Being a newcomer here, I looked over the introduction to the Forum and read the following in a section headed “Disputing Mainstream Science”:
Arguments on the internet between non-professionals rarely (if ever) have bearing on how mainstream science progresses.
This is just not how science works.
Science is not intuitive. It is very mathematical and technical. Science requires very careful adherence to specific logical rules and standards. There are a multitude of rhetorically strong points that convince the crowds, but are totally false.
As a non-professional arguing on the internet I must agree with the first sentence. I also agree with the second. But the last sentence, even if true, seems a bit ironic. I am introducing this topic because I believe the theory of evolution by natural selection, at least as explained by eloquent and meticulous naturalists like Darwin, is rhetorically strong and yet mostly false. (It just convinces a different crowd.)
That said, I want to introduce an argument that I have presented elsewhere, and which so far has been met with two main responses from defenders of evolution: (1) an assertion that evolution is a fact and the science is settled; and (2) a reminder that I am not a scientist. Neither of these can be considered a sound rebuttal to an argument. Given that this forum is dedicated to conversations both peaceful and rational, I thought it might be better received here…
Basically, I think evolutionary theory commits a fallacy of composition. That is, it postulates that because natural selection explains the development of the various components that constitute a functionally complex system (like the vertebrate eye or the flagellum), it explains the emergence of the entire system. For example, biologists at UC San Diego have stated (though it’s been a few years now): “Based on research conducted in hundreds of laboratories over several decades, we can outline how the components within the modular bacterial flagellum evolved from several different sources unrelated to an organelle of motility.” Their conclusion? “Natural selection thus accounts for the development of flagellum-driven bacterial motility.” – Tim Wong et al., “Evolution of the Bacterial Flagellum,” Microbe, 2, 7, 2007, p. 339.
In other words, if natural selection accounts for the parts, it accounts for the whole. One need not (thankfully) be a biologist to recognize a fallacy of composition here. Perhaps than we can address the problem as an industrial engineer might, in that there seems to be an important but often overlooked distinction between fabrication and assembly (some would say fabrication and manufacture) of biological systems. On my view natural selection may well explain, for example, the development (fabrication) of any number of sizes and shapes of beaks among finches in the Galapagos in response to varying environmental conditions; but natural selection would not explain the emergence (assembly) of a finch – a complex system consisting not only of beak, but feathers, talons, organ systems, organs, cells, macromolecules, etc. – in the first place.
To put it another way, if the parts of a complex function have “evolved from several different sources unrelated” to that function, then the emergence of the function itself is little more than a coincidence. But coincidence is never an explanation. I am not saying, nor do I believe, that my argument completely demolishes evolution, but I do contend that it calls attention to a serious explanatory weakness in the theory that ought to be addressed.
Presently I am working on a book with the above as the central argument. But if the argument is a failure I would rather know sooner than later. As I told a philosopher friend who recently declined to review or comment on my book because, as he said, creationism has already been debunked, “My core argument…is not at all typical of creationist arguments. Now maybe it’s a complete dud. If so, I kind of wish someone would go ahead and refute it so I could move on to something else.”