Icons of Evolution

IconsOfEvolutionSuggested by Brad Nelson • Wells’ book describes the many serious misrepresentations of facts commonly found in biology textbooks used to perpetuate belief in evolution. The book describes ten of these icons, devoting one chapter to each, and shows what is wrong with them in the light of published scientific evidence.
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23 Responses to Icons of Evolution

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I haven’t read this yet beyond the short Kindle sample section. But central to understanding of neo-Darwinism is understanding just how much of it is a marketing campaign, and one that is based largely upon conjecture and creative story-telling — and more than a few outright fabrications.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      To be fair, I’ve also read some Darwinians claim that this isn’t entirely reliable either. But they do concede that the Haeckel diagrams were wrong — and those were used in texts within living memory. (I may have encountered them myself, though I don’t recall — I took biology in the 9th grade.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One of the difficulties of dealing with this whole issue is that no matter what facts, evidence, or logic you bring to the issue, there is some monkey ready on his Darwinist keyboard to randomly present you with a refutation.

        This is so much the case that it appears to me that neo-Darwinism is predicated on creative story-telling, fudging, and sometimes outright fabrication in order to keep itself going. Even according to Gould, there is a lot of self-censoring involved. It is clear now that the fossil record does not support gradualism, as Stephen Jay Gould has noted. And yet (as he also noted), this is generally just shrugged off. People in the profession will typically decline to publish work that refutes the central dogmas of neo-Darwinism. (And there is obvious peer-pressure not to.)

        Those inside and outside of science have become very practiced at story-telling. So “to be fair,” we must take an overall look at the landscape, at neo-Darwinism, at ID ideas, and most importantly at the machinery of life itself.

        It’s striking that even neo-Darwinism’s central tenet of variation created by mutations is nearly null-and-avoid. Variation exists with or without mutations. Natural selection can surely tend to reinforce variations that aid in survival (and thus in reproduction), as can things such as selective breeding. But as other authors have stated, you don’t need Darwin to make this common-sense statement. Nor does Darwinism have a plausible mechanism to build these variations to begin with. Gradualism is out for various reasons, including irreducible complexity.

        And as Meyer and Behe, in particular, have noted, mutations have been shown to almost always be destructive. Behe refers to this phenomenon as “scorched earth tactics” as in the breaking of some function — such as crippling aspects of hemoglobin — leads to partial or complete immunity to some pathogen. But there is no evidence (beyond some trivial examples that Behe mentions) that mutations are in any way creative. They just mess with existing machinery. And that machinery is already churning out variations with or without mutations.

        The fossil record complete refutes the idea of gradualism. The best neo-Darwinists can do is sort of “play house,” taking this figure and arranging it over by that figure and then making up stories about their relationships. Behe is of the mind that genetic research confirms the common descent of life. But the actual building of these cladistic trees is seemingly a somewhat arbitrary pastime. And if natural processes can’t account for the information content of life forms, then the alternative is indeed some kind of designer. And if this is true, the genetic similarities between widely different species could be understood as simply using the same basic tools. Indeed, there are many genes that seem to fit this description.

        It’s truly a clusterfuck in terms of finding any kind of logical descent of species, of building a “tree of life,” which is why they fudge those charts and why, as Glenn pointed out in one of his articles, that they have to resort to such absurd techniques as explaining evolution via various models of Corvette.

        Another extremely vital point that I ran into in Lennox’s “God’s Undertaker” is that, despite the outer appearances of species, the inner workings of the cell — whether talking the eukaryotic (us) or prokaryotic (bacteria) is that these cells not only share most of the same mechanisms but the cells themselves do not differ much across vast species and particularly phylums. Where’s the gradualism? Where’s the undirected, mindless development? Why does it all pretty much look the same on the inside?

        And as Behe noted in “The Edge of Evolution,” the greatest experiment ever undertaken in terms of trying to catch evolution in action has been the malaria parasite, E Coli, and the AIDS virus. Despite the equivalent (compared to, say, mammals) tens or hundreds of millions of years of reproduction, mutations, etc. (given their short reproduction cycles and vast populations), not one bit of new function has ever been seen to have been created. Not one. And when mutation does give some benefit, it has almost always been by destroying or degrading some existing feature.

        What I’ve come to understand, Timothy, is that not only does your rank and file Darwinian apologist know little about evolution, but the same is true of many scientists. Think of all those who have been programmed to believe in global warming. It’s the same thing.

        And what actually carries the day (thus far) for neo-Darwinists are two things: One, they are motivated to prove their atheism/materialism worldview (perhaps best thought of as a fundamentalist religion) and/or to not let one ounce of non-materialism in the door. That is to say, the “science” is highly ideologically driven.

        And, two, because evolution on the scale of the micro is true and easily shown, everyone just assumes that this is how all life changed and came into being. And yet there is not one scrap of unambiguous hard evidence to show for this theory on the macro scale. (And, by the way, Behe’s book, “The Edge of Evolution,” is to a large extent about determining where the division is between micro and macro…the exact boundary still to be determined).

        So neo-Darwinists are left grasping at straws, telling stories, contriving data, and even forging data. Today it is supposed “junk DNA,” tomorrow it is the supposed many “vestigial” aspects of life, the next day it is something else. But never is it concrete evidence, or even a serious and sound logical argument, for their neo-Darwinian theory.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          In fact, the creationist museum people in northern Kentucky have pointed out that natural selection as a concept predated Darwin, and even identify the scientists who came up with it as a creationist (though this may simply reflect that most biologists were before Darwin, it does bring up the fact that natural selection and micro-evolution are quite compatible with creationism).

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            it does bring up the fact that natural selection and micro-evolution are quite compatible with creationism).

            Here’s what Behe says about “Creationism” in “The Edge of Evolution”:

            Instead, I conclude that another possibility is more likely: The elegant, coherent, functional systems upon which life depends are the result of deliberate intelligent design. Now, I am keenly aware that in the past few years many people in the country have come to regard the phrase “intelligent design” as fighting words, because to them, the word “design” is synonymous with “creationism,” and thus opens the door to treating the Bible as some sort of scientific textbook (which would be silly). That is an unfortunate misimpression. The idea of intelligent design, although congenial to some religious views of the universe, is independent of them. For example, the possibility of intelligent design is quite compatible with common descent, which some religious people disdain. What’s more, although some religious thinkers envision active, continuing intervention in nature, intelligent design is quite compatible with the view that the universe operates by unbroken natural law, with the design of life perhaps packed into its initial set-up.

            Lennox has some similar cogent remarks in his books. It matters what one means by “Creationism.” Darwinists almost always disingenuously shadow-box with the “Creationism” that insists the earth is 6500 years old. But “Creationism” as used by Behe, Lennox, Meyer and others simply means a generic Creator.

            I would say that my studies on the subject have led me to believe that a designer is a much more plausible explanation for the complex systems of life than any kind of gradualism. This is based primarily on two things:

            1) The odds of creating one complex protein by chance (let alone an entire system of them, along with DNA) are far too long.

            2) If chance is ruled out, then for a materialist view to still hold one must appeal to “necessity” — that is, given reasonable time, the laws of chemistry and physics are enough to account for the complexity we see inside the cell (not to mention the complex multi-cellar systems such as the immune system) and would necessarily lead to such a thing as surely as water turns to ice as the temperature drops.

            With those two possibilities eliminated, that leaves only one option left: intentionality. And if this is so, this does not prove anyone’s religion, although it certainly doesn’t undermine a monotheistic one and it certainly does undermine the religion of Atheism.

            If Behe hangs around long enough (he’s 62), he will likely write another, even more definitive, book as new evidence is gathered. The idea of “junk DNA” has largely been debunked, although the precise function, if any, of much of that DNA is not known. But I think it’s plausible that it is part of the cell’s operating system. We already know that vast amounts of this “junk DNA” codes not for proteins but for RNA which functions as a regulatory agent in the cell. Only a relatively tiny bit of the DNA actually codes for proteins. There are, among proteins and RNA, seemingly complex networks within complex networks. And it’s not pressing credulity to suppose we will find more. That initial idea that the cell was just a mass of amorphous “protoplasm” couldn’t have been more wrong.

            And as Behe, Lennox, and others have noted, appealing to a designer is not a “god of the gaps argument” because intelligent agent ideas actually flow forth from the current scientific evidence, not despite it.

    • David Ray says:

      Lord Nelson.
      This book is also mentioned in “Unlocking the Mysteries of Life” DVD. What’s amusing is another book is mentioned in that DVD titled “Chemical Evolution”. The author no longer stands by his book, yet it still gets 5 star reviews by people who seem to be ignorant of that fact.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        As noted, I enjoyed the video, “Unlocking the Mysteries of Life.” It’s a bargain to rent at $2.00.

        I found a book by Stephen F. Mason titled Chemical Evolution. I’m not sure if that’s the one that you say is mentioned in “Unlocking the Mysteries of Life.” There’s also a book by Horst Rauchfuss titled Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life.

        And I was reading the Kindle sample of some very expensive biology book last night. One of the early chapters, of course, was about how life began. And instead of saying “We don’t know” the author gave a lot of very speculative baloney. But it sounded good because it touched on the usual icons (primordial soup, etc.).

        Even before reading Wells’ excellent “Icons of Evolution,” I knew that “proof” from the neo-Darwinian perspective was little more than a fluffy narrative of anecdotes, myths, and story-telling. This book confirmed it and certainly showed just how deep it goes. Wells gives Stephen Jay Gould a good whuppin’ as well. Gould, like so many scientists of today, lacked integrity…although he was one of the few who actually did point out some of the obvious problems of neo-Darwinism. But he was still in on the fix, having long known about the fraudulence of many of these “icons” and never bothering to speak up about them.

        Regarding chemical evolution, good luck with that. It’s difficult not to start from a naturalistic explanation of life, just as an assumption. But the idea of a purely chemical start to life looks to be extremely problematic.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I want to share these comments with all of you that I emailed to a friend. It’s generally on-topic regarding what is largely a cultural issue between the Left and Right, although the Left tries to bolster their side with the prestige of science and undermine the other side with constant tales of the woe of Galileo (another “icon” of evolution, in its own way). Well…

    I was reading the free Kindle sample portion of Galileo’s Daughter”” which is culled from the surviving letters from his daughter (shoved in a convent because Galileo was too cheap to pay a dowry) to Galileo. (The ones from Galileo to his daughter do not survive.) And it occurred to me: What a dirt bag. For instance, he was perturbed at having to wear the standard university uniform because the author said it would interfere with his whoring. Yeah, some “rebel” he was.

    Galileo had three children with a woman he wouldn’t marry because she was of “a lower class” even though his “nobility” was marginal, at best, the family long having fallen on mediocre times. He kept her in a separate house.

    No wonder he’s the darling of the Left. The moral of the story is: Be as vile, obnoxious, and disrespectful as you want. It’s your right to do so without consequences.

    I doubt I’ll buy this book. It seems well-written but there is little appealing about the central character. It’s from the same author who did the renowned (but, in my opinion, somewhat boring) “Longitude.”

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    Plutarch wrote a series of character studies (Parallel Lives ) in which he compared and contrasted the virtues of two relative contemporaries. Of course, the idea of doing such a study now would no doubt produce cries of derision, but morality and virtue in his day still held currency. One might compare and contrast Edmund Burke and Jean Jacques Rousseau and find that their respective ideologies (The Father of Conservatism and The Great Liberal Turning Point) led them to totally divergent lives. Burke was a formidable thinker with a great love of family life and tradition, while Rousseau sired a handful of children from a wanton — when she died, he turned them over to an orphanage. As they say, ideas have their consequences in the Valley of Soul.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Many years ago, I got a hardback edition of the complete (or at least complete surviving) Plutarch. Most interesting. I think more common editions only have the biographies, not the comparisons of the parallel lives.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One thing I like about John Lennox is that he appears to be congenitally honest. In his books he is more than willing to present the other side of the case. Yes, he does to in order to help refute it. But he seems to be taking the Aquinas approach, in spirit if not in actual detailed technique. Aquinas would, it is said, lay out the best possible argument he could think of for the case he was going to rebut. This is what we call “integrity,” a word that might not show up on many people’s spell-checkers these days.

      Compare that to the global warming zealots and Darwin zealots who tend to distort the picture, if not sometimes outright manufacture it. This is what is amazing about people such as Stephen Meyer, for example. He may ultimately be right or wrong in what he writes, but he does not seem to be trying to twist the truth. And that is the standard operating procedure of those on the side of Darwinism, just like you see regarding global warming. It’s a creepy type of Scientologist-like thinking.

      And I’d rather model myself on Lennox, Feynman, or Meyer, although I love to throw rhetorical bombs around too much to ever be mistaken for Meyer. But this brings us to the subject at hand: The falsification of the case of Galileo.

      According the Lennox (in one of his books), the most powerful opponent of Galileo’s astronomical views wasn’t a religious sentiment as much as it was a defense of the Aristotelian view of the universe, particularly by university types, not religious types. Galileo was actually chummy with the man who would become Pope Urban VIII. Galileo’s problem wasn’t so much religion trying to squash science as it was a powerful and prestigious man (the Pope) not able or willing to sit back while he is mocked in print by the acerbic and pompous Galileo. Even if you are right, try going up to your boss and telling him he’s a fool and an idiot if he doesn’t agree with you about some major point. That’s the equivalent of what Galileo did, and in a very public way.

      That’s not to say that there are not from time to time religious sentiments that act to try to squelch something. This is part of human nature no matter the endeavor. The same thing happens within science, by scientists, in regards to those who would publish or talk against the reining orthodoxies of Darwinism or global warming. And it would be as foolish and dishonest for me to blame science for this as it would be to blame religion for Galileo’s troubles. The desire to protect orthodoxies will be found wherever you do.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        More to the point, the desire to protect entrenched interests, which orthodoxies generally are, will bring out some very nasty characteristics of people.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        By and large, I consider myself a Darwinian, but this has become increasingly embarrassing due to their increasingly obvious intellectual dishonesty. (One of my favorites is the blatant lie that all the rest of biology depends on evolution. Apparently they think the science didn’t come into existence until 1859.)

  4. I review all over that I could file bankruptcy by myself. After doing a look for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, it all appears so intense. Appearantly, I assume I have to retain an attorney if I am considering filing chapter 13. Much appreciation . Bloodsaw

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    Actually, forget about Chapter 7. Better to toss back a glass of antifreeze with a Twinkie and rid the world of another feckless cur who cannot live within his means.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m 67 pages into this book, and so far it’s an exceptional read. I expected more of a Coulter-like polemic in terms of the various fraudulent “icons of evolution”‘ that Darwinists use to propagandize the masses and portray Darwinism as far more solid than it is. But you get a good bit of history and explanation as to what is wrong with these icons.

    So far I’ve done the “icon” of the Miller-Urey Experiment (which proved nothing that couldn’t have been proven in the laboratory of Young Frankenstein), Darwin’s “Tree of Life” (which is more like the “Tree of Hope” because it is based upon wishful thinking, not fact), and now I’m about halfway through the icon of “Homology in Vertebrate Limbs” which handles the idea (almost certainly false) that similarity in form means the proximity of common descent.

    An obscure friend sent me this book and it’s proving to be a good read thus far.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Dawkins has a modified tree of life in The Ancestor’s Tale (I think that’s the title), and I recalled that it was significantly different in some places from an earlier one in the superb natural history Animals Without Backbones.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finished reading this book this morning. You can put it high on your list of books to read in order to understand, in particular, the cultural issues surrounding neo-Darwinism.

    That is not to suggest that this book isn’t fact-filled. It’s because Jonathan Wells has done careful research on these 10 “icons of evolution” that his conclusions at the end of each chapter (and particularly the concluding chapter) carry so much weight. But the cultural issue is clear: Darwinism has becomes the means to both forward and worship the Church of Materialism.

    Lest Christians jump in too quickly to cheer, Wells’ prescription is not an equal and opposite dogmatism. His prescription is instead getting science back to letting the evidence take us where it will rather than pre-conceived ideas of how the world must be.

    Wells is a good writer and has an extraordinarily ordered mind. Much like Lennox, it is not a struggle to read his books. And he is tackling the subject in the best tradition of science, noting when these “icons of evolution” have something substantive to say. And also noting when they do not. (And also noting those icons which are outright frauds.)

    At the end of the book he takes up the idea of fraudulence vs. just self-deception. The peppered moth photo and Haeckel’s embryos are clear frauds. Wells says that most of the others lie somewhere between fraud and self-deception. Clearly the thread that ties all these “icons of evolution” together is story-telling (myth making) about Darwinism in place of actual hard facts and evidence (because they have very little of that). And it’s driven by a dogmatism and unhinged zealousness that is supposed to be foreign to science. Two quotes from the book sum this up:

    Professor Jay Losey, chair-elect of the Faculty Senate, confirmed Sloan’s assessment [of neo-Darwinists’ attitudes]: “If you dismiss or belittle evolution,” he said, “then you call into question the whole endeavor of modern science.”


    The NCSE tells school boards that “evolution isn’t scientifically controversial,” so “arguments against evolution” are “code words for an attempt to bring non-scientific, religious views into the science curriculum.”

    Aka “kooks.”

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    According to geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max Planck Institutes in Germany, you can scratch the dog as one of the icons of evolution: The Dog Delusion.

    Behe sums it but by saying:

    Dr. Lönnig shows forcefully that one of the chief examples Darwinists rely on to convince the public of macroevolution — the enormous variation in dogs — actually shows the opposite. Extremes in size and anatomy come at the cost of broken genes and poor health. Even several gene duplications were found to interfere strongly with normal growth and development as is also often the case in humans. So where is the evidence for Darwinian evolution now?

    The question still begs (as well as rolls over): Who is the designer? Why is he so silent about his handiwork? How much of the ability to evolve is built into the design? Why is so much of the design prone to being broken?

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a good overview article by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells: The Challenge of Adaptational Packages. It’s worth a read.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      An interesting article. Elaine Morgan in The Scars of Evolution (which I highly recommend) makes a similar analysis of the adaptations humans needed for bipedalism (which still aren’t perfected).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The body does wear out. But considering how efficient the human gait is, the ID argument would be it’s as perfect as engineering can achieve given the design limits. One of David Berlinki’s arguments against Darwinism is the perfection of species throughout nature. Try to build a better hummingbird, for example.

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