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Letters submitted to The Wisconsin State Journal but not published
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The Wisconsin State Journal
On May 21, 2005, the Wisconsin State Journal published yet another article on the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution in schools. I submitted the following letter, which was not published:-

May 22, 2005
The Editor
Wisconsin State Journal

The opponents of free evolution discussion in schools try to divert attention from the weakness of their scientific position by making this out to be a religious issue. It is a scientific issue. All scientific theories have strengths and weaknesses that should be open to discussion. This is particularly important in the case of evolution, because the literature contains many serious logical fallacies and extravagant, unsupported claims.

For example, Prof. Edward Wilson of Harvard University recently claimed "that all living phenomena originated and evolved by natural selection". I sent him an email reminding him of the known formidable logical difficulties with this view, but received no reply. As my prose seemed to have no effect, I decided to burst into verse.

The Perceptive Parrot - an Evolutionary Epic

On the banks of the Zambesi
Life is never very easy:
    The tsetse is but one fly in the ointment.

If you're hoping for a smile
From the nearest crocodile,
    You probably are doomed to disappointment.

Long John Silver once passed by,
Reason gleaming in one eye.
     For Darwin, he had quite a predilection:

"There's one problem I can't solve:
How did crocodiles evolve?"
    His parrot said, "By natural selection.

From some molecules in strife,
Came the origin of life,"
    The parrot said, "by natural selection.

Though mutations seem far out,
They acquire colossal clout,"
    The parrot said, "by natural selection.

If you start with an amoeba,
You can reach the Queen of Sheba,"
    The parrot said, "by natural selection.

Thus, for all that has evolved,
Every problem has been solved,"
    The parrot said, "by natural selection."

          Arthur S. Lodge

Arthur S. Lodge
3010 Woods Edge Way
Madison WI 53711-5153
Tel. 608-278-0249

Medicare Malpractice

I and some other asthma patients want to purchase (rather than rent) a nebulizer for frequent use for the forseeable future. On the Internet, I find a variety of units for sale at prices in the range $55 to $212. Some, but not all, vendors require a doctor's prescription as do hospitals and drugstores, but this requirement forces one to go through Medicare, if you have it.
In order to purchase outright through Medicare, however, one must accept an initial 10-month rental at fees of $60 to $107 per month, followed by an additional charge of about $280 for (optional) final purchase of the previously-rented unit. The Medicare total charge is thus in the range $780 to $1350. Medicare uses our taxes to pay 80% of this remarkable charge.
What price monopoly?

Arthur S. Lodge
Madison, WI
Sent on 3/20/05; not published

The paper published a feature article on February 3, 2005, on fruit fly wing spot research. I sent the following criticism which was not published:

At the end of your February 3rd account of Professor Sean Carroll's interesting fruit fly research into gene control mechanisms, you add the claim "Certain characteristics, such as spots on a fly's wing, arise simply out of chance". Does this claim in fact play any role in this research? What evidence is there to support this claim? Surely this is but another example in the long-standing controversy in evolutionary theory about the mechanism by which any new type of genetic material made its first appearance on Earth.

David Swift (Evolution Under the Microscope) claims that recent biomolecular research shows that biological proteins are just so complex and specialized that they cannnot possibly have arisen by chance in the time available. He argues that the range of applicability of the Neo-Darwinian Theory is restricted to evolutionary processes in which natural selection, genetic drift, etc., acted on various reshufflings of genetic material which had been present for a long time (about 50 million years, in the case of horse evolution). Andrew Knoll (Life on a Young Planet) admits that no-one knows how the genetic code originated.

Of course, criticism of the idea that chance-initiated processes can lead to complex organisms has been made ever since Darwin first advanced his hypothesis about chance mutations and natural selection. Many seem to accept Julian Huxley's loosely-worded claim that "natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability". If valid, this claim would go some (but not the whole) way towards answering the criticism, but the claim has never been proved valid, to the best of my knowledge.

     Arthur S. Lodge

The above article states that Prof. Carroll said that he had proved that the fly wing spots arose simply out of chance. In fact, although in science one may be able to disprove a theory, one can never prove a theory. Prof. Carroll told me that his proof is in the Nature article cited; I can find no proof in this article. It is also curious that the State Journal should, on Feb. 3, have published a major article stated to be based on the Nature article; but the Nature article carries the same date!
Arthur Lodge   May 5, 2005

The paper published a main article on evolution on January 7, 2005. I mailed a reply entitled A Perceptive Parrot on January 12. On January 20, the paper published 11 letters on evolution; mine was not published - an unpublishable parrot?

The following was submitted on November 22, 2004, as a Guest Column in reply to one by Andrew Bent, published on November 21, 2004. My column was not published. [Items in square brackets were included in a first submitted version]:

Darwinism - A "Live Rail"?      by      Arthur S. Lodge

Is Darwinism a  "live rail" -  to be touched at one's peril? Here are three pointers:

¨After making recent changes in their biology curriculum wording to remove constraints on the teaching of evolution, the Grantsburg School Board was deluged by protests from deans on down.

¨In 1983, the Journal of Theoretical Biology published a paper describing a non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanism proposed by Professor John A. Davison. His department then held a meeting (from which he was excluded), cancelled his biology classes, and froze his salary. The University of Vermont subsequently decided to revoke his tenure*.

¨In the PBS 7-part series Evolution (2001), Darwinists gave their views without challenge, no scientific criticisms were allowed, and Neo-Darwinian Theory ("NDT") difficulties were ignored.

Is there an explanation?

The "fact" of evolution in the sense of descent with modifications is accepted by NDT critics. Indeed, in Evolution Under the Microscope (2002), even as trenchant a critic as David Swift agrees that, over the past 50 million years or so, the horse evolved through its various forms by means of natural selection acting on the results of reshufflings of genes which existed from the start; he suggests that no new genetic material was involved.

It is, rather, the proposed mechanism for generating new genetic material which is controversial. NDT critics claim* that it is too improbable for complex living organisms to have arisen from inanimate matter, or from simpler organisms, by means of processes initiated by chance mutations alone, whether culled by natural selection, etc.*, or not.

[Darwin, aware of such difficulties, was a master salesman who used false advertising and "bait and switch" tactics: even the distinguished and dedicated Darwinist, George Gaylord Simpson,  conceded* that Darwin's book The Origin of Species was not about the origin of species.

Darwin recognized that the evolution of organs as complex as the human eye presented a serious problem for his theory but, having used the bait complexity increase (which is essential for evolution from "no eye" to an eye), he switched the rest of his discussion to increases in adaptation to the environment. These may not explain what is needed, however, because increases in adaptation do not necessarily involve increases in complexity.

The response to the "improbable mechanism" criticism has been not a convincing rebuttal but assertions* which are either unproved (e.g., "natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability"; in 2 billion years, "the impossible becomes…virtually certain") or untrue (e.g., "just about everything that happens is highly improbable"). In 1954, one of the world's most eminent statisticians published a probability argument intended to help in refuting the "improbable mechanism" criticism but, 50 years later, the argument was shown* to contain a serious error which rendered it invalid.

To the best of my knowledge, the crucial "improbable mechanism" criticism still stands. It was summarily dismissed by Professor Bent in his recent Evolution article (Guest Column, November 21).]

Professor Bent (Guest Column, November 21) dismisses this criticism on the grounds that hundreds of millions of years provided plenty of time for the "mechanisms that are taught in introductory biology classes" to have worked. Presumably, he means the NDT mechanisms, i.e., chance mutations, natural selection, genetic drift, etc*. According to an estimate made by Harold Morowitz, however, the probability of obtaining even a single cell by chance mechanisms is so minute that even billions of years would be far too short a time for it to have happened.

Professor Bent also claims that "new findings (about DNA…) have strengthened..evolution theories". However, in his recent meticulous review of the whole field, David Swift reached the opposite conclusion: that new findings at the biomolecular level have made it increasingly difficult to accept the NDT mechanisms as credible means for generating new genetic material, biological macromolecules being just too complex and too specialized to have been formed by chance.

Professor Bent states that the "incredible complexity provides no reason to dispense with well-reasoned analysis". Is he referring, perhaps, to Julian Huxley's claim that "natural selection is a mechanism for generating an exceedingly high degree of improbability"? I have been unable to find any proof of this; Huxley referred to a probability argument developed by R. A. Fisher, but I have shown* that this argument contains a serious error which renders it invalid.

To the best of my knowledge, the "improbable mechanism" criticism still stands.

What accounts for some Darwinists' uncritical dogmatism and lackadaisical logic? Is it the fear that, if complex living organism generation was not initiated by chance mechanisms, then perhaps design, and (horror!) a Designer, might need to be considered?

Why the horror? Perhaps it is partly because, as one philosopher* put it, people think that "scientific and religious modes of thought stand in fundamental opposition to one another". But do they?

It is true that science and religion cover different fields of investigation (the material and the spiritual). They have, however, a common goal (truth) and both involve reason, faith and experiment. Interpretations of scientific experiments tacitly involve faith in the constancy of Nature, and it was in a religious context that, in order to help people to decide which of two alternative hypotheses was valid, the use of an experiment was first proposed* (in about 800 BC).

The Grantsburg policy is correct: unfettered, detached discussion - wherever it may lead.


Lodge, a University of Wisconsin-Madison emeritus professor, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.                                        END (679 words)

Submitted on April 10, 2003, but not published:

On April 9, you quoted a new report that predicts Wisconsin temperatures 30 years from now. Can the report's authors also predict Wisconsin temperatures 30 days from now?

You also quoted the authors' claim that some negative effects of climatic changes can be avoided by reducing heat-trapping gases. However, according to another report mentioned at the web site, "Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas: it absorbs about five times more terrestrial radiation than all the other gases combined".

Carbon dioxide is only a small fraction of all heat-trapping gases, and human activities can affect at most only a small fraction of this small fraction.

Is there any evidence that human activities have ever had any significant effect on global temperatures?

          Arthur S. Lodge, Madison

Submitted on September 25, 2001:

The Editor
Wisconsin State Journal

Should PBS change its name to the Propaganda Broadcasting Society? Their current Evolution series is a disgraceful misuse of public money. Science it is not.

Most scientific theories have weaknesses as well as strengths, but apparently not Darwinism which PBS seems to regard as the greatest invention since sliced bread. PBS gives us lectures by devout Darwinists, but all critical scientific questions are censored and difficulties are not raised.

Darwinism has always faced serious difficulties; these have increasingly been publicized and discussed in recent books and on web sites. All that PBS concedes, however, is that "not everyone agrees" with Darwinism. They then show us a 1-second picture of a pile of books by critics, but that is all. The critics are incorrectly dismissed as being religiously motivated. No scientific critic is interviewed or permitted to speak.

For far too long, Darwinists have claimed far too much. Like Flat Earthers, they resolutely refuse to recognize the difficulties of their position. Why does PBS promote and protect them?

          Arthur S. Lodge

Submitted on May 2, 2001:

Your April 29 Books section reprints the New York Times review of Steve Jones' new book Darwin's Ghost: "The Origin of Species" Updated, which states that "with the help of the latest research in evolutionary biology" the author "finds that modern science has in large part confirmed and expanded Darwin's ideas".

The opposite conclusion was reached by the biochemist Michael Behe in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. In one example, Professor Behe took 20 pages to outline the many complex, independent mechanisms involved in blood clotting which must switch on and off at the right times if a wound is to be protected without excessive clotting that might kill the patient. Professor Behe coined the phrase irreducible complexity to describe this and many other examples that involve several independent working mechanisms. He argued cogently that Darwin's theory (chance mutation + natural selection) cannot possibly account for the generation of any of these mechanisms.

So how does Steve Jones deal with this criticism? Very simply: he ignores it.

In 1966, the distinguished Darwinist Ernst Mayr stated that "…the original Darwinian model … is so good that it can explain everything….". In his 1993 book Darwin on Trial (also ignored by Steve Jones), Phillip Johnson gave an extensive, critical survey of the whole field. He concluded that "Natural selection exists, to be sure, but no one has evidence that it can accomplish anything remotely resembling the creative acts that Darwinists attribute to it" (p. 117).

Darwinists have claimed far too much for far too long. Like Flat Earthers, they refuse to recognize the difficulties of their position.

Arthur S. Lodge, Madison

Submitted on May 11, 2002:

The Editor
Wisconsin State Journal

Do the letters PBS now stand for Propaganda Broadcasting System?

I recently received an email from PBS, advertising a repetition of their program Evolution last year’s 8-hour spectacular, entirely paid for by Paul Allen of Microsoft. The PBS email quotes carefully-selected favorable comments made following last year’s presentation, but makes no reference to the extensive, serious, and detailed criticisms which have also been made (e.g., in Getting The Facts Straight a Viewer’s Guide to PBS’s Evolution, 152 pages, The Discovery Institute, Seattle, 2001). The program itself included a one-sided mish-mash of Darwinist dogma. Offers of collaboration from certain well-qualified, competent critics were rejected. The severe difficulties facing Darwinism were entirely ignored, and false allegations about critics were included.

In the past 20 years or so, PBS has devoted many hours to programs on evolution. I can recall only one program in which Darwinists and their critics were allowed to question each other; on this program, participants were allowed all of 2 minutes to present their case!

Does PBS feel that the Darwinists’ case is so weak that it must be shielded from adequate discussion at all costs?

Arthur S. Lodge, Madison

Submitted on August 17, 2002

The Letters Editor
Wisconsin State Journal

I disagree with Faye Flam's August 17 opinion that "scientific fraud is relatively rare". According to Jonathan Wells (Icons of Evolution, Regnery Publishing, 2000, p.249, "peppered moth" entries D, F), examples can be found in eight recently published biology textbooks used in schools throughout the US.

The change in peppered moth population from light- to dark-colored during the industrial revolution in England was for decades attributed to the pollution darkening of tree trunks where resting moths would, if light colored, be less well camouflaged and hence subject to comparatively greater bird predation. It turns out, however, that, in the wild, the natural resting places of these moths are not on vertical tree trunks, and that bird predation of peppered moths from natural resting places in the wild has never been observed. Nevertheless, some biology textbooks still uncritically present the old story and illustrate it with photographs of dead moths glued on tree trunks. The textbooks' failure to state that the photographs were taken in this way constitutes scientific fraud.

For this and other cogent reasons, summarized at and discussed in Wells' Chapter 7, the old peppered moth story, for decades the "prize horse in the evolutionary stables", is now becoming known as the "peppered myth".

Arthur S. Lodge, Madison