Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Remembering “The Piltdown Man” – 100 years later

Have the Darwinian faithful ever been so optimistic about their theory that they stretched the evidence dishonestly? Well, yes, there have been instances of “hiding the decline” in the biological sciences.

Here’s one described in the Seattle Times: (H/T Evolution News)

Tuesday is the centennial of the grossest fraud of 20th-century science: Piltdown man. It is a case worth remembering.

On Dec. 18, 1912, amateur geologist Charles Dawson presented to the Geological Society of London a partial skull. It was purported to be a human ancestor 500,000 to 1 million years old, an age scientists now assign to Homo erectus. Dawson said he had found the fossils in a gravel pit near Piltdown Common, south of London.

Dawson had no scientific credentials, but his friend Arthur Smith Woodward did. Woodward was the keeper of the geological department at the British Museum. He had been at the dig and had seen the jawbone “fly out” of the ground under the blow of Dawson’s pick.

There was a problem with the jawbone. It was from an orangutan only a few hundred years old. It was fitted with two fossilized chimpanzee teeth, filed down to make them look more like human teeth. The cranium fragments were human, from the Middle Ages. All had been treated with an iron solution and acid to make them look older.

Scientists didn’t have many fossil skulls in 1912, but none of them looked like a human cranium with an ape jaw.

Several scientists, including one from the Smithsonian Institution, argued that the jaw and cranium did not match. It took 40 years for them to be proved right, and even longer for Dawson to be confirmed as the con man responsible.

The surprising thing is that this is not the only time that this has happened with Darwinists and global warmists.

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Jonathan M. reviews Jerry Coyne’s pro-evolution book

Jonathan M. is breaking it down chapter by chapter at Evolution News. Chapter 2 is on fossils. In his response to chapter 2, he covers fish/amphibian evolution, bird/dinosaur evolution and whale evolution.

Here’s a snippet about the whale series:

The next transitional series alluded to by Coyne is the whale series. One of the most notable problems with the evolution of the whale is the extremely abrupt timescale over which it is supposed to have occurred. The sheer force of this conundrum is only properly appreciated when one considers the multiple feats of anatomical novelty, innovative engineering and genetic rewiring necessary to change a terrestrial mammal like Pakicetus into a fully aquatic whale. Indeed, evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg has argued that even many of the relatively minor changes are extremely unlikely to have occurred in the time-frame allowed. Consider the following small sample of necessary modifications:

  • Counter-current heat exchanger for intra-abdominal testes
  • Ball vertebra
  • Tail flukes and musculature
  • Blubber for temperature insulation
  • Ability to drink sea water (reorganization of kidney tissues)
  • Fetus in breech position (for labor underwater)
  • Nurse young underwater (modified mammae)
  • Forelimbs transformed into flippers
  • Reduction of hindlimbs
  • Reduction/loss of pelvis and sacral vertebrae
  • Reorganization of the musculature for the reproductive organs
  • Hydrodynamic properties of the skin
  • Special lung surfactants
  • Novel muscle systems for the blowhole
  • Modification of the teeth
  • Modification of the eye for underwater vision
  • Emergence and expansion of the mandibular fat pad with complex lipid distribution
  • Reorganization of skull bones and musculature
  • Modification of the ear bones
  • Decoupling of esophagus and trachea
  • Synthesis and metabolism of isovaleric acid (toxic to terrestrial mammals)
  • Emergence of blowhole musculature and their neurological control

According to Richard Sternberg’s calculations, and based on the equations of population genetics applied in a 2008 paper by Durrett and Schmidt in the Journal of Genetics, one may reasonably expect to see two coordinated mutations achieve fixation in the timeframe of around 43.3 million years. When one considers the magnitude of the engineering feat, such a scenario can only be ruled incredible. The problem is accentuated further when one considers that the majority of anatomical novelties unique to aquatic cetaceans (Pelagiceti) appeared during just a few million years — probably within 1-3 million years.

[...]More recently, however, a jawbone was discovered that belonged to a fully aquatic whale dating to 49 million years ago, only four million years afterPakicetus! This means that the first fully aquatic whales now date to around the time when walking whales (Ambulocetus) first appear. This substantially reduces the time window — to 4 or 5 million years, perhaps even less — that may be allotted to the Darwinian mechanism to accomplish truly radical engineering innovations and genetic rewiring. It also suggests that this fully aquatic whale existed before its previously presumed semi-aquatic archaeocetid ancestors.

If you missed chapter 1, it’s here. And chapter 3 is out soon.

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New study of tar pits shows absence of evolutionary change

Doug Axe has a new post up about a new paper that challenges the Darwinian narrative. (H/T J Warner Wallace)

Full text:

The textbooks say that evolution happens most rapidly in response to environmental changes. You would think, then, that the cycling from glacial periods to warmer interglacial periods would be accompanied by significant changes in the species that survive the change.

Not so, according to a new paper by Donald Prothero and colleagues. After examining all the comon bird and mammal species preserved in the Rancho La Brea tar pits in California, the authors conclude:

the data show that birds and mammals at Rancho La Brea show complete stasis and were unresponsive to the major climate change that occurred at 20 ka, consistent with other studies of Pleistocene animals and plants. Most explanations for such stasis (stabilizing selection, canalization) fail in this setting where climate is changing. One possible explanation is that most large birds and mammals are very broadly adapted and relatively insensitive to changes in their environments, although even the small mammals of the Pleistocene show stasis during climate change, too.

I work at the other end of the size spectrum, on protein molecules rather than whole animals. It’s interesting that attempts to catch evolution in the act of doing the amazing things that the textbooks attribute to it seem to fail at both ends of the spectrum.

Interesting because Prothero has debated against ID – this man is not friendly to our view.

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Nature publishes discovery of fossil with complex brain dated just after the Cambrian explosion

New fossil discovery shows advanced brain structures

New fossil discovery shows advanced brain structures

Casey Luskin writes about it at Uncommon Descent. (H/T Jonathan M.)

Excerpt:

Over at PhysOrg.com, there’s a study being reported highlighting a 520 million year old fossil arthropod with a highly-developed brain. So soon in evolutionary time, and an already developed brain??? (To go beside the very complex eye of the Trilobites)

Here’s what one scientist said:

“No one expected such an advanced brain would have evolved so early in the history of multicellular animals,” said Strausfeld, a Regents Professor in the UA department of neuroscience.

Sorry, Darwinists, but IDers would expect it.

Let’s keep track of the problems that this good scientific discovery creates for naturalists.

Problem #1: Darwinism does not support rapid change from single-celled organisms just before the Cambrian explosion to complex brains just after the Cambrian explosion. Darwinian evolution has to go gradually from simple to complex.

Now for some more:

And, to add insult to injury for our Darwinist brethren, here’s this confirmation of “genetic entropy” and Behe’s QRB “rule”:

“The shape [of the fossilized brain] matches that of a comparable sized modern malacostracan,” the authors write in Nature. They argue the fossil supports the hypothesis that branchiopod brains evolved from a previously complex to a more simple architecture instead of the other way around.

So, that’s another problem.

Problem #2: Darwinism does not support going from more complex to less complex organisms, in general. This is especially true for complex biological systems like brains. Darwnists must explain how complex brains can be built from simpler parts through a long sequence of likely mutations. 

And more:

Here’s how the article ends:

The fossil supports the idea that once a basic brain design had evolved, it changed little over time[Translation: ID is completely correct!!!], he explained. Instead, peripheral components such as the eyes, the antennae and other appendages, sensory organs, etc., underwent great diversification and specialized in different tasks but all plugged into the same basic circuitry. “It is remarkable how constant the ground pattern of the nervous system has remained for probably more than 550 million years,” Strausfeld added. “The basic organization of the computational circuitry that deals, say, with smelling, appears to be the same as the one that deals with vision, or mechanical sensation.”

Yet another problem.

Problem #3: Darwinism does not work if organisms are observed to remain changeless and static over time. Darwinism requires change over time from simple to complex. Backwards change or no change falsifies Darwinism.

Read the whole post.

It’s just another prediction of Darwinian orthodoxy falsified by experimental evidence published in the top scientific peer-reviewed journal. Will this cause Darwinians to revise their theory to fit the evidence? Not likely. Their motivations for clinging to naturalism, the religion that undergirds Darwinism, are entirely beyond correction by evidence.

I wonder what people like P.Z. Myers and Larry Moran do when their religion comes into conflict with scientific evidence? Do they bitterly cling to their mythology from the 19th century? Or do they adjust their worldview to be in line with the progress of science?

Let Richard Dawkins explain evolution and the role of evidence:

“My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” — p. 287, Blind Watchmaker” (1986)

Or Richard Lewontin:

“Our willingness to accept [naturalistic]  scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our own a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, not matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” (Richard Lewontin in New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, p. 28)

Last month, we saw a peer-reviewed published paper that falsified the Darwinian predictions about junk DNA. Recently, the Darwnists were proven wrong again about vestigial organs. Before that, we had another discovery of oxygen on the early Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks naturalistic origin of life scenarios. Did these scientific discoveries stop the worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by the Darwinian faithful? Of course not. And they don’t want to debate it with you, either.

Naturalists don’t want to have to explain why they are always believing things that are falsified by the progress of science. Naturalists fought the Big Bang tooth and nail, trying to save their eternal universe from the progress of science. Naturalists invented the now discredited oscillating model of the universe in order to “explain” the evidence for a cosmic beginning. Naturalists invented the unobservable, untestable multiverse to “explain” the cosmic fine-tuning. Unobservable aliens were posited in order to “explain” the origin of life so soon after the cooling of the Earth. Precursor fossils are invented without evidence in order to “explain” the Cambrian era explosion in biological complexity. And so on.

Evidence doesn’t matter to people who are motivated by naturalistic faith. Like belief in a flat-Earth, the delusion of naturalism is not accountable to scientific evidence. They believe what they want to believe. It’s not up for debate. For some people like Richard Dawkins, a prior lifestyle commitment makes theism (and the moral law!) an impossibility a priori. But rational people know that believing something just so that your actions are “justified” doesn’t make what you believe true.

Speaking of Richard Dawkins, if you haven’t seen the video of that coward being “Eastwooded” by William Lane Craig, here’s the link. Dr. Craig has obviously seen a lot of Clint Eastwood movies, and he manages to work in about a half-dozen Clint Eastwood lines into a careful philosophical and scientific refutation of Dawkins’ faith-based atheist delusions. I don’t mind if Dawkins wants to have his religious beliefs for comfort in the privacy of his home or church, but I don’t think that we should be making policy off of his subjective preferences. In the public square we need to be guided by public evidence – like the evidence from science.

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Are there any fossilized precursors to the Cambrian explosion?

Consider this article in the New York Times regarding the Cambrian explosion, which is one of the arguments for intelligent design from the sudden origin of all phyla in a brief period during the Cambrian era, with no precursors.

Excerpt:

Now, this once-worrisome gap in the fossil record is a period of intense interest to geologists as well as paleontologists. The former have even given it its own division in the geological timescale. The Ediacaran Period, from 635 to 542 million years ago, is the first new geological period to be named in more than a century. Moreover, geologists have developed some intriguing theories about how dramatic changes in the Earth’s climate and chemistry during the Ediacaran may have allowed for the evolution of animals.

[...]The Ediacaran fossil record thus stretches the origins of animals to well before the Cambrian Explosion.

Are the Ediacaran fossils precursors to the many different phyla that appear suddenly in the Cambrian explosion?

Jonathan McLatchie of Evolution News responds:

I, for one, am at a loss as to why Carroll and his fellow evolutionary theorizers find this sort of argumentation to be a convincing rebuttal to the Cambrian challenge to Darwin’s theory. Far from resolving Darwin’s dilemma, the presence of precambrian softbodied organisms — particularly the sponge embryos — only serves to deepen it and make the problem far worse. Darwinists want to have it both ways: “The conditions of the Cambrian were not suitable for the preservation of softbodied organisms so we shouldn’t expect to see the immediate precursors to the Cambrian fauna. Oh, and by the way, did we mention that the Cambrian wasn’t really an explosion at all because we have found soft bodied organisms in the Ediacaran assemblages, including the Cnidaria and even sponge embryos?”

At any rate, as discussed in some detail here, the Ediacaran fauna are not generally thought to be ancestral to the modern phyla which appear explosively in the Cambrian radiation. The presence of these organisms, therefore, should offer no comfort to Darwinists. As Peter Ward has observed in On Methuselah’s Trail: Living Fossils and the Great Extinctions, “[L]ater study cast doubt on the affinity between these ancient remains preserved in sandstones and living creatures of today; the great German paleontologist A. Seilacher, of Tübingen University, has even gone so far as to suggest that the Ediacaran fauna has no relationship whatsoever with any currently living creatures. In this view, the Ediacaran fauna was completely annihilated before the start of the Cambrian fauna.” (p. 36)

This is worth reading for the people who want to understand how naturalists respond to ID arguments regarding sudden origin of all major forms of life 543 million years ago in the fossil record. Darwinists have to explain the origin of life and the origin of phyla. It does no good for them to talk about whales and horses when that’s not where the action is.

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