Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design
Life Sciences Icon Life Sciences
Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

From Scientists and Science Media, a Flood of Disinformation

Photo: A soda lake, by Zachary R. Cohen, via EurekAlert! (no restrictions on usage).

Spending time perusing popular science media outlets can give one the impression that much of science is on the verge of being overturned. Within the last month, samples of sensationalized science reporting, reported below, suggest that major questions on naturalistic abiogenesis have been solved, stellar astrophysics is misunderstood, the Big Bang model is being refuted, and that the cosmological and astronomical conclusion of dark matter is unwarranted.

Big Claims, Little Evidence

Here’s a sampling of science reporting that makes bigger claims than the evidence supports. 

  • At Science Daily, “A new study shows how the chemical properties of RNA molecules could have facilitated the emergence of complex life.” This one focuses on how an RNA strand could grow in a water-covered early-Earth environment, but it ignores the deeper problem of how information coding for functional, life-essential biochemistry could arise naturally.
  • Why Is Life Left-Handed? We Might Finally Know.” Sabine Hossenfelder reviews recent research suggestions that the unique “handedness” of bio-relevant molecules, such as the amino acids that comprise proteins, arose from a preferential interaction of the Earth’s magnetic field and molecules of a certain chirality. Remnant magnetization of some rocks perhaps complemented the effect. Suggestions such as these, or others involving the rotation of the Earth, come nowhere near to answering the question of how to explain the strict homochirality of biomolecules. And again, the issue is a distraction from the deeper problem of how the instruction set for building all of the thousands of different life-essential proteins out of homochiral amino acids could have come about by natural processes.
  • At Physics Magazine, “Heavy Element Quandary in Stars Worsened by New Nuclear Data.” Researchers conclude that their results on cerium nucleosyntheses mean “there is something we don’t understand about how nucleosynthesis happens.” This has been the state of affairs ever since the dawn of nuclear physics. Particle physics experiments, in conjunction with stellar astrophysics, has advanced our understanding of nucleosynthesis, but admitting some uncertainty in the formation process of a rare element is not to be equated with a breakdown in astrophysics and cosmological models. Further research will undoubtedly refine our understanding of this particular issue of stellar elemental abundance.
  • At Closer to Truth, “Roger Penrose — Did the Universe Begin?” Without any evidence, Penrose postulates an infinite sequence of expanding universes, arguing that after infinite time, an infinitely expanded universe would become spatially equivalent to the singularity representing the big bang of a subsequent universe. In a conversation with Brian Keating and Justin Brierley, Stephen Meyer critiques the Penrose proposal, citing other cosmologists to conclude that “Penrose is just speculating,” invoking a physical field with “god-like properties.” At 10:11, Penrose tips his hand with a statement that reveals his personal motivation to avoid a true beginning to the universe: “There’s something within us all that would like an eternal universe.”
  • From EurekAlert!, “Did the first cells evolve in soda lakes?” Lake water with dissolved sodium and carbonate species is shown to allow a very slight nucleotide extension of RNA as well as the formation of fatty-acid membranes, once researchers added fatty acids to the water. The researchers’ conclusion trumpets unwarranted enthusiasm for solving the problem of abiogenesis: “Taken together, our results suggest that natural soda lakes…could have supported the formation of the earliest cellular life.” Again, pronouncements such as these reveal a willful blindness, ignoring major issues that must be overcome for any origin-of-life scenario to approach feasibility. James Tour’s challenge to researchers still stands.
  • At Science Daily, “New research suggests that our universe has no dark matter.” In this audacious study, researchers dismiss two well-established conclusions of physics, namely the constancy of the forces of nature and the constant value of the speed of light in vacuum, in order to find room for their theory suggesting that the universe has no room for dark matter. Aside from the problem of their unsupported assumptions, their conclusion fails to account for multiple other lines of evidence that point to the existence of dark matter. 

An Unfortunate Practice 

These exaggerated reports exemplify an unfortunate practice often employed by those who seek to make a case for a novel scientific conclusion: glamorize one thread of evidence while ignoring the entire tapestry of evidence that stands against a favored conclusion.

I’ll venture to suggest that this flood of disinformation represents a strategy to prop up the faltering worldview of materialism. The effect of the deluge is twofold — one is to mislead the uninformed into thinking that established science doesn’t really support the conclusions of intelligent design. The other is to attempt to wear out those who defend ID with an incessant barrage of news soundbites insinuating that recent discoveries or theoretical speculations stand to throw established science into the trash bin.

What’s an appropriate response to this trend of disinformation? The work of Discovery Institute has long served effectively to counter the negative influence of materialism. Emphasizing established scientific principles that broadly eliminate whole classes of speculations is an approach that will eventually shift the consensus towards the truth of reality. For example, using the conclusions of information theory will negate any speculation implying natural processes alone can form the information-rich biomolecules within living cells. Soda lakes (pictured above), magnetized rock substrates, RNA chemistry, or any other natural scheme will always fail to account for the organization of the complex biochemical processes necessary for any living organism. 

Discover to Uncover

Likewise, while various details about stellar formation and nucleosynthesis, or exactly when the first galaxies formed, may be refined by new observations, the lines of observational evidence and theoretical conclusions pointing to a singularity event at the beginning of our universe are well established. Dark matter and dark energy are more than mere placeholders for ignorance but are rather postulates reached by considerations of multiple lines of observational evidence, coupled with well-established physical theories. We can anticipate that ongoing efforts to characterize these phenomena will lead to fascinating illuminations of what we now call “dark.” Furthermore, if the historical trend of advancing scientific knowledge continues, the more we discover, the more evidence for fine-tuning and design will be uncovered.