DNA & Information: A Response to an Old ID Myth

A common myth that goes around in Intelligent Design (creationist) circles is the idea that DNA can only degrade over time, and thus any and all mutations are claimed to be harmful and only serve to reduce “information” stored in that DNA.  The claim is specifically meant to suggest that evolution from a common ancestor is impossible by naturalistic processes because DNA wouldn’t have been able to form in the first place and/or it wouldn’t be able to grow or change to allow for speciation.  Thus, the claim implies that either an intelligent designer had to intervene and guide evolution every step of the way (by creating DNA, fixing mutations as they occurred or preventing them from happening, and then ceasing this intervention as soon as scientists began studying genetics), or it implies that all organisms must have been created all at once by an intelligent designer with DNA that was “intelligently” designed to fail and degrade over time (thus questioning the intelligence of this designer).

These claims have been refuted a number of times over the years by the scientific community with a consensus that’s been drawn from years of research in evolutionary biology among other disciplines, and the claims seem to be mostly a result of fundamental misunderstandings of biology (or intentional misrepresentations of the facts) and also the result of an improper application of information theory to biological processes.  What’s unfortunate is that these claims are still circulating around, largely because the propagators aren’t interested in reason, evidence, or anything that may threaten their beliefs in the supernatural, and so they simply repeat this non-sense to others without fact checking them and without any consideration as to whether the claims even appear to be rational or logically sound at all.

After having recently engaged in a discussion with a Christian that made this very claim (among many other unsubstantiated, faith-based assertions), I figured it would be useful to demonstrate why this claim is so easily refutable based on some simple thought experiments as well as some explanations and evidence found in the actual biological sciences.  First, let’s consider a strand of DNA with the following 12 nucleotide sequence (split into triplets for convenience):


If a random mutation occurs in this strand during replication, say, at the end of the strand, thus turning Guanine (G) to Adenine (A), then we’d have:


If another random mutation occurs in this string during replication, say, at the end of the string once again, thus turning Adenine (A) back to Guanine (G), then we’d have the original nucleotide sequence once again.  This shows how two random mutations could lead to the same original strand of genetic information, thus showing how it can lose its original information and have it re-created once again.  It’s also relevant to note that because there are 64 possible codons produced from the four available nucleotides (4^3 = 64), and since only 20 amino acids are needed to make proteins, there are actually several codons that code for any individual amino acid.

In the case given above, the complementary RNA sequence produced for the two sequences (before and after mutation) would be:

UGA-CUG-ACU-GUC (before mutation)
UGA-CUG-ACU-GUU (after mutation)

It turns out that GUC and GUU (the last triplets in these sequences) are both codons that code for the same amino acid (Valine), thus showing how a silent mutation can occur as well, where a silent mutation is one in which there are no changes to the amino acids or subsequent proteins that the sequence codes for (and thus no functional change in the organism at all).  The fact that silent mutations even exist also shows how mutations don’t necessarily result in a loss or change of information at all.  So in this case, as a result of the two mutations, the end result was no change in the information at all.  Had the two strands been different such that they actually coded for different proteins after the initial mutation, then the second mutation would have reversed this problem anyway thus re-creating the original information that was lost.  So this demonstration in itself already refutes the claim that DNA can only lose information over time, or that mutations necessarily lead to a loss of information.  All one needs are random mutations, and there will always be a chance that some information is lost and then re-created.  Furthermore, if we had started with a strand that didn’t code for any amino acid at all in the last triplet, and then the random mutation changed it such that it did code for an amino acid (such as Valine), this would be an increase in information regardless (since a new amino acid was expressed that was previously absent), although this depends on how we define information (more on that in a minute).

Now we could ask, is the mutation valuable, that is, conducive to the survival of the organism?  That would entirely depend on the internal/external environment of that organism.  If we changed the diet of the organism or the other conditions in which it lived, we could arrive at opposite conclusions.  Which goes to show that of the mutations that aren’t neutral (most mutations are neutral), those that are harmful or beneficial are often so because of the specific internal/external environment under consideration. If an organism is able to digest lactose exclusively and it undergoes a mutation that provides some novel ability of digesting sucrose at the expense of digesting lactose a little less effectively than before, this would be a harmful mutation if the organism lived in an environment with lactose as the only available sugar.  If however, the organism was already in an environment that had more sucrose than lactose available, then the mutation would obviously be beneficial for now the organism could exploit the most available food source.  This would likely lead to that mutation being naturally selected for and increasing its frequency in the gene pool of that organism’s local population.

Another thing that is often glossed over with the Intelligent Design (ID) claims about genetic information being lost is the fact that they first have to define what exactly information is necessarily before presenting the rest of their argument.  Whether or not information is gained or lost requires knowing how to measure information in the first place.  This is where other problems begin to surface with ID claims like these because they tend to leave this definition either poorly defined, ambiguous or conveniently malleable to serve the interests of their argument.  What we need is a clear and consistent definition of information, and then we need to check that the particular definition given is actually applicable to biological systems, and then we can check to see if the claim is true.  I have yet to see this actually demonstrated successfully.  I was able to avoid this problem in my example above, because no matter how information is defined, it was shown that two mutations can lead to the original nucleotide sequence (whatever amount of genetic “information” that may have been).  If the information had been lost, it was recreated, and if it wasn’t technically lost at all during the mutation, then it shows that not all mutations lead to a loss of information.

I would argue that a fairly useful and consistent way to define information in terms of its application to describing the evolving genetics of biological organisms would be to describe it as any positive correlation between the functionality that the genetic sequences code for and the attributes of the environment that the organism is contained in.  This is useful because it represents the relationship between the genes and the environment and it seems to fit in line with the most well-established models in evolutionary biology, including the fundamental concept of natural selection leading to favored genotypes.

If an organism has a genetic sequence such that it can digest lactose (as per my previous example), and it is within an environment that has a supply of lactose available, then whatever genes are responsible for that functionality are effectively a form of information that describes or represents some real aspects of the organism’s environment (sources of energy, chemical composition, etc.).  The more genes that do this, that is, the more complex and specific the correlation, the more information there is in the organism’s genome.  So for example, if we consider the aforementioned mutation that caused the organism to develop a novel ability to digest sucrose in addition to lactose, then if it is in an environment that has both lactose and sucrose, this genome has even more environmental information stored within it because of the increased correlation between that genome and the environment.  If the organism can most efficiently digest a certain proportion of lactose versus sucrose, then if this optimized proportion evolves to approach the actual proportion of sugars in the environment around that organism (e.g. 30% lactose, 70% sucrose), then once again we have an increase in the amount of environmental information contained within its genome due to the increase in specificity.

Defining information in this way allows us to measure degrees of how well-adapted a particular organism is (even if only one trait or attribute at a time) to its current environment as well as its past environment (based on what the convergent evidence suggests) and it also provides at least one way to measure how genetically complex the organism is.

So not only are the ID claims about genetic information easily refuted with the inherent nature of random mutations and natural selection, but we can also see that the claims are further refuted once we define genetic information such that it encompasses the fundamental relationship between genes and the environment they evolve in.


35 thoughts on “DNA & Information: A Response to an Old ID Myth

  1. Can you prove that Dna came into being by chance. I read somewhere that many factors simultaneously contribute to the origin of life and evolutionists are yet to know how life actually originated. How did the fish that lived in water develop legs and came out on land. The fish would also need lungs that can breathe outside of water. The fish would also need skin that can tolerate the sun. Evolution is saying that give enough time anything can become anything. Wow. What about the failures of scientific experiments to produce dna. Rna was produced but not in early earth atmospheric conditions. Where are the common ancestors? What about the metorite that has dna in it? Google Nasa Dna.

    • Can you prove that Dna came into being by chance.

      No. Nobody can prove a hypothesis conclusively, only refute it, or not refute it, which ends up being support for the hypothesis. Additionally, you can’t prove that DNA did NOT come into being by chance. Instead what we can do is compare alternative hypotheses to one another (if more than one hypothesis exists), and then see which one has more support, or if one can be falsified, thus lending credence to the other hypothesis. In the case of DNA though, most biologists studying abiogenesis actually believe that RNA preceded DNA anyway, and thus DNA isn’t believed to have come about by chance, but rather to have come about by some RNA molecules chemically evolving into DNA molecules. So the better question would be, can one provide support that RNA came into being by chance? Even then, biologists studying the topic don’t believe that RNA came into being by chance either, but rather evolved from simpler self-replicating molecules. It’s a common misconception by IDers and others not as well versed in evolutionary biology, that “complexity somehow arose by chance”. The reality is that complexity most likely arose from slightly less complexity, and that in turn from slightly less complexity, etc., until one gets to a point where the complexity is at a fundamental minimum (single molecules of carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, water, etc.). This is why the prevailing model in abiogenesis is some form of chemical evolution that eventually led to self-replicating molecules that became more and more complex until eventually RNA was formed, followed by DNA. So far, there haven’t been many models for abiogenesis, but the most likely candidates seem to involve alkaline hydrothermal vents or some prebiotic soup model. If one can come up with a more plausible alternative that can be tested empirically, then biologists will adjust their models to fit any better testable alternatives. So far, no better alternatives exist.

      I read somewhere that many factors simultaneously contribute to the origin of life and evolutionists are yet to know how life actually originated.

      You’re right to some degree. Certain conditions have to be met for the chemical evolution to occur and get the process going. However, once that rare event occured, then there was most likely a runaway situation that occurred since natural selection would naturally favor better self-replicating molecules than those that don’t self-replicate as well or with as much fidelity. It’s an ongoing research endeavor, but we are getting closer to finding these answers as more evidence and data are collected from the natural environment and in laboratory conditions.

      How did the fish that lived in water develop legs and came out on land. The fish would also need lungs that can breathe outside of water. The fish would also need skin that can tolerate the sun.

      There are a few competing hypotheses about legs forming in fish but one plausible possibility is that they started out as fins and then fish that inhabited the lower regions of the sea by the sea floor could have had some advantage using their fins to propel themselves by grabbing on to the sea floor (similar to crawling). Fish then mutated slowly over time (very slowly) and those that had fins that were more and more like legs would have been naturally selected for, and those that did not would have either died or been forced to occupy another environmental niche (such as areas in the ocean OTHER than the sea floor, which is most of the ocean at large). Eventually, when these fish got close to shore, they would have been able to crawl onto land. Prior to their crawling on land, they would have likely first evolved to become better adapted to handling the increased sunlight exposure (as you mentioned). As for lungs, they would have likely formed in fish from co-opting a flotation bladder (found in many fish) or from simple sacs connected to the gut that allowed certain fish to gulp air under oxygen poor conditions where the gills were not sufficient. These kinds of adaptations could then co-opt an organ with a previous function for use with a new function, eventually getting rid of the old function in many cases, and further allowing for new natural selection pressures based on the new functions present in the evolving organisms. Sure enough, we’ve actually found fish with lungs (take the African lungfish for example), so we know that these hypotheses are credible because we’ve actually found animals that have the organs in question or some intermediate organs to accomplish the transition expected. The main take home point is that many of these adaptations happen independently, some one at a time, others multiple significant changes over the same period of time.

      Evolution is saying that give enough time anything can become anything. Wow.

      Evolution isn’t saying anything, scientists are. Scientists have demonstrated that microevolution (which has been witnessed firsthand) leads to macroevolution (which has also been witnessed firsthand). Scientists have also demonstrated that given enough time, very small changes in allele frequencies and mutation combined with gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection, leads to major speciation changes eventually. Some changes happen very quickly such as in bacteria, some insects, and some plants and fish. Other evolutionary changes take much longer to observe significant changes (such as evolution in most mammals). Nevertheless, it has been shown that small changes over time lead to big changes eventually. I will say however that there are limitations in evolution. No credible biologist I’ve ever read about actually believes that evolution can produce “anything from anything”. Rather evolution can produce lots of different species from any starting species, given the prerequisites of mutation, gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection.

      What about the failures of scientific experiments to produce dna. Rna was produced but not in early earth atmospheric conditions.

      Read my earlier comments, as the most viable models in abiogenesis don’t believe that DNA was produced in one shot. Rather it likely evolved from RNA, and RNA from even simpler self-replicating molecules, that no longer exist, since they were overtaken by a more robust RNA self-replicator. Early RNA or pre-RNA also likely didn’t have the same nucleobases and so it is a challenge to try and reproduce a molecule that were not even sure is the correct molecule. Some of this information has been lost in the past and it will take some luck (and lots of trial and error) for scientists to uncover it. Which is why the endeavor keeps moving along, making strides and progress, albeit slowly. Scientists have quite a challenging goal here because they are trying to reproduce something that they believe is sufficient to get the process going, but have so many unknowns that they must circumvent to get there. They’re likely going to have to make many more differeny variants of self-replicating molecules (not RNA specifically) and wait for natural selection to produce better molecules. The problem is, the early earth had billions of years for trial and error, and scientists try to get results in just a few years. So we should expect that they CAN’T find these molecules very easily. In fact, it should be exceedingly difficult if the predictions are correct — and lo and behold, it has been difficult indeed.

      Where are the common ancestors? What about the metorite that has dna in it? Google Nasa Dna.

      Common ancestors for which animal? Do you mean the last universal common ancestor (LUCA)? That ancestor would be extinct as we would expect, having lived likely around 3.5 billion years ago. As for meteors with DNA and other biological molecules, this is another source of pre-biotic soup ingredients as well. That is, there are certain conditions in space that are unlike any found on earth, and they would allow for certain precursor molecules to form, land on earth and then mix with other compounds to form more complex biomolecules. These discoveries support the likelihood of at least certain biological molecules existing throughout the universe. Very interesting discoveries indeed. Evolution is quite amazing and based on such simple principles — change over time. Breathtaking! Thanks for your comments and questions!

  2. Now tell me some off topic answers as well.
    How was the mantra Om discovered bt ordinary people with zero scientific understanding? Om mantra has many positive effects proven by science.
    What about yoga how do you think a common man discovered yoga that has the ability to keep the body incredibly healthy? Yoga is still practised even after many years of scientific development.
    What about the Gaytri Mantra that is the most effective mantra proven by science? Gaytri mantra was also discovered thousands of year ago.
    This is what your science has verified there is much more that it has to realise. Just tell me how did the ancient people who were very stupid and backward beat the modern scientists and discovered sounds that have amazing effects.
    What about aurveda that is an ancient science of healing that is still used? Why is Aurveda still being used while science has found various medicines that are much advanced. Aurveda still works. Please clarify how did all these things came to our ancestors scientifically. How is this possible without them being divine conscious? Or did they just babble and found stupid sounds that still work? Please tell me your scientific view.

    • How was the mantra Om discovered bt ordinary people with zero scientific understanding?

      Well I would argue that all humans have had some level of scientific understanding as soon as we had the ability to observe phenomena, recognize causal patterns, and remember those patterns to help us achieve goals. This has been the case for quite a long time with humans (as long as our species has existed and even before that as well), and is even the case with many other animals. Just as we discovered fire long before we fully understood combustion, thermodynamics and entropy. Just as we discovered certain antibiotic plant components, long before we understood the germ theory of disease, metabolic pathways, etc. Cultural evolution and intermixing has also sped up this process of sharing information, passing along what we think works and discarding the rest. The only thing that changed in the 17th century, during what we’d call the scientific revolution, is the methodology that we used to solve problems and advance our knowledge. We refined it, better formulating the ideas of falsifiability, and the crucial priority of empirical evidence and reason over faith and dogma. This methodological refining process during this enlightenment period in history allowed us to better overcome our cognitive biases and false beliefs while vastly increasing the speed that we acquired new knowledge. So the Om mantra is, generally speaking, no different than any other discovery that humans made before the scientific revolution. The same goes for yoga. When something works well, that doesn’t mean that science will later show that there’s a better way. For example, we discovered agriculture 10,000 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that we should expect modern science to show us a better way of growing and harvesting food OTHER THAN agriculture. Sometimes humans discover things that work really well for various reasons and many of those discoveries simply don’t need to be improved upon even after many years of scientific experimentation.

      Just tell me how did the ancient people who were very stupid and backward beat the modern scientists and discovered sounds that have amazing effects.

      I find it a little insulting to our ancestors that you call them “very stupid”. The reality is that they weren’t likely to be stupid, but rather intelligent and merely uneducated in many ways. Furthermore, they didn’t “beat the modern scientists” at anything. They simply discovered something first which doesn’t negate or nullify the power of science in any way. It was the very scientific method (even implicitly used) that led to people discovering these mantras and their effects. They tried new things, saw the results, then improved upon them over time if needed. That’s all there is to it.

      Please clarify how did all these things came to our ancestors scientifically. How is this possible without them being divine conscious? Or did they just babble and found stupid sounds that still work? Please tell me your scientific view.

      We don’t know everything about how or why our ancestors discovered the things they discovered. However we do know that there is no good reason to believe in some “divine conscious” (whatever that even is) or any kind of “magic”, since now we know that appeals to magic and the supernatural have always been the result of arguments from ignorance. One additional benefit of the scientific revolution was that it emphasized the importance of avoiding arguments from ignorance. So when the explanation for some phenomenon was unknown, rather than simply saying “god did it” or “magic did it”, people started to say “I don’t know the explanation”. This opened the door for discrediting a plethora of false beliefs that had been propagating for millennia. People began to realize that more and more phenomena that used to be attributed to gods and magic were naturally explainable. So the prior probability that any currently unknown phenomena is a result of magic or gods is infinitesimally small, therefore, one would have to be irrational and illogical to assume that gods or magic are the explanation for anything.

    • Kshitiz,

      I’ll first mention that the information in the links you provided are not supported by any credible scientific organization, no endorsement by any national or international academy of science or biology. I mention this because this fact alone is enough to have reasonable doubt about the validity of these arguments and claims (though I won’t rely on an argument from authority to refute these claims). Having said that, I will respond to every major point made in those articles and will refute the claims they presented, as they are not scientifically credible at all. Secondly, it should be noted that even if evolution was conclusively refuted, that still would not be evidence FOR the existence of god. Instead, we would just be forced to saying “I don’t know” to questions about how earth’s biodiversity came to be, how life on earth has changed over time, etc. To repeat, evidence AGAINST evolution is not evidence FOR any kind of gods existing (it’s a common mistake to believe it is). So these arguments get a person no closer to making that case, for trying to do so would be nothing more than an argument from ignorance (which is a common logical fallacy). So if this is why you are pursuing an analysis of these claims (a search for evidence for god), then I want to save you the time and mention that it is a waste of time to do so. Because in order to support the claim “God exists”, one must have evidence FOR god, not evidence against things that are not gods or have nothing to do with gods, etc. In any case, let’s look at the links to examine the errors I’ve found in them.

      Web link 1 (http://www.dnarefutesevolution.com/dna_challenges.html)
      I noticed that in the first link you gave which is linked to an article titled “DNA Challenges Coincidence”, the author quotes a Frank B. Salisbury. As an interesting aside, I’d like to note that Salisbury was a member of the Mormon church — so it’s not at all surprising that he (as many other theists before him) would try and find problems with evolution with his blinding faith in the supernatural and the ridiculous faith of Mormonism in particular. I’ll be much more impressed when I hear about a person that does NOT believe in any gods at all making claims and arguments against the well established fact of evolution. When theists are the ones making these kinds of claims (usually Christians, but not always), we must realize that they are incredibly likely to be doing so because they have a religious belief at stake that they feel they must defend, even if through blatant intellectual dishonesty and self-deception. But putting aside those red flags for now and simply looking at his credentials we can see that this person did not even have a degree in evolutionary biology (he actually studied Plant physiology specifically, when he was alive). In any case, to avoid making any kind of ad hominem attacks on the fellow, let’s look at the actual claims and arguments given in that article. I noticed that they are riddled with falsehoods, fallacious reasoning, and a number of general misunderstandings of basic genetics and evolutionary biology. Shame on Salisbury for not doing his homework and checking the facts before writing this nonsense.

      First, the quote from Salisbury mentions the mathematics behind the number of possible permutations of a 1000 nucleotide sequence of DNA (which is 4^1000), and then using that number as a form of relative probability of that sequence assembling randomly (say 1 in 4^1000). This appears to be a very large number of permutations and we are supposed to then follow their reasoning and conclude that it would be highly improbable for any particular DNA sequence this long to form by chance alone. There are a number of problems with this author’s claim. First of all, biologists don’t believe that genes form randomly all at once. Rather they mutate slowly over time so we might only have one nucleotide base pair mutate out of every several hundred thousand or more base pairs. The odds of that happening are actually very high! DNA most certainly mutates some amount every time it replicates, based on copying errors alone (not even taking into account mutagenic causes such as radiation, etc.). Beyond that, since genes are believed to have formed slowly over time by slowly changing sequences bit by bit, Salisbury is actually attacking a strawman argument here. Biologists don’t believe that genes formed randomly all at once, so even if we can agree with Salisbury about the odds being highly improbable for this to occur, it doesn’t matter, because that’s not how genetics and evolution work. Additionally, Salisbury failed to take into account the number of trials for this to occur by chance (even though it is not believed by biologists to occur by chance) and doing so would mean that if these chemical reactions were occurring long ago, billions of time per day and over the course of a billion year or more, then we have about 4 x 10^20 trials for any particular DNA sequence to form randomly. If the sequence is only 20 nucleotides long (a much more reasonable assumption for a primitive gene forming when life first began), that would be 4^20 or 1 x 10^12 permutations which is well within the bounds of the number of trials given in my example. It is most likely that the first “gene” was likely much shorter than 1000 nucleotide base pairs, and if the first ones were all relatively short, then even if they formed randomly, it is mathematically probable that they’d occur given enough trials and given enough time. Once those were established DNA sequences, then sequences that possessed the ability to self-replicate (which occurs with certain organic chemistries) would copy themselves more and more, and those that mutated to a version that self-replicated better would take over or overcome the population of previous generation self-replicators. This would then lead to an ongoing evolution of DNA and genes via natural selection over the next few billion years eventually leading to large genes that are 1000 base pairs long or even longer.

      Then the author mentions that there are 3 billion letters in the DNA code, presumably referring to the human genome in particular, and says that if even one “letter” were wrong, this would cause serious problems for the cell. This is also wrong! A very basic fact from genetics is the redundancy of the genetic code where we have 64 codons or base pair triplets that code for only 20 amino acids. Which means that many errors possibly made in these sequences will be completely “silent” or inconsequential to the organism at all. On top of that, some of the mistakes in the copying process will lead to beneficial changes in the organism. Most mutations are neutral, followed by deleterious mutations, followed by beneficial mutations. The ones that are neutral are not noticed, the ones that are deleterious eliminate those organisms from the gene pool as well as their deleterious DNA, and the ones that are beneficial take over the gene pool and copy their DNA with the beneficial mutations. It is true that SOME errors in the DNA sequence can cause serious problems, but many of them will not cause any serious problems at all. The author failed to mention this and thus doesn’t realize even these basic biological facts.

      The final take home point to refute this article’s general theme is that biologists do not believe that “billions of pieces of information” in DNA was written by chance alone. Rather they believe that mutations happened by chance (in many cases) and were non-randomly naturally selected for. Those that self-replicated the best would preserve the mutations that led to that advantage.

      Web Link 2 (http://www.icr.org/article/four-scientific-reasons-that-refute/)
      Let’s look at the second link you posted. Notice that this is from the Institute for Creation Research (another red flag since this is not a scientifically credible organization, not endorsed by any national academy of science, etc.). This should already give us doubt about the articles validity, but let’s look at it in detail anyway. It is titled “Four Scientific Reasons That Refute Evolution”. The first reason we are given is “Fossils do not show evolution”. Notice that the claim has only one source referenced and it is a source from the Institute for Creation Research! Imagine that. Talk about a conflict of interest and bias in the source. Where’s the source referencing some peer-reviewed literature published in an academic or scientific journal? There is none, which is no surprise. The author goes on to say that biologists disagree on which fossils are transitional to other forms on some scientific grounds. What grounds? They don’t list these grounds, so there is no way to evaluate if they are valid or not. Fossils DO in fact show that animals have changed over time, and as we go deeper in the bedrock, we find animals that are less and less similar to those existing today, and when we go in between two depths of rock we find fossils of animals with features that are “in between” or transitional to the fossils found in the layers above and below that middle layer. We also do not find fossils of modern animals deep in the ground, thus showing that animals existing now didn’t exist long ago and vice versa. This confirms the predictions of evolutionary theory, which is that we expect to find different types of organisms at different depths. The limitation of the fossil record, even though it has highly confirmed the predictions of evolutionary theory, is that fossils are rare since it takes special conditions for a dead animal to be preserved for millions of years without being eaten by scavengers, decomposing, etc. This means that we expect to have many missing links in the fossil record by nature of the fact that they only happen every now and then with any given year in history. Lo and behold, this is exactly what we find. We find significant changes in the fossils sometimes between various layers because those fossils may be many thousands or millions of years apart in their age. This is all predicted by evolutionary theory and it is indeed what we find. So their first claim is false or irrelevant. Even if biologists don’t all agree on what is a transitional form of one animal or another, there is agreement on many of these fossils and hard direct physical evidence that speciation has occurred over time.

      The second reason they give is that “Living creatures do not evolve between kinds”. This claim is problematic for a few reasons. For one, evolutionary changes that lead to obvious speciation events are rare and sometimes can take hundreds if not thousands of generations to see. We don’t live long enough to witness thousands of generations of genetic diversification in the majority of organisms that live on earth. Just as we may not have ever seen a planet formed because it may take a very long time to do so, we can still infer from the laws of physics how they form from stardust, gravity, centripetal acceleration, and enough time. Not seeing processes that take a long time to occur is expected and thus is not an argument against the validity of the theory of evolution. The best candidates to see in much shorter time frames are some bacteria, plants, and some fish. For example, fruit flies and various species of fish have been reproductively isolated from other members of the population after breeding under certain selective conditions. This means that they have become different species (based on the biological species concept). Again though, even if we never observed these examples of speciation occurring, we still wouldn’t have refuted evolution, but rather would be seeing what we predict from evolutionary theory — very slow change over time, even if over the course of thousands or millions of years. We don’t expect these kinds of changes (or at least most of them) to occur in a human lifetime.

      The third reason they give is that “Genetic entropy rules out evolution”. The author says that many more harmful mutations accumulate than any other kind of mutation (“genetic entropy”). This “genetic entropy” argument, initially propagated by John Sanford has been refuted long ago. Sanford formed the concept after misinterpreting (or mis-characterizing) some graphs from Motoo Kimura and from some misinterpretations of data involving some bacterial experiments. Motoo’s graph didn’t include beneficial mutations because he was creating a model for an entirely different purpose, namely to show that under certain circumstances deleterious mutations that are minor enough can be considered effectively neutral. Motoo’s model said nothing about beneficial mutations not existing, nor did Motoo believe this to be the case. Sanford either misread Motoo or intentionally cherry-picked some data/graphs and considered them out of context and universally applicable. The reality is that even if beneficial mutations are rare, they are still capable of facilitating natural selection and the speciation predicted by evolutionary theory. Deleterious mutations are not able to accumulate beyond a certain level in the gene pool because they are selected against. That means that organisms that accumulate beneficial mutations will increase in numbers in the gene pool and therefore we expect to find a balance of beneficial, neutral, and harmful mutations with just enough beneficial mutations (although relatively rare) to keep the process going indefinitely. So this argument is not supported by the facts.

      The final reason given was “all or nothing vital features refute evolution”. Notice how once again they didn’t given any peer-reviewed published scientific literature to back up the claim. Notice also that this is a claim based on an argument from incredulity and HUGE misunderstandings of how evolution works. The author is saying “if we can’t figure out how one type of lung could evolve into another, then it must be impossible!”. This is a fallacious argument. One must either demonstrate that it is impossible, or concede that it is possible even if the mechanism is not yet known. This false claim is also based on a common misconception that organs can’t be co-opted for more than one function to facilitate slow changes in functionality and morphology as a population evolves over time. In the case of the lung, one need only propose a way for the two-way lung system to form into a one-way lung system. One possibility is that a mutation led to a set of lungs that were mostly functioning in a “two-way” fashion but had a small volume dedicated to “one-way” breathing/oxygen-extraction process. Then slowly over time, the lungs adopted an increasingly higher percentage of tissue dedicated to the one-way breathing process. Eventually the two-way function of the lungs would be minimized and selected against — since in this case the one-way breathing allowed for BETTER oxygen utilization needed for birds when they fly — a very energy intensive function. So this claim is demonstrably false as well.

      Web link 3 (http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/mechanisms06.html)
      The final web link you gave was an article titled “The mechanisms of Darwinism”. Notice that this is another site, with no endorsement from any academy of science, etc. I noticed that all the references cited for this information (except for one) were dated from 1956 to 1988 (which is a red flag for this author using cherry-picked and outdated data to try and support their claims). Why no modern sources written in the last 20 years even? The only source that was more recent, written in 1999 (which is still almost 20 years old) was a book written by a doctor in pathology (not an evolutionary biologist). In any case, let’s look at the claims.

      I’m not even sure where to begin with this one because there are so many false claims, it’s ridiculous. First, the author writes that for mutations, most of the time, they cause so much damage and modification that the cell cannot repair them. This is not true at all and any geneticist knows better. Most mutations are fixed by DNA repair enzymes, and of those that aren’t fixed, most are neutral and non-harmful with a small amount beneficial as discussed earlier. Then they say that “Mutation, which evolutionists frequently hide behind, is not a magic wand that transforms living organisms into a more advanced and perfect form.” Sorry, but biologists don’t claim that mutation is a magic wand that turns organisms into more advanced or perfect forms. That’s a common misconception by people not well versed in evolutionary biology. Instead biologists claim that mutations are a mechanism for genetic diversification, with the change in fitness of the new organism dependent on the mutations and the environmental pressures present around that organism. Then the author says “The direct effect of mutations is harmful. The changes effected by mutations can only be like those experienced by people in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Chernobyl: that is, death, disability, and freaks of nature…” This is ridiculous! Again, most mutations are NOT harmful but rather are neutral. Furthermore, all causes of mutations are not the same, nor have the same effects. The mutations resulting from people in Hiroshima were within the lifetime of the organism, not in the gamete formation or development of offspring. We do not expect that normal random mutations during fertilization and cell replication to be like those caused from huge doses of nuclear radiation. So this is plainly false!

      Then the article mentions that no beneficial mutations have been found. This is also false. In fact, I’m actually in college studying to become a genetic engineer and have produced new bacterial strains with beneficial mutations! I started with a single bacterial strain with a known DNA sequence and in a particular environment, it underwent adaptive radiation and mutated so that part of the offspring population were able to create an extra-cellular matrix to float on top of the culture liquid. This allowed them to get more oxygen and fill an environmental niche that the parent strain was unable to do. This was done in a matter of days! We’re actually in the process of sequencing the genes for this new strain so that we can determine the exact mutations that caused this survival benefit. So I actually have personal experience that refutes this claim in a biology lab no less. Even if I didn’t have this proof from my own experience, the article actually lists a beneficial mutation right in it! It mentions the evolution of sickle-cell anemia and it turns out that this evolved in malaria-prone regions of the world as it bestowed a fitness advantage to those that contracted malaria because it provides an immunity from malaria. This is a beneficial mutation, despite their claim that it is not. Whether or not a mutation is beneficial is dependent on the environment an organism finds themselves in. Imagine that the entire world was infested with mosquitoes spreading malaria and we had two types of people that existed, those with sickle cell anemia and those that didn’t have it. In that world, the people with sickle-cell anemia would be more likely to survive, thus showing how fitness is relative, and how mutations can be detrimental in one environment, and beneficial in another. The author obviously didn’t reason through this reasoning to its logical conclusion. I suspect it is because they have an agenda to disprove evolution because they think it is evidence for god. Unfortunately, they are wrong about that. No evidence against evolution will ever be evidence for a god. Instead one must have evidence for a god, and nothing else, to support the existence of a god. Finding things we can’t explain only illustrate our ignorance. History has shown that previously unexplainable phenomena previously attributed to “God did it” were eventually explained and this “God of the gaps” has been shrinking ever since. You’d think that after the first thousand years of this refutation occurring, people would start realizing that it is a fallacious argument. Specifically, an argument from ignorance (a very common type of logical fallacy). And this concludes the debunking of those articles.

      I suggest looking at the sources of these articles first before you take them at all seriously. And that means actually looking at the sources and seeing if they have been taken out of context and seeing if they are published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal or similar. Then, I would also look to see if the web site/author has a religious agenda. If they are theists, then take it with a grain of salt. If they are not affiliated with religious institutions or creationist think tanks, then you have a higher chance that there may be some truth to the claims and possibly worth looking into deeper. My two cents Kshitiz! Thanks for the opportunity to lay a few more of these misconceptions to rest. I suspect that I’ll see more of them though as there are so many floating around on the internet. Fighting off this misinformation is a laborious task indeed! Cheers.

  3. Seriously, so you are saying that they discovered all this by scientific methods. Ok just for arguments sakes let us say I believe you. I do not get why they lied about Om and Yoga. Yoga is not a physical exercise or a mental excercise ask a person well versed in Yoga. I know the story of how Yoga originated. It was teached by god to man to attain divine consciousness. Shiva who is considered an god in Hinduism is the one who teached Yoga. There are various states of consciousness in Yoga and the highest is divine consciousness. The goal of Yoga is Moksha meaning freedom from cycle of death and birth. Ancient text talk about Maya which means an illusion. World is an illusion for them. They also suggest ways to free yourself from Maya. These are the same people who discovered Yoga and if they discovered it by recognising certain patterns then why are they lying. Om is a mantra mentioned many times in Vedas that talk about gods, creation, etc. Om and the belief in god go together again I do not get why they are lying. They had plenty of time to experiment and experience the power of Yoga. Celibacy the benefits of which we know now are emphasized in Yoga sutras along with non violence, truth and other ethics. Yoga cannot be improved because it came from a god. Hanuman chalisa which is a very old prayer to Hanuman mentions the exact distance between earth and sun at certain points of time as the distance keeps changing. They also emphasized on vegetarian food and now everyone knows why. I do not get thay on the one hand they know about our body and its systems well but on the other why they lie about god and its existence.

    • Yoga and tantra are two opposite paths that lead to the same goal. Tantra waa forbidden in ancient India and thus not much is known about tantra. The scriptures talk about 4 ages and they repeat again and again until the destruction and creation of this world. The last age iS Kali yuga in which belief in god shatters and social evils reach its peak. This is kali yuga according to the scriptures which also specify the time periods of various yugas. Read some books of hardcore serious yogis and you will find them full of spiritual experiences. Science cannot verify those as they happen only with the person and he knows about it. Many quantum physicts loved Vedas and said that Vedas talk about the quantum world. Nikola Tesla who founded alternating current which we still use followed the Vedas and got cremated, became a celibate and a vegetarian. Nikola was strangled because he knew about how to create more powerful weapons according to one conspiracy theories. Hinduism agrees on many things withe science like the age of the earth. Science disagrees with Hinduism on god but that is understandable because those who attain the highest goal in yoga do not come out and try to prove it to the scientists.

      • Yes and if the emotional experiences are not empirically verifiable in any way, then all we can say is that they are caused by certain mental/brain states. We can’t make a leap and say that magic and gods are involved. Just as the first people to take hallucinogenic mushrooms probably thought they were entering heaven or some other world and making contact with the “divine consciousness”, we now know the effects of psilocybin and dimethyltryptamine and other hallucinogenic neuromodulators on the brain. They make people experience seemingly transcendent effects and perceptions. But we have a good understanding that it has to do with chemicals in the brain. Yoga and meditation also have similar effects on the brain where the body’s feedback loops can cause the brain to change the body and vice versa in unique ways. We expect these kinds of things to happen without any appeal to magic or gods or the like. We still have a LOT to learn about the brain but every passing year, we discover something new about how it works, why certain drugs and other practices have the effects that they have on the brain, etc. As for proof of God, so far nobody in the entire world has been able to do it, and I suspect that no Yogis can either. I will believe it once it is demonstrated because the only beliefs that are reasonable to have are those that can be backed up with reason and evidence.

      • Thank you and I think you have adequately refuted the links I gave. I am not sure about Yoga and Om though meaning I am not entirely convinced but I will give it some thought for sure.
        Now a question about evolution. How can we evolve to be conscious of ourselve?. What is consciousness? How can consciousness arise from the brain? Does the observer effect in quantum double slit experiment prove that consciousness affects reality? How can chemical reactions in the brain lead to consciousness?

      • No problem. I enjoy the conversation and always hope to spread the values of critical thinking, rational skepticism, and reason. We’re all in this world together and I want me and everyone else to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible! Reason and evidence can lead us there, and the scientific method is the golden ticket indeed.

        How can we evolve to be conscious? Well, we don’t yet know the details behind how consciousness is manifested from the brain but we know with a high level of confidence that it IS produced by the neuro-chemical processes in the brain. Neuroscientists know this because they’ve manipulated the brain in very specific ways (even just one chemical at a time) and seen pathologies in very specific regions of the brain which have been able to alter people’s consciousness in repeatable ways, change their memories, effect their personality, their values, etc. That is to say, we’ve gotten most of our information about consciousness by watching how it FAILS and CHANGES when processes in the brain are disturbed or screwed up in some way. They’ve even determined what regions in the brain must be active as a bare minimum in order to be conscious at all. They’ve even been able to see how certain failures lead to only partial loss of some aspects of consciousness or perception. For example, prosopagnosia is a condition where people can’t recognize faces. There is nothing wrong with their eyes, and they can “see” the face of a person just find, but they are unable to recognize the face of the person they are looking at. All of these phenomena help us determine how each aspect of consciousness is produced by one brain region or another and eventually I think we will be able to determine exactly how it is produced by all of these different brain processes working together simultaneously. It is the hardest question to answer because the brain is the most complex system in the known universe. There are trillions of synapses in the brain, billions of neurons, and a HUGE number of possible connection schemes.

        In terms of the evolution of consciousness, this is something that evolutionary theory predicts to happen in terms of its survival benefit to the organism. Beginning with brains evolving, the organism now has the ability to respond to stimuli and learn causal patterns, store them into a form of memory, and recall them later on to help them achieve some goal and further their survival. It is believed by many that the evolution of brains to become conscious in particular came later on as another type of survival benefit. Namely, if the brain is heavily automated (the unconscious processes that occur) then those processes don’t need to be in any conscious frame of reference. But what if an organism needs to be able to “veto” the automated process, make some kind of exception to the regular automated program running, and do so quickly? Then consciousness may play a role in allowing that function to exist. It may be that consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon and that everything is still automated the way it always was, but consciousness is a by-product. We don’t yet know either way, but we are getting closer to answering these questions. I think it is reasonable to believe either possibility, but it would seem to make more sense that the evolution of a new feature as profound as consciousness actually serves a new function and isn’t merely a byproduct. Which is why I tend to side with the idea that it provides a way of very quickly veto-ing what would normally be the most common automated processes out of our control. So in summary, I think that consciousness evolved in more advanced brains because it allowed the organism to be much more quick in responding to environmental changes — and this bestows a huge survival advantage in comparison with organisms with brains that can’t yet do that since they’re more likely to be eaten or killed with a slower (exclusively unconsciously mediated) response rate.

        As for the observer effect in quantum mechanics (QM) and consciousness playing some role, that is a common misconception. Check out the following link:

        It mentions:

        In quantum mechanics, there is a common misconception (which has acquired a life of its own, giving rise to endless speculations) that it is the mind of a conscious observer that affects the observer effect in quantum processes. It is rooted in a basic misunderstanding of the meaning of the quantum wave function ψ and the quantum measurement process.

        So consciousness doesn’t appear to play any fundamental role in QM results other than the “conscious” effort on the scientists’ part to perform the experiment and answer some question they’re investigating.

    • I’ll try to respond to all of this but I’m not sure that I understand most of what your saying here. To begin, yes I believe that they used scientific methods implicitly because they experimented with something (yoga let’s say), saw particular results that they saw as beneficial, and then modified or maintained that practice to reap the benefits to their minds and bodies (if any). That is to say, all humans are “scientists” in this basic sense and we all tend to solve problems the same basic way. The main difference between what we tend to call “science” and regular problem solving, is that science tends to be more rigorous and strict with its methods to maximize efficiency in achieving a useful/correct answer about the question/hypothesis. I never said that anybody lied, so I’m not sure what you mean by that comment. Yoga seems to have originated in India around the 5th or 6th century BCE and is described by many as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice/discipline (mainly a form of meditation). So I don’t know what you mean by saying that it is not a physical or mental exercise. I would argue that if it has effects on the mental and physical (which meditation does) then it in indeed an exercise (even if a relaxation exercise) for the mind and body. As for all the claims about Yoga originating from Hindu gods or dealing with divine consciousness, there is no evidence to support those claims. At least, none that I’ve ever seen. As for their “lying”, keep in mind that cultures make up lots of stories and folklore for different reasons. Sometimes it is because they don’t want to reveal the actual truth to the uninitiated, and other times it is because they didn’t know very much about how the world worked, they didn’t have a working understanding of the laws of physics, and on top of that humans are often superstitious and have a number of cognitive biases that lead to the creation of religions, folklore, beliefs in ghosts, gods, spirits, etc. Also, I’m not sure that yoga can’t be improved. I haven’t seen that demonstrated to be the case, and so it is likely that it can be improved, although it depends on what the ultimate goal is. If it is a certain meditative state, then I’d argue that it can be improved given more tests and more accumulation of knowledge about how the brain works. If the goal is some supernatural goal that can’t be well defined or tested in any verifiable way, then I’d argue that there’s no way to know if it can be improved or if it is optimum now, because the goal would the be based on untestable claims and assumptions that haven’t yet been demonstrated. The bible talks about gods, angels, demons, creation, etc., but that doesn’t make it true. Nor does it mean that the writers of those old books were necessarily lying. Often times they were just uninformed about how the world worked, they were uneducated, and deeply superstitious. They didn’t have the benefits of the enlightenment or post-scientific revolution when those religions and books were made which is why they are full of bizarre and ridiculous claims. It doesn’t mean that everything written in them is wrong or bizarre or ridiculous, as obviously human beings are bound to get some things right, even if they lived long ago. But nevertheless, they got a lot wrong in their worldview and their ideas about how the world works.

      • Please do not compare with the Bible. Bible has got everything wrong and it says earth is 6000 years old. Hinduism has got many things right like the age of earth, distance between earth and sun, yoga, meditation, benfits of celibacy, benefits of vegeterian food, and much more.

      • I mention the Bible because any holy books at all claimed to be divine have at least that one aspect in common with one another. I haven’t examined Hinduism very deeply but have yet to find any good reason to believe that it is a divinely inspired religion or any texts made within it. It doesn’t matter who’s text gets more things correct or not. None of that matters in terms of lending credence to the supernatural claims in those texts. Nothing can lend credence to the supernatural claims except direct evidence for the supernatural claims. Nobody has ever been able to find such evidence because nobody has ever been able to show how we could ever in principle distinguish between “the supernatural” from “the natural, but currently unexplained”. We are always going to have a higher prior probability that any unknown phenomenon is simply natural but unexplained rather than supernatural. This is one reason why supernatural claims are unfalsifiable. Furthermore, anything shown to be true that is called “supernatural” would actually be relabeled as “natural” because the natural world is simply the world we can interact with and demonstrate exists. Anything that could be tested and verified would be classified as “natural”.

        I would argue that Hinduism didn’t get anything right, but rather people that formed that religion got some things right. Which we expect. Just as some things in the Bible are demonstrably true (certain historical events for example, or beeficial ways of living ones life (such as applying the “golden rule”). Don’t get me wrong, I think that there are many flaws in that book and many inconsistencies in the moral prescriptions — but this is also expected not only because humans are fallibe but because the bible is a collection of 66 books written by many different people living at different times. In any case, human beings have brains and are expected to get certain facts about the world correct in at least some ways or at least to some degree (whether about hunting, farming, health, societal structures, beneficial practices, etc.). However, many of the things that certain texts supposedly “got right” are really a result of modern people misinterpreting vague assertions in those texts that aren’t actually specific or explicit with the facts in question. For example, if a text actually gave us the gravitational constant precise to a few digits before the physics for gravitational theory was at all established, that would be impressive (still not ever likely to be supernatural, but impressive and worth further investigation nevertheless). But if a text has some vague notion of gravity being constant or something like that or some vague metaphor, that is hardly impressive. I’m curious about your claim about the distance between the earth and sun. Where and when did Hindus predict this distance (92.9 million miles)? Is this written in some Hindu text or story?

      • Ah, so I see that one claim out there is that in this line from the Hanuman Chalisa poem is some kind of “hidden calculation” of the earth-sun distance:

        Yug Sahastra Yojan Par Bhanu

        Leeyo Taahi Madhur Phal Janu!

        But the literal translation of this seems to be “The Surya (sun), situated thousands of Yojanas from the earth, was swallowed by you after you assumed him to be a sweet fruit.

        Before I get into debunking this claim (it’s bogus), let’s assume the web site’s argument was true and just take it as it says it, then we have a supposed hidden/secret-coded earth-sun distance of 96 million miles. Even if this were true, it isn’t correct. The average distance of the earth-sun is 92.9 million miles. In any case, that would be an impressive calculation for them to measure and calculate! That’s impressive but obviously not magic or supernatural in any way. Two centuries later, some other scientists figured out that distance as well. So it’s close to the actual distance (only 3 million miles off which isn’t a bad estimation!). However, there are problems even with this imperfect estimation, because of several fallacious assumptions.

        For example, thousands of yojanas is not very specific, but if translated to miles or kilometers (although these are units not used by any Hindis during the time the Hanuman Chalisa was written), that gives us about “eight-thousands” of miles which is simply thousands of miles. I saw the explanation given on the link you wrote but that is not the actual translation of the Hanuman Chalisa but rather a poor misrepresentation of it with someone translating these units to miles and years and for some reason multiplying these numbers together to arrive at some secret code translation of this poem (not very respectful to the poet). So even if the translation involved yojans, yugs, and sahastras, where does it say to multiply ALL of these units in the poem? Nowhere. Where does it say to convert yojans to miles? Nowhere. I also read somewhere that yugs are actually demigod years not human years, and I read that one demigod year is 360 human years, so one yug would be 12000 demigod years which would be 12000 x 360 = 4,320,000 years. So even if we multiply ALL these numbers together (for some reason) which it doesn’t tell us to do, we have 12000 years x 360 x 1000 x 1 yojan (distance) = 4,320,000,000 (so about 4 billion year-yojans or about 32 billion year-miles). The trouble with this is that it also is not a unit of distance either, since years times yojans doesn’t equal yojans, but rather equals years-yojans which is a composite unit of time-distance (like meter-seconds). Do you see the problem with this so far? So not only does it not actually tell us to multiply distance with time, but even if you do it’s wrong and gives us fake units that don’t exist (years-yojans).

        So this appears to be one of those “bible code” type non-sense claims where people plug in their own assumptions, units, etc., to get some coincidental result that is supposed to be amazing and miraculous. At best, it would show that they had some knowledge that they acquired in an unknown way. No evidence for magic, and no evidence for anything supernatural.

      • Yeah as I was reading about it somewhere else I also thought that it is just a misinterpretation or confirmation bais.

  4. You mentioned earlier that macro evolution has been witnessed firsthand. When, where and how? Please explain. What do you think about Cambrian explosin?

    • Yes, but first I want to remind you that macroevolution is simply defined as microevolution over longer time periods, so that instead of just allele frequency changes occurring within a population over time (micro-evolution) we have changes from one species to another (macro-evolution). A common misunderstanding propagated by some people trying to refute evolution is that they say things like “nobody has ever observed a chicken give birth to a lizard” or “a dog give birth to a cat” or something like that. This just illustrates that they don’t understand how evolution has been shown to work. What we usually expect is for an offspring from a parent species to be different enough from its parents (or from its great-great-great-great-great….grandmother/father) so that it would be unable to successfully reproduce with it. This isn’t the only concept of speciation (in this case “biological” speciation) as there are many different ways of classifying species from one another (morphospecies concept, phylogenetic species concept, ecological species concept, etc.). Any way, in order to see something like a reptile turn into a mammal (like a mouse), we’d expect to have to go back many thousands if not millions of generations to see the mouses ancestors slowly looking more and more reptilian, until eventually we’d find an ancestor that was a reptile. I like the analogy of species being like a color on a continuous rainbow. If a member of a certain species gives birth to offspring, we can think of the parent being “red” and the offspring being “red-orange” on the rainbow scale. They aren’t yet different enough to be classified a different species, but after each generation if the mutations lead to offspring that are more and more orange and less and less red, then eventually we’ll get to a descendent generation that is “orange” (no longer red, and no longer red-orange). Waiting longer still, we’d expect to get to “yellow”, then “green”, then “blue”, on this rainbow spectrum analogy. We can think of microevolution on this color scale as changes from one shade of the same color to another shade of the same color, and macroevolution as enough of these minor “shade” changes that eventually lead to a change from one color to another color entirely.

      Now it should also be noted that because most macroevolution takes many thousands or millions of years to occur, we expect NOT to see it occur much if at all in time scales as short as our lifetimes. On top of this, we don’t need to have witnessed macroevolution first hand to demonstrate that it occurs (or has occurred in the past) for we only need to look at the fossil record, genetic evidence, and microevolution (which we observe all the time within one species) to infer that macroevolution has indeed occurred — because macroevolution is the simplest and most consistent prediction from evolutionary theory and the simplest explanation based on the plethora of evidence we have. In any case, we have observed macroevolution occurring over time scales that people have been able to record (whether in less than a year, or in some cases within a few hundred years). In these cases the speciation typically has occurred with certain plants, bacteria, and insects. Here are some examples:

      Two new species of American Goatsbeard plants appeared within just the last century and so has been recorded by humans from the early 1900’s to now. In the early 1900’s three species of these wildflowers, the western salsify, the meadow salsify, and the oyster plant were brought to the U.S. from Europe. As the populations expanded they began to interact and breed with one another, generally leading to sterile hybrid offspring as usually expected. But by the 1950’s scientists noticed that two new variations formed and they weren’t sterile. They were perfectly able to mate with each other, but couldn’t reproduce with any of the three parent species. They formed from mutations caused by an error during meiosis, and when this happened the offspring had a different number of chromosomes than the parents. When this accident occurred a couple times with different plants, eventually those mutant plants crossed paths and were able to mate with one another successfully. So this was a nice example of speciation occurring in just a few decades!

      Another interesting example is an experiment performed in 1988 where a strain of Chlorella pyrenoidosa algae that was unicellular evolved into a population of multicellular algae based on predation selection pressures due to an accident in the experiment (the unicellular algae was periodically pumped into a tank with flagellate protists for food, but then the water pump broke and flagellate protists wound up in the main algae food tank). Because of the predation, the unicellular algae evolved due to natural selection to form multicellular colonies (stabilized at 8 cells) which was no longer attacked/eaten by the protist organism. That multicellular form then persisted for many years in the same culture. This is interesting because it also relates to your other question about the Cambrian explosion.

      The Cambrian explosion may have at least partially resulted from the fact that multicellularity bestows a survival advantage against predation from other single celled organisms. If the environment became saturated with many unicellular organisms that fed on other organisms, then there would likely have been a tipping point where selection finally greatly favored a number of multicellular organisms to evolve to resist that predation. Once some multicellular forms began to evolve, then the number of types of forms would have vastly increased because the complexity of the organisms afforded many more possibilities (compare the number of possibilities of major differences between single celled organisms with the number of possible forms in large chunks or sets of these cells). On top of this new “evolutionary breathing space” which opened the door for a huge number of new forms to result from the multicellular strategy of survival, some would have also began to evolve to eat other multicellular forms (not just eating single-celled forms for food) and this would have further pressured organisms that were already multicellular to begin to diversify even more. So this is one of several plausible mechanisms to account for a period of very rapid genetic diversification. Another likely mechanism was the drastic increase in oxygen levels that was occurring prior to this Cambrian explosion that has been shown to be correlated with increased diversity in eukaryotic organisms. An increase in oxygen would have allowed organisms to grow larger because they would be able to have a smaller surface area to volume ratio (which is the case for large animals and their lungs) and still survive. As oxygen continued to increase in the atmosphere, the possible size of organisms would have also been able to increase substantially, thus accounting for a lot of the changes occurring during that explosion. The increase in oxygen would have also led to the formation of the ozone layer, thus allowing organisms to begin to live in shallower water, on land, etc., without serious UV radiation damage. So there are a few different mechanisms that could have contributed to this explosion in diversity and as genomes became more complex and larger, the number of possible organisms is expected to exponentially increase because there is more genetic information to mutate and more possibilities for large sections of DNAs to have errors in them, causing huge phenotypic changes. There’s still a lot of controversy over what the main mechanisms were and over many details, but the main agreement is that several plausible mechanisms exist to account for the types of changes that occurred, even if we’re not positive about what they all are or how significant each one was. However, the predictions in evolutionary theory are consistent with these types of historical events and so evolution is still the best model to explain the evidence. As far as I know, there aren’t any other models that have been proposed — only different variations of one evolutionary model versus another evolutionary model.

    • Yes, this article just propagates more of the same misinformation. Microevolution and macroevolution are fundamentally the same process, as macro is just micro over longer periods of time — and so there is an arbitrary distinction between the two. This author doesn’t appear to realize this is the case. They fail to carry the concept of microevolulution over long time scales to its logical conclusion, which is macroevolutionary speciation.

      The other falsehood this article propagates is the idea that evidence for creationism has been witnessed many times. The problem with this claim is that creationism doesn’t have any well defined predictions at all because there is no way of knowing what a “creator” would choose to create. We’d need to know that information in order to predict what we’d expect to find in the fossil record. The trouble is people can find any kinds of animals and plants whatsoever and claim that they are what a creator would create, but one must DEMONSTRATE this to be the case. Nobody has ever been able to do this because theism is not well defined, and thus the creator is not well defined. One could always define one in hindsight such that it includes all the creatures we’ve found so far as the “creation”, but that simply begs the question because one isn’t actually predicting what the creatures will be before they’ve seen them. Evolutionary theory predicts that we can find one fossil in a layer of rock, look far below it and find another type, and predict that we should find one that looks “intermediate” in appearance to the layer of rock in between these two outer/upper/lower layers. Indeed that is what we find. On the other hand, for a creator, isn’t it possible that a creator could make every creature look completely unrelated to one another so as to look like they were all created independently of one another? This is a possibility in creationism that is NOT a possibility in evolutionary theory. Because of this, that is, because of the simple fact that a magical creator being could conceivably make anything at all, that gives us no ability to predict what it WILL be or what it SHOULD be. There is no way to test the creationist hypothesis either because of this, which is why it isn’t a theory but only a hypothesis. Evolution on the other hand makes specific predictions, can be tested and falsified in various respects, and thus remains a theory, and one that has held itself up to heavy scrutiny over the last century.

      The article also mentions that evolution is a violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Sorry, but this is also a common misconception in creationist circles, never entertained seriously by the scientific community of biologists nor physicists. They mislead the reader by mischaracterizing the concepts of open and closed systems, informational versus thermal entropy, etc. The fact is that any thermodynamic system can be defined arbitrarily based on keeping track of incoming and outgoing energy. In the case of earth, the sun produces enough entropy from its heat generation to more than account for the decrease in entropy found on earth through the evolution of life and complexity of life. Another misconception is that the 2nd law necessarily leads to an increase in entropy at all times. One interesting development in this whole story is the work of Jeremy England, a Ph.D. physicist from MIT who has made a compelling argument that life actually is FAVORED by the second law of thermodynamics because it appears to act as a dissipation channel for energy coming from the sun, that then gets re-radiated to outer space. Normally, heat would hit a lifeless earth and be reflected at some constant rate. However, life appears to act as a catalyst to produce higher entropic heat dissipation from the energy coming in from the sun. Think of it like this: the energy from the sun hits LIFE on earth, and those biological processes serve to process that energy into lower and lower energy photons that wouldn’t normally occur in the absence of that life and those processes (mainly photosynthesis, but not exclusively). So there’s an argument to be made that life is actually a result of the universe finding a way to fulfill the 2nd law in a more favorable way, even if in only a few remote locations where the conditions are just right. I like to think of life as similar to a catalytic converter on a car’s exhaust system. Without it, entropy increases (like in the combustion process of gasoline) but not as quickly or as efficiently as with it. Without it, like the car engine, it produces some amount of carbon monoxide leaving some free diatomic oxygen unreacted and less heat output (lower entropy than what it would be ideally). With it, that is, with life, or the “catalytic converter”, the unreacted carbon monoxide and oxygen is finally converted to carbon DIOXIDE and more heat which has much higher entropy. So the presence of the catalytic converter produced an end result that would have eventually occurred, but not nearly as quickly as with it. Another analogy is to think of life as like the eye of a hurricane or the funnel of a tornado. If there is a huge build up in available energy that needs to be dissipated (such as thermal gradients formed in large volumes of air in the sky) then a low entropy structure forming (such as a tornado) will allow that thermal gradient in the air (also low entropy) to dissipate down to the lowest energy level in the fastest amount of time until the tornado disappears. Then the decreased entropy in the volumes of air and in the tornado that formed were all increased faster than if the gradients would have been left to self-equilibrate without any funnel cloud at all.

      As for “no transitional fossils”, this has been disproven long ago with thousands of them being found throughout many parts of the world.
      See the following for a partial list:

      Then the article mentions another misconception with the following from the author:

      On the one hand, Mark Isaak concedes that “chance plays a large part,” yet natural selection (now portrayed as if an inherently, non-accidental, designed, deliberate, goal-oriented process) plays a “fundamental role,” these two “opposites” somehow combining to make it all work out, precisely according to theory. (Next question, please!)

      This is a misunderstanding of evolution and the definitions of random chance and non-random selection in application to evolution. Mutations arise by chance but the selection of which organisms will survive in higher frequency is mediated by natural selection, namely the self-evidence fact that any mutation that leads to higher reproductive rates compared to another organism is going to lead to the population becoming increasingly populated with that more reproductively successful organism. There is no design at play here, no deliberate purpose, or goal-oriented process. So this author is flat out wrong! When evolutionists say that evolution is mediated by a non-random natural selection, that doesn’t mean that natural selection is some conscious entity that “chooses” which organisms will populate the gene pool in order to create some end-goal of “super-advanced” organisms. Rather, natural selection merely means that those that are better able to survive and replicate will overtake the population, and this is dependent on the set of environmental conditions that an organism finds themselves in. If for example, there was a catastrophic event that the earth experienced which killed all multicellular organisms, but left bacterium or other single-celled organisms alive, that would mean that natural selection favored what many might call “less advanced” or “less evolved” creatures over those that are sometimes thought of as “more evolved” or “more advanced”. This goes to show that there is no end goal in evolution, even though it is not mediated by entirely random processes. The laws of physics are highly predictable and biology is constrained by those same physical, repeatable processes. There may be some random elements of chance mutations and chance circumstances with many contingencies leading to certain evolutionary paths that are more common than others, but they are also mediated by self-evidence proliferation principles (“thing A” that multiplies better than “thing B” in a world that has all “things” eventually break down over time will naturally become populated with more and more of the “thing A”).

      Then they mention the common mischaracterization of anti-evolutionists use of the term “theory”. The truth is, when most lay people use the term “theory”, they mean “hypothesis”, but when scientists use it, they mean (taken from the Wiki on “Scientific Theory”):

      A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation.[1][2] Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge.[3]

      So yes, evolution is just a theory, just as is the theory of gravity, and the germ theory of disease. It is not however just a hypothesis. Whereas the creationist claim is just that — a hypothesis and nothing more — and one that has not been supported/confirmed in any way.

      The biggest red flag for that web site is that they claim or imply that creationism is a theory, and that it has evidence to support it. The fact that they also don’t acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in support of evolution just illustrates their scientific ignorance. They are trying to imply that there is some dogmatic evolutionism that is itself falsely propagating evolution as fact. The reality is that there are indeed dogmatic evolutionists, so this point I’ll concede, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are non-dogmatic evolutionists, nor does it negate the fact that what both the dogmatic and non-dogmatic evolutionists are claiming is still true. Even if the dogmatic evolutionists are handling the discourse incorrectly. It is a strawman attack and red herring to try and refute evolution by pointing to SOME adherents that hold their position because of irrational reasons or an incomplete set of facts. One must look at the evidence and not at the people making claims nor necessarily care about how they arrived at their claims. If the claims can be demonstrated to be true based on the evidence, even if the people making the claims arrived at the claims themselves through erroneous means, that never says anything about the truth or validity of the claim itself. So beside the fact that the VAST majority of scientists in biology concur that evolution is a fact, and beside the fact that it is a theory endorsed and credited by every national science academy that’s ever taken a position on the issue, we can also see that it is vastly supported by a plethora of independent forms of evidence that has been evaluated through a peer-reviewed scientific process.

      You could most certainly find a thousand more web sites like these, and I certainly don’t have time to go through and refute the same kinds of arguments over and over again, so moving forward, as I mentioned earlier, I suggest you try and look into the supposed “refutations” found on these sites by looking up the terms used and the basic keywords on scientifically credible web sites. If they are endorsing creationism at all, that shows that they aren’t scientifically credible, because creationism is not a falsifiable hypothesis, and is therefore not scientific in any general sense. If they point out problems with some parts of evolutionary theory but don’t appear to be endorsing creationism or the new disguised creationism referred to as “intelligent design”, that’s different, and I would consider the arguments more seriously and look into them more. There are bound to be disagreements with respect to various parts of evolutionary theory, just as there are with many scientific theories. That in no way invalidates the theory as a whole, but only certain aspects of it, which simply forces scientists to try and modify the theory so that it fits all the data while maximizing predictive capability and while remaining the least ad hoc, the most parsomonious given the data, etc.

    • So the first red flag on this site (in my opinion) is their admission of being “persons of faith and proud of it”. Faith is inherently NON-scientific as it means believing in something without good reason and evidence to do so. So they may claim to be trained scientists, but then they admit that they don’t apply the scientific method consistently (in matters of faith). Furthermore, they include links at the bottom of that site that lead one to religious websites, so they’ve lied from the very beginning. The second major red flag is the fact that they are claiming a “Darwin conspiracy” exists from atheists. Conspiracy theories are a priori more likely to be false than true, because there are so many of them out there and so many that contradict one another. So before reading further, we can already doubt their credibility. Conspiracy theories require an extremely large amount of high quality evidence to show are true because they are positing that an extremely large number of scientists and organizations are all in on it which is ridiculous. What’s more ridiculous, is that there are plenty of scientists that are Christians and other brands of theists that still believe that evolution is a fact. They don’t let their faith get in the way of the science they practice and so are evolutionary theists. So this site is then implying that there must be Christians and other theists that are also in cahoots with this conspiracy. Again, simply ridiculous. A web site claiming to be using peer reviewed scientific papers and warning us that they don’t have an agenda is suspicious. We normally just see published results and references, not warnings that they are credible. That’s like a forger saying “I write this letter honestly but watch out for forgers that may be trying to deceive!” This is a known red flag from literary historians. On top of this, atheists have nothing to lose if evolution turned out to be false (however unlikely that is based on the plethora of evidence that supports evolution), because proving evolution false doesn’t have anything to do with supporting a belief in god. It only would show that we need to research more to find a viable model to explain the data better. Furthermore, most atheists (including myself) couldn’t care less if a god exists. If the evidence were to show that god exists, I would accept it, because my beliefs are not based on dogma but simply follows where the evidence leads me/us. Atheism isn’t a belief either, it is simply a lack of belief. The theist claims that god exists and the atheist rejects that claim because the burden of proof hasn’t been met to support it. Anyway, as I expected, this article was a waste of time.

      First it says that it is impossible that humans evolved from apes. Sorry, but humans ARE classified as apes (not simply a descendent of other apes), which means that these scientists aren’t very well versed in the biological nomenclature used for taxonomical purposes in classifying humans. We didn’t simply “evolve from apes”, but rather we ARE a type of ape, related to other apes (we only need to look at our morphology to see this is true), that evolved from other animals (perhaps other apes, though non-apes as well, when you go far enough back on the phylogenetic tree). Then they mention four “Darwin busters” but don’t provide any peer reviewed published journal articles to support their case! After telling us they were using those kinds of sources! Surprising? Not at all. So we can ignore all of the busters as “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

      Furthermore, the first “Darwin buster” at best would show that we are less related genetically than 98%, but so what? That doesn’t refute the relationship existing. To put one’s mind at ease if the numbers matter (which they shouldn’t matter exclusively), here’s a peer reviewed published journal article stating that it is at least 95% similar (http://genome.cshlp.org/content/15/12/1746.full or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16339373). Nothing like the cherry picked 33% number the conspiracy site printed.

      The second “Darwin buster”, that new genes can’t be added to existing genes because of problems with embryonic development is false. Homeotic genes do just that and are typically duplicated so that new genes can be added/mutated while still leaving the initial set thus providing a platform for natural selection to occur and thus the natural selection of the incorporation of new genes. Here’s a peer-reviewed journal article supporting this line of reasoning (http://www.pnas.org/content/100/25/14603.full)

      The third “Darwin buster” is also false. Duplication of genes as I mentioned earlier is in fact a mechanism for genetic change despite their saying otherwise. Here’s another peer-reviewed article that supports the reasoning of several mechanisms involved in gene creation and change (http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/origins-of-new-genes-and-pseudogenes-835)

      The fourth “Darwin buster”, the claim that we don’t have an explanation of why we have a different number of chromosomes than apes (even though we are apes, presumably they meant non-human apes, like chimpanzees), but this is also false. They even mention the explanation of chromosome fusion which there is incredibly strong evidence for. Yet they deny that we haven’t any examples of chromosome fusion, but humans and chimanzees ARE an example. Do they mean that we haven’t witnessed it happening before in real time? That’s not a requirement to show it’s a valid hypothesis, nor expected to be witnessed if it is supposed to be a rare event when leading to speciation (which indeed it is expected to be rare). Nevertheless, here’s a peer-reviewed scientific journal article explaining this fusion of chromosome 2 in humans from chimps and the evidence for it (http://genome.cshlp.org/content/12/11/1651.full). Here’s another less technical link that explains the overwhelming evidence in more detail (http://www.evolutionpages.com/chromosome_2.htm).

      So that article is bunk. Shame on them for claiming to be scientific and using peer reviewed sources when they never cited ANYTHING once, nor were claiming established facts on the matter. So a site claiming to be using peer-reviewed sources is not what I meant, when I asked you to consider that. Rather I meant, that the web sites themselves should directly reference peer-reviewed journal articles (so you can look them up and read them and confirm that they are not taken out of context). Let’s consider this matter closed for now. Cuz’ we could be going back and forth on this kind of stuff forever given the number of fallacious sources out there. If they are actually peer reviewed journal articles, then I’ll keep looking at them. But if they’re not peer-reviewed journal articles from a scientific journal of some kind, then I would discard them if I were you. Not worth anyone’s time on a matter of fact that is so well-established. The only place to go for information on disproving well-established facts or models is peer-reviewed scientific literature. Because that is where it must go before it can be used to change consensus and update “the facts”.

  5. I couldn’t clarify about yoga earlier but now I think it is time to verify it. It is a common misconception that Yoga is only a physical and mental exercise. The man who wrote Yoga sutras would surely disagree. Yoga was practised since time immemorial and this article will clarify what traditional yoga the original one was about.http://www.swamij.com/history-yoga.htm
    Read the big questions part if you are in a hurry.
    This is what is the true yoga is about not the one that most people practise now.
    I think you should look at the meaning of the word yoga.

    • From wikipedia (the article has some serious errors) – In Vedic Sanskrit, yoga (from the root yuj) means “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach” in its most common literal sense.
      So yoga means to unite oneself with the Supreme. Wikipedia fails to mention this but I don’t blame them.

      • The view from the Hindu Puranas is that of an eternal universe cosmology, in which time has no absolute beginning, but rather is infinite and cyclic, rather than a universe which originated from a Big Bang.[13][14] However, the Encyclopædia of Hinduism, referencing Katha Upanishad 2:20, states that the Big Bang theory reminds humanity that everything came from the Brahman which is “subtler than the atom, greater than the greatest.”[15] It consists of several “Big Bangs” and “Big Crunches” following each other in a cyclical manner.[16][17][18]

        The Nasadiya Sukta, the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (10:129) mentions the world beginning from a point or bindu, through the power of heat.[19][20] This can be seen as corresponding to the Big Bang theory.

        Several prominent modern scientists have remarked that Hinduism is the only religion (or civilization) in all of recorded history, that has timescales and theories in astronomy (cosmology), that appear to correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology, e.g. Carl Sagan,[21] Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg,[22][23][24] Robert Oppenheimer,[25] Eugene Wigner,[26] George Sudarshan,[27] Fritjof Capra[28] etc. Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_interpretations_of_the_Big_Bang_theory

      • Well cosmologists aren’t sure whether the universe is eternal or finite in the past. In any case, we can see that there are only two possibilities, so any ancient culture that has an origin myth has a 50/50 chance of getting it right if they guess “creation” or “eternal”. Furthermore, those that posit the universe being created are likely going to assume it started at one point because it starting at many points is a less coherent concept. I’m only mentioning these things because there are a number of ancient or religious concepts or sayings that people try to correlate with modern science to somehow validate them. It doesn’t validate anything supernatural in them, nor does it confirm that they had impressive knowledge of science, unless one can show that the scientific claims are explicit, clear and unambiguous. Are there texts that mention the universe being 13.5 billion years old or other astronomical facts that weren’t believed to be known back when Hinduism originated? That would be more impressive but still wouldn’t validate any supernatural claims. It would only create unknowns that would need to be further investigated before drawing any conclusions. Interesting nevertheless!

    • I’m not particularly interested in yoga or its history (nor is it relevant to this post which I’d like to try to limit the discussion to if possible), though I’m sure there are many interesting facts surrounding its history, the traditions practiced, and so forth. I see it described at this link as a method to help answer questions like “Who am I”, “Where do I come from”, or “What do I do”, through an inner focusing of the mind by reaching some kind of transcendent experience. Which sounds a lot like a mental exercise or form of meditation as I said earlier (even if they embellish or hyperbolize the general meditative concept employed). I see that it has also changed a lot over the centuries in terms of how it is practiced, or what people call “yoga” changing from what it originally was.

    • I have to say that I’m highly skeptical of that organization, at least in terms of certain conclusions they may draw and their mission. I haven’t found any confirmed paranormal findings (for example psychic abilities) published in any scientific journals on their site. They had a list of some publications but none seem to lend any credence to so called psychic abilities and so forth. I also noticed that they’re on a few “quack watch” lists which doesn’t bode well. In any case, if they do get significant findings published in scientific journals, then that will be a new avenue of exploration in science. So far every purported claim of psychic abilities and the like have been disproven when rigorous testing is performed to control the experiment well. If somebody finds a repeatable and measurable example of some new ability like this that would be interesting, but I have yet to see it. If it happens, it will also likely wind up giving someone a Nobel prize, if it is legitimate because it is likely to be world-view changing for the scientific community. If this happens one day, then I’ll be more likely to take more of it seriously.

    • Ignore. It’s from an intelligent design website. I’m not going to waste my time with it. Lack of understanding, doesn’t imply false, nor does it validate any other hypothesis. And that’s assuming that no scientist understands macroevolution, which I think is patently false — though it depends on what they mean by “understands” (completely understands, somewhat understands, can explain plausible mechanisms for, can explain ALL mechanisms for, etc.). Not worth the time to look through in depth since it’s not coming from a peer-reviewed journal and since it is coming from an ID/creationism website.

    • If it’s not a peer-reviewed published scientific journal article, then it’s not worth the time to debunk. I saw a number of claims that were outright false and the site mentioned creationism as an alternative to evolution which is inherently unscientific and thus immediately shows that they lack scientific credibility.

    • I keep mentioning these red flags and you gotta start looking for them. They’re fairly easy to spot. As I said before, scientific journal articles that have been peer reviewed is the only reasonable place to start looking for possible credible arguments and evidence refuting evolution. But it’s unlikely to find in any case because evolution is so well established scientifically. Honestly, it would likely win someone a Nobel prize if they actually demonstrated that evolutionary theory had been refuted. It would be even more significant of a discovery than if scientists showed that the earth really was the center of the solar system, rather than the sun, and that we’d been mistaken all this time. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and thus any claims that a well established scientific theory have been refuted require huge amounts of evidence. A thousand web sites won’t provide this evidence. It needs to come through a scientifically peer reviewed process. The same would be the case if someone claimed that the Germ Theory of Disease had been refuted. The burden of proof is on the people making these kinds of earth-shattering claims and it is an extremely high burden of proof at that.

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