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A New Series: Talk to the Fossils

Denyse O'Leary

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A while back, I started a series here called “Science Fictions” that I began by asking a simple question: Why is the space alien understood as science but Bigfoot as mythology? The reason I asked is that, still lacking specimens of either entity, decade after decade, answers are likely to be revealing.

Talk to the Fossils 3.jpgThose answers help us see how “science” is understood, allowing us to interpret claims about the origin of the universe, life, human life, and the human mind.

In general, naturalism (the idea that inanimate nature somehow created minds) seems to be the guiding principle of enterprises classed as science today, even though the evidence actually goes in the opposite direction.

In a new series, “Talk to the Fossils,” I would like now to look at ways evolution might happen (or not).

Contrary to what we sometimes hear, few people doubt that evolution occurs in principle. The scientifically serious questions revolve around mechanisms, that is, around the question of — as biochemist Michael Behe puts it in Darwin’s Black Box –how exactly does it occur?

The point of Behe’s critique is often missed: Anyone can come up with a “how” explanation — that is, “how, according to my own grand theory.”

Science is not about merely how. It is about how, exactly. Can we identify each step of the claimed process from beginning to end, subject to investigation and confirmation, and show that the process results in the outcome?

Almost all conflict around evolution turns out to be conflict around the claim that Darwinism (natural selection acting on random mutations) creates vast amounts of new information in life forms. There are good reasons to doubt that, based in information theory, as we shall see.

But suppose we are prepared to be more modest in our claims? We shall find that mechanisms in nature can plausibly produce inherited changes in life forms (for example, genome duplication, horizontal gene transfer, and epigenetics). The new series will look at evidence for these mechanisms and their outcomes.

Image: by Lech Darski (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.