Many years ago I was on an email list dealing with human biodiversity until dropped, I think, for apostasy. The members were of academic distinction, including many with degrees in the sciences from such schools as CalTech, Harvard, and Berkeley. They were interested in how humans are and how we got that way. As their chosen explanation, they espoused orthodox Darwinism. I had my doubts, as some of their theories sounded cockamamie.
I was surprised to find how furiously they reacted to questions regarding evolution. One was Razib Khan, a gifted geneticist, who was so incensed with what I thought were innocent doubts that he furiously forbade mention of my name by commenters at GNXP.com, his own website. This intrigued me. Given his intelligence and academic credentials I figured that, if he couldn’t answer questions, probably nobody could.
The anger of some went beyond the civil, odd since they were not uncivil people. One Said that I “was trying to pull down science.” which I would have thought beyond my power. Apparently if one asked questions about a scientific theory, one wanted to pull down science. I was however flattered to think they believe me able to do this.
Razib described me as “arrogant,” (I had always wanted to be arrogant, but couldn’t find a convincing pretext). Again, I was taken aback. I was asking questions, which are admissions of ignorance. How was that arrogance.
But they never answered my questions. They still don’t. Is this how science works?
Why the anger at Darwinian irreverence? I can only speculate. The sensitivity suggest uncertainty. Biology depends on evolution as its framework and substructure: without it, the field would become chaotic, a collection of unrelated observations. Large egos have been committed to the theory. Evolution in the broad sense, from Big Bang through Darwin, provides an overarching explanation of everything, a sort of religion manque, preventing some from waking at three in the morning and wondering, “Where the hell are we?”
Please note that I did not invent the following questions regarding evolutionary mechanisms, though I may have come up with the particular example. For at least a couple of decades serious skepticism has arisen, sometimes from molecular biologists and their ilk and often from mathematicians, who are less emotionally attached to Darwin. Perhaps the first of well known skeptics was Dr. Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University whose book, Darwin’s Black Box, was the first exposition both technically impeccable and accessible to the average reader. I recommend it.
Here, an example of the kind of question which Darwinists shy away from. I beg forgiveness of regular readers, if I have one, having used it before because of its sharp-edged comprehensibility. I hope this will make sense for those not familiar with the ideas, politics, and evasions shrouding Darwinism.
Briefly, the basic idea of evolution: Suppose that for some reasons seeds eaten by birds are replaced by plants having larger seeds. Darwin (more correctly, the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis) says that, those birds with slightly larger beaks will be better able to eat them and, being better able to survive, will produce more offspring, passing on their genes. Those of-their young with yet slightly larger beaks will survive better than their parents. Eventually you end up with a breed with larger beaks. This, by Darwin, must proceed by small incremental steps, each being beneficial. This actually works with such cases.
However, there are many examples of biological features that depend for functioning on several parts, all of which must simultaneously be present for the feature to work and none of which would be of any use without the presence of the others. These cannot have evolved by incremental, beneficial steps. All would have to appear at once. This is usually called “irreducible complexity.” While people unfamiliar with evolutionary theory may find this a new idea, biologists certainly know of it. And they dodge questions.
For example, consider the sting of a hornet. To function it needs a biochemical mechanism to produce the venom, a sac to hold it, the stinger itself, muscles to express the venom into the stinger, muscles to force the stinger into the victim, muscles to retract the stinger if it is to be used more than once, and nerves to control both muscles. If any of these is missing, the entire system has no function.
Thus the stinging mechanism cannot have evolved by gradual accretion of beneficial mutations. Biologist, understanding this well, will not admit it. Note that the example of the hornet is a question of lucid clarity. Grasping it requires no knowledge of biochemistry or entomology. Asking how the sting could work without the stinger is as straightforward as asking how an automobile could work without the motor.
Some of the individual elements of the hornet pose questions of their own evolutionary provenance. The stinger, for example. It is long, slender, and hollow If it were not hollow, it would be useless (and where would the venom go?). Since no one knows what or how many mutations would be required to produce such an elegant object, or how each of these would be beneficial, the whole question is one of vague metaphysical faith. Which is true of a great deal of evolution.
The response of Darwinists to the example of the sting will be hauteur, outrage, silence, or slipping away into discussion of something else. If you know one, ask him. Try to pin him down. Good luck.
(Perhaps worth mentioning: Darwinists sometimes insist that the sting evolved from the ovipositor, a long tube used by some insects to insert eggs in desired places. Since both stinger and ovipositor use tubes to put something somewhere, it is reasoned that the stinger evolved from the ovipositor. This is obvious nonsense. For a fly, say, with an ovipositor to evolve a stinging mechanism, it would have to evolve, with no selective pressures favoring it, a biochemical mechanism to produce the venom, probably requiring more mutation than are mathematically possible. This would be useless and probably dangerous without simultaneous evolution, without selective pressure, a sac to hold it. Then, for no reason, the insect would simultaneously evolve a way of connecting the venom sac to the ovipositor, at which point the bug could not lay eggs…. It is nonsense.)
Note that much of evolutionary faith involves assertions that unspecified numbers of unspecified genes assumed but not shown to exist, mediated by selective pressures assumed but instrumentally neither detectable nor measurable produce outcomes uncorrelatable with the pressures. When I was on the aforementioned email list, there was much of this. For example, highly intelligent, formidably educated people insisted that blue eyes evolved because, when visibly dilating, they exxpressed a woman’s sexual interest in a man and led to greater fecundity. No evidence, no research. Can anyone over twelve believe that dark-eyed women have the slightest difficulty in expressing sexual interest? Why are there so many of them?
Whether a thing evolved is a question of fact: it did, or it didn’t. if it cannot have evolved, how it came about is a matter not of logic but of speculation. Various avenues of thought are possible: seeding by space aliens, creation by any of at least several hundred gods, or (my preference) something we haven’t thought of and perhaps can’t. (Actually I am a secret adherent of the Cargo Cult,and believe that existence gestated in the hold of a C-130 cargo plane and was disgorged by the Great Pilot, blessed be he. This makes as much sense as most of evolutionary belief.)
Note that no logical link exists between irreducible complexity and religious faith. Many of the religious cleave to irreducible complexity because they think it establishes belief in God or gods. Strictly speaking, it does not. On the other hand, Darwinists use foolish religious antagonism to evolution to distract attention from their inability to explain irreducible complexity. They are smoke-screening.
Two streams of evolutionism exist, the first scientific and held by real scientists such as molecular biologists, and the second liberal arts evolution ism, more vaporous and metaphysical and sometimes held by actual dimwits.
In the liberal-arts variety, it is common to look at a feature, invent some barely plausible explanation, and casually accept it as fact, no matter how silly. For example, the Chinese have smaller and flatter noses than whites. I have seen it said that the flatness evolved to prevent frostbite. This may or may not sound plausible But is there any evidence that frostbitten noses reduce reproduction? How would such noses do it? By leading to gangrene and death? Nowhere, so far as I am aware, in Beowulf or the various Nordic Eddas is there mention of frozen probosces, much less consequent death or infertility.
My own theory, which I regard as established fact, is that in the windy north of Asia, large noses act as sails, causing a tendency to face downwind and thus become vulnerable to predators evolved to hunt from upwind.
While we are in China, we may as well look at another favored toy of pop-evolution, the epicanthic fold that makes many Asians “slant-eyed,” I have seen it said, solemnly and with no apparent expectation of disagreement, both that it evolved to protect the eyes from frigid winds and that it conserves energy. Is there research to show that it does either of these things? Show me. Is it a single-nucleotide polymorphism? Show me the evidence. Did it require one mutation, or thirteen?
What beneficial effects did each of these have, sufficient to provide advantage in survival? Do we really believe, assuming that the fold appeared all at once, that it produced sufficient benefit to result in more offspring? If not, then evolutionarily it doesn’t exist, and amounts to hobbyist speculation.
The curious reader may find it interesting to ask not how but whether things evolved. For example, skunks have dedicated glands to produce and eject their noisome defensive material. How did this evolve by small beneficial steps? Did simple flatulence in some primordial skunk with hereditary intestinal problems save its life by revolting a predator of delicate sensibilities…..? Is this not silly? On and on.
But (politely) ask your scientist friend how the sting evolved. Be wary of a flow of mush (“In billions and billions of years, it stands to reason that….”) and changes of subject. See what you get.