Monday, August 4, 2014

Evolution and the Scientific Consensus

Is there really a scientific consensus in favor of macro-evolution? According to Casey Luskin, research coordinator for the Discovery Institute, such a consensus, if it still exists, is quickly coming apart:

  • In 2007, Harvard chemist George Whitesides admitted he has “no idea” how “life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth.” More recently, a paper in Complexity acknowledged, “Many different ideas are competing and none is available to provide a sufficiently plausible root to the first living organisms.” (CRJ, Vol 37/#03, 37)

This issue of “consensus” is not a minor one. Evolutionists continually appeal to this alleged consensus to argue that they represent science, while IDers and creationists do not. Therefore, in order to be in step with science, schools must use the textbooks that advance evolution. It also means that there should be no place for ID or even any criticism of evolution in the classroom.

However, this “consensus” is becoming increasingly elusive, even on Darwin’s home-turf:

  • In 2008, sixteen leading biologists convened in Altenberg, Austria, to discuss problems with the neo-Darwinian synthesis. When covering this conference, Nature quoted leading scientists saying things like, “evolutionary theory has told us little about” important events like “the origin of wings and the invasion of the land.” That same year, Cornell evolutionary biologist William Provine explained that “every assertion of the “evolutionary synthesis below is false,” including: “natural selection was the primary mechanism at every level of the evolutionary process,” “macroevolution was a simple extension of microevolution,” and “evolution produces a tree of life.” (38)

The “tree-of-life” is a concept inseparable from Darwinism. If higher life-forms had evolved from lower ones, we should expect the fossil record to bear witness to this fact. We should therefore be able to observe how one form gradually morphs into another, creating a virtual tree-of-life, connecting the dots. However, such a tree has eluded its proponents:

  • The following year, leading biologist Eugene Koonin wrote that breakdowns in core neo-Darwinian tenets such as the “traditional concept of the tree of life” or that “natural selection is the main driving force of evolution” indicate “the modern synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.” (38)
  • Koonin mentioned growing skepticism over the “tree of life,” and the technical literature contains numerous examples of conflicting evolutionary trees, challenging universal common ancestry. An article in Nature reported that “disparities between molecular and morphological trees” lead to “evolution wars” because “evolutionary trees constructed by studying biological molecules often don’t resemble those drawn up from morphology.” Another Nature paper reported that newly discovered genes “are tearing apart traditional ideas about the animal family tree,” since they “give a totally different tree from what everyone else wants.” A 2009 article in New Scientist observes that “many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded.” (38)

It is noteworthy that the tree should be “discarded” rather than revised. This is because many have despaired of finding a tree – a biological/morphological roadmap - to demonstrate how one species evolved into another. However, it would seem that to despair that such a tree exists is also to despair of neo-Darwinism. The tree is as indispensible to neo-Darwinism as a blueprint is to an engineer.

Consistent with the idea of unguided natural selection, evolutionists had predicted that they would find leftover, now useless, genes leftover from our evolutionary ancestors. They called these genes “junk DNA.” Francis Collins had even claimed that “45 percent of the human genome” consists of “genetic flotsam and jetsam” – leftover junk! The presence of such an extensive collection of junk, would, of course, rule in favor of evolution. However, more recently, the findings have ruled against evolution:

  • A major 2012 Nature paper by the ENCORE consortium reported “biochemical functions for 80% of the genome.” Lead ENCORE scientists predicted that with further research, “80 percent will go to 100” since “almost every nucleotide is associated with a function.” (39)

This prediction does not accord with the messiness of evolution and its leftover loose ends that evolutionists would expect to find, but rather with the design of Intelligence!

Is there a consensus regarding evolution among the scientific community? Hardly! Nevertheless, the vast majority still expect to find a natural explanation for the origins of life and speciation. However, in light of the above, such an expectation is the product of faith and not science. Interestingly, it is this faith that now predominates throughout our scientific institutions.

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