Saturday, November 26, 2016

Did I forget anything?

There have been a few days (OK many days) I have spent on newspaper, or magazine on-line discussions. I have focused on creationist bullshit as we might expect. I have not posted blog notes of these various discussions as they are largely repetitive. I was particularly irritated this morning by a comment about “refuting evolution” by a nitwit creationist following a post on RawStory. His comment and my replies follow.

Ahh, the silliness of the evolutionists is still alive and well, I see. For those (apparently few) readers who are interested in learning why the idea of evolution (descent with modifications from some common ancestor) is total nonsense, I offer the following:

1. There has never been one experiment during which investigators turned non-life into life. Therefore, the Law of Biogenesis (life comes from life) has never been proven wrong. So any assumption that sometime in the past "life evolved from non-life by natural means" is just an assumption.

2. There has never been one experiment during which investigators changed single-celled life into multi-cellular life. So any assumption that sometime in the past "multi-cellular life evolved from single-celled life by natural means" is, again, just an assumption.

3. A careful look at each of the so-called "mechanisms of evolution" will show that not one of them individually can change one type of organism into another type of organism, nor can any collection of them, working together, change one type of organism into another type of organism - with the needed additional genetic information and new body plans. So any assumption that "these mechanisms at some time in the past have changed one type of organism into another type of organism" is, again, just an assumption.

4. The ability of an organism to change is limited by the information in its gene pool, so change has limits. Therefore, any assumption that sometime in the past "a population of organism A has evolved by natural means into a population of organism B, a different type of organism", is, again, just an assumption.

5. Over time and in natural situations, organisms in a population mate and reproduce offspring that revert to the mean and are stronger the closer they are to the mean set of traits of the population. Offspring with sets of traits that are further away from the mean, and thus are closer to the edge, of the population are weaker. (Good examples come from canines.) So instead of having what evolution requires - organisms getting stronger as they approach the edge of their gene pool, really strong organisms ready to be pushed through their genetic boundary by really strong mechanisms, which together will magically create new genetic material and body plans so as to turn these "old" organisms into "new and different" organisms - what we really have are strong organisms near the center of their gene pools that resist being pushed to their gene pool boundaries, weak organisms near the gene pool boundaries, mechanisms that (a) simply cannot push organisms over their gene pool boundary and (b) cannot give the "old" organisms the new genetic material and new body plans, which actions are required to turn the "old" organisms into "new and different" organisms. So assumptions that all this has happened sometime in the past by natural means are, again, only assumptions.
6. The scientific conclusion that evolution simply cannot happen and therefore has not happened. Any assumption that evolution actually has happened goes against this evidence and therefore is anti-science.

7. As this evidence shows evolution to be NOT POSSIBLE, unless this evidence can be refuted - REFUTED - then any "evidence" purporting to show that evolution has occurred has simply been misinterpreted.

Anti-science assumptions and faulty interpretations are weak reeds indeed upon which to base a comprehensive scientific theory about origins. And the unshakeable blind faith in this nonsense which is displayed by the evolutionist zealots is nothing short of amazing.

Regarding point #1
Charles Darwin noted (29 Mar 1863) to American botanist Joseph Hooker, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter."

We do of course study both of these topics today. The origin of life, "abiogenesis" has taken on two different paths; the study of how life originated here, and the study of synthetic life.

For general readers on abiogenesis I suggest

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

For synthetic life, see the technical literature starting with;

‘Minimal’ cell raises stakes in race to harness synthetic life"

Then work back with particular attention to the work by Prof. Jack Szostak of Harvard University.

Regarding point #2
"Experimental evolution of multicellularity"
William C. Ratcliff, R. Ford Denison, Mark Borrello, and Michael Travisano
January 31, 2012, vol. 109 no. 5
From the Abstract:
"Multicellularity was one of the most significant innovations in the history of life, but its initial evolution remains poorly understood. Using experimental evolution, we show that key steps in this transition could have occurred quickly. We subjected the unicellular yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to an environment in which we expected multicellularity to be adaptive. We observed the rapid evolution of clustering genotypes that display a novel multicellular life history characterized by reproduction via multicellular propagules, a juvenile phase, and determinate growth. The multicellular clusters are uniclonal, minimizing within-cluster genetic conflicts of interest. Simple among-cell division of labor rapidly evolved. Early multicellular strains were composed of physiologically similar cells, but these subsequently evolved higher rates of programmed cell death (apoptosis), an adaptation that increases propagule production. These results show that key aspects of multicellular complexity, a subject of central importance to biology, can readily evolve from unicellular eukaryotes."

Regarding point #3,

This creationist word salad by Mr. McCabe is basically meaningless. The most limited version of Darwin’s fundamental insight is that evolution proceeds by “Decent with modification acted on by natural selection.” Darwin himself was utterly ignorant of genetics, and his notion of hereditary “distributed gemmules” was totally wrong. This has of course been remedied today.

The only clue as to what Mr. McCabe might be looking for is “… change one type of organism into another type of organism - with the needed additional genetic information and new body plans.”

Of course we do have that evidence. We have reconstructed the evolution of many “body plans” and organs from direct genetic studies, and by paleontology. These data are mutually coherent and independent. See;

Ivan R Schwab
2011 “Evolution's Witness: How Eyes Evolved”  Oxford University Press

Teaford, Mark F., Moya Meredith Smith, and Mark W.J. Ferguson
2000/2006 “Development, Function and Evolution of Teeth” Cambridge University Press

Hands and fingers;
Shubin, Neal
2008 “Your Inner Fish” New York: Pantheon Books

(For a taste of the technical literature)
Boisvert, C. A., Mark-Kurik, E., & Ahlberg, P. E. (2008). The pectoral fin of Panderichthys and the origin of digits. Nature, 456(7222), 636-638.

Regarding point #4;

This is another example of an ignorant man pretending knowledge. There was a key development in evolutionary theory that took place in the 1930s. It was the realization that individuals do not evolve; they live or die, they reproduce or not. Alternately called the “Neo-Darwinian synthesis,” or preferably, “population genetics,” this joined together genetics and evolutionary theory. It is populations that evolve, not individuals.

While it is true that there is a range of expression even within individuals, it is the larger population variations that matter in evolution. Let me give an example. If an individual had genes for running very fast they might be “superior” if running fast was an advantage. But, if that individual were to have a crippling disease their “advantage” will be inferior to another individual with a genetic resistance to crippling diseases. Since both gene groups are hypothetically present they will eventually be found together. We also know that there are “lateral” transfer of genes across species by hybridization, and directly by retroviral insertions.

Mr. McCabe seems ignorant of how genes evolve within a population. The most common example is simple duplication of a gene. This allowed the greater production of a gene product with zero risk of function loss. We know that not only single genes but chromosomes and even entire genomes have undergone duplication. There was a new advantage for duplication. This created “free” genes that could mutate randomly which generated new gene products, and sequences. This is a power natural tool to increase genetic information. We also know now that there is a powerful class of genes which act to control the regulation of other genes. The homeodomain, homobox, or Hox genes control the structural expression of all the other genes. Even slight mutation in these DNA sequences can have profound effects. For a general reader’s introduction to these topics, see;

Coyne, Jerry A.
2009 “Why Evolution is True” New York: Viking Press

Carroll, Sean B.
2006 “The Making of the Fittest” New York: Norton

Regarding point #5
What Mr. McCabe is poorly trying to describe is “regression to the mean” (and canines are a terrible example). This idea was first proposed by Francis Galton in 1886, "Regression towards mediocrity in hereditary stature," Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 15 : 246–263.

For this to be applied as a counter argument to population genetics, McCabe must be absolutely certain that there can be no environmental change on geological time scales. He must also prevent any population/species from ever migrating from one sort of environment to another. He must always demand that all-and-any members of a species have exactly equal chances to reproduce with any other.

These are the necessary assumptions for Mr. McCabe. Unfortunately for him we already know they are all false.

Species distributed across a landscape easily form isolated subpopulations which take different evolutionary paths. We know this by direct observation in nature. This sort of evolution is “allopatric speciation.” There is also a selection advantage to use the same habitats as a parent species, but in different ways. This is known from direct observation, and we call this “sympatric speciation.” “Peripatric speciation,” also known as “founder effect” is the result of small populations becoming isolated either by migration, or disaster.

Unfortunately for Mr. McCabe we know all of these events have happened, and are happening by direct observation in nature, and experimentally.

Regarding pseudo-points #6&7;

These are not evidence based claims. They are delusions. They are not “amazing” they are sad and dangerous. They are the sort of non-thinking that is blocking scientific research politically, and preventing urgent environmental and medical research. People like Mr. McCabe are contributing to the deaths of millions of people.

But we can at least refute claim #6 with direct observation of new species evolving in nature, in at-large population experiments, and in small scale laboratory experiments. Published examples are over a century old. This also points out the futility of trying to educate religious fanatics. The published evolutionary evidence of new species emerging from their parent populations is over a century old. The delusional creationism of Mr. McCabe is current.

“I have collected some examples of speciation that are handy to have available when a creationist claims there are none….”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We do have friends

I was using Google to look for an outraged creationist damning me for exposing frauds and I came across this very friendly comment from "Understanding Creationism after Kitzmiller" , a 2007 BioScience article by Glenn Branch (then deputy director of the National Center for Science Education).

The contributors to the collection Why Intelligent Design Fails (Young and Edis 2006 Rutgers University Press) have taken the trouble to become thoroughly conversant with the scientific claims of intelligent design over a broad range of the sciences (and two have published their own worthwhile books on the topic; "Unintelligent Design" (Perakh 2004), "God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory" (Shanks, 2004 New York Oxford University Press). The results are devastating. Indeed, Gary S. Hurd's contribution debunking intelligent design's attempt to compare itself with forensics and archaeology was submitted as evidence in Kitzmiller. The quality of the essays is high; particularly useful are my former colleague Alan D. Gishlick's on the evolution of avian flight and Ian Musgrave's on the bacterial flagellum. (For a recent review of work on the evolution of the flagellum, see Pallen and Matzke 2006). The paperback reissue of Why Intelligent Design Fails contains a brief review of events since its original publication; the editors observe,“ID creationists have not suggested a new argument that cannot be refuted effectively by the material in the first edition of this book” (p. vii). They might also have observed that, for all the intelligent design movement's professions to be honestly receptive to scientific critique, the powerful criticisms of Why Intelligent Design Fails are as yet unanswered.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Weird Republicans

Just today on the "Hill" website:

It's normal for men to desire power, but what kind of woman does?

ontheright -> NeverHillary

    I'm just not sure about the sanity of a women
    that wants the same job sitting at the same desk in
    the same office her husband left his DNA all over.

    its twisted

Dr. GS Hurd -> ontheright



Thursday, May 26, 2016

“The Grand Canyon Monument to an Ancient Earth”

I have been waiting for my copy of “The Grand Canyon Monument to an Ancient Earth” since I heard about it nearly a year ago. It arrived May 5th, and it was worth the wait. The first thing readers will notice is that this is a beautifully illustrated book. The efforts of Tim Helble and graphic designers Bronze Black and Susan Coman are proven on nearly every page. The second thing you will notice is that this book is an excellent short introduction to geology. This is true even ignoring the special focus on countering widely believed falsehoods about the Grand Canyon.

The principle authors are professional geologists, and most are evangelical Christians. Over the years they became increasingly concerned at the distortions, and outright lies that are spread by young earth, “Flood Geology.” This book’s title is in fact a counter to a popular creationist tract, “Grand Canyon Monument to Catastrophe” which promotes the absurd idea that Noah’s Flood deposited all the sediments, and carved the Grand Canyon in a single year just 4000 years ago. I have already written on this here in Andrew Snelling, and Steve Austin: Creationist Frauds. The authors show that this is not merely physically impossible, but that such an idea is unsupported by the Bible. I was particularly pleased that these scientists reinforced my observations about Young Earth Creationism frauds regarding the Grand Canyon, and geology in general. Particularly pleasing was their dismissal of the Mt. Saint Helens and Noah, fraud and that they have reached the same conclusions as I did Dismissing "catastrophic plate tectonics"

There are an estimated 40 percent of Americans today who are being fooled by outfits like Answers in Genesis, or the Institute for Creation Research. These people are the intended audience for this book. As the last sentence in “The Grand Canyon Monument to an Ancient Earth” says, “Truth always matters.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I have been a bad, bad Blogger.

I have been writing, and lecturing. But I have not been posting. In part, there has been nothing new in the creationist twaddleverse to really get into for more than an hour or so.

But just today I came across a reason to post. The reason is an American Hindu creationist named Michael Mamas who posted a load of creatocrap on the Huffington Post "Science" blog.
One obvious problem is that Huffpost leads this as "Science."

I used a few hours responding. The text follows.

I am always interested by a tag line like, “How Darwinism and Creationism Can Peacefully Coexist.” And sucker that I am, I’ll typically read the copy. Only occasionally am I treated to such idiocy as this text from Mr. Mamas. Commonly, the word “Darwinism” is a good clue that the author has no clue.

His first major error is the idea that creationism is limited to the Christian believers in literal interpretations of Genesis. There are many varieties of creationists as seen below;

Spetner, Lee
1997 Not By Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution.  New York: The Judaica Press

Harun Yahya (Adnan Okbar)
2007 "Atlas Of Creation" Istanbul: Global Publishing

Michael A Cremo, Richard L. Thompson
1998 "Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race" Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing

Neo-pagan/Native American
Deloria, Vine Jr.
1997 “Red Earth, White Lies” Golden Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing

Some of the comments to this article make the same mistake. They also have neglected to do a simple Google search on Mr. Mamas, and his organization, “Mount Soma; The Center of Rational Spirituality.” He is in fact a sort of hybridized Hindu guru want-to-be.

He wrote, "Throughout history, numerous religions have held the belief that we are created in God’s image and that the birth of the universe was an act of divine creation. Over 100 years ago, Darwin challenged this age-old concept, declaring that species evolved from single cell organisms to sponges, lizards, apes, and ultimately to human beings through the process of natural selection. Scientists and theologians faced a huge rift."

Mr. Mamas’ errors also extend to the historical record. For example, Charles R. Darwin never addressed the origin of life, or the universe. In fact he wrote that attempting to address this was “mere rubbish.” He had observed to botanist Joseph Hooker, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." (29 Mar 1863). Darwin’s first edition of “Origin of Species” was published in 1859. In it he sought to avoid directly challenging a divine origin going so far as to write, "Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled." Note that he does think (correctly) that in Darwin’s time he and others thought life had descended, and elaborated from very simple ancestors.

Mr. Mamas is still wrong at the same by implying later that biologists still claim there are strictly linear descent lines. The simple Linnaean system of ordering species dated to the 1600s long before Darwin. It has been largely rejected for a generation. Still worse is his notion that Darwin created the situation that, “Scientists and theologians faced a huge rift.” The effort to avoid the obvious conflicts between experimental/empirical science and the thousands of religions dates at least to the 1600s. At most Darwin laid another log on superstition’s funeral pyre.

For the past century, Darwin’s theory has been the cornerstone of biological science. I adore the beauty of it, and certainly there is truth to it. However, it is important to note that a computer study of the theory concluded that it couldn’t possibly be right because the evolution of species happened much more quickly than the theory indicates.

Mr. Mamas launched into the absurd with the sentence, “However, it is important to note that a computer study of the theory concluded that it couldn’t possibly be right because the evolution of species happened much more quickly than the theory indicates.”

There are 4 gross errors. I was impressed.

1) A “computer study” does not “conclude” anything. Creationists like to use so-called “simulation models” to claim that genetic mutations promoted by natural selection are so rare that even with billions of years evolution could not happen. An example of this sham is Behe and Snoke (2004).

2) Alternately, creationists pretend to have computer models “proving” genetic mutations are so toxic that life could not have evolved. The current favorite example of this lie is “Mendel's Accountant” created by plant geneticist, and young earth creationist John Sanford (2001). (His collaborators are all also YECs).

There are creationist B.S. "computer programs" that falsely claim evolution is both too fast, and too slow. 

3) So where is Mr. Mamas get this lame idea that evolution “happened much more quickly than the theory indicates” ? I suspect he failed to grasp some basic understanding of Gould and Eldredge (1977). The offered no “computer study.” They noted that there were occasionally rapid expansions in the number of discernable species in what were geologically short (several million years) periods. What was later discovered was that these “blooms” were following massive extinction events. However, as young men, Steve Gould, and Niles Eldredge were sure that they had “overturned Darwin.”

4) Did Darwin ever demand that evolution must have been slow? That would certainly be a key fact to confirm. In fact, Darwin held (and published) that the pace of evolution could be variable. (Darwin, 1859, 1860)

Behe, Michael J., and David W. Snoke (2004) "Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues." Protein Science 13, no. 10 : 2651-2664.

Sanford, John, John Baumgardner, Wes Brewer, Paul Gibson, and Walter ReMine (2001) “Mendel's Accountant: A biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program." Scalable Computing: Practice and Experience 8, no. 2 .

Gould, Stephen Jay, and Niles Eldredge (1977) "Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered." Paleobiology 3, no. 02 : 115-151.

Darwin, C. (1859) “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” J. Murray, London, UK.

Darwin, C. (1860) “The Voyage of the Beagle” 1962 Natural History Library Edition. Doubleday and Co., Garden City, NY, USA.

Merging Darwin’s theory of natural selection with the unified field theory accounts for why there have been several examples of accelerated evolution throughout history. Where does that process end? The process culminates in a species that embodies the coherence, intelligence, harmony, and order inherent in the unified field itself. Think of the sandbox. You can keep running that vibration into the sandbox until ultimately a pattern on the surface of the sand becomes a full reflection of the intelligence in the vibration. The same is true for the process of the evolution of species.

Mr. Mamas proceeded to leave absurdity for psychosis by hallucinating a grand “unified field underlying all existence.” Merely dishonest is his assertion that this is something “Modern physicists agree” upon. But leaving this aside, he still managed additional major falsehoods in just two (short) paragraphs.
First, there is no “unified field theorem” in physics to merge with biology.

Second, there is a good reason for the observed “rapid” episodes of species radiations; they follow mass extinctions. Without competitors in a radically changed environment, evolution is allowed to run wild. The causes of mass extinction vary from gigantic sustained volcanic activity, asteroid impacts, both of these, and even by life itself. In the latter example, see the literature on the pre-Cambrian Great Oxidation Event. There is no need of a “unified field theory.”

Third, there is no theoretical support, or empirical support that “the evolution of those species was in a direction toward the coherence inherent in the unified field.” This is insane, or a conjob. We already dismissed the existence of a regulating “unified field theory.” (If you want a literature to read, Gross 2005, Hawking 1988, Krauss 2012, Susskind 2005, Woit 2006,  Stenger 2009).

Gross, David
2005 “The Quantum Structure of Space and Time: Proceedings of the 23rd Solvay Conference on Physics”  Ed. David Gross (Brussels: World Scientific Pub Co Inc)

Hawking, Stephen
1988 "A Brief History of Time" Bantam Books

Krauss, Lawrence
2012 “A Universe From Nothing” New York: Free Press

Stenger, V. J.
2009 “Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness” Prometheus Books.

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

Woit, Peter
2006 "Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory" New York: Basic Books

That is to say, species evolved in a direction toward the image of God.

There are just two remaining errors outstanding for either their basic ignorance, or as gross frauds. Since Mr. Mamas sells enlightenment for a profession, we cannot exclude a PT Barnum inspired self-interest. This is the claim that, “Theologians think of the unified field as “God.” and, “… species evolved in a direction toward the image of God.”

The first is compounded that there is no “unified field,” and practicing theologians (members of the thousands of priesthoods) place their authority on direct Divine inspiration. The second I find the most amusing. 1), this notion that evolution is goal directed is in direct contradiction of evolutionary biology. 2) it is obvious that Mr. Mamas imagines we humans are in some “elevated” class of organisms nearer to the “image of God” than say a rat is. But rats are as ancient, and then some, as any primate clade. 3) slime mold are more ancient as our lineage. Are they the image of god(s). Maybe there is a special slime god? 4) no theologian I read has presented their god as a merely material being. They are usually some grand immaterial magic wielding thug. I doubt that is the direction we are headed. But as a long time Dungeons&Dragons fan, I am ready for my +3 vorpal blade to go toe to toe with bad guys.