Archive for March, 2010

Darwin’s Unitarian Heritage

 

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. The Parish Church of St. Chad’s Register of Christenings and Burials gives the following entry on 15 November 1809 “Darwin Chas. Robt. Son of Dr. Robt. & Mrs. Susannah his wife/born Febr. 12 th.”

St. Chad’s was a parish of the Church of England. Darwin’s religious heritage, however, was largely rooted in Unitarianism. Darwin’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, and mother, Susannah, only maintained cultural and social ties with the Church of England. Of their six children, only the two sons, Charles and Erasmus, were baptized in the Church of England.

As a young boy, Charles Darwin was taught at home by his mother assisted by Rev. George Case, pastor of the Unitarian Chapel on High Street (see picture). After Susannah’s death, at the age of eight Darwin entered the Shrewsbury Grammar School with affiliations to the chapel.

Darwin’s mother, Susannah, was the grand-daughter of Josiah Wedgwood who was one of the founder members of the Unitarian movement. Free-thinking was the cornerstone of the movement. The Unitarians rejected the validity of the Bible, specifically the concept of the trinity, and the basic tenet of Christianity: Jesus is the son of God.

Charles Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus, from his father’s side, was a also a free-thinker. Erasmus published the book entitled Zoönomia that foreshadowed The Origin of Species.

In Zoönomia, Erasmus espoused the basic tenets of evolution: “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?”

What Darwin’s father, Robert Darwin, thought about God remains a mystery. There is no record of his father regularly accompanying the family to the Unitarian Chapel or the Church of England.

Eventually, a memorial was placed in the Unitarian Chapel on High Street bearing the following inscription:—”To the memory of Charles Eobert Darwin, author of the ‘Origin of Species,’ born in Shrewsbury. February 12th, 1809. In early life a member of and constant worshipper in this Church. Died April 19th,1882.”

A one point, Darwin stated – “I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted.”

How Darwin arrived at that point? 

Natural Selection, No Mechanism

 

Richard Dawkins, the most popular evolution advocate, explains that the mechanism of evolution is “nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instructions”. For Dawkins, evolution occurs through the nonrandom selection of randomly generated genetic mutations. This defines modern neo-Darwinism.

Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, in their new book entitled What Darwin Got Wrong, delivers a stunning exposé on the Dawkins’s inane assertion that 1) natural selection is a logical theory, and 2) natural selection is nonrandom.

Seasoned by decades of scientific investigation, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini begin by demonstrating that even “Darwin’s theory of natural selection is fatally flawed”. Not only flawed, they view the concept of natural selection is simply an “intensional fallacy”.

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini are not lone critics. With over 20 pages of references, the authors demonstrate that the theory of natural selection is no more than circular reasoning: a tautology.

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini explains: “[T]here is at the heart of adaptations theories of evolution, a confusion between (1) the claim that evolution is a process in which creatures with adaptive traits are selected and (2) the claim that evolution is a process in which creatures are selected for their adaptive traits… Darwinism is committed to inferring (2) from (1)”. Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini conclude, “We think this argument, although ubiquitous in the literature, is fallacious.”

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini also address Dawkins’ issue of “nonrandom survival”, by pointing out that nonrandom processes require a mechanism to overcome entropy—randomness. The obvious question is – what is the mechanism that natural selection uses to overcome nature’s tendency towards randomness?

To answer this question, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini quotes from Gabriel Dover (2006), the British geneticist that coined the term “molecular drive”: “Selection is not a process as such with predictable outcomes based on fixed, selective ‘powers’ of individual genes controlling aspects of phenotype.”

The evidence demonstrates that natural selection does not deliver “predictable outcomes”. Lack of evidence for a predictable outcome, highlights the fact that natural selection does not have an operational mechanism to overcome randomness to increase complexity—the essence of evolution.

Despite over 150 years of investigation since the publication of The Origin of Species, no known natural law has been discovered to guarantee  natural selection as a nonrandom process. Currently, there are no known natural mechanisms to overcome the general tendency of all nature towards randomness without an intervention. Contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, natural selection is simply a random process.

What is the role of natural selection, then? For Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, “We think of natural selection as tuning the piano, not composing the melody.” This is not the nonrandom force of evolution as championed by Dawkins.  

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, like Richard Dawkins, are evolutionists and “out-right, card-carrying, sign-up, dye-in-the-wool, no-holds barred atheists.” On the subject of natural selection acting as a nonrandom agency, however, the contrasts could not be more acute. 

Consensus that natural selection cannot possibly be a nonrandom process has reached a tipping point. Mutations are random. Natural selection is random. Dawkins contention of “nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instructions” is now clearly emerging as simply “breathtaking inanity.”

Vestiges: Evidence for Evolution? Part VII

 

Of all the facts in The Origin of Species, embryology was the most important in support of the theory. In a letter to Asa Gray in September 1860, Darwin wrote – “embryology is to me by far the strongest single class of facts in favor” of the theory.

Then, just two months before the release of the first edition of The Origin of Species in September 1859, Darwin wrote to Charles Lyell, “Embryology in Chapter VIII is one of my strongest points I think.”

Darwin was fascinated by embryology. Writing in his autobiography, Darwin recalls: “Hardly any point gave me so much satisfaction when I was at work on the Origin, as the explanation of the wide difference in many classes between the embryo and the adult animal.”

To the point, Darwin writes – “We have seen in the first chapter that the homological [similar] structure of man, his embryological development and the rudiments which he still retains, all declare in the plainest manner that he is descended from some lower form.”

Darwin along with Fritz Müller (1821–1897) and Ernest Haeckel (1834–1919) were following in the footstep of Karl Ernst von Baer (1792–1876). Baer promoted the concept that a species’ embryological development (ontogeny) retraces the species’ entire evolutionary development (phylogeny).

In the case of man, then, the human embryo begins as a single cell and is progressively transformed into a tadpole, then to a fish, to an amphibian, to a monkey, and finally to man. In other words, at the different stages of development, the embryo is actually a series of ancestor species. The sequences of the embryo retrace the steps of evolution. Haeckel coined this process with the now-famous phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”

In the case of the appendix, then, the rise and fall of the appendix should be seen in the human embryo to demonstrate our presumed evolutionary human ancestry—from a functional to a non-functional organ. The question is does the evidence match the theory? The answer is – NO.

The reasons why the answer is NO, include  

  • The appendix is not consistently found throughout the animal kingdom, occurring in only a few diverse mammals
  • Not until the fifth fetal week does the appendix begin to develop
  • Only after the fifth fetal month does the proximal end start differentiate into the true caecum
  • Maximum growth of the appendix does not occur until after birth when the neonate takes on essential bacteria to reside in its colon
  • Lymphoid follicles do not appear in the appendix until two weeks after birth at the same time that colonization of the large bowel with bacteria.

Contrary to the theory, at no point in the development of the appendix in the human embryo does arise and decline into a vestige organ. Rebecca E. Fisher, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow from the Center for Functional Anatomy & Evolution Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a review article entitled “The primate appendix: A reassessment” concludes that “the evolutionary history of the appendix has also proven difficult to trace.”  

The evidence on the development of the appendix now clearly stands to demonstrate the utter fallacy of the long-standing “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” theory of evolution.

Jerry Coyne’s (2009) contention in Why Evolution is True that, “our appendix is simply the remnant of an organ that was critically important to our leaf-eating ancestors, but is of no real value to use” is another clear example of deception used in the promotion evolution. The evidence is clear: the appendix is not an evolutionary leftover.

Vestiges: Evidence for Evolution? Part VI

 

The “vestige” status of the appendix originated with Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man (1871). In Chapter 1, Darwin writes –

“With respect to the alimentary canal I have met with an account of only a single rudiment [vestige], namely the vermiform appendage of the caecum… It appears as if, in consequence of changed diet or habits [disuse], the caecum had become much shortened in various animals, the vermiform appendage being left as a rudiment of the shortened part… Not only is it useless, but it is sometimes the cause of death”

Darwin’s concept of the appendix continued unchallenged until late in the twenteth century when clinical research began to demonstrate that not only does the appendix function to balance the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, the appendix plays an important immunological function. 

Loren G. Martin, professor of physiology at Oklahoma State University, stated in Scientific America

“Among adult humans, the appendix is now thought to be involved primarily in immune functions. Lymphoid tissue begins to accumulate in the appendix shortly after birth and reaches a peak between the second and third decades of life, decreasing rapidly thereafter and practically disappearing after the age of 60. During the early years of development, however, the appendix has been shown to function as a lymphoid organ, assisting with the maturation of B lymphocytes (one variety of white blood cell) and in the production of the class of antibodies known as immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. Researchers have also shown that the appendix is involved in the production of molecules that help to direct the movement of lymphocytes to various other locations in the body.”

Martin continues noting, “the function of the appendix appears to be to expose white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens, or foreign substances, present in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, the appendix probably helps to suppress potentially destructive humoral (blood- and lymph-borne) antibody responses while promoting local immunity. The appendix–like the tiny structures called Peyer’s patches in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract–takes up antigens from the contents of the intestines and reacts to these contents. This local immune system plays a vital role in the physiological immune response and in the control of food, drug, microbial or viral antigens.”

Jerry Coyne (2009), professor at the University of Chicago, writes in his new book, Why Evolution is True that, “We humans have many vestigial features proving that we evolved. The most popular is the appendix.” Coyne claims that: “our appendix is simply the remnant of an organ that was critically important to our leaf-eating ancestors, but is of no real value to use.”

Classifying the appendix as “no real value” exemplifies how evolution adherents persist to be woodwinked by ideology. Mounting scientific evidence continues to demonstrate why evolution is NOT true.

Book Description



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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.

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