Archive for July, 2009
Building on the success of Copernicus and Galileo, Englishman Francis Bacon established and popularized their inductive reasoning approach as the primary methodology for conducting scientific inquiry. The method of investigation became known as the “Baconian Method” – now more popularly known as the “Scientific Method.” Bacon wrote -
“Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world.”
Bacon differentiated between “concepts” drawn from the “mind” and the “facts” drawn from the “evidence.” Concepts drawn from the mind can be influenced by prior knowledge, preconceived ideas, and traditions. Inductive reasoning limits the influence of bias.
In dedication to the estabishment of inductive reasoning, Bacon established the British Royal Society. Later in the nineteenth century, emphasis on the importance of inductive reasoning was further championed by William Whewell, a contemporary of Charles Darwin. To align with inductive reasoning, Darwin opens The Origin of Species with quotations from both Whewell and Bacon.
The question is, then, what is the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning? The difference between the scientific method and Aristotelian logic centers on determining the primary and secondary factors – also known as independent and depenent factors, respectively. The primary factor is the independent variable and controls the secondary (dependent) variable.
With inductive reasoning, the evidence is the primary factor and the hypothesis is the secondary, or dependent, factor. This means that the evidence takes precedence over the hypothesis – rejecting the influence of the bias.
This is the Scientific Method and the only approach proven to discover the laws of nature. Expressed in another way, the evidence with inductive reasoning is a free agent, and hypothesis becomes a slave to the evidence. The evidence trumps subjectivity.
Deductive reasoning takes the inverse approach and the evidence becomes a slave to the hypothesis. This is known as Aristotelian logic where subjectivity can trump the evidence. Bias can rule. These diffences can be illustrated in a table format.
Scientific Method and Aristotelian logic are antithetical methods of inquiry. The next question is – what approach did Darwin take?
In this series, we will explore the difference between philosophy and science and specifically how the Scientific Revolution developed from use of the scientific method and how Darwin was eventually aligned between these opposing approaches to discovering the laws of nature – starting with Copernicus.
Copernicus, by taking careful measurements to gather evidence, demonstrated that the Earth was not the center of the universe – rather, the Earth revolves around the sun. What made the key elemental difference was - the evidence. The evidence contradicted Aristotelian logic that had even crept into the Roman Catholic Church. The Scientific Revolution developed in concert along with a larger movement known as the Age of Enlightenment. In part, the movement was seeking to overthrow the Roman Catholic Church, which by the sixteenth century had even embraced Aristotle’s geocentric worldview.
Driven to understand the universe as an act of the Creator, Copernicus wrote -
“The mechanisms of the universe, wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator… the system best and most orderly artist of all framed for our sake.”
Copernicus died in 1543 almost immediately after publishing his findings in the epochal book entitled On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres.
While Copernicus’ escaped Roman Catholic Church rule, Galileo after confirming Copernicus’ findings was found guilty of “heresy” by the Inquisition in 1632. Thereafter, Galileo spent the last 10 years of his life under house arrest.
Isaac Newton, after studying the evidence later in the eighteenth century, verified Copernicus’ and Galileo’s findings by using the scientific method. Newton is also known for discovering the laws of motion and gravity. When scientists at Britain’s Royal Society were asked in 2005 about who had the greater effect on the history of science, Newton or Albert Einstein – the vote went to Newton.
The question is – what made the Scientific Revolution a revolution? The answer is – the system of reasoning. Aristotle logic was based on deductive reasoning. The Scientific Revolution was based on inductive reasoning.
We will be exploring these differences in this series of blogs. What do you think is the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning? Is the difference important?
While reflecting on man’s relentless pursuit to have a ‘reason for everything,’ James Le Lanu in his book, ‘Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves’ quotes from the report in the journal Science on the evolution conference in 1980 held at the Field Museum of Natural History –
“The central question was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomenon of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the position of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given a clear, no.”
Le Lanu highlights how evidence for evolution from the fossil record has been encountering inevitable turbulent waters since the early 1980s. As fellow alumni with Charles Darwin from Cambridge University, Le Lanu is a practicing physician, contributor the Daily Telegraph, published articles and reviews in the The New Statesman, Spectator, GQ, The British Medical Journal, and Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Le Lanu has written several books including ‘The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine’ that won the Los Angeles Prize Book Award in 2001 and ‘Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves’ that was published in Britain and the United States in February 2009. ‘Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves’ is a critical analysis of Darwinian evolution.
The fossil record does not reveal the ‘reason for everything.’ Le Lanu notes –
“The main reason for paleontologist’s loss of faith in the orthodox evolutionary doctrine was the realization that the most notable features of the fossil record is that most of the time nothing happens.”
Le Lanu quotes from the immanent paleontologist, Niles Eldredge, curator of the American Museum of Natural History –
“When do we see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the organism did not evolve elsewhere.”
From the evidence for evolution from the fossil record, Le Lanu cannot avoid the obvious conclusion –
“This ‘stasis’ clearly contradicts Darwin’s supposition if a continuous process of gradualistic transformation”
Le Lanu recounts how evolution’s once neat and concise theoretical Central Dogma has unraveled late in the twenty-century. As Mark Twain explains –
“For every problem there is a solution: neat, plausible and wrong.”
After 150 years of investigation following the publication of The Origin of Species, there still is no scientific ‘reason for everything.’
The publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859 continued the Darwin legacy. Erasmus Darwin, Darwin’s grandfather, had published the book entitled Zoönomia, or The Laws of Organic Life earlier in 1794. In Zoönomia, Erasmus entertains the basic tenets of evolution and asks the question:
“Would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality… possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end?”
As a physician in Lichfield from 1756 to 1781, Erasmus acquired a reputation for being a great healer. He was so successful that King George III asked him to be his doctor, but Erasmus Darwin refused the appointment. Becoming a noted naturalist, writer, poet, and inventor during his own time, Erasmus’ intellectual curiosity eventually led him to be one of the founding members of the Lunar Society. Members of this society were of influence, largely becoming the engine-driving force of the British Industrial Revolution.
Darwin’s passion to study of nature came into sharper focus during the second year at Edinburgh University. On campus, Darwin became acquainted with Professor Robert Edmund Grant, a proponent of evolution and student of Erasmus Darwin.
In his doctoral thesis, Grant quoted from Zoönomia. Evolution even at that time was strongly rooted in academic circles. Grant espoused the Lamarckian theory: evolution through acquired characteristics. In his autobiography, Darwin recalls an early conversion with Grant:
“He one day, when we were walking together he burst forth in high admiration of Lamarck and his views on evolution. I listened without any effect on my mind. Nevertheless it is probable that the hearing rather early in life such views maintained and praised may have favoured my upholding them under a different form in my Origin of Species.”
In time, Darwin became one of Grant’s keenest students and assisted him with collecting specimens. Grant introduced Darwin to the academic elite of the day, connections that were to become invaluable for his future.
According to the February 27th edition of Nature, more doubts now cloud the claim that dinosaur protein has been sequenced. Now a long-time critic has called for an independent review of the 2007 studies of ancient protein from a fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex after fresh analysis revealed traces of ostrich haemoglobin in the original samples.
In the contentious papers, researchers identified seven fragments from a protein called collagen, found in connective tissue, and said their sequences most closely matched the chicken version of the protein. The samples came from the fossilized femur of a T. Rex. As well as further strengthening the evidence for the link between dinosaurs and birds, the findings would make the protein the oldest ever to be sequenced. The work, published in Science, garnered headlines worldwide and met with considerable scepticism at the time, for good reason—fraud.
The hunt for Darwin’s “inconceivably great” missing links continues.
At the age of eight, Darwin’s mother died. For a year, Darwin along with his younger sister, Emily Catherine continued to be homeschooled at home by their older sister Caroline until 1818 when their father enrolled them in Doctor Butler’s boarding school in Shrewsbury, one mile from home. Nature, not school was on Darwin’s mind. Collecting insects was his greatest interest, “By the time I went to this day-school my taste for natural history was well developed.”
Collecting was soon to become a passion that Darwin would eventually weave into the history of western civilization. As a young boy, Darwin was engaging with a measure of mischievousness: “I may here also confess that as a little boy I was much given to inventing deliberate falsehoods, and this was always done for the sake of causing excitement. For instance, I once gathered much valuable fruit from my father’s trees and hid it in the shrubbery, and then ran in breathless haste to spread the news that I had discovered a hoard of stolen fruit.”
On May 10, 2009, the Daily Mail published reports that the BBC had made a documentary revealing the discovery of what might be a vital ‘missing link’ in human evolution, giving an outline of the study and its intended publication date as well as a brief statement. On 15 May the Wall Street Journal carried a report with interviews, who cautioned that “Lemur advocates will be delighted, but tarsier advocates will be underwhelmed.” Around the same time, a press release headed “World Renowned Scientists Reveal a Revolutionary Scientific Find That Will Change Everything” announced that the find was “lauded as the most significant scientific discovery of recent times.”
On May 19, 2009, the Ida investigative team headed by Jens Franzen revealed their findings to the world at a press conference, simultaneously with online publication of the paper in PLoS ONE. At the press conference, the fossil was described as the “missing link” in human evolution, and “This fossil rewrites our understanding of the evolution of primates… It will probably be pictured in all the textbooks for the next 100 years.”
The authors and compared its importance to the Mona Lisa. The authors also said that Darwinius was “the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor” and that finding it was “a dream come true”. Team member Dr Jens Franzen said the state of preservation was “like the Eighth Wonder of the World”, with information “palaeontologists can normally only dream of”, but while he said it bore “a close resemblance to ourselves” in some aspects, other features indicated that it was not a direct ancestor.
The Franzen team should have searched for a more definitive conclusion; experts were quick to counter.
“The PR campaign on this fossil is I think more of a story than the fossil itself,” said anthropologist Matt Cartmill of Duke University in North Carolina. “It’s a very beautiful fossil, but I didn’t see anything in this paper that told me anything decisive that was new.”
“It’s not a missing link, it’s not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point they’re trying to make,” Carnegie Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Chris Beard said.
Ann Gibbons in “Revolutionary’ Fossil Fails to Dazzle Paleontologists” and published in ScienceNOW noted, “Many paleontologists are unconvinced.”
Robert Roy Britt writing “Ida Fossil Hype Went Too Far” in LiveScience noted, “Problem is, most of the coverage is done, and the public could be left with the impression that Ida is a rock-solid missing link in the human evolutionary chain.”
Ida’s unveiling was highly scripted with some “Barnum and Bailey aspects,” said paleontologist Richard Kay of Duke University. Britt continued, “More important, it can now be said the findings may well have been significantly overstated. We won’t know for sure until further research is done. But if this event causes the public to distrust science and media, that distrust is well placed.”
As a boy, Darwin was a runner and racer, and often successful. In explaining the reason for success, Darwin wrote, “When in doubt I prayed earnestly to God to help me, and I well remember that I attributed my success to my prayers and not to my quick running, and marveled how generally I was aided.”
Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) could not have developed by chance. In the February 19, 2009 edition of Nature, K Bokov and SV Steinberg in the article “A Hierarchical Model for Evolution of 23S Ribosomal RNA” concluded that the formation of the rRNA must occur in an orderly manner—not by chance.
According to the investigators, “The emergence of the ribosome constituted a pivotal step in the evolution of life.” The key word in the paper is “hierarchical” which means the process is orderly.
Not only is the process orderly, the authors conclude the formation of rRNA could not have occurred by chance” “Such low probability excludes the possibility that the absence of cycles of dependence in the 23S rRNA has occurred by chance.”
The low probability of chance is a problem for Darwinists and neo-Darwinists, alike. In the Darwin exhibit sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, Niles Eldredge advocates that evolution is “the result of random mutations, or ‘copying errors.’” In the Origin of Species Darwin clearly excludes the possibility that “chance” could account for the differences in variations, writing, “I was so convinced that not even a stripe of colour appears from what is commonly called chance”
According to Stephen Michnick of the Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics at the University of Montreal referring to Bovok and Steinberg’s article said, “The assembly followed rules that were logical and for which there were no alternatives.”
Bovok and Steinberg’s newly published evidence is a problem for the “random” chance clique. Natural laws associated with the origin of life remain elusive—even after 150 years of investigation. Life is not by chance.
Darwin was not alone. Founded five years after the publication of the Origin of Species, X Club was founded by Thomas Huxley to market Darwinism. X Club members were the secular elite of the day and included George Busk, Edward Frankland, Thomas Hirst, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thomas Huxley, John Lubbock, Herbert Spencer, William Spottiswoode, and John Tyndall. The members of the X Club were joined in a fight to unite “devotion to science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas”—an organized atheist movement.
Club members wielded much influence over scientific thought. Between the inception in 1864 and its termination in 1893, the X Club and its members gained prominence within the scientific community ruling order. Between 1870 and 1878, Hooker, Spottiswoode, and Huxley held office in the Royal Society simultaneously, and between 1873 and 1885, they consecutively held the presidency of the Royal Society.
X Club member sphere of influence extended beyond the halls of the Royal Society. Five X Club members eventually held the presidency of the British Association for the Advancement of Science between 1868 and 1881. Hirst was elected president of the London Mathematical Society between 1872 and 1874 while Busk served as Examiner and eventually President of the Royal College of Surgeons. Frankland also served as President of the Chemical Society between 1871 and 1873. Just the dynamics, influence, and public relations of the X Club alone ensured a place for Darwin in history in the halls of academia and far beyond.
Not only were the X Club members Darwin’s PR agents, members gained rule over the emerging institutional academic sciences. Darwin was not alone.