The headlines for some scientific news stories might leave philosophers of science wagging their heads. Few, though, are the reporters willing to call something really dumb, or at least questionable—especially if it appears to support evolution.
The small ball theory: PNAS published a paper by Emory University evolutionists alleging that dads with small testicles make better fathers. This kind of subjective claim is highly susceptible to investigator bias, participant bias, and sample size, and is therefore nearly impossible to establish (besides being dumb on the face of it). Are well-endowed males destined for a life of bad-dadness? Are moral behaviors determined by one’s equipment? Don’t personal choices matter? Doesn’t character count? But like starting gun to a race, all the reporters, Nature included, nearly simultaneously proclaimed it as scientific fact: the BBC News, Live Science, New Scientist, and general reporters, ever lusting after prurient content, who feed on these sources (Yahoo News, USA Today, Smithsonian’s “Smart News” blog; Forbes had the cojones to criticize the claim). Fortunately, most articles took their eye off the ball and spared their readers graphic illustrations.
Somehow, it seems unsurprising that evolutionary theory motivated this study. The BBC said,
The researchers were investigating an evolutionary theory about trade-offs between investing time and effort in mating or putting that energy into raising children. The idea being that larger testicles would suggest greater commitment to creating more children over raising them.
Undoubtedly, other researchers could find many counter-examples if they tried, disposing of this softball claim in the dustbin of evolutionary just-so stories. Live Science pointed out another pitfall: “no one knows how testicular volume changes over time.” The claim is rife with unknowns and variables that could “prove” anything. The fine print in the BBC article noted that “The exact nature of any link is not clear” and that “further studies… are still needed”. Any “finding” that appears to support Darwinism, though, seems to get a pass.
What to wear to the cave cookout: On the occasion of Fashion Week (did you know? did you care?) National Geographic spilled excessive ink pondering the evolution of clothes. Even though the story is threadbare of evidence, the article decided that clothing originated 25,000 years ago; or maybe it was 300,000, no one knows exactly why. Perhaps the most useful piece of information was the revelation that Neanderthals were skilled clothiers, better tailored than brutes hiding their privates with animal skins. Another take-home message is seen in this link to a 1909 drawing of Neanderthal Man published in the Illustrated London News, making it look as ape-like and brutish as possible to portray it as a missing evolutionary link. Nowadays Neanderthals are more respected as members of the human race.
This one is full of holes: Some people have a condition called trypophobia: the fear of holes. Science Daily and other sites reported that this phobia “May Stem from Evolutionary Survival Response.” Dr. Cole (U of Essex) was quick to offer an evolutionary story: “These findings suggest that there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal.” The explanation makes humans pawns of an evolutionary history they never experienced. “It backs up the theory that we are set-up to be fearful of things which hurt us in our evolutionary past,” Dr. Cole alleged. “We have an innate predisposition to be wary of things that can harm us.” It appears he never thought of self-preservation as a possibly designed instinct.
It came from outer space: The Sutter’s Mill Meteorite that fell in 2012 contained traces of organic compounds previously not seen in meteorites. That’s the science part. Most of the science news media (e.g., Space.com) announced, however, that these molecules tell secrets about the origin of life.
Scientists investigating the origin of life often suppose dissolved compounds desirable for life need to first have gotten concentrated and held together somehow, much as cell membranes do for the cell’s components. The organic molecules the researchers discovered in the Sutter’s Mill fragments “could be good for such a purpose, because they can form rudimentary enclosures to contain compounds useful to prebiotic evolution,” Pizzarello said.
Live Science justified the speculation on the grounds of ignorance: “Since the origins of life are utterly unknown, the idea has its merits.”
In a similar vein, PhysOrg reported that newly-discovered microbes “could be crucial to understanding origins of life on Earth,” this despite the fact that the microbes have highly adapted mechanisms for survival. The suggestion that these microbes provide understanding about a far-removed, distant notion of life’s origin was merely tossed out there without any evidential support. It “could be crucial” but, then again, it could be utterly irrelevant.
And on it goes: Here are a few other evolutionary stories offered up as speculative possibilities:
- The evolution of play: maybe it enhanced creativity, Jonathon Keats suggested in a book review on New Scientist celebrating the imaginations of two authors; “there’s no reason why scholarship can’t be as seriously playful as bubble-blowing” – a Freudian slip?
- Phoenix mammals: Out of the ash of dinosaur death, mammal-ness rises. That’s what “new research suggests” according to Science Daily. It takes an “evolutionary paleontologist” to come up with that notion.
- The whole tooth and nothing butt: Science Daily used the power of suggestion to conjure up images of mindless designers in an arbitration meeting: “This suggests that the wear process might have a crucial influence in the evolution and structural adaptation of molars, enabling to endure bite forces and to reduce tooth failure throughout the lifetime of an individual.” At least it “seemed” like an “evolutionary compromise” to an evolutionist.
- Evolutionary leg up: Why did the bird run across the road? Its tail got shorter. That’s the evolutionary explanation on Science Daily: “A radical shortening of their bony tails over 100 million years ago enabled the earliest birds to develop versatile legs that gave them an evolutionary edge, a new study shows.” It shows no such thing; that was an interpretation. According to the chief speculator, “Our work shows that, whilst they may have started off as just another type of dinosaur, birds quickly made a rather special evolutionary breakthrough that gave them abilities and advantages that their dinosaur cousins didn’t have.”
- Malice in Blunderland: Science Magazine began an article with a headline suitable for children: “How the Red Queen Drives Terrestrial Mammals to Extinction.” One of the co-authors was Charles Marshall, the master of disaster who swept away the problem of the Cambrian explosion by saying that animals evolved because they evolved (see 4/23/06).
This is a sample of a strange genre in science reporting: evolutionary speculation gets the green light. It’s ironic that these evolutionists and their reporters are often the ones criticizing creationists over “lack of evidence” or “using science to support a belief system.”
We’re going to keep displaying this Darwin-brand baloney till it stinks so bad people stop buying it. To do that, we have to take it out of the can and unwrap it. It’s hard for us to smell it, too, but somebody has to show the world what passes for science from the Darwin Baloney Factory. If anyone outside the Darwin Party tried to fawn such putrid stuff on the public, the health authorities would shut them down faster than you could say DODO.