Thursday, June 14, 2012

How Mathematics Can Prove Evolution

Dr. Rosenhouse

For those of you who do not know the name, Dr. Jason Rosenhouse, I urge you to read an article this distinguished professor of mathematics wrote in 2001. It fully refutes all those supposedly “brilliant” minds who peddle Intelligent Design and suggest it to be  a) appropriate and factual, b) an accurate refutation of Darwin and his theories, c) at least an equally valid set of scientific insights missed by the great many biologists, chemists, physicists, anthropologists, astronomers and geologists who either ignore or actually refute ID. 

Here is a link to some of Rosenhouse’s publications The one specific title is,  “HowAnti-Evolutionists Abuse Mathematics.”

The attack on Darwin from the real scientific community is zero. Natural Selection really isn't a "theory" although we define that word in science differently then lay folk. Natural Selection, like gravity, is actually a law and should be considered as such by everyone. It is only those who wish to refute natural selection in favor of Intelligent Design that do not accept the processes of evolution and the organic basis of all life, which are accidental but follow natural and mathematical laws.

I will admit, the math in this article is very dense, but Rosenhouse’s arguments against ID and its sometimes vocal proponents are very solid.  He shows mathematically for instance that evolution does not violate the laws of thermodynamics, as certain ID peddlers will tell uneducated believers to bolster the idea that Darwin was and is wrong.  As is the case, Rosenhouse eloquently notes that genetic mutations, which occur naturally, are for the most part neutral in any given species.  He suggests that the real battle is between (natural) selection, which is attempting to send beneficial mutations through a population and genetic drift which tends to remove these genes from the population before they build up in any species

Rosenhouse takes on Michael Behe, Berlinski Sewel and other pseudo scientists of the ID movement.  The author notes, most of these “armchair philosophers believe they can refute in a day what thousands of scientist have build over the course of a century.”

As Rosenhouse notes in this article, the math these guys get wrong and the concepts they change to meet their ID needs are major mis-applications of thoughts and good science. He also notes that real scientists and mathematicians ID proponents as being on the fringe, and that they are not respected by the actual science community.  He notes:

ID theorists, much like the creationists before them, know they will not convince scientifically knowledgeable people. Instead, they market their ideas to a public untrained in both the methods and findings of science. And all too often theirs is the only viewpoint readily available.

But it’s the final paragraph of the article that reinforces for me that we must meet all ideas which are pseudoscience with disdain for their incorrectness, but must also treat those who peddle such ideas with common human respect.  In this case, we must attack the message and not the messenger, especially since most people are not scientists and can be easily mislead by ID and Young Earth Creationists. If we come off nasty, we look like bullies rather than defenders of actual science inquiry and methods. Rosenhouse states:

           When scientists are presented with subjects that invoke the terminology of science to
           defend nonsense, like astrology or creationism, they use the term pseudoscience. I
           suggest we  need a similar term, pseudomathematics perhaps, to describe mathematical
           formalism, used to promote bad arguments.  As professional mathematicians, we all have
          an interest in protecting the integrity of our subject. We have an obligation to be aware
          how mathematics is being used in the public square. When we see pseudo mathematics, we
          should not be afraid to identify it.

This is exactly why science works.  It explore ideas rather than starting from a conclusion and working backwards, ignore or manipulate evidence, data or other research, so it fit one’s personal perspective.  Darwin’s many works remain seminal in that they support the best, most accurate way we have  to explain the rise and changes in organic and cosmological life. This is why Evolution is science and ID is pseudoscience. Darwin’s work is foundational to so many areas of science because his research was detailed and based on rationality, a naturalistic view of the mechanics of the universe and that of biology. 

To believe ID can lead to any true knowledge outside of substantiating forms of current theology is in itself dishonest.  Intelligent Design is not biblical heresy, but it certainly is heretic to our understanding of how the universe operates.  This is why ID must not be avoided but actually confronted.  If we do not confront bad ideas with the better ideas of reason, logic and science, then the United States, indeed the world is setting itself up for yet another Dark Age.  And if history were to repeat itself in this way, no one would be better off – with the exception of many houses of worship and those who lead them. 


  1. I feel people who peddle ID are actually traitors because if this idiocy becomes more widespread in schools it will handicap us as the students in the rest of the world are taught true science.

  2. Dear Skakatany,

    You bring up a very good point. Denying evolution is the first step in denying a whole set of logic and science.

    Other nations that teach natural selection as fact, rather than one option in terms of our universe's diversity, will clearly be more competitive and inquisitive (and humane).

    Both competition and inquiry are requisite for science to flourish and religious faith to whither.

    1. Dear PL,

      Do you think that it is contradictory to believe in natural selection but not evolution? I can observe natural selection in the sense that I can observe that certain members of a group, who lack important abilities that other members have, will not survive to reproduce as much. Their frailties select them out. But how do I observe Darwinian evolution? I have reasons of faith for not believing evolution, but not being able to test it directly seems like a striking argument. What do you think?

    2. Dear Anonymous,

      I cannot tell you what you should believe or not. That is for you to decide. If you accept what your faith offers you, so be it. I can only offer you the evidence of science which is defined by examining and testing the knowable and not the supernatural.

      However, I conclude that natural selection and evolution are the same process. Not only that, but we have science and discovery to back this up.

      Do you believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old? That humans and apes do not share a common ancestor? That species adapt, evolve or become extinct?

      The scientific evidence for evolution, that is what is scientifically observable from cosmology, physics, biology, chemistry, genetics, geology and anthropology is hugely apparent. No scientist of worth denies the natural process of evolution or accepts ID or creationsim.

      I do know many people of faith who accept evolution and natural selection. They observe the natural world but believe "God" put it all into motion.

      As there is no proof of god (think of how many there have been; Ra, Zeus, Thor, The Hebrew god, Jesus, etc.) and their association religions, that I cannot see faith as anything but human hubris and ego based on fear of the unknown.

      As there is the human conceit of faith, which many acknowledge (including myself) but have no need for in their personal life to define goodness or to act morally, I cannot accept any faith or god as a factual position to explain the world.

      But to your question. Yes, you can test evolution directly. Have you ever caught a cold? The common flu virus evolves to invade its host. Ever grow vegetables? Look at ancient corn and its modern varieties.

      If you were to just seriously look at the evidence you may find your need for faith isn't as vital. But if you look at the evidence for natural selection and still need your faith, that is your choice. So be it and as long as it doesn't interfere with my ability to lead a secular life, then you can have it.


    3. Dear David,

      Thank you for the reply. There are many trails of conversation that we could follow. To keep it simple, though, here is one thing that you wrote that stands out to me and that I do not understand:

      "As there is the human conceit of faith, which many acknowledge (including myself) but have no need for in their personal life to define goodness or to act morally..."

      But how do you know that you are good? What is your standard?

      Thanks for your time,

  3. I'm wondering if this paper has been peer reviewed. If so it would be of great use to me in fighting (gently) the IDocrats on a mathematical level. I often use the "peer reviewed" card in arguments and it only seems fair to do the same on all the info I use in turn.
    I just found this site and look forward to a little play-time in your articles. Thanks for being here.

  4. I'm not the least bit surprised that the article contained zero mathematical proof of evolution.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Clearly your interest is not in evidence or truth but that your're on some theistic mission. Did you actually read the Rosenhouse articles? My strong guess is you didn't. Which only proves my point and your ignorance and need for metaphysics. Something atheists don't need to lead a good and moral life.

    If you ever want to equate science with faith, you'll not get any agreement here. You can be relativistic if you wish, if that's how you need to operate to justify your delusion, but those of us who do not rely on magical thinking will of course reject such notions.

    Magic is defined as suspension of the natural world. Which is what religion and faith require the believer to accept as real. Science looks to uncover how the natural world operates. Science and faith do not operate in the same domains at all.

    One is based on belief the other evidence. You've clearly chosen belief. I have (and many others) have chosen an evidenced-based life as the most healthy way to be in this world.


  6. sorry, this guy doesn't refute anyone, he is just clearly looking for a pay day through fame, made up claims, insulting other people with credited degrees.
    no wonder no one has heard of this guy! LOL