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Americans Believe In Darwin – Six Times Before Breakfast

Politics / Evolution Dec 23, 2013 - 09:57 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Results from a Harris Poll of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 shows that belief in Darwin's theory of evolution, while well below levels recorded for their belief in God, heaven and hell, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).  The respondents were not asked to what extent they believe in QE and Ben Bernanke's economic miracles, but the survey also found that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in metempsychosis and reincarnation - that they were once or still are more than one person.

Very like the rabid attack on non-warmists who disbelieve in Global Warming theory, made by the supposed “clear majority of scientific opinion”, Denton's 1985 book which attacks Darwinism has since that date continued to draw howls of protest. Many reviews by engaged parties in the scientific establishment were vehemently negative.   The biologist and philosopher Professor Ghiselin is cited by Wikipedia as describing A Theory in Crisis as "a book by an author who is obviously incompetent, dishonest, or both — and it may be very hard to decide which is the case". At worst, defenders of Darwinism criticised Denton for being in their view a “closet creationist” intent on distorting and misrepresenting the supposedly admitted defects of Darwin's theory. At best, for them, Denton was an intellectual anarchist setting out to destroy a “beautiful theory” and replace it with nothing.  Over time, as for the “warmist case” and theory of CO2 and global warming (or climate change), Denton's arguments have been pushed aside as merely an attempt to undermine the evidence for evolution by pretending that that what is called “macroevolution” and its mechanisms are inherently implausible.

Interestingly enough, many creationists also heavily criticise Denton while only some laud him. One key part of Denton's critique of Darwin's “macroevolutionary theory” - with no alternate theory proposed by Denton - was to simply underline that Darwin's theory can only posit macroevolutionary change. This term wasn't used by Darwin but was later interpreted as a part of Darwininsm, firstly by the Russian entomologist Filipchenko in 1927, who coined the terms "macroevolution" and "microevolution". Today, there is firm belief in the scientific community that micro-level evolutionary change is constant. When it concerns macro-level change, doubt is still permitted.

One way out of this bind is to say that “macroevolution” are serial or other changes of life forms occurring on geological time scales, while microevolution can occur on the timescale of human lifetimes or less – and therefore can be observed by humans. This however does nothing to explain or defend the Darwinist macroevolutionary notion that fish become amphibians which become reptiles which become birds and then become mammals. Why do some of them decide to not make the change? Even this cop-out in favour of Darwinism has critics within its own scientific camp, who argue that it is only the time needed, and the scale of biological change that differentiate micro- and macroevolution.

Denton cannot be criticised for not giving all parts of the argument even if, to be sure, in his version this favours anti-Darwinists. He refers to the “teleologists” such as Reiss, Dawkins, Meyr and many other biologists and life scientists who argue for “intrinsic design” rather than external intelligent design, by God, Martians or other Things. They say that species evolve in pursuit of one or more goals – like survival – which is exactly what Darwin argued.

The differences with Darwin-style macroevolution are however enormous, for example “goal oriented evolution” has to posit some mechanism of feedback – from the future back to the present – for life forms to evolve “the right way”.

As Denton and plenty of other biologists say, any species that dies out obviously did not evolve “the right way” but just as intriguing, they may have had “programmed failure” as well as success built into them. The long and well-studied paleofossil history of mass species die-offs in various geological eras shows that, overall, vastly more life forms are extinct than currently exist, which in turn suggests (but certainly doe not prove) that evolution, if it is goal-oriented, is a failure. This notion is totally rejected by most Darwinists, but teleology and its variant of teleonomy (short-term adaptation) are very surely implicit, when they are not explicit in Darwin's original writings.

Any discussion of modern biological teleology, whether or not it is “Darwinst”, is immediately subjected to two sets of critiques. One is simple – biological systems are not machines, robots or automatic governors spinning on power generators to regulate their speed. The second is more complicated – positing a longterm cybernetic adjustment mechanism and process for living things, called “macroevolution”, is both philosophically and scientifically adventurous, that is risky. Richard Dawkins, for example, is adamant that if there was a Great Watchmaker of the type Albert Einstein proposed for the physical Universe and nucleosynthesis, the biological watchmaker is blind and tosses his dice with gay abandon.

As we find in both disciplines – philosophy and cosmological physics – there has been a constant retreat of teleological theory. Randomized interaction and statistical probability have progressively or rapidly replaced the concept of “design”. Darwinism can be considered the last retreat of this, for the life sciences, whenever his macroevolutionary theory (implicit or explicit) is presented and defended as proof there is Natural Selection always moving life forms towards more sophisticated, better adapted entities and species. Nearly all of them (over 97%) have died out in the period of about 3.6 billion years since life first appeared on this planet.

One major “bridging theory” given some attention by Denton, but little by the Darwinists, is to pursue Aristotle's definition of Telos or Final Cause, and argue that life forms are vastly more concerned with intermediate or “proximal causes”, than final causes, and adapt to them. One simple example is that you drink water because you are thirsty – not to avoid the final state of dying from thirst if you do not drink at all. This approach to evolution, which can be compared with behavioral psychology as much as molecular biology, helps to explain the massive inadaptation, or random adaption of life forms to their environment, and their apparent total disinterest in “signals from the future”, which teleological evolution would demand.

Molecular biology, today, is set by the Darwinists as an unassailable proof in the veracity of Darwinian evolution, and to be sure Denton gives a lot of attention to the pitfalls and doubts that exist, and subsist in this domain. Once again in reality, nothing is proven either way. Denton however shreds the key Darwinian concept of “primal soup” whereby rock pools or coastal waters would have enabled the very first life to form through the interaction of sunlight, lightning, cosmic radiation, volcanic eruption or some other energy source and a so-random collection of inorganic chemicals which suddenly “go biological”. Darwin may have had an excuse for imagining this might be possible or plausible, due to molecular biology being at a very infant stage in his day. But the structure of enzymes and proteins, let alone ADN and RDN makes it fantastically hard to believe these “building blocks of life” could have been spontaneously created – even in trillions of years of randomly trying.

Denton also gives attention to “saltation” or the theory of evolution by leaps and bounds, without intermediate tried-but-failed life forms. Darwin made a point of contradicting the saltationists who dominated the scene before him by saying in his renowned 1859 book (On The Origin Of Species) that evolutionary transformation always proceeds gradually and never in mutational jumps. Darwin insisted on slow change and wrote "natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight successive favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short steps" also, in fact, rejecting teleological evolution by the same argument.

Often given the nickname “Hopeful monster theory”, or macromolecular and genetic mutation theory, saltation can be said to have been neither accepted nor rejected by Darwinists. To be sure, playing with the time scale, for example changes occurring within 10 000 years against those taking 100 000 years, and looking at changes which affect individuals, not populations and species, dilutes and nuances the arguments for and against saltation but the fossil record is clear. As Denton notes many times in his book often claimed to be “highly controversial”, abrupt change of species is more the rule than an exception. As for genotype evolution or macroevolution (for example fish to amphibians) the sheer lack of intermediate forms makes it very hard to accept the idea of “accumulating slight successive favorable variations”.

Spontaneous mutation, to be sure, is almost always a disaster for life forms, somewhat like the almost spontaneous decision, in global monetary affairs, that QE was vital. Conversely, spontaneous macro-change of life forms can also work. One example is the geologically near-instant arrival of deciduous trees, hundreds of millions of years after coniferous trees first appeared, with no intermediate forms.

The reasons for “popular belief in Darwinism” are in fact extensive. Very shortly after his 1859 work was published, so-called Social Darwinism was developed by early sociologists like Spencer, to justify capitalist accumulation and the emergence of the leisure class – as due to “natural selection” and the triumph of “the fittest”. Spencer did not use the correct terms, the greediest or the luckiest.

Spencer also did not use the uncomfortable terms “pure chance”, but Denton can be credited as defending, all though his 1985 book, the theory of evolutionary lottery. Darwin had hoped that fossil evidence of genotype transitions would appear eventually, but none did. Only “trivial” microevolution, hardly rivaling selective breeding as with farmyard animals, were evident in the fossil record. For more than a hundred years after 1859 no accurate measure of genetic distances between existing classes was possible.

Repeated hopes that macroevolutionary evidence did exist and would be found, have been repeatedly dashed. An example is the Coelacanth. On the basis of fossil evidence, evolutionists believed it was intermediate between fish and amphibia. Reconstructions based on this evidence seemed to show that Coelacanth had both amphibian and fish-like characteristics. Later however, live Coelacanths turned up in the Indian Ocean near Cape Province, South Africa – and they were 100% fish. The reconstructions had been wrong.

What can be called Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy claims that “species have to evolve” but what appear to be fossil bacteria show these life forms have been around vastly longer than multicellular species, e.g. any vertebrates including mammals. One way out for the Darwinists is to argue that bacteria are more closely related to plants than to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, in that order. If so, we should see evidence of these facts in the sequences of amino acids of their common proteins.

For example, all these above life forms and genotypes use the protein cytochrome C in energy production. That protein should fit an evolutionary sequence. However, bacterial cytochrome C compared with the corresponding proteins in horses, pigeons, tuna, silkmoths, wheat, trees and yeast show all of them to be equidistant from bacterial cytochrome C. In other words, no evolution occurred and one-size-fits-all. One other possible argument is that fossils provide a poor and unsure basis for inferences about proposing links between classes.
Keeping Darwinism aloft, finally, is like defending AGW-CO2 theory. It is advantageous for dreamers and liars. In guise of a conclusion to his book, Denton suggests that the advocates of orthodox Darwinian evolution are like Lewis Carroll's Red Queen. When Alice protested that there is no use in trying to believe impossible things, the Queen said:
"I dare say you haven't had much practice. . . . When I was your age I did it for half an hour a day. And sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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