Scientific Censorship and Evolution

Keith Robison robison at
Wed Mar 29 23:40:24 EST 1995

(Ugh, I seem to be slipping into the regular business of confronting 
bad criticism of evolution).

Richard Milton (richard at wrote:

: In 1981,  molecular biologists working under Dr Morris 
: Goodman at Ann Arbor University decided to test this hypothesis.  
: They took the alpha haemoglobin DNA of two reptiles -- a snake 
: and a crocodile -- which are said by Darwinists to be closely 
: related, and the haemoglobin DNA of a bird, in this case a 
: farmyard chicken.

: They found that the two animals who had _least_ DNA sequences in 
: common were the two reptiles, the snake and the crocodile.  They 
: had only around 5% of DNA sequences in common -- only one 
: twentieth of their haemoglobin DNA.  The two creatures whose DNA 
: was closest were the crocodile and the chicken, where there were 
: 17.5% of sequences in common -- nearly one fifth. The actual DNA 
: similarities were the _reverse_ of that predicted by neo-
: Darwinism. [5]

Cute.  Cite one (and there are more than a few) of taxonomists
potentially misclassifying taxa, and imply that this is typical.
Many, MANY molecular phylogenies support classification schemes
based on classical taxonomy.  

: Even more baffling is the fact that radically different genetic 
: coding can give rise to animals that look outwardly very similar 
: and exhibit similar behaviour, while creatures that look and 
: behave completely differently can have much in common 
: genetically.  There are, for instance, more than 3,000 species of 
: frogs, all of which look superficially the same. But there is a 
: greater variation of DNA between them than there is between the 
: bat and the blue whale.

: Further, if neo-Darwinist evolutionary ideas of gradual genetic 
: change were true, then one would expect to find that simple 
: organisms have simple DNA and complex organisms have complex DNA.  
: In some cases, this is true. The simple nematode worm is a 
: favourite subject of laboratory study because its DNA contains a 
: mere 1,000 nucleotide bases.  

Is this indicative of the quality of your writing?  Nematodes contain
100 _Million_ base pairs.

: At the other end of the complexity 
: scale, humans have 23 chromosomes which in total contain 3,000 
: million nucleotide bases. 

: Unfortunately, this promisingly Darwinian progression is 
: contradicted by many counter examples.  While human DNA is 
: contained in 23 pairs of chromosomes, the humble goldfish has 
: more than twice as many, at 47.  The even humbler garden snail -- 
: not much more than a glob of slime in a shell -- has 27 
: chromosomes.  Some species of rose bush have 56 chromosomes. 

You've muddled three different concepts -- is this deliberate, or
are you unable to distinguish them?
	chromosome number
	genome size
	gene number

Chromosome number is essentially irrelevant for your argument -- this
is just packaging.  The wide disparity in genome size ("C-value paradox")
is well known, and accounted for by different loads of repetitive DNA.
The number which your argument might find useful, gene number, hasn't
been well enough characterized argue either way.

: So the simple fact is that DNA analysis does _not_ confirm neo-
: Darwinist theory.  In the laboratory, DNA analysis falsifies neo-
: Darwinist theory.

: An even more damaging blow to the theory was the discovery that 
: the very centrepiece of neo-Darwinism, Darwin's original 
: conception of natural selection, or the survival of the fittest, 
: is fatally flawed.

: The problem is: how can biologists (or anyone else) tell what 
: characteristics constitute the animal or plant's 'fitness' to 
: survive?  How can you tell which are the fit animals and plants?  

: The answer is that the only way to define the fit is by means of 
: a post-hoc rationalisation -- the fit must be "those who 
: survived". While the only way to characterise uniquely those who 
: survive is as "the fit".  The central proposition of the 
: Darwinian argument turns out to be an empty tautology.

: C.H. Waddington, professor of biology at Edinburgh University 
: wrote; "Natural selection, which was at first considered as 
: though it were a hypothesis that was in need of experimental or 
: observational confirmation, turns out on closer inspection to be 
: a tautology, a statement of an inevitable although previously 
: unrecognised relation.  It states that the fittest individuals in 
: a population (defined as those who leave the most offspring) will 
: leave most offspring.  Once the statement is made, its truth is 
: apparent." [6]

: George Simpson, professor of paleontology at Harvard, sought to 
: restore content to the idea of natural selection by saying; "If 
: genetically red-haired parents have, on average, a larger 
: proportion of children than blondes or brunettes, then evolution 
: will be in the direction of red hair.  If genetically left-handed 
: people have more children, evolution will be towards left-
: handedness.  The characteristics themselves do not directly 
: matter at all.  All that matters is who leaves more descendants 
: over the generations.  Natural selection favours fitness only if 
: you define fitness as leaving more descendants.  In fact 
: geneticists do define it that way, which maybe confusing to 
: others.  To a geneticist, fitness has nothing to do with health, 
: strength, good looks, or anything but effectiveness in breeding." 
: [7] 

: Notice the words; "The characteristics themselves do not directly 
: matter at all."  This innocent phrase fatally undermines Darwin's 
: original key conception: that each animal's special physical 
: characteristics are what makes it fit to survive: the giraffe's 
: long neck, the eagle's keen eye, or the cheetah's 60 mile-an-hour 
: sprint.

: Simpson's reformulation means all this must be dropped: it is not 
: the characteristics that directly matter -- it is the animals' 
: capacity to reproduce themselves. The race is not to the swift, 
: after all, but merely to the prolific. So how can neo-Darwinism 
: explain the enormous diversity of characteristics?

: Not only are neo-Darwinist ideas falsified by empirical research, 
: but other puzzling and extraordinary findings have come to light 
: in recent decades, suggesting that evolution is not blind but 
: rather is in some unknown way _directed_. The experiments of 
: Cairns at Harvard and Hall at Rochester University suggest that 
: microorganisms can mutate in a way that is beneficial. [8]

Suggest is right -- this field is still young, and the possibility
that these results are artifactual far from disproven.

: Experiments with tobacco plants and flax demonstrate genetic 
: change through the effects of fertilisers alone. [9]
: Experiments 
: with sea squirts and salamanders as long ago as the 1920s 
: appeared to demonstrate the inheritance of acquired 
: characteristics. [10]  Moreover, as Sir Fred Hoyle has pointed 
: out, 

You cite Kammerer, who I believe committed suicide after discovering
that an assistant faked all the data.  Could you PLEASE do your homework?

: Fossil micro-organisms have been found in meteorites, 
: indicating that life is universal -- not a lucky break in the 
: primeval soup. This view is shared by Sir Francis Crick, co-
: discoverer of the function of DNA [11]

Not fossils.  Amino acids have been found on meteorites which are
skewed in their entiantomeric distribution, but not fossils.

: As far as 
: many biologists are concerned, matter is made of billiard balls 
: which collide with Newtonian certainty, and they carry on 
: building molecular models out of coloured table-tennis balls.

Utter hogwash.  Stochastic processes are well-recognized in
biology (e.g. genetic drift).  Those molecular models you
sneer at are based on DATA.

What is so infinitely annoying about chaps such as you?  There
are many, many unresolved controversies and problems in biology.
If you took the time to really understand the current state of
the science and write lucidly about the hard problems, it would
be both fascinating and inspiring.  Instead, you turn out 
empty, vitriolic tabloid journalism.  A pity.

Keith Robison
Harvard University
Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology
Department of Genetics / HHMI

robison at 

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