Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Biological Evolution: Did It Happen?

A Personal Perspective by Thomas Pittman, PhD
(full essay here, this excerpt posted with permission)

I do not have time to review here everything that has been published on the question of whether biological evolution (as understood by those who accept the notion, namely universal descent from a common ancestor) actually happened. Instead I will concentrate on what I found to be the compelling arguments for and against it.

I grew up in a Bible-believing Christian family, but despite my parents' best efforts I was exposed to a high-school teacher who promoted the idea of evolution without disclosing its problems, and I bought into it. I received a logical, scientific, mathematical education, and scientists believed in common descent, so it must be true. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the strongest argument I have ever seen for biological evolution: "All the scientists believe it."

Not all.

Twenty years later, in grad school, my thesis advisor invited me to take another look at the evidence supporting evolution versus fiat creation. I noticed a curious phenomenon: nobody had any evidence of their own; they always pointed to some other discipline as compelling. Ask a paleontologist how he knows how old these fossils are, and he tells you it's from the rock strata; ask a geologist how he knows how old the rock strata are, and he tells you it's from the fossils. Really. Yes, they have radiometric dating, but radiometric dates are all over the map, so they calibrate them from the fossils. Really. Check it out.

So for twenty years I have been asking The Question of anybody with a terminal degree in any field at all:
What evidence in your own area of expertise supports the common-descent evolution model over fiat creation?
In 20 years, not one qualified person has ever even attempted an answer! One person with only a Masters degree offered the observation that there is only one species of Cretacious fossil cypress tree, but there are seven species today. I asked him how different that one species of Cretacious cypress was from a hybrid of the seven today -- in other words could all seven modern cypress "species" be derived from that single Cretacious parent without any evolution at work at all? He did not reply. I asked this same Question directly of a high-ranking evolutionist member of the Southwest Baptist University Biology department faculty. He did not reply. Or rather, he did reply, but declined to address the scientific question with scientific data. There's a reason for that: There is no evidence for evolution.
The reason for insisting on a terminal degree in this Question was impressed on me by a grad student in entomology, which is an important (biological science) department at Kansas State University, where I taught for three years. He said that undergraduates and masters level students are not told the whole truth about the problems with evolution, but they don't keep it from the PhD students because they cannot do original research without knowing all the facts.

Entropy and Information Science

In my own area of expertise (my PhD is in Information Science), I can tell you for a fact that the accumulation of random chance events does not and cannot lead to greater specialization and new features; it only corrupts what gains have already been made. Otherwise, every supercomputer in the world would be busily grinding away at simulated evolution to create new software, because software is incredibly difficult to design and get correct, and supercomputer time is relatively cheap by comparison. We do have what are misleadingly called "genetic programs" that "evolve" and become better at the task for which they are programmed. This is somewhat of a misrepresentation, because these programs never evolve beyond the bounds of the task for which they are programmed, and never in ways unanticipated by their programmer. They are designed to adapt themselves in limited ways in response to known stimuli. This is not the kind of evolution that biologists tell us happened to life on earth.

The November 1987 issue of Scientific American was devoted to Entropy, and all the schemes that scientists have come up with over the years to create a perpetual motion engine, and the technical reasons why each idea failed. Some were quite clever, like involving little trap doors to let hot molecules collect on one side only of a two-chamber box. One of the reasons it failed is that you cannot measure the temperature of the molecules without added energy.

One of the interesting findings of Information Science is that the same formulas for Entropy in the energy domain apply also to the information domain. And like the failed search for perpetual motion energy sources, there cannot be any success at all in achieving "perpetual motion" information sources. Our experience in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research supports this finding. Serious new AI research is no longer attempting to make self-intelligent learning machines, but only mimicking human intelligence in the computer. Unlike the energy domain, where the earth is not a closed system (it continuously receives energy from the sun), the earth is a closed system in the information domain. Therefore the Second Law of thermodynamics (in the information domain) applies and proves that the origin of species by biological evolution is physically impossible apart from an external information source. At any point in time (today, or 1,000,000 years ago, it doesn't matter which), all the genetic code in the world is a fixed (albeit very large) body of information; but it cannot increase in a closed system -- in fact it will tend to decrease. That means species and genera and phyla will die off (go extinct), but nothing new will come that is not merely a reshuffling of the information already there. This is a prediction from the theory, and it is supported from all the evidence. In the 140+ years since the publication of Darwin's Origin of the Species, there has not been a single documented novel feature evolved, but hundreds of species and entire genera have gone extinct, carrying into oblivion their entire genetic code. Information has been lost, but not replaced with new information.

For evolution to work, the small variations that we see in organisms today -- including the various beak sizes of the finches on the Galapagos islands and the coloration of the peppered moth in England -- must continue unbounded to the creation of novel forms. It simply does not happen. When the climate changes, the finches in the Galapagos start to grow a different size of beaks, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, but they are always still finches. Race horses have been carefully bred for speed (survival of the fittest, enforced by careful breeding) for centuries. If evolution worked, they would continue to get faster and faster, but they don't. Races are now won by hundredths of a second, because all the horses run as fast as a race horse can run. The evolution (if you can call it that) is bounded and limited to what horses were designed to do, just like the genetic programs in computer software which are limited to what the programmer designed them to do.

Read the rest of this essay here.

1 comment:

  1. Fossils and Rocks
    Yes, we determine the age of rocks from the fossils found in it, now. This does not at all mean that the age was always determined this way. The reverse is true. Rocks with various assemblages of fossils were found to fit within certain brackets of ages. When trilobite fossils are found, if the layer above or below them could be radiodated, those layers were always 250 millions of age (above) or 520 millions years of age (below) Trilobite were never found above 250 million year old layers or below 520 million year old layers. Once this rule was seen to be followed everywhere, it was taken as a simplification. Now, rocks with trilobites are accepted to be within that age range - because of countless tests done earlier. Really. Check it out.
    " in other words could all seven modern cypress "species" be derived from that single Cretacious parent without any evolution at work at all?" I don't understand this unless it is the micro/macro trickery common among creationists.
    " I can tell you for a fact that the accumulation of random chance events does not and cannot lead to greater specialization and new features; it only corrupts what gains have already been made."
    This man has never seen snowflakes, I guess.
    "Therefore the Second Law of thermodynamics (in the information domain) applies and proves that the origin of species by biological evolution is physically impossible apart from an external information source"
    I wrote a response to this in a comment on Quora:
    "On the face of it, a law that is commonly read to mean that all things die or rot or fall apart looks like it should rebut the theory of evolution. But a closer look shows why this is not so. Here are three examples of why this is.
    First, snowflakes. In a cloud at the appropriate temperature a tiny crystal of ice forms, possibly around a speck of dust. As it is carried up and down, back and forth, left and right, it bumps into more water and sometimes that water molecule is oriented correctly so that the impact binds it. This happens again and again as the slowly growing snowflake travels kilometres. Every impact that adds water to the flake also releases heat.
    Water has been collected from a large area and been organized with wonderful complexity and represents an increase in order and decrease in chaos...but only locally. In those kilometres of travel, heat and chaos increased and by a larger extent than the decrease around the flake.
    Second, when I was born, I weighed around 6lb or 3kg. After twenty years, I was 165lb or 75kg. At that time I was at my physical peak (We'll leave out when my mental peak is or was). I was both more complex and larger than I had been twenty years earlier and in my 75kg, I demonstrated an increased order in the world.
    To get to that point, I had eaten an average of more than 75 kg a year. I had also radiated heat at 37 Celsius for twenty years. The world was a more disordered place than it had been twenty years earlier and this disorder, if it could be measured or estimated, would be greater than the increase in order within the bounds of my body.
    These two examples show that things can become more complex and that organization and order can increase - locally- without breaking the second law of thermodynamics.
    More specific to evolution, the amount of information in a genome has been seen to increase in laboratory tests. A duplication mutation occurs, copying a gene twice. One copy is shut down by mechanisms of the cell and the other creates the necessary proteins. The other, inactive, gene is free to mutate. These mutations build up and can cause the gene to take on a new function. The sum total of information has increased and the variety of processes has increased. This, again, has been observed, and does not break the second law of thermodynamics."