS is falsifiable via the verification of design. If there is no way, in principle, to verify design then RM+NS is unfalsifiable. The bottom line remains that either both are scientific or neither are as one constitutes the falsification method of the other. Whether ID is falsifiable and verifiable is a question I cannot answer. What I do know is that if it isn't then neither is its complement RM+NS. The position of Darwinian evolution apologists seems to be that RM+NS is science while ID is not. This is clearly wrong. Either both are science or both are pseudoscience.DaveScot
January 21, 2006
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Charlie and crandaddy: Thanks for the feedback. I'll give the article a look-see.PaV
January 21, 2006
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To question Intelligent design is to question ones own existence. I have absolutely nothing further to offer on this thread.John Davison
January 21, 2006
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Hi Davescot---if that is a fair characterization, then doesn't it mean that the hypothesis that Darwinian RM+NS is responsible for all evolution *is* a falsifiable hypothesis?physicist
January 21, 2006
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Patrick, we might be talking about different things. I think you are talking about Behe's assertion that certain organisms are IC. Indeed this assertion is practically not possible to prove, as you point out. But isn't Bill Dembski's work slightly different? In the sense he is looking for patterns in nature that are exceedingly unlikely to have arisen by RM+NS. (I wonder though if determining the appropriate P(T|H) in Dembski's expression for specified complexity is equivalent to specifying a darwinian pathway, or whether one can make more general arguments for what P(T|H) should be---a discussion I've been having with PaV on another thread).physicist
January 21, 2006
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Stephen Elliot is no longer with us.DaveScot
January 21, 2006
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physicist
What I am saying is, and I think Davescot you agree with me, that Bill Dembski’s work is intended to falsify RM+NS as a possible mechanism for the evolution of some specific organisms. If this falsification is successful, then one has falsified the claim that RM+NS is solely responsible for the evolution of *all* the organisms we observe (the Darwinian claim, right?).
That seems to be a fair characterization. It should be some specific patterns found in nature rather than "organisms" though. Strictly speaking no extant organism is hypothetically possible without intelligent agency because every last one uses DNA and a ribosome which together are the finest example of irreducible complexity in my opinion. The mother of all paradoxes is which came first - the enzymes required for DNA replication or the coded instructions in DNA which describe the enzymes. Find a plausible mechanism (detailed, with proposed chemistry verified in a laboratory, in a simulated environment found in nature) for DNA and ribosomes to self-assemble without intelligent agency and I'll drop ID like a hot potato.DaveScot
January 21, 2006
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Dave T said, "This does not accurately reflect the nature of the debate. That the origin of biological organisms is due to some form of intelligent causation is an old and venerable view. It is the “common sense” view, if common sense is understood as widespread and historically enduring. It’s not merely an arbitrary, ad-hoc claim lately made up to put a roadblock in front of evolution. Darwin himself and most of the early evolutionists saw themselves in direct competition with claims of intelligent design. They granted the common sense intuition of design, but said it was overcome by the scientific evidence for evolution. Well, what if the scientific evidence for evolution isn’t really what it is cracked up to be? Then we are back to the common sense case for design. What has changed lately is that the argument is no longer made directly against design. Instead of arguing against the evidence of design, as did Darwin, evidence for design is simply ruled out a priori as unscientific by nature. So then we have an allegedly scientific case for evolution with no conceivable scientific alternative, even though the historical origin of evolution was as a direct alternative to design. This seems more like sleight of hand than the triumph of the scientific method. Cheers, Dave T. Comment by taciturnus — January 20, 2006 @ 1:56 pm " OK a couple of points that I find interesting. "That the origin of biological organisms is due to some form of intelligent causation is an old and venerable view. It is the “common sense” view, if common sense is understood as widespread and historically enduring." Granted. I agree that a lot of things in this universe appear designed. I would argue against common sense being any reliable measure for science though. Common sense indicates that a lump of lead is solid. Yet on the microscopic/sub-atomic level, it is nearly empty space. Even individual atoms are nearly all space. Weird, totally not common sense, but true. "Well, what if the scientific evidence for evolution isn’t really what it is cracked up to be? Then we are back to the common sense case for design. What has changed lately is that the argument is no longer made directly against design. Instead of arguing against the evidence of design, as did Darwin, evidence for design is simply ruled out a priori as unscientific by nature. So then we have an allegedly scientific case for evolution with no conceivable scientific alternative, even though the historical origin of evolution was as a direct alternative to design." I would propose that in order to make design scientific you would need positive evidence of design. Something that can be shown with repeatable experiments. This is the difficult part. Do not forget that people once believed that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones. It took repeatable experiments to prove this to be wrong. Common sense said one thing, experiments proved something else. The way I see it at the minute, design could be true. However it offers nothing (as far as I can see) to benefit science. If design is detectable then demonstrate it. If design is not detectable, then it may as well be ignored.Stephen Elliott
January 21, 2006
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I wrote this yesterday in a quick off-the-cuff email to Dave: As for the focus of this post: "West and Luskin are will now agree that ID is false given the existence of a pre-Cambrian chordate". [Note that this is a quote from a comment that was zapped.] That's kind of an odd claim considering he [Reuland] previously worded it this way: "other pre-Cambrian fossils that are POTENTIAL precursors to modern groups". It's not the existence of these creatures that West and Luskin would have a problem with, it's the claim that they are in fact precursors [by means of RM+NS] which is what Reuland's argument relies on. Where is the direct line of evidence for this? How many layers of CSI and IC are required to be overcome? Is this informational barrier a quick hop or the Great Wall of China or the Maginot Line? [And nobody better mention blitzkrieg tactics. ;) ] There's also one wee little issue he ignores completely. Let's just assume that the creatures mentioned are in fact precursors as he claims. Even then he still hasn't provided a case based upon evidence that RM+NS was the cause. He just automatically assumes that to be the case. Instead it could be the latent library[/prescribed evolution] you [Dave] favor automatically causing self-modification or it could be the intelligent designer at work. He's also completely ignoring my post on testability. He's focused on the predictions of some ID theorists. To nail ID to the wall all he has to do is showcase [as in...detailed, not a just-so story] ONE instance of RM+NS overcoming the CSI/IC barrier and thus ID's method of design detection is rendered unreliable.Patrick
January 21, 2006
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Physicist: "No-one is trying to falsify RM+NS in all cases. But, bombadil, surely the idea of dembski’s work is to falsify darwinism as a theory of *all* evolution, by showing it *can’t* work in some specific cases. is this wrong? if it’s right, why do you say that darwinism is not falsifiable?" I believe I answered that question above: "The problem with testing the modern synthesis is that there are so many possible indirect Darwinian pathways. We might be able to test some to our satisfaction but then people could just say “well, it must have occurred by another pathway”." Note that this is more a problem with falsification in a practical sense. Darwinism might be falsifiable but it's just not practical to test the trillions and trillions and trillions ad infinitum of possibilities.Patrick
January 21, 2006
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Are there any other examples in the real world of systems organizing themselves? Why should organic matter act differently from all other entropic systems, open or closed?mmadigan
January 21, 2006
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@John Davison I have read through your site (Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis). I was intrigued by one comment pointing out all the scientists you cite are dead, and all but Grassé had retired from active scientific study before the elucidation of the genetic code. You disassociate yourself from "darwinists" and "Intelligent design supporters". Are there scientists who are working on your hypothesis actually?Xavier
January 21, 2006
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Davescot and bombadil me: why is this not a putative falsification of darwinian RM+NS? davescot: It is but only in the specific case under consideration. It is not a blanket falsfication of RM+NS everywhere. That ID is in total opposition to RM+NS is a strawman. RM+NS is operative in some cases. Just not all cases. -ds I understand that ID is not in opposition to RM+NS in all cases---I am not trying to erect this straw man. What I am saying is, and I think Davescot you agree with me, that Bill Dembski's work is intended to falsify RM+NS as a possible mechanism for the evolution of some specific organisms. If this falsification is successful, then one has falsified the claim that RM+NS is solely responsible for the evolution of *all* the organisms we observe (the Darwinian claim, right?). No-one is trying to falsify RM+NS in all cases. But, bombadil, surely the idea of dembski's work is to falsify darwinism as a theory of *all* evolution, by showing it *can't* work in some specific cases. is this wrong? if it's right, why do you say that darwinism is not falsifiable?physicist
January 21, 2006
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PaV, here are a few (rudimentary) points from Wolf's paper: Reasoning from analogy, as Wolf contends ID does when it references intelligence, is required to assess what something such as IC is essentially. ID is very much scientific when critiquing Darwinism on empirical grounds. It adheres much more strictly to natural science than does Darwinism when it limits itself to these critiques. ID theory as a heuristic is absolutely indispensable to biology. To qualify as a natural science an explanation must refer only to causally immanent, and a transcendent intelligence would obviously not be immanent. In order to apply this definition Wolf must exclude some branches which normally qualify as natural sciences. He refers to archaeology, comparative anatomy and forensic sciences in this regard. He believes ID should aid and inform evolutionary sciences. He says that Darwin's Black Box does just that as it critiques Darwinism on the premises of natural science. The debate is often rancorous because it touches on metaphysics, and that ID should definitely replace Darwinism as a metaphysic. "On my assessment, ID theory is the better founded option, because while the Darwinian belief is purely conjectural, ID is the expression of a piece of intuitively compelling rational knowledge. ID theory is not based on an arbitrary belief to which we may or may not subscribe. It is the expression of a cognition whose compelling character is universally recognized. It is based on empirical data and on an analogical interpretation of them." p 12 etc etc.Charlie
January 20, 2006
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PaV, I confess, I haven't read the whole paper. But I have read quite a bit of it, and what I think he is trying to say is that ID in nature is not a scientific concept because it lacks the causal chain leading to the design which methodological naturalism requires. According to him (and this is if I understand him correctly), instances of supposed ID are analogical to design because they bear the marks of phenomena for which we do have an empirical causal chain to the designer, but this is not to say that ID is a subjective concept which relies on arbitrary assertions. In fact, he supports the views that ID is objective, valid reasoning based on empirical data; that it is "essential to the proper understanding of nature"; and that it holds Darwinism in check, preventing it from becomming an unscientific ideology. All-in-all, it seems pretty reasonable to me, even though I have a funny feeling that if I mulled over it long enough, I'd find some details I don't agree with. As to whether or not it's worth reading, I suppose it depends on how interested you are in the philosophical side of ID. I plan on eventually reading the whole thing through and thinking its subject matter over; of course, Philosophy is an academic course of study for me.crandaddy
January 20, 2006
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PaV I think it is very much worth reading. I know the conclusion that ID should not be considered a natural science will bother some, but this is not presented as a denigration in any way. It really is an argument for the strength and validity of knowledge gained by analogizing and approaches design as a self-evident truth.Charlie
January 20, 2006
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Whoops I goofed. I repeated Thompson's comments. Here is what Dobzhansky really had to say in the Foreword about his former mentor. " "A majority of evolutionists at present,including the author of this Preface, consider L.S. Berg's theory of nomogenesis erroneous." It is even much worse than that if one should read the whole Preface. I recommend, as an antidote to the Darwinian malaise, that everyone who is really interested in evolution read both Berg and Schindewolf. I think you will find both are in perfect accord with Intelligent Design.John Davison
January 20, 2006
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crandaddy or Charlie: I took a quick peek at the paper you cited up above. The abstract says that the author doesn't consider ID to be a scientific theory because it is based on an analogy from biological systems to man-made machines. But NS is based on an analogy from man-made breeding. Does that invalidate Darwinism as a scientific theory? In other words, is the article worth reading?PaV
January 20, 2006
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The classic case of both genetic drift and founder effect is presented by Darwin's finches which are probably all one species. So much for founder effect and genetic drift. Here is the question I have asked before and like every other question I ever asked remains unanswered. Why oh why didn't the Darwinians test Darwin's precious finches when finches are among the easiest birds in the world to domesticate? Here is what I think. Either they did do it and discovered they were all compatible or they were afraid to do it because they expected that result. And this is science? The last bench test of selection was done by Dobzhansky years ago with Drosophila. The reason he undertook that experiment is because he was convinced it would support the Darwinian model. That is why people do experiments. It is very much to his credit that he admitted that he failed to transmute Drosophila even into a new species in that genus. Dobzhansky's mentor in Russia before he left for the new world was none other than Leo Berg, the greatest Russian biologist of his age. In 1969 the English translation of Berg's Nomogenesis was published in paper back by the M.I.T. Press. Dobzhansky wrote the Foreward which included the following: "I need go no further, nor say one word more, to show that Professor Berg holds views of his own, with many of which many of us are little likely to agree." You will notice that Dobzhansky does not speak only for himself, which he most certainly does, but he performs the unpardonable sin of using the collective word "us." It is no wonder that the American scientific audience might ignore what follows in what I regard as the greatest single volume ever written on the suject of organic evolution. What makes matters even worse, Darcy Wentworth Thompson, the great British scholar and author of Growth and Form, a book which had great influence on me as a graduate student, wrote the Introduction which included near the end the following: "I need go no further, nor say one word more, to show that Professor Berg holds views of his own, with many of which many of us are little likely to agree." Note again the use of the collective "us." It should surprise no one that Nomogenesis has been ignored by the evolutionary establishment dominated as it was then and still is by Darwinian mysticism. Stephen Jay Gould performed a similar despicable trick when he wrote the Foreword to the English translation of Otto Schindewolf's great 1950 opus, Grundfragen der Palaeontologie when it appeared as Basic Questions in Paleontology in 1993. After extolling Schindewolf as the greatest paleontologist of his day which he most certainly was, Gould found it necessary to describe Schindewolf's thoroughly anti-Darwinian conclusions as "spectacularly flawed." This is but the tip of the iceberg of the kind of tactics that have permitted the hoax of Darwinism to persist as long as it has. We several critics of the Darwinian myth are still not allowed to exist because if we should exist the most failed hypothesis in the history of science would collapse in a millisecond. Trust me but of course you probably won't. Thanks for listening and for letting me vent on one of my favorite subjects. If I accomplish nothing else I will resurrect some of the greatest minds of two centuries from the oblivion the Darwinians have so callously and cowardly committed them. I owe everything in the PEH to the several of my predecessors, not a Darwinian in the lot.John Davison
January 20, 2006
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