Tom Pittman's WebLog

2019 December 10 -- Darwin Didn't Help

Some 40 years ago (I don't remember the exact date) I was in grad school and I must have said something in favor of (theistic) Darwinism, because my major prof invited me to look at the evidence. So I did. I do that. I was astonished that nobody had their own evidence, they all pointed to somebody else as definitive. This was in a state university, where the government-funded Established Religion is "Darwin, or else." I eventually wrote up my findings in my essay "Biological Evolution: Did It Happen?" From a social perspective, because I am a scientist, I prefer the Darwinist myth, but the facts just are not there.

I'm still looking for anybody, anywhere, doing peer-reviewed research to show from their own research that the Darwinist hypothesis (universal descent from a common ancestor) is better supported by their own research than the fiat creation model. I do that. I look at the evidence. Nobody has ever offered any. It doesn't exist. Once in a while I find something that looks like it could be that evidence, but when I look at it critically, it slithers away into the dark. The April issue of WIRED magazine has an example of that kind of non-evidence in "The Darwin Treatment" (no link, their articles are no longer open to the public, not even on Google).

Anyway, this guy openly claims that his Darwinism enabled him to find a cancer therapy that works better than what they have been doing. But first you need to understand what it is about his Religion (defined as "Believing what you know ain't so") that had this beneficial effect. So-called "neo-Darwinian evolution" has two parts: First you need a source of genetic innovation, which Darwin supposed (like his predecessors) came from need. Mendelian genetics put the kibosh on that goofy (vitalistic) notion, whence the "neo" (new) part of the moniker: scientists realized Darwin was wrong about that, but they observed random mutations in the genome so that's where neo-Darwinism finds its source of innovation. More about that shortly.

The second part of Darwinism is Darwin's own insight into the rather obvious fact that in an environment of amoral scarcity -- the atheists must assume the "amoral" part, since they have no mechanism for the evolution of morality by Darwinist principles, and besides, that gives them permission to be immoral (except in the USA, where they must pretend to be "good" people because the Christian influence here demands it) -- anyway, scarcity apart from the Golden Rule means that the strong survive and the weak perish. Darwin or his immediate followers called it "natural selection" or the "survival of the fittest," but subsequently some of the more thoughtful Darwinists recognize that it's more like "survival of the luckiest" (their words). It's an awesome idea, which ought to be true, even if it doesn't fit the facts (at which it fails about as often as it succeeds). The facts win, except when they point to God and it's an atheist who's looking. Whatever.

This guy doing cancer research decided from his Darwinist religion that natural selection being (as he supposes) a law of nature, and the fact that cancer cells appear to be the result of genetic mutations of normal cells, which compete against the normal cells for the nutrients of the bloodstream. Aggressive cancer therapy tries to kill all the cancer cells, which (as he supposes) is like the selective pressure of natural selection, and the new mutations become immune to that therapy. If instead of trying to kill all the cancer, we leave enough to crowd out the new mutations -- this supposes that the drug-resistant new mutations must use more energy to resist the therapy, which he admits is unproved -- then when the cancer grows to be harmful, we kill off enough to keep it under control. This means that the patient gets much less of the harmful treatments with all their side-effects, and the resistant cancer cells do not take over. Cancer becomes a chronic disease instead of a fatal one. It seems to work, but he has not yet done full clinical trials with proper controls.

Let us suppose full clinical trials show unconditional success for his treatment, does that prove Darwinism? Or does the Darwinist hypothesis even give useful results better than the fiat creation model? Not at all! First of all, natural selection is science, that is, it can be tested scientifically, unlike the other necessary component of the Darwinist religion, that accumulated random mutations can and did generate all manner of genetic variety of organisms that you see in the world today. Lenski's experiment (as actually reported at first, before they suppressed the evidence) disproved that first component, but only natural selection figured in the cancer therapy experiment. A Creationist scientist might not have thought to try it, but it's not a disproof of the fiat creation model, which allows for the (probable) scientific fact of natural selection as a God-given means of maintaining the genetic purity of the individual species.

Furthermore, assuming that all cancer researchers know that cancer happens as a result of genetic mutation, and given that pretty much all of them know that antiseptic-resistant bacteria tend to multiply in hospitals, so that avoiding the unnecesary use of antibacterial cleansers gives the curable bacteria an opportunity to overwhelm the resistant ones. If, as the creation model posits, the resistant bacteria have been there all along but only overwhelmed by the less resistant microbes -- that is, survival of the fittest is active, but little or no actual mutation -- then this same principle could apply in cancer treatment, giving the same results that the Darwinist came up with. It didn't happen that way because the Darwinist Religion is Established (taught as TRUE in almost all schools, public and private) so that few scientists get an accurate scientific education because they all undergo the Darwinist brainwashing, and even fewer are admitted into research programs controlled by the Darwinist priesthood.

The bottom line: this guy may credit his Darwinism for his insight, but a Creationist researcher could have gotten the same result if we had the same opportunities. But we can't know that, because this is not a scientific experiment, just a piece of luck that happened to the lucky guy.
 

Urban Evolution

Another WIRED article, six months later, presents "urban evolution" in glowing terms (among others) how it will solve the dilemma of so-called global warming. Cities are hotter and dirtier ("urban cauldrons of noise, heat and filth") than the countryside, so that provides selective pressure for rapid evolution:
This is compelling evidence in favor of the notion that evolution, that most sublime of nature's engines, is not some chaotic phenomenon but, rather, an orderly one whose outcomes we might be able to predict. [2019 Oct, p.74]
The facts -- city animals are different from their country cousins -- appear to be indisputable, but the author's interpretation is muddy. Buried in the text more than 80% in (where it is least likely to be seen), he indirectly quotes
Andrew Whitehead ascribed the species' evolutionary success to its high degree of genetic diversity -- that is, the killifish genome naturally contains an abundance of genetic information that isn't usually expressed. So the key to desesnsitizing the aryl hydrocarbon receptor [the chemical explanation for surviving otherwise lethal quantities of dioxin poison in polluted Newark Bay] was probably already present inside killifish DNA, and natural selection simply brought it to the fore. [p.83]
A Creationist could have written that -- and they often do write similar analyses when debunking claims of evolution -- because this is not classical Darwinian universal descent from a common ancestor, but only selective distribution of genetic information already there (perhaps dating back to Creation Day) in a single species, much like the finch beaks in the Galapagos sometimes grow larger, sometimes smaller, depending on environmental circumstances. Darwin was not there long enough to observe the long-term variability, and these "urban evolutionists" are also not seeing the long-term data, but only interpreting the tiny slice they can get funding to analyse. Earlier on the same page,
Some urban evolution researchers fear that, in their rush to trumpet exciting results, fellow scientists aren't differentiating between plasticity [morphological changes that are not genetic, like a body-builder's greater muscle mass] and natural selection. "To only look at traits but not do it experimentally doesn't give you the opportunity to understand whether that trait is genetically based," says Max Lambert, ...who is studying how red-legged frogs are adapting to life in polluted stormwater ponds. "And overselling the field as being all evolution does a disservice to getting the public to understand what evolution is."
Yup, that it does.

The only way to know if this is the Darwinian development of new genetic material is to run long-term experiments like Lenski's E.Coli experiment (without suppressing the evidence, as Lenski did). Or, because it is getting cheaper to do full DNA analysis, to fully map the DNA of both parents and offspring to show that the new forms are in fact mutations, and not as Whitehead suggests, DNA that was already there. Even that may be insuffient, because ICR (no link, their website is now encrypted and no longer public) recently reported on some small animal that actually changed the DNA of their offspring in predictable ways based on environmental circumstances.

Much of these articles consists in touchy-feely personality stuff that writers tend to prefer over technical details, and WIRED has become more of a mag for tech wannabes, with a corresponding degradation of the quality of their science, so this is not really the place to find good science (as I have already mentioned from time to time). If you want to see the true evidence in support of the Darwinist Religion, you need to ask the people doing primary (peer-reviewed) research, not how their religion drives their research, but if in fact their research does have compelling evidence against the fiat creation model. And you need to be prepared to ask them the questions they themselves have little motivation to address, like "how do you know the genetic material was not already there but not expressed?" If the change is reversible when the environment changes back, then it's not Darwinian evolution at all, but only selective population distribution like finch beaks and moth coloration.
 

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