Tag: evolution


I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.

Isn’t the entire modern era predicated on the idea that humans are, in fact, gods?


Evolution and the Null Hypothesis

A simple tenant of science is the concept of falsifiability — you cannot prove something is true unless you can express a test, or a logical chain, that can prove the theory true. To achieve the standard of “truth,” you must, in fact, have a null hypothesis, or a counter theory, that you can hold your theory against as a sort of test.

Global climate change is a perfect example. The hypothesis can be roughly stated:

Human activity is causing climate change on a scale massive enough to endanger either all life, most life, or the quality of life in the future.

What is the null hypothesis for this statement? The telling point is — there isn’t one. Rather than presenting a null hypothesis, the common story line goes something like this:

It’s been proven; those who are opposed are evil, mean, uncaring people who don’t want to save their children.

What would the null hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming actually be? Something like:

While humans change the environment, the environment itself is so large that the impact of humans is too small to have any significant impact on the future of the planet, or life on the planet.

Have you ever heard it stated that way in the media? No… Me either. Even stating the null hypothesis, and taking it seriously, gets you immediately labeled as some sort of anti-scientific weirdo. You probably have big hair and a 70’s suit, and you probably cling to your Bible, too. So there.

For all our love of science, we often accept theories either with a false null hypothesis, or none at all. Evolution is the second example. What is the theory of evolution, simply stated? You could say something like:

All forms of life currently in existence, all intelligence, all emotion, all social organization, and all moral beliefs, are a product of chance operating on purely physical matter over long periods of time.

Most evolutionists would stop at “life,” in the statement above, but there is no place for the rest to come from in a purely evolutionary belief system other than evolution itself. What is the null hypothesis of this theory? The most common one you will hear is this:

All life came from an intelligent designer.

Can you see the problem here? The null hypothesis doesn’t really address the original hypothesis — the original theory. Instead of operating as a falsifier, the null hypothesis chosen actually operates as a completely separate theory. To give a different example, one that might be more helpful, if you have a hypothesis that says:

The sky is blue.

The null hypothesis is not:

The sky is cream cheese.

These two statements are not opposites. The opposite of “The sky is blue,” is, “the sky is not blue.” If you happen to be able to prove the sky is cream cheese, then you may, or may not, have proven the sky is not blue. It all depends on what colors cream cheese comes in.

In the case of evolution, the correct null hypothesis is:

Evolution cannot cause the variety of life, intelligence, the social structures, and the moral beliefs we actually see in the world around us.

Evolution doesn’t have to stand against intelligent design, it has to stand against the evidence. It’s not particularly important what the other options are when discussing evolution — and yet the entire world acts as though the only thing that matters is that we don’t start believing in what they call a “sky god.”

What’s going on here is actually a false dichotomy, not a real null hypothesis.

Which should leave us with this pair of questions:

Does evolution actually explain everything we see — all the forms of life, self-consciousness, morality, and all the rest? Can time plus chance plus nothing actually create information out of randomness? Does emergence really work?

What are the implications for human life if evolution is true? If emergence really happens on the scale required to produce the life we see, then emergence should be common enough to make things like communication impossible. Why doesn’t it? If emergence really works at this scale, then why aren’t new forms of intelligent life swarming the Earth? If emergence really works, then why must we “evolve” life in a lab to provide ourselves with examples of mindless processes creating new types of life? Or are we saying the scientist performing these experiments are actually examples of mindlessness?

While I certainly believe in a personal God who did, in fact, create all we see, the point is not whether or not such a God exists. The point is that evolution can’t stand without the prop of “I don’t believe in God” to hold it up. Find the right null hypothesis, and evolution collapses.


Random Events


If our abilities, our desires, our drive — everything about us — is all about our genes, then it makes as much sense to celebrate weddings, Olympic gold medals, and the winner of some sports game as it does to Dilbert (above) to celebrate birthdays. It’s just a matter of random chance against time. Oh, you worked hard for that Olympic gold medal? Not you, but your genes — not only did your genes program you with the body capable of running faster than anyone else, it also programmed you with the desire to win, and the ability to practice, etc.

In the end, the reductionist game we’re playing right now is the ultimate acid — it destroys the Christian faith and witness in the same way it destroys everything it touches. The end game here is a slag of genes lying on the floor and no-one who can celebrate, argue with, or even understand those genes.


The Relative Truth About Science

A huge controversy has erupted over the last several weeks around Neil deGrasse Tyson, a wildly popular “science explainer.” It turns out that Mr. Tyson has a habit of, well, fabricating quotes to make a point. The standard defense of Mr. Tyson is that it doesn’t matter if the quotes are fabricated, so long as they get people thinking, and are used in the service of defending or promoting science. It has come to the point of an editing war on Wikipedia, and series of strange tweets by liberals claiming making up quotes doesn’t matter — until someone on the thread makes up a quote they didn’t say, to which they get huffy and mad instantly. We’ve had progressives writing articles on how we have science all wrong, including notes on how sociology and psychiatry are not science — although this isn’t going to stop progressives from misusing science in every conceivable way, as it’s critical to their reactionary stance.

The closest we’ve come, though, to the actual problem is Robert Tracinski: “How do you promote a pro-science message by saying that the facts don’t really matter?” at the Federalist.

The root of the problem isn’t science, it’s the progressive worldview that underlies our current pseudo-scientific regime. It’s the naturalistic assumptions that has been crowbarred into position as the only real foundation for scientific thought in the last hundred years. “If you believe in religion, then you accept things that cannot be proven as fact; you cannot found science on religion!” The thought has seeped so far down in our psyches that saying something contrary, like “there is no foundation for science itself other than religion,” seems absurd, stupid, or — well it certainly wouldn’t be accepted on the science page at Wikipedia as even a nominally sane statement.

Let’s take the current naturalistic regime at its word for a moment, and see where it leads. In current thinking, we evolved from slime to humans, passing through fish and apes along the way. We know this is all “fact,” so we should accept it without question — science has proven it. Okay, so how did we evolve our aversion to lying which is the foundation of all scientific discourse? In fact, if survival is the key goal, then lying is a perfectly reasonable adaptation.

In other words, from within the progressive worldview, Mr. Tyson hasn’t done anything wrong. The conservative thinkers he’s lambasting represent the evolutionary past, and the “scientific progressives” the future. So long as his lies bring us closer to the world he (and progressives in general) think we should build, there is no shame in lying. In fact, it’s not even technically a “lie,” as there is no such thing as “truth” in the naturalistic view. There is the yucky past, and the bright beautiful future, and there is the struggle in the present. There is no truth, only progress.

But wait — isn’t science all about truthfully describing the world around us? If science isn’t built on describing the true state of the world, if there is no “true state of the world,” if truth cannot correspond to reality because there is no such thing as reality, then… Where are we, precisely? Alice, your rabbit hole is calling…

Until we admit that naturalistic atheism is a religion, and a self contradictory bundle of religious beliefs at that, we will continue dragging the name of science through the quicksand of ephemera.


Review — Complexity: A Guided Tour

complexity-a-guided-tourComplexity: A Guided Tour
Melanie Mitchel

If you’re curious about what the “cutting edge,” in evolutionary theory is, this book should be on your reading list — for while it purports to be about complexity and complexity theory, it is actually an extended defense of evolutionary theory. Specifically, the author focuses on the idea that complexity is just a part of the natural order, or rather than life, and everything else we see exists, because “the universe naturally creates complex things.” The book begins with a chapter defining complexity, and ends with the admission that no single definition of complexity exists.

Many think the word complexity is not meaningful; some even avoid using it. Most do not believe that there is yet a “science of complexity,” at least not in the usual sense of the word science—complex systems often seems to be a fragmented subject rather than a unified whole.

The first section focuses on background; this section is primarily an explanation of various models used in physics and evolution, such as chaos, computation, evolution, and genetics. The author does cover some useful material here for those who don’t understand the various bits and pieces of modern evolutionary theory. The second section considers computational theory and the history of computers (starting with Turing). The idea is put forward that a software engineer can create self replicating computer code, an idea that is picked up in the third section.

The third section compares self-evolving computer software with genetic programming, hence tying the way computers run code to the way evolution works (in theory). Finally, in the fourth section, the author takes on the concept of networks, and complexity in networks. The general idea is that a lot of not-very-intelligent creatures can create vast amounts of complexity without leadership (such as ants). This brings in the culminating point:

Complexity happens when enough not-so-intelligent things work together; the universe is just built that way.

There are a number of problems with the author’s line of argument, however.

First, while criticizing reductionism, the author offers a reductionist view of reality. It doesn’t much matter if matter self-organizes or not — if matter is all there is, then what we think of as “mind” really doesn’t exist. It might appear to exist because of higher levels of complexity achieved each generation of the evolutionary program, but nonetheless, if organization is just a part of the way things work, and hence organization is nothing special, then the mind is just a myth. This is still open to the standard criticism of all reductionist lines of thought — “if my mind is just a product of self-organization, then why should I trust my thoughts about self-organization?” To say that we “think” is, itself, an oxymoron in the face of this sort of reductionism.

Second, the author confuses complexity with organization. Just because things in nature can form complex forms doesn’t mean they are organized — for the term “organized,” implies intent. Organized for what? The entire thesis here — that matter self-organizes — leaves no room for the question, “for what?” There can be no teleological purpose in self-organization. Moving from individuals to networks doesn’t change the underlying reality.

Third, the author assumes that if science can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. While she never says this explicitly, it’s clear in the entire discussion, for instance, around ants and their behavior. To shorten and paraphrase, “We know the intelligence level of ants, and we know there are no leaders in an ant colony, because we know how ants work at a physical level. Given that we know there is no leader, and no plan, the observation that ants self-organize can be generalized to all things self-organizing.” In other words, if we can’t see the genetic code or the “program that programmed the program,” that makes ants act the way they do, there must not be any such thing, leaving the only explanation, “ants self-organize just because they do.” This is like looking for Shakespeare in a Shakespeare play, and saying, “since I didn’t see Shakespeare, these plays must self-organize.” Or, to use another point the author makes, just because a programmer can write a self replicating program doesn’t mean self replicating programs arise of their own accord.

This is one of those instances where you can subsume the real questions in a lot of fancy explanations, but you still end up where you started. We don’t know why things self-organize. We don’t know if they’re designed that way, or if it “just happens.” The author makes much of the parallels between various fields, assumes those correlations are “just part of the universe,” and then goes on to use these parallels as proof of evolutionary theory. Circular logic is still circular logic no matter how large and circuitous the route back to the beginning is.

An interesting book; worth reading if you want to understand the current state of explaining the origin of life from “nothing.” Ultimately, however, the author offers not much more than what the ancient Greek atheists offered.

Life must have arisen through natural processes, because we’re here, and we “know” there is no god. It’s well seasoned, but still thin, gruel.


Entropy and Evolution

Of course the whole idea of compensation, whether by distant or nearby events, makes no sense logically: an extremely improbable event is not rendered less improbable simply by the occurrence of “compensating” events elsewhere. According to this reasoning, the second law does not prevent scrap metal from reorganizing itself into a computer in one room, as long as two computers in the next room are rusting into scrap metal — and the door is open. (Or the thermal entropy in the next room is increasing, though I am not sure how fast it has to increase to compensate computer construction!) – Granville Sewell (Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems)


Worldview Week 20: Considering Evolution

I’m blogging through a worldview class I’m teaching for our homeschool coop through the next year in this series of posts. Each week I’ll post a class outline and notes.

One of the major thrusts of science is the concept of “evolution.” The problem with evolution is it has risen far above a mere scientific theory, and to the level of “an explanation for everything,” with everything including religion, social structures, racism, bigotry, politics, and economics. But how well does evolution fare when pitted against real worldviews? Can it stand up to the tests of philosophy that it claims to subvert?

We’ll find out this week as we discuss the philosophy of evolution as a thought system.

[gview file=”http://www.thinkinginchrist.com/media/worldview/20%20Considering%20Evolution.pdf”]

Evolution and Extrapolation

sands-of-timeHere’s the background: In The Origin of Species, Darwin discussed the work of animal breeders, pigeon fanciers in particular. They might vary in coloring or display, but at the end of the day, as Darwin well knew, they all remained pigeons. Dogs vary greatly in size, but dogs they remain. Darwin said that varieties were “incipient species,” thereby staking his claim to the belief they were on their way to becoming something else. In short, he was extrapolating. But that was philosophy, not science. He lacked the evidence to claim that the extrapolation had actually been observed. –Evolution News

The central claim of evolution is that we can extrapolate from small changes in the breeding of dogs to the big changes between dogs and cats, much like we can extrapolate from seeing someone drive off to go home that the rest of that trip will involve driving — rather than a helicopter picking their car up and flying them there. The analogy is correct, but there is a problem in the proof.

We’ve either driven to many places in our lives, and never had a helicopter pick us up to fly us part of the way, or we’ve seen people driving many places, and never seen a helicopter pick them up. Either way, we have a valid reason to extrapolate from the beginning to the end — we have direct observational data.

And that same direct observational data is just what’s missing in the world of evolution. There is some circumstantial evidence in the form of fossils (evidence which actually only proves the extrapolation true if you interpret within the framework of the extrapolation to begin with), and there’s an underlying philosophical belief that there can be no God, but there’s little else on which to stake a belief in the extrapolation. There’s circular logic, and there’s religious belief, and little else.

So why do so many people place their faith in such an unsupported system? Because they are committed to the idea that special creation simply cannot be true (particularly in the Judeo-Christian sense), and they will grasp at whatever straw is necessary to prove it to themselves.


Review: The Genius of Ancient Man

genius-ancient-manThe Genius of Ancient Man
Don Landis


There is little doubt that we live in an essentially narcissistic world, that in previous ages, people were generally more self-effacing, and less self-important. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the evolutionary idea (or ideal): each generation is smarter than the last; evolution is taking us towards a grand future with humans that are almost godlike in their intelligence. But there is a problem hidden in this line of thinking — there are precious few facts to actually support an evolutionary history of thought.

Newton said he was standing on the shoulders of giants; our current generation has changed the giants into mental midgets.

The Genius of Ancient Man simply points out various things that cannot be explained within the context of this evolutionary view of human thought. A prime example is the pyramids scattered across the face of the Earth, many of which we could not replicate today in terms of construction quality or size. We don’t have the capability to move the stones used to build some of these structures, so how did ancient man — who is supposed to be much less intelligent than the next generation we see before us — find ways to move them? What are we to make of the obvious marks of high speed drilling, blind holes cut into stone in very precise shapes, and I shaped connecting pieces used in the construction of these large edifices?

Or what of ancient Roman and Greek coins found in unlikely places (indicating they are not “dropped coins,” left by someone in recent times) on the east coast of the Americas, or ancient Chinese coins found in the same sorts of place on the west coast of the Americas? How can we square these finds with our mental image of an ancient man who couldn’t, and didn’t travel far much more than a few miles from his place of birth?

There is little to make of such artifacts other than coming to the conclusion that we have our entire picture of ancient man completely wrong. As C.S. Lewis once commented, the man who invented the wheel is far superior in intelligence to the man who invented the car.

This book is organized into two sections; the first section lays the foundation for presuppositional apologetics, specifically working with the priority of God in the timeline of human history. The illustration Lewis would have used here is that of the steam engine — while we see advances in technology as proof of evolution, what we should really see is the mind behind each of these advances, overarching the entire process from start to finish.

The second section considers individual instances of modern technology in the ancient world. Travel, monuments, religions, music, and art are all discussed in turn, each one being used to show that ancient man was much more advanced than we might conceive, given our chronological snobbery. The impression the reader walks away with is one of interest and confusion — why are these sorts of things never discussed, and why should we treat ancient man with so little respect?

Well worth reading.

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