Darwin Follies and Fallacies, Part One
You can’t say something “evolved to” do something useful. That’s a profound misunderstanding of Darwinism. Evolutionists keep saying it anyway.
No progress will be made in the creation-evolution debate without clarity of terms and concepts. Dr. Michael Flannery, historian, provided some much-needed clarity about the nature of Darwinian evolution in a book review about Darwin’s Dice by Curtis Johnson which explains the role of chance in Darwin’s theory. Evolution News quotes part of Flannery’s review:
Johnson has meticulously examined the role of chance in Darwinian evolution and produced a superlative study. By dissecting the mass of Darwin’s writings back to his earliest notebooks, Johnson has concluded that “‘Darwinism’ had a single meaning . . . from beginning to end” (xii) and that chance formed the leitmotif of his thought from his Notebooks B and C commenced in July of 1837 to his death in April of 1882. … Darwin had to choose between a designed world or a world of chance; he chose the latter and adopted a variety strategies aimed a concealing this atheistic proposition.
Focusing on chance allows Darwinian evolution to come into much sharper metaphysical focus. Johnson’s assertion that Darwin’s departure from Christianity was early and abrupt may be uncomfortable to some, but his detailed and exhaustive analysis makes it hard to argue against the fact that Darwin’s “chance-governed world seems tantamount to a godless world” (xviii). As such, Johnson’s bold and clearly argued thesis makes for an important addition to our understanding of the man and his theory.
As we often state, chance is equivalent to the Stuff Happens Law: the antithesis of scientific explanation. One cannot escape the primacy of chance in Darwinism. Any insertion of teleology (goal-directed activity) abandons Darwin’s core principle and violates his goal to do away with goals (note the self-refuting fallacy in that).
Something about Big Science and Big Media won’t let this picture through to the public. Either willingly or unwittingly, they personify natural selection as a strategic creative force, whitewashing Darwinism into a nicer-looking picture and deceiving the public about the aimless nature of evolution. Watch them:
Fish security: You know a fallacy is coming when Science Daily says, “Fish evolve by playing it safe.” Watch for the phrase evolve to. It’s a tipoff that someone is inserting teleology into Darwin’s chance philosophy. Teleology makes sense for non-Darwinians who believe fish come pre-programmed with security mechanisms to face previously-unencountered threats. But to think that fish can take evolution into their own fins for a purpose commits the personification fallacy. Chance could not care less what happens. We’re told that “fish can evolve to be more cautious and stay away from fishing nets.” The evolutionists want to “find out under what conditions marine reserves might push fish to evolve to escape capture.” The more fishing pressure is applied, “the faster the fish would evolve to stay in the protected space.”
Tetrapod tactics: Do you know why fish invaded the land? They saw a cornucopia of free lunches up there, and evolved whatever it took to reach them. Isn’t that the essence of this story in NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine with its suggestive artwork of Shubin’s Tiktaalik fish-a-pod?
A provocative new Northwestern University and Claremont McKenna, Scripps and Pitzer colleges study suggests it was the power of the eyes and not the limbs that first led our ancient aquatic ancestors to make the momentous leap from water to land. Crocodile-like animals first saw easy meals on land and then evolved limbs that enabled them to get there, the researchers argue.
It’s provocative, all right. It should provoke outrage against just-so storytelling by those who respect science. “We found a huge increase in visual capability in vertebrates just before the transition from water to land. Our hypothesis is that maybe it was seeing an unexploited cornucopia of food on land — millipedes, centipedes, spiders and more — that drove evolution to come up with limbs from fins,” said Malcolm MacIver of Northwestern University, who should be arrested for impersonating a scientist (see 9/30/07 commentary). For more provocation, consider that the prestigious National Academy of Sciences published this “Buena Vista” hypothesis in PNAS. David Klinghoffer had some interesting remarks about the Disney Studios reference in Evolution News and Science Today, agreeing that the story is “dripping with teleology.”
Military plant: One usually thinks of national leaders engaging in an arms race, but to evolutionists, brainless plants are capable of that foreign policy. In “Surprise: Transport proteins evolved long before their compounds emerged,” Science Daily tells how evolutionists at the University of Copenhagen were surprised by the forethought of plants.
As in an arms race plants constantly develop new toxic compounds to protect themselves against herbivores and diseases — and as in war, mobility is important. Therefore, plants evolved transport proteins to efficiently and timely concentrate toxic defense compounds where they are needed the most.
“It’s an exciting discovery because it’s often assumed that evolution is guided by what gives the organism an advantage. Why then were these transporters maintained during evolution when the compounds they move had not yet emerged?” says Associate Professor Hussam Nour-Eldin.
Snails: Science Daily tells about researchers who “investigate the evolution of these proteins as a strategy to adapt the gastropodes [sic] to their new habitats — land snails have developed from marine species, and had to find novel strategies to cope with the higher loadings of heavy metals in the soil.” They didn’t have to do any such thing. Evolution is dumb and blind, incapable of strategizing. If all the snails died, evolution wouldn’t (and couldn’t) care. Stuff happens.
Cows and cuds: Phys.org deigns to tell its readers “How chewing like a cow helped early mammals thrive.” A Darwin Party inductee at the University of Chicago has learned his lessons well. He “proposes that mammal teeth, jaw bones and muscles evolved to produce side-to-side motions of the jaw, or yaw, that allowed our earliest ancestors to grind food with their molars and eat a more diversified diet.” Parents know better than scientists that you can “allow” a teen-ager to eat a more diversified diet and he won’t do it. Allowing chance to evolve teeth is even more ridiculous.
Humans: Read with astonishment how Roger S. Seymour proposes to explain “How our species got smarter: through a rush of blood to the head” (The Conversation). If this were a law of nature, every animal stooping to drink water should suddenly get smarter. Scientists could test this hypothesis: inject blood into the heads of mice to see if they get through mazes faster, or hold students upside down to see if they learn calculus better.
Walk this way: Another way evolutionists distract attention away from Darwin’s chance world is to simply assert that stuff evolved instead of demonstrating how it evolved. Phys.org illustrates this escape mechanism by repeating the phrase “the evolution of bipedalism” three times. The prefix ‘the evolution of‘ is used here the same way certain people have shifted attention away from their own personal responsibility onto ‘the demon of‘ alcohol, sexual addiction, or laziness. Remarkably, these evolutionists multiply their miracles of chance by claiming that the skull and the legs evolved together, a “gloss unwarranted by the findings” according to Jonathan Witt (ENST). To appreciate just how complicated the changes must have been to enable upright walking and running, recall Daniel Lieberman’s list of body adaptations for endurance running from the 11/18/04 entry, “The Evolution of Marathon Man.”
Placenta: Evolutionists writing for The Conversation seem particularly gifted at this fallacy. Why did the placenta evolve in mammals? Oliver Griffith says, “females evolved to hold their eggs inside the uterus until embryonic development was complete.” Again, “Placental structures have evolved to support pregnancy in most organisms that give birth to live young,” he says, compounding the error. And then the real whopper comes: “It’s a complex organ that has evolved many times independently.” Really? How many times? “more than 100 independent origins across the animal kingdom.” Let’s be clear: 100 natural miracles are a lot more improbable than one natural miracle.
Beetle bailywick: Science Daily talks about “Convergent con artists,” hinting that a favorite theory rescue device of Darwinians is pending— convergent evolution. “How rove beetles keep evolving into army ant parasites.” Let’s count the personification and teleological fallacies:
- parasitic beetles engaged in a game of deception
- these beetles arose
- evolution has the capacity to repeat itself in an astonishingly predictable way
- a new and really stunning system of convergent evolution
- an elaborate symbiosis, which has evolved in a stereotyped way
- exceptional … that this convergent system is evolutionarily ancient
- “The tape of life has been extremely predictable whenever rove beetles and army ants have come together,” says Parker. “It begs the question: why has evolution followed this path so many times?”
- the beetles’ most recent common ancestor was an army ant doppelganger, it probably possessed traits that would allow its descendants to readily evolve into army ant parasites.
- They presented this huge niche for exploitation that these beetles were equipped to exploit, and they did so multiple times in parallel.
- many questions about how this convergent system arose
- How predictable has molecular evolution been in each of these convergent beetle lineages?
- We need to know how they live, how they evolved, and what role they play
None of these phrases make any sense in Darwin’s chance worldview. To see why, substitute “Stuff Happens” for evolution, as in #3, stuff has the capacity to happen repeatedly, #6, exceptional that stuff happened a long time ago, or #12: We need to know how they live, how stuff happens, and what place in nowhere stuff lands. If beetles were designed to adapt, that’s something entirely different.
Climate chauffeur: Three principles of baloney detecting need to be understood aforehand: (1) Couching a fallacy in jargon protects it only from the uninformed. (2) Publishing folly in a respected journal does not sanctify it. (30) There’s no safety in numbers. In Science Magazine, no less than 20 evolutionists try to prove that climate drives evolutionary adaptation. But “climate-driven selection” can only drive animals to extinction, not to creativity. There’s nothing about the weather that can force a mutation to occur on cue to produce a coat. There’s nothing about rain that can produce an umbrella. Only if the animal had embedded code programmed to adapt could that happen. To ascribe this power to Darwinian selection is like saying “climate drives computers to generate new programs by mistake.”
Notice how they couch their belief that chance is creative and goal-driven in obfuscatory language: “Although some species may migrate and undergo range shifts to avoid climate-induced declines and potential extinction, an alternative outcome is adaptive evolution in response to selection imposed by climate.” This language embeds creativity into the phrase “adaptive evolution” – the very thing they need to prove. They are fully aware that extinction is a likely outcome of climate change:
Whether climate-selection coupling will lead to local adaptation and reduce the risk of extinction is difficult to predict because adaptive evolution also depends on genetic variation in the traits under selection. Moreover, if selection is strong relative to existing genetic variation, and if the rate of climate change is rapid, selection might result in population extinction rather than evolutionary rescue through adaptive evolution. Therefore, phenotypic plasticity might also have a key role in promoting population persistence due to climate change.
Did you catch the personification? Who plays a “key role”? When we think of roles, we think of actors on a stage, or other intelligent agents that have a purpose of working together to accomplish a feat or solve a problem. Remember that chance is the essence of Darwin’s philosophy. Chance applies not just to mutations, but also to natural selection (see 10/03/15). It also applies to the climate and everything else in the environment: none of it has a goal of coaxing organisms to evolve something adaptive. In short, everything in their equation reduces to chance. Stuff happens! There is no law of nature that can be measured and expressed mathematically here. The 20 authors use Jargonwocky to obscure the fact that they are confabulating in Darwinese to hide their reliance on the Stuff Happens Law, leaving them to prove “adaptation” by assertion, not by demonstration:
- climate-selection coupling – complete balderdash, like saying ‘chance-goal coupling’
- local adaptation – embeds the assumption that Darwinism is creative
- adaptive evolution – the problem, not the solution
- selection is strong – most likely, it will strongly favor extinction. Selection is not creative.
- evolutionary rescue – a clear personification fallacy
- phenotypic plasticity – a completely vacuous term in Darwinese, masquerading as some profound truth
In all ten cases described above, the assumption that evolution is capable of creating wonders on demand drives the fallacious reasoning. If Darwinians were forced to strip out all teleological language and refer to chance alone in their hypotheses, Darwinian theory would evaporate in a puff of smoke. Science is supposed to explain, not wave hands and say, “Stuff Happens.”
We’re not done yet. There’s more. Sometimes to get evolutionists’ attention, you have to rub it in.