NCSE: When Is purported Science not Science?

Rejected letter to NCSE in response to the awful polemic by David Morrison in NCSE Reports 31(5), along with some preliminary commentary

Guest post by Pat Frank

Most everyone at WUWT knows that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has turned their mission into an irony by a big-time entry into AGW-alarmism. They’ve hired Mark McCaffrey as their climate program director. Mark has degrees in education and worked previously at the “Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was Associate Scientist III,” and where he apparently took a “leadership role in the development of Climate Literacy” Mark’s background makes him not particularly trained in climate science itself, but distinctly trained to promulgate his views about it.

Mark is probably responsible for such scientifically indefensible NCSE statements that,

“Many independent lines of evidence show that human activity is responsible for most of the climate change in recent years, particularly the warming of the atmosphere and ocean in the last 150 years,… that we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in … climate and … ecosystems, including the distribution of rainfall, storm activity, extinction of plant and animal species, and seasonal change.”

Not to mention responsible for factually indefensible statements such as that,

“climate change deniers [are] people and organizations who deny or doubt the scientific consensus around climate change, [in] order to derail, delay, or degrade public policies on climate [and who] frequently seek to obscure or disparage the scientific consensus around climate change.”

Anyway, Volume 31(5) of the NCSE Reports, NCSE’s house journal, featured an article by Dr. David Morrison, modestly titled, “Science Denialism: Evolution and Climate Change.”
I’ve been a member of NCSE for many years, and that issue of NCSE Reports was my first notice that they had drunk the AGW kool-aid. “Shocked and dismayed” insufficiently conveys my feelings.

David Morrison is Director of the SETI Institute, and is a very reputable astronomer with a distinguished career. Nevertheless, his article is 4.5 pages of sloshing through the scientific shallows concerning climate (such as “today’s warming is taking place far faster than any historical cycles” and “we don’t need numerical [climate] models to tell us that the world is rapidly warming”), followed by another 4.5 pages of ankle-deep polemics equating AGW skeptics with creationists and tobacco lobbyists (such as, “The counterpart of the Marshall Institute … is the Discovery Institute” [a creationist organization – PF] and “strategies used by the opponents of both evolution and global warming are based on sowing misinformation and doubt… often called the “tobacco strategy”.” The article is full of global warming “denialists,” “denialism,” and “denial.” Dr. Morrison tells us that, “The only way [warming denialists] can make their case is to deny the international scientific consensus on the causes of climate change.” I’ll bet no one at WUWT knew that.

After reading so much misinformation, and after exchanging got-nowhere emails with Eugenie Scott (Executive Director of NCSE) and Andrew Petto (Editor of NCSE Reports), I decided to submit a letter to “NCSE Reports” in response to David Morrison’s article.
It went in on 16 January, 2012 and was rejected on 14 March. NCSE editor Dr. Petto wrote that, “Our decision is to: decline the piece as a response to Morrison’s piece, since it does very little to engage or refute Morrison’s main argument in the case which had to do with how those who opposed current climate change models present their information to the public and government officials.”

With extensive quotes to back me up, I pointed out in response that, “Dr. Morrison’s main argument is about climate science, and only secondarily about “denialists” who are then said to misrepresent, ignore, or lie about it. My submission concerns the first part — the main part — of Dr. Morrison’s thesis; which is a valid restriction of focus.”  And that, “if Dr. Morrison’s science is false, his thesis about communication is pointless and irrelevant.”
Dr. Petto was not moved.

That’s the background. Here’s the (rejected) letter, forthwith. Honestly? I think it was rejected on a pretext. You’re invited to decide for yourself whether it “does very little to engage or refute Morrison’s main argument.”

==============================================================

When is Purported Science not Science?
by Patrick Frank

In his excellent book, “Galileo,” [1] Stillman Drake points out Galileo’s very modern understanding of science praxis, writing, “In his book on Hydrostatics, Galileo remarked that the authority of Archimedes was worth no more than the authority of Aristotle; Archimedes was right, he said, only because his propositions agreed with experiments.” Galileo, writing this in 1612, conveyed an understanding of science identical to Einstein’s, expressed almost exactly 300 years later: “If the red-shift of spectra lines due to the gravitational potential should not exist, then the general theory of relativity will be untenable.”

Einstein’s statement about theory and observation is recounted by Karl Popper in his autobiographical “Unended Quest,” [2]. Popper goes on to say that Einstein’s critical observation was a revelation, and opened the way to his own career-spanning argument that science is the interplay of falsifiable theory and empirical results (conjectures and refutations). Theory must produce unique and falsifiable predictions by way of analytical deductions. Data, replicable by any and by all, pronounces its verdict. Only those two activities together constitute valid science. Either apart, is not science.

A corollary to this relationship is that the meaning of empirical data is found only within the context of a falsifiable theory. This is true, even if the meaning is that the data contradict the prediction and refute the theory. Only a falsifiable physical theory distinguishes the meaning of lightning away from the hand of god. Only the capacity of falsification produces a unique prediction and provides an unambiguous meaning to the data. [3]

In a recent NCSE Reports, Dr. David Morrison wrote an essay [4] about “Science Denialism,” which was one long effort to equate evolution deniers with AGW skeptics (Anthropogenic Global Warming).  There was very little science in Dr. Morrison’s essay.  Here’s most of it: “Climate models are indeed complex, and they do not always agree on details such as the timing of future warming. However, the evidence for warming is empirical, and its future trends are anchored in basic physics, such as the greenhouse effect and the heat capacity of the oceans.”

Those cognizant of meaning in science will immediately see the weakness of Dr. Morrison’s position: he grants causal meaning to climate warming while admitting the absence of a climate theory. The evidence for warming is certifiably empirical. But the meaning of that warming can come only from a falsifiable theory that makes unique predictions about climate. Is the warming due to the extra atmospheric CO2, or not? No amount of empirical data shuffling can answer that question.

Dr. Morrison claims that the greenhouse effect (a misappropriation of terms but let’s leave that alone) and heat capacity are enough to predict how the climate of Earth will react to rising levels of atmospheric CO2. But “the greenhouse effect” — essentially radiation physics — and heat capacity are not an adequate theory of climate. They predict nothing of how increased energy in the atmosphere will distribute itself into the all the climate modes, such as the ENSO cycles, and especially into the global hydrologic cycle of melting, evaporation, cloud formation, and precipitation.

Dr. Morrison made a remarkable demurral that, “we don’t need numerical models to tell us [that increased CO2 is] a harbinger of much worse climate disruptions to come.” But of course we do indeed need climate models to tell us that. How else are we to know? Climate models represent the physical theory of climate. It is only their predictive power that gives causal meaning to increased atmospheric CO2. This is the bedrock of science, and Dr. Morrison got it wrong.

Let’s take a short look at climate models. They do much less than, “do not always agree on [the] details” of future climate. They do not ever agree with the realities of past climate. For example, Demetris Koutsoyiannis and his group evaluated the advanced general circulation climate models (GCMs) used in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report issued by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). [5, 6] The IPCC used these GCMs to “retrodict” 100 years of 20th century climate, at all the points on a global grid. The reproduced trend in global average temperature looked great. As it should do because GCM climate models are adjusted to reproduce the known global average temperature. [7]

But the Koutsoyiannis group used the IPCC’s gridded 20th century global climate to reconstruct what these climate models said about the 20th century temperature record of the continental US. The GCM climate models got it very wrong. They also used the GCM retrodiction to reconstruct the 20th century temperature and precipitation records at 58 locations around the world. The reconstructions failed badly on comparison with the real data. This is a basic test of GCM reliability of that no one thought to carry out during 20 years of climate alarm; climate alarm ostensibly made credible by those very GCMs. Climate models cannot reproduce the known climate. Why should anyone believe they can reliably predict an unknown climate?

Dr. Morrison mentioned that climate models do not get clouds right, and then quickly dismissed this problem as irrelevant. But tropical and subtropical clouds strongly affect the amount of energy retained by the atmosphere. [8] Clouds have a net cooling effect on Earth. [9, 10] I evaluated the GCM cloud error as reported by the scientists of the “Coupled Model Intercomparison Project,” and found that the GCM cloud error, averaged over the globe, was at least ±10.1 %. [11]

This cloud error translated into a GCM error of at least ±2.8 Watts/m2 in energy. That ±2.8 Watts/m2 error equals all the extra forcing by all the extra greenhouse gases liberated into the atmosphere during the entire 20th century. That is, GCM cloud error alone equals ±100% of the increased “greenhouse effect.” It doesn’t take a very astute person to realize that when the error is as large as the effect, the effect itself becomes undetectable.

The scientists who use GCM projections to predict future climate do not take cloud error into account. Competent scientists would propagate that error into their predictions. But climate modelers do not. Neither does the IPCC. Propagating the cloud error would show that the growth of error quickly makes climate predictions no better than a random guess. [11]  GCMs can’t predict the global temperature even one year ahead, much less 10 years or 100 years. But Dr. Morrison tells us that’s irrelevant, because rising CO2 is enough all by itself to certify a catastrophically disrupted climate.

Remember the criterion of science? Only falsifiable predictions yield the meaning of observations. Climate models do not give falsifiable predictions, especially not at the resolution of CO2-forcing. Therefore, they can give no causal meaning to increased atmospheric CO2. They cannot explain the warming climate. They can not predict the future climate. The observation of rising atmospheric CO2, alone, is not enough to certify anything except a rising level of atmospheric CO2. Knowing causality and predicting outcomes requires a falsifiable theory. Dr. Morrison hasn’t one, and neither does anyone else. Those who predict torrid climate futures literally do not know what they’re talking about. But that hasn’t stopped them from talking about it anyway. Dr. Morrison’s position on climate is indistinguishable from an intuitive alarm grounded in subjective certainties.

Like the wages of sin among the believers.

A review of the scientific literature reveals plenty of papers testifying to the unreliability of GCMs. But those papers don’t play into alarm. A responsible scientist would study the relevant literature before making declarative public statements. AGW-conclusional studies are mere causation-mongering because there is no falsifiable scientifically valid uniquely predictive theory of climate.

Much more could be written. But the general message should be clear so I’ll stop here. The answer to the question, by the way, is, ‘When it’s tendentious.’ Such is AGW science, and that includes the surface air temperature record, [12, 13] on which Dr. Morrison puts such stock.

References:
1. Drake, S., Galileo: a very short introduction,  Oxford University,  Oxford 2001.
2. Popper, K.R., Unended Quest,  Open Court (pbk),  La Salle 1976.
3. Frank, P. and Ray, T.H., Science is not Philosophy, Free Inquiry, 2004, 24 (6), 40-42.
4. Morrison, D., Science Denialism: Evolution and Climate Change, NCSE Reports, 2011, 31 (5), 10.
5. Anagnostopoulos, G.G., Koutsoyiannis, D., Christofides, A., Efstratiadis, A. and Mamassis, N., A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data, Hydrolog. Sci. J., 2010, 55 (7), 1094–1110; see also http://www.itia.ntua.gr/en/docinfo/978/ Last accessed 13 March 2011.
6. Koutsoyiannis, D., Efstratiadis, A., Mamassis, N. and Christofides, A., On the credibility of climate predictions, Hydrolog. Sci. J., 2008, 53 (4), 671-684; doi: 10.1623/hysj.53.4.671.
7. Kiehl, J.T., Twentieth century climate model response and climate sensitivity, Geophys. Res. Lett., 2007, 34 (22), L22710,1-4; doi:10.1029/2007GL031383.
8. Hartmann, D.L., Tropical Surprises, Science, 2002, 295  811-812.
9. Chen, T., Rossow, W.B. and Zhang, Y., Radiative Effects of Cloud-Type Variations, J. Clim., 2000, 13 (1), 264-286.
10. Hartmann, D.L., Ockert-Bell, M.E. and Michelsen, M.L., The Effect of Cloud Type on Earth’s Energy Balance: Global Analysis, J. Climate, 1992, 5  1281-1304.
11. Frank, P., A Climate of Belief, Skeptic, 2008, 14 (1), 22-30; open access: http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_climate_of_belief.html.
12. Frank, P., Uncertainty in the Global Average Surface Air Temperature Index: A  Representative Lower Limit, Energy & Environment, 2010, 21 (8), 969-989; open access: http://meteo.lcd.lu/globalwarming/Frank/uncertainty_in%20global_average_temperature_2010.pdf.
13. Frank, P., Imposed and Neglected Uncertainty in the Global Average Surface Air Temperature Index, Energy & Environment, 2011, 22 (4), 407-424; open access: http://multi-science.metapress.com/content/t8x847248t411126/fulltext.pdf (1 MB).

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113 thoughts on “NCSE: When Is purported Science not Science?

  1. Yet I have heard it said that even Galileo fudged his findings as he dropped objects from the leaning tower of Pisa. is there nothing new under the sun?

  2. When rebuttals like Pat Frank’s are blocked for specious reasons, then you know that AGW rottenness has reached the very top of the organization.

    Apocalyptism is a disease of human-kind and particularly afflicts academia, perverting a noble cause of scientific inquiry into an Inquisition against heretics. Witness Paul Erlich, who has made thousands of apocalyptic predictions of the future that all have turned out to be false, yet is treated as some sort of academic hero.

    When the AGW drama is all over, the damage caused to the credibility of science and scientists will be seen to be immense. That is far worse than any argument of left and right, democrat or republican, liberal or conservative.

  3. Strange is it not that they equate their critics with creationists, when a study of evolution would quickly demonstrate that there have been major climate shifts during the history of Earth?

  4. Look, I know this isn’t a conspiracy blog but let’s face it, there are powerful forces at work in the world that intend to use the contrived AGW scenario to make some big changes.

    The corruption of science in the context of AGW is systemic and the deck has been well and truly stacked….”It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair.

    I personally don’t think that this Beast is stoppable bar an outbreak of war that goes nuclear, but kudos to all those who do their best to unmask it.

  5. Pretty much sums it up.

    BTW, I noticed that the definition provided lets me off the hook:

    “climate change deniers [are] people and organizations who deny or doubt the scientific consensus around climate change, [in] order to derail, delay, or degrade public policies on climate [and who] frequently seek to obscure or disparage the scientific consensus around climate change.”

    I don’t doubt at all the “Scientific Consensus”; I just find it irrelevant and that the science is flawed at best and “doctored” at worst. I find Hansen and friends to be clearly politically driven and with an agenda. I find that non-compelling… As my purpose is only “Find The Technical Truth”, I also get a pass on the motivation score. (I don’t even know how you ‘degrade’ a broken policy…) and as near as I can tell, there’s no way to “obscure” a “scientific consensus”, but since It is entirely irrelevant, I don’t really care about how obscure or notorious it is… And as per “disparage”, well, is thinking something a complete irrelevancy to disparage?

    So, as much as I was proud to wear my “Denier” label, it looks like I don’t qualify… So sad…

  6. Many, many good insights. Here are two of the less subtle ones, but of the kind that clearly reveals to all and sundry the degraded state of the lobby for alarm over carbon dioxide:

    Re McCaffrey: ‘…not particularly trained in climate science itself, but distinctly trained to promulgate his views about it.’

    Re Morrison: ‘…pages of sloshing through the scientific shallows concerning climate (such as “today’s warming is taking place far faster than any historical cycles” and “we don’t need numerical [climate] models to tell us that the world is rapidly warming”), followed by another 4.5 pages of ankle-deep polemics equating AGW skeptics with creationists and tobacco lobbyists…’

    The attack by the demented dogmatists against children in the UK has not been adequately defended the adults since the teaching of the Received Dogma is pervasive at all levels. Much hope rests with the children themselves realising that they have been seriously misled year after year after year. As they grow wiser and more able to critically review this experience, there may yet be a dramatic backlash.

    In the States, you seem to be in a slightly stronger position, with some centres of resistance by adults to the corruption of the educational system. The jumping on to the wrong side by NCSE, in contradiction to its own stated aims about encouraging good science in schools, is but a sign that the resistance is appreciable and the left don’t like it. For NCSE it would seem, solidarity with the left seems more important than solidarity with the young.

  7. I recommend that you just ask them for the evidence for each of their claims. Something like this:

    NCS said—- Many independent lines of evidence show that human activity is responsible for most of the climate change in recent years, particularly the warming of the atmosphere and ocean in the last 150 years
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    NCS said—-we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in … climate and
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    NCS said—-we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in… ecosystems,
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    NCS said—-we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in… the distribution of rainfall,
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    NCS said—-we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in… storm activity,
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    NCS said—-we’re “ seeing … extinction of plant and animal species,
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    NCS said—-we’re “ seeing … dramatic changes in… seasonal change.”
    ——-Please provide the evidence upon which you based that statement.

    You might be surprised by the rational behind their beliefs

    Thanks
    JK
    SustainableOregon.com

  8. Refusal to print is to deny. Pretty ironic, when the original article was so lightweight on scientific content and so heavy on misplaced authority. Thanks for sharing. Reform starts when other fair minded scientists demand your right to express a scientific objection. I hope publication here starts that reform.

  9. @jim karlock

    You make a good point. For too long sceptical voices have been on the back foot. We have successfully argued about the issues on the periphery of the story, but not so much on the substance of the claims. We have been the guerilla warriors as the invading hordes took much of the ground.

    But now the climate for the discussion has changed. We no longer need to just carry out occasional raids. We can confidently start to advance into the occupier’s temporary territory. At every point we need to challenge all their claims. They have become so used to being reverently heard that they are unused to actual argument. They are intellectually flabby and out of match practice.

    Show me. Prove it. What data? How much data? Show me the experiment…..Where, when, how, who, why, what…are all our friends. It is my experience that 80% of the time there is no substance to the claims when you chase them back down far enough.

    A classic example is ‘ocean acidfication’. When pursued it turns out that the only measurements that are even remotely scientific are monthly records for two non-contiguous six-year periods in Hawaii. 114 data points in total. And they might just be tortured enough to show that over twenty years the pH has fallen from 8.18 to 8.11. Or they might not

    And, unless somebody has a vast stash of reliable pH measurements that have yet to come to light, those 114 points are the sole evidence for any actual change in the alkalinity of the oceans at all.
    A while sub-industry and scare story has grown up without any solid reliable evidence to show that it actually exists at all.

    Challenge them, challenge them, challenge them and challenge them again!

  10. As a result of the corruption of science in the context of AGW is systemic, the deck is already well and truly stacked…”It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair.

    I personally think this beast is now well and truly unstoppable. but hey, kudos to all of you who are doing their very best to unmask it.

  11. “climate change deniers [are] people and organizations who deny or doubt the scientific consensus around climate change,”

    I’d say that statement is correct. There is no scientific consensus in the sense that the overwhelming majority of scientists agree with the IPCC’s CAGW predictions.

    Survey’s show less than 50% of scientists agree with the CAGW scenario.

    And we have no idea how many IPCC participants agree with the IPCC’s conclusions. To claim the IPCC reached a consensus is simply a lie.

  12. “But Dr. Morrison tells us that’s irrelevant, because rising CO2 is enough all by itself to certify a catastrophically disrupted climate…”
    ===================================================
    References to “AGW” (anthropogenic global warming) only compound the deliberately cultivated confusion.
    It is the validity of the implied “catastrophic” consequences and the cost/benefit ratio of supposed mitigation to the world population which are the crux of the matter.

  13. A clear, thoughtful and relevant response. That explains why it wouldn’t get exposure from an organisation dedicated to spreading senseless alarmism, then – it would show up the drivel they do publish for what it is.

    @Jim Karlock – If there were a cool-headed, rational (dare I say, scientific?) discussion going on, then of course something like your list of questions would be exactly the way to go. As things are, though, somehow you just know that every one of those questions would act as no more than a cue for another foaming-at-the-mouth attack on you, based on your opponents’ glib ability to misunderstand and twist any words you utter into nonsense. Sad, but you must admit that ’tis so.

  14. “Dr. Petto,” eh? If you’ve read your Shakespeare, you will know what “Petto” (or “Peto”) means. Here’s a hint: it involves the expulsion of a small quantity of hot air. . . .

  15. this is a great summary, Dr. Frank … and a very needed reminder of what (real) Science is about …
    thank you very much for it …

  16. “Dr. Petto,” eh? If you know your Shakespeare, you will know what “Petto” (or “Peto”) means. Here’s a hint: it involves the expulsion of a small amount of hot air. . . .

  17. “Many independent lines of evidence show that human activity is responsible for most of the climate change in recent years, particularly the warming of the atmosphere and ocean in the last 150 years,…………..

    “150 years”!!!!!!!!

    Has he passed on this groundbreaking piece of information to the IPCC? They need to know as they are informing policy makers that mans’ warming/disruptive climate influence was from 1960 onwards. If I am mistaken then please accept my advanced apologies.

    Is man responsible for the lack of warming over the past 10 years or more?

    There are no massive changes, it’s all a figment of his imagination. There have been climate changes as always. The 1921/1922? Arctic ice extent was a massive change but was not caused by man.

  18. “…science is the interplay of falsifiable theory and empirical results (conjectures and refutations). Theory must produce unique and falsifiable predictions by way of analytical deductions. Data, replicable by any and by all, pronounces its verdict. Only those two activities together constitute valid science. Either apart, is not science.”

    That statement is the key to the kingdom of knowledge. It is this philosophy that has lifted mankind out of our millenia-long childhood of superstition and confusion, and brought us in to the modern age in a few short centuries.

    But there will always be some who want to drag us back into the dark ages for their own purposes. No wonder they rejected this paper.

  19. I am a lowly engineer rather than a scientist. One major difference is that engineers have to go with what actually works, not magical stuff. Otherwise people die.

    Having said that, all that I can see so far is a lot of data buggering coupled with computer “models”, cherry picking time frames and subsets of data, etc., etc. All this is done to support a claim. Yet, none of this actually supports the historical data and none of the models can reliably predict any real world events/weather. This makes their entire line of BS useless to an engineer, and by implication, the rest of humanity.

    Eventually the peasants will take up their pitchforks and torches. I am laying in a supply of popcorn and Valu-rite vodka. It will be fun to watch.

  20. When the money goes away, the propaganda will go away. Considering how quickly states are cutting back on education funding, I’d say the money available for NCSE dues is already going away.

    Organizations like NCSE are decorations, not necessities. The only real necessities for higher education are football and the Diversity Gestapo.

  21. We are told in Sydney the Lan Nina is over and unlucky to return for a 3rd year. Question: if global mean temps do not now rise, does that rob the CAGW guys of their last excuse for the lack of warming since 1998? Or will they come up with some new spin/speculation to make their case sound credible?

  22. Excellent letter.

    It’s just another example of the same old story with people who are either not smart enough, or unwiiling, to understand what someone rational and sensible is talking about; their response is always: “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!”:

    Of course, the letter was rejected, it made too much sense and was therefore unacceptable to the climate thought police.

  23. Rikstarling – Or if you wish to investigate further, look out some info on a French music-hall performer of a century ago called Le Pétomane. He is the perfect riposte to any claim that the French are a uniquely “cultured” nation (and puts the lie to your mention of a “small” amount of hot air)!

  24. TBear (Sydney, weather seems pretty normal here … ) says: @ March 27, 2012 at 4:57 am
    …. does that rob the CAGW guys of their last excuse for the lack of warming since 1998? Or will they come up with some new spin/speculation to make their case sound credible?
    _________________________________________
    The CAGW guys are the “Keepers of the Data” That is why there has been a knockdown drag out fight to get the data and methods made public. Phil Jones first response was to deny the FOIA and his second response was “The Dog Ate My Homework”

    For the newest spin see New and Improved CRUTEM4 Global Land Surface Temperature Data vs IPCC AR4 (CMIP3) Climate Models

  25. I will have to go against the flow. I agree that the original article was trash. However the unpublished reply …… I also would not have published it. The reason is simple. After reading the first paragraph my thought was .. “OooKaaaaa”. Reading the second paragraph I thought, “What are you rambling about?” At the end of the third paragraph it was, “Boring… this has to get better.”

    But it really didn’t. Even if it had been published most people who are not climate change junkies would have tuned out. If you have a message be clear, succinct, hit the high points, destroy a couple of the worst assertions in the original article and move on. People have the attention span of a nit.

  26. Pat Franks’ name lends a coincidental irony: “pat” – to strike and flatten, “frank” – direct or unreserved and unrestrained. His response above to NCSE and David Morrison illustrates this irony. The NCSE are showing themselves to be a branch of the AGW priesthood.

  27. Philip Finck says: @ March 27, 2012 at 5:46 am

    ….If you have a message be clear, succinct, hit the high points, destroy a couple of the worst assertions in the original article and move on. People have the attention span of a nit.
    _______________________________
    I will have to agree with this. You have Got 3 Seconds to get [their] attention That is why Dr Stephen Schneider, of Stanford University, said:

    On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

    It also seems Dr. Schneider is busy back pedaling and damage control by <a href="http://climatesight.org/2009/04/12/the-schneider-quote/"spinning the story

    I have seen enough of this rewriting of history on the web to make me believe the Ministry of Truth is alive and well.

  28. My first response was, “Well-written, and well-argued.”

    But I have to agree with Philip Finck (March 27, 2012 at 5:46 am). I love reading a coherent argument based on the philosophy of science. But here that’s beating ’round the bush; these people deserve a good slapping, not a professorial lesson. From your description, Morrison’s piece was just balderdash, poppycock, baloney, BS. It was just factually wrong, rehashing one well-refuted claim after another, without a shred of evidence to back any of it up, and larded with ad hominems and insults. With such tripe, you are best off taking a full frontal approach: “Morrison is wrong, and here’s why,” then daring them to publish it.

    But your letter is a great addition to WUWT.

    /Mr Lynn

  29. chris1958 said @ March 27, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Yet I have heard it said that even Galileo fudged his findings as he dropped objects from the leaning tower of Pisa. is there nothing new under the sun?

    Well, you heard wrong! There is absolutely no evidence that Galileo performed the cannonball experiment at Pisa; the height from which the balls were dropped was 300 feet higher than the tower at Pisa. The observations Galileo reported, that initially the wooden ball fell more rapidly only to be overtaken by the iron ball is completely consistent with what one would expect. Galileo’s explanation for the observations was also consistent with what a modern physicist would give.

    Galileo’s main faults were writing extremely rude things about people such as Fr Grassi who disagreed with him about his claim that comets were an atmospheric phenomenon, and attempting to claim he was the first to note phenomena that other observers reported such as Christopher Scheiner’s sunspot observations.

  30. I’m with Philip Finck on this one. The history of the philosophy of science is all very interesting, but is probably already known by much of the readership, and isn’t the point of the letter. In short, I think the letter takes too long to get started, and needs some editing.

    To assume the only reason a letter isn’t published is an attempt to stifle opposing voices is to make the same mistake Gleick made.

    Remember he assumed that the only reason his long letter wasn’t published was editorial bias – he said as much in his letter writings – and probably assumed that some evil conspiracy was behind that bias. You only need to look at Gleick’s letter to see the real reason – he is on the record as saying he thinks it was a “great letter”, but in reality his letter was too long, too verbose, not news, and just boring.

    This letter is a lot better than Gleick’s letter, and while you can’t rule out editorial bias, there are other plausible reasons not to publish too, including the points I mentioned in my first paragraph.

  31. Interesting the analogy between Evolution and Global Warming (i.e., that the tactics of the “deniers” are similar in both). Some of us think that Evolution suffers from the same falsifiability problem as does Global Warming. There is no theory of Evolution that predicts change in any meaningful way that can be verified experimentally or even observationally. (Has anyone formulated it mathematically so that we could predict how one organism would change into another and, thereby, test it?) Rather, bones are dug up and rocks are dated and these are used to form and modify the “theory”. The same is true of Global Warming. Bubble in ice are analyzed and tree rings are measured and these are always made to fit into the model.

    Imagine if the theory of gravity were like the “theory” of Global Warming. It would proclaim, “the apple will move from the tree”. We could not predict whether it would go up, down or sideways, or how fast. It would “predict” only that it would move – at some point – and it might move right back to the tree later on. It might be so bold as to say that the apple would trend downwards, but any evidence to the contrary would be dismissed as a temporary aberration and that if we only waited long enough we would eventually see that the apple is really moving down, on average, given the right starting point. And it’s quite consistent with the theory that if the apple fell down far enough, it might might bounce back up higher than where it started (global warming might produce the next ice age).

    There may indeed be similar tactics between some “deniars” of global warming and some “deniers” of evolution but the tactics of those who adhere to each are also similar in that they appeal to consensus and ridicule the minority as flat earthers, not because they can point to experimental verification, but precisely because they cannot.

    I find it very interesting how science has often been redefined so that interpretation of historical artifacts replaces verification by experimentation. It is one thing to model 1,000 apples falling from trees and quite another to derive a mathematical equation that can be used to send a man to the moon. GIven enough terms, I can perfectly fit a polynomial equation to a completely random set of data but it will have no predictive power whatsoever.

    Experimentation is no longer needed in many areas of “science”. It is sufficient simply to model a set of observations. Should any new observations be made which do not fit the model, they will be used to “refine” the model and rarely, if ever, to falsify it. I call it predicting the past.

  32. Too long. No wonder they rejected it. First three paragraphs are useless. Remainder is too difficult for their over-taxed minds.

  33. NCSE has nothing to do with science and everything to do with controlling how science is taught. And you can’t get any clearer a contrast between the two than by reading this and then watching the Roy Spencer vidoe posted to WUWT about three posts below.

  34. “I personally think this beast is now well and truly unstoppable.”

    Oh, it’s stoppable. But the task is now a little bit more well-defined; organizations such as the NCSE that have been compromised will now have to be destroyed completely in order to stop it.
    Scientific American, any number of once respected journals and organizations – they must all now be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. (or replaced entirely) The era of scorched earth in this fight has begun.

  35. For those who might be inclined to think the NCSE’s posture on CAGW is a strange anomaly and a sad departure from their usual careful and thoughtful approach to science, this is an opportunity to step back and understand that this *is* the NCSE’s approach. They are primarily a propaganda organization, whose goal is to promote a particular viewpoint and to demonize anyone who might have the temerity to question the “consensus” view they are pushing. Too bad they felt it necessary to wade into CAGW alarmism. Good that their true colors are now showing more clearly.

  36. I subscribe to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. Lately they’ve also all shared the CAGW Kool-aid. They’re starting to use green ink on the titles of their “green” articles. -Sheesh!- This last month they printed a letter from a person from Washington DC (go figure). Whose screed implores people to prod their representatives to act on climate change, since it is obviously happening. I sent the Editors of AWST this:
    “I see your editors have seen fit to publish a letter from a duly indoctrinated Global Warming zealot, BXX. I also noticed the glaring lack of an opposing viewpoint. BXX is from Washington DC. Only politics there. Personally, I implore my representatives in Washington to tread carefully as this “Carbon-Dioxide-is-bad” hogwash becomes exposed as a hoax.
    I ask BXX: where is the tropospheric tropical warm zone that the climate models say must exist? It is not there in real world observations. Therefore the models and thereby the theory of CO2 caused warming is flawed. According to the Scientific Method” this theory MUST be revised. What is this revised theory? I have not heard of it. These “scientists”are not doing science, they’re doing propaganda. Do you at AWST not cover science in whole and in truth? Show me some evidence, from reality, that CO2 causes warming. It has caused all life on Earth. Your readers are not quite as ignorant as you “journalists” might believe. Except perhaps those from DC.

    Sincerely, ”

    I have received no reply. I’m sure they’d never print it.

  37. It would seem that “equating AGW skeptics with creationists and tobacco lobbyists” has striking implications. If it turns out that the skeptics are right, then it follows that Darwin was wrong, and that tobacco is good for us!

  38. One would have thought that with the fanfair from the NCSE recently, pronouncing the appointment of a leading climate change expert to the board, that they would have used his considerable skills along with his internationally renowned expertise on the hydrologic impacts of climate change, to have written this article himself.

    Oh I forgot! For some reason they decided not to proceed with his appointment. Had he written it though, I think it would have been just a little more of a balanced article, but not a lot.

  39. Richard Wright says:
    March 27, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Interesting the analogy between Evolution and Global Warming (i.e., that the tactics of the “deniers” are similar in both). Some of us think that Evolution suffers from the same falsifiability problem as does Global Warming. There is no theory of Evolution that predicts change in any meaningful way that can be verified experimentally or even observationally. …
    _______________________________________
    ERRRrrrr, I beg to disagree. “Thanks to DNA, scientists are tracking human evolution/migration and determining when/where the changes to our DNA occurred. see The Seven Daughters of Eve

    … a family in England with a remarkable genetic defect. Some members of the family have a mutation in a gene known as FOXP2, which helps direct the development of the brain during infancy and childhood. Every family member with the mutation had great difficulty speaking. Paabo had been thinking about how to identify genes that had changed during human evolution to make speech possible, and FOXP2 seemed like a prime candidate. He and his co-workers sequenced the gene—that is, they figured out the order of the DNA bases that make up FOXP2—in six different species. They found that it was one of the most stable genes they had ever studied; from mice to rhesus macaques to chimps, the protein produced by the gene is almost exactly identical, suggesting that the gene itself plays a fundamental role in animal function. But in humans the gene had undergone a slight modification. About 250,000 years ago, according to the scientists’ calculations, two of the molecular units in the 715-unit DNA sequence of the gene abruptly changed. That’s not long before modern humans first appeared in the fossil record. Could the changes in FOXP2 have enabled modern humans to speak? And could articulate speech have given modern humans an edge over the Neanderthals and other archaic humans?…. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/neanderthal.html?c=y&page=3

    Neanderthal DNA is 99.7 percent identical to that of people, according to the analysis, which involved dozens of researchers. Something in the remaining 0.3 percent must make us unique….

    By lining up the Neanderthal genome with DNA from humans and chimpanzees, Green and colleagues identified small changes that are unique to humans. Some were in genes involved in energy metabolism, skeletal structure and brain development, including four that are thought to contribute to conditions such as autism, Down syndrome and schizophrenia…. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/may/07/mystery-solved-humans-did-indeed-mate-neanderthals/

    Other Articles: http://www.donsmaps.com/lagar.html

    http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/hla-parham-2011.html

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5979/710.full

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2010/03/24/the-x-womans-fingerbone/

  40. Peter Kenny says:
    March 27, 2012 at 7:36 am

    It would seem that “equating AGW skeptics with creationists and tobacco lobbyists” has striking implications. If it turns out that the skeptics are right, then it follows that Darwin was wrong, and that tobacco is good for us!
    _________________________________
    If/When the general population finds out that they have been the victim of a giant hoax aided and abetted by “Scientists” it might become dangerous to admit you have a degree in science.

    Witness, as an example, a friend who had his business store front trashed after 9/11 because he was an Indian (Hindu) or the more recent uproar against bankers after the bank bailout by both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

    The fact that the name of science has been dragged through the mud by those with a political agenda is not in dispute only the timing of when the general population wakes up to the fact that they have been HAD.

  41. Gail Combs says:
    March 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Richard Wright says:
    March 27, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Interesting the analogy between Evolution and Global Warming (i.e., that the tactics of the “deniers” are similar in both). Some of us think that Evolution suffers from the same falsifiability problem as does Global Warming. There is no theory of Evolution that predicts change in any meaningful way that can be verified experimentally or even observationally. …

    _______________________________________
    ERRRrrrr, I beg to disagree. “Thanks to DNA, scientists are tracking human evolution/migration and determining when/where the changes to our DNA occurred. see The Seven Daughters of Eve

    How was any of this predicted? That’s my point. Let me put it another way: what does the theory of evolution predict will happen in the future to FOXP2 gene? If a theory, be it evolution, global warming or anything else, cannot make meaningful predictions that can be experimentally verified, then it cannot be falsified and is not science.

    Global Warming did actually make such a prediction, i.e., the earth would warm according to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, observations did not match the prediction. But instead of throwing out the theory, it was turned into the meaningless “Climate Change” which simply states that the climate will change. It has no predictive power whatsoever.

  42. Richard Wright said: “Some of us think that Evolution suffers from the same falsifiability problem as does Global Warming. There is no theory of Evolution that predicts change in any meaningful way that can be verified experimentally or even observationally.”

    So then the development of multiple drug resistant bacteria, HIV, and other rapid generation time organisms is what? I would call it direct evidence of evolution.

  43. It is fair enough for commenters above to have a different perspective on how they would have responded to this tendentious and dumb article. But instead of criticising Pat Frank – how about writing your own letter?

    Pat, I think your letter just went completely over their heads. Judging from the quality of the stuff they see fit to publish, conceptual thought is a bridge too far for this crowd. They just don’t seem to be very bright.

  44. Perhaps Pat Frank should write another letter thanking them for their letter of rejection as it has enabled many more readers to benefit via publication on WUWT. Readers can draw their own conclusions as to the reason for rejection. Another example of alarmists not wanting to discuss or debate their science. The brotherhood of peer review redefiners knows no bounds.

  45. I guarantee that the only response by the NCSE will be to assign someone the task of digging up dirt on Pat Frank.

  46. re. different posters above …

    first 3 paragraphs are absolutely essential … because they are a rehearsal of what Science is all about, and what has been completely ignored and neglected by “climate scientists”

    this letter was rejected for one simple reason: because it makes sense …

    and sense atm is not what is needed, what is wanted, neither by these “scientists”, nor by the majority of politicians that support them …

    politicians want our money and our minds … these climate scientists just want money (just reread the opening emails of Climategate, and how much Hantemirov and Briffa were hopeless for funds …) … together they make a great team, and they will go on as long as possible …

    this is the big picture …

    this will be a long combat …

  47. Please don’t take this wrong, as your intent and information are terrific. I agree that they denied you because of pretext. The carrot here is meeting whatever standards (not publlished of course) they are measuring letters (complaints) by. Meet them head on and address their stated concerns, but don’t back down! After a few thread followups here, it’s going to get pretty Da%* embarrassing for them when Anthony and the WUWT crew are publishing their mealy CAGW two step they expect of real science and scientists asking for real science.

    That said, I do think you need to address some of your writing.
    Your intro is nebulous, vague and wandering. Yes, the paragraph is beautiful and the end sentences are especially blockbusters; they’re just not in the right place with those beginning sentences where your trying to interest readers and call editors and authors to the carpet for bad science. Remember, your letter is about being upset with bad science. You have a right and expectation to be indignant and blunt; don’t let poetic or formally beautiful writing get in your way as those irresponsible ‘letter to the editor’ editors are looking for those complicated wordings as outs.

    My suggestion(s): Introduce your subject. Summarize the article as your perceive the main points of David Morrison’s polemic. Identify your specific concerns both about the overall article and about how NCSE could allow an article with such overwhelming mis-information and hate towards people who question science. Identify explicitly which points of David Morrison’s you intend to question or rebut and which points you feel are moot because of the emotional stance they advocate.

    Keep your sentences short! You’re not writing a reference paper for other researchers. You’re writing a piece for a publication where people skim first and read later. Explain, document, link, reference after you make a darn good opening sentences for your points. Keep the letter short too, they may have a limit on how many long letters they publish.

    Good Luck!

  48. Richard Wright says:
    March 27, 2012 at 8:48 am

    How was any of this predicted? ….{Evolution}
    _________________________
    The prediction is genes mutate and favorable/neutral mutations cause drift in the population eventually leading to new subspecies and then species. If you want an example in the present:

    …The Seneca white deer are leucistic white-tailed deer, not albinos. This means they lack pigmentation in their hair. They have normal coloration in their eyes and skin, not the pink eyes of albinos. Leucism affects the pigmentation of the hair only, while albinos lack the pigment melanin throughout their bodies. Leucism is caused by a mutation that prevents pigmentation of the hair…. http://www.senecawhitedeer.org/frequently-asked-questions/

    Many years ago I worked with Beep Hobbs on this project: (catching blind cave crayfish and normal sighted crayish)
    [PDF]
    Subterranean Fishes of North America

    http://www.crcnetbase.com/doi/abs/10.1201/EBK1578086702-c7

    …in the context of a balance between natural selection and mutations of rudimentation. …… 4 in Poulson 1960) and 45–80 cave crayfish had 1–5 isopods and …… Dave Culver, Bill Elliott, Ben Fitzpatrick, Beep Hobbs, Bill Jeffery, Jim. Keith, ……

  49. Dear Dr. Frank: I suggest you send your excellent letter to the Wall Street Journal along with the background story. That way a large audience will be exposed to shenanigans of organizations like NCSE.

  50. johanna says:
    March 27, 2012 at 10:10 am
    …. instead of criticising Pat Frank – how about writing your own letter?

    Pat, I think your letter just went completely over their heads…. They just don’t seem to be very bright.
    ______________________________
    No Johanna WE understood and can appreciate Pat’s letter, We just do not think NCSE can. In other words we think they have the attention span of a three year old and should be treated accordingly.

  51. Hot under the collar says:
    March 27, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Perhaps Pat Frank should write another letter thanking them for their letter of rejection as it has enabled many more readers to benefit via publication on WUWT….
    _________________________
    Excellent idea!

    I am sure WUWT has a much wider audience than NCSE and the publication of the whole mess on the internet was not what they wished for when they tried to bury the rebuttal.

  52. jerry says:
    March 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I guarantee that the only response by the NCSE will be to assign someone the task of digging up dirt on Pat Frank.
    ________________________________
    Oh, he has already rattled their cages. http://www.rabe.org/doubt-makers/

  53. Gail Combs says:
    March 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

    johanna says:
    March 27, 2012 at 10:10 am
    …. instead of criticising Pat Frank – how about writing your own letter?

    Pat, I think your letter just went completely over their heads…. They just don’t seem to be very bright.
    ______________________________
    No Johanna WE understood and can appreciate Pat’s letter, We just do not think NCSE can. In other words we think they have the attention span of a three year old and should be treated accordingly.
    —————————————————————-
    Gail, please read my post again. What I said was that NCSE didn’t get it, not WUWT readers. The WUWT readership is, IMHO, much smarter than the dim bulbs at NCSE.

  54. An excellent letter, but as others have said, obviously pitched way above and beyond the understandings of the management of the NCSE.
    The lunatics have complete control of the asylum!

  55. Gail Coombs:

    The prediction is genes mutate and favorable/neutral mutations cause drift in the population eventually leading to new subspecies and then species.

    Gail, you are still missing Richard’s point. What you have cited is not a prediction, but an hypothesis. Inherent in the Darwinian hypothesis is that the mutations in genes are random. By definition, they are not predictable. No one can predict what kind of mutation will come next. A testable scientific hypothesis can make predictions about what the outcome of a particular perturbation may be, and then subject that prediction to experimentation to verify whether the outcome is as predicted. This is the falsifiable dimension of the problem. Simply put, the Darwinian model of evolution is not falsifiable.

    This is not to suggest that the cases that you cite are incorrect or invalid. There is a fundamental epistemological distinction here that is frequently misunderstood. Evolution cannot, by its very nature, be validated by the scientific method promoted by Popper and summarized in Pat Frank’s letter. The strengths or weaknesses of the Darwinian hypothesis must be tested by essentially legal-historical means, more analogous to the methods employed in a court of law than by the scientific method. All we have to go on is our understanding of the present state of a given biological life form, coupled with evidence of former states (be they fossil records, divergent species, genetic mutations, etc.). It is therefore the preponderance of the evidence, both for and against the hypothesis, that either strengthens or weakens the hypothesis. This is an entirely appropriate way to pursue knowledge. However, this is not the scientific method (in the Popperian sense), and we must studiously avoid conflating the two.

  56. The world climate is changing rapidly – Texas drought 2001 – 2011 demonstrates it according to NCSE:

    http://ncse.com/climate/climate-change-101/is-climate-changing-now

    This is science NCSE? No. Easy to check:

    http://www.real-science.com/1930-worst-drought-in-us-history-2

    http://www.real-science.com/permanent-drought-update

    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/worst-drought-in-history/

    NCSE became yet another organisation that does not care about science but sold itself (for a few bucks? what for?) to the CAGW meme.
    They are on the other side, on this side is Ivar Giaever, Freeman Dyson, I feel confortable on this side of science. Maybe they should reconsider their participation in the CAGW crusade, it is not helping any science what they do, but promoting a pseudo science, the Gleick affair should have rang a bell.

  57. johanna says:
    March 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm
    Gail, please read my post again. What I said was that NCSE didn’t get it, not WUWT readers. The WUWT readership is, IMHO, much smarter than the dim bulbs at NCSE.
    __________________________
    Sorry Johanna, I thought the “over their heads” referred to us (WUWT) since we were the subject of the first paragraph.

  58. thereisnofear says:
    March 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Gail Coombs:

    Gail, you are still missing Richard’s point….
    ________________________________
    OK I can understand where you are coming from but if I recall from my very sketchy Biology background I think experiments were run using irradiation to create mutations in Fruit flies.
    Ah yes here are a references:

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2458677?uid=3739776&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=55956809903

    and

    http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~mcclean/plsc431/mutation/mutation3.htm

    I do not know if anyone went the next step and determined if any of the induced mutations were “Useful” HMMMmmm seems that sort of thing was look at as early as 1926.

    ….Beginning in late 1926, while at the University of Texas, Muller subjected male fruit flies to relatively high doses of radiation, then mated them to virgin female fruit flies.

    • In a few weeks’ time Muller was able to artificially induce more than 100 mutations in the resulting progeny—about half the number of all mutations discovered in Drosophila over the previous fifteen years.

    • Some mutations were deadly. The effects of other mutations were visible in offspring but not lethal. As Muller interpreted his results, radioactive particles passing through the chromosomes randomly affected the molecular structure of individual genes, rendering them either inoperative or altering their chemical functions…. http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/resources/timeline/1927_Muller.php

    So again I really do not think you can equate Evolution with climate at least at this stage because experiments CAN be done in the field of evolution. That is artificially creating mutations that are nonlethal in the offspring.

    I realize this is not quite the same as what you have stated:

    …A testable scientific hypothesis can make predictions about what the outcome of a particular perturbation may be, and then subject that prediction to experimentation to verify whether the outcome is as predicted. This is the falsifiable dimension of the problem. Simply put, the Darwinian model of evolution is not falsifiable….

    However if mutations could not be produced by gamma radiation (a radiation seen in elevated doses near volcanoes) or by any other method then at least that part of the theory would have been brought into serious question and the specific hypothesis gamma radiation produces mutations would have been falsified.

    Of course now with the ability to insert genes Monsanto and other companies ARE producing a particular perturbation and verifying whether the outcome is as predicted.

    The Theory of Evolution of course is a broad topic and is really a series of linked hypotheses some of which are certainly testable and I think that is what you are trying to say by saying it is not “falsifiable”

  59. I had some worry the NCSE might know some better science that would change my mind. Now I know it is the same fear-mongering and guilt-mongering pseudoscience of AGW. The Younger Dryas was 4-8C cooler than the periods before and after it and it terminated in just a decade.

  60. Lucretius said that natural philosophy is the means to free ourselves from fear-mongering. It does not seem as though NCSE is with Lucretius.

  61. In some ways evolution is like cosmology, you don’t get to do a re-run on another universe/Earth and compare results.

    However there are predictions in both cases.

    For example, if a new antibiotic, insecticide or herbicide is introduced, and widely used, we can predict that organisms will gradually become more and more resistant to it – not less. And observation shows this is indeed the case.

    Likewise, we can make predictions about what sort of fossils we might discover in future. We’re never going to discover a crab with feathers, or a frog with a mammalian ear. An intelligent designer might find such hybrid designs appealing, but features from widely separated lineages are impossible in evolution for reasons of history.

  62. Gail Combs says:
    March 27, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Leucism is caused by a mutation that prevents pigmentation of the hair….

    And they are still deer. Mutations occur and adaptation occurs. No one debates this because they are observable. What has not been observed is mutation causing a deer to change into something else. That is a very big difference. And there are other theories that speak against it happening, e.g., Information Theory. One has to account for the fact that humans have far more information in their genetic code than do bacteria. To suggest that this information is the product of random mutation is not only at odds with Information Theory but contrary to all other experience.

    Because macro evolution has never been observed and is likely to never be observed (because of the proposed time scale), and because no one has come up with an experiment that might show it, evolutionists resort to the interpretation of archeological findings and pointing to similarities of DNA. But similarities do not prove causation and interpretations of archeology are, well, interpretations. It’s all very much like climate science. A lot of interpretation, supposition of cause and effect and appeal to authority. There’s a little science underpinning it, but lots of extrapolation and claims that have not been substantiated via the scientific method.

    Notice the difference with Newton’s law of gravity which is mathematical, predictable, subject to experimentation and verifiable by multiple researchers at multiple times. That’s why there is no debate about it and why there is a lot of debate about global warming.

  63. > To suggest that this information is the product of random mutation is not only at odds with Information Theory but contrary to all other experience.

    That’s the fundamental misunderstanding right there, among most anti-evolution folks.

    They think that random mutations are pushing towards adding fitness or information, etc.

    The theory is that random mutations go in pretty much all directions. Most the directions are towards less fitness, more randomness etc. But the environment acts a filter, removing all the less fitness variants. The analogy of a hectacomb (the mass slaughter of animals) has been used.

    As an illustration, here is a little game:

    Imagine a box with 10 dice in it. Let’s start with them all at random. Those 10 dice values represents the gene of the organism. The higher the total of adding up all the dice, the fitter the organism. Duplicate that box, including the dice & values shown on them, to get your population of organisms (we are using a population of 2).

    Now each generation what you do is pick the box with the highest total dice score (from the population of 2) and use that to generate offspring. Obviously in the first round, the two boxes are identical, so it doesn’t matter which box you choose, but as you progress in the game, it will.

    Offspring are made by duplicating the parent exactly (including dice & values shown on them), except you pick one dice at random from the 10, and re-roll it. Sometimes the offspring will come out more fit (higher scoring) than the parent, sometimes less fit. it’s random. A random mutation.

    But each generation you choose the offspring with the highest score. the environmental filtering for fitness, and use that to generate the next generation. And that is not random.

    You need to do this for a long-time, and there may be many detours along the way, but eventually you will find that you approach the maximum score (10 dice each with a 6).

  64. I’m a little bit reluctant to jump into the evolution vs religion argument, but I do want to add one bit of perspective:

    Folks are bouncing back and forth about new species formation using a mental model of single gene mutations. As though that was all there is. That is simply not the case. The number of ways that genes change and move between species is fairly large and in many cases does cause a ‘species creation like event’.

    Just off the top of my head, we can have chromosome duplication or loss (the whole thing… see yyx ‘double male’ individuals), there are “jumping genes” and transposons and other bits of whole chunks or arms of a chromosome that can move from one chromosome to another, sometimes flipping over and being put in place backwards. Various viruses (and perhaps some bacterial forms) can not only swap DNA with each other, but move DNA from one critter into another wholesale (that’s how we do “genetic engineering”, by using what is done more randomly in nature – and it’s why I’m not keen on GMO foods as those SAME things still operate inside your gut and I’m not interested in a “Roundup Ready” gut flora..).

    In fact, there are large blocks of DNA that look like they were moved from one species, wholesale, into another. This has caused some grief for the folks doing Cladistics as they use a ‘quantity of same DNA’ metric to determine evolutionary closeness, that breaks down dramatically if large chunks get swapped about… ( Our mitochondria, for example, have indications of having been a free living organism ‘way back when’…)

    But even THAT doesn’t capture the ‘looseness’ with which nature swaps DNA about. Just 2 quick examples. One of which has quite clearly led to many species of plants ( and that I’ve used in my backyard to make a very special Kale) and the other makes a new species that could easily show up suddenly in nature, but for the fact that we keep them all in farms so it depends on our desire to let that new species form.

    First, the “Triangle of Wu” (or Woo or U depending on how the guys name gets translated).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_of_U

    There are 3 base species of ‘Cabbages, Mustards, and Turnips’ with relatively small gene counts (8, 9, or 10 chromosomes). These different species can be crossed to give 3 new species families with chromosome counts of larger size (17, 18, or 19) and giving various kinds of Mustards and Rutabaga and Kale. The theory is that this happened accidentally in nature in some cases, but is also done in the garden deliberately these days. (This, BTW, is why the Rutabaga or Swede is a lot LIKE a turnip, but isn’t a turnip… and why Siberian Kale is a different species from common Kale. Both Siberian Kale and the Rutabaga are the same ‘cross’ but with different exact gene sets, while both the regular kale and the turnip are from parent linages with smaller chromosome counts. Siberian Kale has been recreated ‘from scratch’ via repeating the crossing.)

    This is NOT a unique example, just one that is very complex and particularly important to food production.

    So anyone doubting that a new species can be created ought to just go cross a turnip with a cabbage and make one themselves. (There are very many kinds of turnip, and many kinds of cabbage, and not all the ‘trials’ have been done, so you can make your own species any time you like…)

    The “species barrier” is more of a “species strong suggestion” and frequently broken. It is likely that many current species arose from such crossings and not from point mutations.

    Basically: point mutations make the small changes and reshuffling the deck gives the big species events, IMHO.

    One more (there are hundreds..) is the sheep-goat hybrid:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep-goat_hybrid

    In at least one case the individual was shown to be fertile in back crossing and one could form a new species with just a couple of generations of work, if desired.

    the following statement of Mr. Low: “It has been long known to shepherds, though questioned by naturalists, that the progeny of the cross between the sheep and goat is fertile. Breeds of this mixed race are numerous in the north of Europe.” Nothing appears to be known of such hybrids either in Scandinavia or in Italy; but Professor Giglioli of Florence has kindly given me some useful references to works in which they are described. The following extract from his letter is very interesting: “I need not tell you that there being such hybrids is now generally accepted as a fact. Buffon (Supplements, tom. iii. p. 7, 1756) obtained one such hybrid in 1751 and eight in 1752. Sanson (La Culture, vol. vi. p. 372, 1865) mentions a case observed in the Vosges, France. Geoff. St. Hilaire (Hist. Nat. Gén. des reg. org., vol. iii. p. 163) was the first to mention, I believe, that in different parts of South America the ram is more usually crossed with the she-goat than the sheep with the he-goat. The well-known ‘pellones’ of Chile are produced by the second and third generation of such hybrids (Gay, ‘Hist, de Chile,’ vol. i. p. 466, Agriculture, 1862). Hybrids bred from goat and sheep are called ‘chabin’ in French, and ‘cabruno’ in Spanish. In Chile such hybrids are called ‘carneros lanudos'; their breeding inter se appears to be not always successful, and often the original cross has to be recommenced to obtain the proportion of three-eighths of he-goat and five-eighths of sheep, or of three-eighths of ram and five-eighths of she-goat; such being the reputed best hybrids.”

    It is also likely that several of the canine species are formed this way ( some species in the wild have now been found to be crosses of two other species…. )

    There is an interesting chart of the crosses that ‘work’ here:,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canid_hybrid

    So, not to be a wet blanket on the “Does So!, Does Not!” argument, but, er, um, both are wrong. Each is trying to prove that point mutations can / can’t cause species to form via natural selection. But reality is not working on only point mutations. It’s like arguing about how best to bake cakes but ignoring the use of the oven…

    BTW, since I’m in ‘rain making mode': The whole ‘God vs Darwin’ debate is just a waste of breath anyway. Personally, I see no reason why God could not just chose to use evolution as His Method Of Creation. It is, IMHO, much more elegant a solution and were I a ‘creator God’, I’d not want to hand craft each species if I could just create the program, turn it loose to run, and watch it make my species “according to my plan”.

    So maybe, just maybe, can we skip that particular debate? It is founded on a false premise (that God could not have chosen to create evolution) and it ignores the known non-point mutation modes of evolution. So it can never end, nor resolve.

  65. I was with the NCSE when it first started in Eugenie’s basement. Thus I’ve known Eugenie since the mid 1980’s. Though I moved on from taking on creationism in Canada once is was clear we have won that battle up here. Our target in those days was creationism only, and it’s attack on science. The NCSE was the main driver in turning the tide around, rallying scientists all across the continent and Australia.

    I’m greatly disappointed in this new tact. It’s going to be a big embarrassment. I’ve toyed with the possibility of calling Eugenie and expressing this very point, but I fear nothing now will change their minds. Sad.

  66. E.M.Smith says:
    March 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I’m a little bit reluctant to jump into the evolution vs religion argument, but I do want to add one bit of perspective:….
    _____________________________
    Thank you for jumping in. A lot more stuff than I was aware of although I was aware of the possibility of gene jumps with the GMOs. Like you that is my reason for avoiding them.

    I also agree on your view that Evolution and God are not mutually exclusive. It is the reason I am an “Agnostic” and not an atheist.

  67. E M Smith – thanks for your thoughtful contribution. I agree that there is a lot of tilting at windmills in this debate. To put it in perspective, the climate wars are nothing compared to the endless, and bitter, brawls among biologists about taxonomy – which boils down to who is related to whom, and how. Anyone who is even a passingly keen student of the plants in their garden or their local area has probably had things reclassified and renamed at least once in the last decade or two. As a collector of Australian native orchids, I have had my knowledge of species boundaries declared obsolete twice in the last 30 years. I don’t stress about it any more – it makes no difference in practical terms to me as a grower. What I do know is that the boundaries are very fluid, and in a sense the attempts to draw lines are futile. My orchids, left to their own devices, are remarkably promiscuous and indiscriminate when it comes to reproduction!

    I suspect that the ability to cross our human-created lines decreases as the organisms become more dissimilar, and that viable offspring capable of reproducing are less and less likely. But they undoubtedly do occur, and it is feasible that now and then a very small number of progenitors can create a large and viable population. It is unusual, but certainly not impossible.

    So, like you, I am not sure what all the excitement and agitation is about.

  68. Was some of Dr. Morrison’s quote omitted?

    “we don’t need numerical models to tell us [that increased CO2 is] a harbinger of much worse climate disruptions to come…” because (he continued), we can read the future in the entrails of sheep, goats, tukeys and chickens; we foresee the portents in the stars and constellations; the augurs (whom we pay overtime) murmur tales of the end-times; and all the omens are plain: unless you pay us high priests a lot more money, we are doomed…DOOMED!!!

    There. Fixed.

  69. Patrick Frank, thanks for posting your letter, I thought it was very well written.

    “But Dr. Morrison tells us that’s irrelevant, because rising CO2 is enough all by itself to certify a catastrophically disrupted climate…”

    If this is really the extent of their understanding of the issues then I think that you’re talking way over their heads.

  70. Back to plate tectonics; is there such a thing as average heat transfer from the mantle upward to the surface? Does the modelling allow for earth temperatures at -1M, -2M, -5M? Of course not!
    The planets surface heat isn’t just regulated by tropospheric air currents and sea changes in relation to incoming and outgoing solar power, but also the processes driven from the mantle corridor are in play.
    The modelling lacks way to many inputs to be taken seriously, yet we of minimal knowledge and expertise are stuck on AGW.
    Plate spreading, overrun and 100 day rifting (along with solar influences & the physical mechanics) explain every transition from ice-age to inter-glacial and visa-versa, yet we’re stuck in AGW mode…

  71. I agree with E.M. Smith. One example of a very well documented transposon-mediated mutation in bacteria was reported more than 20 years ago. Bacteria with and without the transposon (but otherwise identical) were seeded at various ratios in a culture chamber and allowed to “compete”. The strain with transposons uniformly won the competition (became vastly predominant over time) and functional changes mediated by the transposon was apparently the cause. Nothing like this is available to establish that anthropogenic CO2 is the main driver of warming.

    One other point. Evolution is a problem to many people because they don’t trust authority figures (a trait they share with most people who frequent this blog). This is particularly the case with regard to aggressively anti-religious authorities (e.g., Dawkins). There are rational ways to reconcile the Bible and evolution, and I think one of these would be the “consensus” opinion among Christians now, if not for the behavior of some evolutionary biologists and science teachers in lower grades who state that evolution disproves religion. Of course, it does no such thing; religion and science are fundamentally different. Religion relies upon faith and science upon evidence. Religion gives a basis for meaning and purpose, science explains the physical universe but says nothing about ultimate meaning or purpose.

    There is an interesting parallel between evolution and climate science in that the “strategy” designed by believers to convince unbelievers (marginalize them and ridicule them) has yielded exactly the opposite result. You would think that perfectly rational people (which is the self image of most climate scientists and evolutionary biologists) would be able to discern this and opt for a more effective strategy.

  72. Evidently, Green coloration of a professional society or association is a sure-fire indication of deep rot pustulating through to the surface.
    >:-p

  73. The CAGW adherents are very similar to creationists, The inability of the so-called “Models” to model clouds is so great as to invalidate the whole of their theory and the failure of their predictions is so great as to finish it off entirely. They say Denialists are like creationists, but they are looking in the Mirror of History.

  74. Evolution is a problem to many people because they don’t trust authority figures (a trait they share with most people who frequent this blog). This is particularly the case with regard to aggressively anti-religious authorities (e.g., Dawkins).

    Thank you, Stephen Pruett. At my core, I’m probably along the same lines as E.M. Smith. I don’t have a fundamental problem with evolution but I’ve found myself becoming more and more skeptical specifically because of people like Dawkins. Darwinism, since its inception, has been seen as the silver bullet to kill God. Evolution and religion don’t have to be mutually exclusive but Darwinians have framed the debate to make it so. If I’m forced to vote one way or the other, I won’t be voting with Dawkins. It becomes hard to see the science through the obvious agenda. Sound familiar?

    “Evolution skeptics” bring up some very interesting questions, and many of them remain unanswered. That is goodness for science, at least in theory, because it should drive the curious to look harder. Instead, just like with climate science, the questions are summarily dismissed by those who own the consensus position. Science, the process versus Science, the institution.

  75. copner says:
    March 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    That’s the fundamental misunderstanding right there, among most anti-evolution folks.

    They think that random mutations are pushing towards adding fitness or information, etc.

    The theory is that random mutations go in pretty much all directions. Most the directions are towards less fitness, more randomness etc. But the environment acts a filter, removing all the less fitness variants.

    Imagine a box with 10 dice in it…

    Other than being very simplistic compared to the great complexity of life (not to mention a chromosome), one flaw with the dice game is that It is assumed that all higher scores are more fit than lower scores, that there are no roadblocks along the way that cannot be overcome. Another flaw is that a number is not a code but a chromosome contains a code. The nature of complex systems is that the more complex something is, the more likely a random alteration will destroy it.

    Life on earth is incredibly complex. There are countless millions of different combinations of dice that are all “well-adapted” to the earth simultaneously. To introduce random variation into a well adapted organism is in almost all cases counter-productive to it’s survival. To suggest that life has evolved is to take a very rare event and multiply it trillions of times until the probabilities become vanishingly small. Yet we say the magic phrase “survival of the fittest” and everything suddenly becomes possible. Even the evolution of life itself from inanimate chemicals, quite contrary to the well-established chemical equilibria of the reactions involved, is easily accomplished with these words, although I can’t imagine what it means that an inanimate collection of chemicals can “survive”. Even Stephen Jay Gould called it a “glorious accident”, not a phrase scientists use very often to describe the more mundane laws of chemistry and physics.

    My television set obeys all of the laws of physics and chemistry yet these laws acting in an undirected way are entirely insufficient to produce it. It does not matter how long you wait and how many permutations occur. No glorious accident can ever produce it. The Information required to manufacture a television cannot spontaneously arise through randomness yet the assembly and operating instructions for a human being is said to be the product of randomness. Randomness is antithetical to information. If I randomly change letters in this post, will I create information?

    Suppose I randomly draw letters out of a hat. Eventually I may do so in such a way that produces the Gettysburg address. Has this random process generated the information contained in the Gettysburg address? What if the people on the planet where this experiment was performed have no concept of written language or of war or of government. This “information” is only meaningful if there is first a means of understanding it. In other words, the code itself is not the information, it merely encodes it. But the letters that make up the Gettysburg Address have no meaning at all except the meaning imparted to them by intelligent beings.

  76. thereisnofear says:
    March 27, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    This is an entirely appropriate way to pursue knowledge. However, this is not the scientific method (in the Popperian sense), and we must studiously avoid conflating the two.

    Precisely.

  77. Who likes “falsifiable” as a word with a clear meaning to ordinary people. Why not use “testable” or “refutable” or various others.
    Otherwise well written.

  78. copner says:
    March 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    For example, if a new antibiotic, insecticide or herbicide is introduced, and widely used, we can predict that organisms will gradually become more and more resistant to it – not less. And observation shows this is indeed the case.

    Or it might utterly destroy it. Natural Selection only works if the environmental perturbations are sufficiently small. But when they are small, it is postulated that there is basically no limit to how an organism can change. But your example doesn’t even require any genetic change at all, simply the expression of variability innate in the genes. I have no problem with Natural Selection, only that it has the power to turn one organism into an entirely different organism. That it has the power to create information through randomness

  79. Mr. Frank nearly hits the nail on the head but misses it when he says: “The scientists who use GCM projections to predict future climate do not take cloud error into account” for GCM projections do not predict.

  80. My thanks to everyone for your great comments. Sorry for the delay in responding — work has been intense. Thanks also for the votes of appreciation — alex, Allan, Jessie, and all the rest.

    Anyway, jim karlock, one suspects the NCSE would just point to the IPCC and to the “consensus” as their evidence.

    Eugenie Scott told me the NCSE board discussed for a year taking a position on climate. But the NCSE board doesn’t include a single physical scientist, so how’d they evaluate the evidence before making their decision? I know they never contacted John Christy or Dick Lindzen, because I asked them. Maybe the board consulted Peter Gleick. The way Eugenie expressed herself, I believe the board generally bought into the corrosive political climate and “knew” the only AGW stalwarts were trustworthy scientists.

    KenB, good point with plenty of irony. I presently have a full article under review at NCSE Reports. We’ll see what happens with that.

    John Shade, thanks for passing it on and I hope you get some hits. :-)

    Philip Finck, sorry you got bored. Galileo’s understanding of science was identical with Einstein’s 300 years later, and with ours another 100 years on. This demonstrates the constancy of its content.

    Galileo therefore had a clearer understanding of science in the 16th century than David Morrison does in the 21st.

    Also clearer than the leadership of the NAS, the APS, the ACS, the AGU, the AMS, and now the NCSE. Don’t you find that interesting?

    I was struck by the clarity of Galileo’s understanding, and it’s worthy to communicate that at a time when science is so under attack and so deliberately misconceived.

    More to the point, how is it possible to show that David Morrison’s article violated science without laying out what science is? But you found all that boring. Oh, well.

    I’m not writing for people with nit-sized attention spans. Neither was David Morrison.

  81. copner, you’re supposing I expressed knowledge of intent, i.e., to stifle

    However, I made no such claim. I took Dr. Petto’s reason for rejection at his word. But Dr. Petto’s reason didn’t withstand scrutiny, and so I supposed it was a pretext. The pretext was about his reasoning, which was in evidence, not about his intent, which was not.

    None of the reasons you suppose were mentioned by Dr. Petto. We also have the evidence of David Morrison’s article and the NCSE decision about climate that none of them have a clear understanding of the interplay of theory and result that is science.

    You’re also proposing to know what I assumed (“some evil conspiracy”); another mistake in presuming what you cannot know. Your reasoning is just a pastiche of unfounded speculation.

    Richard Wright don’t get caught up in the superficiality of equating AGW with Evolutionary Theory. It’s easy to refute Evolution: find any mammal fossil prior to the Cretaceous. Or any dinosaur fossil prior to the Permian. Consult Francis Collins: fervent Christian; very clear on the evidence supporting Evolutionary Theory.

    Gail Combs, I agree with you and John A that when all is said and done in AGW, the chief injury will be to the general reputation of science and scientists. The fallout from that to delay progress in knowledge and technology, to health and welfare, could be large.

    Richard Wright, the problems you describe about predictability in Evolutionary Theory plague every historical science. Geology has the same problem. It can’t predict the future morphology of mountains, where exactly to find mineral ores, where aquifers will run, or how the continents will spin around or collide. There’s a huge amount of contingency in geological processes that interferes with deterministic predictions. The same is true of natural selection in Biology. Your objections don’t take complexity into account.

    johanna, thanks and you could be right. Maybe it’s that nit-level attention thingy. :-)

    jerry, it would be great to find out my life has been exciting after all! :-)

    alex verlinden, you got it.

    atheok, thanks for your kind advice. I was writing for the readership of NCSE Reports, who tend to be thoughtful and generally science-minded. They’re not “people [who] skim first and read later.”

    But tell you what: you write your letter to the NCSE and best wishes.

  82. Chuck L good idea, but I suspect WUWT has a higher readership that the WSJ.

    Gail your last sentence hits a central point.

    Bill Parsons, you called it. It’s all about signs and portents. Haruspices would find a good living in AGW climate science, and many science reporters fit that haruspex bill very closely.

    Mike Blackadder, you’re right, and have put your finger exactly on why the first three paragraphs seemed so necessary to me.

    Terry Oldberg, everyone here knows GCMs don’t predict, but the IPCC seems to forget at every opportunity and the common rhetoric of AGW scientists and reporters alike is that the torrid futures projected by GCMs are physically real and highly likely. What’s a skeptic to do but call it the way it’s presented?

  83. Whenever I hear the tired old ploy of equating climate sceptics with creationists ,particularly from commentators use arguments revolving around “the consensus” or authoritative statements by scientific bodies, I am minded to enquire if they have ever asked a biologist why they ought to accept Darwinian evolution, and reject creationism (or intelligent design).

    Do you think that, if you did, you would be told of the overwhelming consensus of biologists in favour of evolution? Would your eminent biologist refer to statements by various august bodies in support of evolution? Will you be informed that you are incapable of forming an informed opinion, and that you must just trust the experts?

    I doubt it! What you will hear is recitation of the vast amount of evidence, from the geological column, fossil evidence of continuously changing forms, the morphological tree, DNA evidence etc etc, all pointing to the same evolutionary tree, with no exceptions. What you will hear about is evidence, nothing else. Because nothing else is required to make the case.

    And if CAGW alarmists had convincing evidence to support their case, thats what they would talk about too.

  84. @Pat Frank:

    I didn’t mean to imply you thought there was an evil conspiracy. Rather I was pointing it out as a trap for us all to avoid. My apologies, if those comments were taken by anybody as being directed at you personally.

    I do think your letter is very good, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be further improved.

    @Richard Wright:

    The dice game was only intended as a narrow illustration that the filtering is mechanism that can impose direction on random change. Yes it is vastly simplified. But it is intended to illustrate just that narrow point.

    As to your counter that most mutations will make things worse, absolutely. That’s just a question of having enough time.

    Imagine the dice game when you get to 9 out 10 dice showing a six. At that point 9 out 10 mutations (actually strictly 5/6 of 9/10) will make the simulated organism worse, less fit. However, eventually you’ll get lucky and hit the 1/10 that could lead to an improvement. The logic is know different if there are 1000 dice or 1,000,000 – just the odds are that much smaller, and the time taken that much longer.

    There are other games that show more complex, and more open-ended, evolution. Ones where there is no in-built directionality except for survival of the fittest, and things such as parasitism, immunity to parasitism, cooperation, and hyper-parasitism spontaneous emerge. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl5rRGVD0QI for one example.

  85. copner says:
    March 28, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Imagine the dice game when you get to 9 out 10 dice showing a six. At that point 9 out 10 mutations (actually strictly 5/6 of 9/10) will make the simulated organism worse, less fit. However, eventually you’ll get lucky and hit the 1/10 that could lead to an improvement.

    And what if every value between 5555555555 and 9999999999 are unviable and cannot reproduce? Your game assumes that there is some smooth progression along the road where every higher number is not only closer to your goal but also more fit than every lower number. But the fact that we’re talking about simulations instead of equations demonstrates the similarity between climate science and evolution. Climate science also uses simulations to “prove” it’s validity but who proves the simulations are correct? We don’t have these discussions about Newton’s law of gravity, although I think it is interesting that we have to resort to simulations even in gravity once we get beyond two masses because last I heard no one has figured out how to solve the equations in those cases.

  86. Pat Frank says:
    March 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Richard Wright – don’t get caught up in the superficiality of equating AGW with Evolutionary Theory. It’s easy to refute Evolution: find any mammal fossil prior to the Cretaceous. Or any dinosaur fossil prior to the Permian. Consult Francis Collins: fervent Christian; very clear on the evidence supporting Evolutionary Theory.

    Nonsense. They will simply revise the theory. It happens all the time. And, if need be, they will resort to life having been seeded on the earth from another planet, as Richard Dawkins has done.

  87. Pat Frank says:
    March 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm
    copner, you’re supposing I expressed knowledge of intent, i.e., to stifle

    Richard Wright, the problems you describe about predictability in Evolutionary Theory plague every historical science. Geology has the same problem. It can’t predict the future morphology of mountains, where exactly to find mineral ores, where aquifers will run, or how the continents will spin around or collide. There’s a huge amount of contingency in geological processes that interferes with deterministic predictions. The same is true of natural selection in Biology. Your objections don’t take complexity into account.

    Complexity is precisely my point. Climate science also tries to understand, model, predict, whatever, a very complex system. At it’s heart are very sound scientific principles, e.g., the greenhouse effect, evaporation, condensation, energy balance, etc. But the complexity is beyond our ability to grasp and so we resort to simulations. But the interactions are so immense that we must make a variety of assumptions (like forcings) to have any hope of predicting anything. And what do we end up with? Something that can never be proved because we cannot do controlled experimentation on a planetary scale. And controlled experimentation is a hallmark of the scientific method.

    Natural Selection is well established but the assumptions and extrapolations used to say that it can change one organism into another are even more extreme than those used in climate science. Even the term “historical science” is misleading. The only thing scientific about them is that scientific tests and principles are used to analyze evidence. After that, it’s deductive reasoning fraught with assumptions. You can analyze tree rings scientifically but the interpretation of what they “tell us” about the climate is an entirely different matter. Evidence never “tells us” anything; rather, we tell ourselves what it means.

  88. > And what if every value between 5555555555 and 9999999999 are unviable and cannot reproduce? Your game assumes that there is some smooth progression along the road where every higher number is not only closer to your goal but also more fit than every lower number.

    That’s exactly the sort of scenario envisaged by programs like Tierra.

    Even in the simplified programming language of Tierra, nearly all computer programs can not self-reproduce, nearly all mutations lead to results which are mostly non-reproducing, rarely less fit, and only very very rarely more fit.

    I’d urge you to watch the video link I posted, or better yet read the summary of Tierra in Stephen Levy’s book, Artificial Life. It’s a great story, whatever you think of biological evolution.

    > But the fact that we’re talking about simulations instead of equations demonstrates the similarity between climate science and evolution.

    Back in the world of biology, there’s a lot that can be done with fruit flies, and even more bacteria, and a lot has been done. The problem with larger animals is the generation time is too long for observation that doesn’t last generations.

  89. copner says:
    March 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Even in the simplified programming language of Tierra, nearly all computer programs can not self-reproduce, nearly all mutations lead to results which are mostly non-reproducing, rarely less fit, and only very very rarely more fit.

    I’d urge you to watch the video link I posted, or better yet read the summary of Tierra in Stephen Levy’s book, Artificial Life. It’s a great story, whatever you think of biological evolution.

    Thanks, I’ll check it out. Sounds interesting.

  90. Evolution stuff

    Back around 1970 when the Git was studying biology, Susumu Ohno hypothesised that in order for evolution to occur, gene duplication had to occur else the originating genes would lose their functionality when they mutated. The original gene remains performing its regular function, while the duplicate undergoes mutation. But the mutating duplicate gene would no longer be performing a function and natural selection would tend to weed such duplicates out of the population. AFAICT research into Ohno’s hypothesis is ongoing.

    EM Smith hit a particular nail on the head above by pointing out that contra Dawkins’ assertions, genes do flow between species. In plantae, the flow is ubiquitous; less so but still noticeable among animalia.

    The only evolutionary experiment I know of is Richard Lensky’s E. coli long-term evolution experiment. You can draw your own conclusions from that one.

    An interesting read about evolution is Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe by Simon Conway Morris. For those who have read Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History may recall Conway Morris as the English paleontologist who painstaking revealed the form of many Cambrian creatures.

    I’d love to stick around and discuss the philosophy of biology, but I am not at all well, though I have managed to avoid hospitalisation on this occasion and am taking to my own bed.

  91. Richard Wright, there is no way Evolutionary Theory could survive the discovery of the fossilized bones of modern mammals in the Cretaceous, of Cretaceous dinosaurs in the Permian, or of fish of any sort in pre-Cambrian sediments. Your dismissal of that fact is peremptory and wrong.

    You wrote that, “It happens all the time.” Please present an example.

    I heard Francis Collins speak. He described the fusion of human chromosome 2 as a clear example of evolutionary change.

    Humans have 23 chromosomes. All apes have 24. Our chromosome 2 has centromere DNA in its center, which no other chromosomes have. Centromere DNA is always on the end-terminus of the chromosomes. The only way that chromosome 2 could have centromere DNA in its center is if it were the product of the end-on fusion of two shorter chromosomes.

    In fact, those two chromosomes exist in chimpanzees and other great apes, and their sequence is nearly identical to human chromosome 2.

    I’ve heard Francis Collins speak. He described human chromosome 2 as irrefutable evidence of evolution and common ancestry.

    Richard Dawkins’ idea about panspermia concerns the origin of life elsewhere. The origin of life has nothing to do with biological evolution. Evolution is about what happens to species after life is established. The origin of life is about chemistry, and especially about the chemistry of self-organizing auto-catalytic systems.

    The discovery of Hox (homeobox) genes has completely opened the door to understanding how species can arise quickly. Hox genes are upstream genes that control fetal development. They turn developmental genes on and off. Changing the time developmental genes are on or off is called “heterochrony,” and it can have very powerful effects on the juvenile animal that is produced. See “Shapes of Time,” by Kenneth McNamra.

    Most people don’t realize that the first and most powerful arena of natural selection is inside the uterus (or egg). All mutations are tested there, and almost all of them are tossed out.

    Among humans, between 50% and 90% of all conceptions end up as miscarriages. Most of those are very early and merely appear as late menses. Warmer blooded, higher metabolism mammals, such as mice, have even more developmental mutations. So many miscarriages is too expensive, biologically, and so they resorb unviable fetuses. That’s natural selection in action. Nature is profligate with unborn life.

    But if a juvenile has some advantageous mutation, it will survive. If it’s a Hox gene mutation and is dominant, it will spread through the breeding population. If the population is isolated, a new species can arise in a few generations — a geological eyeblink.

    Among humans, the Milano A mutation appeared in one man in one village in Italy about 200 years ago. It is dominant and merely put an extra cysteine on the outside of the human HDL lipoprotein. That cysteine caused the HDL protein to dimerize (A + A -> AA). Dimerization made it much more able to carry cholesterol, and Milano A humans have far less heart disease.

    Not a new species, but an excellent modern example of a beneficial mutation and natural selection.

  92. Pat Frank said @ March 28, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    PG best wishes for a return to good health, with happiness and long life.

    Thanks Pat. I am afraid good health is but a memory at this end of life. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine however, I expect that my life will be considerably longer than my paternal grandfather’s. I’d be a lot happier if the attempt to return us to the days of my grandfather’s parents would cease. Still, I am happy enough while I still possess my marbles.

    Twice two equals four: ’tis true,
    But too empty, and too trite.
    What I look for is a clue
    To some matters not so light.

    Wilhelm Busch

  93. Pat Frank says:
    March 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Richard Wright, there is no way Evolutionary Theory could survive the discovery of the fossilized bones of modern mammals in the Cretaceous, of Cretaceous dinosaurs in the Permian, or of fish of any sort in pre-Cambrian sediments. Your dismissal of that fact is peremptory and wrong.

    You wrote that, “It happens all the time.” Please present an example.

    I think the best example is Punctuated Equilibrium that Stephen Jay Gould postulated because the fossil record is not gradual as predicted. If a dinosaur were found earlier then expected, it seems pretty easy to postulate that there were multiple simultaneous tracks of evolution and that one was ahead of the others and died out, for whatever reason.

    When the Big Bang Theory was first proposed it was rallied against because of the very unsettling problem that if the universe had a beginning then it must have had a cause which leads inevitably to a supernatural agent. But the evidence for the Big Bang theory was too strong so it was accepted. And what has happened? It is now postulated that there are an infinite number of eternal parallel universes and what appears to be a beginning is really just an emergence into our universe’s version of reality, or some such unprovable nonsense.

    Life starting somewhere else and landing here on Earth is the same. After many decades of unsuccessfully trying to create life in the laboratory – under any conditions – people are now suggesting that it originated somewhere else (and if we only knew where then we would no the chemistry and would of course we would know how!). The universe is a big place and so it’s very easy to imagine that anything could happen out there somewhere (like every episode of Star Trek). And if the universe isn’t big enough, we can imagine an infinite number of universes to draw upon. To me it seems much easier and more logical to believe in God.

    The point is that it is human nature to find ways around inconvenient bits of evidence if they clash with one’s strong philosophical or religious beliefs.

    Humans have 23 chromosomes. All apes have 24. Our chromosome 2 has centromere DNA in its center, which no other chromosomes have. Centromere DNA is always on the end-terminus of the chromosomes.

    Except, of course, on chromosome 2 where it isn’t.

    The only way that chromosome 2 could have centromere DNA in its center is if it were the product of the end-on fusion of two shorter chromosomes.

    Or maybe it was placed there intentionally. Just because we can only imagine one way something came to be the way it is does not mean it is the only possibility. In Newton’s view of the universe time was absolute and then Einstein showed it wasn’t. Newton thought gravity was a force, Einstein says there is not force; rather, space-time is shaped by mass.

    I’ve heard Francis Collins speak. He described human chromosome 2 as irrefutable evidence of evolution and common ancestry.

    That’s not an appeal to authority is it? :-) Seriously, the mere existence of something does not irrefutably prove anything about how it got to be that way. It can only be irrefutable if the assumption is that evolution occurred.

    Richard Dawkins’ idea about panspermia concerns the origin of life elsewhere. The origin of life has nothing to do with biological evolution. Evolution is about what happens to species after life is established.

    Of course, but my point was that there is no end to how theories will be worked around instead of thrown out when people embrace them so tightly.

    The origin of life is about chemistry, and especially about the chemistry of self-organizing auto-catalytic systems.

    We don’t have a single clue about the origin of life. None. We have absolutely no idea how it happened or how to make it happen in any sort of naturalistic way. People imagine lots of things but it is a total mystery. I doubt we know enough to duplicate an existing life form even if we had the technology. And I think it’s very interesting to consider how much intelligence and technology would be required to duplicate something “natural”?

    Among humans, the Milano A mutation appeared in one man in one village in Italy about 200 years ago. It is dominant and merely put an extra cysteine on the outside of the human HDL lipoprotein. That cysteine caused the HDL protein to dimerize (A + A -> AA). Dimerization made it much more able to carry cholesterol, and Milano A humans have far less heart disease.

    Not a new species, but an excellent modern example of a beneficial mutation and natural selection.

    It will be interesting to see if there are any negative consequences. And I think one has to wait until at least the majority of people have this mutation (and live longer or have more fit children) before one can conclude that this “beneficial” mutation will be naturally selected.

  94. Gail Combs says:
    March 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm
    “However if mutations could not be produced by gamma radiation (a radiation seen in elevated doses near volcanoes) or by any other method then at least that part of the theory would have been brought into serious question and the specific hypothesis gamma radiation produces mutations would have been falsified.”

    That really says nothing about evolution, but merely describes a mechanism which can only bring about a destructive/subtractive process. Upward evolution requires an increase in complexity, surely.

    “Of course now with the ability to insert genes Monsanto and other companies ARE producing a particular perturbation and verifying whether the outcome is as predicted.”

    What you are describing here, of course, is creation by intelligent design. Gene splicing is no accident, nor is a controlled focussed beam of high-energy photons or heavy particles a random event. So I fail to see what bearing it has on the falsifiability of the evolution hypothesis.

  95. Richard Wright, Punctuated Equilibrium was merely Gould and Eldridge pointing out that the stasis was as much a part of the fossil record as speciation.

    That wasn’t a modification of Evolutionary Theory, it just illuminated an area of neglected and misunderstood data.

    Your best example is no example at all.

    “Big Bang” wasn’t railed against because it requires a supernatural origin (it doesn’t). Some people, such as Fred Hoyle, opposed it (he invented the name to disparage the idea) because it contradicted his “Steady State Theory.”

    Nothing in science requires a supernatural cause, or agent, because “supernatural” has no objective meaning, and never will do. One might as well say that Big Bang Theory was opposed because it required potrezebies as a cause. For every supernatural cause you can show me, I can show you a potrezebie cause.

    Big Bang Theory was accepted almost immediately after the cosmic back ground radiation was discovered by Wilson and Penzias, because it had been predicted by that theory, 25 years earlier.

    Quantum Mechanics has raised the likelihood that universes start from nothing because of a fluctuation in space-time. If ours started that way, any number of other universes could start that way. It’s no big deal, and it’s not untestable.

    Science is almost always counter-intuitive, Richard. One can never dismiss a deduction from theory just because it seems like nonsense. Face it, atoms make no sense — itty-bitty nuclei surrounded by fuzzed-out electron clouds — except they exist.

    Chemical biogenesis will be better understood when the very early Earth is better understood. Neither you nor I nor anyone else knows what future knowledge will bring. Dismissing something as impossible just because it hasn’t yet been done is dangerous business. You run the risk of looking foolish.

    Five years ago, I co-authored a book chapter on the origins of chirality and the first steps in chemical biogenesis. In researching that chapter, I was impressed at how much progress has been made and how rich is that field.

    If you (or anyone else) would like a copy of that chapter, email me at pfrank830_at_earthlink_dot_net. It’s a 6 MB pdf file, though, so you’ll want a fast connection.

    If it seems logical to you to believe in god, that just implies you’ve not yet realized that “god” is a meaningless term. What can anyone say about the properties of “god”? What falsifiable theory predicts godness? What are objective god-observables? None, and none, are the answers. “God” is an empty set.

    i’m not dismissing your faith, Richard, but disputing your suggestion that it’s logical.

    You find god believable, an objectively empty concept that can’t be tested, and dismiss Evolutionary Theory, a objectively rich concept that has been tested and has passed every test (so far). How logical is that?

    You’re right that it’s always possible to “save the theory” by inventing ad hoc excuses at every turn. But most of us know when that’s being done, and the strategy never works for long in science. On the other hand, it never fails to work in politics.

  96. Let me add, Richard, that your dismissal of the evidence of telomere DNA in chromosome 2 as, “Except, of course, on chromosome 2 where it isn’t.” is exactly the sort of ad hoc scrambling you complained about, here, that scientists would do to “revise the theory” in order to dismiss inconvenient facts.

    My reason for mentioning Francis Collins was not to argue from authority about science, but to illustrate a fervent Christian who has no trouble with Evolutionary Theory.

  97. Pat Frank says:
    March 31, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Quantum Mechanics has raised the likelihood that universes start from nothing because of a fluctuation in space-time.

    Where did space-time come from? And why did it fluctuate? Science demands a cause before an effect. What was the first cause?

    Chemical biogenesis will be better understood when the very early Earth is better understood.

    One of the clearest statements of faith in the naturalistic origin of life I have seen.

    Dismissing something as impossible just because it hasn’t yet been done is dangerous business. You run the risk of looking foolish.

    I never did that.

    Five years ago, I co-authored a book chapter on the origins of chirality and the first steps in chemical biogenesis. In researching that chapter, I was impressed at how much progress has been made and how rich is that field.

    I always chuckle when I read about how much “progress” has been made in some area. This invariably means that the problem has not been solved because, if it had, then the solution would be the point of discussion, not how much “progress” has been made. If a man is blindfolded and dropped in the woods somewhere he may very well think to himself that he has made much progress because he has been hiking for many days. But in reality he has no idea if he is any closer to finding his way home than when he started. He may very well have been walking in circles or in the wrong direction altogether.

    If you (or anyone else) would like a copy of that chapter, email me at pfrank830_at_earthlink_dot_net. It’s a 6 MB pdf file, though, so you’ll want a fast connection.

    Has the problem been solved?

    If it seems logical to you to believe in god, that just implies you’ve not yet realized that “god” is a meaningless term. What can anyone say about the properties of “god”? What falsifiable theory predicts godness? What are objective god-observables? None, and none, are the answers. “God” is an empty set.

    That’s the problem of a naturalistic world view – if it’s not accessible to science, then it doesn’t exist. We all have our beliefs or lack of beliefs. The scientific method is a means of inquiry based upon the idea that there are such things as laws of nature and, therefore, things are predictable. Scientific inquiry flows from the constancy of the laws of nature, not the other way around. Why should there be laws of nature in the first place? Science has no answer to that. It starts with the idea that they exist and it is an a priori assumption that all things are governed by them. When things are explicable by them, it is evidence for them. When things are not explicable by them, it is always assumed by the strict naturalist that we just don’t know enough yet. But this is a philosophy; a belief.

  98. Richard, space-time itself started from a fluctuation in nothing. That’s nothing; no space, no time, no extension, no duration — nothing. The way I see it, all space and all time collapsed into a single zero-dimensional point provides the conditions of a delta function. All infinitely small probabilities are divided by zero time and so have a likelihood of 1. Universes have no choice but to appear.

    Chemical biogenesis: the only rational deduction possible given the very clear evidence for appearance of bacteria about 3.5 billion years ago. Faith has nothing to do with it. “Naturalism” is philosophy. Science has nothing to do with that.

    Yes you did: “After many decades of unsuccessfully trying to create life in the laboratory…” is a clear statement of ‘it can’t happen because it hasn’t yet.’

    So is this: “I always chuckle when I read about how much “progress” has been made…” If you don’t understand the field, Richard, you’re in no position to evaluate whether progress has been made. Reproducing the conditions of Earth when life originated is not simple business. Your dismissal is just you taking refuge in being patronizing.

    You wrote, “The scientific method is a means of inquiry based upon the idea that there are such things as laws of nature and, therefore, things are predictable.

    Not correct. Science is an objective means of explaining the observable. When there are no observables at all, there’s no possibility of a theory and no evidence for existence. That’s “god.”

    None of that has anything to do with “nature.” In general, “nature” is what people call the things that have been explained by science. That’s why god always moves out into the unexplained. Things that remain unexplained constitute the domain of the supernatural for those whose lives require religion and the ineffable.

    Most of your posts are just you taking refuge in the unexplained, and averring that ‘here be god.’

  99. Pat Frank says:
    April 2, 2012 at 10:01 am

    My goodness, I mention God once (that I consider is easier and more logical to believe in God then to believe in an infinite number of eternal universes popping up as a means of avoiding the problem of first cause) and suddenly “Most of your posts are just you taking refuge in the unexplained, and averring that ‘here be god.”

    If you want to believe that “nothing” fluctuated into something, go right ahead. But I don’t consider that scientific or rational. I consider that absurd.

    Chemical biogenesis: the only rational deduction possible given the very clear evidence for appearance of bacteria about 3.5 billion years ago. Faith has nothing to do with it. “Naturalism” is philosophy. Science has nothing to do with that.

    It is not the only rational deduction. It is perfectly rational to deduce that God created them. Or maybe they fluctuated into existence from nothingness. It is not scientific, but it is most certainly rational unless you presume that everyone who believes in God is irrational, and you are perfectly free to believe that.

    Yes you did: “After many decades of unsuccessfully trying to create life in the laboratory…” is a clear statement of ‘it can’t happen because it hasn’t yet.’

    No, I didn’t. Here’s what I said:

    Life starting somewhere else and landing here on Earth is the same. After many decades of unsuccessfully trying to create life in the laboratory – under any conditions – people are now suggesting that it originated somewhere else (and if we only knew where then we would no the chemistry and would of course we would know how!).

    Yours is a straw man argument. I did not say it couldn’t happen. What I clearly said was that after many unsuccessful decades of trying, people are resorting “explaining” it by saying it happened somewhere else. There are other valid reasons for believing it couldn’t happen naturalistically but I never argued it couldn’t happen because we haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe your confusing me with someone else.

    So is this: “I always chuckle when I read about how much “progress” has been made…” If you don’t understand the field, Richard, you’re in no position to evaluate whether progress has been made. Reproducing the conditions of Earth when life originated is not simple business. Your dismissal is just you taking refuge in being patronizing.

    Oh, please. You’re statement is as patronizing as it gets. It’s classic. I don’t understand the field but you do, therefore I’m not qualified. A classic appeal to authority and ridicule of the minority. By your lack of response I take it that the problem of chirality in life has not been solved. You may be the world’s foremost expert on the subject but you are just as unqualified in pronouncing progress as anyone else – simply because it cannot be proven that it is solvable. Therefore there can be no objective measure of progress. Is it possible to make progress in solving something which is unsolvable. I am not saying it is unsolvable, I’m saying that we don’t know if it’s solvable, therefore we cannot know if we’re making progress.

    I think you’ve proven one of my original points. Tactics used by the global warming “faithful” against the “deniars” are also used by the evolutionists against the creationists or Intelligent Design theorists.

    You wrote, “The scientific method is a means of inquiry based upon the idea that there are such things as laws of nature and, therefore, things are predictable. ”

    Not correct.

    You can’t possibly mean that.

  100. Sounds like the University of Victoria and Royal Roads University, in the Victoria BC area.

    A supposed journalist who claims to translate between scientists and the public turns out to be an alarmist. Apparently follows Andrew Weavers definition of scientist (as in his pals, not his critics).
    The little ball called planet Earth (Bob McDonald) http://www.goldstreamgazette.com/news/143835546.html

  101. oh, ok – i’ll touch this tarbaby. what the heck…
    richard and pat –
    the notion of ‘first cause’ or ‘anything proceeding from nothing’ is self contradictory.
    they are the same error – ‘first cause’ means it proceeded from nothing.

    it is an ordered universe because self contradiction is false. false means ‘it does not exist’, the same as the word ‘nothing’
    you can get into trouble attempting to use the negation of an absolute as if it were an absolute, itself. it is not. you can not fill yourself full of holes. you can abuse logic that way, though – very thorougly.
    logic is not religion. it is the science of non-contradictory identification.
    denying the absolute fact that existence exists is the nature of belief in the supernatural. there is nothing supernatural. it’s a word to describe that which does not exist.
    anything which is true can be proven by some means. if it can not be proven it is false.
    the law of implication works that way – it’s not a matter of opinion and can’t be wished away- and nothing is supernatural. that’s your ‘mystery of mysteries’, the ineffable, noumenal, supernatural, unprovable = lie.

    and i’ll add that any 3 yr old child of 2 knows this until his parents and teachers corrupt his mind so he can no longer perform logic. you’ve both succumbed to this corruption. i’ve rarely seen a spontaneous recovery. once crippled to that point, the prognosis is not good, for having lost the ability to reason, one has lost the ability to protect himself from further irrationality. having lost the capacity for objective judgement neutralizes the ability to defend against falsehood.
    not knowing what’s true allows falsehood to have equal weight.

    being able to define truth is the primary tool that is taken when a slave is made. they are made, not born. neither of you thought up the lies you believe. you didn’t get that way without interference. you didn’t lose the ability to perform logic by the application of logic. you didn’t lose the ability to conceive of reality by virtue of understanding anything about reality. you didn’t fail to reason by means of reason.
    you accepted the judgement of somebody else as superior to your own and you submitted. that was a form of suicide. somebody must have abused you real bad. for it is this way: a human being, H. sapiens, by name, has as his basic tool of survival – his reason. living things face this alternative: to be or not to be. for a human being, to reason or not to reason is the alternative by which he will affirm his primary virtue or contradict his nature, as a monster does.

    monstrosity or man? it is the nature of a human being to define himself. he then fulfills his self definition. if a man defines himself as inferior in judgement and properly submissive to the judgement of another, he has become a monstrosity. how’s life with monsters workin out these days? don’t you wish there were more men around? i do.

  102. “Most of your posts are just you taking refuge in the unexplained, and averring that ‘here be god.”

    You take refuge in the unexplained here, “Has anyone formulated [Evolutionary Theory] mathematically so that we could predict how one organism would change into another and, thereby, test it?

    You do it here, “what does the theory of evolution predict will happen in the future to FOXP2 gene?

    Newtonian Mechanics can’t predict where Earth will be a couple of billion years, because of orbital chaos. Even Newton knew that. But your logic says that this inability refutes the theory. Chaos can also reign in the details of the genome. And your choices of test are not particularly valid.

    More appropos to the local subject, though, you wrote that, “Global Warming did actually make such a prediction, i.e., the earth would warm according to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    That wasn’t a prediction in any scientific sense. It was merely an assertion. A set-piece composed with mathematics. Climate models are unable to resolve anything at the level of excess GHG forcing. The error bars are far larger than a few W/m^2. Climate science is literally blind to doubling of CO2.

    But soldiering onward, you do it here, “What has not been observed is mutation causing a deer to change into something else.“, except in this case your appeal to the unexplained has stepped over the border into the ludicrous.

    Natural selection, by the way, couples mutation into environmental information.

    You do it here, “although I can’t imagine what it means that an inanimate collection of chemicals can “survive”.

    You do it here, “After many decades of unsuccessfully trying to create life in the laboratory – under any conditions – people are now suggesting that it originated somewhere else…

    And in the same post, “We don’t have a single clue about the origin of life. None. etc.

    That’s wrong, of course. We know that life originated under anaerobic reducing conditions. We know that organics and amino acids were delivered by comets and meteorites. We know that local carbonaceous meteorites, such as the Murcheson, can have excess L-amino acids. These, delivered to Earth, could induce chiral amplification. Chemical mechanisms achieving this are known, so the process is not speculative.

    Evidence for a very early emergence of life on Earth is in the excess of 13C found in 3.8 billion year old rocks. The best explanation of that isotopic excess by far is a biological kinetic isotope effect. The 12C gets preferentially used, leaving excess 13C behind.

    You did it here, “I always chuckle when I read about how much “progress” has been made in some area.

    And in the same post, “Has the problem been solved?

    And in the same post, “Why should there be laws of nature in the first place? Science has no answer to that.

    All you taking refuge in the unexplained, with “God” as your ever-ready alternative. It’s not a question of your specific mention of “God,” Richard. Your entire strategy is standard creationist argumentation. You’re engaged in a general defense of the “god” idea using an appeal to ignorance as the province of the supernatural.

    Fluctuations in nothing to produce something is not a mere belief. It’s a direct prediction and consequence of Heisenberg uncertainty. And, in fact, the appearance of something from nothing is observed in the Casimir effect, and in the evaporation of black holes. Both are evidence of particles appearing out of nothing due to electromagnetic QM fluctuations in space-time.

    You wrote, “It is perfectly rational to deduce that God created [bacteria].

    But it isn’t, because god has no known properties and no known attributes. They’re all subjectively asserted (and then fought over among religions). Your claim of “God” is you supposing far more something from nothing than anyone else around here. I could claim that the potrezebie influence produced bacteria, and have as much claim to the rational as you do — which muchness would be zero.

    You wrote, “Yours is a straw man argument. I did not say it couldn’t happen. What I clearly said was that after many unsuccessful decades of trying, people are resorting “explaining” it by saying it happened somewhere else.

    Your argument would have no power if you didn’t mean to imply that a successful outcome to an Earth-based origin of life theory was impossible. You’re proposing panspermia as the fall-back position of a failed enterprise.

    Absent your supposition that it is a kind of scientific sour-grapes option, pamspermia is a viable idea. It’s known that meteorites containing interstellar material have landed on Earth; the Allende, for example. It’s very reasonable that bacterial spores could have arrived on Earth with meteorites during the early bombardment phase. So the panspermia idea is not entirely far-fetched, and has more observables supporting it than your purportedly ‘rational deduction’ of divinity.

    The only way you’re able to use “panspermia” as a stick to beat origin of life is to rest the argument on the supposition that it’s an obvious desperation move. But it’s not.

    And chemical biogenesis is a rational supposition given the very early appearance of bacterial life, and the earlier appearance of what appear to be biochemically modified isotope ratios.

    You wrote, “Oh, please. You’re statement is as patronizing as it gets.” And what is your putting ““progress”” in quotes, if not a textual smirk? Isn’t that you being patronizing? And isn’t that patronization about a field concerning which you are ignorant?

    You wrote, “By your lack of response I take it that the problem of chirality in life has not been solved. You may be the world’s foremost expert on the subject but you are just as unqualified in pronouncing progress as anyone else – simply because it cannot be proven that it is solvable. Therefore there can be no objective measure of progress.

    You’re wrong, Richard. We know what life looks like, and know what kind of chemistry it involves. We can show how it could have originated. On that front, progress can be, and has been made. No one will ever know exactly how it happened, because it happened ~4 billion years ago. That kind of ignorance is a fact of the historical sciences that you deride.

    I’ve already pointed out that amino acids and organics arrive on meteorites and comets. Some meteorites have small excesses of L-amino acids. Chiral amplification is known, catalyzed by quartz, for example. A small excess of one enantiomer is all it takes for chiral take-over. That excess could have been delivered from space. And produced in space by the polarized synchrotron x-radiation around neutron stars.

    Here’s some obvious progress for you. Notice the date:

    M. Eigen, W. Gardiner, P. Schuster, R. Winkler-Oswatitsch (1981) The origin of genetic information Scientific American 244, 88-92 (12 ff.)

    Abstract: Consideration is given to the laws governing the evolution of prebiotic molecules. Following a brief review of the conditions on the early earth, considerations of the chemical properties of the current biological informational molecules, DNA and RNA, are used to deduce that the first genes were most likely short sequences of RNA which could both lead to stable secondary structures and be reliably reproduced. Experiments with the de novo synthesis of RNA from nucleotide triphosphates and enzyme demonstrating the preferential amplification of a changing nucleotide sequence are discussed as high-efficiency models of prebiotic selection and evolution, and enzyme-free studies showing that RNA can replicate itself without enzymes are indicated. Attention is then given to the quasi-species model of competition (for free monomers) in molecular self-replication, and to the necessary invention of DNA, proteins and genetic recombination processes in order to permit the reduction of the error rate and lengthening of replicable RNA sequences, which is explained in terms of a hypercycle model of second-order autocatalysis. The compartmentation of the hypercyclically organized quasi-species is then discussed as a means for evaluating the information in genetic messages, leading to evolutionary improvement. Problems remaining to be solved before experiments on the self-organization of protein translation can be designed are then indicated, with particular attention given to the evolution of the genetic code.

    And here’s an interesting update: K. Tamura and R. W. Alexander (2004) Peptide synthesis through evolution Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 61(11) 1317-1330

    Abstract: Ribosome-catalyzed peptide bond formation is a crucial function of all organisms. The ribosome is a ribonucleoprotein particle, with both RNA and protein components necessary for the various steps leading to protein biosynthesis. Evolutionary theory predicts an early environment devoid of complex biomolecules, and prebiotic peptide synthesis would have started in a simple way. A fundamental question regarding peptide synthesis is how the current ribosome-catalyzed reaction evolved from a primitive system. Here we look at both prebiotic and modern mechanisms of peptide bond formation and discuss recent experiments that aim to connect these activities. In particular, RNA can facilitate peptide bond formation by providing a template for activated amino acids to react and can catalyze a variety of functions that would have been necessary in a pre-protein world. Therefore, RNA may have facilitated the emergence of the current protein world from an RNA or even prebiotic world.

    So, progress is quantifiable in terms of a coherent hypothesis. That hypothesis suggests what sort of experiments should be done, and how to evaluate them.

    There’s no such thing as “Intelligent Design theorists,” by the way, because “intelligent Design” is not a theory. It makes no predictions and has no objective content. I’ve published on that, too, and will be happy to send you the article. If you can refute it, you may have a case. Otherwise, forget it. Here’s a run-down of the ID claim at TalkOrigins, a site you should consult often.

    You wrote, “You can’t possibly mean that.” But I do mean it. Science is not about “nature.” Science is about observables. “Nature” is just what people call the coherent body of knowledge science has given us about what we observe and experience. I’ve published on that, too, with Thomas H. Ray. Scroll down to “Science is not Philosophy, here. I can send you a pdf of that, too.

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