Professor James M. Tour is one of the ten most cited chemists in the world. He is famous for his work on nanocars (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia), nanoelectronics, graphene nanostructures, carbon nanovectors in medicine, and green carbon research for enhanced oil recovery and environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University. He has authored or co-authored 489 scientific publications and his name is on 36 patents. Although he does not regard himself as an Intelligent Design theorist, Professor Tour, along with over 700 other scientists, took the courageous step back in 2001 of signing the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”, which read: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
On Professor Tour’s Website, there’s a very revealing article on evolution and creation, in which Tour bluntly states that he does not understand how macroevolution could have happened, from a chemical standpoint (all bold emphases below are mine – VJT):
Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway. When hearing such extrapolations in the academy, when will we cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”?
…I simply do not understand, chemically, how macroevolution could have happened. Hence, am I not free to join the ranks of the skeptical and to sign such a statement without reprisals from those that disagree with me? … Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.
In a more recent talk, entitled, Nanotech and Jesus Christ, given on 1 November 2012 at Georgia Tech, Professor Tour went further, and declared that no scientist that he has spoken to understands macroevolution – and that includes Nobel Prize winners! Here’s what he said when a student in the audience asked him about evolution:
… I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. I understand that if I take Nature’s tool kit, it could be much easier, because all the tools are already there, and I just mix it in the proportions, and I do it under these conditions, but ab initio is very, very hard.
I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you. Is that OK, for me to say, “I don’t understand this”? Is that all right? I know that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand anything about organic synthesis, but they understand evolution. I understand a lotabout making molecules; I don’t understand evolution. And you would just say that, wow, I must be really unusual.
Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.” These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?”And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.
I was once brought in by the Dean of the Department, many years ago, and he was a chemist. He was kind of concerned about some things. I said, “Let me ask you something. You’re a chemist. Do you understand this? How do you get DNA without a cell membrane? And how do you get a cell membrane without a DNA? And how does all this come together from this piece of jelly?” We have no idea, we have no idea. I said, “Isn’t it interesting that you, the Dean of science, and I, the chemistry professor, can talk about this quietly in your office, but we can’t go out there and talk about this?”
If you understand evolution, I am fine with that. I’m not going to try to change you – not at all. In fact, I wish I had the understanding that you have.
But about seven or eight years ago I posted on my Web site that I don’t understand. And I said, “I will buy lunch for anyone that will sit with me and explain to me evolution, and I won’t argue with you until I don’t understand something – I will ask you to clarify. But you can’t wave by and say, “This enzyme does that.” You’ve got to get down in the details of where molecules are built, for me. Nobody has come forward.
The Atheist Society contacted me. They said that they will buy the lunch, and they challenged the Atheist Society, “Go down to Houston and have lunch with this guy, and talk to him.” Nobody has come! Now remember, because I’m just going to ask, when I stop understanding what you’re talking about, I will ask. So I sincerely want to know. I would like to believe it. But I just can’t.
Now, I understand microevolution, I really do. We do this all the time in the lab. I understand this. But when you have speciation changes, when you have organs changing, when you have to have concerted lines of evolution, all happening in the same place and time – not just one line –concerted lines, all at the same place, all in the same environment … this is very hard to fathom.
I was in Israel not too long ago, talking with a bio-engineer, and [he was] describing to me the ear, and he was studying the different changes in the modulus of the ear, and I said, “How does this come about?” And he says, “Oh, Jim, you know, we all believe in evolution, but we have no idea how it happened.” Now there’s a good Jewish professor for you. I mean, that’s what it is. So that’s where I am. Have I answered the question? (52:00 to 56:44)
Professor Tour’s online talk is absolutely fascinating as well as being deeply moving on a personal level, and I would strongly urge readers to listen to his talk in its entirety – including the questions after the talk. You won’t regret it, I promise you. One interesting little gem of information which I’ll reveal is that it was Professor Tour who was largely instrumental in getting Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to reject Darwinian evolution and accept Old Earth creationism, shortly before he died in 2005. It was Tour who persuaded Smalley to delve into the question of origins. After reading the books “Origins of Life” and “Who Was Adam?”, written by Dr. Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist) and Dr. Fazale Rana (a biochemist).. Dr. Smalley explained his change of heart as follows:
Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading “Origins of Life”, with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred. The new book, “Who Was Adam?”, is the silver bullet that puts the evolutionary model to death.
Strong words indeed, for a Nobel scientist. Readers can find out more about Professor Richard Smalley’s change of views here.
Why should we believe macroevolution, if nobody understands it?
Now that Professor Tour has informed the world that even Nobel Prize-winning scientists privately admit that they don’t understand macroevolution, a layperson is surely entitled to ask: “Well, if even they don’t understand it, then why should we believe it? How can we possibly be obliged to believe in a theory which nobody understands?”
That’s a good question. And it’s no use for Darwinists to trot out the standard “party line” that “even if we don’t yet understand how it happened, we still have enough evidence to infer that it happened.” At the very most, all that the current scientific evidence could establish is the common descent of living organisms. But that’s not macroevolution. Macroevolution requires more than a common ancestry for living organisms: it requires a natural mechanism which can generate the diversity of life-forms we see on Earth today from a common stock, without the need for any direction by an Intelligent Agent. But the mechanism is precisely what we don’t have evidence for. So the question remains: why should we believe in macroevolution?
The decline of academic freedom
Given the massive uncertainty about the “how” of macroevolution among scientists working in the field, you might think that a wide variety of views would be tolerated in the scientific arena – including the view that there is no such process as macroevolution. However, you would be sadly mistaken. As Professor Tour notes in his online article on evolution and creation, an alarming academic trend has emerged in recent years: a growing intolerance of dissent from Darwinism. This trend is so pronounced that Professor Tour now advises his students not to voice their doubts about Darwinism in public, if they want a successful career:
In the last few years I have seen a saddening progression at several institutions. I have witnessed unfair treatment upon scientists that do not accept macroevolutionary arguments and for their having signed the above-referenced statement regarding the examination of Darwinism. (I will comment no further regarding the specifics of the actions taken upon the skeptics; I love and honor my colleagues too much for that.) I never thought that science would have evolved like this. I deeply value the academy; teaching, professing and research in the university are my privileges and joys…
But my recent advice to my graduate students has been direct and revealing: If you disagree with Darwinian Theory, keep it to yourselves if you value your careers, unless, of course, you’re one of those champions for proclamation; I know that that fire exists in some, so be ready for lead-ridden limbs. But if the scientific community has taken these shots at senior faculty, it will not be comfortable for the young non-conformist. When the power-holders permit no contrary discussion, can a vibrant academy be maintained? Is there a University (unity in diversity)? For the United States, I pray that the scientific community and the National Academy in particular will investigate the disenfranchisement that is manifest upon some of their own, and thereby address the inequity.
It remains to be seen if other countries will allow their young scientists to think freely about the origin of life, and of the various species of organisms that we find on Earth today. What I will say, though, is that countries which restrict academic freedom will eventually be overtaken by countries which allow it to prosper. There is still time for America and Europe to throw off the dead hand of Darwinism in academic circles, and let their young people breathe the unaccustomed air of free speech once again.
(UPDATE: Here’s a link to my follow-up post, Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details. It amply refutes the simplistic charge, made by some skeptics, that Professor Tour was conflating macroevolution with the question of the origin of life.)
From an early age, human infants are able to produce vocalizations in a wide range of emotional states and situations — an ability felt to be one of the factors required for the development of language. Researchers have found that wild bonobos (our closest living relatives) are able to vocalize in a similar manner. Their findings challenge how we think about the evolution of communication and potentially move the dividing line between humans and other apes.
Author Zanna Clay said that the findings show that “more research needs to be done on our great ape relatives before we can make conclusions about human uniqueness. The more we look, the more continuity we find among animals and humans”
The type of functional flexibility they observed in bonobos could represent an important evolutionary transition from functionally fixed animal vocalisations towards flexible human vocalisations, which seems to have appeared some 6-10 million years ago in the shared common ancestor between humans and great apes. It appears that many of the core features of human language have deep roots in the primate lineage.
So then one of my distant descendants can phone up a bonobo and interview him, right?
Nope. Bet it never happens.
The fact that people don’t start openly mocking this nonsense shows how far pop science has diverged from common sense. And it doesn’t matter except for one thing: The nonsense always detracts from human civil liberties without helping animals.
Note from experience: Cats are also able to “produce vocalizations in a wide range of emotional states and situations — an ability felt to be one of the factors required for the development of language.” The difference is, no one funds studies on cat vocalizations. So what is the true motive for funding studies of bonobo vocalizations? Really. Honestly.
And is the taxpayer funding it? Does anyone else ever get sick of all this?
See also: Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness
Many people in their forties today grew up with science as the business end of naturalist atheism. In their view, a “scientific” explanation is one that describes a universe devoid of meaning, value, or purpose. That is how we know it is a scientific explanation.
Science wasn’t always understood that way, and the new approach has consequences. It means, for example, that multiverse cosmology can consist entirely of evidence-free assumptions. Yet only a few question whether it is science.
Indeed, physicist Carlo Rovelli sounds distinctly old-fashioned when he says, “Science does not advance by guessing.” That depends on what you count as an advance. If science means projects such as ruling out the Big Bang and fine-tuning of the universe — irrespective of evidence, because they smack of theism — then guessing is an accepted and acceptable strategy.
Similarly, origin-of-life studies are “scientific” to the extent that they seek an origin without any intelligent cause. A century and a half of dead ends prompts no rethink; neither would a millennium. Even if probability theorists can show, beyond reasonable doubt, that an intelligent cause is required, their correct explanation would be rejected because it is not “scientific.”
And in studies of human evolution, the starting point is that “humans are evolved primates, an unexceptional twig on the tree of life, though like other twigs, we are accidental outliers.” Again, no one seeks to demonstrate that proposition. And no finding that doesn’t support that interpretation can be considered “science.” Any thesis that does support it, even that humans are chimp-pig hybrids, may be considered science.
So the “scientific” approach to that least material of entities, the human mind, means interpreting it in a naturalist and materialist way.
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
In future articles, we will look at the “hard problem” of consciousness and the conundrums that free will, altruism, and religion create for naturalism. Plus a side trip into naturalism’s pop culture expressions: “evolutionary” claims about psychology, politics, business, and art. These claims are often taken seriously by opinion leaders. After all, however exotic, they need only be fully naturalist to qualify, at least potentially, as science.
Most partial or whole explanations of the human mind propose one of the following models:
- The brain randomly generates illusions that self-organize as a “mind.” Behavior is thus better accounted for by the study of neurons (neuroscience) than the study of the illusory “mind.”
- Our hominoid ancestors passed on hypothetical genes via natural selection acting on random mutation. These claimed (not demonstrated) genes result in our attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior — mistakenly seen as the outcome of thought processes (evolutionary psychology).
- Identified genes determine behavior in the present day, the way a light switch controls a circuit. These include the “bad driver” gene, the infidelity gene, and the liberal gene, for starters. Whether or not such claims correspond to how genes work, the pop science media deems them plausible because they are naturalist. They bypass widespread illusions such as moral and intellectual choice.
- Our primate cousins’ behavior can explain ours, because we are 98 percent chimpanzee. Naturalism means never having to ask commonsense questions like: If chimps’ behavior explains ours, why didn’t they develop as we did? Naturalism simply does not process such questions. It is true without evidence, and cannot be confuted by evidentiary failures.
- Artificial intelligence enthusiasts hope to create conscious machines with superior intelligence, in short, a material mind. 2020 is the current apocalypse year according to some. We’ll swing by that approach, if only because so many people take it seriously. Again, however preposterous, if it is naturalist, it is science.
Ironically, while Darwin may have doubted the fully naturalized mind and felt horrid about it, most of his latter-day supporters believe and feel good. And, on its own terms, their faith cannot be disconfirmed.
Middle-age and older people who are highly stressed, have depression or who are perhaps even just cynical may be at increased risk of stroke, according to new research.
In the study, more than 6,700 healthy adults ages 45 to 84 completed questionnaires about their stress levels, depressive symptoms, feelings of anger, and hostility, which is a measure of holding cynical views about other people. The researchers then followed the participants for eight to 11 years, and looked at the relationship between these psychological factors and people’s risk of having a stroke.
“There’s such a focus on traditional risk factors — cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and so forth. And those are all very important, but studies like this one show that psychological characteristics are equally important,” said study researcher Susan Everson-Rose, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
I’ve found an interesting article from Robert Walkers which can be found here:
Modern maths has a “Heath Robinson” type approach – at least philosophically – with its many sizes of infinity and logical paradoxes. Would this be the same for ETs? Also, what if they experience time and space differently from us? Perhaps they can only reason using flashes of insight?
Or, perhaps topology is easy, but counting, for them, is an advanced concept few understand? Or perhaps they use quantum logic or some other logic we haven’t thought of yet? Or, might they see everything as fractals?
With no experience of ET mathematicians, we haven’t got much to go on. But, let’s take a look at a few of the ways ET maths could take different approaches from ours, or be hard for us to understand.
INFINITY, SETS AND LOGICAL PARADOXES
This is an area of maths (use of sets…
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20 years ago, nuclear science died a horrible death at the hands of President Clinton and Senator John Kerry. It’s science fiction fantasy to imagine now what nuclear science would be like if the last 40 years had been spent with American ingenuity and technological prowess tackling the issue, rather than it becoming a political football to placate anti-science activists before finally being killed off.
Its legacy haunts us today. With nuclear energy blockaded well before that, and modern hydraulic fracturing not yet created, America had to rely more on coal. Environmental groups never accept any blame for the U.S. rise in CO2 emissions, but it rests squarely on them as much as it does on automobiles.
And their lobbyists still retain a vice grip on our science policy. One of the most thorough science projects in history, the study of Yucca Mountain, has been suppressed by the Obama administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today seemingly exists to block nuclear regulation. The person who runs it, Allison Macfarlane, knows nothing about nuclear physics and was chosen for the job because she wrote a book lobbying against Yucca Mountain, while one of the NRC team is the former head of the progressive advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists – anti-nuclear activists shape our nuclear future.
But American business can still be creative and UPower Techologies thinks it may have a way to get nuclear energy going again without being blocked by Democrats; a modular nuclear thermal battery that works out of the box to drive any energy source needed. Most energy generation is steam, for example, and their 1 MW of co-processed heat can power an military base, where generators are common, which will power the entire operation without having to use generators powered by fossil fuels.
The best part: it is a self-contained, Fukushima-proof, bomb-proof battery, there is no coolant, no pumps, no external pipes – nothing to melt down.
The battery will last 10 years and then the same material can be recycled 7 times. In 70 years, Yucca Mountain might even be approved, and we might not have nuclear waste stored at over 100 individual sites of suspect integrity.
Kyle Russell at TechCrunch says their timetable is short enough for venture capitalists to be interested because they don’t need to actually operate their reactors to get to the next phase with regulators – in the 1990s, President Clinton also banned nuclear testing, because numerical simulation was good enough. If it was good enough in the 1990s, simulations surely have to be good enough for the NRC of 2014.