Professor James M. Tour is one of the ten most cited chemists in the world. He is famous for his work on nanocars (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia), nanoelectronics, graphene nanostructures, carbon nanovectors in medicine, and green carbon research for enhanced oil recovery and environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University. He has authored or co-authored 489 scientific publications and his name is on 36 patents. Although he does not regard himself as an Intelligent Design theorist, Professor Tour, along with over 700 other scientists, took the courageous step back in 2001 of signing the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”, which read: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
On Professor Tour’s Website, there’s a very revealing article on evolution and creation, in which Tour bluntly states that he does not understand how macroevolution could have happened, from a chemical standpoint (all bold emphases below are mine – VJT):
Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway. When hearing such extrapolations in the academy, when will we cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”?
…I simply do not understand, chemically, how macroevolution could have happened. Hence, am I not free to join the ranks of the skeptical and to sign such a statement without reprisals from those that disagree with me? … Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.
In a more recent talk, entitled, Nanotech and Jesus Christ, given on 1 November 2012 at Georgia Tech, Professor Tour went further, and declared that no scientist that he has spoken to understands macroevolution – and that includes Nobel Prize winners! Here’s what he said when a student in the audience asked him about evolution:
… I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. I understand that if I take Nature’s tool kit, it could be much easier, because all the tools are already there, and I just mix it in the proportions, and I do it under these conditions, but ab initio is very, very hard.
I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you. Is that OK, for me to say, “I don’t understand this”? Is that all right? I know that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand anything about organic synthesis, but they understand evolution. I understand a lot about making molecules; I don’t understand evolution. And you would just say that, wow, I must be really unusual.
Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.” These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?”And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.
I was once brought in by the Dean of the Department, many years ago, and he was a chemist. He was kind of concerned about some things. I said, “Let me ask you something. You’re a chemist. Do you understand this? How do you get DNA without a cell membrane? And how do you get a cell membrane without a DNA? And how does all this come together from this piece of jelly?” We have no idea, we have no idea. I said, “Isn’t it interesting that you, the Dean of science, and I, the chemistry professor, can talk about this quietly in your office, but we can’t go out there and talk about this?”
If you understand evolution, I am fine with that. I’m not going to try to change you – not at all. In fact, I wish I had the understanding that you have.
But about seven or eight years ago I posted on my Web site that I don’t understand. And I said, “I will buy lunch for anyone that will sit with me and explain to me evolution, and I won’t argue with you until I don’t understand something – I will ask you to clarify. But you can’t wave by and say, “This enzyme does that.” You’ve got to get down in the details of where molecules are built, for me. Nobody has come forward.
The Atheist Society contacted me. They said that they will buy the lunch, and they challenged the Atheist Society, “Go down to Houston and have lunch with this guy, and talk to him.” Nobody has come! Now remember, because I’m just going to ask, when I stop understanding what you’re talking about, I will ask. So I sincerely want to know. I would like to believe it. But I just can’t.
Now, I understand microevolution, I really do. We do this all the time in the lab. I understand this. But when you have speciation changes, when you have organs changing, when you have to have concerted lines of evolution, all happening in the same place and time – not just one line – concerted lines, all at the same place, all in the same environment … this is very hard to fathom.
I was in Israel not too long ago, talking with a bio-engineer, and [he was] describing to me the ear, and he was studying the different changes in the modulus of the ear, and I said, “How does this come about?” And he says, “Oh, Jim, you know, we all believe in evolution, but we have no idea how it happened.” Now there’s a good Jewish professor for you. I mean, that’s what it is. So that’s where I am. Have I answered the question? (52:00 to 56:44)
Professor Tour’s online talk is absolutely fascinating as well as being deeply moving on a personal level, and I would strongly urge readers to listen to his talk in its entirety – including the questions after the talk. You won’t regret it, I promise you. One interesting little gem of information which I’ll reveal is that it was Professor Tour who was largely instrumental in getting Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to reject Darwinian evolution and accept Old Earth creationism, shortly before he died in 2005. It was Tour who persuaded Smalley to delve into the question of origins. After reading the books “Origins of Life” and “Who Was Adam?”, written by Dr. Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist) and Dr. Fazale Rana (a biochemist).. Dr. Smalley explained his change of heart as follows:
Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading “Origins of Life”, with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred. The new book, “Who Was Adam?”, is the silver bullet that puts the evolutionary model to death.
Strong words indeed, for a Nobel scientist. Readers can find out more about Professor Richard Smalley’s change of views here.
Why should we believe macroevolution, if nobody understands it?
Now that Professor Tour has informed the world that even Nobel Prize-winning scientists privately admit that they don’t understand macroevolution, a layperson is surely entitled to ask: “Well, if even they don’t understand it, then why should we believe it? How can we possibly be obliged to believe in a theory which nobody understands?”
That’s a good question. And it’s no use for Darwinists to trot out the standard “party line” that “even if we don’t yet understand how it happened, we still have enough evidence to infer that it happened.” At the very most, all that the current scientific evidence could establish is the common descent of living organisms. But that’s not macroevolution. Macroevolution requires more than a common ancestry for living organisms: it requires a natural mechanism which can generate the diversity of life-forms we see on Earth today from a common stock, without the need for any direction by an Intelligent Agent. But the mechanism is precisely what we don’t have evidence for. So the question remains: why should we believe in macroevolution?
The decline of academic freedom
Given the massive uncertainty about the “how” of macroevolution among scientists working in the field, you might think that a wide variety of views would be tolerated in the scientific arena – including the view that there is no such process as macroevolution. However, you would be sadly mistaken. As Professor Tour notes in his online article on evolution and creation, an alarming academic trend has emerged in recent years: a growing intolerance of dissent from Darwinism. This trend is so pronounced that Professor Tour now advises his students not to voice their doubts about Darwinism in public, if they want a successful career:
In the last few years I have seen a saddening progression at several institutions. I have witnessed unfair treatment upon scientists that do not accept macroevolutionary arguments and for their having signed the above-referenced statement regarding the examination of Darwinism. (I will comment no further regarding the specifics of the actions taken upon the skeptics; I love and honor my colleagues too much for that.) I never thought that science would have evolved like this. I deeply value the academy; teaching, professing and research in the university are my privileges and joys…
But my recent advice to my graduate students has been direct and revealing: If you disagree with Darwinian Theory, keep it to yourselves if you value your careers, unless, of course, you’re one of those champions for proclamation; I know that that fire exists in some, so be ready for lead-ridden limbs. But if the scientific community has taken these shots at senior faculty, it will not be comfortable for the young non-conformist. When the power-holders permit no contrary discussion, can a vibrant academy be maintained? Is there a University (unity in diversity)? For the United States, I pray that the scientific community and the National Academy in particular will investigate the disenfranchisement that is manifest upon some of their own, and thereby address the inequity.
It remains to be seen if other countries will allow their young scientists to think freely about the origin of life, and of the various species of organisms that we find on Earth today. What I will say, though, is that countries which restrict academic freedom will eventually be overtaken by countries which allow it to prosper. There is still time for America and Europe to throw off the dead hand of Darwinism in academic circles, and let their young people breathe the unaccustomed air of free speech once again.
(UPDATE: Here’s a link to my follow-up post, Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details. It amply refutes the simplistic charge, made by some skeptics, that Professor Tour was conflating macroevolution with the question of the origin of life.)
UD Editors: This post has received a great deal of attention lately, so we are moving it back to the front page.