How Circular Reasoning Passes Peer Review
“Evolution is a fact; therefore, evolution is a fact.” That kind of logic would strike most people as either odd or flawed. Yet it is common fare in scientific journals, where the assumption of evolution is used as proof of evolution.
Darwinists are fond of comparing evolution to gravity, making it appear such a well-grounded belief, supported by such an immense weight of evidence (e.g., 01/26/2006), that it is no longer in need of proof. For instance, in USA Today this month, Harvard evolutionist E. O. Wilson said,
Modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are supported by so much interlocking evidence as to rank as virtual laws of nature. The first is that all biological elements and processes are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. The second principle is that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection.
Because evolutionists believe that molecules-to-man evolution is a law of nature, it can be used as an axiom from which other ideas can be logically deduced. Alternative explanations are simply out of bounds by definition, even when evolutionary inferences appear stretched.
For example, consider a paper by Geerat J. Vermeij (UC Davis) published this week in PNAS,1 entitled “Historical contingency and the purported uniqueness of evolutionary innovations.” Vermeij tackled a vexing problem between evolutionists: whether evolutionary innovations are unique, rare, one-time occurrences (as argued by the late Stephen J. Gould); or, instead, somewhat predictable, because environments will constrain evolution to follow replicable pathways. The abstract states:
Many events in the history of life are thought to be singular, that is, without parallels, analogs, or homologs in time and space. These claims imply that history is profoundly contingent in that independent origins of life in the universe will spawn radically different histories. If, however, most innovations arose more than once on Earth, histories would be predictable and replicable at the scale of functional roles and directions of adaptive change. Times of origin of 23 purportedly unique evolutionary innovations are significantly more ancient than the times of first instantiation of 55 innovations that evolved more than once, implying that the early phases of life’s history were less replicable than later phases or that the appearance of singularity results from information loss through time. Indirect support for information loss comes from the distribution of sizes of clades in which the same minor, geologically recent innovation has arisen multiple times. For three repeated molluscan innovations, 28-71% of instantiations are represented by clades of five or fewer species. Such small clades would be undetectable in the early history of life. Purportedly unique innovations either arose from the union and integration of previously independent components or belong to classes of functionally similar innovations. Claims of singularity are therefore not well supported by the available evidence. Details of initial conditions, evolutionary pathways, phenotypes, and timing are contingent, but important ecological, functional, and directional aspects of the history of life are replicable and predictable.
Clearly Vermeij takes the second of the two positions. What’s interesting about the paper, though, is that all the support for it comes from evolutionary assumptions. His paper contains two tables: one of first-time evolutionary innovations, and another of repeated instantiations of previous innovations that arose by “convergent” or “parallel” evolution. Even the dates for the innovations came from the geological column, a construct devised from evolutionary assumptions. Evolutionary theory, therefore, not only was assumed in the tables, but also used to deduce how evolution acted in the past, and will act in the future and throughout the universe.
In creation-evolution debates, when asked to provide examples from the immense “weight of evidence” for evolution, debaters on the Darwinian side will typically point to the shapes of finch beaks, antibiotic resistance in bacteria (01/29/2006), the color of peppered moths, or other small-scale changes. Even creationists agree that these kinds of variations occur naturally. The innovations listed in Vermeij’s table, by contrast, are large-scale changes involving complex systems with interrelated parts, including: the origin of life, the universal genetic code, sexual reproduction, wings, and human language. Creationists deny that small-scale change can be logically extrapolated into large-scale change, citing lack of evidence from the fossil record and observed limits to artificial selection.
Scientific journals, however, give no voice to these criticisms, because they already have taken molecules-to-man evolution to be a fact based on the observed small-scale changes. Having extrapolated from finch beaks to all of the variety and complexity of life, the evolutionist feels free to speculate on even larger issues. Vermeij used his logic to address questions of what life could be expected to look like on other worlds. Apparently none of the editors or reviewers at the National Academy saw any problem with any of this.
1Geerat J. Vermeij, “Historical contingency and the purported uniqueness of evolutionary innovations,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Published online before print January 27, 2006; DOI 10.1073/pnas.0508724103.
What this means is that to the degree Darwinian dogma relies on circular reasoning, it is like a gigantic house of cards balanced on a toothpick. Effectively dislodge the point holding up the whole structure, and it could collapse quickly and catastrophically.
Phillip Johnson predicted a growing body of scientists and lay people who would ask the right questions and no longer take bluffing and evasion for an answer. Learn to look past the E. O. Wilsons and Lord Martin Reeses of the Darwin Party who stand up flaunting their science badges, spouting royal hot air about the overwhelming weight of evidence for evolution. Remember what Schwarz said last week about that evidence? (01/26/2006). Don’t look at the size of the house of cards or how intricately its parts are interlocked. Look at the flimsy pillar of assumption supporting it. Test that, and stand back.