"The Origin of Species": "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ system existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." (only once on web) Twenty-first-century science has demonstrated just that in the irreducible complexity of the molecular "machines" within cells, the structure of cilia, flagella, and the intracellular transport system. -David Hoagland.
"The eye gave him nightmares." -Darwin's Black Box, a detailed study of certain biochemical machines in humans and other organisms, is aimed at realizing one of Darwin's worst nightmares. Darwin worried that the origin of complex organs such as the eye would be difficult to explain in terms of the gradual, stepwise evolutionary process outlined by his theory. The best he could do was to speculate that the complex eye might have developed from simple light-sensitive cells that could give a competitive advantage to an organism that possessed them. But the molecular biology of vision, as Behe notes, was a "black box" to Darwin. Darwin and his contemporaries took the simplicity of cells for granted, treating them as black boxes that needed no further explanation.
Now that we know how complex even the simplest cells are, Behe argues, we can no longer ignore the question of how they originated, nor can we deny the lack of progress in answering that question within a Darwinian paradigm. Behe examined every issue of the Journal of Molecular Evolution (a top journal in the field) since it began in 1971. He could not find even one article that "has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual, step-by-step Darwinian fashion." This lack of an explanation, Behe says, is "a very strong indication that Darwinism is an inadequate framework for understanding the origin of complex biochemical systems." http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=83
In On the Origin of Species, Darwin had worried that the origin of complex organs, such as the eye, would prove very difficult to explain using the gradual, stepwise process required by his theory. The best he could do was to speculate that complex eyes might have developed somehow from simple, light-sensitive cells that could give a competitive advantage to an organism that possessed them.
Various Creationist books have a quote from The Origin of Species(1859):
To suppose that the eye [...] could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
This implies that Darwin didn't have faith in his own theory. Or, perhaps it implies that Darwin saw a hole in his theory, and didn't know how to solve it. But let's look at the next two sentences:
When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. The Origin of Species, Chapter Six, "Organs of extreme Perfection and Complication"
And yet, this is precisely where Darwin's suppositions have failed to materialize in the 155 years that scientists have tried to prove the theory.
http://www.tbi.univie.ac.at/Origin/origin_6.html#xtocid1864548 eye problem in darwin's words
http://www.tbi.univie.ac.at/Origin/origin_toc.html origin of species online.
He who will go thus far, ought not to hesitate to go one step further, if he finds on finishing this volume that large bodies of facts, otherwise inexplicable, can be explained by the theory of modification through natural selection; he ought to admit that a structure even as perfect as an eagle's eye might thus be formed, although in this case he does not know the transitional states. ... but I have felt the difficulty far too keenly to be surprised at others hesitating to extend the principle of natural selection to so startling a length. Darwin chapter vI.
Is Darwin here suggesting that scientists disregard the evidence to the contrary and create fanciful arguments for his theory if they be not seen as cowards.
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species, round which, according to the theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we take an organ common to all the members of a class, for in this latter case the organ must have been originally formed at a remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms, long since become extinct. We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Chapter 6
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/eye_stages.html stages of an eye.
http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mm92496.htm behe on eye. superb.
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html counter to behe, one long argument.
Darwin himself was concerned about the absence of the transitional forms in the fossil record which his theory led him to expect:
The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [should] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.' (Darwin C. The Origin of Species, 1859 )
The situation over a hundred years later does not seem very different. Stephen Jay Gould (a palaeontologist from Harvard) said: 'The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology'. His fellow palaeontologist Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History adds: 'We palaeontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change] knowing all the while it does not'. Eldredge goes on to say: 'When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn palaeontologist looking to learn something about evolution'.
Darwin on Trial p 16
Darwin did not insist that all evolution was by natural selection, or do his succesors. He wrote at the end of the introduction to the first (1859) edition of *The Origin of Species* that "I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification" and later complained of the "steady misrepresentation" that had ignored this qualification. On the other hand, Darwin was vague about the importance of the alternatives one of which was "variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneeously." Contemporary neo-Darwinists also practice a tactically advanageous flexibility concerning the frequencey and importance of non-selecive evolution. Stephen Jay Gould wrote that this imprecision "imposes a great frustration upon anyone who would characterize the modern sysnthesis in order to criticize it," and I am sure that every critic shares the frustration.
If we did not know better, we would expect that the "Origin of the Species" to contain a dramatic chapter on the fossil record in which Darwin demonstrates how the evidence of the bones confirms his theory. However, Darwin knew quite well that the record was contrary to his theory. Gould tells us:
Only one chapter of the "Origin of Species" bears an apologetic title - ironically, for the subject that should have provided the crown of direct evidence for evolution in the large: the archive of life's actual history as displayed in the fossil record. Yet Darwin entitled Chapter 9 "On the Imperfection of the Geological Record."
Despite this strong belief in geological gradualism, Darwin knew perfectly well - as all paleontologists always have - that stasis and abrupt appearance represent a norm for the *observed* history of most species. I needn't rehearse Darwin's solution to this dilemma, for his familiar argument represents more than a twice-told tale. Following the lead of his mentor, Charles Lyle, Darwin attributed this striking discordance between theoretical expectation and actual observation to the extreme imperfection of the fossil record.(p. 757)
To quote the two most famous statement on this subject from the "Origin of Species," Darwin summarizes his entire argument by closing Chapter 9 with Lyell's metaphor of the book (1859, pp. 310-311)
For my part, following out Lyell's metaphor, I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume along, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines. Each word of the slowly - changing language, in which the history is supposed to be written, being more or less different in the interrupted succession of chapters, may represent the apparently abruptly changed forms of life, entombed in our consecutive, but widely separated, formations.
In epitomizing both geological chapters, Darwin begins with a long list of reasons for such an imperfect record, and then concludes with his characteristic honesty (1859, p 342): "All these causes taken conjointly, just have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory." ...
In the next quote Darwin asserts that because his hypothesis is true, while the evidence is contrary, it demonstrates how faulty the evidence is. Of course this is backwards. And Gould in presenting this quote twists this into a form of "sophistication" on Darwin's part.
The paradoxes set by Darwin's solution for the current practice of paleontology and macroevolutionary theory receive their clearest expression in another remarkable statement from the "Origin of Species" (1859, p. 302), a testimony to Darwin's sophisticated understanding that nature's "facts" do not stand before us in pristine objectivity, but must be embedded within theories to make any sense, or even to be "seen" at all. Darwin acknowledges that he only understood the extreme imperfection of the geological record when paleontological evidence of stasis and abrupt appearance threatened to confute the gradualism that he "knew" to be true:"But I do not pretend that I should ever have suspected how poor a record of the mutation of life, the best preserved geological section presented, had not the difficulty of our not discovering innumerable transitional links between the species which appeared at the commencement and close of each formation, pressed so hardly on my theory." (p 758)
(Translation: "I know the data does not support my theory. That shows the data is worse than I would have thought.")
The fact is, that only the partial truth of many of the secondary "laws" of Darwinism is beyond question... (Helena Blavatsky 1888 The Secret Doctrine Vol II p. 662)
If we accept Darwin's theory of the development of species, we find that his starting-point is placed in front of an open door. We are at liberty with him, to either remain within, or cross the threshold, beyond which lies the limitless and the incomprehensible, or rather the Unutterable. If our mortal language is inadequate to express what our spirit dimly foresees in the great "Beyond" - while on this earth - it must realize it at some point in the timeless Eternity. (Isis Unveiled Vol I 14-15)
"But there are certainly "designers," though these are neither omnipotent nor omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. They are simply Builders, or Masons, working under the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown, (on our plane) Master Mason - the ONE LIFE and Law. ... That they work in cycles and on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate; that they act by design in the details of minor lives (of side animal issues, etc.) is what natural history has sufficient evidence for." (Helena Blavatsky 1888 The Secret Doctrine Vol II p. 732).
The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptations is a proof of this. The immutable laws that weed out the weak and feeble species, to make room for the strong, and which ensure the "survival of the fittest," though so cruel in their immediate action - all are working toward the grand end. (Helena Blavatsky 1888 The Secret Doctrine Vol I p. 277).
our "ignorant" ancestors traced the law of evolution throughout the whole universe. As by gradual progression from the starcloudlet to the development of the physical body of man, the rule holds good, so from the universal ether to the incarnate human spirit, they traced one uninterrupted series of entities. These evolutions were from the world of spirit into the world of gross matter; and through that back again to the source of all things. The "descent of species" was to them a descent from the spirit, primal source of all, to the "degradation of matter."
My real intent in writing this newsletter was to prepare a sound foundation of Blavatsky's views as a basis for discussing in the light of Theosophy the current debate on "inteligent design" (ID). It is natural in this process to attempt to also communicate Theosophy's view of evolution - at least on the origin of the species. However - after lightening - I see that is too much. Therefore this letter will focus only on the issue of Theosophy's view on Darwinism - especially relevant to ID.
The next quote from Blavatsky is included here because it is interesting to see her using a kind of reasoning that seems an exact parallel to some of the reasoning used by the advocates of ID.
"Suppose an Occultist were to claim that the first grand organ of a cathedral had come originally into being in the following manner. First, there was a progressive and gradual elaboration in Space of an organizable material, which resulted in the production of a state of matter named organic PROTEIN. Then, under the influence of incident forces, those states having been thrown into a phase of unstable equilibrium, they slowly and majestically evolved into and resulted in new combinations of carved and polished wood, of brass pins and staples, of leather and ivory, wind-pipes and bellows. After which, having adapted all its parts into one harmonious and symmetrical machine, the organ suddenly pealed forth Mozart's Requiem. This was followed by a Sonata of Beethoven, etc., ad infinitum; its keys playing of themselves and the wind blowing into the pipes by its own inherent force and fancy. . . . . What would Science say to such a theory?" (SDii348)
Blavatsky's next quote is perhaps the most relevant quote of all for the ID argument. In it she explicitly refers to designers - even using that same term more than a century ago.
"But there are certainly "designers," though these are neither omnipotent nor omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. They are simply Builders, or Masons, working under the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown, (on our plane) Master Mason - the ONE LIFE and Law. Belonging to this sphere, they have no hand in, or possibility of working on any other, during the present Manvantara, at any rate. That they work in cycles and on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate; that they act by design in the details of minor lives (of side animal issues, etc.) is what natural history has sufficient evidence for."
Just a moment here. Sometimes advocates of Darwinism attempt to argue for their position by noting the obvious progress in the forms of evolution. To them, this makes it patently clear that Darwin was right. Any other view is understandly frustrating to them. But does the appearance of progressive forms really imply Darwin was right?
Suppose we went to the large Smithsonean Museum in Washington DC. I think they have a section there where the museum displays a succession of actual aircraft, showing how the design of aircraft has "evolved" over last century. But -- we know that evolution of design is a sign that intelligence was involved. Human engineers evolved the designs from one stage to another. In that case progressive evolution obviously implied to us the existence of a designing intelligence. It could have been a display of the progression of automobiles over the century and it would present the same issues.
Effectively Blavatsky is referencing this same view casually in passing when she comments above saying "progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demostrate; that they act by design".
She continues quite remarkably describing the act of "design":
"In the creation of new species, departing sometimes very widely from the Parent stock, as in the great variety of the genus Felis-like the lynx, the tiger, the cat, etc.-it is the "designers" who direct the new evolution by adding to, or depriving the species of certain appendages, either needed or becoming useless in the new environments. Thus, when we say that Nature provides for every animal and plant, whether large or small, we speak correctly."
You can find on the internet the argument that the "design" is not perfect. Blavataky casually admits that fallibility (aren't we all) in the immediately following sentence.
"For, it is those terrestrial spirits of Nature, who form the aggregated Nature; which, if it fails occasionally in its design, is neither to be considered blind, nor to be taxed with the failure; since, belonging to a differentiated sum of qualities and attributes, it is in virtue of that alone conditioned and imperfect." (SDii732-3)
There is yet another coincidence in the writing of this newsletter. This week's issue of Newsweek (6/27) has a cover story about evolution. It is entitled "Rediscovering Dinosaurs - Beyond T. Rex: How they really lived."
That lead article is indeed interesting. It expresses its material in often human terms that make the article a page turner. Perhaps most relevant of all it shows how science is making great strides in refining its understanding of these ancient creatures. Along the way the magazine article shows the clear, rational evidence that Darwinism is, of course, correct.
Now here is the surprise - despite all this talk about a designer, Theosophy agrees with this article in Newsweek. Actually that article is further confirmation of the claims of Theosophy. (Clearly this seemingly contradictory position needs some clarifying.)
This newsletter rarely quotes from the Stanzas of Dzyan but this time it is particularly relevant.
"VIII 29. ANIMALS WITH BONES, DRAGONS OF THE DEEP AND FLYING SARPAS (serpents) WERE ADDED TO THE CREEPING THINGS. THEY THAT CREEP ON THE GROUND GOT WINGS. THEY OF THE LONG NECKS IN THE WATER, BECAME THE PROGENITORS OF THE FOWLS OF THE AIR (a)." (SDii183)
This might have been ambiguous except for Blavatsky's comment that immediatly follows:
"(a) This is a point on which the teachings and modern biological speculation are in perfect accord. The missing links representing this transition process between reptile and bird are apparent to the veriest bigot, especially in the ornithoscelidæ, hesperornis, and the archæopteryx of Vogt." (SDii183)
(You can find interesting discussion of "archaeopteryx" if you look it up on the internet.)
In the newsweek there is this interesting comment:
"Schweitzer made yet another surpising discovery in her cache of T. Rex bones. "I started pulling the fragments out of the box and I said, 'Oh my gosh, we have a girl and she's pregnant." She had encountered what is known as medulary bone, which is characteistic of ovulating birds. The calcium to make eggshells comes from the bones, which form new tissue with a distinctive configuation. "This tissue told me dinosaurs are relatd to birds not just morpholgically" - in sructures such as the pelvis and feathers - but physiologically. In their reproductive physiology, they *are* birds."
This passage, full of human interest, should make it totally clear that Darwin was right, shouldn't it?
Theosophists, however, may justly take it to demostrate that Blavatsky was right.
Actually though the appearance of the Newsweek article at this time is probably not at all a coincidence. The debate in support of intelligent design is being actively waged. Newsweek evidently supports the materialistic Darwinian view and likely chose this cover issue and article contents to gently sway the public debate in the direction it favors. If that were so then this is not a coicidence. This newsletter is also writen in order to join the debate.
Now the seeming contradictions within Theosophy need to be straightened out.
Blavatsky refers to the laws of Darwin as "secondary". She hints at broader more profound laws of nature. These laws involve cycles and purpose and design of the universe. They involve specific design and underlying intelligence in nature.
Here for example she grants some of Darwinism:
"The fact is, that only the partial truth of many of the secondary "laws" of Darwinism is beyond question" (SDii662)
But having in mind the larger picture of occultism she will say:
"The real line of evolution differs from the Darwinian, and the two systems are irreconcilable, except when the latter is divorced from the dogma of "Natural Selection" and the like. (SDii185)
What follows is a particularly long quote from Blavatsky. You might notice that in it she makes a similar statement:
"Many of these secondary causes are purely physical, climatic, dietary, etc., etc. Very well. But beyond the secondary aspects of organic evolution, a deeper principle has to be sought for."
And she adds:
"The underlying physiological variation in species - one to which all other laws are subordinate and secondary - is a sub-conscious intelligence pervading matter, ultimately traceable to a REFLECTION of the Divine and Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom."
Here is the full quote:
"As to Natural Selection itself, the utmost misconception prevails among many present-day thinkers who tacitly accept the conclusions of Darwinism. It is, for instance, a mere device of rhetoric to credit "Natural Selection" with the power of originating species. "Natural Selection" is no Entity; but a convenient phrase for describing the mode in which the survival of the fit and the elimination of the unfit among organisms is brought about in the struggle for existence. Every group of organisms tends to multiply beyond the means of subsistence; the constant battle for life-the "struggle to obtain enough to eat and to escape being eaten" added to the environmental conditions-necessitating a perpetual weeding out of the unfit. The élite of any stock thus sorted out, propagate the species and transmit their organic characteristics to their descendants. All useful variations are thus perpetuated, and a progressive improvement is effected. But Natural Selection, in the writer's humble opinion, "Selection, as a Power," is in reality a pure myth; especially when resorted to as an explanation of the origin of species. It is merely a representative term expressive of the manner in which "useful variations" are stereotyped when produced. Of itself, "it" can produce nothing, and only operates on the rough material presented to "it." The real question at issue is: what CAUSE - combined with other secondary causes - produces the "variations" in the organisms themselves. Many of these secondary causes are purely physical, climatic, dietary, etc., etc. Very well. But beyond the secondary aspects of organic evolution, a deeper principle has to be sought for. The materialist's "spontaneous variations," and "accidental divergencies" are self-contradictory terms in a universe of "Matter, Force and NECESSITY." Mere variability of type, apart from the supervisory presence of a quasi-intelligent impulse, is powerless to account for the stupendous complexities and marvels of the human body for instance. The insufficiency of the Darwinists' mechanical theory has been exposed at length by Dr. Von Hartmann among other purely negative thinkers. It is an abuse of the reader's intelligence to write, as does Hæckel, of blind indifferent cells, "arranging themselves into organs." The esoteric solution of the origin of animal species is given elsewhere. Those purely secondary causes of differentiation, grouped under the head of sexual selection, natural selection, climate, isolation, etc., etc., mislead the Western Evolutionist and offer no real explanation whatever of the "whence" of the "ancestral types" which served as the starting point for physical development. The truth is that the differentiating "causes" known to modern science only come into operation after the physicalization of the primeval animal root-types out of the astral. Darwinism only meets Evolution at its midway point-that is to say when astral evolution has given place to the play of the ordinary physical forces with which our present senses acquaint us. But even here the Darwinian Theory, even with the "expansions" recently attempted, is inadequate to meet the facts of the case. The underlying physiological variation in species - one to which all other laws are subordinate and secondary - is a sub-conscious intelligence pervading matter, ultimately traceable to a REFLECTION of the Divine and Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom." (SDii648-9)
People may tend to think that either Darwinism explains all or that it was all designed. Of course, Theosohy is in between these two views. And some scientific minds are in agreement with Theosophy on this. So I particularly wanted to quote Philip Johnson recently being interviewed by Michael Powell (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/14/AR2005051401222_pf.html)
"I suppose you think creation is all about unguided material processes, don't you? Well, I don't have the slightest trouble accepting microevolution as the cause behind the adaptation of the peppered moth and the growth of finches' beaks. But I don't see that evolutionists have any cause for jubilation there.
"It doesn't tell you how the moths and birds and trees got there in the first place. The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can't account for that."
As far as it goes, this statement is in wonderful agreement with Theosophy.
Newsletter by Reed Wood Carson - founder of Blavatsky Net and Theosophy Foundation of Georgia.
The following is from Darwin On Trial by Philip E. Johnson p25-7
Douglas Futuyma has done the best job of marshalling the supporting evidence, and here are the examples he gives of observations that confirm the creative effectiveness of natural selection:
1. Bacteria naturally develop resistance to antibiotics, and insect pests become resistant to insecticides, because of the differential survival of mutant forms possessing the advantage of resistance.
2. In 1898 a severe storm in Massachusetts left hundreds of dead and dying birds in its wake.
Someone brought 136 exhausted sparrows to a scientist named Bumpus, I imagine so they could be cared for, but Bumpus was made of sterner stuff and killed the survivors to measure their skeletons. He found that among male sparrows the larger birds had survived more frequently than the smaller ones, even though the size diffferential was relatively slight.
3. A drought in the Galapagos Islands in 1977 caused a shortage of the small seeds on which finches feed. As a consequence these birds had to eat larger seeds, which they usually ignore. After one generation there had been so much mortality among the smaller finches, who could not easily eat the larger seeds, that the average size of the birds (and especially their beaks) went up appreciably. Futuyma comments: "Very possibly the birds will evolve back to their previous state if the environment goes back to normal, [In fact this is exactly what happened. The article "Oscillating Selection on Darwin's Finches" by Gibbs and Grant (Nature, vol. 32, p. 511, 1987) reports that small adults survived much better than large ones the following 1982-83, completely reversing the trend of 1977-82] but we can see in this example what would happen if the birds were forced to live in a consistently dry environment: they would evolve a permanent adaptation to whatever kinds of seeds are consistently available. This is natural selection in action, and it is not a matter of chance."
4. The allele (genetic state) responsible for sickle-cell anemia in African populations is also associated with a trait that confers resistance to malaria. Individuals who are totally free of the sickle-cell allele suffer high mortality from malaria, and individuals who inherit the sickle-cell allele from both parents tend to die early from anemia. Chances for survival are greatest when the individual inherits the sickle-cell allele from one parent but not the other, and so the trait is not bred out of the populaton. Futuyma comments that the example shows not only that natural selection is effective, but also that it is "an uncaring mechanical process."
5. Mice population have been observed to cease reproducing and become extinct when they are temporarily "flooded" by the spread of a gene which causes steriliy in the males.
6. Finally, Futuyma summarizes Kettlewell's famous observations of "industrial melanism" in the peppered moth. When trees were darkened by industrial smoke, dark-colored (melanic) moths became abundant because predators had difficulty seeing them against the trees. When the trees became lighter due to reduced air pollution, the lighter-colored moths had the advantage. Kettlewell's observations showed in detail how the prevailing color of moths changed along with the prevailing color of the trees. Subsequent commentators have observed that the example shows stability as well as cyclical change within a boundary, because the ability of the species to survive in a changing environment is enhanced if it maintains at all times a supply of both light and dark moths. If the light variety had disapeared altogether during the years of dark trees, the species would have been threatened with extinction when the trees lightned.
There are a few other examples in Futuyma's chapter, but I believe they are meant as illustrations to show how Darwinism accounts for certain anomalies like self-sacrificing behavior and the peacock's fan rather than as additional examples of observations confirming the effect of natural selection in producing change. If we take these six examples as the best available observational evidence of natural selection, we can draw two conclusions:
1. There is no reason to doubt that peculiar circumstancs can sometimes favor drug-resistant bacteria, or large birds as opposed to small ones, or dark-colored moths as opposed to light-colored ones. In such circumstances the populaton of drug-susceptible bacteria, small birds, and light-colored moths may become reduced for some period of time, or as long as the circumstancs prevail.
2. None of the "proofs" provides any persuasive reason for believing that natural selection can produce new species, new organs, or other major changes, or even minor changes that are permanent. The sickle-cell anemia case, for example, merely shows that in special circumstances an apparently disadvantageous trait may not be eliminated from the population. That larger birds have an advantage over smaller birds in high winds or droughts has no tendency whatver to prove that similar factors caused birds to come into existence in the first place. Very likely smaller birds have the advantage in other circumstances, which explains why birds are not continually becoming larger.
Darwin's Failure Confirms Theosophy
In my personal opinion the failure of Darwinism to explain macroevolution is one of the strongest confirmations of the truth of Theosophy - and perhaps the single best confirmation.
While the information presented in this and previous newsletters may seem sufficient to justify that claim, there is yet more reason to support it that requires a brief digression into the epistemological nature of "proof".
Judging the truth of Theosophy occurs in numerous ways for different people. Those ways include intuitive reaction, philosophical reasonableness, internal consistency, integrative capacity, explanatory power, and observation and study of life. Hopefully over time and lives we progress to more direct knowing of the metaphysics. In more external cases some predictions and assertions of Blavatsky can be reasonably tested with objective data. Long time students of Theosophy encounter a seemingly endless series of such confirmations during their years of study.
Obviously her statements on Darwinism can be tested - more effectively as the decades roll on. Specifically I am suggesting testing her claim that Darwinism is true but only a "minor" law, and that Darwinism does not account for the origin of the species.
Since her assertion was quite opposite to the accepted scientific wisdom of her time, its vindication confers all the more strength to her claims.
Her primary book making this assertion was the "Secret Doctrine" published in 1888. Darwin had published his "Origin of the Species" in 1859. By her day Darwinism had taken the scientific world by storm. By her time, any opposition to Darwinism labeled one as ignorant and worse. So when she made her assertion in the face of all the celebration and acclaim for Darwinism, it carries all the more significance when she is finally shown to have been correct.
In a sense, the ideas of Karl Popper are similar. He promoted the value of "falsifiability" of a theory. In more detail he said the theory to be tested should make "risky predictions." Since Theosophy is not presented as a theory but rather as an assertion - determined by eons of testing and checking by seers - we should look for a risky "assertion." And Blavatsky's assertions on Darwinism fully qualify as risky in the sense used by Popper.
Her assertions were not only risky in a theoretical sense but holding her view could destroy a person's career - then and now.
Louis Agassiz is the model of what happened to scientists who tried to resist the rising tide of evolution. Agassiz's tragedy is described in Gould's essay "Agassiz in the Galapagos," in "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes." As Gould tells it, the Swiss-born Harvard professor was "without doubt, the greatest and most influential naturalist of nineteenth-century America," a great scientist and a social lion who was an intimate of just about everyone who mattered. "But Agassiz's summer of fame and fortune turned into a winter of doubt and befuddlement," because his idealist philosophical bias prevented him from embracing Darwin's theory. All his students became evolutionists and he had long been a sad and isolated figure when he died in 1873." (Darwin on Trial p. 182)
(His "philosophical bias" must have been that he preferred truth and knew the geologic record too well to accept Darwinism.)
While increasing numbers of scientists are beginning to express their doubts about Darwinism, in general the road is still rocky and risky for many. The August '05 issue of Whistleblower, devoted to intelligent design, tells the following story.
The career of a prominent researcher at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington is in jeopardy after he published a peer-reviewed article by a leading proponent of intelligent design ... Richard Sternberg says that although he continues to work in the museum's Department of Zoology, he has been kicked out of his office and shunned by colleagues, prompting him to file a complain with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. ...
"I'm spending my time trying to figure out how to salvage a scientific career," Sternberg told David Klinghoffer, a columnist for the Jewish Forward, who reported the story in the Wall Street Journal. ...
[The article he published], "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," cites mainstream biologists and paleontologists from schools such as the University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford who are critical of certain aspects of Darwinism.
We might not have thought that the Smithsonian Museum would have been this close-minded and fanatical.
To give just one more example from current days - many will have heard of the fuss in the local Kansas school board. The desire is not to introduce study of the bible. It is not to introduce creationism. It is not even to introduce the theory of intelligent design. All that is desired is to introduce into the public classroom the facts concerning problems with Darwinism. And that makes headlines in Europe and the advocates of presenting this information are pilloried in the press.
So this issue fully qualifies under Popper's rule of a "risky" assertion. Therefore this vindication of Blavatsky's view has first its inherent merits. But in addition, it becomes a greatly stronger vindication because it was so bold, so contrary, and so "risky".
Blavatsky, of course, was simply presenting the ancient wisdom - verified in its turn by eons of seers. What we are witnessing is a very major vindication of the ancient wisdom.
Written by Reed Wood Carson - founder of Blavatsky Net and Theosophy Foundation of Georgia.
I remember as a young man discovering the results of the Miller-Urey experiments of the 1950's. As you may recall, they claimed that the rudiments of life had been formed automatically by nature in the bottom of a test tube by merely shooting electical sparks into a closed beaker of gases that were thought to simulate the early atmosphere of the earth. Imagine that! The origin of life explained! At least as a start. Probably it would not be much longer and science would fill in the rest of the details. Or at least so it seemed at that time.
Nor was I the only person persuaded. Carl Sagan crowed for many:
"The Miller-Urey experiment is now recognized as the single most significant step in convincing many scientists that life is likely to be abundant in the cosmos. (Quoted in Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. R. Shapiro)
Of course many others felt the same.
"The Miller-Urey experiment assures us of what we had suspected for a long time: that one can bridge the gap between the inanimate and the animate and that the appearance of life is essentially an automatic biochemical development that comes along naturally when physical conditions are right." (Astronomer Harlow Shapley, to a televison audience, as quoted in Evolution after Darwin, S. Tax, ed, 1960.)
Today this experiment is presented prominently in our schools and our culture. It is no doubt still persuading many every day.
Yet we are not hearing what the scientists themselves are saying who are involed in this line of "origin of life" research. Today those scientists recognize that the Miller-Urey experient is fatally flawed. Other experiments have also been tried. They also have failed to provide the desired answers. It is said that today's researchers in the field are in a "paradigm crisis". They do not even have a reasonable model around which they can form some kind of consensus.
So, because of the critically important philosophical implications, because of the centrality of this particular experiment (and the decades of more elaborate experiments that were inspired by it), and because of the utter illusion of its success - I will try to go into detail.
I am getting most of this material from the book "Of Pandas and People". That book has often been praised highly by intelligent design supporters and for good reason. It is very well checked, double checked, confirmed for accuracy and tested in the classroom. It is very persuasive and I recommend it highly. It requires careful attention to read but it is still quite accessable if you take it slowly. (Will be available at: Seekerbookssometime in the early summer, as we revamp the site.)
Because the book is so controversial in the view of its opponents I would like to quote for you its opening page:
Of Pandas and People went through an evolution of its own. The book's Project Chairman and Academic Editor, Dr. Charles B. Thaxton supervised the review and revision process through many drafts. Over an extended period of time, the manuscipt, either in part or in its entirety, was sent to scores of reviewers with very diverse perspectives. In addition, the book was used during its development for two years in a public school district in field test form, and feedback was taken into account in further revision. Although the manuscript was nearly always under review by someone, there was a general cadence to these reviews, which came in three basic rounds. First came a round by scientists engaged in teaching and research, then a second round by scientists. Many hundreds of valuable criticisms and suggestions were offeed, from readers holding evolutionary views as well as others in general agreement with the authors. Upon publication of the first edition, additional valuable comments became available from a wider scientifically informed readership. Our genuine thanks to the following ..."
There follows a list of 42 individuals with very impressive academic credentials.
I think anyone giving this book a serious reading will come away thoroughly disallusioned with Dawinism. But now on to the details.
In the 20th century our knowledge of the chemistry of life became much much more advanced than in Darwin's day. In 1924 the Russian biochemist A. I. Oparin proposed a way in which chemicals might possibly - unaided by outside itelligence - form the first rudiments of life.
Next a nobel prize winner in chemistry enters the picture. Professor Harold Urey (who won the prize in 1934) had a laboratory at the University of Chicago and was interested in these origin of life questions. In 1952 his undergraduate student, Stanley Miller, began the now famous experiments that attempted to experimentally verify the proposals of Oparin.
In describing the detailed 7 assumptions I will be following Of Pandas and People pages 41-58.
1. Assumption: "There was little or no oxygen in the earth's early atmosphere."
Miller filled his closed test tube apparatus with the gases methane, ammonia, hdrogen and water vapor - and no oxygen. This may seem only a detail but it is of major importance.; Today the earth's atmosphere has 21% oxygen. If the early atmosphere had only 1% oxygen the process that occurred in Miller's test tubes would not have occurred in nature.
Think of rust. Oxygen combines with minerals to turn them into something else. Oxygen stops these processes of Miller. While there has been considerable debate on the oxygen content of the earth in those early days, the consensus, including authoritative opinions, now holds that the early atmosphere contained so much oxygen that Miller's early assumptions are invalid. (However, you don't get told this if you are being "taught" by our schools today. You get misled instead.)
A minor point. Miller ran 50,000 volts of spark into his test tubes. Any oxygen present would have caused an explosion. Happily for his laboratory, Miller had carefully extracted all the oxygen from his test tubes before the simulated lightening was turned on.
2. Assumption: "The simple organic compounds formed in the soup were somehow preserved, so that the energy that caused them to form did not also destroy them."
It is necessary to put energy into the system to make the life compounds form. In the real world that energy might have been supplied by lightning bolts, ultraviolet light from the sun, cosmic rays, heat (perhaps from volcanoes) and even radioactivity. But here is the problem. That same energy that makes the compounds form also makes them disassemble.
Miller solved this problem. He removed the compounds from the bottom of the apparatus after they formed. But in the real world ... for situations requiring much time for the proper probabilities ...? Was he introducing "intelligence" - an act of God - into the experiment?
"We can see that Miller's experimental design was faulty, The trap [to collect and remove the good stuff] used in his apparatus did not realistically correspond with any reasonable protective mechanism presumed to have existed on the early earth."
3. Assumption: "Enough biological compounds were reserved for combination with the "right" molecules (rather than being tied up by reacting with useless moleculs) to form the large molecules useful to life."
Explanation: It would be useful to save up the "good stuff" so it could be combined as needed later. But that doesn't happen. The good combines with the bad and the ugly and is not available in usable form when needed for later stages.
4. Assumption: "Uniform Orientation. Only "left-handed" or L-amino acids combine to produce the proteins of life, and only the "right-handed" or D-sugars reacted to produce polysaccarides, or nucleotides."
This issue is clearer when you appreciate the 3-dimensional appearance of the molecule. The amino acids formed in Miller's experiment were 50% of the right kind (left handed) and 50% of the wrong kind (right handed). This is not what is needed for life. No one knows why but life demands exclusive handed-ness for various compounds. That is not what Miller's experiments produced.
5. Assumption: "Simultaneous Origins. The genetic machinery that tells the cell how to produce protein and the protein required to build that genetic machinery both orignated gradualy and were present and functioning in the first reproducing protocells."
Background: Amino acids join together to form proteins. DNA is made by protein.; But there is a very tight circle here. DNA is used to construct new proteins. (Through RNA, DNA contains the necessary information on how to make the very complicated proteins. But DNA is made of proteins! Which came first the chicken or the egg, that is, which came first, the DNA or the protein. This is a very striking problem. It is worse the more it is studied. For details see Of Pandas and People.
6. Specified Complexity. "The highly organized arrangement of thousands of parts in the chemical machinery needed to accomplish specialized functions orginated gradually in coacervates or other protocells."
The problem here is that one can mathematically calculate the degree of improbability of these molecules being in the right place at the right time. As a result you find statements like "This number is so enormous that there has not been enough time during the conventionally acepted age of the universe (15 billion years) to try every combination in an attempt to find the specific combination of one protein!" When one notes that much more than only one protein is needed then this assumption of Oparin is astronomically improbable.
7. Assumption: "Photosynthesis. A chemical system called photosynthesis, the process of capturing, storing, and using the energy of sunlight to make food, gradually developed within coacervates."
You see, these lucky early objects that will reproduce - need food. There was no food chain then. There was not photosynthesis where the food chain begins. Relative to photosynthesis: "There is no experimental evidence to support the view that such a complex process developed by presently known natural means. In fact, the step-by-step formation of such a complex energy-processing system is highly improbable, even over billions of years."
Indeed these are many scientific details that go beyond our everyday experience. If you read Of Pandas and People it will help greatly. Read it slowly and thoughtfully.
For a summary of the origin of life experiments I turn to Klaus Dose, a prominent evolutionist who wrote as follows in 1988:
"More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance." Klaus Dose, "The Origin of Life: More Questions Than Answers," Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1988, p. 348.
Perhaps even more telling is the response of Cricks, the co-discoverer of DNA. He understood well the problems involved. His solution to these perplexing problems - life arrived on earth as bacteria from elsewhere in the universe.It shows his level of desparation to resolve the problems that seemed so insolvable. But of course, the question is not how did life arrive on earth but how did life arrive anywhere.
After all this science we might enjoy a little poetry - actually, in this case, a little scripture:
Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world.
My own conclusion: This doesn't make sense. The origin of life experiments utterly fail in the laboratory to answer questions on the formation of life. Darwinism has been tested in the laboratory and failed. What is taught to our children is nonsense. To merely let our children see a glimmer of the scientific issues is almost instantly characterized as religious fanaticism. Lawsuits are instigated and the constitution of the US invoked - all to block this informaton. And why? Because - detailed as these scientific facts are - they have enormous implications. Those implications argue against the materialitic view of life. They favor a spiritual, respectful view of nature, of ourselves, potentially of our purpose, and our place in the universe.
This article was written by Reed Wood Carson, founder of this website and Theosophy Foundation of Georgia.