December 22, 2003 | David F. Coppedge

How Darwinism Produces Job Security

One thing Darwinism has going for it: it provides endless opportunities to research stories that are nearly impossible to prove.
    A case in point was provided in the Dec. 18 issue of Nature.1  John R. Hutchinson (Royal Veterinary College, UK), in a News and Views article on bird evolution, reviewed the new angle that flight might have first begun when theropod dinosaurs stretched out their forelimbs to act as stabilizers or spoilers while running up slopes (see 01/16/2003 headline).  Before Montana vertebrate morphologist Ken Dial came up with this hypothesis, two competing ideas for the origin of flight produced a “rather stale dichotomy” according to Hutchinson: the ground-up (cursorial) hypothesis, that running dinosaurs leaped into the air, and the tree-down (arboreal) hypothesis, that tree-dwelling dinosaurs leaped out of trees (see 01/29/2003 headline).
    Hutchinson does not pretend that the problem has been solved by any means; at most, “this work may illuminate the origin of flight in birds.”  But by providing a possible use for a non-flying limb, which might improve over time, it removes an implausible point of the plot: “This is a compelling solution for the evolutionary conundrum, ‘What use is half a wing?’”  Most of the story of the transition from birds to dinosaurs, however, remains difficult, including the evolution of feathers (see 10/30/2003 and 08/21/2001 headlines) and the need for the simultaneous evolution of many other specialized structures such as the avian lung (see 10/31/2003 headline).  But to Hutchinson, this is not a failure of the story, but a bonus: “There are plenty of issues yet to be explored, of course, which is a good thing for many researchers, including Bundle and Dial, who admit as much” (emphasis added in all quotes).  In other words, the new hypothesis, that flight began to evolve when forelimbs were used as spoilers (wing-assisted incline running, or WAIR), opens up a new job market.  Many new experimental tests can now be attempted by researchers.  Hutchinson provides some examples:

  • Physics:  “The relative roles of inertial and aerodynamic forces remain unknown, as do the energetics of WAIR.”
  • Role of the Tail:  “I wonder how much hindlimb function changes between level running and WAIR, or how the third locomotor module, the tail, might influence WAIR.”
  • Role of the Feet:  “If WAIR is so important in the natural history of ground (or other) birds, and if it is vital for birds to generate frictional forces to improve traction, might their feet be specialized accordingly?”
  • WAIR use by living birds:  “Likewise, it is not known how broadly distributed and crucial WAIR is for the thousands of species of extant birds, especially those such as tinamous, kiwis and ostriches that retain many ancestral avian traits (for example, spending a relatively short time in the nest after hatching, or frequenting more terrestrial than arboreal environments), although Bundle and Dial provide some tantalizing speculations.”
  • Form and Function:  “Finally, how closely are specific anatomical features of birds linked to functions integral to WAIR?”
  • Interdisciplinary Research:  “On the wish-list for the future would be the establishment of secure links between form and function for the group � Aves or Neornithes � that includes all extant birds and all descendants of their most recent common ancestor.  If that could be done, then the more difficult historical questions of how WAIR evolved would become tractable because relationships between form and function could be traced across evolutionary lineages.”

It appears, therefore, that the new hypothesis is no spoiler itself; it is a door of opportunity, a fresh wind taking the story of bird evolution out of the doldrums:

Without such broader knowledge, it is uncertain how essential WAIR was for any extinct members of the theropod lineage, including the earliest birds.  Regardless, this work will continue to stimulate research on flight and its evolution.  The debate over whether flight originated in tree- or ground-living creatures is centuries old.  The WAIR hypothesis has provided a biologically plausible alternative to that rather stale dichotomy.

1John R. Hutchinson, “Biomechanics: Early birds surmount steep slopes,” Nature 426, 777 – 778 (18 December 2003); doi:10.1038/426777a.

Caught in the act!  This is an important principle to understand about Darwinism, and why it has become so successful, and why it has taken over the intellectual world.  It no longer matters whether a hypothesis is true or not, but only whether it keeps lazy scientists employed as storytellers.  Evolutionary science has been liberated from repeatability, testability and observability.  The key word is now plausibility, which being translated, means science has become fiction.  After all, any good novel or short story is plausible, isn’t it?  (Since there are no Laws of Plausibility, at least it will be plausible to somebody, especially the storyteller.)
    For Darwinists studying the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, to really do their job rigorously, they would have to identify every beneficial mutation or gene duplication, connect it to an actual functional advantage, and monitor its spread through a population.  They would have to find every transitional fossil, know its date accurately, trace the development of all the flight-related hardware and software in the genes (including feathers, perching feet, hollow bones, avian lungs, specialized organs, modified brain, body size, metabolic rate, specialized muscles and tendons, and behavioral instincts, such as knowing how to take off and land and use thermals), explain how these morphological changes proceed from embryo to adult, and much more.  Clearly, doing all this is impossible.  Moreover, they would need to uncover, by experiment, new natural laws that create increasing levels of complexity and information against the inexorable pressure of entropy.  Even if in some fantasyland they could perform these impossible experiments, they would never know if it matched prehistory without getting into a time machine and watching the whole story unfold.
    This is too hard, so evolutionists changed the rules.  They don’t like doing science the old way, the way Joule and Faraday and Mendel did it.  It’s so much easier to just flop on the sofa and speculate.  When the NSF comes around and wonders how the grant money is being spent, the Darwinist can show the photo album from the last vacation in the Bahamas (see Dec. 03 headline), or show a home-video clip of partridge chicks running up a ramp in the lab, or demonstrate the latest computer games (see May 8 headline) enough to look busy.  And so that Eugenie Scott can brag about all the scientific literature that supports evolution, the Darwinist can have his or her grad student write it up in specialized jargon for Nature or Science or National Geographic, ending with the typical benediction about all the wonderful stories that the latest new twist on the plot opens up.  Look through the Chain Links on “Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory” and check if this is not indeed the situation.
    Calling all Baloney Detectors.  Wake up and smell the coffee.  We’ve been hoodwinked.  All along, Eugenie Scott and the rest of the Darwin Party have been browbeating their critics that they just don’t understand “science” and that to do “science” we must play by “the rules.”  But she didn’t explain that the rules were changed when the Darwin Party came to power.  Old Charlie was clever.  He had a vivid imagination and a gift of gab, and instead of proving his story, he said, “It’s plausible, isn’t it?  Prove me wrong!”  So we took the bait and headed off on an impossible quest, trying to prove a universal negative, instead of calling his bluff and making him prove his story right.  While we were distracted, he rounded up the Starving Storytellers, gave them lab coats and became their patron saint.  They have been in his debt ever since.
    Antievolutionists have been snookered into trying to prove that this or that alleged feathered dinosaur really isn’t an ancestor to birds, or that this or that microevolutionary change cannot be extrapolated endlessly, without realizing that they are trying to beat Hobbes at Calvinball.  As long as the Darwinists are free to make up stories that can never be proved, it’s hopeless to call them on the carpet.  The one who sets the rules controls the game.
    The reason Darwin Party members are so vehement against critics is that their jobs are at stake.  The founding fathers of science declared independence from speculation by framing an unwritten constitution which demanded that scientific results be observable, testable and repeatable.  But later presidents, giving into pressure from special interest groups that found the work too hard, started entitlement programs like the Great Society for Storytellers.  The GSS took over labs, removed the flasks and ammeters, and set up couches surrounding banquet tables filled with “tantalizing speculations” (see Sept. 18 commentary).  Eventually, Big Science became a bloated bureacracy distributing limited grant money to more and more storyteller banquets, while those rugged individualists who still believed in the founding principles of science were being burdened to support the growing welfare state.  Those few who called for fairness were accused of hate speech, and ridiculed as irrational, superstitious obscurantists who simply didn’t understand “science.”
    If people woke up and realized that Darwinists are not pulling their fair share, that real science was subsidizing the Darwinists’ endless quest for a good story, some heads might roll.  Science itself, however, would go on.  The good old science that builds space stations and discovers molecular motors, that explores Mars and digs up dinosaur bones and classifies hummingbirds, would do just fine.  Medicine would still advance, high school science fairs would still be popular, microscopes and telescopes would continue to sell, and discoveries would continue to pour forth.  But if the public demanded accountability, then all the useless, distracting, parasitic welfare programs promoted by the Darwin Party would dry up.  Certain loudmouth bums and welfare queens would be stuck holding up signs saying, Will Tell Stories for Food.
    This should not be taken as a tirade against Darwinists.  We are actually very tolerant of them.  If they want to continue to loaf and watch Charlie’s angles, that’s fine; there are even some creationists who like some episodes.  But teach it in the theater class, not the science class.

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Categories: Birds, Dinosaurs, Dumb Ideas

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