Saturday, February 28, 2015

It’s Just Getting Worse: Our Retina Structure is “optimized for our vision purposes”

Theory of the Gaps

Research out of Israel continues to hammer away at the once powerful proof text for evolution, that our retina is one big kludge given that the photocells were obviously installed backwards. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the resulting neuron wire bundle had to go somewhere, and the result was a blind spot in our retina. Such a kludge could only be ascribed to the blind process of evolution. The problem with such arguments, aside being nonscientific, is that they are vulnerable to the inexorable march of scientific progress. The act has played out repeatedly: When we first observe a design we don’t understand it and conclude it must be mostly nonsense and another confirmation of evolution. Then, years later, science discovers a nifty function for the design.

So it is with our retina and its “backward” photocells. They were celebrated as an example of nature’s “errors and bungles” and yet another vindication of the Epicurean call for a designer-less world.

But that was then and this is now. It turns out those backward photocells, along with the retina’s Müller cells, work to focus the green-red part of the light spectrum onto the cone photoreceptors and pass the shorter-wavelength blue-purple light through to the rod photoreceptors. As Professor Erez Ribak put it, those backward photocells and the overall retina “optical structure is optimized for our vision purposes.”

This is another example of the danger of constructing theories on the gaps in our knowledge.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Here is Benjamin Jones’ Faustian Bargain

The Age-Old Sophism

In his Guardian piece this week Atheist Benjamin Jones is spot on when he says that science works. Cosmology and evolutionary biology, Jones explains, have answered the question of how the world came to be. Indeed, evolution is a fact. What Jones misses, though, is why evolution is a fact. It makes all the difference.

Simply put, evolution is known to be a fact by theology. The empirical evidence, on the other hand, does not show that the world arose spontaneously. Quite the opposite—Epicureanism has not held up well. The empirical data do not support evolutionary theories.

This leaves atheists such as Jones in a bit of an awkward position. They gain their comfort from theology, but then claim it isn’t real. You can’t make metaphysical claims about God and creation, and then conclude that matter and motion is all there is. You can’t have it both ways.

Atheists like Jones have entered into a Faustian bargain. They reap a short term gain, but it is unstable. They have landed in John Lennon’s “Imagine” guilt-free land with “No Hell below us,” but they have arrived there by judging God. Their fallacy cannot endure in the long run.

Jones makes it clear as he bemoans the religious wars. For atheists, Jones explains, “religion is a force for ill.” What Jones does not explain, and no doubt has not understood, is that for atheists, there can be no such thing as ill in the first place. There can be no true knowledge of good and evil because, according to them, matter and motion is all there is. Such a world has no good and evil, only molecular configurations with no truth value.

It is the age-old sophism that we can never shake. The short-term gain is just too attractive.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

This Piece by Lawrence Krauss is a Damning Indictment

Follow the Evidence

When Eric Metaxas wrote a Christmas Day piece in the Wall Street Journal about how science is lending support to modern-day arguments for design in the universe, he drew fire from all quarters. Apparently Metaxas arguments were full of fallacies. Of particular interest was a criticism by leading physicist, Lawrence Krauss. Surely a top scientist would leave no doubt about Metaxas’ flubs.

Krauss’ first point was that Metaxas is a “religious writer with an agenda,” and so his arguments cannot be trusted. But religious people in general, and Christians in particular, are all over the map when it comes to design. Indeed, many of Metaxas’ critics are Christian theologians.

Clearly Metaxas, qua “religious writer” or Christian, is not bound to an agenda regarding design. Why then does Krauss sense an agenda at work? Perhaps because, in fact, it is Krauss who is the one with the agenda. You see Krauss is an atheist, and when it comes to design, atheists are most definitely not all over the map. If you are an atheist, then you can’t accommodate arguments that the science strongly points to a designer. In fact, elsewhere, when not claiming others have an agenda, Krauss has advocated the abolishment of religion:

Religion will go away in a generation, or at least largely go away - and that's what I think we have an obligation to do.

And Krauss says Metaxas is the one with the agenda?

Unfortunately Krauss’ criticism goes downhill from there. Krauss explains that “The piece was rife with inappropriate scientific misrepresentations.”

Misrepresentations?

Metaxas makes two basic arguments. First, evolution’s just-add-water view of life had led astronomers to expect that the universe is teeming with life. ETs should be common and if we point our radios to the stars we should eventually pick up some interesting signals. But no such signals have been found. It is a clear example of yet another falsified evolutionary expectation. In fact Metaxas cites some astronomers who have argued the probabilities for ET life is far lower than previously expected.

Second, Metaxas points out that the universe is fine-tuned for life. And while this is a more subtle point, no one questions that this is an interesting and powerful set of evidences that must be reckoned with. That is, except Krauss.

Metaxas is pointing to fundamental findings. While there is much more to say about them, there is no misrepresentation as Krauss charges.

In fact, again, it is Krauss who is the one who is guilty of his charges. Krauss makes the common evolutionary appeal to future findings. “We currently DO NOT know,” the publicly-funded professor begins, “the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe.” [emphasis in original]

I’ve seen this response many times. Evolutionists argue the science proves their theory, and when they are presented with the actual evidence they then make the argument from ignorance. So what if the evidence is against them, future science might switch things around.

Absolutely. That certainly is true. Who knows what science may discover in the future.

But that is irrelevant.

No one is talking about unknown findings at some unknown time in the future made by some unknown scientist. Metaxas is talking about the here and now. He made no sweeping metaphysical claims, as evolutionists do. He was merely discussing today’s science.

It gets worse.

Krauss next resorts to a silly straw man version of Metaxas’ simple point:

The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.

At this point Krauss wasn’t even wrong. Did he write this while standing in line to board his next flight?

Krauss continues with more misrepresentations of both science and Metaxas’ points. It is true that science isn’t going to prove anything for Krauss and the evolutionists. One can always interpret the evidence to support the chance-creationism hypothesis. Just look at how Krauss ends his rebuttal:

The appearance of design of life on Earth is also overwhelming, but we now understand, thanks to Charles Darwin that the appearance of design is not the same as design, it is in fact a remnant of the remarkable efficiency of natural selection.

The remarkable efficiency of natural selection?

Krauss is apparently unaware of the most basic biological research in the past half century. Yes, Charles Darwin hoped for such remarkable efficiency. And yes he presented many thought experiments for why he believed it to be true. But that was nineteenth century naturalism. There was no scientific evidence for it then, and we now understand much more about the many problems with that view.

Krauss’ criticism of Metaxas reveals the pathetic state of evolutionary thinking. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Christopher Booker: The Fiddling With Temperature Data is the Biggest Science Scandal Ever

Not Following the Data

Regardless of whether evolution it true, false, or somewhere in between, one of evolution’s many influences is the enlistment of science to support ulterior motives. In evolution, the science is enlisted to support a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. Simply put, thinkers such as Darwin became convinced that divine creation must be false. It was a purely religious and metaphysical argument. The empirical evidence does not support very well the idea that the biological world arose spontaneously, so evolutionary “science” is needed to reinterpret the evidence.

Charles Darwin was by no means the first to contort evidence to fit a preconceived notion, but since 1859 the creative use of science has become increasingly common. A recent example of this is the theory of AGW (anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming). Like evolution the theory must be true, regardless of the science. Hence there is substantial social, career advancement and funding pressures to obtain confirmations of theory. And as Christopher Booker reminded his readers in this weekend’s Telegraph, the data are adjusted to support the theory. It is, says Booker, the biggest science scandal ever:

When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically “adjusted” to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.

Even if this is all true, it does not mean AGW is necessarily false. But it is another example of how easily science is enlisted to support preconceived conclusions. Darwin’s friend TH Huxley said we should follow the data, like a child, wherever it leads. Huxley himself failed to do that, and that trend has continued ever since.

Celebrating Pornography

Evolution’s Many Influences

It is unfortunate that the checkout lines at so many stores continue to display pornographic images which our evolution-informed culture continues to condone and celebrate. Entertainment journalist Aly Weisman, for instance, approvingly reports on the latest Sports Illustrated reminder to young girls that they are inadequate. Meanwhile the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award consistently rewards evolutionists, such as Patricia Princehouse, Zachary Kopplin and Eugenie Scott, for their junk science. It is not that evolution created pornography, but evolution did reinforce and fuel a world view that did. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

In Practice, the Origins Debate is Often Misinformed

Strong Beliefs, Weak Knowledge

When it comes to the origins debate, it sometimes seems that everyone is an expert. Consider international business consultant Greg Satell who shared his wisdom yesterday, at the Forbes website, in a piece entitled “How The War On Science Affects Us All.” Satell begins with the centuries-old demarcation problem which attempts to define what is and isn’t science.

On the surface, the term “scientific” seems to be a fairly arbitrary distinction.  After all, both alien hunters and SETI scientists are both engaged in a search for truth, but the difference is that the work of scientists, when properly done, is reproducible and testable and that makes all the difference. Science matters not because of its greater truth, but its lesser solipsism.

So real science is “reproducible and testable.” The army of philosophers working on the demarcation problem can now put down their pens—Satell has solved the problem. No matter that Satell’s finding immediately fails on his own example. Why is the SETI scientist’s radio recording of 3.1415 “reproducible and testable” while the alien hunter’s video recording of a saucer flying overhead is not?

Satell next tells his readers that skeptics doubt evolution because after all, “no one actually saw humans evolve.” Satell gives no references or examples because there are none, at least none from any serious skeptics. This straw man argument tells us more about Satell than about skeptics.

Satell next moves to the topic of the age of the Earth, explaining that “The bible says that the earth is several thousand years old.” Again no reference is given because the Bible doesn’t actually say this. That is one interpretation. And while it may well be correct, it nonetheless is an interpretation. There is no passage that says “the earth is several thousand years old,” and that is an important distinction.

Unfortunately such ignorance, misrepresentation and inaccuracy unusual. Too often the topic of origins is informed by simplistic Warfare Thesis stereotypes and straw men rather than informed judgment. People will always disagree but let’s at least be knowledgeable in our disagreement.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Origin of Life Research Has Failed to Generate a Coherent and Persuasive Framework

A Maze of Madness

Because while Franklin Harold wonders in 2014 if “we may still be missing some essential insight” (given that a century of origin of life research “has failed to generate a coherent and persuasive framework that gives meaning to the growing heap of data and speculation” and has “remarkably little to show for” for all the effort expended), it was, in fact, just over a century ago when evolution’s co-founder, the great Alfred Russel Wallace, provided exactly what Harold may be looking for, to wit:

there was at some stage in the history of tile earth, after the cooling process, a definite act of creation. Something came from the outside. Power was exercised from without. In a word, life was given to the earth. … Postulate organization first, and make it the origin and cause of life, and you lose yourself in a maze of madness. An honest and unswerving scrutiny of nature forces upon the mind this certain truth, that at some period of the earth's history there was an act of creation …

But who is capable of such “honest and unswerving scrutiny”? For as I explained in Science’s Blind Spot, this never was about honest, objective scientific inquiry:

Naturalism has no way to distinguish a paradigm problem from a research problem. It cannot consider the possibility that there is no naturalistic explanation for the DNA code. This is science's blind spot. If a theory of natural history has problems—and many of them have their share—the problems are always viewed as research problems and never as paradigm problems. … Problems are never interpreted as problems with the paradigm. No matter how badly naturalism performs, when explanations do not fit the data very well, they are said to be research problems. They must be, for there is no option for considering that a problem might be better handled by another paradigm.

The problem with evolutionary theory is not that the naturalistic approach might occasionally be inadequate. The problem is that evolutionists would never know any better.

And so what Harold does not, and cannot, tell his readers is that our problem in figuring out the evolution of life may be more serious than merely “missing some essential insight.” Our problem may be that our methodological naturalism mandate has planted us firmly in the belly of anti realism. Or more simply put, there may be no naturalistic explanation. It may not be that we are missing some essential insight, but rather that there simply is no such insight to be found.

In fact that is what the science has been indicating for a long time. The strictly naturalistic evolution of life, of eukaryotes, of multicellular species, of fish, of reptiles, of amphibia, of mammals, and of a thousand other novelties is unlikely. Period. That is what the science is telling us, like it or not.

But evolutionists cannot say that. They cannot admit to the scientific truth. In fact, quite the opposite and quite unbelievably, they insist evolution is a fact beyond all reasonable doubt.

Evolutionists say that their skeptics oppose science, present theories that are driven by presupposition and are unfalsifiable. But all of that precisely describes evolution. Why can't we just tell the truth?

[h/t: The Man]

Saturday, December 13, 2014

This Paper Explains How Potassium Channels Evolved

Promoting Evolution Literacy

The evolution of proteins such as potassium channels, according to a recent paper, occurs easily and is a good opportunity for communicating evolutionary principles, promoting evolution literacy, and refuting the misleading message of “design creationism” which is empirically unfounded and conceptually wrong. Nothing more than mutations and natural selection are sufficient to explain the origin of highly specialized proteins such as potassium channels. Those are important claims given the consistent message from both experiments and theory that protein evolution is so astronomically unlikely it can safely be put in the “impossible” category. There is only one problem: the paper is all wrong.

One problem with evolutionists writing papers which are peer reviewed by other evolutionists, for consumption by yet other evolutionists, is the lack of scientific scrutiny. In this case the paper presents a silly calculation for the evolution of a potassium channel protein that wouldn’t stand up even to minimal legitimate peer review. The calculation multiplies a nominal mutation rate per generation by a nominal generation rate per year by several millions of years to obtain 483, which is the length of the protein coding gene sequence.

In other words, all that is needed are millions of years and roughly a mutation per nucleotide and, there you have it, a potassium channel gene emerges. Along the way the paper sports the usual teleological language (natural selection is a “tinkerer”), evolution is full of serendipity (the cellular chemical apparatus that magically generates new proteins is itself a product “of Darwinian evolution”) and so forth. The paper, as they say, isn’t even wrong. But at least it promotes evolution literacy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Evolution: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Man’s Imagination

Evolutionary thinking did not begin with Darwin, but it did receive a substantial boost when the Sage of Kent published his theory in 1859. It is often said that evolution is the most influential scientific theory in areas outside of science. That certainly is true, though with the caveat that evolution is hardly a scientific theory. Demarcating just what is and isn’t science is notoriously difficult, but when advocates are dead certain their idea is an undeniable fact because their metaphysics requires it, in spite of overwhelming empirical contradictions, you can be sure we are nowhere close to that Baconian ideal of natural philosophy. Evolution isn’t merely about mutations and fossils. It is an overarching creation story with deep metaphysics that has spread throughout the world. As such it has enormous influence.

Evolutionary thinking goes back centuries and it deals with the fundamental question of origins. Tell me where you think you came from, it is said, and I’ll tell you everything else you believe—at least everything that is important. The answer for evolutionists is that we are the product of happenstance. The world arose by itself, the result of chance and necessity—random events driven by blind natural laws while the Creator, like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, meditates on a distant Mount Olympus.

That idea, in the history of thought, is highly unfortunate. Yes it is scientifically unlikely (I’m being kind), but that is only the beginning. Ideas have consequences and in a chilling anticipation of what was to come, the early critic Adam Sedgwick lamented to Darwin that with evolution humanity would suffer damage that “might brutalize it” and sink the human race “into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen”:

Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.

If only Sedgwick could have read Nietzsche’s warning that it was the sick, the oppressed, the broken and the weak, rather than evil men, who were the greatest threat to humanity. If only Sedgwick could have seen the onset of eugenics, the Holocaust, abortion, and other forms of genocide. Sedgwick correctly foresaw the terrible consequences of the modern day resurrection of the Epicurean idea that something, and in fact everything, came from nothing.

Unfortunately these are hardly the only influences of evolutionary thought. We are, for example, awash in pornography which is incredibly demeaning of women. No, pornography is not a healthy, artful expression as many evolutionists argue.

The evolutionist’s support of such ills as eugenics, abortion and pornography is telling. It reveals once again that ideas have consequences. Not only did evolutionary thought lead historically to a host of downfalls, today’s evolutionists readily confirm the link.

Sedgwick warned that Darwin had made claims well beyond the limits of science. Darwin had issued truths that were not likely ever to be found anywhere “but in the fertile womb of man’s imagination.” Unfortunately that is precisely where it counts.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Potassium Channels Even More Clever Than Thought

What Was Thought to be the Problem is Actually the Solution

At the cellular level our bodies depend on a delicate balance of ions that is constantly adjusted. Potassium ions, for example, are atoms with one missing electron which are constantly streaming into or out of our cells. These positively charged ions enter and exit the cell via huge protein machines called channels which are imbedded in the cell wall and, like a donut, have a hole in the middle through which the ions flow. What is astonishing is how well these channels work. Not only do they open and close as needed, but they have two seemingly impossible design features. On the one hand they are extremely selective, allowing only a particular type of ion to flow through it. But on the other hand, they allow the chosen ions to flow through incredibly fast. It would seem that high selectivity would come at the cost of a slow transmission rate. But no, potassium channels for instance filter out practically everything but potassium ions, and yet their flow rate is practically at the maximum speed that is physically attainable. Now a recent study has added more information about how potassium channels perform their amazing feats.

One of the conundrums with ion channels is how ions of like charge, which therefore repulse each other, could be stuffed through the small hole in the ion channel protein machine. One possible answer is that the ions are separated from each other. For more than a decade now it has been thought that the potassium ions flowing through potassium channels are separated by water molecules. This would avoid the problem that the positively charged potassium ions repel each other, not making for a very smooth or concentrated flow.

The new study, however, persuasively argues that, in fact, the potassium ions travel together, not separated by water molecules. This higher concentration of potassium ions is achieved with a subtle, complex design of the charge contour within the channel. In fact, as the paper explains, the “repulsion between adjacent ions is found to be the key to high-efficiency K+ conduction.”

That's incredible, and this poses a problem for the theory of evolution because it means that random mutations, rather than forming a gene that produces some simple, easily formed molecular donut, instead must have discovered an astronomically unlikely design. Final causes and teleology which are so much despised by evolutionists are clearly the better explanation for the potassium channel. No that doesn’t mean science comes to an end, no that is not a religious explanation, and no that isn’t the final word in the matter. That is just what the science is telling us, loud and clear.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Chemist: “They Just Stare at Me”

“Because it’s a Scary Thing”

Yesterday James Tour, who in 2009 was ranked one of the top 10 chemists in the world, explained that evolutionists do not understand how evolution could have created life. What’s worse, Tour explains that there is a lack of clarity about this scientific fact. In public, evolutionists insist evolution is a fact beyond all reasonable doubt. But in private, they admit there is no such scientific knowledge:

“Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science—with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners,” Tour stated. “I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public—because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said—I say, ‘Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?’”

The answer he inevitably receives, Tour explained, is: “no.”

“Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go, ‘Uh-uh. Nope.’” Tour said. “And if they’re afraid to say ‘yes,’ they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.”

The truth is a scary thing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Evolution Professor: We Evolved to be More Complex

Serendipity and Aristotelianism

We recently saw how evolutionists are elaborating on what they view as an evolutionary arms race within our genome. Rival elements battle it out as transposable elements invade and repressors seek to shut them down. The transposable elements are “continually evolving to escape repression,” while the repressors adjust and find new ways to defeat the transposable elements. It is “a never-ending race” according to one evolutionist. The backstory here is the on-going historical feud between those who view nature as perfect and those who view nature as evil. In the eighteenth century, for instance, the English natural theologians presented a decidedly optimistic, rosy version of the world, to which Hume responded that “A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures,” and that nature is so arranged so as “to embitter the life of every living being.” So who is right? The answer, of course, is that both are right. Nature is both wonderful and dangerous at the same time. As usual the heresy is not in recognizing these obvious truths, but in emphasizing and dwelling on one side of the spectrum, to the exclusion of the other. Creation and Scripture—general revelation and special revelation—are studies in contrast. Science requires recognizing both sides of the contrast, and keeping them both in view together. Show me a cult, either religious or scientific, and I’ll show you people who are fixated on one end of a spectrum. The result is a lopsided theory that makes no sense.

Consider the genomic arms race idea, for example. First, it requires rapid evolution of astonishing complexity. Not likely. Second, it calls upon a monumental amount of serendipity. Humans and frogs have “basically the same 20,000 protein-coding genes as a frog, yet our genome is much more complicated, with more layers of gene regulation.” How did that happen? Those astonishing levels of sophistication and subtlety in the human genome arose with the help of these invading transposable elements. The incredible regulation machanisms that arose to repress them, just happened to take on other roles as well. This resulted in primates and ultimately humans. Really? Evolution just happened to produce transposable elements, and they then became evolutionary mechanisms? In other words, evolution created evolution. As the report summarizes, “repressor genes that originally evolved to shut down jumping genes have since come to play other regulatory roles in the genome.” That was lucky.

Furthermore, to understand and communicate this story, evolutionists dive deep into the waters of Aristotelianism. It is the ultimate internal contradiction, for the theory that is supposed to represent the triumph over teleology is, itself, immersed in it. Consider these examples:

a transposable element changed to become expressed and replicated itself throughout the genome

The way this type of repressor works, part of it binds to a specific DNA sequence and part of it binds other proteins to recruit a whole complex of proteins that creates a repressive landscape in the genome. This affects other nearby genes, so now you have a potential new layer of regulation available for further evolution.

the transposable elements are themselves continually evolving to escape repression

This paper shows how important it is to integrate computational and experimental approaches to fundamental scientific problems, such as how and why we continuously evolve to be more complex.

For each wave, the host eventually finds a way to repress retrotransposon transcription and prevent further insertions.

KZNF genes rapidly evolved to repress these two distinct retrotransposon families

evolved earlier to repress the primate L1 lineage

followed by mutations in these retrotransposons to evade repression

Evolving to escape repression? Changed to become? We evolved to be more complex? This is not science, this is story telling. We need to stay with the evidence.

Here’s Another Finding Against Junk DNA

Heterochromatin More Complicated Than Thought

A new study is revealing yet more evidence that the so-called “junk” DNA is much more complex than evolutionists had predicted. As one report explains:

The game-changing discovery was part of a study led by Texas A&M biology doctoral candidate John C. Aldrich and Dr. Keith A. Maggert, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, to measure variation in heterochromatin. This mysterious, tightly packed section of the vast, non-coding section of the human genome, widely dismissed by geneticists as “junk,” previously was thought by scientists to have no discernable function at all.

There is still much to learn about these non-coding sections, but each new finding reveals yet more complexity. As professor Maggert explains:

The heterochromatin that we study definitely has effects, but it's not possible to think of it as discrete genes. So, we prefer to think of it as 30,000 protein-coding genes plus this one big, complex one that can orchestrate the other 30,000.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Findings: Human Genome was Shaped by an Evolutionary Arms Race

From Hume to Carlin



In our cells there are mobile genes and there are complex genetic regulatory systems, and sometimes these two come together. Mobile genes with complex genetic regulatory systems is a challenge for evolution to explain for in a relatively short amount of time evolution must have developed these amazing regulatory systems. But just has Hume explained that “A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures,” and that nature is so arranged so as “to embitter the life of every living being”; and Malthus explained that populations struggle for limited resources; and Spencer characterized life as the survival of the fittest, so too today’s evolutionists describe these unlikely findings as the result of an on-going war, this time within our genome (please watch the 30 second video above before reading the abstract below):

Throughout evolution primate genomes have been modified by waves of retrotransposon insertions. For each wave, the host eventually finds a way to repress retrotransposon transcription and prevent further insertions. In mouse embryonic stem cells, transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons requires KAP1 (also known as TRIM28) and its repressive complex, which can be recruited to target sites by KRAB zinc-finger (KZNF) proteins such as murine-specific ZFP809 which binds to integrated murine leukaemia virus DNA elements and recruits KAP1 to repress them. KZNF genes are one of the fastest growing gene families in primates and this expansion is hypothesized to enable primates to respond to newly emerged retrotransposons. However, the identity of KZNF genes battling retrotransposons currently active in the human genome, such as SINE-VNTR-Alu (SVA) and long interspersed nuclear element 1 (L1), is unknown. Here we show that two primate-specific KZNF genes rapidly evolved to repress these two distinct retrotransposon families shortly after they began to spread in our ancestral genome. ZNF91 underwent a series of structural changes 8–12 million years ago that enabled it to repress SVA elements. ZNF93 evolved earlier to repress the primate L1 lineage until ~12.5 million years ago when the L1PA3-subfamily of retrotransposons escaped ZNF93’s restriction through the removal of the ZNF93-binding site. Our data support a model where KZNF gene expansion limits the activity of newly emerged retrotransposon classes, and this is followed by mutations in these retrotransposons to evade repression, a cycle of events that could explain the rapid expansion of lineage-specific KZNF genes.

In evolutionary theory death is the engine of progress and existence is an on-going battle.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Here’s Why the Problem of Evil is a Religious Argument

Not Just Philosophical

Election season is upon us and we hope for clarity in the debates to come. Too often campaign strategies involve ambiguity, avoiding difficult questions and political calculation. But sometimes the candidates’ positions on the issues, and their point of disagreement, are clear for all to see. I would rather have such clarity, even if I disagree on some of the issues. As with politics, the origins debate also sometimes lacks clarity. I don’t have a problem with disagreement, but I hope people understand what they are disagreeing on. A good example is the problem of evil. It is often at the heart of disagreements in the origins debate, and because it deals with ultimate issues it offers a clear distinction between positions. There’s just one problem: many people do not understand it, including those who use it.

Consider evolutionist Jerry Coyne. Coyne uses the POE, but doesn’t understand it (see here, here, here and here, for example).  The POE, and variations of it such as the problem of dysteleology, are based on the premise that if God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, then there would be no evil (or no dysteleology, which, in practice is simply a catch-all term for anything that we don’t think God would have created). Evil and dysteleology exist, so therefore there is a problem. Ever since antiquity the problem has been solved by distancing God from creation. From the Gnostics and Epicureans to the Darwinists, the solution is that the world arose on its own. From the randomly swerving atoms of the Epicureans to the random mutations of the Darwinists, God is not responsible for this world because intermediate causes were to blame.

Now there are multiple problems with this reasoning, but here I’ll focus on just one: although Coyne claims arguments from dysteleology and imperfections are merely scientific, they are not. They are religious.

I’m not saying that religious arguments are, by definition, bad things. I’m just saying they shouldn’t be confused with science. PZ Myers made such an argument from the pages of the Los Angeles Times, and then, like Coyne, claimed it was not a religious argument.

In fact this is a running argument in the evolution literature. Make arguments that entail claims about God, and then claim there is no religion.

Sorry but arguments that entail assumptions about God are religious.

Evolutionists make three different arguments attempting to refute this obvious fact. Let’s look at each one.

First, evolutionists say the POE is simply a philosophical observation. There is no religious premise involved. In other words, given that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is a necessary consequence that there would be no evil (or dysteleology, imperfections, etc.). God simply wouldn’t allow it, period. That just follows from simple logic.

The problem with this argument is that it is just false. There is no nice way to put it. And when I say it is false, I am not making a religious claim. Now we’re talking about a philosophical observation. Given the premise that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, it then is not a necessary consequence that there would be no evil.

The only way to arrive at that conclusion is to add another, unspoken, premise. And, yes, it must be a religious premise. You see Coyne is the one who brought religion into the discussion. And he is the one who is in denial about it. And he is the one who points the finger at the other guy for doing what he did.

Second, evolutionists say they are merely testing the creationist model. They aren’t making any religious claims, but merely evaluating those who do. But if that were the case their argument would do nothing for evolution. All they would have proved is that some creationist somewhere has a failed model.

In fact Coyne never cites creationists. For instance, one of Coyne’s myriad examples of dysteleology is lanugo, a fine, downy coat of hair humans have in an embryonic stage. According to Coyne this makes no sense and “can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry.” [Why Evolution is True, 80]

Coyne gives no reference to creationists, but even if there was a creationist who said God would never create lanugo in human embryos, it would not mean that lanugo could only be explained with evolution. Such metaphysical certainty requires a strong underlying premise. Lanugo could not have been intended or created by the Creator, period. Not according to some creationist. Only religion can provide such certainty. The claim that Coyne, Myer and the rest are merely testing the creationist model is a canard.

Third, it is sometimes said that evolutionists such as Coyne and Myers are atheists. It is as though, qua atheists, they can make whatever religious claims they like without it counting as religion.

Evolution relies on religious premises—it is a religious theory. I don’t mind disagreement, religious or otherwise. But let’s understand what the disagreement is.