Facing Reality – An Open Letter to Tildeb
This letter is my response to the comment you posted here –
I thank you for your comments but I would appreciate if you check out your facts before you write. I am not a scientist and it took me time to research the extravagant assertions that you make. I do however appreciate that your questions prodded me to study this subject.
In previous comments you praised and lauded evolution above and beyond any and every other scientific thought that ever crossed the mind of man. In light of your enthusiastic exaltation of evolution I challenged you to tell us about one technology or therapy that we have today as a result of mankind “discovering” the theory of evolution.
The gist of your response seems to be that since evolution is so broad in its scope, my question is almost belittling the glorious majesty of evolution. According to your assessment, science makes no sense without evolution.
It seems that you did not understand my question.
There are scientists that study the present, the real world that you and I live in and there are scientists who study the past and the abstract. Those scientists who study the real world give us technologies and applications that work for us every day. These scientists do not need to ridicule those who disagree with them, they don’t need to demonize them and they do not need to ratchet up their rhetoric. Reality speaks for itself.
When we are dealing with the abstract, with the mysteries of the past, or with realms way beyond our reach, reality is invoked, but its invocation doesn’t sound too real.
In my previous letter to you I wrote about the limitations of science. It seems that you did not get my point. I will provide some illustration.
Let me introduce you to a concept of which most people are unaware. It is called geosynclinals theory. A 1960 textbook described this theory as “one of the great unifying principles in geology. In many ways its role in geology is similar to that of the theory of evolution, which serves to integrate the many biological sciences… the geosynclinals origin of the major mountain systems is an established principle in geology.” (The Geological Evolution of North America, Ronald Press 1960, pg. 43)
Ether is a bit more popular than geosynclinals theory. In the famous Scopes trial of the 1920’s the judge’s final decision included the following quotation; “To deny the teacher of biology the use of this most fundamental generalization of his science (evolution) would make his teaching as chaotic as an attempt to teach … physics without assuming the existence of ether.”
Perhaps you have heard of the book “Ecoscience” written by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren. This book, which was published in 1977, predicted major famine and ecological catastrophes which never came to pass. These people proposed radical measures for the government to utilize in order to protect the universe. These measures included forced abortions, involuntary sterilization, and taking away children from people who somehow circumvent these laws. This was after these same two authors had incorrectly predicted an oncoming age of global cooling (“Overpopulation and the Potential for Ecocide” 1971).
Did the scientific community act upon the reality which demonstrated that these people’s understanding of reality was completely off the mark? Did the community of scientists ostracize these people for their fascist ideology?
No! not at all! Dr. Holdren was appointed in 2009 by President Obama as Director of the White House office of Science and Technology. Paul Ehrlich is a respected figure in the scientific community and is the recipient of numerous prestigious prizes.
For many decades in the latter half of the 19th century various scientists were absolutely convinced that the earth was about 100 million years old. This was confirmed by scientists who studied physics, astronomy, geology, biology and geophysics. In other words this theory, extolled by scientists as true “without the slightest possibility of error,” was confirmed by many scientists from a variety of disciplines using a variety of methodologies and aligned “perfectly” with all of these fields of study. But today, scientists realize that the 19th century scientists were all working under wrong assumptions and that they were influenced by each other without consciously realizing it.
I am sure you heard of the planet Vulcan. It was supposed to be between Mercury and the sun and its presence was confirmed by mathematical calculations and even by actual “sightings.” For decades, many scientists were convinced of the existence of this planet which does not exist in the world of reality.
So you see tildeb, I am not overawed by a “consensus of scientists from various fields etc.” and if you are the follower of reality that you claim to be, neither should you.
My request for one practical application of evolution should be read in context of the limitations of science when it comes to matters that are not so readily discernible.
But let me pause to help you understand the point I was making in my previous post. Most of these mistakes were honest mistakes (I would suspect that Holdren and Ehrlich’s mistakes don’t fall into this category). The scientists were simply using the information that they had at the time and this was the best they came up with.
We cannot fault the scientists for making mistakes, but there is something that we could fault them for. Each and every one of these mistakes was predicated on the same false premise. In every generation there is some information that scientists know and there is some information that they don’t know. Amazingly, in every generation the scientists assume that what they do know is about 99.9999 percent of what there is to know and what they don’t know is a mere speck of dust that can be ignored. If the scientists would have been humble enough to acknowledge reality and accept that they know very little about nature, then these mistakes would not have been made with such arrogant confidence. They would not have ridiculed those who opposed their pet theories the way they did and they would have more quickly opened their ears to hear their error.
One more point before I get to evolution. The general public does not know about the fiascos of science. The blunders are relegated to the back pages of arcane history texts and the holy doctrine of the infallibility of science is trumpeted from every textbook and media outlet.
This, tildeb, is a mockery of reality.
Let us go back to evolution, the theory which has your heart. I had asked you for one application or technology given to us by the knowledge learned through acceptance of evolutionary theory.
Now perhaps you could have answered that the progress that has been made in the study of antibiotics and the resistance that is developed by living organisms towards them is a study rooted in the theory of evolution. This would also be true in relation to progress that has been achieved in the fields of breeding plants and animals.
But these examples would not prove your point. Please allow me to remind you what I have already written on this subject. In my post entitled “Random Reality” I clarified that I believe that evolution happens. It is happening today and no one can deny it. What is open to question is the aspect of the theory that asserts that it is random mutations that fuel the evolutionary process. There is very little in the way of evidence that can support this aspect of evolutionary theory and there is much that can disprove it.
Furthermore, the assertion that all life emerged from one original life-form is not as clearly established as you claim. Let me note that there are scientists that share my religious world-view who believe that common descent took place – http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48951136.html , so the theory of common descent does not “threaten” my religious worldview, but I don’t see any compelling reason to accept it.
Neither of these examples (resistance to antibiotics or the breeding of plants and animals) requires a belief in random mutations fueling the evolutionary process or a belief in common descent. Both of these evolutions are extremely limited in their scope and have no application to the broad theory of common descent.
I would hazard a guess that at this point you are bristling with indignation. All of the sciences that you mentioned align perfectly with the theory of common descent, or so you say, so how could anyone cast doubt on this theory that has been validated again and again? A staggering amount of new knowledge was discovered as a result of science accepting evolutionary theory and an avalanche of applications, therapies and technologies were given to man through evolution.
The problem is that reality is not what you want it to be. Genetics does not align “perfectly” with the theory of common descent. Paleontology does not align “perfectly” with common descent. And neither does geology or medicine. There are serious problems with the theory of common descent that each of these sciences presents.
You must be exasperated by now. Didn’t the holy “talkorigins” website answer each and every challenge to the glorious theory of evolution posed by those evil creationists? And if I were to tell you that the creationist websites answer every challenge posed by the evolutionists you would wring your hands in despair. Didn’t you tell me again and again that creationists are not scientists? Creationists arrive at their knowledge through the evil method known as “faith” while the immaculate atheists (almost) never misrepresent reality. The fact that some creationists claim that they oppose the theory of common descent based on science and not on faith can be ignored because we “know” that creationists always operate from faith. Furthermore, the creationists have an obvious agenda but the atheists are as altruistic as the driven snow. How could I compare the arguments of these primitive fools to the sophisticated reasoning of the sanctified atheists?
Do you realize tildeb that hundreds of scientists do not believe in evolution? Many of these scientists are atheists. Many of these scientists are accomplished scientists in many fields and they don’t see things your way. There are more scientists that oppose the theory of evolution than there were scientists that opposed every mistake that science made from geosynclinals to ether to Vulcan and to global cooling. Oh, you can dismiss those scientists who disagree with you from your world by labeling them with the appropriate dehumanizing appellations so generously supplied by the Church of Darwin, but these scientists do exist in the world of reality.
Perhaps you are up on every challenge to evolution ever presented but for the benefit of the readers allow me to record some details of the controversy. (I realize that the word “controversy” in the context of evolution is blasphemous to you, but I have no other way to word this truth.)
It is a “well known fact” that humans and chimpanzees share 98% of their DNA, or is it? When the scientists threw out those numbers to the general public they were under the Darwinist induced stupor that the vast majority of DNA is a useless vestigial remnant from the ancient past. They called this “junk DNA.” According to their “knowledge” there was no reason to include junk DNA in the calculation of similarities between the two “twins” on the “tree of life.”
Since those numbers were produced, the ENCODE study recognized that the junk DNA is quite important and is actually functional. You would expect someone to go and revise the numbers. (When junk DNA is included in the calculation then the similarity drops to 75%) – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246854/
Tildeb, how long do you think that it will take for the scientific community to make this correction known to the general public?
I mentioned the tree of life. You seem to be under the impression that this concept is aligned perfectly well with the sciences of anatomy, genetics and molecular biology. But sadly for your “reality” this is not the case. – http://science.sciencemag.org/content/284/5423/2124.full
You quoted Dobzhansky’s exaggerated statement to the effect that belief in evolution is the backbone of biology and you add – “to all related fields of knowledge.“
Perhaps it may surprise you to know that Dobzhansky was a theist and his essay was an argument for theistic evolution – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_of_Evolution
Furthermore, Dobzhansky was making a point. He wanted to say that you need to recognize that the same natural laws apply to all living creatures in order to understand biology. But it does not follow that in order to understand biology you need to believe in one theory over another as to why the same natural laws apply to all living creatures.
To apply Dobzhansky’s statement to all of the sciences that you associate it with is simply ridiculous. Atomic theory is completely unrelated to evolution. Medicine does not need to believe in evolution in order to work. Your statements concerning the overarching scope of evolution are rooted in dogmatic fundamentalism and not in reality.
But why would anyone doubt evolution in light of the “evidence”? And again, the question is not if evolution happens, but is it random? And the answer to this question is that there is almost no reason to believe that the process is random while there are many reasons to believe that the process is not random at all. The rapid evolution of various species tells us that this is not a random process –
The phenomena of convergent evolution also tells us that this is not a random process –
You extravagant claim about evolution’s role in the sciences is demonstrably false. It is because of a dogmatic belief in evolution that the majority of any given organism’s DNA was dismissed as vestigial “junk DNA.” Subsequently it was discovered that this DNA is not junk at all. Believing the theory of evolution impeded scientific research and progress in this case. Certain vestigial organs were also dismissed as useless monuments from the past on the basis of evolutionary theory but in fact some of these organs are quite functional. Here too, adherence to the theory of evolution impeded scientific progress.
Let us address the subject of common descent.
As I stated, I am not a scientist but a student of human conversation. I have seen arguments for and against the theory of common descent. I have not only read the arguments but also the techniques of persuasion used by the proponents of both sides of this debate.
I can say this. The technique used by many in the camp of those favoring common descent is the same technique used by the liberal media in the realm of politics and by the Church in its debate with Judaism. They demonize those who disagree with them. I am not saying that you cannot find this technique used by creationists. After all, many of them are educated in the rhetoric of the Christian Scriptures which elevates this technique to the level of virtue. But to deny that it is being used by the proponents of evolution is to deny reality.
It is not as you say, that there are mountains of evidence for the position of common descent and some flimsy shreds of data that are used to cast doubt on this theory. It is also not as you say that every question asked by those who do not accept common descent has been answered by those who do accept the theory. There are serious questions that have not been answered and the opponents of common descent have presented arguments to counter most of the arguments presented by the proponents of common descent.
Perhaps some questions are better than others and perhaps some answers are better than others but there are serious questions on both sides. The argument that you brought from endogenous retroviruses sounds like a good argument in favor of common descent but things are not as clear-cut as you make them sound. The phenomenon of convergent evolution is a very strong argument against common descent and the answers provided by the proponents of the theory are not very satisfying.
You claim adherence to reality. Reality demonstrates that in every generation scientists tend to overestimate the value and weight of the knowledge that they possess. To ignore the past and to assume that the present is different is to ignore reality.
I would like to credit Yoram Bogacz’s book, Genesis and Genes, for triggering the thought for this article and for sending me in the direction of most of the scientific information.