Monday, February 20, 2006

Evolution/ID debate: a cosmological perspective

The focus of science should be: what can be known from the scientific record? It is often stated that scientific statements must be verifiable, that is, capable of verification. Science restricts itself to the measurable, observable universe of matter and energy in their various forms. Yet I submit that far more can be known from scientific investigation and analysis about ultimate questions than has been recognized by many scientists. In fact, the question “Why is there any matter at all?” is also a scientific question, though we may not yet have an answer to it. Why is there energy?
In considering the evolution/ID debate, I’d like first to offer a distinction. A great deal of the debate, sometimes rather heated, on evolution suffers from confusion because lots of scientists fail to distinguish two different senses of the term ‘evolution.’ MEANING NO. 1: In one sense, evolution means that all life on Earthshares a common ancestor (and that different species share common ancestors,such as for example the hippopotamus, dolphin and whale share a commonancestor). It maintains that all organisms on earth are descended from a single common ancestor. Professor Darwin’s theory that living things evolved or descended from common ancestors is true and is proved by the convergence of the sciences. MEANING NO. 2: But ‘evolution’ in Dr. Darwin’s sense is taken tomean that a new species originates as a result of "natural selection" -- randomincremental mutations over millions of years. In this full-blownbiological and Darwinian sense, the term ‘evolution’ means a process whereby lifearose from non-living matter and subsequently developed entirely from naturalmeans. Darwin’s evolution posits that life arose on its own out of inanimate chemicalcompounds and has gradually evolved over millions of years. Darwin’stheory is that all complex species and organs such as the eye and animalinstincts evolved by the “accumulation of innumerable slight variations ….” (1859, p. 459)
It is this second meaning of evolution, the theory of natural selection as a theory of emergence of life and origin of species, that is unsubstantiated and false, I argue. Many point to the extensive evidence of common ancestry and conclude from that that theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution has been proved. But that is a non sequitur. Natural selection was Darwin’s Wild Guess back in 1850’s, a brilliant and interesting theory in the 1800’s. But it is less interesting today in view of microbiology. Natural selection as theory of emergence of new species is bad science today; it does not fit observation. No one, not Dr. Darwin or anybody else, has ever observed natural selection lead to the evolution of a single species in the 3.9 billion years since Earth went biotic. To be sure, natural selection (microevolution) is a true force of nature. Natural selection accounts for such things as pesticide resistance of insects (e.g., the mosquitos that survive an application of a given pesticide eventually develop an immunity to it over time), and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Wiener cites the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant. But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle (or something other than a finch) due to natural selection. That’s what the Grants would have had to discover to find any scientific corroboration for natural selection as a theory of emergence of life or biological evolution of species. Whatever the correct answer to emergence of life or new species is, it’s not natural selection.
Analysis from Recent Big Bang cosmology

1. Uniformity of temperature of different regions of cosmos

To evaluate the evolution debate, we need to consider the most recent findings in Big Bang cosmology. The NASA most recent discoveries from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (“WMAP”) are relevant to understanding biological evolution. The latest WMAP portraits allow NASA precisely to peg the age of the Universe at 13.7 billion years old + or – 2% margin of error. The WMAP team has shown that the Universe is only 4% atoms of ordinary matter, 23% of cold dark matter and 73% of dark energy. One of the most startling discoveries of the WMAP team is that the temperature of the Big Bang microwave background radiation is largely identical, no matter in what direction of the early Universe -- evidence that the Universe, on a macro level (taking cubes of, say, 500 million light-years on a side), is uniform and homogeneous throughout its vast expanse. Contrast this with an infrared photo of an ordinary explosion, even a nuclear blast; an infrared photo will show up areas that are significantly hotter and others that are cooler. But this is not what the WMAP portrait of the Big Bang shows. It is this uniformity and homogeneity of the disparate regions of the cosmos -- a scientific finding, not a philosophical finding -- that has taken scientists aback. The quest for an explanation for this uniformity in the cosmos is a scientific quest, not a question of theology (or at least not only a question for theologians).

If we had special glasses that could allow us to see the Big Bang microwaves with our eyes, the entire sky would glow with a uniform brightness in every direction no matter where in the sky you looked. The observations of the cosmic background radiation show that the Universe was astonishingly uniform in temperature (to one part in 100,000) by the age of 380,000 years after the Big Bang, per the WMAP team. The problem that this presents is that nothing (no energy and no information) can travel through space faster than light speed. How could this uniformity among different regions of the Universe be established when the Universe evolved so quickly such that there was no time for the uniformity of temperature and density in all parts of the embryonic Universe to be established and where information cannot travel faster than light speed? How could different regions of the cosmos whose horizons have always been separate and could never have interacted or influenced each other, have nearly identical temperatures? Though Dr. Alan Guth at MIT takes a stab at the problem with his theory of inflation, I do not find his theory plausible as an explanation of the 13.7 billion year duration of the uniformity. Something else is going on. The theory of random explansion of matter and energy and the fabric of space/time does not hold up to observation.

2. Rate of Expansion of cosmos is extraordinarily finely calibrated

A second major finding of the WMAP team at NASA is that the rate of expansion of the Universe precisely equals the critical rate needed to avoid recollapse of the entire Universe. The matter/energy density of the Universe exactly equals the critical density but is not greater. If it were greater than the critical density, that would result in slowing down the galaxies and eventually recollapsing the entire Universe, springing them back inwards like an overstretched Slinky toy into a Big Crunch. Did we just get lucky?

If such superfine calibration of the cosmos were true for 10 minutes, it would have been exciting enough. But nearly 14 billion years of such extraordinary calibration? What is behind this? The Big Bang was no ordinary explosion. Something else is going on. The Wilkinson probe has proved that the geometry of the Universe is flat, as opposed to being closed, such that, for example, the photons of a laser beam fired into space will continue in a straight line without curling back onto themselves, as they would if the Universe were closed or space were in the shape of a sphere. What is responsible for such fine-tuning of the cosmos from inception and keeping it precisely that way for billion of years? This is a scientific question. Astrophysicists really have no satisfactory answer to the flatness problem (the precise calibration of the expansion of the cosmos since its birth to avoid recollapse in some kind of 'Big Crunch'), if they attempt to explain cosmic flatness as a stream of chance coincidences that lasted nearly 14 billion years.

No astrophysicist, scientist or engineer has been able to explain these scientific findings. Something else is going on. The Big Bang is not some random haphazard explosion in space; it is the explosion of the fabric of space/time itself. A reasonable explanatory hypothesis is that some external force is controlling the Big Bang expansion of the Universe and has done so for nearly 14 billion years. Do the NASA findings tell us anything about the nature of this external force? Not much, but something. Do these findings lead to the conclusion that an omnipotent Judaeo-Christian or Islamic God exists? No. But this suggest that something else is going on other than random chance events.

The evolution debate

I propose that the analysis of Big Bang cosmology should be brought to bear on the evolution debate. Turning now to evolution --

Why did life emerge on Earth 3.9 billion years ago, but not on Mars or anywhere else in this sun system? Natural selection doesn’t work on Mars or anywhere else in this sun system? The position that natural selection accounts for Origin of the Species was always a conjectural theory to begin with, though natural selection is a true force of nature. It was Dr. Darwin’s “Wild Guess” back in 1859, a brilliant guess in his day, but not so interesting or plausible in our own time in view of the findings of modern genetics and microbiology. It does not fit with scientific observation, which makes natural selection as theory of emergence of life and origin of new species, bad science. Natural selection accounts for such things as pesticide resistance of insects (e.g., the mosquitos that survive an application of a given pesticide eventually develop an immunity to it over time), and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Living things have a certain level of adaptability on their own. That does not mean that new species pop up on their own through random chance mutations. Something else is going on.

At most, natural selection shows that, for example, finches on the Galapagos Islands with larger bills have a better chance of survival in a drought. But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle due to natural selection … and never will. Likewise, the orangutans in the Great Ape House at the National Zoo, a species about 14 million years old, do not build cities and do not evolve into chatty people and never will. Wasn’t 14 million years enough time for the orangutans and chimps to start building cities? After all, Homo sapiens is only 200,000 years old. They have had enough time to evolve, if time were the requisite ingredient for evolution as the neo-Darwinists posit. Orangutans continue to reproduce according to their genome and will continue to do so unless and until some external force mutates the species into something else, which has not occurred in the last 14 million years for this species.

Natural Selection Is Not the Mechanism for Origin of
New Species, as Shown by the Evolution of Dogs

The genetic studies published in November 2002 in Science by Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden and other scientists provide compelling new evidence against natural selection as the mechanism that gives rise to origin of new species. All breeds of domestic dogs evolved from a single gene pool of a small group of gray wolves in East Asia about 15,000 years ago, as mitochondrial DNA studies prove. This is an important new model for evolution and how it operates. This small group of East Asian gray wolves were the prototypes from which dogs and over the years all breeds of dogs were evolved. The prototype wolves were altered and their offspring were evolved into the first group of early progenitor dogs. Dogs in North America did not evolve from North American wolves. Likewise, European dogs did not evolve from European wolves. What happened to ‘natural selection’ in North America or Europe? It just didn’t work on those continents? Had ‘natural selection’ been the mechanism responsible for the evolution of dog breeds, then I submit that dogs in North America would have evolved from North American gray wolves. But they did not. Dogs in Europe would have evolved from gray wolves in Europe. But they did not. This genetic evidence is new evidence that tends to be disprobative of ‘natural selection’ as the supposed mechanism for the origin of species. Something else is going on here.

As every scientist knows, to refute theory X does not mean that the scientist knows what the correct theory is. But that is what I am shooting for. Natural selection, random mutations over millions of years, cannot possibly be the correct explanation for the origin of species or the emergence of life on Earth. Darwinism on this specific issue is fundamentally wrong, though Charles Darwin was a brilliant scientist. Evolution is real but the natural selection explanation can't be right. Why is it that young people in undergraduate or high school science class must be taught the neo-Darwinists' explanation of the causative mechanism behind biological evolution although it remains unsubstantiated? What would be wrong with teaching young people (older people as well) to evaluate competing ideas and theories and to keep their minds open? ... Or to saying: "Hi, kids, we scientists really don't have much of a clue about what is going on in terms of the causative mechanism for emergence of life or new species. Natural selection was Dr. Darwin's guess as to causation behind biological evolution but we really don't have the evidence to support it." This, of course, is not to say that we should not keep trying from science better to understand the emergence of life and the progress of biological evolution from that point in time.

The sudden appearance of flowers some 130 million years ago (some say earlier) in the fossil record is not consistent with natural selection. One day there are no flowers in the fossil record. The next day there were flowers. This is not consistent with evolution through minute incremental changes over millions of years to evolve a new life form. The neo-Darwinists’ theory of natural selection is fundamentally wrong and not sustained by the scientific evidence. However, Darwin and Wallace were correct to conclude that species evolve or descend from previously existing species. Dr. Darwin proved this with his pigeons, some of which he boiled and then examined their skeletal structures. All domestic pigeons derive from the blue rock dove (Columba Livia). This biological evolution – common ancestry of all life forms on Earth -- is real. Darwin’s and Wallace’s thesis that all life shares common ancestors was a brilliant scientific discovery and is proved today by the convergence of the entire scientific and fossil record, including paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome DNA, comparative anatomy and physiology, biogeography, geology and archaeology.

Therefore, I am a biological evolutionist in terms of the common ancestry of all species (or pretty close to common ancestry; but there was not one single RNA strand from which all life emerged). But I advance the position that science points (not theology points, not philosophy points, but science points) to the workings of an external force – some force external to Earth and the cosmos. The WMAP team findings from this NASA probe at the L2 LaGrange point are verifiable scientific propositions. What they mean is open to debate. But they cannot be ignored.

Can the existence of a Judaeo-Christian God be proved from an analysis of the Big Bang or from DNA studies? No, not one way or the other. What can be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence from microbiology and astrophysics, taken together - from all the scientific data as a whole – is that natural selection cannot possibly be the correct answer for the emergence of life or the origins of the species that make up this planet’s biodiversity.

Earth really is 4.54 billion years old. But what caused the Big Bang? And what caused complex life to develop on Earth but nowhere else in this sun system? Why have the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity uncovered no fossils or even so much as a seashell on the red planet although the Rovers have proved that salt seas once covered the landing sites on the Martian surface? Why did the Huygens probe that soft-landed on Saturn’s moon Titan last January 14th discover no life? Why are three-quarters of the surface of Earth covered with liquid water? Why is the microwave background radiation from the Big Bang, observed by NASA's WMAP satellite uniform in all directions to one part in 100,000? Why is there matter at all? Why is there energy at all? Why is there light?

These are some of the fundamental questions that need to be considered in making sense of biological evolution. What we need is more and better science, not more ideology from either side in the debate. I continue to believe that science is the best hope for finding the answers.

With best wishes,


John Umana, Ph.D., J.D.
Washington, D.C.