The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 8

Part 8 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 7 is found here.

Darwinian Evolution

In his next chapter “Evolution’s Bootstraps” Carroll starts by describing Richard Lenski’s experiment, which he labels as evolutionary biology. I am thinking that Carroll must have gotten the creationist message that evolution (in the goo-to-you sense) cannot be science because there is not one experimental demonstration of any process which changes microbes into molecular biologists. I say this because he states:

“Evolution is the idea that provides the bridge from abiogenesis to the grand pageant of life on Earth today. There is no question that it’s a science: evolutionary biologists formulate hypotheses, define likelihoods of different outcomes under competing hypotheses, and collect data to update our credences in those hypotheses.” (p.273, emphasis added)

In the first sentence he uses one definition for the word ‘evolution’ (the bridge from abiogenesis to the grand pageant of life) but in the following sentence it is different (mutations and selection though not explicitly stated). After the word ‘science’ what follows implies ‘evolution’ is observable in the lab, by carrying out experimental science. This is changing of the definition is called equivocation, and demonstrates very poor logic.

Very strangely Carroll does not see the point he makes himself in terms of the weakness of equivocating on the meaning of the word evolution when he admits that chemists and physicists have an advantage over evolutionary biologists because they can perform repeated experiments in their labs. The latter defines experimental science but nowhere in his statement (above) does he indicate that the evolutionary biologist carries out an experiment that “provides the bridge from abiogenesis to the grand pageant of life”.

The data collecting and formulating of hypotheses is in relation to what they believe happened in the past. At best this is historical science, a type of forensic science that tries to unravel the sequence of unseen past events. But experimental science or operational science, which is the usual definition used for science, depends on repeatable experiments to test hypotheses. This the evolutionary biologist cannot do and he admits it.

“It would be very hard to set up a laboratory experiment to see Darwinian evolution in action, just as it would be hard to create a new universe.” (p.273) (emphasis added)

Nearly correct, but not quite! It would be not “hard” but impossible. But like all evolutionists, he then equivocates at this point saying:

“But it’s not impossible. (At least for evolution: we still don’t know how to create new universes.)” (p.273)

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The problem with science is that so much of it simply isn’t

This is the opening sentence in an article titled “Scientific Regress” by William Wilson.The article is about science and the repeatability of scientific results in the published literature. (Indented paragraphs are quoted from this article, unless otherwise referenced.)

Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case.

A group called Open Science Collaboration (OSC) tried to check claims by replicating results of certain science experiments. They checked one hundred published psychology experiments and found 65% failed to show any statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes. The OSC group even used original experimental materials, and sometimes performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers.

They found though that the problem was not just in the area of psychology, which I don’t even consider hard science anyway.

In 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided looked at 67 recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research. They found that in more than 75% of cases they could not replicate the published data. And these data were published in reputable journals including Science, Nature, and Cell.nature

The author suggested that the reason many new drugs were ineffective may possibly be because the research on which they were based was invalid.  This was considered the reason for the failure–the original findings are false.

Then there is the issue of fraud.

In a survey of two thousand research psychologists conducted in 2011, over half of those surveyed admitted outright to selectively reporting those experiments which gave the result they were after.

This involves experimenter bias. The success of a research program might be all that is required for success in the next funding round. So, what might start as just a character weakness in the experimenter ends up being outright fraud. The article states that many have no qualms in

… reporting that a result was statistically significant when it was not, or deciding between two different data analysis techniques after looking at the results of each and choosing the more favorable.

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A second gravitational wave has been detected by LIGO

The LIGO team reported on June 15, 2016, their second confirmed detection of coalescing binary black hole pair generating a gravitational wave. This was published in Physical Review Letters,1 with an abstract that reads (with some editing in […]’s and emphases added):

We report the observation of a gravitational-wave signal produced by the coalescence of two stellar-mass black holes. The signal, GW151226, was observed by the twin detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) on December 26, 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC. The signal was initially identified within 70 s by an online matched-filter search targeting binary coalescences. Subsequent off-line analyses recovered GW151226 with a network signal-to-noise ratio of 13 and a significance greater than 5σ. The signal persisted in the LIGO frequency band for approximately 1 s, increasing in frequency and amplitude over about 55 cycles from 35 to 450 Hz, and reached a peak gravitational strain of [about] 3.4 × 10-22. The inferred source-frame initial black hole masses are 14.2  and 7.5 [solar masses, i.e. mass of the sun], and the final black hole mass is 20.8 [solar masses]. We find that at least one of the component black holes has spin greater than 0.2. This source is located at a luminosity distance of 440  Mpc [about 1.4 billion light-years] corresponding to a redshift of 0.09±0.03. All uncertainties define a 90% credible interval.

second g wave

Estimated gravitational-wave strain from GW151226 projected onto the LIGO Livingston detector with times relative to December 26, 2015 at 03:38:53.648 UTC. This shows the full bandwidth, without the filtering used for Fig. 1. Top: The 90% credible region for a nonprecessing spin waveform-model reconstruction (gray) and a direct, nonprecessing numerical solution of Einstein’s equations (red) with parameters consistent with the 90% credible region. Bottom: The gravitational-wave frequency f (left axis) computed from the numerical-relativity waveform. The cross denotes the location of the maximum of the waveform amplitude, approximately coincident with the merger of the two black holes. During the inspiral, f can be related to an effective relative velocity (right axis) given by the post-Newtonian parameter v/c=(GMπf/c^3)^1/3 , where M is the total mass. (Click on image for larger version.)

This result further strengthens the argument for stellar mass size black holes and for their correct prediction by Einstein’s general relativity. As I have written before this largely falls into the category of operational science. Some assumptions are necessarily required, but the waveform (see right) extracted from the received signal very precisely matches the expected waveform. Read What impact does the detection of gravitational waves have on biblical creation?2 Continue reading

A 6000-year-old universe! Who says? Who cares?

Nowadays we are told, by so-called science, that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, that it all started in a big bang, and about 4.6 billion years ago the earth formed from a nebular cloud. Then 3.8 billion years ago life started on Earth and has been evolving ever since. The biblical narrative in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, gives us a very different time line of only about 6000 years. Which is correct? Why is this important? And who cares anyway? Dr Jim Mason presents some compelling arguments from both the scriptures and science that support the biblical account and fly in the face of the materialistic uniformitarian philosophy of so-called modern science.

Lecture was given August 1st 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.

Recommended Viewing

See also other lectures given at the same seminar:

Starlight and time: Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?

Notes of a lecture on starlight and time. Do they present an insurmountable problem for biblical creationists? The lecture was given August 1st, 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.


Here is the problem. The universe is truly vast in size, in fact, tens of billions of light-years in size.  One light-year is about 10 trillion kms. It is the distance light travels in one year. By taking a literal history from Genesis chapters 5 and 11 you can calculate that the universe is only about 6000 years old. If so, how does starlight get to earth from a distance greater than 6000 light-years? Shouldn’t we only be able to see to a distance of 6000 light-years in the universe?

Is this a brick wall? Does it mean the bible must be wrong? Distances are billions of light-years. Surely that must mean light took billions of years to travel here from the distant cosmos? How do you explain that?

Ok, lets first look at some simple maths.

Distance = Speed x Time

So if you drive your car a distance of 100 kms and travel at 50 km/hr it will take you 2 hours.  10 billion light-years represents a distance in the Universe to some of the most distant galaxies like those pictured here in what is called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field 2014. Continue reading

Seminar: Age and Reason

Why is a 6,000-year-old universe so hard to believe?

One Day Seminar (9 am to 5 pm) Saturday 1st August 2015

Happened AGE AND REASON smallin Adelaide South Australia

AGE AND REASON poster PDF

Sponsored by Creation Ministries International

Speakers:

  • A/Prof. John Gideon Hartnett (Australian, physicist, cosmologist)
  • Dr Jim Mason (Canadian, nuclear physicist)

Topics Covered:

Worldviews of naturalism, uniformitarianism and biblical creation; age of the Universe, age of the earth, dating methods, Carbon-14, biblical cosmology, fossils, sedimentation, creationist solutions to the starlight travel time problem and much more.

The talks were recorded and are available here for online viewing. 

Click on the links below for video of audio/visual Powerpoint presentations.

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Science the new religion

Science has become the new religion. Those who dare challenge the dictates of ‘science’ are often declared crackpots, pseudo-scientists or just plain crazy. If you deny or doubt evolution, or anthropogenic global warming (AGW), now called ‘climate change’, or the effectiveness or safety of certain vaccines, or the universal safety of genetically modified foods, as compared with natural breeding and hybridization practices, you are called nasty names. These might include ‘flat-earther’, particularly if you deny Darwinian evolution.1

It has come to a point now that to be called a ‘creationist’ is a big negative, like you are a pseudo-scientist, or follower of astrology, or witch doctors, etc. Such a person is thinking irrationally and cannot be trusted according to the new paradigm.

Then there are those who are called some sort of ‘climate change denier’, who must be funded by ‘big oil’, as though they must have a corrupt vested interest or be just plain crazy. As a physicist I have analyzed the global temperature data, spanning the last 100 years, downloaded from the Met Office Hadley Centre.2 I have no vested interest here, but I find that a continued warming trend is not supported by the data. But I remain skeptical. The main problem I see is the limitation of human time scales and the lack of any really robust model that successfully predicts developing trends.3 Continue reading