Monday, March 13, 2006

Over 500 Scientists Who Question Darwinism

Discovery Institute News1511 3rd Ave Suite 808 - Seattle, WA 98101 - (206) 292-0401 x107

Over 500 Scientists Proclaim Their Doubts About Darwin’s Theory

By: StaffDiscovery Institute February 20, 2006

The Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list is now located at a new webpage, http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/.

SEATTLE — Over 500 doctoral scientists have now signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution.The statement reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” The list of 514 signatories includes member scientists from the prestigious US and Russian National Academy of Sciences. Signers include 154 biologists, the largest single scientific discipline represented on the list, as well as 76 chemists and 63 physicists. Signers hold doctorates in biological sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, computer science, and related disciplines. Many are professors or researchers at major universities and research institutions such as MIT, The Smithsonian, Cambridge University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, the Ohio State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Washington.Discovery Institute first published its Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list in 2001 to challenge false statements about Darwinian evolution made in promoting PBS’s “Evolution” series. At the time it was claimed that “virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true.”“Darwinists continue to claim that no serious scientists doubt the theory and yet here are 500 scientists who are willing to make public their skepticism about the theory,” said Dr. John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “Darwinist efforts to use the courts, the media and academic tenure committees to suppress dissent and stifle discussion are in fact fueling even more dissent and inspiring more scientists to ask to be added to the list.”According to West, it was the fast growing number of scientific dissenters which encouraged the Institute to launch a website -- www.dissentfromdarwin.org -- to give the list a permanent home. The website is the Institute’s response to the demand for information and access to the list both by the public, and by scientists who want to add their name to list. “Darwin’s theory of evolution is the great white elephant of contemporary thought,” said Dr. David Berlinski, one of the original signers, a mathematician and philosopher of science with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC). “It is large, almost completely useless, and the object of superstitious awe.”Other prominent signatories include U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Lyle Jensen; evolutionary biologist and textbook author Stanley Salthe; Smithsonian Institution evolutionary biologist and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information Richard von Sternberg; Editor of Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum --the oldest still published biology journal in the world-- Giuseppe Sermonti; and Russian Academy of Natural Sciences embryologist Lev Beloussov.

17 comments:

Ed Darrell said...

I phoned and e-mailed several people on the list. None of them is involved in research that involves evolution, and none of them had published or knew of anyone who has published any paper either calling into question evolution theory or establishing a hypothesis of intelligent design. Two said they though intelligent design is total hooey, but they don't think evolution is completely understood.

Meanwhile, 79,500 biologists haven't signed the form. The American Academy for the Advancement of Science has created aids for school teachers to teach evolution better, and more than 700 scientists, all named "Steve," disagree directly with the Discovery Institute's claims (go here: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/ZZ/634_announcing_the_ncse_700_club_2_16_2006.asp).

Philosophically, how much credence should one grant to a group of scientists who are either obviously out of their fields, or in such a dramatic minority, without scientific backup for their position?

John Stockwell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Douglas Groothuis said...

Ed and John (who I deleted given his incivility) are just intoning the old cliches. One doesn't do science by counting noses. These 500 are people with earned doctorates in the sciences. No, they are not all adamantly pro-ID, but they do not endorse the Darwinian orthodoxy. This is not insignificant.

nancy said...

Ed & John,

Since you both were so quick on the draw to repudiate the 500, what are your academic and professional credentials that grant you the authority to opine on such a weighty topic?

On another note, seems that Alvin Plantinga, no intellectual light-weight, has now treated us to his thoughts on the issue:

http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2690.htm

John Stockwell said...

First of all, let me apologize to Dr. Groothuis for any uncivility. It was
not my intention to come off as argumentative as I did. I will strive
to stick to facts.

From the message you deleted, my points were the following:

1) The statement that the 500 signed was not really that strong, being:

"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

It is not an endorsement of intelligent design, nor is it really a statement against the notion that there is a phenomenon of evolution (which is to say the notion of common descent).

I would only add to what I said before that scientists tend not to be satisfied with theories that are generating new research. You could replace the statements about "random mutation and natural selection" and "Darwinian theory" with any
other "mechanism" and its corresponding "standard model theory" and you probably could find 500 scientists who would sign that statement .

The bottom line is that there is no point in doing research if you are satisfied with a theory. For example, we are satisfied with Newtonian mechanics, because the range of its validity has already been determined. There hasn't been a lot of investigation in classical physics in the past 50 years for this reason.

2) Regarding the 500 scientists, if we evaluate the areas of expertise of the individuals, we can elimanate 3/4 of these scientists (the nonbiologists) right off the bat from the list, as these individuals can in no way be expected to generate science that can any way contribute to the investigation of evolution.

Of the remainder, there are only a couple of scientists we might look to for information about evolution.

I would only add to this that scientists, in general, are not impressed with mere opinions, but are interested in scientific results, which is why you are not hearing about some great revolution in science occurring today in that area.

So, if you could point to 500 *scientific papers* dealing with "non-darwinian aspects of biology" then that would be something that could possibly generate a new scientific revolution. But these simply do not exist.

Regarding Dr. Groothuis' comments about "counting noses", the list of 500 as presented consists entirely of a "count of noses" with PhD attached". Since the Discovery Institute is presenting a nose count, we are justified in evaluating the relevance of those noses.

In answer to Nancy's comments, I am an active researcher in the field of geophysics. If you don't accept my level of expertise, then you must reject more than 3/4 of the list of 500, as well, because I am at least as well informed in this subject as any of the other non-biologists on the list in this topic.

Fletcher said...

I also found Antony Flew's conversion to Deism compelling. Much of this was due to philosophical, mathematical, and "scientific" (if I am not going to be roped into extremely restricted definitions of what science is) arguments for an Intelligent Designer. Here we have a leading atheist, no intellectual lightweight himself, convinced that there must be an intelligent first cause for the universe.

http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ233.HTM

Douglas Groothuis said...

I am not against Mr. Stockwell posting--if things remain civil, as was his last post.

The numbers of adherent to a theory does not determine its truth or falsity. However, it is significant that this number of scientists question that classical Darwinian model, which is about all philosophical naturalism has to play with concerning origins.

Perhaps in a few decades there will be 500 scientific papers operating from the ID perspective.

I would like to know how Mr. Stockwell thinks information emerged from noninformation without any design. This may be the crucible for Darwinists, since recent discoveries in information theory and biology make abiogenesis extremely unlikely. On this, see the work of Stephen Meyer and the earlier pioneering studies of Michael Polanyi.

Ed Darrell said...

It is never an old cliche to point out that the scientist has no data. Especially it's not a cliche when someone has just come to the scientist's claim, and could use some additional information.

If one doesn't do science by counting noses, why does the Discovery Institute have this nose-counting exercise going on, and why bother to blog about it? Had you led the post of their press release with that note, "One doesn't do science by counting noses, but here's a press release from the Discovery Institute," it would pack more clout. As it is, it's difficult for me to disconnect your dislike for nose counting from the fact that there are so many more noses (160 times or so) against the statement as it is used.

But you're right, of course. Science is not a democracy, not a vote count by any means. When the Nazi regime published a book, "100 Scientists Against Einstein" (or something close to that), Einstein noted that, were he incorrect in his science, "One would be enough." Were Darwin incorrect, it would only take one person with the data to make the point. Lacking data, the Discovery Institute undertook a sort of a petition. The petition has been voted down by scientists. If 500 scientists who don't work in the field have some credence, 79,500 scientists who DO work in the field should be granted much more credence.

We still wait for that one scientist, however, the one with the data that suggest Darwin was wrong in some basic way that would call the theories of evolution into question. None of the 500 on the DI list is that scientist, nor do they know where to find that scientist.

Meyer's work is unpublished, and to the best of my knowledge, unavailable for analysis. If Polanyi offered a contradiction to evolution in biology, it has escaped the attention of biology.

How about we wait for some experimental or observational data to support ID before we pronounce it a hypothesis? And how about we wait until that hypothesis rises to the level of theory before we abandon the theory that works so well in healing the sick and feeding the hungry?

MJ said...

While I agree with the fact that 500 signatories is significant, I believe the "500 argument" displays wekaness is its inclusion of MD's and DVM's as "scientists." These persons are professionals with non-academic doctorates. Sure, science is a basic prerequsite of their trade, but not the fundamental practice. To say that the MD is a scientist like the molecular biologist PhD researcher is like saying my future doctorate (JD) is eviqualent to Groothuis's PhD since my trade is founded on logic and other philosophical tools as science is to medicine. (non sequiter) They should be more selective and trim off these names.

John Stockwell said...

Regarding the claim that any scientific theory, including Darwinian evolution,
depends on a worldview philosophy of "metaphysical naturalism," this is simply
a strawman.

It is often an effective strawman, because atheists and other armchair philosophers who may or may not be scientists, have made statements to the effect that this is the case. Seldom do you find scientists who have had more than a cursory introduction to the philosophy of science.
At best, such "naturalism" arguments are, at best, weak attempts at solving the demarcation problem, just as are "verificationionism" and "falsificationism".
(Indeed, the folks that make "naturalism" arguments also would apply the same argument to every other scientific theory, as well.)

As to your question about "information originating from no information", we are talking about the origin of species, not the origin of life, or the origin of the universe.

I would point out that there is no "conservation of information" principle in any branch of information theory. (I am aware that Dembski has asserted that there is one, but he has not made his case sufficiently strong to convince real information theorists.)

There is nothing that would stop information from being passed from the environment to an organism and vice versa. After all, we all personally started out life as a single cell. There is a huge gain of information (by whatever measure you want) from single cell to adult. Where did that come from? Ans. interaction with the environment.

Bill said...

Isn't the point of science (or at least one of them) to question? Don't we want every scientist to question every conclusion?

If scientific evidence supported creationism, I'd want scientists questioning those conclusions -- Just as I want them doing that when the situation is reversed. Often times in questioning evidence and conclusions are where we learn the most. Even from a religious/philosophical standpoint, doesn’t people’s faith often grow in times of doubt?

I guess I don't see how questioning or doubting is a bad idea for either side of the argument. What is there to fear?

juliagwin said...

I am 47 years old, a housewife and mother, and was taught evolution in school without any competing view offered. I believed in the entire evolutionary model to explain the origin of all life from, as John Stockwell calls it, "common descent." I believed that my ancestors oozed out of the primieval slime and slowly, over the course of many millions of years, became increasingly complex and diversified under the pressures of varying environmental challenges. I accepted these teachings unequivocally from my teachers.

I have now investigated the claims of evolution as well as the claims of intelligent design. In the course of my investigation, I found the tenor of the discussions very interesting - for they are emotional and often ad hominem. Why?

As I read these responses, I wonder what qualifications Darwin had to make his claims. Would he pass muster with John and Ed?

If evolution is not so easily understood, (as Ed claims some of his interviewees confessed), why do we teach it to young children? Does it really take a doctoral degree in some biological science to understand it?

I think I have a grasp of the basic concept: All life began long ago in primordial soup when proteins became simple, single-celled organisms. Over time, these experienced mutations which produced increasing and greater complexity. These became fish became amphibians became reptiles became birds, etc. Matter is eternal, since it begins with matter.

Now, that is not difficult to teach, is it? There are lots of problems with it, though. There are no transitional forms in the so-called fossil record, for example. Mutation does not usually result in improvement.

I am no scientist. For me, my beliefs have got to line up with the reality that I perceive in my life. I would think scientists are really no different. I don't see how complexity and balance can come from chaos. I don't see how the bloody tooth and claw of evolution has produced the goodness I see in people. How can we explain self-sacrificing love? It isn't consistent with the selfishness which must reign supreme if all is dancing to the tune of survival and genetic supremacy.

Why has so much fake evidence for evolution been advanced? If memory serves me correctly, drawings of embryos emphasizing similarities between species, moths pinned to trees, Piltdown man, etc.

John Stockwell says "there is no point in doing research if you are satisfied with a theory." Does he mean that he is satisfied with evolution? If so, why? For intellectual or emotional reasons? I, for one, find evolution to be unsatisfactory on every front. I rather think intelligent design makes much better sense and has better coherence with evidence; but I welcome all evidence to the contrary.

I think students should be taught the strengths and weaknesses of all theories of origin. If we are committed to teaching anything as dogma, then we should examine ourselves to see why we fear our "truths" cannot stand in the light of cross examination.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Yes, we started as a single sell, but that cell was loaded with information! So, it is irrelevant to the idea of information coming from noninformation without design.

Ed Darrell said...

Evolution theory doesn't start out with "primordial soup." Evolution theory involves how life diversified once it got going.

If your complaint is that you don't grant credence to abiogenesis, say so. But don't blame Darwin and evolution theory for making the claim. For Darwin's part, he offered little conjecture, and the "Big Book" ends with a paragraph describing how life was "breathed into" forms on the Earth. One is certainly free to reject that view, but one runs some risk of embarrassment if one then claims to prefer the version of origins in Genesis 2, since it's the same.

Why would we grant Darwin credence? He had data -- massive amounts of it. He had experimental results -- he spent more than 20 years working to disprove the theory, without success, before he published. He had corroboration -- Wallace, working with completely different flora and fauna than Darwin had, arrived at the same understanding. ID lacks data, experimental or observational results, and corroboration.

Yes, the cell that starts out human life has "information" of a sort in it, in DNA. This is not information easily subject to Shannon's information theory, which Dr. Dembski tries to hijack as a tool against evolution. But neither is it the complete being. Development in the womb adds new, spontaneous information, and life experiences program and reprogram the neural systems constantly.

Plus, we have observed information arising in DNA spontaneously, "information" comign from "noninformation." Well beyond that, the cell develops into a billions-of-cells being without any intelligent intervention. On all counts, such an example fails to support any part of ID claims.

John Stockwell said...

To Bill. I most certainly agree, we should have more research in the field of evolution. It is an active, viable source of new research topics.

to Julia:

What is relevant in science is the fruitfulness of a person's scientific investigations. Darwin did the work, published the results, and generations later, many of his ideas are still useful. (All of biological science is organized by these.)

As to your other comments, I believe that this is a case of a student learning something other than what the teacher was teaching.

First of all, the origin of life from non-life is often called "abiogenesis" and is a totally different field of study from evolution, being a particular branch
of chemistry.

As to your claim that there are "no transitional fossils" this statement is simply false.

The reason that arguments get rather shrill in the evolution versus anti evolution debate is that the arguments against evolution tend to be political rather than scientific.

As to *really* understanding evolution, like any other scientific discipline, a person has to be immersed in it. To play at the professional level, it takes at least a decade of work, just as it does in any other field of science.

As to telling students about evolution, they should be aware of the existence of the science and the important role it occupies in mainstream science.

As a theme of scientific theory, any new theory of origin of species will be an evolutionary theory, simply because the notion of common descent is so well established. Even ID, if it were to become science, would not invalidate common descent. It would merely add an additional mechanism to the origin of new traits.

juliagwin said...

John: I was taught evolution as a complete world view, accounting for the creation of all that we know in the universe and life on the earth. I was taught the universe came into being with the Big Bang - but that matter was there beforehand - the uncaused cause. Evolution also explained the origin of life from "common descent."

I have not heard the term "abiogenesis," but was taught the term "spontaneous generation" to describe life coming from non-life (matter). Again, matter is the eternal constant and source of evolutionary power. If life comes from non-life (matter), then matter becomes God and imparts the wisdom, order and drive to survive and thrive.

You say that science's relevance is guaged by the "fruitfulness of a person's scientifice investigations." I agree, so long as this fruitfulness conforms to verifiable truth. I also agree it is good to have ideas that are "still useful" as long as their pragmatic purpose also conforms to truth - for useful is not always true or good.

I did some preliminary investigation to explore the possibility that I am wrong about believing there are not "transitional forms." It seems the debate between naturalists and intelligent design has caused a heightened interest in producing the illusory "missing link." I find implausible the whales being land animals gone back to the sea or any other of the examples my cursory search turned up. If you can steer me better, I remain willing to be guided.

You believe the arguments between naturalists and intelligent design becomes shrill because of "political" rather than "scientific" reasons. I don't understand your use of the word "political," but I will propose that the reason is certainly a non-scientific and non-rational one, for it MUST be emotional.

Having been a staunch believer in evolution, I have been persuaded by intelligent design because it just seems to have more rational reality (truth) in it. I cannot, however, escape my presuppositions. I look around me and I just can't see how it all just happened by random chance.

I thank you for your time and attention to me, and Dr. Groothuis for making this forum available.

John Stockwell said...

Dear Julia,

I think that one of the biggest public misconceptions is that scientific theories in some way constitute a worldview. The basic notion of science is that our scientific understanding of the world is tentative and continuously in a state of flux. So, with the case of theories such as the Big Bang or the theory of evolution, we in the science business naturally
expect these ideas to change, and that new ideas will come along, and some old ideas will be modified or abandoned.

There are basic themes of theories that we expect not to change. The notion of a "big bang" origin for the universe is probably going to be around for a long time, Why? Because there are is a very strong collection of obervations supporting the notion that the universe is expanding. Run the clock backwards, and the inescapable conclusion is that it began as a small very hot mass. How that "singularity" happened, is unresolved, but not necessarily unresolvable.

Similarly, in biology there is an extremely strong set of observations supporting the notion of common descent, the most compelling being provided by comparative genetic studies. Just as questions of paternity or relatedness between people can be determined via DNA testing, relatedness between species is quantifiable via DNA testing, cross species. This is most compelling, we and all other organims whose cells have a nucleus (the eukaryotes) also have other DNA and RNA that permit multiple measures of relatedness, and these agree, and generally agree with the taxonomic classification of organisms that is done on the basis of morphology.

The notion of common descent predicts that transitional forms exist, and of course they do. A common argument made by anti-evolutionists is that "transitional forms do not exist". Yet, the scientists who do this sort of research have discovered transitional forms. You can find such lists if you search on "transitional fossil" on the internet. A person who argues against these forms being transitional must refute on a case by case basis these identifications. This has not been done.
So, there is no scientific reason to doubt that these forms are, in fact, transitional. These identifications are done via a comparatifve anatomical analysis called "cladistics".

I would refer you to the web site:
http://www.talkorigins.org
for refutations of common anti-evolution arguments.

The reason I do not find the ID movements claims compelling is that the proponents really make a lot of assertions, but have no actual scientific studies to back up their claims. They also don't seem yet to have a theory that makes predictions that can be tested. Where the claims of ID are interesting, which is to say in the area of information theory, we find that they are unsupported assertions, which are not convincing to the greater community of information theorists.

ID is tauted by some as an "alternative to evolution" but when we read the writings of biochemist Michael Behe, we find that he seems to not have a problem with common descent, only that some things in biology seem to him to have had to have been "directed". There is a lot of complaining about evolution, but not much in the way of actual new science coming from the ID movement.

When I say that these things are "political" rather than "scientific" I mean that the primary arguments are aimed, not a other scientists, but to the lay public. In contrast, the majority of scientific literature is aimed specifically at the leading researchers in the field under consideration.

Instead what we have from the anti-evolution movement are popularized science-like books which make a lot of assertions, maybe appear iconoclastic or expose-like, and are obviously intended for public consumption, rather than as scientific documents. Such works as "Darwin on Trial" or "Darwin's Black Box" really do not impress scientiists.

Just a one segment of the public may get the erroneous notion that the scientific community is pushing an unChristian "worldview" another segment of the public is getting the erroneous message that there are scientific results that support the "ant-evolution" view, where "evolution". The problem is complicated by the fact that the term "evolution" is used to label anything scientific that the person believes disagrees with their worldview.
It is easy to lose your cool when faced with such stuff.