Friday, November 16, 2007

Believing Science

Back in college, I took a very pro-evolution class called "The Nature of Science", which fell under the realm of Philosophy, according to my University. In this class, we talked about various aspects of science from a philosophical point of view. But about half of the semester was devoted to the evolution versus creation debate. And, the instructor was undeniably biased toward the evolutionary point of view. Fine.

In this class, we learned of an argument that, once upon a time, evolutionists used to use to prove that evolution takes places. Then, it was shown how this, as it turned out, did nothing to prove evolution. (Nor did it make any difference whatsoever to the creation side of things.) This case was about some butterflies (or moths...actually, I forget), and how prior to the industrial revolution, there were all these butterflies of a certain color. But, once the industries started their task of polluting the air, the butterflies changed their color. It was thought that, as a result of the darkening of the trees due to air pollution, that those butterflies that were white were obvious targets for birds, and quickly had to either adapt or be eaten. So, evolutionists of the day believed, the butterflies adapted by turning dark. Soon, all the white butterflies had become dark butterflies.

The problem was that no actual adaptation took place. Instead, it was just a shift in the already existing population. Very few dark butterflies survived prior to the pollution. After the pollution, the dark butterflies blended better, and soon the white butterflies became bird food.

I bring this up because of something I've noticed recently in regards to recent news about various viruses that have either mutated or may mutate, causing a health hazard. The idea is evolutionary in nature (micro-evolutionary in nature, actually...so, having nothing to do with supporting evolution versus creation, since the creation view supports micro-evolution). There is a virus. But this virus mutates, developing characteristics that allow it to better survive, and harder to kill by modern medicine.

We've seen the news about the bird flu, for example. Or how about the new one about the rare cold virus that has killed some folks recently? Are we seeing evidence that a virus as truly "evolved", in a sense, and mutated into another form?

Or, is it possible, that we are seeing a population shift? Or, perhaps, different breeds, in a sense, of the same virus? It is possible that both viruses descended from the same parent virus. Over time, and through isolation, one strain of the virus lost certain genetic information compared to the other strain. So, yes, they are different...but not as a result of a mutation. Both, then, coexist. However, for whatever reason, there is a population shift. The more dangerous strain is becoming more prominent, possibly because whatever external factor that used to keep it in check isn't around any more.

I raise this because it has implications on the "fear" that the bird flu may mutate at any given moment to something more dangerous. Perhaps it won't.

And look at the implications for the overuse of antibiotics. It has been suggested that viruses are becoming resistant to antibiotics. They have mutated. But it is also possible that these antibiotic-resistant strains have always existed. Only, now that we have been successfully eliminating their competition through antibiotic use, the ones that are resistant are, again, experiencing a population shift.

What I haven't seen is any real evidence given that we've actually ever witnessed a mutation as has been suggested in the media. Would we be able to differentiate a mutation from a population shift? History would suggest not necessarily. What I'm curious about is if anyone who is more familiar with this has links to information that provides such evidence. Because as of right now, I keep reading phrases such as, "scientists believe...," qualifying any such claims.

Such qualifiers sound suspiciously similar to the very phrases scientists balk at when they come from creationists. It only goes to show how much of science, even today, is framed by our beliefs.

2 comments:

SEAN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SEAN said...

I'm with you, brother. evolution definitely has deep roots in a dark worldview.