September 13, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Researchers, Stop Kowtowing to the Darwin Party

It’s not necessary to say that the biological
system you’re studying
“evolved.”
Drop the habit and your science will improve.

 

… but your paper may not get accepted, either.

Patrick T. Brown created a stir in the media last week by announcing that he had left out key facts in his climate paper in order to get it published. Brown says that his paper, published with colleagues in Nature on August 30, “left out the full truth” because he felt it increased the chances of publication. By this he implied that the full truth would have triggered censors at the journal to toss it into the circular file. The story was told by Mercury News, echoed on Phys.org on Monday 11 Sept 2023.

Nature, naturally, shot back with defensive statements that touted the leading journal’s rigorous peer review standards, denying that it had a “preferred narrative” about climate, citing previous articles to make the point. Brown, however, was adamant:

Brown wrote that the study didn’t look at poor forest management and other factors that are just as, if not more, important to fire behavior because “I knew that it would detract from the clean narrative centered on the negative impact of climate change and thus decrease the odds that the paper would pass muster with Nature’s editors and reviewers.” He added such bias in climate science “misinforms the public” and “makes practical solutions more difficult to achieve.”

The details of this kerfuffle are not as significant as the fact that the lead author of the paper, a climate scientist, felt it necessary to withhold data to get past censors in a Big Science journal. He waited to state his opinion about Nature‘s bias until he was safely employed by another institution that allows freedom to question the narrative. It is obvious to us at CEH that Nature, the BBC News and other British news outlets are totally involved in climate alarmism – as they also are with Darwinism. Charley Darwin is a British hero.

And so we ask, do biologists similarly withhold facts and kowtow to Darwinism in order to get published? As evidence, we offer some recent articles that use the word “evolved” in passing, when the focus of the science has little to do with Darwinian evolution. In some cases, the evidence contradicts Darwinism. Mentioning evolution, therefore, looks like a requirement for publication, similar to the tradition of offering incense to Caesar to survive in Roman society. Those who refused this innocent little show of idolatry (such as Christians) were at risk of becoming lunch for lions. Do biologists withhold the full truth in order to get published? Do they go along to get along?

Superfluous Darwinese

Auxin signaling pathway controls root hair formation for nitrogen uptake (Leibniz Institute, 11 Sept 2023). Plant signaling, root hair construction—these elaborate biological controls look designed. But the press release begins, “Plants have evolved diverse adaptive strategies to optimize the exploration of light and soil resources from their environments.” From there, the press release never mentions evolution again. Don’t the words strategies and optimize sound like functions of programming by a mind? Why are readers told that these things “evolved”? Were the authors trying to avoid the censors?

23-million-year-old otter-like seal may have used whiskers to forage (Nature Publishing Group via Phys.org, 18 Aug 2023). Scientists researching fossils of an extinct pinneped (seal) used the e-word only once, discussing “the evolution of whisker-foraging behaviors in seals.” The researchers compared the skull of fossil Potamotherium with those of other mammals and deduced that the animal used its whiskers in foraging behavior, as is true with living semi-aquatic mammals. Where is the evolution?

The findings suggest that whisker-based foraging was already present in ancient seal relatives before they transitioned to a fully aquatic lifestyle. The authors propose that the use of whiskers may have helped them adapt to underwater foraging.

These statements contain no logical or necessary connection to evolutionary theory. Lots of mammals, both semi-aquatic (like seals and otters) and terrestrial (like rodents) use whiskers for foraging. If whiskers helped this extinct pinneped forage underwater, great. That doesn’t mean it sheds light on “the evolution of whisker foraging behaviors in seals,” especially when the trait was “already present.” The research would have been acceptable and interesting without reference to evolution.

The earliest evidence of deep-sea vertebrates (PNAS, 13 Sept 2023). The authors of this paper try hard to evolve this abyssal fish, but it was already fully formed in the early Cretaceous, they say. Why not just study the fossils and describe them? Why the effort to Darwinize what clearly looked like modern deep-sea fish? Did they say this just to get published, knowing that “abrupt appearance” could trigger the censors?

These fossils represent the earliest direct evidence of bottom-living vertebrates from the deep sea. Our findings reveal that the Early Cretaceous abyssal plains were already characterized by a modern-type deep-sea ecosystem characterized by multispecies aggregations of fishes. The studied fossils represent at least the last point of deep-sea vertebrate reorganization, if not the earliest….  Vertebrate macroevolution has been punctuated by fundamental habitat transitions from shallow marine origins to terrestrial, freshwater, and aerial environments.

They go on to say that the fossils in their research show a modern-looking “highly developed suction feeding apparatus” and signify the presence of “modified eye structures, low-density tissues, slow metabolism, and enzymes and proteins showing enhanced structural stability” which, they say, “are evolutionary innovations as significant as wings and tetrapod limbs.” The evidence is anti-evolutionary! And that’s not all; “the colonization of the deep sea remains one of the largest gaps in vertebrate evolution,” they said. This fossil doesn’t help Charley. It already looked modern in their Deep Time scenario. Question: If they had left out the Darwinese, would the editors at PNAS have published a paper about abrupt appearance?

Super antifreeze in cells: The ability to survive in ice and snow developed in animals far earlier than we thought (Aarhus University, 9 Sept 2023). Behold the springtail. It can survive freezing. It is not related to other hexapods:

The springtail is a small animal, and the largest species of springtail are only six millimetres long. It has six legs and two antennae in front. It looks like an insect at first glance, but it’s not. In fact, it has its very own branch on the evolutionary tree.

Springtails also have a remarkable ability to “fly” without wings (video; see my article at Evolution News). Now, researchers at Aarhus University showed that springtails already had a “super antifreeze” protein in their systems when they first appeared in the fossil record 400 million Darwin Years ago. Is that evolution? No; they are not related to insects or other animals possessing the antifreeze trait. They somehow “developed” this antifreeze, presumably by evolution. What the evidence shows, according to the lead scientist, is that they already had it.

“We knew that antifreeze proteins had developed independently of each other several times during evolutionary history. Fish have them. Insects have them. Some spiders have them. But until we saw these results, we didn’t know that they’d developed so early in the animal world,” says Martin Holmstrup.

Conclusion: “evolutionary history” confers no knowledge or understanding about the biological phenomenon being researched. Why even mention it?

Why can’t we smell ourselves as well as we smell others? (Live Science, 9 Sept 2023). Live Science, that perennial showcase for weird evolution just-so stories, comes up with another instance of giving Darwin credit for nothing. Amanda Heidt could have discussed the amazing engineered ability for noise cancellation (see my article at Evolution News), but instead chose to offer a sacrifice to the Bearded Buddha for one of the most complex senses we have, the sense of smell. Does she provide evidence for evolution? On the contrary, the evidence supports intelligent design:

While our sense of smell is often compared unfavorably with those of super sniffing species such as dogs, mice and pigs, humans aren’t actually bad at smelling, and in some cases can outsniff these animal competitors. Our noses have roughly 400 different smell receptors capable of registering 10 types of odors and more than 1 trillion scents, and smell is thought to have been one of the first senses that humans evolved. One study found that humans were better at detecting plant aromatic compounds than dogs, thanks to our evolutionary history as hunter-gatherers.

Statements like this are unmitigated nonsense. Human ancestors did not hold a committee and decide, “our hunting and gathering would improve if we invented noses. Let’s evolve them by subjecting ourselves to mutations and seeing what turns up.” Darwinian thinking (note the oxymoron) contributes zero understanding to this article. She could have answered the question without it.

Summary

Saying that something “evolved” is a bad habit. It contributes nothing to scientific explanation. In fact, saying “stuff happens” short-circuits understanding. The passing references to evolution shown in these articles could be multiplied indefinitely, as our reporting for 23 years has shown. Patrick Brown was aware of Big Science bias when publishing about climate change, motivating him to withhold evidence in order to get published. There’s a good possibility that biologists similarly feel an urge to mention evolution to satisfy the censors in Big Science. Or maybe, like creatures of habit and laziness, they have lost the ability to care about rigor and integrity. For whatever reason, science news and research papers would improve by dropping the Darwin ball and chain. It would force researchers to get back to evidence-based explanations. Better to say “we don’t know” than to suggest an explanation that is illogical.

Journal editors and press offices, please get off the backs of researchers who feel obligated to sustain the preferred narratives about climate and evolution. Science thrives when researchers feel free to think and follow the evidence where it leads. If it leads to the conclusion of optimal engineering design and abrupt appearance, so be it. Don’t punish biologists who point this out; existing mechanisms (e.g., “matters arising” between scientists challenging hypotheses in the journals) suffice to permit debate. Preferred narratives risk misinforming the public, as Dr Brown said.

 

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