The United Kingdom has now banned the teaching of “any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution” at all schools receiving public funding, including academies and free schools (see also here). In science classes, alternative beliefs about origins may not be presented to pupils “as a scientific theory”; however, discussion of these beliefs is permitted in religious education classes, “as long as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.” The new guidelines (which readers may access here) “explicitly require that pupils are taught about the theory of evolution,” without specifying which theory of evolution students should be taught (Darwin’s? Wallace’s? Lynn Margulis’s? James Shapiro’s? Masatoshi Nei’s?) However, since one of the grounds for rejecting alternative beliefs about origins is that they do not “accord with the scientific consensus,” one surmises that the authors of the new guidelines have in mind Darwin’s theory of evolution, supplemented by the neutral theory.
From now on, then, students at publicly funded schools in Britain will be taught that it is an established scientific fact that natural biological processes can account for “the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth.” That would presumably include not only the development of life, but also its origin. In other words, abiogenesis will be presented simply as a natural process, with no doubts raised as to its scientific feasibility. And since “life on Earth” includes Homo sapiens and the “complexity of life on earth” includes the complexity of the human mind, students will be taught from now on that the origin of the mind can be accounted for by “natural biological processes.”
Here is a short list of views that will henceforth be banned from serious discussion in science classes at publicly funded schools in Britain:
(i) the view of evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin that natural biological processes, by themselves, are unable to account for the origin of life on Earth, and that only the existence of a multiverse can make the origin of life plausible, as a lucky accident that had to happen somewhere. As Koonin puts it in his book, The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution (FT Press, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2012; available online here):
“In other words, even in this toy model that assumes a deliberately inflated rate of RNA production, the probability that a coupled translation-replication emerges by chance in a single O-region [i.e. an observable universe like our own – VJT] is P < 10-1018. Obviously, this version of the breakthrough stage can be considered only in the context of a universe with an infinite (or, at the very least, extremely vast) number of O-regions.” (p. 435)
“The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science, but it is also one of the most important. Origin-of-life research has evolved into a lively, interdisciplinary field, but other scientists often view it with skepticism and even derision. This attitude is understandable and, in a sense, perhaps justified, given the ‘dirty,’ rarely mentioned secret: Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth.” (p. 391)
Thus, spontaneous emergence of complex systems that would have to be considered virtually impossible in a finite universe, becomes not only possible but inevitable under MWO, [the “many worlds in one” model of eternal inflation – VJT] even though the prior probabilities of the vast majority of histories to occur in a given universe are vanishingly small. This new power of chance, buttressed by anthropic reasoning, has profound consequences for our understanding of any phenomenon in the universe, and life on Earth cannot be an exception (Koonin, 2007b).” (p. 385)
From now on, students in publicly funded British schools will no longer get the chance to hear what Dr. Eugene Koonin has to say about the problems with origin-of-life scenarios in their science classes.
Nor will they get to hear what this British scientist has to say about the origin of life:
(ii) the opinion of Professor John C. Walton, that:
(a) the chance of forming even one “useful” RNA sequence can be shown to be essentially zero in the lifetime of the earth;
(b) life on Earth therefore could not have originated from non-living matter as a result of blind chemical processes; and
(c) the view that life was designed by an Intelligent Agent deserves a fair hearing.
Professor Walton is a Research Professor of Chemistry at St. Andrews University, and a Chartered Chemist. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Professor Walton made his views on the origin of life public in a recent talk for the Edinburgh Creation Group titled, “The Origin of Life,” given on September 21, 2010, and available online at http://vimeo.com/415018 .
Here are some more theories that students at publicly funded schools in Britain won’t get to hear about in their science classes from now on:
(iii) the view that Darwinian evolution could never have taken place, which the late Nobel Prize winning chemist Richard Smalley came to espouse in 2005, after reading the books Origins of Life and Who Was Adam? authored by Dr. Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist) and Dr. Fazale Rana (a biochemist).
The evidence regarding the change in Dr. Smalley’s views comes from an online article by Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Fazale (“Fuz”) Rana at their Web site, Reasons to Believe, dated December 20, 2005, and entitled, Creation Scientists Applaud PA Judge’s Ruling Against ‘Intelligent Design’ – Dressing Up ID Is No Substitute for Real Science (Web address: http://www.reasons.org/controversial-topics/intelligent-design-movement/creation-scientists-applaud-pa-judges ). In the article, Dr. Smalley was quoted as saying:
“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.”
(iv) the view held by the late Professor Lynn Margulis (d. 2011), that natural selection could not explain evolution, and that symbiotic mechanisms were the driving engine of evolution.
In an interview with Discover magazine on 16 April 2011 (available online at http://discovermagazine.com/2011/apr/16-interview-lynn-margulis-not-controversial-right ), Professor Margulis stated that “Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.” She also described symbiogenesis as a major source of innovation in evolution, and stated that “There is no gradualism in the fossil record.”
Professor Margulis’ statement that Neo-Darwinism “is in a complete funk” can be found in a 1991 review by C. Mann, “Lynn Margulis: Science’s Unruly Earth Mother,” in Science 252 (5004): 378–381, doi:10.1126/science.252.5004.378, PMID 17740930.
(v) the non-Darwinian evolutionary theory espoused by Professor James Shapiro, a geneticist who dismisses natural selection as a shaping force in evolution and espouses a theory he refers to as natural genetic engineering.
For instance, on the very first page of his new best-selling book, Evolution: a view from the 21st century, Professor Shapiro writes: “Innovation, not selection, is the critical issue in evolutionary change.”
Additionally, in an article entitled, “Mobile DNA and evolution in the 21st century” (Mobile DNA 2010, 1:4 doi:10.1186/1759-8753-1-4, published 25 January 2010), Shapiro maintains that vertebrates and flowering plants appeared within a single generation, as a result of whole genome doubling [WGD], a mechanism which he describes as follows: “WGD is yet another evolutionary process outside the Darwinist perspective that occurs suddenly (that is, within a single generation) and simultaneously affects multiple phenotypic characters.”
(vi) the views which were held by Darwin’s contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), on evolution during the latter part of his life, and which were set forth in his book, The World of Life (London: Chapman and Hall, 1910). While Wallace fully accepted evolution by natural selection as a fact which explains the diversity of living things, he also believed on empirical grounds that unguided natural processes were, by themselves, unable to account for: (a) the origin of life (see the quote below); (b) the appearance of sentience in animals; and (c) the emergence of human intelligence. Wallace believed that the process of evolution had been continually guided by some kind of Higher Intelligence (whoever it may be), and that this Intelligence had intervened in history to bring about the emergence of life from non-living matter, the subsequent appearance of sentient beings and finally, the emergence of intelligence (in human beings).
The evidence that Wallace was skeptical about attempts to explain the origin of life in purely materialistic terms can be found in his essay, The Origin of Life. A Reply to Dr. Schaefer (S700: 1912), which was printed in the Everyman issue of 18 October 1912:
I submit that, in view of the actual facts of growth and organisation as here briefly outlined, and that living protoplasm has never been chemically produced, the assertion that life is due to chemical and mechanical processes alone is quite unjustified. NEITHER THE PROBABILITY OF SUCH AN ORIGIN, NOR EVEN ITS POSSIBILITY, HAS BEEN SUPPORTED BY ANYTHING WHICH CAN BE TERMED SCIENTIFIC FACTS OR LOGICAL REASONING.
(The capitals are Wallace’s. – VJT.)
Wallace’s view that natural selection could not account for the evolution of human intelligence is common knowledge. In a letter to Darwin dated April 28, 1869, responding to Darwin’s dismay over a recent article he had published in the Quarterly Review, Wallace elaborated his views, and argued that not only human mental faculties, but also many aspects of human anatomy, could not be explained as a result of natural selection:
It seems to me that if we once admit the necessity of any action beyond “natural selection” in developing man, we have no reason whatever for confining that agency to his brain. On the mere doctrine of chances it seems to me in the highest degree improbable that so many points of structure, all tending to favour his mental development, should concur in man alone of all animals. If the erect posture, the freedom of the anterior limbs from purposes of locomotion, the powerful and opposable thumb, the naked skin, the great symmetry of form, the perfect organs of speech, and, in his mental faculties, calculation of numbers, ideas of symmetry, of justice, of abstract reasoning, of the infinite, of a future state, and many others, cannot be shown to be each and all useful to man [on the principle of utility] in the very lowest state of civilization — how are we to explain their co-existence in him alone of the whole series of organized being? … It seems to me that the onus probandi will lie with those who maintain that man, body and mind, could have been developed from a quadrumanous [four-handed – VJT] animal by “natural selection.”
(vii) the opinion of Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles (d. 1997), that the first appearance of human consciousness cannot be explained in materialistic terms, and that each of us consists of an immaterial soul interacting with a human body.
For example, in his book, Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self (Routledge, 1989), Eccles openly declared his belief, based on scientific evidence, in the existence of an immaterial soul:
Since materialist solutions fail to account for our experienced uniqueness, I am constrained to attribute the uniqueness of the Self or Soul to a supernatural spiritual creation. To give the explanation in theological terms: each Soul is a new Divine creation which is implanted into the growing foetus at some time between conception and birth. (1989, p. 237.)
I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This belief must be classed as a superstition.
We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world. (1989, p. 241).
(viii) the opinion of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, that the universe we live in is probably a simulation created by aliens. (Dr. Bostrom’s simulation argument is available online at http://www.simulation-argument.com/ .)
(ix) the opinion of Nobel Prize winner Brian Josephson, that life and mind are more fundamental than matter, and that our own universe was generated by some sort of mind, but not by a supernatural one. Dr. Josephson professed his belief in a version of Intelligent Design in a lecture that he delivered to the Cambridge Physics Society on March 5, 2008, entitled, “A Critical Point for Science?” Here’s a quote from the abstract:
Current physics implicitly assumes matter is fundamental, life and mentality being secondary. There are reasons for thinking that such a picture may be incomplete, leading to error. This lecture describes a new conceptual foundation that reverses the order of things, making life and mentality more basic than matter.
Dr. Josephson then proceeded to discuss three examples: telepathy, the memory of water, and cold fusion, which he was inclined to accept. He then proceeded to discuss Intelligent Design:
So I said at some point this theory looks a bit like theology, and I can imagine intelligent design is real. Intelligent Design is rejected just because it’s part of the scientific culture that it cannot be true, you must not talk about it, but it’s not actually disproved. I think it will turn out that there is a design and that the usual theories are wrong there as well.
Readers can view a slideshow of Dr. Josephson’s talk here. Slides 16, 23, 30 and 31 should be of special interest.
These are just a few of the scientific views that students in science classes at publicly funded British schools won’t get the chance to hear about any more. Academic freedom, RIP.
For the record, the Discover Institute opposes any effort to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design in publicly funded schools, as Casey Luskin explains in an excellent post here. However, it also maintains that these schools should fairly present the evidence for and against Darwinian evolution. Alternative theories should not be taught as part of the curriculum, but an environment in which ideas about origins can be discussed freely should be encouraged and promoted.