Thursday, 4 July 2013

Desperate disco-tute delivers dumbed down data and downright distortions in Darwins Doubt

The latest crypto-creationist propaganda and fib-fest disguised as reason has hit the shelves.

Here Nick Matzke takes Meyer apart in as much detail as the vague hand waving of the book deserves. 

Here is a less sciency review saying the same stuff. 

Our own Glasgow based Disco-tute spinoff, the Centre for Intelligent Design, (we think the earth is 10,000 years old and Noah's Ark was real, but don't like to give the impression we don't) has recently been spreading more lies as well as promoting the book. 

Their latest promotional email contains various quote mining ventures designed to make the innocent think up is down or left is right.  This is a long recognised creationist tactic that relies on people not bothering to check if they are lying.  In fact there is a whole resource on this kind of dishonesty here.

Here is the content of their July email update;

Although the scientific and educational elites continue to insist that Darwinian evolution is the only credible explanation for the development of living things, and by implication, their origin from inanimate matter, the solid citizens who normally take their pronouncements on trust, don't seem so sure. 

Public acceptance of evolution as a credible explanation of origins hovers around a modest 40% of the population, to the considerable dismay of the scientific establishment[1].

Charles Darwin*
But perhaps we shouldn't be overly surprised by this.  EvenCharles Darwin, the celebrated architect of the evolutionary hypothesis, had grave doubts about it.  In particular, he had substantial doubts about whether the fossil record supported it.
His theory of gradual evolutionary change required 'numerous, successive, slight modifications.'[2]  However, there were two connected observations that troubled him:

  • If his theory of evolution was correct, there should be millions of transitional forms in the fossil record, and they were hard to find.  He conceded the point in these words:
'The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on earth, must be truly enormous.  Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain.'[3]
  • Equally disturbing were fossil finds like the 'Cambrian explosion' where thousands of new animal forms appeared without any obvious ancestors.  Again Darwin wrote:
Fuxianhuia protensa*
'The difficulty of understanding the absence of vast piles of fossiliferous strata, which on my theory were no doubt somewhere accumulated before the Silurian (ie Cambrian) epoch is very great.   I allude to the manner in which numbers of species of the same group suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks.'[4]

Since Darwin's theory of evolution requires that every slight modification to a body plan must be viable in order to survive, there should be millions of intermediate forms.  They are clearly not there. 

A trilobite from the Maotianshan Shale*
Of course, Darwin expected that as more fossils were discovered, the gaps would be filled.  But it has not proved to be the case.  In fact the situation in terms of evidence for evolution has only got worse.  So much worse that it can reasonably be claimed, as Darwin feared, that the fossil record actually refutes the theory of evolution.

It all adds up to a very serious crisis for neo-Darwinism.  No wonder the Harvard palaeontologist Stephen J Goulddeclared in 1980 that neo-Darwinism is 'effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy.'[5]

This rather shocking story about the fossil evidence for evolution is the subject of a new book from Dr Stephen Meyer, a Cambridge graduate and Director of the Centre for Science and Culture in Seattle USA.

His book, Darwin's Doubt, published by HarperOne in June 2013 and available on Amazon, is a comprehensive analysis of the challenge to paleobiologists of explaining the sudden appearance in the fossil record of numerous new life forms without any obvious ancestors.  In analysing the hugely complex steps required to generate new body plans, Meyer argues that the gradual and random changes required by neo-Darwinism are simply unequal to the task. His book is a devastating critique of the misguided use of the fossil record to sustain the failing theory of Darwinian evolution.

So you ask, if the theory of evolution is in trouble, what will replace it?  Well, that depends on what kind of explanations you are prepared to allow.  If you adopt the obligatory naturalistic philosophy of the current scientific consensus, you've really nowhere to go, and you're almost bound to get the wrong answer.

But if you want to go where the evidence leads, then you'll recognise that the appearance of new body plans requires fresh genetic information.  That will lead you to the conclusion, based on all contemporary experience, that information is always the product of intelligent mind.  In scientific jargon, that's an 'inference to the best explanation'.

This, of course, is the theory of Intelligent Design (ID) which Dr Meyer proposes and a growing number of scientists are beginning to recognise.  Meyer elaborates the inference to design powerfully in his new book, and also in his previous work 'Signature in the Cell' (HarperOne 2009).  In that latter book, he explores with devastating clarity the need to recognise intelligent mind as the only possible source of the information carried in all our genes.

It is high time we stopped being taken in by dishonest hand-waving and baseless assertions, and just go where the evidence leads.

It seems Darwin's doubts about the fossils were well founded.
Yours sincerely,
Alastair Noble SignatureAlastair Noble TN
Dr Alastair Noble

[1] See for example 'Rescuing Darwin', Theos, 2008
[2] Origin of Species, pub Oxford University Press, 1996, p141
[3] Ibid, p226-7
[4] Ibid p249
[5] Gould, 'Is a New and General Theory of evolution emerging?' p120

So they start with a couple of classic creationist quote-mines from Darwin carefully cut down to twist his meaning 180 degrees.  They finish with a quote-mine from Stephen J Gould.  Such open and brazenly dishonest behaviour is rather scary.

I will simply finish with this quote from Gould that speaks for itself;
"The argument that the literal story of Genesis can qualify as science collapses on three major grounds:
The creationists’ need to invoke miracles in order to compress the events of the earth’s history into the biblical span of a few thousand years;
their unwillingness to abandon claims clearly disproved, including the assertion that all fossils are products of Noah’s flood; and
their reliance upon distortion, misquote, half-quote, and citation out of context to characterize the ideas of their opponents."
Stephen J. Gould. 1987/1988. The Verdict on Creationism. The Skeptical Inquirer Winter 87/88, pg. 186

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