My Letter to Dr.Guliuzza

2011 December 23

Despite the best efforts of my parents to shield me from it, I caught the evolution bug in public high school, and for many years assumed that "God probably used evolution to create," until my major professor in grad school invited me to examine the evidence. I was astonished to find none. Since then, and pretty much continuously for the last 30+ years, I have asked anybody, anywhere, doing peer-reviewed research in any field, "What evidence in your specialty supports the descent-from-a-common-ancestor model better than the fiat-creation model?" In more than 30 years, not one qualified person has ever even attempted to reply (see link below). That suggests to me that there is no supporting data at all, but I try to keep an open mind on the subject. My own PhD is in information science, and in my area of expertise the evidence better supports the fiat creation model, but it's not obvious.

I say all this for two reasons. First, so you will know we are on the same side of the debate, and then to distinguish myself from perhaps most of your readers and also from certainly most of the people on the other side, who in both cases have made their decisions for reasons other than the scientific data. When you are "preaching to the choir" as in Acts&Facts, it doesn't much matter what you say, because they are convinced already, and the Darwinists they try to repeat your arguments to also have no intention of changing their minds.

With this in mind, it seems to me that when you write about subjects within your areas of expertise -- apparently medicine and engineering -- your arguments are good and persuasive (to people like me); when you detour into areas of my professional competence (and not your own), the result is more likely to diminish the perceived quality of everything you say, including where you are right. If I had only your recent diatribe against natural selection to read in support of creation, I would still be an evolutionist.

My professional specialty is computational semantics, which is concerned with retaining the same precise meaning across lanuage translation, both natural and artificial. The bulk of your objection to the term "natural selection" appears to be semantic in nature, that is, you find it hard to imagine selection happening without an intelligent person purposefully doing the selecting, which hinges on the precise meaning of "selection" (semantics). But even that you have muddled somewhat, because bacteria and yeasts and plants are not intelligent enough to select anything in that sense. A good indicator of a fallacious argument -- or at least an argument that does not persuade the presenter -- is when the supporting premises contradict each other. Do you really want to making that kind of argument?

I work with computers. Despite the fervent wishes and hopes of the Darwinists who constitute the majority of my profession, computers are not now and probably cannot ever be "intelligent" in the way you and I are. Yet they "select" all the time. That is their designed purpose. A mechanical card sorter (they don't make them any more, but I used to work with them many decades ago) has no intelligence of any kind, it is dumber than a virus, but its sole purpose for existence was selection. Selection happens in my industry all the time without the immediate application of intelligence. To argue, as you have been doing for several months, that "selection" requires an intelligent selector is simply nonsense to people who know better.

The word "selection" (or something like it) is a useful term to describe the differential survival of some organisms with certain specified traits, as compared to other organisms of the same kind with a different set of traits. Whether it is Gregor Mendel actively choosing wrinkled peas to plant rather than smooth peas, or thoughtless ice storms freezing some of the plants to death while leaving hardier strains to reproduce themselves, the effect is exactly the same: some traits are passed on to the next generation while others are not. Using a single term to describe the same effect is good science and good linguistics. You quoted the Darwinists admitting that the word "selection" is metaphorical. Maybe they should find another word -- perhaps "fubar" -- to express the idea of differential reproduction based on distinguished traits irrespective of cause, but "natural selection" is the term presently in the language, and that is what it now means, nevermind that there is no personal Selector involved. It's like the word "gay" which formerly meant "cheerful" but now means "homosexual." The language has changed.

If the modern usage of "selection" offends your sense of monotheism, you are entitiled to your religious preferences, but that is not a scientific argument. If we want to persuade Darwinists like I was, we need to be arguing science here, not theology or idolatry or outdated semantics.

I believe you and I agree that a process of differential reproduction rates among existing gene pools -- nevermind what label we call the process by -- cannot create new genetic material for that process or those differential rates to apply to, but to say so requires that we admit that there is such a process, and it helps if we have a compact label to call it by. That label in the English language today is "natural selection". The label is all the more attractive because a similar effect can be observed in economics, where products that meet the needs of buyers get bought and paid for, increasing the motivation of vendors to fabricate them. Of course it's not "natural" in that environment, but the process is remarkably similar in operation and effect. It's an awesome insight, and I often tell people that "it ought  to be true, even though it does not match the scientific data." Let us, as the saying goes, "give the Devil his due." It helps us to understand some of the attractiveness of their religion, the better to know how to present our own in a good light.

A statistical argument, such as you raised on the Darwinists' definition of "natural selection" (and also on their evidence in support of its activity) is good science. Being a semanticist and a numerical (computer) professional, I can appreciate these arguments. Furthermore, a single person alternating between contradictory senses of a single term is clearly hiding something; that is semantic dishonesty, and I see a lot of it among the Darwinists. But separate people using a single term consistently in different senses (as quoted by you) is not by itself evidence of dishonesty, because they could be speaking and writing different dialects. When an American speaks of a "torch" he has an open flame in mind; a Brit using the same word is referring to an electric device for shining a spot of light into a dark place. These are honest usage in different dialects. We cannot know whether different senses of "selection" in Darwinist literature represent different dialects or dissimulation until we see the same person doing it. As a semanticist I notice these things. You also are most persuasive when you limit your discussion to your own specialties.

I want to encourage you, Dr.Guliuzza, to continue telling us about those things where you are expert (as you have done in the past), and perhaps to let somebody else more knowledgeable write about -- or at least review -- the areas where you are less expert. This is why ICR has PhDs on staff. A terminal degree is evidence of expertise in that one subject, as also is publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It hurts our cause unnecessarily when we look foolish or ignorant. We want the Darwinists to look foolish (because they are ;-) and "the foolishness of the cross" is for us unavoidable and perhaps even desirable, but we should be careful about how we speak about science, don't you think?
Tom Pittman, PhD

On primary evidence in support of evolution:

On my expertise in semantics and language translation: