Friday, July 08, 2011

Mr. Neal Caldwell bloviates into the cybersphere

Background: I have spent some hours in writing comments to the "Letters to the Editors" pages of the Knoxville Times. One particular letter by Mr. Neal Caldwell has captured my attention. What follows are my reactions to his July 2, 2011 claim that I had not responded to him. Caldwell's words are in italics.

Why respond to these idiots? First, there is some benefit at searching out information to use refuting creationist stupidity. Second, there are the occasional readers that actually say they have learned something useful. This is hopefully true, and it is an ego boost at any rate. Thirdly, any neutral reader will at least know that the creationists cannot go unchallenged.

I read a recent comment several times in the discussion thread following Mr. Neal Caldwell June 21, Letter to the Editor, “Evolution doesn’t add up.” The comment was written by Mr. Caldwell on July 2, 2011, 2:04 AM. Each time I read it, I became more irritated at his dissimulation.

Mr. Caldwell first claimed (falsely) that his original objections have been ignored. In fact, they were clearly addressed, each and every one.

To review, in the June 21 letter Caldwell claimed;

“evolution is untestable, given its billions-of-years basis,”

The truth is that we observe the physical manifestation of evolution every day. Our pharmaceutical and agricultural industries are a daily application of evolutionary theory. Every day there are at least a dozen scientific journal articles on direct tests of some aspect of evolutionary theory. I have posted the link to a list of dozens of observed speciation events, . But, one test proposed in the 1930s by JRB Haldane still stands the test of time, “To disprove Evolution you need merely to find a fossil rabbit in a Cambrian deposit.” There is not a “billion-of-years-basis,” there is simply the fact that the Earth is 4.55 billion years old. Why should that be a problem?

Mr. Caldwell next claimed (falsely) that, “One-hundred and fifty years of digging has unearthed the very embarrassing counter-Darwinian “Cambrian explosion,” showing most major species appearing side-by-side instead of end-to-end as required, and in a most un-Darwinian time frame, thereafter remaining static instead of ever changing.”

This is actually six (6) separate lies. They are lies because anyone claiming the mantle of science, as Mr. Caldwell did, should know how to read, and use a library.

Fossils have been excavated and analyzed since the late 1700s. Fossils were observed, and displayed even in antiquity, see: Adrienne Mayor, “The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times,” (2000 Princeton University Press). Since the early 1800s, scientists recognized that fossils represented ancient, and extinct forms of life. Since 1830, geologists realized that neither a recent creation, nor a global flood could account for the fossil record.

The Cambrian “explosion” did not exhibit “most major species appearing side-by-side.” This is a ridiculous statement that labels Mr. Caldwell as an ignoramus. There are entire Phyla that have disappeared before, during, and after the so-called “explosion.” See: James W. Valentine, “On the Origin of Phyla” (2005 University of Chicago Press).

The stupidity of Mr. Caldwell’s writing, “end-to-end as required,” is the ignorant product of the PRE-evolutionary theory notion of the “Great Chain of Being,” that asserted that there was some particular goal of life, and that every species was “fixed” somewhere along the “chain.” The alternate version was that there was a “ladder” of species, and that every species had to have one “above” it that it could strive to become.

Regarding Mr. Caldwell’s lame assertion that there was “a most un-Darwinian time frame” for the Cambrian “explosion,” we first note that the “explosion” was 542 to 496 million years ago. For mathematicians like Caldwell, that is 58+96=154 million years. That is a very very long “explosion. And the “fuse” for the explosion was the Ediacaran Era, which saw the advent of the first complex metazoan life. This is currently dated from 630 million years ago to the start of the Cambrian Era, or for people unable to “add up,” 112 million years long. That is a very long fuse. Darwin had no idea that evolution had so many millions of years. See: G. Brent Dalrymple, “Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The age of the earth and its cosmic surroundings” (2005 Berkley: University of California Press).

Finally, lie number six (6) is that the Cambrian fauna’s “major species,” “remain(ed) static instead of ever changing.” As before, see Valentine 2005, and reflect for just a few seconds on the obvious examples of recent and continuing evolution.

Mr. Caldwell wrote the following, “He inappropriately solves his origin-of-life problem simplistically through expelling it from its biological home, into cosmological limbo.”

Well, I don’t know who “he” might be, Mr. Caldwell cannot be bothered with names. But, since Caldwell is so opposed to evolutionary biology, we can ask if the issue of the origin of life is essential to evolutionary biology.

It is obviously NOT.

In Darwin’s own estimation, the origin of life “hardly concerns us” (Origin of Species, Sixth Edition). In Darwin’s famous 1871 letter to Joseph Hooker, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter."

Interestingly, the origin of matter is the topic of Cosmology. If Mr. Caldwell were honestly interested in the origin of life, Abiogenesis, or Cosmology, the origin of matter, I would suggest he read;

Iris Fry,
2000 "The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview" Rutgers University Press

Deamer, David W.
2011 “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” University of California Press

(Both written for non-scientists, a very compressed version is my “A Short Outline of the Origin of Life,” )

and for Cosmology see:

Susskind, Leonard
2005 "The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design" New York: Little and Brown Publishers

Or on-line,
Foundations of Big Bang Cosmology

Mr. Caldwell continued, “the “simplest” life isn’t, and essential mechanisms discovered in the earliest cells are so unbelievably complex that they defy any reasonable evolutionary explanation.”

The “first cell” has never been discovered, so Mr. Caldwell’s claim they are “so unbelievably complex that they defy any reasonable evolutionary explanation” is pure manure. Go spread it on your roses, Mr. Caldwell. In the rather pessimistic opinion of a real scientist, we are not likely to ever be able to specify the “first cell.” See: Carl Woese,
1998 “The universal ancestor” PNAS Vol. 95, Issue 12, 6854-6859, June 9, and, 2002 “On the evolution of Cells” PNAS Vol. 99 13:8742-8747, June 25.

In addition to the references I gave before (ignored by Mr. Caldwell), truly interested people might listen in on “Program for Molecular Paleontology and Resurrection: Rewinding the Tape of Life”

Nobody should be surprised that there are “reasonable evolutionary explanations.”

Here are the last of Mr. Caldwell’s not very original objections to evolutionary theory;

“Richard Dawkins admits the “finely-tuned-universe” is intelligent design’s best argument.”

“proven” (evolutionary) examples only support “micro-evolution” (minor changes within species), which no one questions. The controversy centers on still unproven “macro-evolution.” Darwinists presume that these huge disconnected leaps, appearing from nowhere, represent accumulations of billions of undiscovered micro-evolutionary changes. Applicable sciences utterly fail to support that presumption, often contradicting it.”

First, Cosmology is not Evolutionary Biology. Second, without an exact reference, I doubt that Prof. Dawkins said any such thing. Third, given Mr. Caldwell’s obvious lack of veracity, I doubt that he could provide any honest citation to Dawkins in any case.

And then, we have demonstrated emergence of new species from old. This is “macroevolution.” It is definitive. There should be no further argument against evolution.

Here is a long list of examples, some over 100 years old;
“Emergence of new species,”

If Mr. Caldwell is ignorant of what a species is, he should read:
“What is a Species, and What is Not?” By ERNST MAYR

Mr. Caldwell wrote, “Permit me as physicist/mathematician scientifically and logically to doubt evolution’s ability to produce such unimaginably complex organisms having incomprehensible instincts beyond our analysis. Mathematically: “it don’t add up!”

I, unlike Mr. Caldwell, am a scientist. I have direct professional experience with the topics central to this discussion. And, like all most all scientists, I have a profound respect for the truth. There have been scientific frauds, and there are “scientists” who espouse creationist frauds.

I will not permit Caldwell to make this false claim. Mr. Caldwell claims he is a “physicist/mathematician.” A bit of Google and we learned he merely had undergraduate degrees, and never had professional training, nor scientific publications to support his claim. When it was to his advantage, Caldwell has claimed to be a mechanical engineer. Mr. Caldwell’s lack of imagination, or comprehension is not useful in assessing a scientific theory, particularly one he is obviously ignorant about. Even if Caldwell could claim familiarity with 35 year old physics, he has nothing in his writing or education to suggest any credibility about biology, or any other science. To claim otherwise is a fraud.


Anonymous said...

Paul Benedict, not Neal. Otherwise, right on!
Bob Carroll

Gary S. Hurd said...

Good morning Bob.

Actually, this one was Neal Caldwell, but I did have the names intermixed.

I gave up trying to wade through any more of Paul Benedict's foolishness.

Gary S. Hurd said...

There, I fixed the text.


Johnny Burrows said...

I am a sceptic of all things supernatural and found the article on this page while searching for the facts that particularly creationists get so wrong.

Besides the compliment of 'good job' I would first ask, does not the Cambrian 'explosion' posited by Neal show the DEMISE of lifeforms 'side by side' rather than their spontaneous 'emergence?'

The second point is that even if Prof. Richard Dawkinds made the statement attributed to him, he certainly did not in any way say the point was, 'a good one.' It seems akin to, in all honesty, letting your tone-deaf relative know that their most recent butchering of a melody was, 'the best [you've] ever heard [them] sing.' It does not mean you consider them a good singer, just as Dawkins does not consider 'intelligent design' a sound hypothesis.