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The New 'Pandas' -- Comments On 'Pandas'' Suggested Reading /Resources

Comments On Pandas' Suggested Reading /Resources

The purpose of the brief descriptions given below are to give a summary of the authors' position in the Creation/Evolution controversy and are not intended to be exhaustive reviews of the various works.

Excursion Chapter 1: The Origin Of Life

Thaxton, C. B., W. L. Bradley and R. L. Olsen. 1984. The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories. Philosophical Library Publishers. New York.

The three authors are a chemist, materials scientist and a geochemist respectively. Thaxton was involved in the production of Pandas and wrote the section "A Word to the Teacher" found in the 1st Edition. One of the authors of Pandas, Dean Kenyon, wrote the foreword to this book. The authors accept the validity of an old earth (pp. 70-73) and presumably the sequence of life forms documented in the fossil record.

This book forms the basis for much of Excursion chapter 1 and the corresponding part of the overview chapter and Pandas' justification for including supernatural intelligence in science. It contains a detailed and critical review of prebiotic or chemical evolution in a manner somewhat similar to Shapiro (see below). Only two points will be considered here. The first is that, in their discussion of thermodynamics, the authors do distinguish two entropies, the thermal entropy and the configurational entropy (p. 132). They apparently confuse complexity with order and thus, in contrast to Yockey (see below), they claim that the configurational entropy decreases as organisms get more complex.

The second point concerns the nature of the primitive atmosphere. The authors admit that there is wide agreement that the primitive atmosphere was neutral consisting of CO2, N2, and maybe H2. Two of the three lines of evidence the authors claim indicate O2 in the primitive atmosphere involve sediments younger than the origin of life and hence irrelevant. The third is the photodissociation of water in the upper atmosphere. The most they say about this is that it is "suggestive" (pp. 93-94).

In the Epilogue the authors introduce their distinction between operations science and origins science. Origins science deals with singular events and its theories cannot be falsified. Instead origins theories are to be tested as to whether they are plausible or not. This different criterion makes miracles and the supernatural valid explanations! Thus the authors contend that it is scientific to evaluate the plausibility of Special Creation. They do not elaborate further upon the concept of Special Creation.

Here it should also be pointed out the Popper said that hypotheses in both the theoretical and historical sciences are testable and falsifiable (Popper 1957, p. 143 fol.) Paradoxically, creationists have always claimed that they have disproved (falsified) evolution. As for the criterion of plausibility, we can evaluate the plausibility of a naturalistic origin-of-life scenario by comparing it with our empirically derived knowledge of physics, chemistry and geology (and, in fact, if it contradicts the laws of those fields, it is falsified!) but we have no corresponding knowledge (empirical or otherwise) of the creative abilities of supernatural intelligences so how, in the latter case, can we tell what is plausible and what is not?

References:

Popper, K. R. 1957. The Poverty of Historicism. Boston. The Beacon Press.

Shapiro, R. 1986. Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. Summit Books, New York. (and W. Heinemann Ltd., London)

This book is similar to Thaxton et al in that it presents a skeptical treatment of the various scenarios of prebiotic research but it is written more for the general public. It includes background material on the nature of science, biochemistry, geological evidence for an old earth and the earliest living things. Although Shapiro, a biochemist, feels that, although so far prebiotic research has not been very successful, "the scientific options are far from exhausted" and "we may yet penetrate the mystery." (p. 298). Shapiro himself speculates that proteins may have come first followed later by RNA and DNA and that we may find clues to the answer in more elaborate and accurate prebiotic simulation experiments and investigation of other places in the solar system such as the moons Titan and Europa where prebiotic syntheses may still be occurring. He has a chapter on the modern creationist movement which he rejects as not being scientific.

Excursion Chapter 2: Genetics And Macroevolution

Yockey, H. P. 1992. Information Theory and Molecular Biology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

On p. 76 of the 1st Edition of Pandas, the authors gave a reference to: The Mathematical Foundations of Molecular Biology, by Hubert P. Yockey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989 which turned out to be a nonexistent book that had not yet been published. In the 2nd Edition, they give a reference to the same book but with a publication date of 1992. This book does now exist, but never being content with getting things right, Pandas neglect to inform the reader that the title has been changed to "Information Theory and Molecular Biology"!

Yockey is an evolutionist and although he, like Shapiro (see above), is very skeptical about modern day scenarios about the origin of life and thus would qualify to be listed at the end of Excursion Chapter 1, nothing he says in his book supports what Pandas says about information theory and evolution in Excursion Chapter 2! It would appear that Kenyon and Davis have never read this book.

Yockey's book is very useful for the evolutionist. He discusses neutral mutations in cytochrome c, the origin of new genes by duplication of old ones, molecular clocks, and proves quite conclusively that evolution has nothing to do with the second law of thermodynamics.

With regard to that last point, Yockey's chapter 12 should be required reading for every creationist. The Maxwell-Boltzmann-Gibbs entropy is a measure of the ‘orderliness' of energy in a system which is addressed by the second law of thermodynamics. The amount of information in a DNA molecule, on the other hand, is measured by the Shannon or Kolmogorov-Chaitin algorithmic entropy, and as evolution proceeds and organisms become more complex, not more orderly, the Shannon entropy increases. In addition the Shannon entropy and Maxwell-Boltzman-Gibbs entropy are based on probability spaces that are not isomorphic to each other. Hence they have nothing to do with each other and "thermodynamics has nothing to do with Darwin's theory of evolution." (p. 313).

Excursion Chapter 3: The Origin Of Species

Ambrose, E. J. 1982. The Nature and Origin of the Biological World. Halsted Press. New York.

Ambrose accepts the Big Bang (p. 168), that the earth is very old (pp. 19-20, 101), in the gradual development of life in the early Precambrian possibly on montmorilite clays (p. 133), in conventional historical geology and fossil sequences (pp. 100-103), and the origin of humans from apes (pp. 156-157). He appears to accept the theory of punctuated equilibrium (pp. 118-119, 143) with this modification: during a speciation event, a creative intelligence manipulates the organism's DNA, adding new genetic information (pp. 131, 137, 143), thus creating new organisms from old ones (p. 164). He is more of a ‘progressive creationist' than a ‘theistic evolutionist.' He realizes that appealing to a supernatural creator is basically meaningless as an explanation (p. 161) and suggests that the creator's mind acts by affecting the quantum indeterminacy at the subatomic level (p. 164, 168). Thus he accepts the picture of the origin and nature of the universe as developed by science with the exception that he envisions evolution by a creator's ‘genetic engineering.' Although he is a Christian, he states that "the first chapters of the book of Genesis do not present a biological or anthropological account of the creation of the biological world and the making of mankind,..."

Johnson, P. E. 1991. Darwin on Trial. Regency Gateway, Washington, D. C.

This book is very similar to one written by another Harvard graduate, Norman Macbeth, who wrote "Darwin Retried: An appeal to reason" (Gambit Inc. Boston 1971.) Both authors accept evolution, the change in organic forms over geologic time, but attack a particular proposed mechanism, Darwinism, i.e. mutation and natural selection. To this extent, the book is also similar to Ambrose, Lovtrup, Augros and Stanciu and, to a lesser extent, to Denton (which Johnson has read—see p. 36). Thus in chapters 2 and 3 he attacks two facets of the Darwinian mechanism: natural selection and mutation. Yet in subsequent chapters (exp. 4, 5, 11, 12) he tends to conflate the phenomenon of evolution and the Darwinian mechanism and begins to sound much more like Denton (see below). He even questions evolution itself on p. 62. And on pp. 12-13, he questions whether the "fact of evolution" can be separated from its mechanism and whether this "fact" has any content without a mechanism.

He discusses the creation/evolution controversy in chapters 1, 11, and 12 and gives his own views on the subject on pp. 3-4, 14 and 113. Thus he says:

"The concept of creation in itself does not imply opposition to evolution, if evolution means only a gradual process by which one kind of living creature changes into something different. A Creator might well have employed such a gradual process as a means of creation. "Evolution" contradicts "creation" only when it is explicitly or tacitly defined as fully naturalistic evolution—meaning evolution that is not directed by any purposeful intelligence."

"Similarly "creation" contradicts evolution only when it means sudden creation, rather than creation by progressive development."

On p. 14 he says:

"I am a philosophical theist and a Christian. I believe that a God exists who could create out of nothing if He wanted to do so, but who might have chosen to work through a natural evolutionary process instead. I am not a defender of creation-science..."

But it can't be a totally natural evolutionary process (p. 4, 113), because, in his opinion, that would be "naturalism" (pp. 114 fol.) a philosophy that banishes God from any influence in the universe! (And he strongly criticizes evolutionists for teaching this atheistic philosophy in the schools—see chapters 11, 12). He also appears to be aware that the alternative to "natural" is "supernatural" the latter term meaning inaccessible to human understanding (p. 28) and inaccessible to scientific investigation (p. 33). If science is to have a successful theory, i.e. one that explains a set of phenomena, it must be naturalistic. Thus Johnson is faulting Darwinism for claiming that it can explain evolution! He apparently would prefer that scientists say that they can't explain evolution. But if they can't, then maybe it doesn't exist! (pp. 12-13, 62). Perhaps he would be content if they claim to only explain 95% of evolution, leaving the other 5% unexplained and open to supernatural speculation. His position rests on the metaphysical assumption that anything God does must be supernatural! But even if this be so, Darwinism doesn't completely banish God from the evolutionary process. Mutations are said to occur at random, which means we can't pinpoint the exact factors that produce them in any given instance, and that leaves room for a theistic evolutionist to postulate that God is responsible for at least some of them.

An annoying tendency of the author that becomes clear in reading this book is that with regard to any question, he wants to be on both sides at once! Thus Johnson will attack a scientific theory if he thinks it is not successful in explaining the phenomena, but if it is successful he will still attack it because now it banishes God from that aspect of the universe. Science can't win. This law professor is just too clever!

Excursion Chapter 4: The Fossil Record

Lovtrup, S. 1987. Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth. Methuen, New York. (also Croom Helm, London)

This book is mainly an historical review of the development of evolutionary thought. Lovtrup is an evolutionist. He states that the occurrence of evolution over geological time is "one of the best substantiated theories in biology" but he makes a number of theoretical and empirical biological mistakes which lead him to evolution by macromutations, ala Goldschmidt and Schindewolf. Lovtrup mentions Denton's book (p. 367) favorably but, of course, does not agree with that author's "refutation" of macromutation theory!

Excursion Chapter 5: Homology

Augros, R. and G. Stanciu. 1987. Shambhala, Boston.

These authors accept the picture of origins developed by science: the Big Bang (p. 222), the old age of the earth and the succession of forms in the fossil record (p. 220) and the fact(!) of evolution (p. 186 fol.) They, however, reject the Darwinian mechanism totally, arguing that natural selection doesn't work and that Darwin's basic premises are incorrect (p. 160). Thus they argue against exponential growth (p. 125), and the struggle for existence (chapters 4 and 5); predation and parasitism are totally benign phenomena (p. 101-104). The authors' ‘New Synthesis' states that evolution results from an internal genetic process reorganizing superfluous DNA and changing regulatory genes to produce a new species; an idea similar to the Lamarckian innate tendency of organisms to climb the ladder of complexity. These events occur during a round of punctuated equilibrium (pp. 181-183). It was the mind of God that originally shaped matter into organic forms (p. 191). The Creation/Evolution controversy arises because both evolutionists and creationists conflate evolution with Darwinism (p. 228). Evolution is true but the Darwinian mechanism is not.

Excursion Chapter 6: Biochemical Similarities

Denton, M. 1986. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Adler and Adler, Bethesda, Maryland.

Denton appears to accept the old age of the earth and the successive appearances of fossils. He accepts microevolution and speciation by Darwinian evolution without reservation (Chapter 4, p. 344). In this regard he is in conflict with Pandas' chapter 3. He believes that macroevolution doesn't occur, although, amazingly enough, he accepts the evolution of horses from Eohippus (p. 93) which, even more amazingly, he claims is an exception that proves the rule! (p. 185)

Denton claims to have held both placental dog and marsupial thylacine skulls and claims that they are so much alike that only a skilled zoologist could distinguish them (p. 178), a "fact" that Pandas makes much of in their chapter 5. In actuality the differences are so clear cut and obvious that a small child would have no difficulty in distinguishing them causing one to wonder about Denton's powers of observation.

There are two main points that Denton makes. One is his claim that life is a fundamentally discontinuous phenomenon (Chapters 5, 6, p. 353). Denton wishes to return to the typological biology of the 19th century as exemplified by the hierarchic classification. He is unaware that many fossils blur the clear-cut distinctions found in living forms. Even Richard Owen thought the fossil Archegosaurus was a link between fish and reptiles, erasing the boundaries between those two classes and accepted the idea of fossil continuity. Owen also thought that the mammal-like reptiles filled the gap between reptiles and mammals. He envisioned a process of "continuous creation" which amounted to evolution with a supernatural mechanism. (Desmond, 1982, pp. 68, 71, 72, 82, 198).

Denton also seems to be unaware of the fact that the typological hierarchic classification rested extensively on the concept of homology. Denton sees homology as a purely evolutionary concept and doesn't realize, that in rejecting it (Chapter 7) he is rejecting the basis of his typological biology! (Denton's chapter 7 is the basis for Pandas' chapter 5. His discussion of cytochrome c in Chapter 12 is the basis of Pandas' Chapter 6, especially in the 1st edition of Pandas.)

His second point is that Darwinism is evolution by pure chance and that such a process could not possibly have resulted in complex organisms. This seems to stem from his inability to comprehend the concept of natural selection. Although on occasion he mentions Darwinian evolution as being guided or directed by natural selection (pp. 85, 154, 260, 271, 341), he more often describes evolution as being "an entirely blind random process" (p. 43, 53, 66, 134, 345), "a gigantic random search" (61, 348), "undirected process of change" (p. 136) "pure chance" (p. 311, 317, 323, 324, 326, 327, 331, 351, 352, 357), "unguided trial and error" (p. 314). He even seems to equate natural selection with blind chance (p. 60, 317). He rejects the idea that a complex adaptation might evolve slowly, being guided by natural selection at each step (pp. 317-319) but instead envisions an adaptation coming into full blossom purely by chance and only then being subsequently preserved by natural selection (pp. 61, 327) but he is not even sure of that (p. 135)! Even in his discussion of how mutational changes may spread (p. 60) he describes how the rate of change depends on factors such as mutation rate, generation time and total population number but natural selection (differential survival and reproduction) is omitted!

In spite of all this, Denton claims that Darwinism is the "only truly scientific theory of evolution" while creationist theories "invoke frankly supernatural causes" (p. 355). Because he rejects Darwinism, and since there is no alternate scientific theory (p. 357), and supernatural causes are apparently not satisfactory, he concludes that we do not know how new forms arise (p. 358).

References:

Desmond, A. 1982. Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.


(from Frank Sonleitner's critique of Of Pandas and People)