Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One Person's Evolution

I am starting to work on my book. I'm not working with an editor yet. I'm just gathering information and ideas. I am thinking my introduction may include something about myself. Since I wrote something out, I'll put it here:

When I read Michael Behe's first book, Darwin's Black Box (Touchstone, 1996), it was my introduction into Intelligent Design Theory. I was immediately taken by the fresh look at biology, and it made much sense. He talked about the concept of Irreducible Complexity to describe microbiological systems that all interact with each other. Without each part, the system loses its function. Then he asked how these complicated systems could evolve by the small steps that Darwinian evolution predicted. Charles Darwin had introduced that concept many years ago (in 1859) in his famous book, The Origin of Species. Starting with something very simple, Darwin said, the animal kingdom developed over time and became more complex.

After that, I gathered and read all I could about Intelligent Design Theory (ID). I have a science background (BS in animal science from Penn State and veterinary medicine degree from University of Penna.). I also earned a certificate in theology (Aquinas College, Grand Rapids). I had thought of applying for a master's degree in theology, but the programs I looked at had nothing to say about ID, and so I continued to study on my own. I remembered one professor at vet school had said their main focus was to teach us to teach ourselves. They figured they couldn't cover everything in four years, and they inspired us for life-long learning.

At first I thought of myself as an ID proponent, but started seeing their approach as different from my own. I recently realized that my stance does not quite fit into their movement, although I still truly admire some of the breakthroughs they have made and keep making. They are second to none when it comes to pointing out certain faulty thinking in today's biology scene. My blog reflects my enthusiasm for ID. But I think the Intelligent Design approach also has its faults, which I hope to clarify as I go along.

When I was in veterinary school, I liked physiology better than medicine but didn't want to work in a laboratory. I practiced for a while in various aspects of the field, but was discontent to the point where I stopped. I worked and volunteered in social justice concerns for our church and community for quite a few years. I joined a writing group with my husband and wrote a few fiction books (self-published on a very small scale). And then I started blogging.

I have written about various subjects, but I keep coming back to the issue of biological evolution and whether or where it truly has scientific evidence. I've actually written quite a bit already about that in my blog. I work to inform people of the complexity of life. I'm pretty slow but I'm persistent.

I've wondered many times in the past what my life plan actually is, but for some of us it doesn't fall into place so easily. Though plans can change over the years, I always ask God to guide mine as much as He will. It's been a very interesting journey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comparitive Genetics

There have been several long comment lists to posts about evolution at the First Thoughts blog of the magazine, First Things. I was happy to be able to contribute some comments. The first post is called "A Walk to the Moon" by Joe Carter. Then Dr. Stephen Barr presented more opinion in a subsequent post on First Thoughts blog called, "Re: A Walk to the Moon." Many have been related to evolution and the new discoveries being found in comparative genomics.

I had followed many of the ID arguments in the pages of First Things when Cardinal Christoph Schonborn and Dr. Stephen Barr were first exchanging their thoughts about design in nature. Cardinal Schonborn had written a letter, "Finding Design in Nature," in the New York Times on July 7, 2005. I also had read the letters to the editor at the time and in some of the years following.

The exciting part about the new genomics is that it allows us to compare organisms at the level of the gene. Eugene Koonin, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has been writing for the past few years about the discoveries being made. One of the most startling discoveries is this, from "The Biological Big Bang Model for the major transitions in evolution" (Biology Direct, 2007 2:21):
Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin's original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life's history, the principal "types" seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate "grades" or intermediate forms between different types are detectable.
Why has this discovery not been heralded from the rooftops? With any transition of understanding, it takes time. It took hundreds of years for the whole of humanity to assimilate and accept the change of view that Copernicus brought about. The switch from an Earth-centered solar system to sun-centered involved religious as well as scientific understandings. Also, science is complicated and not everyone can or will take the time to study the specific underlying mechanisms. On the other hand, today we have almost instantaneous communication and educational systems in place. I hope people will soon realize the implications.

Koonin himself is oriented toward describing all phenomena in terms of scientific materialism. Therefore he proposes a "Big Bang" model for these unexplained transitions in life. It includes very fast evolution mechanisms. However, slow evolution is hard enough to explain, much less fast evolution. He says it all when he starts his speculations with "I propose..."

Since one lifetime does not last hundreds of years, we can't wait that long to make our own decisions about whether we think science shows us there is a God. Scientific knowledge changes, but God has given us other ways to know about Himself. He has revealed Himself through His Word. The majesty of the universe suggests there is much more going on than just ourselves and our own accomplishments.

Yet sometimes we discover things that really do point the way to Him. When we see these things, it is nice to share them with others and help them understand. I hope I have been doing that here and that I can continue. After all, He is a Master beyond any master craftsman.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Negative Attitude

My previous post featured a review by David B. Hart in First Things magazine. He criticized Intelligent Design Theory (ID) as something that "can never be logically demonstrated." ID states that life is too complex to have happened by the physical and chemical laws alone. It may be that one experiment does not disprove total materialistic evolution of life. But when one after another yield negative results, one must put together the pieces.

In an example of a pre-life experiment, the scientist David Deamer dumped pre-biotic molecules into hot volcanic pools which were supposed to form higher and more plentiful molecules of life. His experiment showed that they did not only fail for form more, but disappeared themselves. This is from a UC Santa Cruz article from April 3, 2006 about his findings:

In June 2005, he [Deamer] led a team of scientists, including Russian geologist Vladimir Kompanichenko, to the Kamchatka region in eastern Russia, an area abounding in pools of water heated and sterilized by constant volcanic activity. Deamer carried with him a version of the "primordial soup"--a mixture of compounds like those a meteorite could have delivered to the early Earth, including a fatty acid, amino acids, phosphate, glycerol, and the building blocks of nucleic acids. Finding a promising-looking boiling pool on the flanks of an active volcano, he poured the mixture in and then took samples from the pool at various intervals for analysis back in the lab at UCSC.

The results were strikingly negative: life did not emerge, no membranes assembled themselves, and no amino acids combined into proteins. Instead, the added chemicals quickly vanished, mostly absorbed by clay particles in the pool. Instead of supporting life, the bubbling pool had snuffed it out before it began. Later, Deamer repeated the same experiment at Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, with the same negative result.

Now, would Hart say that this is not science, since the results were negative? How would you disprove anything if negative findings did not count?

To disprove (total materialistic) evolution is to prove something else is going on.

There are discussions about Hart's review at First Things "A Walk to the Moon." and "Re: A Walk to the Moon." Be prepared--it garnered over 200 comments.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Things of 2010

Denyse O'Leary is a Catholic, Canadian writer who supports Intelligent Design Theory. She posts on William Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, and has lately been posing questions for commenters in contest form. In Contest 19, O'Leary has described a book review by David B. Hart in the magazine First Things. It is in the Jan. 2010 issue (no. 199) which I think will not be online for a few weeks until the Feb. issue comes out (I haven't followed FT lately but that's the way it sounds on the home page). The review is of Richard Dawkin's Greatest Show on Earth, about nature and evolution. This is the section of the review she quotes:

The best argument against ID theory, when all is said and done, is that it rests on a premise – irreducible complexity” – that may seem compelling at the purely intuitive level but that can never logically be demonstrated. At the end of the day, it is – as Francis Collins rightly remarks – an argument from personal incredulity. While it is true that very suggestive metaphysical arguments can be drawn from the reality of form, the intelligibility of the universe, consciousness, the laws of physics, or (most importantly) ontological contingency, the mere biological complexity of this or that organism can never amount to an irrefutable proof of anything other than the incalculable complexity of that organism’s phylogenic antecedents.

The reviewer apparantly has not considered mathematical probabilities, chemical laws and physical distributions of random atoms and molecules. He has taken the word of two major biology scientists. However, we have seen an inkling from the Climate-gate scandal that scientists have their own agendas and can (allegedly) bend the facts their way, helped especially by computer-shuffled statistics. One of the problems in evolutionary biology is that scientists for years have ignored these mathematical probabilities and physical and chemical laws when it comes to origin and evolution of life. They live in an insular world where there is the assumption, not the proof, of evolution. That is why the word "evolution" constantly appears in the journals. It is time for them to answer to this non-scientific behavior.

An important article by David Abel has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling that says scientific journals should no longer publish articles that propose speculations that are exceedingly implausible. If the chance of random formation of biologically sufficient molecules for a working system (like the bacterial flagellum) is less than one in all the quantum transitions a 14-year-old universe has ever experienced, any speculation that does not seriously answer that improbability should not be published. People usually accept the conclusions of scientists. What if they are false?

I hope in my posts to come, as in past ones, to help people understand. If we are not educated by others, we must educate ourselves. When scientists work harder at keeping facts from us than supplying them, we must ask why. This is especially sad when educators are involved, as in our public and university systems.