Evolutionary Data

Throughout history, simple inquiries in science start firestorms of controversy. While we certainly don’t claim to be in the same league as Einstein (and his quantum theory), our simple query regarding evolution and the scientific evidence supporting it generate much response. As we’ve written before, we seek simple answers to scientific questions using the scientific method. Nothing more, nothing less.

Introduction

  • Matter can come from nothing.
  • Non-living material can become alive.
  • Explosions produce order.
  • Species change into another.

Nothing radical here, just basic foundational principles of evolution.

It’s important before continuing to establish exactly what science is, and the principle means of its advancement, the scientific method. Understanding the scientific method allows cutting through the fog, misplaced passion and personal attacks (which have no place in science).

The Scientific Method

A scientific method or process is considered fundamental to the scientific investigation and acquisition of new knowledge based upon physical evidence. Scientists use observations, hypotheses and deductions to propose explanations for natural phenomena in the form of theories. Predictions from these theories are tested by experiment. If a prediction turns out to be correct, the theory survives. Any theory which is cogent enough to make predictions can then be tested reproducibly in this way. The method is commonly taken as the underlying logic of scientific practice. A scientific method is essentially an extremely cautious means of building a supportable, evidenced understanding of our natural world.

Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method. (Richard Feynman “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, Volume I page 2-1)

The scientific method is simple — make a hypothesis and then perform experiments to prove or disprove the hypothesis, using reason to determine if the theory fits in with established understanding.

Evolution is a hypothesis. If it’s true with overwhelming evidence we should have proof for the previously mentioned ideas, correct? If not, it’s not science. No (reputable) scientist disagrees with the scientific method — it’s the basis for all fields of science (except one, as we shall see).

Logical Errors

Before beginning the responses, it’s important to understand common logical errors. This issue involves science — nothing more, nothing less. It’s analyzing evidence for evolution, scientific data and experimental results to prove its validity. A simple request for data is asked, and a simple response with peer-reviewed experimental data is the only requirement (citing articles and journals).

Yet two common logical errors frequently occur in this discussion — the ad hominem attack, and the dummy subject (also known as the straw man). Any time you see these errors (and a lack of data), you should question why the author fails to stay on a scientific subject. Science is about data. Period.

The ad hominem argument — the argument, as the Latin phrase says, “to the man” — is a second common form [of error]. Here, the tactic is to condemn the morals, motives, friends or family of one’s opponent and hence to divert attention away from the substance of the opponent’s argument.

The dummy subject is another device commonly used for avoiding the question. As the label implies, the technique is to stuff, set up, and knock down a dummy issue that is substituted for the real issue. (“The Heath Handbook”, twelfth edition, 1990 page 281)

Original Scientific Request

John Donovan’s June 2 letter, “Evolution isn’t a philosophy”, illustrates a common and often repeated error. He states evolution’s “validity depends solely on evidence … overwhelming support.” But is it scientific?

The scientific method depends on repeatable, verifiable experiments. So I’ll wait for the overwhelming number (hundreds) of experiments showing a few scientific foundations of evolution. First, matter can come from nothing. Second, non-living material can become alive. Third, species can change. Fourth, explosions produce order. And for bonus credit, name 50 transitional forms.

But please pardon me if I don’t hold my breath waiting.

A simple scientific inquiry for evolutionists to demonstrate scientifically the data they have proving their hypothesis. No personal attacks, no mention of the Bible, creation, God or anything else — it’s about science and the evidence. Either the data exists, or it doesn’t. Either way, let’s get the cards on the table.

Yet this simple scientific inquiry started a firestorm of responses.

Responses

Response one

Darrin Yeager (letters, June 9) requested the names of 50 transitional life forms, and I am happy to oblige: Cladoselache, Tristychius, Ctenacanthus, Paleospinax, Spathobatis, Protospinax, Acanthodians, Cheirolepis, Mimia, Canobius, Aeduella, Parasemionotus, Oreochima, Leptolepis, Osteolepis, Eusthenopteron, Sterropterygion, Panderichthys, Elpistostege, Hynerpeton, Acanthostega, Ichthyostega, Pholidogaster, Pteroplax, Dendrerpeton acadianum, Archegosaurus decheni, Eryops megacephalus, Trematops, Amphibamus lyelli, Doleserpeton annectens, Triadobatrachus, Vieraella, Karaurus, Proterogyrinus, Limnoscelis, Tseajaia, Solenodonsaurus, Hylonomus, Paleothyris, Captorhinus, Scutosaurus, Deltavjatia vjatkensis, Proganochelys, Hylonomus, Paleothyris, Petrol- acosaurus, Araeoscelis, Apsisaurus, Clapudiosaurus, Planocephalosaurus, Protorosaurus, Prolacerta, Proterosuchus, Hyperodapedon, Trilopho- saurus.

More than 50 forms, and these include only fish, amphibians and reptiles up to the Triassic! All information easily found on the Internet.

As to Yeager’s other objections, all but the third have nothing to do with evolution, and the third, speciation, has been observed in nature and the laboratory. If Yeager would like explanations for the other matters, specifically abiogenesis, thermodynamics and the Big Bang theory, he may ask me or any other high school chemistry, biology or physics student.

This student gets a “A” for effort, but fails answering the question, spending time on a list which was only bonus credit hoping the extra credit would hide the “F” in answering the previous questions (it doesn’t).

The claim none of these questions have anything to do with evolution is false; science bases results on the work of previous ideas in much the same way as a building rises from the foundation. To say these basic questions have nothing to do with evolution is to say the Sears Tower has no need of the foundation sunk into the Chicago bedrock beneath it. Without a base, building is impossible. If the base fails, so does the building.

In the same way, evolution ignores fundamental, unresolved issues at its base. It’s trying to build a building, but beginning on the third story in the middle of the air. It doesn’t work, and ignoring fundamental issues is unscientific.

It’s about science and experimental data.

Where is the experiment showing life comes from non-life? That’s all we want to know. For the big bang, for what reason do you believe an explosion would produce order when it’s never been observed? Where is the experimental data?

As for species changing, where is the data? Some experiments using moths changing color or the equivalent turn up frequently, and then the great (unscientific) leap is made this shows species can change into another. But in the end, the moth is still a moth. It never changed species.

Sure, we can selectively breed dogs, yielding the dachshund and the mastiff. But they’re still both dogs. Where is the data if species changing into another has been “observed in nature and the laboratory” (two citations needed, one for nature, one for the lab)?

Give him an “A” for effort, and a “D-” for science.

Response two

Darrin Yeager (letters, June 9) demands scientific proof for the theory of evolution.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I would venture to guess that he is perfectly amenable to accept without any proof that Joshua blew a wall down with trumpets and had the Lord stop the sun. If these events can be taken on faith, why not evolution? Actually, the earliest proof of evolution may be found in Exodus, where Moses’ cane evolved into a serpent; what more proof is required?

Perhaps Yeager is a fan of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which blithely shows humans and dinosaurs co-existing. Maybe he and the curators of the museum are fans of “Alley Oop” and “The Flintstones.” The characters in these comic strips also live harmoniously with prehistoric animals. Yabba dabba doo! Pity the poor shepherds trying to protect their flocks not only from wolves but from a ravenous T-rex.

Considering the disparagement and scorn Yeager and his ilk heap upon science, is it any wonder that every year the personnel needs of our technical industries are not fulfilled internally and thus the increasing clamor to expand the H1-B visa program so as to import more foreign engineers and scientists to meet our needs?

When did religion enter into this discussion? We’re talking about scientific data and experiments, and the lack of same for evolution. Why digress into both ad hominem and straw man arguments? The only response needed is the answer to a scientific question. The respondent has no scientific discussion at all, instead wandering off-topic. Let’s stay on the discussion — it’s about science and experimental data.

The final paragraph is the classic straw man — claiming economic problems for simply asking for scientific evidence for a theory in which its proponents claim massive, overwhelming evidence (as long as you don’t ask to see it). The truth or falsity of evolution is what it is, and blaming economic problems on it isn’t a scientific problem. If having the moon made of cheese was good for the economy, should we allow science that falsity as well?

It’s about science and experimental data.

Response Three

Letters like that of Darrin Yeager (letters, June 9) always remind me of the opposition Galileo encountered when he proposed the preposterous theory that the Earth orbits the sun. The Bible clearly states that the Earth is the center of creation, that should settle the issue.

The answer to Yeager’s request goes beyond the scope of a letter to the editor, of course. If Yeager really wants to learn about evolution he could do an online word search on something like horse evolution, whale evolution or (I almost forgot) human evolution.

I recently completed a one-semester course on Earth’s history that covered the issues Yeager mentioned. It’s amazing how much has been discovered since I was in college 40 years ago. Geology and biology are fascinating subjects, and you won’t find much reliable information in the Bible. The Bible was never intended to be a science textbook.

Why waste all those hours in college when we have the Internet? The Internet can be a fabulous resource, but much of what it contains is sketchy at best.

This person cites no scientific data either; no answer for the fundamental questions. If the class had any reputable instructor, they must have covered the scientific method. Where is the data?

It’s about science and experimental data.

Response Four

Darrin Yeager’s June 9 letter, “Five flaws in evolution theory”, is less of an indictment of the scientific community’s overwhelming support for evolution than it is an example of Yeager’s profound misunderstanding of the scientific method and evolutionary theory.

Yeager’s letter is typical of the false arguments that periodically turn up in The Register-Guard. I find it odd that Yeager did not include the real reason why he does not accept evolution, namely, evolution theory runs counter to his particular set of religious beliefs. Let us take a quick look at his implied objections.

Matter can (not) come from nothing. In general, this statement is true. However, there is every reason to think that the Big Bang provides an exception to this rule. Regardless of the answer, this says nothing about the validity of the process of evolution through natural selection.

Explosions (do not) produce order. Again, this statement is true. And once again, this is neither an argument against the Big Bang nor evolution. It is incorrect to compare the Big Bang to an explosion in the normal sense of the word.

Nonliving material can (not) become alive. This is an odd statement considering the fact that living organisms are fundamentally composed of nonliving material.

Yeager’s assertion that species can (not) change and there are few transitional forms is simply a complete denial of the evidence. I refer Yeager to the Web site talkorigins.org, where he can begin to answer this question for himself.

Profound misunderstanding of the scientific method? Let’s remind ourselves what the scientific method is, as Richard Feynman explains:

Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method. (Richard Feynman “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, Volume I page 2-1)

Religious beliefs don’t belong here. The question is science, the scientific method, and the evidence (or lack thereof) for a theory. Whether evolution runs counter to any religion is irrelevant; it’s about science and experimental data. And for the record, many religious people do believe in evolution (that discussion is for another time), but what people believe is irrelevant in a scientific discussion. It’s about science and experimental data.

“The scientific community’s overwhelming support for evolution” is also irrelevant. Remember Piltdown man? Once heralded as the “missing link”, it garnered huge support from evolutionists, only later to be uncovered as a hoax. Just because a theory has support doesn’t make it true — science has been wrong before, many times.

So matter can come from nothing? The only reason to believe the big bang violates known physical laws is if experimental evidence exists (that pesky scientific method again). Where is it?

The statement on nonliving material doesn’t make much sense. I’m sure the letter writer would believe he’s alive, so the statement doesn’t yield much insight. Evolution in brief is “From the goo to the zoo to you”. Where is the data proving goo can become anything but goo? What we’re talking about is billions of years ago, in some pool, suddenly a single-cell being appeared.

Where is the evidence? No answers here either.

The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific “truth” (Richard Feynman “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, Volume I page 1-1) … Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method. (Richard Feynman “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, Volume I page 2-1)

Response Five

I appreciate the newspaper’s publishing the recent letters on evolution.

The editors wisely did not use the title topic word “debate.” Much of the public thinks there is a debate. There is no debate, even though President Bush and others often slyly intend to imply there is a debate to be taught.

Science overwhelmingly supports evolution. The beauty of science is that it has a built-in error-correction system called the scientific method. I suggest that The Register-Guard expand its informational role to readers by establishing a weekly column or section on science matters. Surely, a staff person or a University of Oregon professor would be honored to produce the section. It can run the gamut from astronomy to zoology.

Such figures as Archimedes, Galileo, Columbus, Newton, Einstein, Sagan, Saulk, TV’s Mr. Science, today’s astronauts and most readers will surely count as a few supporters.

Again, a claim that science overwhelmingly supports evolution. But where is the data?

At least this person accepts the scientific method. So he must understand without data, evolution is un-scientific. Evolution isn’t a debate; it’s not even science. It survives as its followers blindly cling to its dogma, refusing to consider experimental evidence (or lack thereof).

Conclusion

The questions remain. None of these attempts address the fundamental questions using the scientific method (to say it another way, evolution is not scientific by definition). We’re still issuing a simple request for scientific, repeatable, peer-reviewed experimental data for the following (if evolution is true, all four must have evidence):

  • Matter can come from nothing.
  • Non-living material can become alive.
  • Explosions produce order.
  • Species can change into another.

If we assume a scientific basis for evolution, repeatable scientific experiments must exist for these assumptions. You cannot claim parts of the theory (which violate known scientific laws) “just happened” without experimental data.

In order to enter in to this discussion, you must have an open mind, and examine the data on a scientific basis only. To perform that task, you must throw off the existing evolutionary dogma and begin your quest for scientific data on its merits alone. Evolutionary supporters claim overwhelming evidence for the theory, but seldom desire to scientifically cite it.

These aren’t gaps in a scientific theory — there is no scientific theory. There is only a story about how a bear might have fallen into the ocean and become a whale …

In the end, evolutionists’ only argument is contempt. The cultists know that if people were allowed to hear the arguments against evolution for just sixty seconds, all would be lost. So they demonize the people making those arguments. You’re just saying that because you believe in God! You probably believe in a flat Earth, too! You sound like a Holocaust revisionist! That’s all you ever get. (Ann Coulter “Godless” page 244)

You will begin to notice that the Darwiniacs’ answer to everything is to accuse their opponents of believing in God — and a flat Earth for good measure — even when responding to an argument based on biochemistry, physics or mathematics. (Ann Coulter, “Godless” page 205)

Straw men and personal attacks have no place in science. Unless you have nothing scientific to say.

It’s about science and experimental data.

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