Another Example of the “Scientific Consensus” Being Wrong

A red-tailed monkey (click for credit)

There are many people (including many scientists) who really don’t want to think for themselves. As a result, when it comes to a given scientific issue, they simply rely on the “scientific consensus.” After all, with our modern knowledge and technology, how could the scientific consensus possibly be wrong? Sure, it has been wrong in the past, but science has greatly improved over the years. Thus, if the scientific consensus says something, it must be true.

Consider the case of humans being born with “tails.” Dr. Karl Giberson tells us:

On rare occasions, humans are born with tails — real functioning tails that can even be “wagged” via voluntary muscles contractions in response to emotional stimuli. Although the birth of a baby with a tail is frightening for parents and typically requires surgery, the remarkable human tail is an important part of the even more remarkable tale of our origins — namely evolution.

Basically, he tells the reader that we evolved from animals that had tails, and evolution simply switched it off in people and great apes. However, every now and again, that switch gets reversed, producing a tail. He then goes on to talk about “crazy creationists” and how they try to argue against the reality of this obvious fact. Not surprisingly, he mischaracterizes their explanations, but what is interesting to me is how he tells the reader to evaluate the creationnists’ arguments:

Note the reasoning process here, keeping in mind that 1) there is a consensus in the scientific community that humans are sometimes born with real tails that are evolutionary throwbacks; 2) the gene for tails has been located in the human genome is the same one that mice use to produce their tails; and 3) the issue is not the human tail, but the problem of bad design in nature.

Dr. Giberson is utterly convinced that when babies are born with a “tail,” it is a result of the “tail gene” that humans inherited from a common ancestor being “turned on,” even though evolution turned it off. Why? Because it’s the scientific consensus, and because there is a gene found in both mice and humans, and we “know” that gene produces the tail in mice. There’s just one problem: the latest research indicates that this argument is most likely false.

As Science Alert informs us, there are typically two types of “tails” that babies can be born with: “true tails” and “pseudotails.” While evolutionists originally thought that one or both of them were vestigial remnants of evolution, we now know better. Neither one of them are related to tails in any way. In fact:

As it turns out, both rare appendages probably represent an incomplete fusion of the spinal column, or what’s known as a spinal dysraphism. This suggests their formation is not a harmless ‘regression’ in the evolutionary process but a concerning disturbance in an embryo’s growth most likely resulting from a mix of genetic and environmental factors.

So, not only was the “scientific consensus” wrong about why these babies are born with “tails,” but it probably resulted in some of those babies not being treated properly. After all, if the extra appendage is really the result of abnormal development in the womb (instead of a vestige of evolution), it is probably a warning sign that the baby should be screened for various neurological disorders.

Yes, we do have many genes in common with many mammals, including mice. Many of those genes (not just one) are involved in tail development in some mammals, and they are also involved in the development of the caudaul eminence, a neurological structure that is unrelated to a tail in people. Unlike Dr. Giberson indicates, this isn’t the result of bad design. In fact, it is a result of excellent design, where the Engineer has used a single biological process as the basis by which many different structures are produced. That basic process is then just “tweaked” to produce the specific outcomes that are desired in different organisms.

Now don’t misunderstand my point. Science is continually changing based on new knowledge, so I don’t have a problem with the fact that the scientific consensus has been shown to be wrong in this case (as well as many others). The problem is that people like Dr. Giberson slavishly follow that consensus without ever considering the fact that it might be wrong. Furthermore, they mock other scientists who actually try to follow the evidence without reference to the scientific consensus. This is contrary to the scientific method, and it could inhibit young scientists from ever questioning the scientific consensus. After all, why should newcomers want to expose themselves to such mockery from more experienced scientists?

My advice to young scientists is to ignore the mocking from condescending people like Dr. Giberson. Challenge the scientific consensus whenever you think the evidence requires it, and don’t worry about the opinion of people who won’t think for themselves! My advice to Dr. Giberson is twofold. First, stop slavishly following the scientific consensus. Second, retract the article I am discussing, since we now know the scientific consensus you relied on is most likely wrong.

9 thoughts on “Another Example of the “Scientific Consensus” Being Wrong”

  1. Dr. Wile, I have a question. Not related to this article, but along the lines of your expertise. It is believed that elements like nitrogen and carbon are formed in stars, and iron in supernovae explosions.
    But where do the really heavy elements come from, like uranium? I heard and it stuck in my mind that nobody knows where these really heavy elements were formed. Can you direct me to someplace to find this info? Perhaps you have a blog post on it?
    Thank you in advance, and thanks for your time.

    1. Nuclear fusion produces elements up to iron-56, since iron-56 has the most binding energy per proton and neutron. Thus, energy is released when smaller elements fuse to make elements up to iron-56. That means all those elements are formed in stars. Elements heavier than iron-56 cannot be made by fusion that happens naturally, although we can make them artificially using energy to force their formation.

      It is thought that the higher-mass elements are made when stars go supernova. This produces a lot of neutrons, and those neutrons can be captured by elements. After a few neutrons are captured that way, one thing that can happen is beta decay, which turns neutrons into protons. So…a nucleus like iron-56 absorbs some neutrons. Eventually, that produces an unstable iron nucleus, which then undergoes beta decay, turning one of those neutrons into a proton. That makes a cobalt nucleus, which can then capture more neutrons until it eventually beta decays, making a nickel nucleus. This can continue until all the heavier elements are made.

      Technically, this happens via two different processes, which are discussed here.

      1. Thank you very much for answering my question. This has been bugging me for a couple of years now.
        This question came to my mind when I was looking into radiometric dating methods, like carbon-14 and potassium-argon. The idea is that there are assumptions that are made when using these methods. For example, we know that carbon-14 dating is accurate because we can date things that we know the ages of. But (as you know) the half-life of carbon-14 is only 5730 years, so we can only date things about 60,000 years old with that method. But the assumption is that 50,000 years ago, the same amount of carbon-14 was in the atmosphere as there is today, so even though the decay rate is stable, the ratios of carbon-14 remaining in organic materials may not be the same as now, as there would be from only a few hundred years ago.
        I also read somewhere that in using the potassium-argon method on newly formed lava flows, they returned ages of thousands of years old, when we know they were less than 20 years old. So the assumption of the original amounts of potassium-40 and argon-40 were wrong. That is, if I understood this correctly.
        So, with the heavier elements, like uranium we know the decay rate but not necessarily the original quantities of Uranium-238 and other materials that are produced in the decay chain. Do we always assume the original element was pure? And that other elements that it would decay into were not present?
        Anyway, no need to respond to this rambling reply, it’s all very complicated. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my question (I did watch the video also).

        1. Well, carbon-14 dating is “accurate” because once we use it, we can correct it by dating things whose age we know. We know the age of tree rings, for example, but the actual carbon-14 date rarely matches the known age, specifically because of variations in the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. However, we can develop a calibration curve based on the corrections from tree rings. That provides an accurate date…for things less than 3,500 years old. After that, we don’t have tree rings from living trees, so we use less reliable methods, like fossil tree rings whose ages have been estimated by overlapping patterns with living trees, varves, corals, etc. The farther you go back in time, the less reliable the method used to calibrate the carbon-14 system, so the less reliable the date you get.

          You are correct that potassium-argon dates of recently-made rocks are wrong, but your number is way off. Even the most recently-made rocks typically give a potassium-argon date of hundreds of thousands or millions of years old. Thus, we know that the method is unreliable.

          Each radiometric method has its own assumptions that lead to the initial ratio of isotopes in the sample, and in each case, we can see that those assumptions are wrong, since the dates they produce disagree with each other and with other dating techniques.

      2. Thank you for your post, Dr. Wile. Your articles are always appreciated. I recall reading that Bertrand Russell made a quite complementary argument against Intelligent Design before your exact point was discovered. It was said that he called natural phenomena like exploding supernovae cruel and unnecessary, questioning why a designer would create such a thing. Later on, the production of heavy metals like iron from these supernovae was discovered. While this would be yet another good example of evolutionists jumping to hasty conclusions for the sake of a quick jab (as with the absurd idea of introns as junk DNA, which originally brought me to your blog), I have since been unable to locate a primary source with the line. I don’t suppose that you are familiar with where it might be?

        I do have a couple additional questions, concerning “kinds” and history. Roughly how many kinds would need to be on the ark in order to provide enough genetic basis for the entirety of our modern menagerie? That is, how different would Noah’s fauna be from ours, if we should expect a uniform adaptation rate in nature? Evolutionists say we are distanced from our last common ape ancestor by 300 million years, and provide similar timescales for most other large organisms. How many different mammals would be necessary to provide for all of the ancestors of our current mammals, or for other classes?

        As a final question, would you have any recommendations of good ancient history books which are written by Christians but not specifically concerning Biblical history? I have many books concerning Jewish and Church history in my library, but little Christian literature on other time periods and the surrounding civilizations.

        Once again, thank you for your post, sir, and have a wonderful day!

        1. I studied Russell a lot, and I don’t recall him bringing up supernovae. He did bring up space exploration, saying that he was against it. He thought the time and resources would be better spent fixing things on earth, and he was afraid of spreading what he called “human foolishness” throughout the universe. He did bring up bad design, but it wasn’t about nature itself. It was about how people turned out. In Why I am Not a Christian, he said that a good God who is omniscient and omnipotent would never have created a world in which people became fascists or members of the Ku Klux Klan.

          In answer to your second question, the folks at Answers in Genesis have been working on that. Their “worst case” scenario is that there would be about 1,400 different kinds needed to produce the diversity of life we have today. This article describes how they came up with that number.

          I am not sure exactly what you are looking for when it comes to history books written by Christians. There are lots of homeschooling history curricula written by Christians, such as those produced by Diana Waring. If you are looking for general historical works by Christians, you might look at the works of Tracy McKenzie, Edward J. Blum, or Ronald A. Wells.

  2. Oh! Very interesting! I didn’t know the ages for potassium-argon dating were so far off! So, back to the original idea of your blog, more scientific consensus, this time on the age of the earth, is wrong. Fascinating. Thank you again for responding,

  3. I find new atheism especially interesting from a psychological POV. When disproved of their religious beliefs in science, they tend to shriek and wail in hate. One good thing about them, tho, is they force people to look at science with skepticism, and many a person–such as myself–has left them behind to follow fist OEC, then YEC. Perhaps the day will come when we can date rock and fossils, but that’s in the unknown future. Walk in beauty

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