December 21, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

What Materialist Science Still Can’t Figure Out

Darwin called the origin of flowering plants an “abominable mystery,” but it is not the only one.  The scientific materialism that strives to explain all reality by “natural” causes without resource to a designing intelligence has a long way to go.  Occasionally, major gaps in cosmic evolution and biological evolution become evident in scientific papers and announcements.

  1. A bloomin’ mystery:  Darwin was baffled about angiosperms in 1859, and so are today’s biologists – even with genome sequencing, a more complete fossil record and microscopes that are approaching nanometer resolution.  Michael Frohlich and Mark Chase wrote in Nature that “After a dozen years of progress the origin of angiosperms is still a great mystery.1  Less than a dozen years ago, they said, even the most basic questions about angiosperm origins were still disputed.  They surveyed a dozen alternative approaches to answering the question, but put any answer in future tense – even after nearly 148 years of searching.
  2. Beetle blast from the past:  Modern-looking beetles evolved 110 million years earlier than expected, if we can believe scientists from Imperial College, London (see BBC News).  Evolutionists had thought the proliferation of beetles coincided with the rise of flowering plants 140 million years ago.  Now, they claim beetles have been around for at least 250 million years – maybe 300 million.
        There are some 300,000 species of beetles in the world today.  “The reason for this large number of beetle species has been debated for many years and never resolved,” the article stated (cf. 04/26/2002).  Why did they evolve into so many species far before flowering plants are thought to have appeared?  “We don’t have the answer to that,” said one researcher.
  3. Birds and bees:  It’s hard to know whether Tim Clutton-Brock was confirming sexual selection or casting doubt on it.  In a review article in Science,2 he gave material for critics and proponents to both claim victory.  “Research on sexual selection shows that the evolution of secondary sexual characters in males and the distribution of sex differences are more complex than was initially suggested but does not undermine our understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms involved,” he began.  “However, the operation of sexual selection in females has still received relatively little attention.”  That seems surprising, considering it is such an easy topic for biologists to have investigated since Darwin’s day.  Darwin himself paid little attention to secondary sexual characteristics in females, he said.
        The article shows how sexual selection can produce counter-intuitive, even opposite, results: “Recent studies show that both intrasexual competition between females and male choice of mating partners are common, leading to strong sexual selection in females and, in extreme cases, to reversals in the usual pattern of sex differences in behavior and morphology.” He concluded that sexual selection remains a “robust framework” that explains much, but “many important questions about the operation of sexual selection in females and the evolution of sex differences have yet to be answered.”  The long and short of it: “There is still much to be done.
        Last month in Current Biology,3 three scientists at University of Exeter tried to do an experiment to see if attractiveness in males was heritable (Note: the experiments were done on fruit flies, not humans).  It would seem intuitive in a Darwinian sense that attractive males should produce more and fitter offspring.  Did it work?  They reported positive results, but admitted that their results “contrast starkly” with an earlier, similar study.  “For example, a recent hemiclonal investigation found that males with high reproductive success did not produce more attractive sons, which is very different to what we find here,” they said.  It’s hard to know if any significant conclusions could be drawn.  Their ending sentence seems contradictory: “Regardless of the net fitness outcome, however, our finding that sexy fathers sire sexy sons provides much needed evidence for a critical assumption of many models of sexual selection,” they claimed.  But isn’t net fitness outcome what Darwinism is all about?
        Sexual selection is apparently one of those ideas that sounds good in generalities, but bogs down under scientific scrutiny: “our results emphasise the fact that attractiveness is a composite trait that cannot be totally captured by simple measurements of single characters,” they explained.  “That is to say, even if individual traits that are subject to sexual selection are heritable, this need not imply attractiveness in total is heritable and can evolve.”  Perhaps beauty is in the fly of the beholder.
  4. Mammal enamel:  Looking at the teeth of mammals gave Zhe-Xi Luo a non-Darwinian view of their evolutionary history.  The scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Natural History said in Nature,4Classic scenarios of mammalian morphological evolution tend to posit an orderly acquisition of key evolutionary innovations leading to adaptive diversification, but newly discovered fossils show that evolution of such key characters as the middle ear and the tribosphenic teeth is far more labile among Mesozoic mammals.”  Views of progress should be discarded: “Successive diversifications of Mesozoic mammal groups multiplied the opportunities for many dead-end lineages to iteratively evolve developmental homoplasies and convergent ecological specializations, parallel to those in modern mammal groups.
        Luo mentioned evolutionary convergence a dozen times in his review article.  He spoke of “curious cases of convergent adaptations in extinct Mesozoic mammals” that “represent many separate evolutionary experiments,” but merely stating that something represents convergent evolution begs the question of how complex organs could have originated even once by evolution, let alone multiple times.  At one point Luo asked, “are originations of key mammalian characters singular evolutionary events, or iterative convergences despite their complexity?”
  5. Champions are raised, not born:  Are race horse breeders paying high stud fees for nothing?  Nurture may be more important than nature in producing good race horses, reports Science Now.  A team from the University of Edinburgh studied records of 4500 race horse offspring between 1922 to 2003, and found only 10% correlation of champions with their parents.  If genes aren’t correlating with fitness as much the environment (in this case, good trainers), what would this mean to Darwinian theory that expects fitness to ultimately reside in the genes, where they can be passed on?
        One caution about any conclusions drawn from this study is that fitness according to the betting man yelling in the grandstands may not relate to fitness according to the horse.  But then, fitness in evolutionary terms is so vague, it can mean anything (see “Fitness for dummies: is it running in circles?”, 10/29/2002).
  6. Tree Network of life:  Lateral gene transfer scrambles any hope of finding a Darwinian tree of common descent in genetic studies, admitted James McInerney and Davide Pisani in Science.5  “The role of horizontal gene transfer in evolution has raised fierce debate about the relevance of the Tree of Life,” they said.  Yet the Tree of Life, coming from the single illustration in The Origin of Species, is Darwin’s most-famous icon of evolution.  They concluded with a new paradigm, “When eukaryotes are included in our considerations of evolution, the phylogeny of life seems better represented by a network than a tree, making any core genes-based argument in favor of the Tree of Life essentially irrelevant.”  See also the 02/01/2007 entry.
  7. Dark prospects:  Dark energy has been debated for nearly a decade, but Lawrence Krauss (Case Western Reserve University) thinks we may never figure out what it is.  As reported in Physics World, “Even with the many observations planned over the next decade, there is a real chance that we will never understand the true nature of dark energy.

On this last point, Krauss commented on how remarkable it is that we live at a time when we can see the rest of the universe.  In the big picture, had we lived when the universe were much older, dark energy (whatever it is) would have flung all but our local group out of sight:

It therefore seems that we are living in a very special time, namely the only time in the history of the universe that we might actually be able to infer the existence of dark energy itself.  Perhaps, therefore, we should not feel too bad if observations in the coming decades do not allow us to untangle the mystery of the nature and origin of dark energy.  After all, it is often the mysteries themselves that keep scientists going, energizing theorists to continue to speculate about the ultimate nature of reality and motivating observers to seek out new tools to probe it.

This point was argued by Gonzalez and Richards in The Privileged Planet.  If we are living in a special epoch that makes scientific discovery possible, that’s another indication of intelligent design.  Arguing along these lines cost Gonzalez his tenure (see Evolution News).

1.  Michael Frohlich and Mark Chase, “After a dozen years of progress the origin of angiosperms is still a great mystery,” Nature 450, 1184-1189 (20 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06393.
2.  Tim Clutton-Brock, “Sexual Selection in Males and Females,” Science, 21 December 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5858, pp. 1882-1885, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133311.
3.  Michelle L. Taylor, Nina Wedell and David J. Hosken, “The heritability of attractiveness,” Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 22, 20 November 2007, Pages R959-R960.
4.  Zhe-Xi Luo, “Transformation and diversification in early mammal evolution,” Nature 450, 1011-1019 (13 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06277.
5.  James O. McInerney and Davide Pisani, “Genetics: Paradigm for Life,” Science, 30 November 2007: Vol. 318. no. 5855, pp. 1390-1391, DOI: 10.1126/science.1151657.

This is just a sampling of fundamental questions that have the Darwinists stumped after nearly a century and a half.  It’s clear that their victory speeches are mere bluffing, because the unknowns overpower the knowns, and the knowns are not well known.  How much longer do you want to give the materialistic crowd time to pursue their metaphysical research program?  They‘re like the dog in the manger; can’t eat the hay, but won’t let those with the stomach for it get a bite. 

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