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The Impossibility of Evolution

Post of the Month: March 2005


Subject:    Re: Pitman; front and center!
Date:       9 March 2005

>I get frustrated when you guys can't see
>the impossibilities of evolution.

See, about that "frustration" thing. I've spent years working on biochemistry and genetics, looking at it from various angles, studying it in detail from various perspectives...and all I have encountered has supported evolution as the best explanation for diversity of life.

In all that time, I have yet to find one single person who claims that evolution is impossible, and that actually has a correct argument. And let me remind you yet again what I mean when I say wrong: their arguments would be wrong even if evolution is wrong. A lie is a lie is a lie.

In fact, I have met precious few people who actually understand evolution, and who are still denying it. And those few couldn't provide any hard, scientific reasons for their rejection; they just choose not to believe in it, and trust that someday some fatal flaw will be found.

How frustrating do you think that can get? Constantly encountering people who have barely spent any time studying the issue you have studied in great detail, and then telling you that you are completely wrong? Not only are you wrong, you are believing something that is so obviously impossible, any fourth grader can see the impossibility! And then, to top it off, they give you arguments that are incorrect in out of themselves?

You want me to see the impossibility of evolution? I once lost six months of work because a bacterum evolved a new protein, and I didn't catch it immediately. I use evolution-based bioinformatics programs as a part of my daily job; they provide correct results, something they couldn't do if the theory they are based on wasn't sound. Two weeks ago I attended a seminar on how cancer cells develop resistance to chemoterapy drugs by evolving specific pumps that pump the drug out from the cell. Yesterday I've been catching up with new developments in HIV therapies, which is a constant race to outpace the staggeringly swift evolution of the virus. And this is just a barest scratch on the surface - I could go on for days.

So George, show me the cheddar. If you have something that will outweigh all of that, and prove the impossibility of evolution I see with my own eyes every day, please, present it here. I guarantee you that you will be showered with praise and prizes, as you will have made the greatest single breakthrough in science in the last half century (at least). The catch: it has to actually be true and correct.

Until you do...well, imagine a man. This man is standing in the middle of an airport, with hundreds of planes flying overhead. He is currently talking to a group of aerospace engineers, some of whom have worked on designing actual spacecraft. And he is telling them, "I get frustrated when you guys cannot see the impossibility of making a flying machine heavier than air".

Unless you can provide the evidence, are that man.

>This whole discussion is still a little above my
>pay grade, although I'm catching up.

Tell me something, then. It is pretty obvious, and you admit yourself, that you don't understand biochemistry and genetics too well.

Now, those are both very, very complex subjects, and require a lot of study to understand. I mean, to understand basic biochemistry, you do need to spend at least a year of concentrated study on it, and this is after taking a year of organic chemistry, and a year of basic chemistry before. Understanding of general physics and math level where you're comfortable with calculus are also required. Finally, the picture won't be complete unless you take at least some physical chemistry (chemical thermodynamics, kinetics of reactions, nonlinear dynamics, stuff like that).

This is just for biochemistry, mind you. A good understanding of genetics takes at least as much. This is not a matter of intelligence (unless you are some kind of supergenius, who is able to absorb knowledge by staring at the books for prolonged periods of time), there simply are that many facts to keep in mind. I'm sure you could do it, if you put in the required time and effort.

But here you are, a person who has only some cursory knowledge of these areas. You see an argument, based on them, which claims to completely invalidate evolution. You can understand the argument (maybe with a bit of trouble, but you can understand it), and as far as you can see, it seems to be correct.

Now, did it occur to you to ask yourself: "If I can understand this argument, with my level of knowledge of biochemistry and genetics, how comes that all those people who spent a decade in school to learn those subjects can't comprehend it? If it's so simple and so true, why can't they accept it?"

And this is where all the stories of scientific conspiracies, evil atheists, and other such crap come in.

Scientists rarely accept things without checking. Occasionally, someone will manage to pull a hoax off, some distinguished professor will manage to coast for a while on his reputation (mind you, he generally has to make a reputation first, with genuine stuff)...but sooner or later, someone catches up with them. And the bigger the scam, the more difficult it is to hide.

If evolution was wrong, it would not be accepted by scientists. Even censorship and peer pressure wouldn't be able to keep a lid on it very long. There would be uproar; there would be groups of scientists organizing themselves (and getting tons of money from religious organizations) against the "evolutionist establishment". There would be dozens of new antievolution biology journals popping up, publishing papers that show evidence of creation.

In communist countries, if you questioned the official party line, you risked jailtime, being beaten up, or just vanishing into thin air. Still (and I speak from personal experience here), at least 10% of the people in power structures opposed the establishment as best as they could. Even if you accept the most horrible horror stories about evilutionist conspiracies, you don't have anything even remotely close to this in science...and yet 99.9% of the people in the field accept evolution. How is that possible? Wouldn't at least 10% resist? 5%? If evolution is so obviously wrong, why are they all supporting it?

So when you encounter the next piece of evidence that seems to oh so neatly debunk evolution - ask yourself, is it actually correct? And instead of approaching a scientist and saying "hey, this proves evolution is impossible", approach one and say "hey, I found this, is this actually true"?

You will save yourself a lot of embarassment that way. Whether you believe it or not, most of us scientists actually know what we are doing.

Or do you really think that we are smart enough to work on things like cancer treatments, while at the same time being so stupid that we can't understand a basic algebraic proof that shows the impossibility of evolution?

As for your question about duplicated genes, the answer is no. That is not a problem for evolution, and your understanding of how the process works isn't correct. I'm sure that some people will attempt to explain your error to you, and maybe they'll succeed. But that won't teach you genetics; it will teach you that this particular argument isn't right, which won't prevent you from making some very similar errors in the future.

So, basically, you have a choice between two broad options. One is to trust us not to lie to you, and that we know what we are talking about. The other is to check for yourself. If you choose the second one, however, you must be prepared to put in the work. I'll recommend Hartl/Jones' textbook on genetics, and Voet & Voet's treatment of biochemistry; but chances are, you'll have to go and take classes for a few years.

Well, there is a third option: to believe that you understand it better then we do without having to study it, and therefore reject everything we say out of hand. But I'm kinda hoping you are too honest to do something like that.


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