Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Michael Behe refuted-no, not at all

Whenever I quote Michael Behe  to atheists/evolutionists on irreducible complexity or intelligent design, I get a derisive snort and one of two responses (often both)

'Behe has been refuted- many, many times.'

or 'Behe got his ass whipped at Dover.'

Neither of these standard assertions are remotely true, they are just knee jerk responses, memes if you like, inculcated by the restless and determined 'There is no evidence against evolution' activists. Anyhow, recent publications (see link) have further justified Behe's thesis that natural selection acting on random mutations simply does not have the creative or explanatory powers required for unguided molecules to man evolution to have occured. A short essay setting this out is reproduced below, courtesy of Professor Behe and the Centre  for Intelligent Design.

Behe is right. He has quite simply falsified evolution's fundamental mechanism at the most profound biochemical level. No wonder those whose world view depends on evolution being true hate him.

Evolution's Lottery

"Evolution is like the National Lottery - a lot of people buy tickets, and almost everyone loses.

Imagine a weekly lottery game where a card has eight windows, each with a flap covering a single digit from zero to nine. If, when revealed, all the digits match each other (ten ways to win!) the player receives £1,000,000. It would be very unlikely that anyone in a village of a thousand would win even if all the people played, because the chances of eight random digits matching each other are one in ten million. In fact, all the people in the village would have to play the game over and over again for centuries before anyone there would be expected to win. Yet if everyone in the whole of Britain played, we'd expect about a half-dozen winners each week, because there would be many more chances for someone to have a winning ticket.

Now think of a super lottery, where the prize is £1,000,000,000,000 - more than the national budget. In order to win this game, a player has to buy two eight-window tickets, and, as before, the numbers on both tickets have to match each other. How long would it take for a player in Britain to win? If you do the arithmetic, it would take about 30,000 years for anyone at all to win. Most people would likely give up and play a different game.

The game of evolution depends on the same two factors as the National Lottery: the odds of winning and the number of players. But instead of matching numbers on a card, evolution has to match the right mutations to an organism's DNA. As an example, consider one of the gravest threats to human health - malaria. The malaria parasite is a tiny single-cell organism that is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Once it enters a human, a malaria cell multiplies by eating her blood, which often kills the victim. For thousands of years humans have had little defense against the disease. In the past century, however, antibiotic drugs have been developed that kill malaria.

To understand the malaria evolution lottery, let's look at two drugs. The first is called atovaquone. Atovaquone readily kills normal malaria cells - in a laboratory, adding the drug to a flask that contains millions of such cells will usually wipe them out. Yet if the drug is given to a person suffering from malaria, it often fails. Why? It turns out that, although malaria needs just one particular mutation in its DNA to gain resistance to atovaquone, the likelihood of the mutation occurring is about one in a hundred million cells. Since there are only a few million cells in the lab flask, the odds are poor that any of them will have the right mutation, so the drug kills them all. A person sick with malaria, however, can harbor up to a million million cells. Like the example above of the UK vs a single village, the greater numbers make the odds very good that one or more of those cells will have the winning ticket. So malaria seems to develop resistance easily in patients treated with atovaquone, even though the mutation itself is quite unlikely.

The second drug is called chloroquine. Instead of resistance appearing in every few patients as with atovaquone, new malarial resistance to chloroquine only appears once in about every hundred million patients. What could account for this astounding difference in frequency? In my 2007 book The Edge of Evolution I argued that the logic of the lottery example could easily explain it. If instead of one particular mutation, malarial resistance to chloroquine needed two particular mutations to occur in the same cell, the likelihood of getting them both would be drastically less than getting an individual mutation. Instead of one in a hundred million, resistance would appear in only one of every ten thousand million million. Since that astronomical number is much greater than the number of malaria cells in a single patient, almost all patients would be cured by chloroquine. (Regrettably, in the very large number of patients on earth who become sick, there are enough malaria cells to yield a few that do have resistance to chloroquine. The growth of those few and their dissemination by mosquitoes have caused chloroquine resistance to become common.)

Recent scientific results have confirmed that at least two mutations are indeed needed for chloroquine resistance, as I predicted. This teaches us several important lessons about evolution, one practical and one theoretical. The practical lesson is that disease microbes like malaria can be stopped if we find a drug or combination of drugs that would require multiple mutations to overcome them. Evolution isn't the relentless force that Darwinists have often portrayed - there exists an edge beyond which it becomes helpless, as intelligent design proponents expected.

The theoretical lesson is that, just as with battling microbes, we should expect there to be an edge to random evolution in the history of life, too. Yes, chance mutations plus natural selection do explain some features of biology. But if even several mutations were needed together to produce some complex organ or feature of life, it becomes much less likely that unguided natural processes explain it.

Do many features of life require multiple mutations? Almost all functional ones do. The basic machines of life are constructed of molecules called proteins, and proteins themselves are typically made of hundreds of units of amino acids joined together. Those machines, under the guidance of complex instructions encoded in an organism's DNA, build the plants and animals we know. At some point in the history of life each of those amino acids in each of the protein machines had to have been new - a mutation. So virtually all proteins, as well as the complex instruction sets controlling them, are beyond the edge of random evolution.

What's more, although tiny organisms such as malaria have the huge population numbers to allow them to overcome small evolutionary roadblocks such as presented by chloroquine, larger organisms don't. Larger organisms are unlikely to win an evolutionary lottery at all if it needs just two or more mutations. The conclusion is that very little of what we see in life can be the result of the random processes invoked by Darwinian evolution. Rather, almost all features of life required purposeful intelligent design."

If you have any questions on the above, you can contact Mike Behe directly atmjb1@Lehigh.EDU.

Dawkins, Downs, Domenica and Darwin

Dominic Lawson wrote in the Sunday Times about his beloved daughter Domenica, who has Down's syndrome and like some 97% of others with the mutation is glad to be alive. According to some research which her father cited. He is disgusted by Richard Dawkins recent pronouncement about the immorality of allowing children with Down's to be born.

Interesting to note that Mr Lawson says he is an atheist who has collaborated with Dawkins on a book.

Read the item in full if you can, can't link. Lawson lambasts Dawkins for his inhumanity and skewers him for his weaselly 'non apology' (after many of his followers protested on behalf of Down's people they knew and loved). He also rightly draws attention to the German philosophers of the last century whose writings fed into Nazi politics. Fair play, but it seems to me that Dominic Lawson wants to have his cake and eat it.

Morality, including human rights, is either God given and therefore immutable, or else it is whatever we say it is, 'we' being the strong. In the Darwinian ethic which despite Lawson's contortions does in fact arrive in the train of his biological determinism, the fit survive by displacing-i.e. killing, the weak.

In the end it is Christ or Darwin. Dawkins, in his original assertion that Downs'  children should be killed, knew this. The philosophers who inspired Hitler's eugenics were themselves inspired by Darwin. Richard Weikart had wrtitten this up in meticulous detail in his massively ignored book 'From Darwin to Hitler'. You won't easily find a copy but try Googling it if you dare.

It gets even sillier when you think about fellow evolutionist Steve Jones comments a few years back about human evolution stopping due to fewer older men having children. Not enough mutations you see. Because mutations take evolution forward.

Except that they don't. Downs' syndrome is a mutation. Why don't evolutionists welcome it?

Monday, 25 August 2014

No evidence for God- says particle physicist

In yesterday's Sunday Times 'A Life in the Day' interviewee Dr Harry Cliff, a Cambridge' particle physicist, spoke of his work. His work is connected with the huge CERN large hadron collider and the question of how we exist at all. Some people think that the secret of human existence can be best investigated by smashing atoms into each other at very high speeds

 Apparently, the scientists' calculations about the Big Bang don't add up, something to do with antimatter, and '...we shouldn't exist...'

Yes, I had heard something along those lines.....

Does he think about God?

 'Erm, no. So far we haven't found any evidence he exists.'

I wonder how, where and how diligently they have searched and what kind of evidence would persuade them?

One assumed that by 'we' Dr Cliff refers to his physicist colleagues at CERN. Perhaps he specialised in physics so young that he had no time to study philosophy, logic, irony or indeed English language. He needs to look up the term 'basic category error' and phrases like 'can't see the wood for the trees'.

God as we read in Romans chapter 1 can be seen in His creation, which Dr Cliff can see in part but admits he can't explain. He is also seen through Jesus who came fulfilling ancient prophecy, healing the sick, speaking like no other man and then after paying for our sins on the Cross was raised from the dead and was seen in a risen glorified body by many witnesses. He is not a particle but a Person.

There is enough evidence to persuade the humble, but the boastful and proud who make science their god will only accept a god who will jump into their test tube on demand. They will never be convinced until Judgment Day.

Incidentally the oh so clever but perhaps not so wise scientist is photographed in front of Kings College Chapel from where the annual festival of nine lessons and carols is broadcast. This includes the words from John's Gospel

'In the beginning was The Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made through Him....'

Friday, 22 August 2014

Morality of survival of the fittest

..of course, if you actually read Darwin, it has really always been about 'non survival of the least fit'. Like kids with Down's Syndrome, which is of course a mutation.

The amateur philosopher Richard Dawkins is in the news again after stating that it is 'immoral' to allow a child with Down's Syndrome to be born, i.e. immoral NOT to kill them in the womb by abortion. His fellow atheist philosopher Stephen Pinker would go further, Google his views on infanticide.

The most interesting aspect of this conversation is Dawkins' use of the term 'immoral'.  Just what does he mean by morality? By what standard? Answerable to whom? Why? How is there any morality in his godless, accidental universe as we while away our pointless lives in the interval between the big bang and the heat death of the pointless universe?

Just what does Dawkins, or any of us, mean by appealing to 'morality'?

I know. But do you?

Bad Arguments for Evolution

Great article on Creation Ministries International on Arguments Evolutionists Should Not Use.

See http://creation.com/arguments-evolutionists-should-not-use

I hear them used absolutely all the time, and with great confidence.http://creation.com/arguments-evolutionists-should-not-use

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Richard Dawkins and Fairy Tales

 The amateur theologian and philosopher Richard Dawkins has been back pedalling after his comments against the practice of reading fairy tales to children have been widely criticised by some people who actually knew what they were talking about and had some evidence to support their views. He made the comments at a literary festival in Cheltenham. A link can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27715735

Interestingly, there were some reflections on storytelling, willing suspension of disbelief, the meaning that fantastic tales can carry etc. in my last post about Godzilla, which was posted before these comments of Dawkins were reported. Anyway.....

I had to laugh when I heard that Dawkins said that children should not be read traditional fairy stories as, for example it was ‘extremely statistically improbable’ that a frog should turn into a prince. For this same Dawkins believes that hydrogen atoms turned into people, including princes, by random processes which utterly defy probability and cannot be demonstrated. 
Imagine the kind of bedtime stories that would be told if the old bigmouth had his way..... 
'Now listen carefully children. Once upon a time there was Nothing, then the Nothing exploded and made everything, including time and the laws of physics. Then the particles from the Big Bang clumped together and made stars, and the stars made heavy elements like iron, oxygen and tin. Then some of the stars blew up and showered bits of star dust everywhere, then some of the bits stuck together and made the earth (with its perfectly balanced moon). A load of water came to earth from somewhere and together with some volcano gas and sparks made the first amoebas, some of which turned into sponges, worms, jellyfish, snails, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds, apes and then finally you and I.  And there was no designer or god of any sort, it all just happened. Because it did.
This is not make believe, although I AM going to MAKE you BELIEVE it.
Good night children (depending on what we mean by 'good' in an evolutionary sense) and remember THERE IS NO GOD.'

He talks about 'improbable events' but famously refuses to debate with people such as Stephen Meyer who dare to challenge him on the mathematical probability of the processes which supposedly led molecules to man evolution, which is the Fairy Tale that Dawkins demands that all children are indoctrinated with from the earliest age. Meyer’s Book ‘Signature in the Cell’ used only mathematical arguments to show that the existence of the information on the DNA molecule is profoundly statically impossible without a designer. It is not a religious book, yet while both men were on US book tours, Dawkins refused invitations to debate Meyer’s arguments in public, writing him off as a ‘creationist’. Dawkins has elsewhere advised his followers not to enter rational debate with Christians or creationists but to abuse and insult them.

He says that instead of being taught traditional tales, which as one expert said can carry some moral and social values (e.g. Little Red Riding Hood teaches young girls to beware predatory male adult strangers) they should be taught ‘scientific rigour’.  However, as we saw over the Michael Reiss affair, in which Dawkins and others at the Royal Society forced an innocent man out of his job for merely suggesting that Darwin dissent in the classroom should be met with politely and a request for evidence. The Dawkins line is that children must be taught that Darwinian evolution is an unchallengeable dogma that may not be questioned. Even the fact of the existence of scientifically literate disagreement may not be acknowledged in the classroom.

Traditional Fairy Tales are introduced with the phrase ‘Once upon a time...’ which sets the scene for a willing and temporary suspension of incredulity. Dawkins' Fairy Tales are introduced with ‘This is supported by Mountains of Overwhelming Evidence-so don’t ask naughty questions, just believe!’
As I often say, people should read Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and see how often phrases such as 'may we not believe?...I have no difficulty in imagining...I can hardly doubt....' occur to make up for the lack of evidence. Indeed, one of the biggest Fairy Tales of all surround the idea that molecules to man evolution is somehow supported by rigorous scientific facts and repeatable observations. Dawkins is of course one of the greatest purveyors of this Mythos.

Dawkins’ back pedalling is interesting. Like a crafty politician he is always testing the limits to see how much of his agenda the public will tolerate. Just testing the water, although if he is able to drive the climate of opinion just a little further towards a totalitarian intolerance of Christianity.....? When it turns out he has gone slightly too far for the current climate of opinion, he uses the classic 'Oh I was misunderstood...taken out of context....only being ironic.....' strategy after being caught out and revealing his true heart of darkness. He doesn't REALLY want the children of believers taken into care. 'I only said teaching children about Jesus was tantamount to child abuse......' 
But on the other hand, His real target is  of course not traditional children's stories of dragons, witches, dwarves and ogres (although of course like all good atheists he hates the C S Lewis Narnia stories) but is the Christian religion, which he regards as a ‘pernicious’ Fairy Tale’. He wants the teaching of Christianity as truth to children banned. Outlawed. Criminalised. He is careful not to put it in quite so many words. 

Do not be deceived. Take a look at 20th century history to see what hard line atheists actually do when they get into power. One of the first things they always do is take complete control of the ideas to which children are exposed.

PS Dawkins doesn't want children to hear about princesses being rescued from dragons in enchanted castles in case it gives children ideas he finds unacceptable. So how does he feel about shoot-em-up computer games, World of Warcraft, Tour of Duty, Grand Theft Auto etc?


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Radiation eating monsters versus Godzilla -film review

I saw the latest remake of the Japanese classic monster movie Godzilla last week and felt like writing a few comments about evolutionistic aspects of the film. Before continuing I should say I thought it a first class monster movie, and that I understand how we willingly suspend disbelief when storytelling is going on. However, the film was presented as modern-day realistic, and people clearly get at least some of their ideas about life from art, whether novels, songs, theatre or film. I am sure most of the audience felt they were getting a good adventure thriller, and so we were, but we also got a good dose of evolutionary reinforcement as well, largely subliminal.

CAUTION: This review may contain plot spoilers and you might prefer to see the film first.

The dramatically staged introduction included clips from the original Japanese black and white film ‘Gojira’ (fish lizard, nothing to do with any kind of ‘god’) and footage from the 1950s Pacific nuclear weapons tests. There was also a brief, almost subliminal, shot of the frontispiece of Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, including the subtitle ‘..or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’ That bit of the title usually gets left out, not least due to that other world changing book with the word ‘Struggle’ (*) in the title. Anyway, introductions matter and we were being told that he story had something to do with evolution and radiation.

Some expert geologists/palaeontologists are helicoptered to a mine in the Philippines where a huge chasm has opened up, swallowing 40 workers and much machinery. Deep inside it (‘below the Cambrian’ as we were told) a truly gigantic fossil skeleton is found. They stand inside it’s rib cage which seems to go on for several hundred feet. There is also a huge cocoon like structure. We then learn that another similar structure has been discovered from which something appears to have hatched. We then see a gigantic trail of smashed trees and a vast furrow leading from the mine to the sea.

The next thing is that a nuclear plant in Japan collapses under what appears to have been an earthquake. The whole town is evacuated and kept sealed off. 15 years later we discover through a grief-deranged scientist whose wife died in the disaster that the radioactivity has disappeared and  a secret project is going on, studying and hopefully containing a huge weird cocoon like the one we saw in the Philippines mine. It hatches, from it emerges a gigantic winged and taloned monster that causes great destruction before flying away on huge leathery wings.

The injured researcher at last gets some answers. The pre-Cambrian MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object) has been awakened at the Philippines earthquake, hatched out, burrowed under the nuclear station to which it was attracted by radiation, and has been consuming the radiation. Yes, it ‘comes from a distant period in the earth’s past when radiation levels were much higher than today’ as the scientist played by Ken Watanabe tells us (or was it his assistant? Please excuse minor inaccuracies, I don't have a transcript). It eats radiation, that's why it was attracted to the nuclear plant. Now it has metamorphosed (we never got to see the earlier form it took, presumably sticking with this story line it was a mega caterpillar) and now having hatched into its adult form has gone looking for some more radiation to eat.

A Russian nuclear submarine goes missing, and is tracked to a remote island jungle where the MUTO is eating it, tearing off great lumps of metal and chewing and swallowing them. The overall reality of the plot and acting and the excellent special effects actually tend to make this evident impossibility reasonably credible. The grey beast has an oddly shaped flat pointy almost metallic head ( a bit like the Shadows in Babylon 5) and bizarre talons (slightly reminiscent of the mysterious monster in the rather nasty ‘monster destroys New York’ film ‘Cloverfield’).

Anyway, it turns out that there was another cocoon, which the secret researchers ‘vivisected’ and then stored in a nuclear waste facility. They go there to discover it has hatched out (what, after being 'vivisected'?), another even larger MUTO, and, horror of horrors, its a female. It has heard the other one’s call and heads to it. Lots of violence, buildings smashed, brave soldiers getting wasted trying to stop it, and airplanes falling out of the sky as MUTO emits EMP (electromagnetic pulses) which disable all electronic devices. ‘This will take us back to the stone age’ we are told by one researcher.

A plan is conceived to move a big H bomb to an offshore site, attract the monsters to it, then blow it up. Because of the EMP grounding planes and disabling electronics, a clockwork H bomb in a Minuteman missile is used. However the male MUTO grabs the bomb. The MUTOs mate (we are thankfully spared the sight) and a cluster of football sized eggs is laid around the missile, each with a vile monster embryo wriggling inside it. Certainly quite amazing to go from fertilised ovum to chicken sized hatchling in a couple of hours.

Godzilla turns up, bigger than an aircraft carrier, and fights the MUTOs, eventually killing both in dramatic fashion. He then gives a victory roar and swims off into the sunset, fulfilling scientist Watanabe’s hopes about Gojira ‘restoring the balance’. The monster is hailed as a ‘Saviour’ (and he does indeed appear to rise from the dead after sacrificing himself to save San Francisco, although not sadly its iconic bridge, destroyed in so many films of this kind.). 

Where do I start?

Godzilla is taller than a skyscraper, big enough to cause a tsunami. How would his blood circulate that kind of distance from heart to extremities. is he air breathing (apparently), if so how does he live unseen at 10,000 feet? What would he eat? And how could something so big, or rather a breeding population of them, survive undetected from the pre-Cambrian? OK, it’s only a monster movie, we can let that kind of stuff go.

regarding the MUTOs, the assumption that a living thing of any kind, let alone a very large one, could survive in a cocoon from the pre-Cambrian is really in the ‘The cow jumped over the moon’ category of, shall we say, very highly improbable. More to the point, the idea that such a creature (**) could ‘eat radiation’ is even more bizarre. The grammar doesn’t even make sense. You could in theory eat uranium, but first you’d have to extract it from the ore in which it occurs, a long and complicated task (as we know from discussions about Iran’s centrifuges).
But radiation isn’t in any possible sense a foodstuff-it is destructive, just like a bullet from a gun. Whether gamma rays, ultraviolet rays, or charged particles, it is a purely destructive process. But, aha, this is where a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ comes in, for in evolutionary mythology (remember the homage to Darwin’s Origin of Species in the film’s introduction) mutations (the bad monsters are called MUTOs) are the primary, if not only, agent of change in progressive process whereby newer, fitter, more diverse organism arise. As Darwin wrote, ‘Until the favourable variations chance to arise, natural selection has nothing to work with’. And radiation certainly causes variations, although not favourable ones as many cancer sufferers know to their cost.

In evolutionary storytelling, mutations are good, therefore radiation is good. Only in real life we know that ain’t so. So who is willingly suspending disbelief, and to what end? 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy although I am quite clear in my mind that there are no deathless elves, hairy footed hobbits or rings of power. I’m not complaining about seeing fantastic things in a fantasy film. But, although it might carry moral messages we could discuss, LOTR is clearly presented as fantasy. The 2014 remake of Godzilla is presented as somewhat realistic present day science fiction. I think it probable that people will to some extent have their ideas about the inevitability of evolution by natural selection acting on random mutations reinforced by some of the semi-subliminal messages in the film. I am not saying that the producer and director sat down and deliberately planned to make Darwinist propaganda, I’m sure they were more concerned with art, fame and money, but the message is there all the same. It is ubiquitous, and it is never questioned. The most effective propaganda is the propaganda of which you are completely unaware.

Nevertheless I thought Godzilla a pretty good state of the art sci-fi monster movie remake. I conclude by noting how many apocalyptic/end of civilisation films are being made these days. Something in the air? As Joni Mitchel sang in 'Woodstock'
'maybe its just the time of year, or maybe its the time of Man...'
(*) Mein Kampf (my struggle) by Adolf Hitler

(**) The term 'creature' means something created. Technically its incorrect for an evolutionist to use the term, or term s like 'designed', but they often do anyway.