The Evolution Revolution

EvolutionRevolutionSuggested by Brad Nelson • Dr. Spetner offers compelling evidence that current data does not support the theory of common descent which is central to neo-Darwinism. Instead, the data supports an entirely different theory. Dr. Spetner shows how the data supports an alternative theory — the Nonrandom Evolutionary Hypothesis (NREH).
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13 Responses to The Evolution Revolution

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of the unexpected perks of running this site is receiving free books for review. Dr. Spetner’s publicist was kind enough to forward a hard cover version of Spetner’s new book, “The Evolution Revolution.” I look forward to reading it.

    I haven’t finished his first book. But it’s clear the Dr. Spetner is not a proponent of Intelligent Design. And yet what he is forwarding is the theory of “non-random” evolution. I think when we get past the semantics (and, good god, one surely understand why any sane scientist in this day and age doesn’t want to bring god into the picture) we might find there is little practical difference between “non-random” and “Intelligent Design.”

    I believe the core of his argument is the preponderance of so-called “convergent evolution.” It’s about the same nearly exact designs showing up again and again, and in species who are not (via the neo-Darwinian common descent theory) even remotely related.

    When I read more, I should be able to sum up this better and let you know whether this is a must-read book or not.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I received a free copy of this book for review from Dr. Spetner’s publicist. And he’s bugged me at least once to get going on it. So I will.

    Having read about 5 or 6 books regarding the subject fairly recently, I admit to being a little burnt out on the topic. But I have begun to take this book up and am about 1/3 into it. So let this be a sort-of review and I’ll add to it as I go if needed.

    First off, is this book for you? Well, I’m not particularly fond of Mr. Spetner’s writing style. He’s a little more opaque and not quite as logically organized as I would prefer.

    But the early part of this book gives a hard-hitting refutation of Neo-Darwinism. No, he doesn’t go into detail (yet) on why. But his summary is consistent with the books that do (such as those by Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, John Lennox, and Michael Behe).

    Long story short, suffice it to say the New-Darwinism is dead. Dr. Spetner is surely correct when he writes about random point mutations and DNA:

    No process is known through which the required information could have been built up.

    Period. Game, set, match. .That’s all you need to know. And Dr. Spetner is brilliant in his apt dismissal of Neo-Darwinism as a bunch of story-telling.

    The weak part of this book (at least so far) is that he’s basically saying that the evolution of species that we see can be explained via non-random changes in DNA…basically epigenetics. And it’s not that I disagree with this analysis. Surely there is a lot of that going on. And I would wager that it dwarfs any of the truly small and relatively insignificant changes that come about via natural selection.

    But the problem of this line of reasoning is one he readily admits: He doesn’t know how this complex system (one that can re-program itself to meet an organism’s changing environment) ever could have arisen in the first place.

    Kudos to anyone who takes a wrecking ball to Neo-Darwinism, a theory that is 19 parts the scientific equivalent of Jihad and one part fact. Be the real crux of the matter is where these complex systems came from in the first place. He may later on in the book give a nod to intelligent design. But, really, this book should have been brave enough to come to this conclusion in the first place rather than straddling a fence. And if non-random (as he calls it) evolution does occur, then spiffy. But this only adds to the mystery.

    What we see in the DNA is one incredibly complex and thought-out program. As Dr. Spetner notes:

    These elements [transposons…integrated systems of proteins and nucleic acids that re-write and re-interpret, on the fly, genetic information] are the most abundant component of the human genome. They have been found to make up more than 42% of the human genome (Smitt 1999). Compare this abundance to that of the protein-encoding DNA, which makes up less than 1% of the human genome.

    Remember: Neo-Darwninists wanted to dismiss most of this DNA as “junk” DNA. But what we are seeing here is likely an incredibly complex program with a mere 1% of the DNA code itself being the equivalent of a computer’s boot or OS ROM — the hard-wired part of the system (but a relatively small part indeed).

    Not only that, but as Dr. Spetners notes:

    Moreover, the type of repetitive DNA is specific to each category of organism, differing from one category to another — differing even more than do the protein-coding portions of the DNA.

    In other words, all that talk about chimps and humans differing only by 3% (or whatever the figure is) in their DNA is meaningless. There is so much more going on than that.

    One can sympathize with Dr. Spetner, or any honest scientist, for hitting this very weird boundary: Materialism is kaput and more and more our world (and ourselves) will require something other than the known “laws of nature” to explain the most amazing thing in nature: life. No one has a real grip on this amazing state of affairs yet.

  3. GHG says:

    Fascinating!

    Thank you sir for staying on top of this subject and presenting an unbiased assessment of the material you research and review. Well done and much appreciated.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thank you, Mr. Lesser. I’m glad you’re appreciating this.

      One of the vital elements that Dr. Spetner notes is that no one has ever seen natural selection add information to the genome (apart, as Behe and others have noted, a few mutations in the malaria bug…mutations well within Behe’s probability-based “edge of evolution” calculations). Apart from that, it has ever has only degraded it (as was illustrated in an extensive study done on dog breeding, which I had linked to this site earlier in some article).

      He doesn’t go so far as to re-quote Lynn Margulis who said that Neo-Darwinism will eventually be seen as, “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon Biology.” But clearly Spetner is on the side that sees Neo-Darwinism as a bunch of oft-told stories repeated inside a circle-jerk of like-minded scientific zealots until it becomes a mass of heavy, and seemingly real, dogma. He doesn’t use that language, but it’s clear he sees what is going on. It’s ideology, not evidence, driving Neo-Darwinism.

      But I can understand the odd position this puts anyone in. First of all, to reject the obviously weak and dogma-centered cult of Neo-Darwinism takes a brave individual in today’s anything-but-free-thinking scientific climate. He gets full marks for that.

      But we’re all left scratching our heads as we try to come to grips with the seeming fact that the problem of life is one of information, not the playing out of the rote laws of physics. Life is not mere chemistry.

      So where does that information come from? Well, my hat is off to Stephen Meyer for playing the role of the leader who has indeed taken many arrows for coming to the only logical conclusion: an intelligent agency designed life.

      And given the truly kooky things many people believe about God (see the recent incident in France, for instance), I certainly understand the squeamishness any scientist or writer would have with asserting any kind of intelligent agent. When science decided to throw away all but the mathematically quantifiable aspects of reality, this worked very well, and continues to work well. This materialist view has proven itself in one dimension of reality.

      But it is not the only dimension of reality. We now face another dimension and nobody has much of a firm idea how this will all work. Does one go to church or pray in order to understand how the information became encoded as is did in DNA?

      That said, Dr. Spetner makes an excellent argument about how one need not have a better explanation in hand in order to show that the current one is full of holes and insufficient. As for what comes next, who knows?

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m now about 55% into this book. The gist of it is Dr. Spetner’s “Nonrandom Evolutionary Hypothesis.” To me it is nothing extraordinary or controversial. He’s simply saying that is sure seems as if life is pre-programmed with the ability to change and can do so rapidly.

    He continually notes, however, that the expression of this change adds no information to the genome. That is, as he says about the theory of mutations/natural selection as well, even if this theory were true, it would add no knew information to the genome (epigenetic or otherwise) and thus (and this he stresses repeatedly) whatever evolution we see (or theorize — either his NREH or mutations/natural selection) give no support for the crucial and central theory of Neo-Darwinism which is common descent.

    I wish he would articulate this point a little better. But there is more of the book to go.

    In essence (and this is my summation of all that I’ve read, not Dr. Spetner’s summation, but it includes some of his information and theories) it would sure seem that life (or this universe) is a put-up job as David Berlinski has written. Again, this is my summation, but it would appear that someone at the beginning of the Cambrian Explosion created several programs, each program being one of the “phylum” that defines a major type of life. And in the initial genome of the phyla is all the programming and hard-wired information to evolve either a mouse or a man, a guppy or a whale shark. Much variation is allowed, but there are also hard-wired boundaries inside each phylum: A worm can never evolve into a mouse, for instance, thus the central idea of Neo-Darwinism — common decent — is false (which means man indeed did not evolve from worms or slugs, although me might surely have evolved from the Chordata phylum).

    All the evolution that we see (first-hand or in the fossil record) is merely an expression of this program. It is not the cause itself. That is, none of the evolution we see (except in extremely rare cases, such as malaria acquiring some immunity) adds any information to the genome. It’s an effect, not a cause.

    Also (again, this is my summation, not Dr. Spetner’s) the entire purpose of Neo-Darwinism was to give atheism legitimacy. Like global warming, it has become sort of a kooky religion of the Left.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A minor point: I believe the plural of “phylum” is “phyla”. (Isaac Asimov once told the story of a Latin teacher who complained about being attacked by two hoodla.)

  5. GHG says:

    Another book debunking neo-Darinism isn’t getting closer to answering the questions, but it hopefully adds to the inertia of pushing nonsense aside in favor of real scientific research. I have my doubts that the origin of life will ever be proven within our existance, but real progress can be made in understanding so much more of life if the blinders are removed by those who are searching.

    I look forward to your next report on Dr. Spetner’s book.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Mr. Lesser, I’ve having a lot of fun with this. What is more fun than a good mystery? I love Hercule Perot, for instance. And the origin of life is certainly one of the largest mysteries going.

      The very next chapter in the book that I am to read is “Punctuated Equilibrium.” I supposed I should read it before commenting, but I have read a bit or two about this idea before. Stephen J. Gould (Marxist though he was) was at least honest enough to admit that the fossil record did not show a slew of intermediate “transitional” species as expected by Neo-Darwinism. Instead, it showed a sudden appearance of a species — with changes through time — and then the species looking pretty much like it did at the start upon exiting the fossil record.

      This is why Gould came up with his theory of “punctuated equilibrium” because it sure did look as if species appeared fast and out of nowhere….and then stayed pretty much to form. This, of course, put a nail in the coffin of the entire idea of Neo-Darwinism. But because Gould, along with most others in his profession, were politically, socially, and religiously committed to atheism/materialism, the best they could do was construct various sub-theories, including “punctuated equilibrium.”

      What clearly is going on is that there is some driving influence other than natural selection via random mutation. Anyone with half a mind can see that random mutations do not have the power to create such complexity. Fortunately, I’m not committed either to atheism or a strict theism, so I’m free to interpret as I see the evidence (what is often called “free-thinking” by the conceited and blinkered Left, who are anything but free thinkers).

      There are aspects of this where it indeed looks as if an Intelligent Designer is running a glorified ant farm. It seems as if seeds have been planted and left to sprout as they will. The initial “garden” was the Cambrian explosion. Left to be explained in this rough analogy is the 3 billion years or so before the Cambrian explosion when there was only (until the very end) single-celled blue-green algae.

      That is, of course, an incredible complex form of life. But if the idea of “kinds” (as expressed in the various phyla) is true (that is, that plenty of evolutionary ability is built into any one phylum, but only within an overall body plan or rough archetype) then the single-celled blue-green algae did not, for whatever reason, have the ability to evolve into anything else. If there was an Intelligent Designer, we might wonder why he dabbled with this single-celled life form before planting the full garden.

      This kind of speculation is going to sound extremely strange — even goofy — to those indoctrinated in materialism. But this free-thinker acknowledges that life is an information problem, not one of slow, gradual changes via supposed random mutations. I see no scenario whatsoever in which single random mutations can do anything but degrade existing information  — with the exception of those cases where Behe’s “edge of evolution” allows chance to work in the favor of two mutations happening at one time to build some new and useful genetic thing. And this is so because, in the case of malaria, for example, the populations are so huge and the reproduction rates so fast. Given this reality, it’s even easier to understand how point mutations are worthless for any normal species, such as rabbits, worms, mites, fish, or just about anything else — those things with relatively small populations and relatively long reproduction periods.

      There is likely more that we don’t know about the genetic program (which exists inside of DNA and in and of the cellular machinery). It’s certainly possible that the origin of life will never be proven. But we do have this wondrous biological program that we can decode. We should eventually be able to reverse engineer it, if you will, in order to see that this thing is indeed a well-thought-out program that never could be the result of blind chance.

      What this can tell us about the designer and his methods, who knows? But we might indeed fill in some gaps and get an idea for how this played out in the overall. But as Stephen Meyer notes, until people start seeing the problem as one of information — and not simply chemistry — they will be constrained in what they are able to see.

      • GHG says:

        Mr Nelson, (btw my Mother’s maiden name – maybe we’re related 🙂 ) – without meaning to sound like a kiss up before the teacher – have you ever thought of writing a book on the subject. Kind of synthesizing what you’ve gleaned from the books you’ve read and filling in the gaps with your own deductions and hypotheses. Your unbiased approach can differentiate from those with an agenda. Your writing style is engaging enough to hold attention and the topic is certainly interesting for those interested.

        Just an idea. If you sell lots of books and become a millionaire you can send me a thank you (large bills preferred 🙂 )

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    have you ever thought of writing a book on the subject. Kind of synthesizing what you’ve gleaned from the books you’ve read and filling in the gaps with your own deductions and hypotheses.

    Thanks, Mr. Lesser. And in regards to names, I’m actually a Kraut not a Scandinavian. My grandfather was adopted. His father (Mr. Falk) was killed by lightning while out plowing his fields in North Dakota. Either that or it’s a family story to cover the fact he was killed by revenue agents on a bootleg run. 😉 But such lightning strikes were, and probably still are, fairly common.

    I prefer the free-form style of writing, thus this website. But I’ll keep a book in mind. And if I really thought that “objective” would sell in this world, I might do so. But the big sales belong to the ideologues like Dawkins.

    Speaking of which, I give Dr. Spetner high marks for doing some forthright Dawkins bashing. Frankly, at this point regarding the topic of life and genetics, unless you are being contrary to Dawkins, your work is probably wrong. Much like John Lennox or David Berlinski, Dr. Spetner is not afraid in the least to give the zealous ideologue, Dawkins, a good rhetorical tongue lashing.

    Regarding the chapter on punctuated equilibrium, Dr. Spetner articulated one of his main criticisms of Neo-Darwinism via his harsh and often funny critique of the bizarrely inane and somewhat juvenile rationalization that Neo-Darwinists have dredged up called “convergent evolution.”

    As Dr. Spetner says, instead of seeing so-called “convergent evolution” (similar traits in completely different species) as a contradiction of common descent (perhaps THE main ideological assumption and dogma of Neo-Darwinism), the Neo-Darwinists profess that similar traits in vastly different species is evidence for their theory of common descent.

    I forget at the moment how this argument kinda-sorta flows out of, or alongside, punctuated equilibrium. But Spetner’s overall critique of “convergent evolution” goes something like this: For Neo-Darwinism to work, there must be a lot of advantageous mutations from which natural selection can choose. You couldn’t climb “Mt. Improbable,” for instance (as Dawkins calls it), if you didn’t have a lot of mutations to choose from. To build any complex biological thing via the theory of Neo-Darwinism (actually it’s more of a “story,” as Dr. Spetner notes, because theories demand hard data, which Neo-Darwinism does not have), you need lots and lots of small mutational steps. And it’s a reach to think that the only mutations that natural selection would have to choose from were the very ones to keep it climbing right on course up that mountain toward some new feature and not some other useful feature.

    So, for Neo-Darwinism to work, you need a lot of mutations that are advantageous in some way. And not all of them are going to build the same thing. After all, as Neo-Darwinists admit (and this this crucial to their theory), evolution cannot “look ahead” under their theory.

    So if you have a lot of useful mutations to choose from, then (if you sort of plot the dots on the graph after the fact), there will be one circuitous route to whatever evolutionary feature (eyes, nose, mouth, whatever) that you have built. And the path will be so long and circuitous that you couldn’t possibly take that same route again by chance.

    And yet life is chock full of instances where very similar features exist in completely different creatures. One of them is the working of the ear in mammals compared to (and I forget which exact species) a particular insect that has much the same thing. But if all life has descended from a single source, then Neo-Darwinism theory demands that you’ll have some coherent “tree of life” wherein creatures with similar features are obviously closely related.

    But in the real world, there is (as Dr. Spetner notes) no coherent tree of life. (You can build about as many different trees as you want, depending upon what characteristic you choose…morphology, genetics, whatever. But there is no one logical tree that can be constructed as the theory of common descent demands.) What you have are strikingly similar features existing in seemingly quite distantly-related species…such as echo location in bats and in dolphins.

    Well, if one is a blind dogmatist, nothing can contradict the dogma. So you either have to shut someone up (as the Church tried to do to Galileo) or you call obvious contradictions of your theory something that supports that theory. In this case the dogmatic Neo-Darwinists call it “convergent evolution.” And I’m getting the impression that Neo-Darwinists are starting to become a laughing stock amongst other scientists for their obvious bias and bad science. Certainly Dr. Spetner gives them no deference, and at times he’s as fun to read in this regard as Lennox or Berlinski.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Hard evidence is difficult to come by for any evolutionary theory, but it’s fair to point out the lack for those who denounce anyone who disagrees with them as anti-science. I will say that Dawkins is at least interesting as a student of natural history (as was Gould), regardless of what you think of his theories.

      Incidentally, I actually witnessed (more or less) someone being struck (and killed) by lightning, back in the spring of 1961. Someone (I think my sister) was in the kitchen, in the back of our house, and noticed 2 kids crossing a field (between the houses on our street and some sort of country club with a pool) in the middle of a storm. We came back to watch, and they were in fact struck (it seems they were somehow in contact at the moment). Medical help was called in; in the end, one lived and one died.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Hard evidence is difficult to come by for any evolutionary theory

        One thing Dr. Spetner is nailing these guys on is not doing any sort of statistical analysis of the probability of their theory, among other weaknesses. He’s not the first to mention that Neo-Darwinism is little more than a bunch of stories the get told so often, that people begin to take them for real.

        As far as what I think of Dawkins’ theories, Dr. Spetner doesn’t dignify them with calling Neo-Darwinism a theory. And I have to admit, I think’s he’s right on. It’s become like global warming. If it’s cooler, it’s because of global warming. If it’s warmer, it’s because of global warming. It’s the same thing regarding Neo-Darwinism. Contrary evidence is taken as evidence for the theory. And thus you don’t really have a scientific theory if it can’t be falsified.

        It’s time we take the gloves off and move past this faux-gentlemanly veneer of granting Dawkins & company the sort of usual deference one would give because any aspect of science, to some extent, is provisional. These guys have entered quackdom.

        But it’s necessary that Neo-Darwinism be maintained because it is the main plank bolstering their atheistic-materialist view of the world. And that is really what this is all about from their point of view, not how life actually came to be, in all its forms.

        Lightning is some heap powerful stuff.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finished this book this morning. I must say, the further I went into the book, the more I liked it. I will give it a “buy” recommendation with the caveat that you should read Behe’s “Edge of Evolution,” Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell,” Jonathan Wells’ “Icons of Evolution,” and John Lennox’s “God’s Undertaker” first.

    That’s a tall order, of course. So if you want to skip ahead a little, buy Dr. Spetner’s book and skip right to the epilogue which is an excellent summation of at least his book, and the sorry state of Neo-Darwinism. I would reproduce a few paragraphs of it here, but the review copy I received was in hardback. Had I received an electronic edition, reviewing the book in more detail would have been much easier.

    Because there is so much information and misinformation out there in the culture at large, I aim to be particularly impartial regarding this subject. But I must say, it is three cheers for Dr. Spetner for a decidedly non-namby-pamby refutation of Neo-Darwinism which he doesn’t even dignify with the title of “theory” but calls it “a collection of stories.” I couldn’t agree more.

    In summary, this is not a refutation of evolution, per se. But as Dr. Spetner notes, in the culture at large, “evolution” is commonly understood to mean “common descent,” which is the central aspect of Darwinism. Time after time Dr. Spetner notes there isn’t one unambiguous grain of evidence for common descent, although there are minor aspects of “natural selection” that may well come into play.

    Dr. Spetner’s primary thrust in this book is to assert that things do evolve (as they obviously do) but that the only evolution we have ever seen involves the adding of no new information, thus (for one thing) the idea of common descent has no factual support, including the idea that random mutations can add information (and thus be a driving influence). Spetner asserts that life has the in-built ability to change, including heritable changes (which apparently have been commonly observed).

    If Spetner was any harsher to Neo-Darwnism (and to Dawkins in particular), it would require him to walk across the room and give him a wedgy. Neo-Darwinism is rightly dismissed as the dogma-based pseudo-religion that it is. Spetner advocates a return to an actual investigation of life. As it is now, every discovery made is shoe-horned in and said to be yet another proof of Neo-Darwinism.

    In his closing comments, Spetner shows himself to be no particular friend of Creationists (as commonly understood, or misunderstood…see Lennox for a good discussion of this) or Intelligent Design (which he doesn’t seem to give much mention to — there is no mention of any of the work by Meyer, for example). It’s hard to say there are major failings to a book that thrashes Neo-Darwinism and Dawkins so completely. And yet Spetner makes scant mention of the ideological battle that is the true underpinning of Darwinism nor the obvious limits that materialism is likely reaching. (But when he does, they are particularly good comments.) He is in the midst of this battle, and lands many fine punches. But at the end all he has to say about any other mode of thought regarding life is that “It’s not science.”

    Well, yes, there are likely aspects of intelligent design (and other aspects of reality or lines of inquiry) that are not a function of quantitative measurement. But “science,” proper, didn’t used to be confined to the radically material. And had he read any of Stephen Meyer’s books, he should have picked up the idea that intelligent design is at least a type of historical science.

    Still, give Spetner his due. To confront the pseudo-science of Neo-Darwinism that is as politically and religiously driven as global warming is a brave act. I get the feeling that Dr. Spetner is making it safer for the next crop of scientists to do something startling: to examine the actual evidence and form their own theories instead of having to frame (for the sake of one’s career) everything as proof of Darwinism.

    Still, I would recommend that Dr. Spetner realize that there is far more than science that underpins this entire subject. And many of his fine words go toward defining, here and there, some of the ideological or metaphysical issues which are at the core of this. Darwinism is so weak that it can only be propped up by dogmatism. As Spetner writes:

    The claim that Common Descent is well established is what Darwinists like to call the scientific basis of the proposition that the origin of life was a purely natural phenomenon, sometimes called naturalism. It forms the basis of the evangelical atheistic agenda of Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and their ilk. It is, today, the theoretical basis of atheism. Richard Dawkins (1986) wrote that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. On what a pitifully weak basis does his atheism rest!

    Surely Dr. Spetner is right that built into life (to some extent, no one knows how much) is the ability to evolve. But left a mystery is the source of all that information to begin with. There is no known natural cause that could collect it there. As Stephen Meyer notes, the only cause we know of with that ability is intelligence. Therefore I recommend this book not entirely on its own — a refutation of Neo-Darwinism is only part of the answer.

    We’re at this queer and weird crossroads in science where materialism itself seems to be hitting a dead end, at least regarding the most important and interesting things (life, the origin of the universe). Such things do not present themselves amenable to materialist answers. Kudos to Dr. Spetner for so thoroughly thrashing Darwinism and exposing some of the juvenile impulses behind it. He, along with Stephen Meyer, give a couple avenues of inquiry that are outside the dead-end of Neo-Darwinism. And, perhaps most important, books such as this are breaking the dogmatically constipated roadblock of thinking that has hindered scientific progress.

    And no matter how many times the Left and materialist scientists repeat the word, “Galileo,” it is unlikely they will see themselves as the equivalent of the constricting Pope. But they are.

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