Another Evolutionary Prediction Falsified

Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jelly (click for credit)
Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jelly
(click for credit)
The best way to judge a scientific theory is to examine the predictions it makes about the observable universe. The more its predictions line up with the data, the more reliable the theory becomes. The less its predictions line up with the data, the less reliable the theory becomes. Since starting this blog, I have pointed out many instances where the predictions of evolutionary theory don’t line up with the observable data (here, here, here, here, here, and here). Dr. Hunter has an excellent review of several other instances. Now we can add yet another failed evolutionary prediction to this ever-growing list.

The animal pictured above is Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jelly. According to evolutionary theory, the comb jellies are “primitive.” Based on genetics, they are supposed to have evolved before some of the simplest animals on the planet: sponges. Even if you don’t believe the genetic arguments, most evolutionists would agree that comb jellies evolved well before the more “advanced” animals, such as roundworms.

One of the things that separates these “primitive” animals from the more “advanced” animals is their digestive tract. In animals like jellyfish and sponges, there is only one opening in the digestive tract. The animal must use that opening to take in food, and then later it must use the same opening to expel indigestible waste. According to the story of evolution, this “simple” digestive tract was the first to evolve, and then later, a more “advanced” digestive tract formed. In this more “advanced” digestive tract, there is one opening for taking in food and a different opening for expelling indigestible waste.

Since comb jellies are suppose to be among the “primitive” animals, evolution predicts that they should have “simple” digestive tracts. However, recent videos demonstrate that this evolutionary prediction is (not surprisingly) wrong.

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American Meteorological Society Survey Shows There Is No 97% Consensus on Climate Change

A stop sign in Washington, D.C. during a blizzard (click for credit)
A stop sign in Washington, D.C. during a blizzard (click for credit)

You’ve heard it a lot lately. 97% of climate scientists believe that climate change (aka global warming) is happening, and human activity is mostly to blame. It doesn’t matter that this figure comes from a terribly flawed study. It’s a great soundbite, so it is used a lot. Consider, for example, the president of the Sierra Club, which calls itself “the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.” In a recent testimony, he didn’t even know about the dramatic disagreement between the satellite temperature record and the global climate models that have been used to support global warming hysteria. Instead, he simply kept repeating the claim that 97% of scientists believe that global warming is mostly caused by human activity.

Now, of course, anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that the opinion of a group of people (even a large majority of scientists) means very little to me. If I am going to believe in something, I want the objective data to support what I believe. Opinions are not objective data, so I try to look at the evidence and think for myself. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t want to think for themselves. Like the president of the Sierra Club, they simply believe whatever the majority of scientists say. Well, a recent survey of the American Meteorological Society might be of interest to such people.

The American Meteorological Society describes itself in this way:

Founded in 1919, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) is the nation’s premier scientific and professional organization promoting and disseminating information about the atmospheric, oceanic, hydrologic sciences.

They surveyed their membership about climate change, and 4,092 of the members responded. This represents a 53.5% response rate. Not surprisingly, there was no 97% consensus to be found among the respondents.

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Yes, Earth Is Unique, But This Study Doesn’t Demonstrate That!

The earth as seen from space
The earth as seen from space
The earth is sometimes called “the blue planet.” Just as Mars looks red when viewed from the earth, the earth looks blue when viewed from space. Why? Because of all the water. About 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and that’s one of the many, many factors that allows life to flourish on this planet. Based on the limited observations we have, there is simply no other planet like earth. To me, that’s not at all surprising. God created this earth as a haven for life, so it makes sense that there isn’t another planet like it.

Based on my news feed from a few days ago, you would think that a recent scientific paper confirmed this idea. The Daily Mail, for example, proclaimed:

Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds

Other sources, such as Science Alert and Discover agree. The latest, most cutting-edge physics demonstrates that earth is unique.

Because these headlines peaked my interest, I decided to look at the scientific paper that describes this cutting-edge research. When I did so, I learned that once again, the media doesn’t bother to try to understand the science that they report. In fact, the researchers who wrote the paper didn’t find the earth to be unique. They estimate that there are about 2×1018 similar planets in our observable universe.

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A Spinosaurus and a “Pregnant” T. Rex at the Texas Homeschool Convention

A spinosaurus drawn by Hayley, a Texas student who has used my courses.
A spinosaurus drawn by Hayley, a Texas student who has used my courses.

I love going to homeschool conventions. This past weekend, I spoke at the Texas Homeschool Convention, and it was a wonderful experience. I got to talk with a lot of interesting people, like the great granddaughter of Maria von Trapp. I also got a headache from discussing quantum physics, mechanistic naturalism, and determinism with two of the philosophers I mentioned in a previous post. Of course, I also got to talk with students who have used and are using my courses. One of those students was incredibly enthusiastic, asking me several questions about science. During the course of the convention, she drew me the wonderful picture you see above, which is of a spinosaurus. He is the villain in a story she is writing.

Speaking of dinosaurs, I got a very interesting question during one of my talks. A student who was obviously interested in science asked if I had heard about the pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex that had recently been found. I was surprised by the question for two reasons. First, I had not heard about it, and I try to keep up on the latest events in science. The fact that this student knew a current event in science that I had not heard about really surprised me. Second, it seemed strange that someone would say a Tyrannosaurus rex was pregnant, since all that we know indicates it was a reptile, meaning it laid eggs. I think the term “pregnant” refers to carrying a developing fetus, so it wouldn’t be applied to an egg-laying animal.

Due to the wonders of in-flight internet, I was able to investigate the student’s question on my flight home. Sure enough, there were a lot of news stories about a pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex (see this one, for example). However, when I found and read the scientific paper upon which the stories were based, it became clear to me that the news outlets were doing their typically less-than-stellar job of reporting on science.

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This Is Why You Shouldn’t Pay Attention to Most Surveys

A possible warning label for food?
A possible warning label for food?
As a nation, we seem to be addicted to surveys. We want to know what other people think about politics, education, celebrities, music, television shows, movies, science, etc. I have never understood that. While I might find a survey interesting from time to time, I honestly don’t worry much about what most people think. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t bother me when people complain about my “contrarian” views, as one professor recently described them. While I strongly value the opinions of many people I know, I really couldn’t care less about what the majority of people (including the majority of scientists) think.

Well, I recently came across a survey that might help me understand why the opinion of the majority means little to me. It was done by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics. This particular survey is performed online monthly and tries to track “consumer preferences and sentiments on the safety, quality, and price of food at home and away from home with particular focus on meat demand.” Even though most of the questions on the survey are consistent from month-to-month, ad hoc questions can be added.

For the June 2016 survey, three new ad hoc questions were added. One of them asked the respondents whether they support or oppose a mandatory label on all foods containing DNA. It turns out that 80% of the respondents supported the idea! By contrast, 82% supported mandatory labels on foods produced with genetic engineering, and only 69% supported mandatory calorie labels on restaurant foods.

Now, of course, I suspect that most of my readers are educated enough to understand how silly it is to want mandatory labels on foods that contain DNA. However, just in case it escapes some people: Most of the food we eat contains DNA! When you eat a vegetable, for example, you are eating plant tissues that are made up of plant cells. Each and every cell holds the plant’s DNA in its nucleus. When you eat meat, you are eating an animal’s muscles, which are composed of muscle cells. Once again, muscle cells contain the animal’s DNA. It is very difficult to eat without ingesting the DNA of the organism you are eating!

Think about that for a moment. In this survey, 82% of people think there should be a warning label on foods that were produced with genetic engineering. However, the majority of those people also think there should be a warning about something that is in nearly every food we eat! Why in the world should we take advice about genetically-modified food from people who clearly don’t know much about the very molecule that is modified to make those foods? Also, since there were fewer people who supported mandatory calorie labels on restaurant foods, at least some of the people who are worried about DNA being in food don’t seem to be worried about how restaurant food can contribute to a real health issue: obesity!

This survey tells me two things: First, science education in the U.S. is abysmal. Of course, there are lots of other things that have already demonstrated that! Second, we shouldn’t listen to surveys when it comes to making decisions.

When Children Became People

Jesus granted children an importance unheard of at that time in history. (click for credit)
Jesus granted children an importance unheard of at that time in history.
(click for credit)
Dr. O.M. Bakke has an odd name. No, really – his name is Odd Magne Bakke, and he is an Associate Professor of Church History at the School of Mission and Theology in Stavanger, Norway. For many reasons, including the fact that he is the father of three children, Bakke investigated the lives of children in ancient times. He focused on A.D. 100 to A.D. 450, contrasting the prevailing views of the Romans at the time to the developing views of Christians, as seen through the writings of the early church fathers. The result is When Children Became People, an eye-opening book that left me both disgusted and astounded. As I have pointed out previously (here and here), Christianity was absolutely essential in producing modern science. I had no idea idea, however, how essential it was in producing our modern view of the importance of children.

As anyone familiar with the Bible probably knows, there was a time during the ministry of Jesus when children were brought to Him so that He could bless them. The disciples rebuked the children, but Jesus said:

Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14)

Until reading this book, I had no idea what a radical statement that was in New Testament times. As Bakke documents in his book, children were not valued in Rome. Instead, they were not really considered human beings. For example, when a child was born, the father could refuse to accept him or her into the family. Indeed, the father generally had eight to nine days to consider the matter. If the father decided the child was worthy of being a member of the family, a ritual was held, celebrating the child’s good fortune. If not, the child was simply abandoned, a practice referred to as expositio. As Bakke informs us:

…as far as the Eastern region of the Roman empire was concerned, expositio was socially accepted and widespread from the time of Alexander the Great onward. (p. 29)

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Bill Nye Continues To Talk About Things of Which He is Ignorant

Bill Nye, who knows hardly anything about philosophy
Bill Nye, who knows hardly anything about philosophy
Bill Nye is a popular “scilebrity.” Unfortunately, he does an enormous disservice to science, frequently speaking on topics about which he knows very little. He narrated a faked experiment on global warming because he doesn’t understand the physical mechanisms governing how infrared light interacts with matter. If he did, he would have realized that the experiment he narrated couldn’t possibly have worked. He excludes ideas simply because he doesn’t care for them and encourages others to do the same. He wrote a book about evolution that is riddled with errors, and he tried to defend abortion using an argument that is demonstrably false.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. Instead of educating himself on an issue before discussing it, he continues to pontificate on things about which he knows nearly nothing. His latest silliness is on the subject of philosophy. While Olivia Goldhill has written an excellent discussion of why that video is so ludicrous, I want to add just a couple of thoughts.

A while back, I wrote about Dr. Kevin R. Grazier, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a science consultant for film and television. I briefly mentioned that he confirmed some of my thoughts regarding Bill Nye and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, but Nye’s inane video leads me to expand on that point. In addition to discussing errors that Nye and Tyson have made regarding the science found in film and television, Grazier said that in his view, both Nye and Tyson aren’t really interested in educating the public about science. If they were, they would be more accurate in their pronouncements. Instead, they are just trying to convince the public that they are really smart guys.

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The Inquisition Strikes Again

Karl Aspelin's painting of Martin Luther burning the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church.
Karl Aspelin’s painting of Martin Luther burning the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church.

There are times when modern scientists act like members of the Inquisition. Such situations can result in people getting removed from their positions in the scientific community, courses being shut down, scientists being fired, or papers being retracted. (see here, here, here, here, and here). Unfortunately, it has happened again, resulting in another scientific paper being retracted.

The paper, Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living, discussed the results of an experiment that tried to figure out the functional link between the architecture of the hand and its coordination. In the experiment, 30 individuals (15 men and 15 women) with apparently healthy hands were given a glove to wear while performing several mundane tasks. The glove measured the angles of the joints in the hand throughout the time each task was being performed. This allowed the researchers to then determine the degree to which the movements of the hand joints were coordinated.

The researchers found that while some joints (particularly those of the thumb) did move independently of the others, there was an enormous amount of coordination between the joints. The authors note:

This suggests that there is no need for the human hand to control each joint independently. If there was not such biomechanical architecture, such as the separated connection of each articular from a single muscle, it would significantly increase the computational burden of the [central nervous system] to make up for the loss of the biomechanical architecture.

In other words, the joints of the hand are coordinated so that the brain doesn’t have to concentrate on controlling each joint independently when the hand is grasping objects.

Why was this scientific paper retracted? Was there a serious methodological error in the experiment? Was the data analysis incorrect? Did the authors commit some sort of fraud? No. It was retracted because the authors dared to do something that scientists have done throughout the vast majority of human history: They dared to mention the Creator in their scientific work!

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