Intelligent Design

If it is a “Fact, Fact, Fact” How Can that Fact Change?

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Neutral theory is a relative newcomer in evolution theory.  Nevertheless, prior to neutral theory proponents of materialist evolutionary theory still got red in the face, stamped their feet, and yelled that evolution is a “fact, fact, fact” as spittle flew from their lips.

This highlights the fallacy of the “fact, fact, fact” mantra.  If neutral theory is true, then those who were shouting that their particular version of materialist evolutionary theory is a fact, fact, fact prior to neutral theory were wrong.

In other words, when they chant that mantra materialist evolutionists want you to believe that their particular version of the mechanism driving evolution is a fact. But that is obviously false if that mechanism changes.

Apples fall to the ground, and Newton proposed his law of universal gravitation to explain that.  And that was the prevailing theory for hundred of years until Einstein came along and displaced it.  If, prior to Einstein, someone had said Newton’s law is a fact, fact, fact, they would have been wrong.  “Apples fall” is the fact.

Similarly, that the biosphere is different now than it was in the past is a fact.  No one disputes that.  It is indeed, a fact, fact, fact.  And if that is all one mean by “evolution,” no one disagrees.  But it is simply wrong to say that any particular theory about why that is the case is a fact, fact, fact.

So, to the extent the fact, fact fact mantra is true, it is trivial.  To the extent that it is applied in any non-trivial way (i.e, to a particular ever changing theory of origins), it is false.

16 Replies to “If it is a “Fact, Fact, Fact” How Can that Fact Change?

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    If it is a “Fact, Fact, Fact” How Can that Fact Change?

    It can evolve. Slowly and gradually. Imperceptibly. Not so as anyone would notice at any particular time.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Apples fall to the ground, and Newton proposed his law of universal gravitation to explain that.

    Meanwhile, the apple is not yet even contemplating an explanation for Newton.

  3. 3
    Box says:

    Stephen Meyer on neutral theory.

    Indeed, it may seem counterintuitive, at least from a neo-Darwinian point of view, to think that the accumulation of random mutations alone can accomplish what neo-Darwinists have long invoked both mutations and natural selection to do. In effect, Lynch’s theory attempts to explain the origin of anatomical complexity by reference to what would seem on its face to be a less—not a more—potent mechanism than the one offered by neo-Darwinism. Could such a counterintuitive theory be correct?

    In any case, there are good reasons to doubt that Lynch’s neutral mechanism could generate the novel biological information and form necessary to explain the origin of animals, even granting the prior existence of the molecular machinery (in small populations of eukaryotic organisms) that his scenario requires.
    First, Lynch assumes a false gene-centric view of the origin of biological form. As he writes: “Most of the phenotypic diversity that we perceive in the natural world is directly attributable to the peculiar structure of the eukaryotic gene.”42 His view overlooks the crucial role of epigenetic information and structure in the origin of animal form discussed in Chapter 14 and, therefore, does nothing to explain its origin.
    Second, neutral processes such as genetic drift do not favor beneficial mutations, and thus do not fix, with any efficiency, those mutation-induced genetic traits in small populations.43 Natural selection, as we saw in Chapter 10, is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, natural selection helps to fix beneficial traits in a population. On the other hand, natural selection also makes it difficult for functional genes to vary widely without being eliminated. Neutral theories of evolution attempt to avoid the latter problem by invoking gene duplication and other processes that can add nonfunctional sequences to the genome—sequences that are unaffected, at least initially, by selective pressure. In so doing, however, these theoretical formulations significantly diminish the role of natural selection as a mechanism that can fix beneficial mutations in place once they have arisen. Thus, in all neutral theories, including Lynch’s, any beneficial mutations that arise and begin to drift through a population, can just as readily—without a significant influence from natural selection to impede it—drift out of a population as well. This limitation vastly increases the time it will take for neutral processes to fix beneficial genetic changes in a population. Both skeptics and proponents of neo-Darwinism have recognized this deficiency in Lynch’s model.44
    Third, and most important, Lynch’s theory not only fails to account for the fixation of new genes and traits in small populations, it also fails to account for their origin. Lynch’s mechanism of neutral mutational change does envision the addition of brute genomic complexity as the result of the accretion of preexisting genetic elements (introns, transposons, pseudogenes and gene duplicates). Nevertheless, the addition of these elements does not generate any novel functional (or specified) genetic information. Instead, it merely transfers preexisting genetic sequences from one organismal context where those sequences may have performed a function, to another where they likely will not. Indeed, the point of neutral theory is to postulate the addition of genetic elements that, initially, do not perform crucial functions such that they can experience mutations without deleterious consequence to the organism. Lynch himself assumes that these added elements will not perform functions in their new context, which is why he envisions the need for spliceosomes to excise them, at least initially.
    Instead, for Lynch’s theory to explain the origin of new and functional genes and proteins (and the anatomical complexities that depend on them), his theory would have to solve the problem of combinatorial inflation discussed in Chapter 10. He would have to show that purely random mutations could efficiently search the relevant combinatorial space of possible sequences corresponding to a given novel functional gene or protein.
    Nevertheless, Lynch does not even address the problem of combinatorial inflation or the closely related problem of the rarity of genes and proteins in sequence space. He provides no experimental evidence that recombination and/or mutation (given genetic drift) will actually produce functional or specified genetic complexity. Instead, the examples he provides are entirely hypothetical. In addition, he offers no reason to think that the probability of a successful search for functional genes or proteins would be any higher (i.e., more likely to occur) than the probabilities calculated in Chapter 10. He does not, therefore, answer the challenge of the problem of combinatorial inflation and the rarity of functional genes and proteins in sequence space.
    Lynch does provide, perhaps, a more detailed characterization than other neutral theories of where neutral, nonadaptive processes must predominate. Nevertheless, he does not show that such processes—random genetic mutations unhinged from natural selection—are sufficient to generate novel functional genes and proteins, let alone complex anatomical novelties requiring the origin of many such genes and proteins. Instead, as Axe’s experimental results have shown, random mutations of whatever kind will not generate enough trials to render probable (or plausible) a successful search of the sequence space corresponding to a given functional gene or protein.

    [S.Meyer, ch.16, ‘Darwin’s Doubt’]

  4. 4
    Jack Jones says:

    You’re right Mr Arrington.

    There is no “the theory” in some singular sense of the word.

    We heard that neo darwinism was fact over and over and now we hear that it has failed.

    These are speculative hypothesis which the evolution proponent calls “the theory of evolution” when he is talking about what he believes.

    Now…..When it comes to the speculative hypothesis that Professor Moran holds to, he does not even know whether the evolution that he holds to, occurs according to need or irregardless of need.

    I asked him politely, I am not trying to trap him but he seems scared to answer.

    Do the evolutionists believe we have fish and birds and mammals etc because evolution occurred according to need or does the evolution they believe in, happen irregardless of need?

    What is so difficult about the question for Professor Moran?

  5. 5
    bornagain says:

    Thanks Box! 🙂

    Here is a bit more on the false gene-centric view of the origin of biological form:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-587726

  6. 6
    brian douglas says:

    I am definitely no expert on evolution or on ID, but my understanding is that in Darwin’s day, the “facts” were few and that he based his theory on extensive observation both in nature and in animal breeding.

    When Mendel was rediscovered, more facts were added, but the theory was still sparse on conclusive facts. Then DNA was discovered, more facts. And so on.

    At present I think it is fair to say that natural selection, genetic drift and neutral/near neutral drift are facts. They have all been observed many times over. What is not fact is the relative contribution of each of these to evolution. And I don’t think that there will ever be complete agreement.

    But what do I know? I am not a biologist.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    Brian Douglas:

    At present I think it is fair to say that natural selection, genetic drift and neutral/near neutral drift are facts.

    Of course they are. I don’t know anyone who disputes that. The issue is whether any of the (or all of them in combination) are sufficient to account for the observations. And by “the observations” I mean new body plans and massive increases in new genomic information. None of these things either independently (or in combination) have been demonstrated to account for the observations.

    What is not fact is the relative contribution of each of these to evolution.

    Correct. Also what is not a fact is whether any of them (or all of them in combination) are sufficient to account for the observations (as defined above).

    And I don’t think that there will ever be complete agreement.

    I think you are on pretty safe ground there.

    OTOH, the more we know about such things as the genetic code and the machinery of the cell, the more the explanatory power of materialist mechanisms retreats. Ironically, this is a reversal of the classic “warfare thesis” that posits that as science progresses materialist explanations always displace design explanations (especially if the “designer” is God).

    Instead of a God of the gaps, we now have a “materialist promissory note” of the gaps.

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    Neutral theory is a relative newcomer in evolution theory. Nevertheless, prior to neutral theory proponents of materialist evolutionary theory still got red in the face, stamped their feet, and yelled that evolution is a “fact, fact, fact” as spittle flew from their lips.

    Caricaturing the opposition at the level of a Jack Chick cartoon may play well to the faithful but it’s still a strawman.

    On the question of fact and theory, most of the evolutionists I’ve ever spoken to would take their cue from Stephen Jay Gould’s 1981 essay “Evolution as Fact and Theory”:

    In the American vernacular, “theory” often means “imperfect fact”—part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus creationists can (and do) argue: evolution is “only” a theory, and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is less than a fact, and scientists can’t even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): “Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science—that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was.”

    Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

    Moreover, “fact” does not mean “absolute certainty.” The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, the “fact, fact, fact” problem is very real, is common and is an index of the depth of the problem of over-claiming certainty by the materialist magisterium. I recall comparing certainty to roundness of the earth, orbiting of planets around Sol etc, when a more apt issue would be solar system origins models, which are acknowledged to be far from certain beyond reasonable doubt. That has to be faced and dealt with. It is no strawman. KF

  10. 10
    Jack Jones says:

    @8

    Gould was wrong when he said

    “Well, evolution is a theory.”

    When the word theory is used as it pertains to evolution then we are talking about speculative hypothesis.

    There is no singular theory as in speculative hypothesis for how all living things came to be, that all evolutionists subscribe to.

    Neo Darwinism was touted as the theory, Some have come out and said it has failed, some like Coyne still subscribe to it.

    Gould rejected it back in 1980 which means that he was not on the same page as Coyne and Dawkins.

    “The history of organic life is indemonstrable; we cannot prove a whole lot in evolutionary biology, and our findings will always be hypothesis. There is one true evolutionary history of life, and whether we will actually ever know it is not likely. Most importantly, we have to think about questioning underlying assumptions, whether we are dealing with molecules or anything else.” – Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Professor of Biological Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, February 9, 2007

  11. 11
    Zachriel says:

    Jack Jones: Neo Darwinism was touted as the theory, Some have come out and said it has failed

    Rather, Neodarwinism is a simplified and incomplete model. Neodarwinism certainly applies to many observed phenomena.

    “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” — George E. P. Box

  12. 12
    Jack Jones says:

    Zach@11

    “Rather, Neodarwinism is a simplified and incomplete model. Neodarwinism certainly applies to many observed phenomena.”

    Coyne and others didn’t say it is a model, they said it is the theory, Some subscribe to it as the theory, others reject it.

    There is no unified agreement on what the theory is .

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    All models are wrong, but some are useful.

    There’s no ground for right and wrong in the materialist universe. There are no models, there is only what is.

  14. 14
    Zachriel says:

    Jack Jones: Coyne and others didn’t say it is a model, they said it is the theory

    A theory is a type of model.

  15. 15
    Mung says:

    Zachriel:

    A theory is a type of model.

    On a clear night and from a distance, the handwaving is a beautiful display.

    What are the types of models and what is a type of model?

    What is a theory and how is it that a theory is a type of model?

  16. 16
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: What is a theory and how is it that a theory is a type of model?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory#Theories_as_models

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