Darwin Follies and Fallacies, Part Two
When it comes to evolution, fallacious reasoning spreads far and wide through Big Science and Big Media.
Here we pick up where we left off with Part 1, showing fallacious reasoning in Darwinian explanations.
Guppy romance: “Mate choice” is a trendy term in evolutionary circles when discussing Darwin’s controversial notion of sexual selection (1/30/16). Mate choice supposedly makes male peacocks evolve exotic feathers and peacock spiders evolve pom-pom dances. Seven evolutionists engage this personification fallacy in Science Advances, in their paper, “Female brain size affects the assessment of male attractiveness during mate choice.” So who are the choosy females this time? Guppies. That’s right, guppies. The Darwinian authors endow these little fish with the ability to assess “attractiveness” of their boyfriends. You can imagine what late-night talk show hosts will do with their conclusions: basically, larger-brained females (supposedly smarter) are better at picking out attractive males than small-brained (supposedly dumber) females are. And you thought dumb-blonde jokes were out of style. The stupidity doesn’t get any better when ensconced in Jargonwocky: “We thus provide the first experimental support that individual variation in brain size affects mate choice decisions and conclude that differences in cognitive ability may be an important underlying mechanism behind variation in female mate choice.” (Reminder to authors: fish have no free will in the Darwinian worldview, and Stuff Happens is not a ‘mechanism’.)
Chance computers: Neurons are highly complex cells involved in signaling. They have exquisite molecular machines, such as ion pumps and rotary engines, underlying their rapid, functional responses. To an evolutionist who deals in glittering generalities, they are mere products of blind chance. Look at Medical Xpress to see how assertion, obfuscation, and generalization hide the underlying complexity: “thought by scientists to have evolved relatively recently, and specifically in vertebrates, in order to [teleology] enable rapid, precise signaling in the complex circuitry of the vertebrate nervous system.” The evolutionist in the article quibbles about when certain parts evolved, but not that they evolved. To speak this way of any other complex circuitry in a signaling system would be met with laughter and derision, but apparently such talk is perfectly acceptable in Darwinism. Behold this hand-waving assertion: “The giant ankyrins, he explains, are in fact ancient forms that evolved in a bilaterian ancestor.”
Arsenic resistance: Some humans can drink arsenic-contaminated water. The story about settlers in the Atacama Desert in Chile is pretty remarkable, but raises question about evolutionary theory. New Scientist seems to assume Darwinism handles any observation. Notice the fallacious phrase “evolved to” – a hint of forbidden teleology.
People in a south American desert have evolved to detoxify potentially deadly arsenic that laces their water supply….. The arsenic contamination here exceeds 1 milligram per litre: the highest levels in the Americas, and over 100 times the World Health Organization’s safe limits. There are virtually no alternative water sources, and yet, somehow [Stuff Happens], people have survived in the area. Could it be [suggestion] that arsenic’s negative effects on human health, such as inducing miscarriages, acted as a natural selection pressure that made [personification] this population evolve adaptations [teleology] to it? A new study suggests this is indeed so.
But is this evolution? The explanation involves ratios of existing molecular machines in the cells of the body that handle arsenic. And nobody would dare suggest that these people are a different species than Homo sapiens. Claiming this is an example of Darwinian evolution is like claiming your own children have diverged into separate species. Come to think of it, some may feel that way.
Woodpecker party dunces: A story in New Scientist is quickly dismissed on the same basis. Richard Byrne at St. Andrews University gets the royal raspberry for this quote in Andy Coghlan’s just-so story, “Sociable woodpeckers that cooperate have evolved smaller brains.” Here’s personification and the fallacious teleological language, “evolved to”:
“Our result emphasises that a large brain is a costly organ, both to develop and maintain, so evolution readily acts to reduce its size when it isn’t needed,” argues Byrne. “Sometimes, people think having a big brain is just a ‘good thing’, but it is a major metabolic cost.”
Combing over jellies: The People of Fluff are in a huff about the earliest animal ancestor. In “Big data renews fight over animal origins” (Nature) Amy Maxmen calls the boxing match between scientists who thought our great granddaddy was sponges, then the comb jellies landed a punch, and now the sponges are winning again. Nobody ever questions the Stuff Happens Law; just what stuff happened first. For those who doubt our description of evolution as ‘stuff happens’, read on:
In the most recent study, the authors attempt to resolve one of the biggest challenges in building evolutionary trees based on DNA comparisons. Some genomes evolve faster than others, and fast-evolving genomes from unrelated animals can converge on a similar sequence. “By chance, lineages accumulate genetic similarities not due to a shared history but due to random change,” explains Michaël Manuel, an evolutionary biologist at the Institute of Biology Paris-Seine, and the study’s senior author.
It should be noted that comb jellies have a nervous system and complex bioluminescent organs. Regardless of the order in which they appeared, comb jellies show no ancestors in the fossil record, appearing fully formed in the Cambrian explosion.
Balancing act: Evolutionists have created a taxonomy of natural selection. They speak of positive and negative selection. There’s balancing selection, kin selection, group selection, purifying selection, directional selection, and others – all purely matters of blind chance in that selection by definition has no goal, not even survival (i.e., if something goes extinct, selection did that, too). We must remember that Charles Darwin purported to explain all the innovations of life as a progressive trajectory toward increased complexity, ratcheted upward by natural selection (see Tom Bethell’s book Darwin’s House of Cards, ch. 21, for how Darwin was swept up in the Victorian idea of Progress). Balancing selection—keeping things the same—was not exactly what he had in mind. A paper in PNAS about balancing selection that “maintains polymorphisms at neurogenetic loci in field experiments,” while promising to shed light on “our understanding of the evolution and adaptive significance of behavioral diversity,” really has no more significance to evolution than standing does to running a marathon.
Brain freeze: Some evolutionists like to rock the boat without capsizing the paradigm. Notice Science Daily‘s teaser headline, “How big brains evolved could be revealed by new mathematical model: Early results counter prevailing thought on major evolutionary drivers of humans’ large brains.” Recall that if evolution is a driver, it is a blind driver without a map or a destination. Indeed, this article begins by admitting that “the factors that drive evolution of big brains remain unclear.” Hidden in this statement is the assumption that bigger is better, but some spiders, insects and birds demonstrate that a lot of power can be packed in a small brain. Miniaturization can indicate even more design (e.g., compare your smartphone to a Univac). In the evolutionists’ model, Darwinism is assumed throughout, as in “Given natural selection, it predicts how much energy is used to support brain growth at different ages under different biological settings” (see DIGO in the Darwin Dictionary). The model of “different possible evolutionary scenarios” goes downhill from there.
Fair enough? As Darwin’s all-purpose demon, natural selection promises knowledge of good and evil everywhere, even in politics and ethics. PLoS One demonstrates this with a paper “On the evolution of equity.” It’s another case of ‘evolutionary game theory’ with its built-in personification of cooperators and cheaters arising out of blind processes. Given that equitable treatment of others is costly, “How can natural selection account for the evolution of such costly preferences?” they ask. The question is a setup for their coup. They come up with a model game where presto! natural selection produces equity. But if it is a blind outcome of chance processes, is it really equity? And is it fair for the authors to step outside of their own evolved brains and expect us to believe they are being equitable with us? Maybe they are cheaters trying to pull the wool over our eyes. They have no free will in Darwinism, after all (see Yoda Complex in the Darwin Dictionary).
Father Charlie knows best: Another example of applying Darwinism to anything and everything (and destroying it in the process), is Science Daily‘s dalliance with “the evolution of parenting.” Don’t tell this to the children. If natural selection just rewired Mom and Dad’s brains to make them pretend to be loving parents, then Junior can claim natural selection rewired his brain to disobey them. All the joys and lessons of family life go out the window in this Darwinian case of reductionism (see How Darwinism Corrodes Morality by Jerry Bergman). Anything you do is just a ‘behavior’ sculpted by Darwin’s randomized view of the world.
Rapid fish: According to Live Science, rapids make fish evolve rapidly. “Water ‘Walls’ Spur Evolution of New Colorful Fish Species,” writes Stephanie Pappas. According to this line of reasoning, tornadoes should spur the evolution of birds, and earthquakes should spur the evolution of earthworms, too. We coined the term sophoxymoronia to describe terms that are internally contradictory. Pappas uses this one: “evolutionary potential”— a phrase rich with possibility thinking, but only as meaningful as “chance potential.”
He sawfish evolve: Richard Schiffman claims in New Scientist, “Sawfish’s fearsome snout evolved to be undetectable to prey.” That sawfish must have been a good intelligent designer to evolve its rostrum with teeth that dampen vibrations, just like human engineers do to make silent wind turbine blades.
Twenty examples of evolutionary nonsense so far, and we’re still not done. Watch for Part 3. Readers need to witness that evolutionary philosophy is full of clown and flurry, signifying nothing.