A Matter of Scale

2020 May 14

I wrote about our trampoline in A Good Bounce and the imagination of freely going up to the moon. Clearly gravity can be conquered. I have evidence for this because it is a fact that I regularly overcome gravity with my trampoline bouncing. It should be only a matter of scale to go around the moon. Couldn’t a moon bounce therefore be as much a fact as gravity is a fact?

This, however, is wishful magical thinking. Some things that might seem to be a matter of scale are really in different categories.

Neo-Darwinian evolution tells a similar type of story.

The Story

Evolution is the proposed explanation for the whole world of living things. Evolution is said to simply be biological change over time. Random mutations without respect to need brings the changes, and natural selection kills off organisms that are less fit.

Clearly, observers have already seen beaks of finches changing average size and moths changing color, in response to changes in the environment. So this is an observed fact of change over time. According to the evolution story then, these mechanisms are also factually sufficient to explain the emergence of all the species of living things. This extrapolated part of the story from the observation is where the mistake occurs; it is where the wishful magical thinking happens.

The argument relies on the equivalence of a mechanism that is factually provable at an observable scale to have continued effect at a larger (but not observed) scale. However, wishing this equivalence to be so does not make it so, especially when there is increasing evidence that the mechanism fails. note Regarding the mentioned examples: The average finch beak size changes cyclically with ordinary climate variations. They also regularly interbreed, so no new species has been produced. The peppered moth changed color likely because of “an insertion of a stretch of more than 20,000 nucleotides” note, and not due to mutations. And again, speciation did not happen with the color change. These “proof” cases, like many others, just aren’t evidence of the extended idea of evolution as Darwin promoted.

How to go Around the Moon

Of course we can go around the moon. We (humans) have done it a bunch of times. However, to do so required a different process than just bouncing. It was a process that was carefully planned and sequenced. The moon shot required extensive design of both equipment and processes by the best minds in existence. In principle there was some similarity between a trampoline and a large rocket in that both had reactionary forces directed away from the earth. However, no thoughtful person would mistake the rocket as just a scaled up version of a trampoline. note

Between the time of the space shuttle and NASA’s commercial crew program, America purchased rides from Russia’s space program for access to the International Space Station (ISS). There was a point of tension between the countries when the head of the Russian program, Rogozin, suggested America should use a trampoline instead of Russian resources. After SpaceX successfully brought astronauts to the ISS, Musk said the trampoline was working. Rogozin tweeted that he loved the joke.

'The trampoline is working!' The story behind Elon Musk's one-liner at SpaceX's big launch

Why would neo-Darwinists make a mistake of this nature - of equating adaptation mechanisms with something that would produce new kinds of organisms? note The reasons are philosophical. note First, they are committed to only naturalistic explanations for all things scientific because they believe that only naturalistic scientific explanations will produce valid knowledge, and they believe that naturalistic explanations are available for all questions. note

There are important things for which there are not, nor are ever likely to be any good scientific explanations at all, including the existence of life and consciousness.

Notice that a built-in adaptation system is something that necessarily requires foresight, and foresight is not something that could ever come out of a random process. Foresight absolutely requires the intelligence of a mind.

They also are certain that if a god made the world it would not look like what is around us, therefore there can’t be any creator god. note Now obviously we are alive and know we are here, somehow. Then since evolution is the only available naturalistic explanation of life, for them it is also then the only satisfactory explanation for life. Even though there are substantial observations that are unexpected on the theory note this is not a cause for their worry, and for them it cannot bring doubt to the theory; they are just seen as exercises for the reader and for future researchers.

This idea is that the world as we see it never could have been constructed by a god because no god would ever have made it to be like this. This idea is purely an opinion. It is a non-scientific philosophical and theological conclusion.

This opinion might alternatively be a subconscious reaction to the problem of evil. Although evil is a very great difficulty, this solution is not the only one; there are other solutions to this problem of evil that are better than atheism.

See also The Atheistic God - Plenitude

This whole line of thinking is metaphysical and religious. However, like many things in these categories, it is difficult to convince a person to change. This is because almost always they did not come to hold their metaphysical view by just scientific reason. The person would have to acknowledge that even though evolutionary ideas are usually presented as pure science, their actual basis is metaphysical postulates. However, if the person could see and reason from a different set of metaphysical postulates, then they would be able to make new inferences from the same biological evidence.

Better Explanations

Now, the moon trip did not happen by itself naturally. (It didn’t occur by a naturalistic process.) Therefore the moon trip, strictly speaking, was super-natural. Although the moon trip has no naturalistic scientific explanation, that does not mean that the actual explanation is invalid, that it was impossible, or that it did not happen as described. Similarly, an alternate non-naturalistic explanation of life and species does not mean that the explanation is invalid, that it was impossible, or that it did not happen as described.

The Intelligent Design model offers alternate explanations are better than pure naturalism for many reasons. Some of these reasons include that it is a sensible explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe note, that it is the only explanation known to work in the present for producing the required kind of complex information in DNA (etc.) that was required for life note, and that it matches significantly better to the evidence of the relatedness of organisms note. It is a viable explanation for the origin of species, and it even is a viable explanation for the origin of life.

An agent capable of intelligently designing the universe is equivalent to a god. Therefore the question would follow of why would the world have substantial imperfections in everything if there had been a creator god. note This is akin to the philosophical problem of evil, and I acknowledge this is a challenging problem. There are some good metaphysical answers, however, even these suggested solutions can’t remove all the tensions from the problem. It is important to have the humility to acknowledge that we just cannot know as much as we would like to know about everything.

In the mainline I suggested that the problem of evil is the motivation for thinking that if a god made the world it would not look like what is around us (the bad design argument). I think that this line of argument comes from opinion that is weak or poorly developed. People have all kinds of opinions of what constitutes a good design and quite often this is only their personal taste.

For instance, human eyes have their nerve wiring on the retinal surface and the light must pass through this layer. Supposedly this is evidence of it being a poor design. However, human eyes are able to detect single photons and it is not physically possible to do better than this. And recently studies indicate this design is part of the reason for its performance. Darwin's God: Müller Cells are Wavelength-Dependent Wave-Guides

Sometimes opinions about bad design comes from hubris about what is being observed. By example, for many years biologists had a limited understanding of the DNA and assumed that sections that did not code for proteins were “junk DNA” because the evolution that caused it was random. However as we learned more, we have found that these sections are primarily important control and regulatory functions. Regulation is an aspect of design that only comes from intelligence because it requires foresight.

Seeing Options

If it can be accepted that a non-naturalistic explanation for life really is an option, then evolution also can be seen as an option, and not as a doctrine. Then the problems inherent in the naturalistic-only explanations become embarrassingly obvious; these problems not things that can be put on a back shelf in a closet. Committed evolutionists already realize their current theories aren’t viable and so some are pushing for a new extended evolutionary synthesis (EES) in their community. note This is a tacit admission that existing evolutionary theory is failing even though this is never described as such to the masses.

About the EES – Extended Evolutionary Synthesis

They make pains to not repudiate the standard modern synthesis. They talk about many aspects that require foresight, especially built-in adaptive mechanisms, but really don’t have any better explanation for its existence than the neo-darwinian model. Since this foresight is critical for all life, this remains a fundamental failure of evolution.

A similar discussion:

So, good science will recognize the actual explanatory range of a theory and won’t try to explain an effect by an insufficient cause. That is, it recognizes the appropriate scale of the explanatory model. Good science recognizes its own limitations; it recognizes that there are things that are outside of what it can explain. Good science acknowledges that some things which cannot be known scientifically can sometimes be known from other sources. Good science knows it’s places of effectiveness.


See also Science is Limited

2020-05-14 updated 2022-02-18   © 2023 Larry Grove