Sunday, 19 October 2014

Storytelling Cannot Solve Darwin's Problem, i.e. The Sudden Origin of Language

Our linguistic skills cannot be explained by Darwinian mechanisms.

Joel Kontinen

Since the time of Darwin, the (naturalistic) origin of language has troubled evolutionists. A recent article in PLoS Biology attempts to tackle this problem.

The authors acknowledge that it is indeed an enigma:

“The evolution of the faculty of language largely remains an enigma. In this essay, we ask why. Language's evolutionary analysis is complicated because it has no equivalent in any nonhuman species. There is also no consensus regarding the essential nature of the language ‘phenotype.’ According to the ‘Strong Minimalist Thesis,’ the key distinguishing feature of language (and what evolutionary theory must explain) is hierarchical syntactic structure. The faculty of language is likely to have emerged quite recently in evolutionary terms, some 70,000–100,000 years ago, and does not seem to have undergone modification since then, though individual languages do of course change over time, operating within this basic framework.”

Johan Bolhuis and his colleagues go on to say:

Within a remarkably short space of time, art was invented, cities were born, and people had reached the moon. By this reckoning, the language faculty is an extremely recent acquisition in our lineage, and it was acquired not in the context of slow, gradual modification of preexisting systems under natural selection but in a single, rapid, emergent event that built upon those prior systems but was not predicted by them.... For reasons like these, the relatively sudden origin of language poses difficulties that may be called ‘Darwin's problem.’ ”

Except for the part on reaching the moon, this looks a bit like a description from the early chapters of Genesis that depict humans as being intelligent and innovative from the very beginning.

It was Charles Darwin himself who initially put to words the horrid doubt that the authors refer to. Writing to William Graham on 3rd July 1881, he stated:

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?”

While they attempt to address this problem they actually manage make things worse for Darwinism:

Evolution by natural selection is not a causal factor of either cognitive or neural mechanisms. Natural selection can be seen as one causal factor for the historical process of evolutionary change, but that is merely stating the essence of the theory of evolution.”

It seems that evolution is an inadequate explanation for the emergence of language:

"In addition, evolutionary analysis of language is often plagued by popular, naïve, or antiquated conceptions of how evolution proceeds."

Language is an immaterial phenomenon. It cannot be explained by storytelling.

It takes intelligence (and a mind) to invent something as sophisticated as language.


Bolhuis, Johan J. 2014. Ian Tattersall, Noam Chomsky, Robert C. Berwick. 2014. How Could Language Have Evolved? PLoS Biology 12(8): e1001934. (26 August).

Darwin correspondence project.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Saturn’s Moon Mimas – A Puzzle for Long Ages

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/SSI.

Joel Kontinen

For long-agers, Saturn’s moons have turned out to present a bounty of surprises. Titan has rivers and lakes filled with ethane and methane. More recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted signs of relative youth on Enceladus - jets of water-ice seem to be blasting from the tiny moon.

Now, as researchers have studied photographs taken by Cassini, they suspect that there might be a subterranean ocean on Mimas.
According to New Scientist:

There's more to Mimas than meets the eye. The wobbles of one of Saturn's smallest moons hint at an unusual make-up below the surface – perhaps even an ocean of water hidden underground.”

This is something that believers in long ages never suspected, and some remain skeptical:

“An ocean discovery would be exciting, but a bumpy interior is probably more likely, says Francis Nimmo at the University of California, Santa Cruz. ‘It's really hard to understand how an ocean could survive for billions of years inside something as small as Mimas.’ "

But in a model based on Genesis, we would expect to see signs of relative youth all over the solar system.


Rutkin, Aviva. 2014. Saturn's moon Mimas might have its own subsurface sea. New Scientist (16 October).

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sophisticated Cave Art ”Rewriting Human Prehistory”

Gua Tewet tree of life in Borneo, Indonesia. Image courtesy of Luc-Henri Fage.

Joel Kontinen

For evolutionists, cave art is an enigma. At times, it seems to appear too early, and it is often very sophisticated – better than some contemporary art.

Recently, researchers examined a cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia that was discovered in the 1950s but not dated until now.

The assigned date – ca. 40,000 years before present – would mean that the cave has the earliest hand stencil. (The date ignores the effect of the global flood of Noah’s day.)

The impulse (and skill) to produce artwork seems to have been a global human phenomenon, with Neanderthals proving that they were no brutish apelike creatures but fully-fledged humans.

Cavemen were much smarter than we thought, but then Genesis describes early man as inventive and creative from the very dawn of humankind.


Brahic, Catherine. 2014. World's oldest hand stencil found in Indonesian cave. New Scientist 2990 (8 October).

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lake Missoula: Rapid Flood, Huge Geological Formations

Fast formations. Image courtesy of Jina Lee, Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Seeing is not always believing. A DVD produced by Creation Ministries International and featuring meteorologist Michael Oard tells the story of what happened when evidence seemed to support a watery cataclysm resembling the one described in Genesis:

In the 1920's J. Harland Bretz, a secular geologist proposed to his colleagues evidence for a massive Flood across eastern Washington. He was rejected by the scientific community because what was proposing was too close to a catastrophic event with many characteristics closely described in the Bible.”

So for forty years during the heydays of uniformitarianism or slow gradual processes, they pretended that the evidence was not there, but it eventually became obvious that rapid cataclysms can and do produce major geological features.

Lake Missoula shows that even post-Flood cataclysms can form major geological features almost instantly. Millions of years are not needed.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Darwinism Doesn't Work, Resarchers in Nature Say

Sorry, Charlie, but the facts don't support your theory. Photograph: Julia Margaret Cameron (1868). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Popularisers of evolution have tended to claim that their teory is still robust and that there's no dispute in the scientific community about its credibility.

However, as the ranks of the dissenters are growing, even the pro-evolution journal Natureis beginning to indicate some doubts about orthodox Darwinism:

Charles Darwin conceived of evolution by natural selection without knowing that genes exist. Now mainstream evolutionary theory has come to focus almost exclusively on genetic inheritance and processes that change gene frequencies.

Yet new data pouring out of adjacent fields are starting to undermine this narrow stance. An alternative vision of evolution is beginning to crystallize, in which the processes by which organisms grow and develop are recognized as causes of evolution.”

In addition to the scientists who believe creation or intelligent design is a better interpretation of the data, it seems that mainline scoentists have also began to doubt the power of Darwinian processes:

Some of us first met to discuss these advances six years ago. In the time since, as members of an interdisciplinary team, we have worked intensively to develop a broader framework, termed the extended evolutionary synthesis (EES), and to flesh out its structure, assumptions and predictions. In essence, this synthesis maintains that important drivers of evolution, ones that cannot be reduced to genes, must be woven into the very fabric of evolutionary theory.

We believe that the EES will shed new light on how evolution works. We hold that organisms are constructed in development, not simply ‘programmed’ to develop by genes. Living things do not evolve to fit into pre-existing environments, but co-construct and coevolve with their environments, in the process changing the structure of ecosystems.”

This, of course, resembles that what creationists have been saying about adaptation.

The number of biologists calling for change in how evolution is conceptualized is growing rapidly. Strong support comes from allied disciplines, particularly developmental biology, but also genomics, epigenetics, ecology and social science. We contend that evolutionary biology needs revision if it is to benefit fully from these other disciplines. The data supporting our position gets stronger every day.

However, it seems that many are afraid to let the facts speak for themselves:

”Yet the mere mention of the EES often evokes an emotional, even hostile, reaction among evolutionary biologists. Too often, vital discussions descend into acrimony, with accusations of muddle or misrepresentation. Perhaps haunted by the spectre of intelligent design, evolutionary biologists wish to show a united front to those hostile to science. Some might fear that they will receive less funding and recognition if outsiders — such as physiologists or developmental biologists — flood into their field.”

As expected, Nature also gave orthodox Darwinians the chance to say that there's nothing wrong with Darwinism.

However, the facts are not on their side.


Laland, Kevin. 2014. Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? Nature 514 (7524), 161–164.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Clever Clams' Design Feature

Giant clam. Image courtesy of Nick Hobgood, Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

A recent article in New Scientist states:

In many species of giant clam, photosynthetic algae live in the clam's fleshy mantle, which is exposed to the sea and sunlight through the flaps of its shell ... In exchange for their home, the algae secrete glycerol, which feeds the clam.
The association is one of many in which animals work symbiotically with plants and algae to harvest the power of the sun.

While the article pays lip service to Darwinian mechanisms, the actual science speaks of intelligent design:

Giant clams have specialised cells called iridocytes that allow algae to grow in microscopic pillars, which go about 2 millimetres deep into the clam mantle. Alison Sweeney of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and her team have demonstrated that the iridocytes ensure that every last algal cell in the micro-pillar still gets its fill of sunlight, even though most of the 300 or so cells in each column have no direct access to the light."

Later on, the article even mentions design and another word related to intelligence, viz. system.

"'What makes this system in the clam special is that the design can extract every last photon from sunlight,' says Sweeney.”

In a Darwinian trial and error world, the clams might well have died off a few million years before they came up with this system.

There is no such risk in a designed and created world.


Coghlan, Andy. 2014. Clever clams and algae show how best to harvest light. New Scientist (7 October).

Monday, 6 October 2014

Noah's Flood Explains the Ice Age

Image courtesy of the Institute for Creation Research.

Joel Kontinen

Secular models, such as the one relying on Milankovitch cycles (i.e. changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun), are unable to explain why our planet would have had an ice age.

In contrast, the conditions following Noah's flood – hot oceans, evaporation and tiny particles spewed by volcanoes that would have cooled the atmosphere and caused precipitation to fall down as snow – are better explanations for the ice age.