The bottleneck effect and the Genesis creation myth

According to the creation myths of the Book of Genesis, humankind is descended from two bottleneck or founder events. The first was when man was created as Adam and Eve (and even Eve was created from a tissue sample from Adam). They had thousands of descendants, including Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives. All of humanity after the flood depicted in Genesis at Noah’s time are thus said to be descended from five people at most (Noah, his wife and his sons’ wives, assuming none of the sons’ wives were closely related to Noah or his wife). But remember that they were ultimately descended from ONE PERSON, Adam, who lived only a dozen or so generations before them, so even their genetic diversity would have to have been lower than people living today.

The reduction of a population causes a loss of genetic diversity and makes inbreeding more likely, which itself limits genetic diversity among offspring until mutation and natural selection has had time to increase that diversity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founder_effect

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIID3Bottlenecks.shtml

Considering the diversity of humankind today, one would expect that humans evolved very rapidly after the flood, which would make rejection of evolution by believers in the Bible pointless. How is it that fundamentalists can beleive in rapid evolution within “kinds” over thousands of years, yet deny unlimited and slower evolution over many millions of years?

Because they reject science, of course. Dogma is everything to them, and that’s inexcusible in a society that depends on science for almost everything we have.

The dishonesty and ignorance of the Creationists becomes obvious here:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v17/i1/events.asp

By comparing DNA from different humans around the world, it has been found that all humans share roughly 99.9% of their genetic material—they are almost completely identical, genetically.7 This means that there is very little polymorphism, or variation. Much evidence of this genetic continuity has been found. 8 examined a 729-base pair intron (the DNA in the genome that is not read to make proteins) from a worldwide sample of 38 human males and reported no sequence variation.

These results are quite consistent with a recent human origin and a global flood. Evolutionary models of origins did not predict such low human genetic diversity. Mutations should have produced much more diversity than 0.1% over millions of years. And yet this is exactly what we would expect to find if all humans were closely related and experienced a relatively recent event in which only a few survived.

Bull$#it. If humans were NOT genetically almost identical, they would not be able to interbreed at all and would have already diversified into various species, like humans and chimps did several million years ago. The fossil record shows that species more closely related to us than chimps became extinct long ago and that our species is only a few hundred thousand years old, having evolved from older ones.

We should also seek to understand genetic evidence in the context of the tower of Babel event. 12 This too seems consistent with Biblical events in Genesis 11. Surely, much research is needed to expand ideas about such genetic evidence to determine its consistency with the Bible and its inconsistency with, for example, the various evolutionary out-of-Africa models. 13

When scientists debate issues, they start with the evidence they have and make their different hypotheses fit the evidence, then look for more evidence to rule out competing ideas. They don’t start with a creation myth that can never be ruled out and assume that any evidence must be forced to fit it!

P Z Myers and his gang wreck a Christian poll

First, read this blog entry from Pharyngula:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/christianity_today_is_full_of.php

Category: Pointless polls
Posted on: May 1, 2009 10:26 AM, by PZ Myers

Can you bear yet another poll today? The initial results of this one, before all of you readers get to work and use your magic clicky fingers, is mildly interesting. The readership of Christianity Today consists primarily of scientific illiterates and wishful dreamers, split between people who seriously believe the earth is 6000 years old, those who think the Bible is a science text and are willing to stretch a metaphor, and fuzzy thinkers who want a god to have guided natural processes.

I imagine the readership here can rock their little world.

What best describes your view of the origins of creation?

Young-earth creationism 29%
Old-earth creationism 28%
Theistic evolution 26%
Naturalistic evolution 4%
I don’t know 7%
None of the above 6%

Continue reading

Another fake “science” website

This is a direct sequel to:

https://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/a-fake-evolution-site/

I’ve discovered another website with a false name:

http://www.allaboutscience.org/

On its home page it says:

Science: Knowledge and Discovery

Science is the human endeavor to discover truths about the world around us. Scientists seek out answers through observation and experimentation. As we discover more and more, we are able to apply what we’ve learned to develop new technologies and to improve everyday life. But perhaps more importantly, as we gain knowledge through science, we are able to begin satisfying our deep-felt need to know more about ourselves.

Which is absolutely true. But then you start to read deeper. Continue reading

A really stupid way to honor Darwin

http://www.thebeagleproject.com/

The HMS Beagle Project

In 2009, the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth we will build a sailing replica of HMS Beagle. An icon of scientific progress, she will circumnavigate the globe in Darwin’s wake, crewed by aspiring scientists and researchers. They will carry out original research both at sea and on land, updating Darwin’s observations, breaking new scientific ground and relating the adventure of science to enthuse a new generation of young students. If you support our vision, contact us, donate to the build fund, request a sponsorship pack, or visit the Beagle Project Shop USA or Europe/Japan, buy the t-shirt and show ’em you want a Beagle sailing the world in 2009.

Why is this idea stupid? Because you can accomplish a lot more scientific research with a modern ship dealing with present day biological issues rather than merely reenacting Darwin’s voyage. Science is not about taking the road already traveled, but going down a previously untraveled path to see what might be found.  I will not contribute a dime to such a dubious project. Indeed, I think it is a SCAM!

Science, natural history, and evolution

Science is a way of knowing about the world that depends constantly on free inquiry, experimentation and empiricism. As such, anything that is established in science has credibility based on the methodology used, not on the word of any individual scientist. It is the ability of other scientists to duplicate the experimental results that one of their number publishes that makes a scientific law credible.

Physics and chemistry are the two foundational sciences on which all others, including astronomy, biology, and geology, are based. Unlike the first two, astronomy, biology and geology also have hypotheses and theories that are historical in nature. The basic assumption is that all physical and chemical laws are constant, remaining the same throughout deep time. Thus, any historical hypothesis or theory, to also be scientific, must be in strict conformance with all the known scientific laws that were previously established as valid via the scientific method.

Understanding this, we can consistently apply all known scientific laws to deep time to both test hypotheses and propose them. For example, the Doppler effect was used to discover that most galaxies were moving away from us and in proportion to their distance from our galaxy. This was defined as Hubble’s Law, which in turn led to the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins. Likewise, repeated experimentation on living animals and plants in which artificial selection is done to change the genetic makeup of their populations in a laboratory setting establishes the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. It stands to reason that if slight changes can be made in populations of organisms in a short period of time, then massive changes indicated by the fossil record should be possible over a long period of time. But to show this may not be possible, we’d have to do additional experiments to attempt to find the limits of genetic and physical change in such a population and thus possibly falsify evolution. Such an experiment was proposed and detailed here:

https://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2007/08/02/dale-husband%e2%80%99s-evolution-experiment/

It is important to understand that it is impossible to have genuine natural history without a scientific basis. Previous attempts to describe the past history of the universe without science are mythology. Mythology has no references whatsoever to physical and chemical laws and usually involve one or more supernatural deities, thus they are not scientific. Any tests of a historical hypothesis or theory involving deep time can never contradict the scientific laws previously established as valid via the scientific method.

So, is evolution a fact? Is the Big Bang theory a fact? Is the theory of continental drift a fact? Only if you accept as valid all the scientific laws that support them. And those laws, in turn, are supported by the scientific method. That is why the concept of “creation science” is a fraud. It is nothing more than an attempt to support mythology by the misuse of scientific terminology.

Since it is obvious that evolution is scientific, and creationism is not, why is there even a controversy over teaching such concepts as “Intelligent Design” in public schools? Because of politics and religion interfering with science education. And this is nonsense if you just follow the chain of reason that was used from the late 19th Century onwards to support evolution.

Natural selection and the scientific peer review process

Natural selection describes the process by which variations in a population of organisms are edited over time to enhance the ability of the individual organisms to survive and reproduce in an environment. Even if over 90% of all mutations, being random, are harmful to the next generation, natural selection can still eliminate those and keep those others that are beneficial, thus countering the destructive effects of mutations in general.

It is the same with the scientific peer review process. Because science has made so much progress over the past few centuries, most people have the impression that scientists are unusually brilliant, nearly infallible, and totally objective in their views and methods. But in fact, that is simply not the case for most of them, at least as individuals. Scientists can be just as mistaken, corrupt, dogmatic, and failing in their efforts and assumptions as the rest of humanity. A few of them can even be downright stupid!

If that is true, how can science be trusted to produce reliable facts and theories? Because the scientists use peer review as their means to test any new ideas put on the table by one of their number. No scientist’s word need be taken at face value. In order for his idea to be accepted as anything beyond a speculation, he must show observational or experimental data, clearly defined, that supports it. Thus, it should always be possible for other scientists to duplicate the results of the first scientist making the claim. If attempts to duplicate the observations or experiments do not produce the same result, the idea is rejected.

Sometimes the peer review process goes too far in its skepticism, and a valid idea, such as continental drift, is rejected and even ridiculed by scientists even though it explains all the data collected and is contradicted by none of it. But that’s why repeated testing of that idea is required, as long as it is not outright falsified. Continental drift WAS accepted in the 1960s once an overwhelming amount of evidence was found to support it and those geologists who had been bigoted against it in the 1920s had died or retired, and a new generation had arisen that was more open-minded. Those who supported the continental drift theory were able to come up with a mechanism, plate tectonics, that explained it, and once they did opposition to it faded away rapidly.

Individual scientists may fall so deeply in love with their own ideas that they refuse to accept the peer review process when it rejects their ideas. Then they become cranks who no longer do science, but instead put out propaganda to appeal to the scientifically illiterate. This is especially true of Creationists and global warming denialists who happen to have science degrees. They even go so far as to attack the peer review process itself! But it must be noted that they can never produce anything that would produce superior results in terms of seeking objective data in the universe and explaining it.

Scientists who refuse to recognize that an idea of theirs is wrong are like a population of organisms that are too specialized in their lifestyle to adapt to any sudden change in their environment, resulting in their extinction. Fortunately, the progress of science continues even in spite of such incidents, just as life on Earth has continued despite the mass extinctions that have wiped out most species that evolved on Earth before.