April 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

How Evolutionary Science Is Done: From Deduction to Story

“Evolution is a fact!” Carl Sagan stated emphatically on TV in his 1980 Cosmos series (now in reruns on The Science Channel).  Following this lead, many evolutionists repeat this four-word phrase, often augmenting it like, Evolution is a fact, like gravity (see association).  This motto has some interesting properties in its effects on scientific research.  Anything that is a fact no longer needs to be proved.  It no longer needs evidence.  It can be taken as a given, a first principle from which other principles can be deduced, and a framework into which all empirical data can be fitted.  Has Charles Darwin become the new Aristotle?
    Here are some recent examples of evolutionary reasoning in scientific journals and science news articles.  Look for instances of deducing conclusions from the premise “evolution is a fact.”  Also look for reasoning that, since evolution is a “fact,” it must be capable of accomplishing any kind of design work found among the world’s amazing living creatures.

  • Octopus elbows:  Noticing that octopuses have an uncanny ability to bend their boneless tentacles into shapes resembling vertebrate elbows, EurekAlert says this about how the ability evolved: “The presence of similar structural features and control strategies in articulated limbs (for example, jointed vertebrate arms) and flexible octopus arms suggests that these qualities have evolved convergently in octopuses and in vertebrates, and it also suggests that an articulated limb–controlled at the level of joints–is the optimal solution to the challenge of achieving precise point-to-point movements by a limb.”  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
        The authors of the original paper in Current Biology1 went further.  “Despite the evolutionary gap and morphological differences, humans and octopuses evolved similar strategies when fetching food to the mouth,” Sumbre, Hochner et al. said.  They even postulated that this ability arose at the dawn of animals, hundreds of millions of years ago:

    Because the hypothetical common ancestor of cephalopods and vertebrates dates back to the beginning of Cambrian era (about 540 million years ago), fetching appears to be a genuine and rare case of evolutionary functional convergence, where two independent attributes (morphology and neural control) coevolved to achieve a common goal.  We therefore suggest that the combination of a kinematically constrained articulated limb and a movement control strategy with simpler, more stereotypical movements in intrinsic coordinates offers an optimal solution for achieving precise point-to-point movements.

    Commenting on this study in the same issue of Current Biology,2 Scott L. Hooper explored the idea that function can give rise to form, by evolution.  Noting that “muscles predate the evolution of hard body parts,” Hooper personified evolution into a creative programmer: “flexibly creating different ‘skeletons’ of stiffened muscles against which other muscles can act may be the mother of all motor control strategies.
        Live Science picked up on this line, also, stating that “The similarity of structural features and control strategies between jointed vertebrate arms and flexible octopus limbs suggests that these configurations evolved separately in octopuses and vertebrates, a result scientists call an example of convergent evolution.”  In none of these papers or news articles did any of the authors attempt to connect function to form by a series of plausible evolutionary steps.  Apparently, they didn’t have to – since evolution is already a fact.

  • Bat digital computing:  With their sonar-guided aerial acrobatics, bats are true wonders of the class Mammalia.  The only mammals to fly under their own power, bats make up one fifth of all mammalian species, said Michael Balter in Science Now.  But how did they get the ability to fly?  Surprisingly, a paper in PNAS3 found a tale in the absence of evidence:

    The earliest fossil bats resemble their modern counterparts in possessing greatly elongated digits to support the wing membrane, which is an anatomical hallmark of powered flight.  To quantitatively confirm these similarities, we performed a morphometric analysis of wing bones from fossil and modern bats.  We found that the lengths of the third, fourth, and fifth digits (the primary supportive elements of the wing) have remained constant relative to body size over the last 50 million years.  This absence of transitional forms in the fossil record led us to look elsewhere to understand bat wing evolution

    Since (of course) evolution is already a fact, no fossil evidence is necessary.  What they looked at were genes for finger development in bats and their presumed cousins, mice.  They found that a common gene for bone growth is activated differently in bats, causing the digits to grow much more rapidly, but only in the forelimbs.  “Together, our results suggest that an up-regulation of the Bmp pathway is one of the major factors in the developmental elongation of bat forelimb digits, and it is potentially a key mechanism in their evolutionary elongation as well.”
        In this “suggestion,” no attempt was made to integrate this into a comprehensive picture of how the membranes developed, how flight muscles developed, where the avionics software came from, and all the other parts that would have had to have emerged simultaneously for long fingers to become tools rather than impediments.  Since evolution is a fact, this is not a problem; each attribute becomes a piece of the grand evolutionary picture, something that “suggests” or “sheds light” on a detail of what is already known to be true.
        Michael Balter shamelessly gave his write-up on this paper a Kipling-esque just-so-story title in Science Now: “How Bats Got Off the Ground.”  Calling bats great examples of “Darwinian success,” Balter quoted other scientists who called this a “an excellent paper” that “helps us to understand how evolutionary transformations are achieved by tinkering with the development of individual structures–in this case, the digits.”

  • The purpose-driven bird:  Darwinists have often claimed that humans have evolved to the point where they can now take charge of their own evolution.  But can birds do this?  That’s a new line promoted by Katherine Unger on Science Now, a news service of the AAAS.  “Species need not sit around waiting for natural selection to shape them,”  she said.  “According to a new study, a creature’s personality can also be an important evolutionary driving force–one that may give the species some control over its own destiny.”  The study, described in PNAS, showed how some bluebirds can alter their habitats and foraging behaviors based on how aggressive some members get (see also EurekAlert summary).  The odd thing is that no evolution occurred before or after the study; the bluebirds were still bluebirds.  The key finding was merely a suggestion: “By selecting the environment in which they live, animals can actively affect the natural selection they experience.”  Evolution by natural selection is, of course, the fact that (by implication) produced the bluebirds in the first place.

Apparently, suggestions are good enough for science these days.  It all follows naturally by deduction from first principles: evolution is a fact.
    Cornelius Hunter, writing for ID the Future, has found this reaction to be common in his experience debating evolutionists.  “Evolution is a fact” is their knee-jerk reply, with the inevitable comparison to gravity (an association Hunter calls absurd).  “As the old saying goes, it is not what a man doesn’t know that worries me,” he quipped, “but what he knows for sure.”  He continued,

“The ‘evolution is a fact’ claim is awkward for evolutionists.  It makes the man behind the curtain all the more obvious and is empirically unsupportable.  How should evolutionists respond when a savvy buyer starts kicking the tires and asks “Why is this a fact again?”….
The dual mandates that (i) science must adhere to methodological naturalism and (ii) evolution is a fact, serve to diminish the importance of the empirical data.  Monumental evidential problems become mere curiosities when the theory is beyond question.

Hunter calls this an “unfortunate trend in science.  Let’s reverse it and seriously engage the issues at hand.”

1Sumbre, Hochner et al., “Octopuses Use a Human-like Strategy to Control Precise Point-to-Point Arm Movements,” Current Biology, Vol 16, 767-772, 18 April 2006.
2Scott L. Hooper, “Dispatch: Motor Control: The Importance of Stiffness,” Current Biology, Vol 16, R283-R285, 18 April 2006.
3Sears et al., “Development of bat flight: Morphologic and molecular evolution of bat wing digits,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0509716103, published online before print April 17, 2006.

We’re going to keep holding up this garbage to public view as we have for over five years now, to expose Darwinian research for what it is: institutionalized question begging, assuming what needs to be proved, making up tall tales in the absence of evidence, ascribing exquisite design to dumb processes of randomness, and murdering Baconian scientific rigor.  Once the Darwin Party came to power, they dumbed down the high standards of research, substituted bravado for caution, and brought in the dark ages of speculative biology where facts and data don’t matter any more.  The highest value now is keeping the story line begun by Pope Charlie going ad infinitum.  The usurping Darwin Party elitists not only lounge around, engaging one another in “tantalizing speculations” (12/22/2003) in the institutions once devoted to induction and proof, but then have the gall to condemn anyone who calls them on the carpet for their shenanigans.
    Let this awareness promote a new day in science, where conclusions are rare, where “suggestions” are criticized, where evidence is king, and no principle based on human authority becomes a premise for deduction – i.e., like it used to be when men and women who loved nature and loved the truth (predominantly Christians and creationists – see online book) explored nature as seeking out the wisdom of God.  Disallowing deduction and reinstating rigor might not cure the hard-core Darwinian materialists, but it would go a long way in clearing the fog away from the debate.

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Categories: Birds, Mammals

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