Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Science: Its Value, Limits, and Abuses

 In ancient times, when civilization was just getting started on the plains of Mesopotamia, rulers recorgnized and hired certain men who dressed up in priestly robes. Then they would provide them with a platform so that they could speak to the people and declare that what the rulers said and did was right according to "the gods".

Of course, those were primative times and we have come a long way since then. Nowadays rulers recognize and hire certain men who dress up in lab coat. They then provide them with a platform so that they can speak to the people and declare that what the rulers are saying and doing is right according to "science". 

"Science" has become in essense the new authority figure for a generation that has lost faith in God. The norm for most humans is to long for an authority figure that they can trust. That is decent, natural and good. There is nothing wrong with the desire. It is a part of the God-shaped hole in the human soul. The problem comes when exploitative entities use this feature of human nature to enshrine themselves. The state will always attempt to fill this longing with itself directly and indirectly.

In the same way, "science" is good. Science is a procedure by which one attempts to gain knowledge of the natural world, called the Scientific Method, or the body of knowledge produced by this method. So it isn't bad. it is good. It has helped mankind. I taught science in public schools for twelve years and I celebrate it for what it is- but not what it is now being sold as. 

"Science" is being funded by the state now more than ever, and there are those who are trying to corrupt it from a tool used to validate truth into a narrative that supports various agendas. 

There is a misconception that many hold today, because it answers their heart's natural and good longing for an authority figure that they can trust. This is the idea that "science is the only objective means we have for truth discovery". There is an old saying, I believe it was from the late great Yogi Bera. He said "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practive there is."

In theory, when done objectively, science can find truth that is objective. But the same thing could be said of other methods of truth-discovery such as mathematical proofs, or in some cases historical-legal evidence, or even Divine Revelation. All of these in theory can find truth objectively. Just like government can in theory protect people's rights instead of violate them. In practice, the state muddles through, sometimes protecting people's rights and other times mistreating them. Because states are not governed by angels, just men. In the same way, getting a degree and wearing a lab coat does not turn scientists into angels. They are still just men with their own interests, blind spots, and bias. 

Scienctific experiments are designed, executed, and given meaning by human beings who are anything but objective. In particular when their funding comes from sources inextricably connected to a political state. Again IN THEORY peer-review and replication of findings should minimize this. In practice more than half of published high-impact cancer studies could not be replicated and in some fields the percentage was higher

The fact is that science professionals are a sub-culture, and it is classically true that sub-cultures often become ultra-conformist in their thinking within the sub-culture. So that if you have only a handful of journals and research institutions run by people with a narrow set of views about the world, the blind-spots will be self-reinforcing. If your peer has the same narrow views that you do, having them review your work is still not going to help correct your work better if the root cause of the problem is a shared blind-spot regarding the bigger picture of things. You might as well ask a group of Calvinists what is wrong with papers whose flaw is that the findings assume that Calvinism is correct where it isn't (this is just an example, chill out Calvinists). 

In theory, science has a corrective process and those who put a lot of trust in "science" as a system often point this out and claim that science is self-correcting while religion is not. The reality is that a large segment of the population, including scientists themselves, are turning Karma into Dogma. They can correct the minor details but going back and taking a look at something that has been widely deemed true for twenty years is considered shocking and the reaction against it is visceral. I've tried to show this with my video debunking the idea that Neanderthals made art and that they were so much like us. The negative reaction from some of the same people who say that science is self-correcting and so we can trust it eye-opening. If it can be wrong and self-corrects, what's wrong with challenging an idea from only 20 years ago based on scientific procedures we are still trying to figure out how to use and understand? 

It really violates some people's comfort zone to point out that in practice there is no completely objective method of discovering the truth. We cannot count on a system to work, no matter how flawed the people in that system may be. The same thing with goverment. We will never invent a system of government that is so perfect that citizens no longer have to be virtuous in order to sustain the blessings of freedom. We just have to understand that trusting in systems is a loser tactic. So get more skeptical of systems and put a premium on people who most honestly try to look at things from mulitple perspectives. If God exists, He's the on;y source of objective truth. But even if He gives you the honest truth, it is still on you to look at it honestly. And there'n lies the rub. The issue goes right back to the condition of our heart, which is where I believe God wants us to consider anyway. 

Science also has limits in the truth it can discover. Science operates by Methodological Naturalism. That is, it assumes that only natural causes exist in an effort to find natural cause. It can't test for supernatural causes. It couldn't see God if God were standing right in front of it. So it is useless for detecting God's action and moreover it is irrational to expect it to do so. Demanding scientific proof of God's action is about as crazy as demanding supernatural proof that nature is all that there is. 

The best science can do is say "we have no natural explantion for that which makes sense, but we will keep looking." If we know enough about a subject to where we ought to have an idea what the natural explanation is, but are still perplexed, it becomes reasonble for men to rise above their tools and consider a supernatural explanation. Not that it can be proven by science, but it can be reasonable based on the weakness of any and all natural explanations. See my God of the Gaps video for more. 

The Historical-legal method is actually better than the scientific method when it comes to discovering truth about one-time histrorical events that left little physical trace (even if great human trace) in the natural world. For example, we widely believe it to be true that George Washington crossed the Delaware River and Fought the Hessians. We can't prove that scientifically, but we believe it based on historical-legal evidence. It isn't just a claim, or an anecdote. It is historical fact because the reverbarations of that event left its mark on history if not the natural world. Compare that to the claim that Washington chopped down the cherry tree. That's a mere anecdote and we don't know if it is true or not because we haven't the legal-historical evidence to support it. So there is truth from non-scientific methods. 

I say all this because I am claiming that the Christ-centered model for early Genesis reconciles science and scripture. And it does, but it can't reconcile them in places where I think modern science has it wrong. And that is mostly regarding man himself.  But I am being fair- I think Christianity has had early Genesis wrong too. I am not saying that people who look to science as their authority for objective truth need to change and Bible-believing Christians can continue to think that objective truth starts with their view of scripture. It is one thing to believe the text is true, but another to believe that how you see it is correct. I said a while ago that if there is a God then His view is objective truth but it is still up to us to view it objectively. Christ said that Moses wrote about Him. If that's not what you see when you read early Genesis, then you are not seeing it the way that the One who is objective truth said to look at it. Don't just look at His word, but look at His Word how He said to look at it....that is as pointing to Him. And that is as close to objective truth as men are every going to get this side of the veil. 


How about this for evidence for God through events in the natural world, my book on early Genesis shows how when we look at the text through the lens of Chrsit, as He said to, the supposed conflicts between scripture and what science and history tell us about the natural universe resolve beautifully. How could this be unless He is who scripture says and that scripture is inspired by God? 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Absurdity of the "God of the Gaps" Cliche

First let's start with a definition. There are a few floating around out there, but the one most applicable here would be: "God of the gaps" is an argument for God's existence which says that gaps in scientific knowledge can be evidence of supernatural action as an explanation for events in the natural world. 

Should an argument for God's existence be dismissed because it is a "God of the gaps" argument? No. There are reasonable and unreasonable arguments in this category and each case should be evaluated on its own merits, not lumped together into one pile that can be dismissed without reasonable consideration. 

Consider what would happen if Jesus appeared at a wedding feast today and repeated the miracle of making water into wine under similar conditions. I propose to you that Jesus turned the water into wine by using supernatural power and this is evidence for the existence of God. This would be a "God of the gaps" claim. That is, there is no reasonable natural explanation for how the water became wine, and I am using the abscence of such an explanation to support my argument that it is a supernatural act, indicating that God exists. 

There is no doubt that I am using the fact that there is no reasonable natural explanation available to claim a supernatural explanation, but I hope you would agree that in this instance my argument is sound whether it is a "God of the gaps" argument or not. 

The fact is, science operates using methodological naturalism. That is, it is a search for natural causes only. It can never prove an action had a supernatural cause. It isn't even designed to do so. In that sense, science couldn't detect God if God were standing right in front of it! It assumes all causes are natural in an effort to find natural causes. So even here, when Jesus performs a geniune miracle right in front of you and others, there is no scientific way to prove it was a result of supernatural action. The very best science can do is say "we currently have no natural explanation for this phenomenon, but we will keep looking." In other words, it becomes a "gap in scientitific knowledge". 

I hope the reader will see that if "god of the gaps" arguments are always invalid, then no evidence for miracles from the natural universe, even overwhelming and direct evidence, can ever be considered valid. It is a back-door way of imposing not just methodlogical naturalism (that is, for the purpose of our search for natural causes we will assume natural causes only) to philosophical naturalism (an a priori assumption that nature is all that there is). 

This argument in effect imposes philosophical naturalism on all evidence from nature, since any appeals to "gaps" in science's knowledge is a "god of the gaps" argument and is dismissed. This is begging the question in the extreme. If you will only accept scientific evidence for supernatural actions, and science can't by definition show that any act has a supernatural cause, that's checkmate. Your reasoning is circular. You've sealed yourself off by cliche from any honest consideration of evidence for supernatura action in the natural universe. 

The only honest way to consider the subject is to admit that, at least in theory, there is more than one possible reason for a "gap in scientific knowledge" to exist. One possibility is that there is a natural cause and we just haven't found it yet. This will ordinarily be the case. Another possible reason that we haven't found a natural cause for something is that there is no natural cause. It was the result of a supernatural act. 

If you assume all actions have natural causes period, then you are a philosophical naturalist. You can't consider the evidence of supernatural action fairly because your assumptions about reality don't permit you to. You can't prove the assumption but you are nevertheless imposing it on the evidence. If this is the case with you, I suggest a non-scientific solution- sincerely ask God if He is real to free your mind so that you can fairly consider if He is real. Then see what happens.

I've seen people engage in all sorts of mental evasions in order to try and keep their thinking wrapped in this tight little circle which prevents them from having to fairly consider the question. They may say "the miracle has to be verifiable".  Poke a bit about what they mean by "verifiable" and eventually (if they don't end the discussion because they don't want to go where it is leading) it will be found that they mean scientifically verifiable. So once again they are demanding that the supernatural cause of the act be determined by a method which is by definition unable to detect supernatural causes. "Sealing themselves off from truth" is the phrase that comes to my mind when I observe this mentally crippling process at work.

What about the fact that history shows natural causes displacing proposed supernatural ones with clock-like regularity as our knowledge grew? It is true that at the beginning of the age of science there was a series of phenomena that were often attributed to supernatural acts that were later shown by experiment to simply be nature operating according to regular laws. These laws too, if there is a Creator, were established by Him. Therefore people who use a "god of the gaps" argument are not saying that He is only the God of the gaps. He didn't stumble onto a universe complete with natural laws and decide to start intervening in it from time to time. He is God of both the gaps and all that is between them. He works through the laws of nature, and He is beyond them. That science discovered and described these laws doesn't disprove the existence of God or supernatural acts. God can act through nature, or He can act in her.  

Yes, the past track record of natural causes being found for events formerly attributed to more direct divine action is a strong argument against divine action as a cause- but only regarding questions where our scientific knowledge is scant. At the beginning of the age of science, that was almost everything. That's why the history is so one-sided. At the start of the age of science, very little was attributed to natural law and much to direct divine action. We are now reaching the point where the pendulum begins to swing the other direction. That is, there are some subjects were our knowledge is increasing, but the proposed natural explanations grow less likely with our increase in knoweldge, not more likely. This is true of the smallest scales with living cells and on the largest scales with the astonishing fine-tuning of the fundamental forces of the universe. And increasingly, it is true of certain aspects of evoultion as documented on this blog. 

The more we know about something, the more likely a natural explanation for it should become, if the thing in question did indeed have a natural cause. At some point, when every reasonable natural explanation becomes unlikely even though we have accumulated great knowledge of the thing in question, the "God of the Gaps" argument becomes a perfectly valid argument. That is, it is a poor argument in an area where we know little, but can be a sound one with reference to certain scientific anomalies. Especially if the findings which defy natural explanation line up with the character of God and scripture. 

The truth is out there, but only free minds can find it. Happy hunting. 


How about this for evidence for God through events in the natural world, my book on early Genesis shows how when we look at the text through the lens of Chrsit, as He said to, the supposed conflicts between scripture and what science and history tell us about the natural universe resolve beautifully. How could this be unless He is who scripture says and that scripture is inspired by God? 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

"Mere Theistic Evolution" and the Importance of Definitions

Getting definitions right is vitally important. People talk past one another for a lot for many reasons, but one of the big ones is a failure to define precisely the important terms they are using. Michael J. Murray and John Ross Churchill have presented a rather lengthy paper attempt to define "Theistic Evolution", which they call "Mere Theistic Evolution". I applaud serious attempts to get precise definitions as an aide to understanding, and this is one such attempt.

 That doesn't mean that I am a theistic evolutionist- by their very defintion, as clarified by William Lane Craig, I am not. I also cringe a bit at the idea thaat they named their paper this as a nod to C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity". He chose that title out of modesty. That is, he wasn't trying to tell anyone what sort of Christian they should be, just making a defense of Christianity in general. Murray and Churchill on the other hand are attempting to say who is in and who is out of "the club" who can call themselves "theistic evolutionists". The work of proposing defintions which bind others is noble and necessary work, but it is not modest. I say that as someone who will take up where they left off. I will accept their definition of Theistic Evolution (with one small change suggested by William Lane Craig) and end this post by proposing some definitions to various forms of belief about creation. All in an attempt to clarify the defintions so that we don't talk past one another when arguing for our position, not (here) in an attempt to advance one position over another. 

Here is how Murray and Churchill define "Theistic Evolution", if one believes this, then they are a Theistic Evolutionist, if they don't, per Murray and Churchill, then they aren't .

First and foremost, they are all theistic positions: they assume the existence of a Creator who bears all and only those attributes that are fitting to ascribe to God (for example, omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence).

Second, all theistic-evolutionary accounts agree that the created universe as a whole, and the earth as a part of this creation, have existed for eons. (Reasonable estimates are approximately fourteen billion years for the age of the universe and four billion years for the earth.)

Finally, all versions of theistic evolution affirm that the complexity and diversity of life are best explained by appeal to evolutionary processes that have been operative over long periods of time, where the relevant processes include (note: this is the word that Craig says should be changed) those that constitute what is often called “the modern evolutionary synthesis.” (One key process in this synthesis is natural selection, acting on random mutations. But it need not be the only important biological process.) Included in this affirmation—and implicit in what follows—is an endorsement of evolution as a very good explanation of these phenomena, and not simply the best among a rather poor set of candidates.

Their paper was important enough for William Lane Craig to write his own response to it. I have panned Craig's musings on Adam, but here he is in his element. He zeroed in on exactly the loophole that blurs distinctions between what most people think of as "Theistic Evolution" and other categories. I will excerpt from his response the relevant portion:

Notice, the relevant explanatory processes include but are not limited to those of the modern synthesis. This is “mere” indeed! Even a Michael Behe, who thinks that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection explain very little of the origin of biological complexity, counts as a theistic evolutionist on this characterization, since he would agree that the mechanisms of the modern synthesis are included in the evolutionary processes. So would a classical progressive creationist like Bernard Ramm, who posits sequential miraculous intervention on God’s part to drive evolutionary advance.

So Murray and Churchill’s statement of the third plank of theistic evolution needs to be tightened up a bit if we are to exclude from its fold Intelligent Design (ID) theorists and progressive creationists. Something like their gloss “a confidence in the explanatory power of the evolutionary approaches employed in current biology” might do the trick.7 That would seem to preclude a Michael Behe’s counting as a theistic evolutionist.

 I agree with Craig here. To say that the best explanation would only "include" modern evolutionary synthesis would be to make backdoor theisitic evolutionists out of almost all theists. After all, even many Young Earth Creationists think that the living things which came off of the ark had a rapid evolution into life's current diversity after the flood. Any definition or description that broad is unhelpful (except at convincing people who have qualms about accepting that the label applies to them too even when it should not).  

I will take out the word "include" from the definition of Murray and Churchill.  I will substitute "are" so that it states "where the relevant processes are those that constitute what is often called “the modern evolutionary synthesis.” This change is justified because their definition itself calls for evolution as described by naturalistic science to be only "the best" explanation for life on earth even if God acted here and there. They describe a stituation where God's interventions look like no more than noise or static, which do not change the message of the signal. Therefore, from the perspective of people who wanted to understand how life diversified, His intervention would not be "relevant" to the answer. Here is their quote so that you will see this is a fair description of their position. This is a long excerpt to put in a blog post but their article is almost book-length, and so these quotes (talics mine) are only a small but critical fraction of their thoughts on the matter..

...miracle claims of this sort will be fully compatible with theistic evolution so long as they are consistent with the affirmation that the complexity and diversity of life are best explained by appeal to evolutionary processes over long periods of time. This is only puzzling if we forget that the best explanation of some target phenomena is not always a comprehensive or exclusive explanation of those phenomena. In keeping with this, claims that God acted miraculously, and outside of evolutionary processes, in order to effect or alter some species or biological feature, may be entirely consistent with mere theistic evolution. Whether they are so consistent or not will depend entirely on whether they are the kinds of claims that are compatible with an endorsement of evolutionary processes as the best explanation—not exhaustive or exclusive, but best—for the complexity and diversity of life. Given this, theistic evolution could easily be consistent with the claim that, say, the development of a single biological feature, or a small set of such features, is due to God’s acting via extraordinary providence and through nonevolutionary processes. For these kinds of claims need not rise to the status of a challenge to evolution as the best account of the diversity and complexity of life. In contrast, and as noted above, theistic evolution would not be consistent with the claim that all species originated in this way. Nor would it be consistent with any other position on which miraculous activity is deemed crucial to explaining much of the world’s biological complexity and diversity in light of alleged explanatory deficiencies in evolutionary theory.

 So the fact that their definition or description of "theistic evolution" only says that evolution is the "best" explanation" and not the complete or exclusive explanation for the record of life on earth already let's them "off the hook" in describing the processes responsible for life on earth. The bounds they put on God's proposed interventions would render them irelevant to questions of biological origins.They need not fashion a third escape hatch by saying the processes that produced life on earth merely "include" modern evolutionary synthesis. As Craig rightly points out, leaving that single word "includes" in their defintion makes the position encompass more systems of belief than is necessary or even logical. 

Murray and Churchill were attempting to answer very specific criticisms of theistic evolution when they wrote all this. Critics, including myself, have wondered how they justified a God who didn't intervene at all in the vast majority of the earth's history but only started literally historically interveneing in the world.....when? Abraham? Moses? Jesus? 

Their answer to this is to define "Theistic Evolutionist" broadly enough so that one is not saying that God didn't intervene at all, but rather that these interventions are unnecessary to explain the history of life on earth. God could have intervened here or there, but not enough to challenge evolution as the "best" account for what we see. Divine intervention may be present, but not relevant to the quetion. The "best" explanation would be modern evolutionary synthesis. 

Defining terms properly is critical to understanding, and in the ordinary course of things science and reason both tend to make finer and finer distinctions. On this subject the lines often get blurred and I'd like to offer my attempt at sorint them out. Since we are having trouble with overly broad labels, it would be helpful if we introduced another term or category which keeps the aspects from each adjacent category that apply while clearly being its own thing. By adding a cagtegory in the disputed region, we at least insure that overlap is constrained into a smaller definitional space. 

Fortunately we have an established term which has been lying around under-utilized which fits the bill. This is "Evolutionary Creationism." Most people I speak to, even the ones who say the category applies to them, consider it to be synonomous with "Theistic Evolutionist". It need not be, Especially after we "tighten up" as WLC puts it, the defintion of "Theistic Evolution" so that it no longer encompasses even most forms of Old Earth Creationism. I would argue that the latter category should be separate from, and if anything broader than, the former. "Evolutionary Creationism" includes both "evolution" and "creation" in the moniker, making it a more natural fit to describe a category which is says that the record of life is best described by a combination of a certain category of divine acts and natural evolution. 

With that said, here are my "Seven Categroy" defintiions for the creation debate among non-athiestic views....

God Through Nature Positions

Deism- The belief that the universe is created by God but that afterward God did not intervene in the unfolding of the universe or of life. It might be compared to setting up a long string of dominoes to fall a cetrain way once the first is tipped over. The design and the creating went into organizing the pattern and initiating the event. Fully compatible with naturalistic evolution and "the modern evolutionary synthesis". 

Theistic Evolution- IOW the modified Murray and Churchill definition...The belief that the universe was created by God and that regarding the universe and the emergence and development of life, no further intervention by God was necessary to best explain what we see in the record of nature. This does not exclude the idea that God acted in nature, but only that such interventions were not relevant to describing how life on earth developed and diversified. Fully compatible with naturalistic evolution and "the modern evolutionary synthesis". 

The two above are can be considered "God Through Nature" positions in that they posit that God exists, but that He either exclusively works through nature or so overwhelmingly works through nature that any exceptions to this are not relevant to understanding creation.
The categories below can be considered "God in Nature" because, while they do not discount His providential working through nature alone, they also assert that He intervened in nature post-creation, and that those interventions were essential to producing the natural world as we see it. "God in Nature" positions can further be lumped under two broad categories based on what they believe about the age of the universe. "Old Earth Creationism", A Mixture, and "Young Earth Creationism". I will start with the Old Earth positions...

God in Nature Positions 

Evolutionary Creationism - a belief that God actively intervened primarily or even exclusively through evolution to change the expression of life on earth. Nature could have substantial creative (evolutionary) power in this view, but would not be sufficient to explain what we see. God's "creative acts" throughout most if not all of this process were not done by creating new kinds of organisms in a single stroke, but rather by a series of smaller creative changes within populations which produced new kinds of organisms that nature acting alone could not have made in the time available. Thus while accepting evolution broadly it rejects the naturalistic implications of "modern evolutionary synthesis", which is deemed to be inadequate as a total explanation. 

Progressive Creationism - a belief that God actively intervened to change the expression of life on earth by making and introducing into the biome a series of different living creatures over a long period of time. Thus, while traditional evolutionary forces played a role in shaping life, the major changes in life on earth did not occur through evolution, but by God's intervention and His special creation of new forms. The major difference between this position and the Evolutionary Creationist is subtle and mostly a matter of the nature of God's creative acts.

I will next consider two positions which believe that the earth and the universe are old, but that the orgination of present living forms is recent. Obviously these positions are not compatible with the "modern evolutionary synthesis" except as it pertains to the degree of change which can occur in less than 10,000 years. These positions thus straddle Old Earth creationism and Young Earth Creationism...

Young Biosphere Creationism - the belief that the earth is old, but that all living things come from ancestors created in six literal 24-hour days less than 10,000 years ago. 

 Gap Theory - is like Young Biosphere Creation except that it posits that the fossil record shows forms that existed in an earlier realm of life which was destroyed in a war, and that currently living things come from ancestors created in six literal 24-hour days less than 10,000 years ago. 

                     And then of course we have....

Young Earth Creationism - the belief that the universe and the earth, and all life on it are recently (usually less than 10,000 years) created by God. Like the two above, it is incompatible with "the modern evolutionary synthesis" except as it pertains to the degree of change which can occur within a relatively brief period of time. 


Which of these positions do I advocate for in my book? Though there is a predominant theme, there is no one position which completely describes what the text is saying in all places. The book isn't mostly about that though, but something far more extraordinary- how early Genesis points to the work and person of Christ. This cannot be so unless of course He is the Messiah and scripture is God-breathed. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Not Even Sponges Came Early

 "The evidence for sponges from Precambrian strata iscircumstantial, often based on confirmation bias, and lackstesting of valid alternative non-animal hypotheses."

So concludes this comprehensive 2014 study of the seventeen instances of claims for Pre-Cambrian evidence for sponges. Instead, it turns out the first solid evidence we have for the appearance of sponges is the Cambrian, as with every other phyla of life alive today (and a good many which have gone extinct). 

So far as I know, there has been no evidence uncovered to refute this conclusion in the last seven years. The Cambrian Explosion is indeed an explosion. Whatever the mysterious Ediacaran forms were, the body plans which fill our world today show up within an astonishingly short period of time by evolutionary standards. How did nature prodcue new forms and change orders of magnitude bigger and faster than we see today? The creationist answer is that nature had help. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Crisis in Particle Physics - Are they looking at this wrong?

 I really just want to start with a placeholder to this article talking about using "UV-MR interactions" to solve some of the thorny problems they have encountered in particle physics. This is not my speciality, but I have long wondered if they were looking at this wrong and that gravity could be unified with the EM force simply by looking at it as the "net change" from EM-force/ matter interactions at the smallest scales. Doing so has the potential to also solve the mystery of "Dark Matter" and maybe even "Dark Energy"  I am intrigued because a lot of what the article said dovetails well with some of my musings on the matter. 

I even wrote a bit about it, so long ago that I put in on my old Arkansas Politics blog where it was completely out of place. I do wish someone who is an expert in the field would take a look at it. To do so and give it a fair shot, they would need to approach it in a more open-minded manner and not reject it out of hand because of its simplicity yet in a way that was far out-of-whack with how they have been talking about these issues- until now apparently. 

I reproduce some of my pithy postulates which lead to my conclusions below, 

In a universe containing only two monopole particles of opposite charge, the force of gravity and the EM force are one and the same.

When an EM wave of high enough frequency to be resonant with the spin of a particle passes that particle, the particle’s motion is altered so as to maximize the EM force of attraction and minimize the EM force of repulsion during the interaction. I call this EM Wave-Particle Optimization.

During EM Wave-Particle Optimization the particle moves so that attractive forces increase while repulsive forces decrease. This results in a net attractive force for the event, which we call gravity.

Particles generate tiny EM waves as they spin, and the waves they generate are most ideal in form to maximize EM wave-particle optimization, unlike waves of longer wavelength, such as visible light.  Scientists should be looking at incredibly high frequencies for gravity waves, not just super low ones from black hole collisions. I am not convinced that the shock waves that they occasionally detect from colliding black holes is even a gravity wave.

In macro-scale objects, the gravity waves of their constituent atoms can resonate with one another to produce waves of increased (but still low) average amplitude (still at incredibly high frequency).

When a photon strikes a particle it produces a repulsive force. If the wavelength associated with  the photon is too large for EM wave-particle optimization to work efficiently then the repulsive force of light pressure is stronger than gravity within that EM-wave/photon system. This is known as radiation pressure.

Virtual matter pops in and out of existence, sometimes sending gravity waves out into the cosmos before they disappear. This helps makes some regions seem "heavier" than their regular matter can account for and makes up a component of "dark matter".

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Gradualism is NOT Back, but they are Trying

 "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."- Mohatma Ghandi

It looks like we are on stage three now. I say this because of a study that was recently concocted which purported to show that darwinian gradualism could still explain the biological record despite the appearance of a vast number of sudden changes that seem to fly in the face of any gradualistic answers. The study was entitled "General statistical model shows that macroevolutionary patterns and processes are consistent with Darwinian gradualism"by M. Pagel et al. Here is an article, optimistically entitled "Gradual Evolution is back", on the study. 

Over my years of attempted dialogue the narrative has changed. Early on, the narrative was that there was no such thing as "macroevolution", only "evolution". A long series of gradual minor changes becomes a big change over time. You still hear that now and then from those whose knowledge isn't current. But lately the focus has shifted as it has become obvious that there are very many large and in evolutionary terms very fast changes in living things at certain times. These periods of rapid change are usually followed by long periods of relative stasis. 

A handful of scientists in prior decades attempted to float the idea of massive sudden changes in organisms via natural means. The proponents called it "punctuated equlibrium", the critics "the Hopeful Monster Theory". Either way, it looked too much like miracles for the dedicated philosophical naturalists who have control of our science institutions, and it has fallen into disrupute. After all, there are no known evolutionary mechanisms anywhere in the animal kingdom that have any reasonable chance of producing such changes at the rates and volumes observed in the biological record. 

What they needed then, was a way to show how known evolutionary methods which are inherently gradulaistic could produced big changes quickly in some cases. Rapid gradualism seems like a contradiction in terms, but that is what they needed to preserve a naturalistic explanation for the earth's biosphere. With this study, they claim they have found it. I guess many will accept their claim. Just don't look too closely at the details. This study will only convince those who want to be convinced. Of course science has a higher standard than that. Even propaganda is designed to seem superficially plausible to those who want to be convinced. 

Please forgive me here as I break into a few paragraphs to explain where I am coming from. What I have to say may not fit any of your existing categories, and thus further explanation will often be essential to understanding my point. Are these mechanisms enough to provide a reasonable explanation for the history of life on earth?  I say "no", though do I acknowledge that nature has significant power to shape living things. In other words, "evolution happens." Indeed as I have explained before, many if not most defintions of evolution do not exclude creationism. "Change over time" says nothing about whether the change came from naturalistic causes only, or whether God acted to cause the largest changes and nature only filled in the gaps.

At this point I expect two tribalistic reactions, one from creationists and the other from naturalists. The naturalist will cry "God of the gaps!". Here is why this accusation falls flat: I am not saying that God stumbled into a universe complete with laws and decided to intervene in it. I am saying that He created a universe including the laws but is Himself above them. He is God of both the gaps and everything inbetween them. And the universe is a test, a test for beings like us. And to be suitable for the test it has to be like us- we can't really do God's will without God's help, and neither can creation. I could go on about this but the bottom line is that most creationists have it very wrong concerning what scripture says about the initial conditions of the universe. 

The tribal creationist might recoil at my "mixing" of evolution and creation. To them I would suggest a closer look at the actual text of Genesis chapter one that they think they are defending. God commanded the waters and the earth to bring forth living creatures. That was the original command. Subsequent to that, God intervened Himself and formed "kinds" of various broad categories. That doesn't change the initial command. It just means that what I said in the paragraph above is true. The earth can't do God's will without God's help. He did the hard stuff, but the earth itself filled out the details in accordance with God's command. So evolution and creation are working hand in hand. This doesn't apply to humanity of course, but that is for another post. 

It is my position that what science is discovering about nature confirms at least that aspect of the text of the creation account in Genesis. There is constant graudual change which is driven by nature combined with (in the past) a large number of greater changes which happened quickly and seem beyond any reasonable natural explanation available to us. The Pagel paper attempts to fill this gap with a model (they call it the "Fabric model") which they offer to show how gradualism can still be the answer, even if it often wasn't gradual in effect.

To even attempt this, they must cede some ground. They freely acknowledge the distinction between "macroevolution" and "microevolution", They then divise two categories of observed change. One they call "evolvability", which is how well a population of organisms can adapt to their environment. You might think that is all the positive power that evolution has, but they describe another component which they call "directional". This they vaguely describe as one which changes which environment is optimal for the population of organisms. The two types interact, but they say there is no correlation between them as far magnitude is concerned. For example, an organism which doesn't have much room left to further adapt to its environment is just as able to have a directional change as one with a lot of "evolvability" room in its present environment. Thus every "evolutionary dead end" is still a possible source of great change, right up until extinction. That's gotta help the odds some, right?                          

The heart of their study is a computer model in which they use these two methods working together to get big changes in a small amount of time with gradualistic processes. But how flexible do they have to make the scenario in order to do this?  In their introduction they are vague enough, but admit, "Our methodology does not constrain the number, position or trajectories of effects,...". 

So unlike the real world where there are physical and chemical contraints on basically everything, in the model, none of these things were contrained. And just in case you missed the hint that this risks becoming a sophisticated GIGO exercise, they add "By comparison to parametric models that fit one or a small number of processes throughout a tree, the Fabric model is typically rich in parameters, and this requires care in fitting and interpretation..."

Did they just say their algos basically allow them to make up different rules as they go along? I think so. They are saying in effect that a process that happens over here need not be happening throughout the tree or even anywhere else in the tree. And the parameters of those processes are varied. It really sounds like they are saying that the mathematical equivilent of miracles are built into their computer model, but let's not call it that! That is what they are trying to not say. 

Maybe that is why they follow their statement up with "But the Fabric model’s approach avoids the potential for one or a handful of effects in a tree to give the impression that the parametric model’s form is true everywhere in the tree when it might not even be true of any part of the tree."

Got it? Things can happen from time to time in some part of the tree we build that are not true in any part of the tree when you look at it from the perspective of fixed laws! That sounds like a fancy way of saying in their model, miracles can happen. OK then, but why are you using the model to defend a naturlistic view of evolution?

"The average correlation in the posterior sample between the observed and predicted data at the tips of the tree (obtainable from Eqs. (4) or (5)) is 0.90 ± 0.03, 95% range 0.82-0.95; we do not explore the predictive capabilities of the model further in this paper." - so one not-great fit even after all the leeway they gave themselves, and then they quit looking. It doesn't sound like they thought their results were exactly bursting with exploratory power. More like just enough so that they could spread the word that they have "shown" that known evolutionary processes can explain it all!

On the positive side, they used the term "macroevolution" freely. A refreshing change from the conversations I've had with ardent naturalists who insist that there is no such thing, only evolution. Even though that is basically what these researchers are trying to prove too, they admit that the best way to get a fit is to 1) not have fixed rules, allow some things to happen that can't ordinarily happen and 2) view the system in terms of two distinct kinds of changes, directional changes and evolvability changes. Both must occur for macroevolution to occur in their view.  Microevolution can happen with either one, but mostly the latter.

I say that because they write....
Directional and evolvability changes are substantial and distinct

Comparison of the five models’ marginal likelihoods (Table 1) illustrates one of the central points of this article: that a statistical description of macroevolution must account for the substantial and distinct contributions of directional (β) and evolvability (υ) changes: modelling one of these processes at the expense of the other or linking them a priori, risks missing important elements of the macroevolutionary picture.
They based their findings on looking at only one very narrow slice of nature- changes in body size in mammals. So they were not even talking about the creation of new orders of animals but rather the changes in body size in the orders and sub-orders of a particular class. Even at this level, changes that were "large and abrubt" frequently occurred, or as the heading of the next section put it.

"Directional changes are large and possibly abrupt"

And in this section they note, " the net amount of directional change in a branch appears not to be limited in any general way by the length of that branch.". Just calling it "directional change" doesn't make a large and abrupt change any more likely. It still looks like a miracle and it still contravenes what most of them have been telling us for decades about how evolution was supposed to work.

Zooming out to the big picture, if there is no correlation between directional changes and evolvability changes, and having no correlation is necessary to their model, then all they are doing is "spreading out" the miracle, not eliminating it. That's because you would need a lot of graudal directional changes in a row, in the same direction, intersperesed in the evolvability changes to get the big and abrupt directional changes observed. 

So instead of rolling pair of die with a billion faces and rolling snake eyes when needed, you have a thousand rolls of dice with a million faces and each of them come up snake eyes when needed, moving you in the same direction each time. The results are still unreasonably improbable even if you break the odds down into a series of somewhat more probably but still unlikely events. Maybe no one directional change is unreasonably improbable in itself, but stack them all together and it becomes so. A population of organisms may vary rarely have a successful mutation producing a "directional change", but to assume that the same population can reach fixation on dozens of such events which happen over a brief period of time so that a "large and abrupt" direction change occurs is still as indistinguishable from a miracle as the original Hopeful Monster theory. 

Ironically, what they are doing sounds a lot like the language I used five years ago to describe how creationism and evolution are not inherently contradictory. I wrote "Take the gap between a fish and an amphibian. What if over the course of thirty or forty generations God acted to put just enough changes in each generation that they would still be able to be birthed and bred by natural means but each generation would also be further toward the amphibian end of things? This so that even though no amphibian was created out of thin air, or clay, one still had a very different creature though only forty generations removed from the fish. That result would be due to genetic engineering moving things a bit further along each generation. That is “descent with modification” but the modification that matters is via genetic engineering. So is that evolution, special creation and intelligent design all rolled up into one?" 

Okay so maybe they are saying 4000 or more generations instead of 40, but does that really matter? And it is not because they know it took that long, it is just because they have a hard time believing what they have seen. In a sense they are doing what creationists have been accused of, "Argument from Incredulity". They find it increduous that God could intervene in nature and so they must propose models like this one instead, which might make creationists incredulous. The issue isn't who is arguing from incredulity, but whose incredulity is the most reasonable.

Given all this, I didn't feel the need to dive into the details of this study as I sometimes do with others. Scientists have every right to keep looking for natural explanations, but it is pretty clear to me the science media is way over-selling this. The researchers were honest about their goals- they are trying to retain gradualism (thus keeping the door open for naturalism) in the face of massive evidence that these changes were very often not gradual, especially the largest ones. But the result sounds a lot like what I as a particular form of creationist was proposing five years ago! Perhaps we are finally reaching a place where creationists can find out they still have something important to learn about the bible, and evolutionists can learn whether they are really committed to science or their real committment is to philosophical naturalism. 


My book on early Genesis is mostly not about this, but something far more wonderful- a proof that early Genesis was pointing to Christ, thus proving the validity of both scripture and the Christian faith. Amazingly, doing so resolves the supposed conflicts between scripture and science merely as a by-product of viewing the text through the lens of Christ.