by Cornelius Hunter
It is no surprise when a dictator wins an election. With one name on the ballot the election is, of course, a landslide victory and no one is fooled by the self-congratulatory victory speech. The situation would be laughable except that the dictator holds all the power. Something like this occurred in the scientific world last week when the National Academy of Sciences published the latest version of its on-going assault against anything and anyone not aligned with evolution. According to the new 88 page booklet, entitled Science, Evolution, and Creationism, Darwin's theory is unquestionably true, required for scientific research and, in fact, the only choice to begin with.
In the life sciences one's alternatives are to be a Darwinist or to be a Darwinist. Passing grades, letters of recommendation, graduate school admission, doctorate exams, faculty hiring, and tenure promotion all require adherence to the theory of evolution. The lists are long of otherwise qualified candidates who could not take that next career step because they did not conform to the Darwinian paradigm. Academia, and the life sciences in particular, have undergone a long period of in-breeding and it is hardly surprising that, as the National Academy of Sciences' booklet triumphantly declares,
the overwhelming majority of scientists no longer question whether evolution has occurred.
This in-breeding, however, is not the only reason for Darwin's triumph. In a far more profound way the game is rigged to ensure that evolution, in one form or another, is the winner. As the booklet explains, the entire enterprise of science must be limited to naturalistic explanations:
In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. 
This is a standard weapon in evolution's arsenal of arguments, and I am confronted with it in virtually every debate I have with evolutionists. This argument is flawed but the full explanation requires a digression into the history and philosophy of science (see for instance my book: Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism).
For our purposes what is important is that evolutionists are dogmatic about their view of science. They believe that science must, in principle, be absolutely constrained to naturalistic explanations. Furthermore, they do not merely prefer this type of science for themselves. They believe that all scientists must rigidly adhere to this definition of science.
This is a philosophical position that evolutionists hold--there is no scientific evidence that could make evolutionist's think twice about their commitment to naturalism. Like the creationist who mandates a particular interpretation of scripture and interprets scientific evidence accordingly, the evolutionist also mandates a particular interpretation of the scientific evidence. All explanations must be thoroughly and completely naturalistic, no matter how contorted those explanations become.
We could find a code buried in our cells but for evolutionists, only naturalistic causes can be considered. And so all scientific evidence is interpreted according to this restriction--one way or another the evidence is force-fitted to the pre existing framework. As the National Academy of Sciences booklet makes clear, this is their rule. And so it is hardly surprising that evolutionists hold that the purely naturalistic explanation for the origin of species is the right one. This claim that evolution must be true dates back to Darwin's day, and is as strong as ever today. As the booklet explains:
In science, a "fact" typically refers to an observation, measurement, or other form of evidence that can be expected to occur the same way under similar circumstances. However, scientists also use the term "fact" to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions. 
Indeed, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions are sometimes quite vexing. But regardless of how poorly evolution fits the scientific evidence, Darwinists are convinced it is true. Darwinists have constrained science to naturalism, and not surprisingly they consistently discover that the scientific evidence proves naturalism to be true. This is awfully convenient, but could it be that the Darwinists' interpretation of the evidence is colored by their paradigm?
In fact, the booklet's claim that the evidence for evolution is so strong is an overstatement, but the claim is hardly a surprise given evolutionist's philosophical position on science. It is always easier to adjust the data in terms of the paradigm than to adjust the paradigm in terms of the data.
One of the many problems with evolution is the seemingly endless examples of jaw-dropping high complexity in biology. How was evolution supposed to have created sonar in the bat, which is superior to our best military equipment? Since evolution is assumed to be true, questions such as this are taken by evolutionists to be not questions of whether evolution occurred but rather of how evolution occurred. They cannot explain how sonar evolved, but they know that it did evolve. It would be a problem for evolution only if it could be absolutely proven impossible to evolve. As Darwin put it:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. [emphasis added]
In other words, unlike most scientific theories, evolution is assumed true until proven false. And while it may sound generous of Darwin that his theory would "absolutely break down," the burden of proof he places on the skeptic is actually quite high. It would be virtually impossible to prove rigorously that the bat's sonar absolutely could not have evolved, no matter how unlikely it is. The result is that Darwin's theory was granted a true-until-proven-false status not typical in science.
More recently this protection has been further strengthened using the naturalism requirement. Even if a complex biological structure was somehow proven to be impossible to evolve, explains the National Academy of Sciences, we must remember that alternative explanations such as intelligent design are not scientific because they are not thoroughly naturalistic. As the booklet informs the reader:
Even if their negative arguments against evolution were correct, that would not establish the creationists' claims. There may be alternative explanations. For example, it would be incorrect to conclude that because there is no evidence that it is raining outside, it must be sunny. Other explanations also might be possible. Science requires testable evidence for a hypothesis, not just challenges against one's opponent. Intelligent design is not a scientific concept because it cannot be empirically tested. [41-2]
So not only is evolution a fact, but it will remain so in spite of scientific problems. Those problems will simply have to wait for naturalistic solutions. Evolutionary theory may be modified, but only with alternative naturalistic explanations. In fact this constantly occurs as evolution is stretched in dozens of different directions to try to account for the data. The oft-repeated concept of natural selection, for instance, is merely a sub hypothesis of evolution. It can be sacrificed. The hard constraint within evolution, as Darwin once pointed out, is that all explanations be completely naturalistic. Beyond that anything goes. So science is constrained to naturalism, all the scientific evidence uncannily fits this constraint, and evolution remains true even when scientific challenges do arise.
While evolutionists may not know how evolution occurred, they know it must have occurred. The booklet surveys what the authors view as positive evidence for evolution, but the evidence is interpreted according to evolution rather than from a theory-neutral perspective, unfortunately leaving the casual reader with the message that this constitutes strong positive evidence.
How did life evolve? The booklet explains that there are no consensus hypotheses for this remarkable event, and that evolutionists are searching a variety of ideas. "Researchers have shown how this process might have worked," write the authors. For "if a molecule ... could reproduce ... perhaps with the assistance ... it could form ... if such self-replicators ... they might have formed ... could lead to variants" and so forth.  The evidence for the origin of life is packed with question marks.
Obviously we do not have strong evidence that the highly complex cell arose on its own, and the booklet admits that "Constructing a plausible hypothesis of life's origins will require that many questions be answered. Scientists who study the origin of life do not yet know which sets of chemicals could have begun replicating themselves." As if realizing that this hardly constitutes "compelling" evidence, the authors conclude this section with a nod toward the future:
The history of science shows that even very difficult questions such as how life originated may become amenable to solution as a result of advances in theory, the development of new instrumentation, and the discovery of new facts. 
While this certainly is true, scientists also need to evaluate theories according to what is known. We can always hope our favorite theories will be saved by future findings, but this is no substitute for accurate evaluation according to the known data. It is simply misleading and irresponsible to state that it is a scientific fact that life evolved from non living chemicals.
This unfortunately is characteristic of how the booklet informs the reader of the biological evidence for evolution. While some legitimate evidences are presented, the booklet repeatedly presents mere interpretations according to the theory as strong evidences for the theory, and it consistently ignores the many negative evidences. An informed reader can easily see that the evidences fail to demonstrate that evolution is true, much less a well supported theory. But unfortunately many readers will likely be more influenced by the authority of the National Academy of Sciences, and erroneously conclude that the evidence must support the booklet's triumphant claims.
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