The Science of it All

The Dangers of Conclusion Jumping

We have all at one time or another used a stereotype to identify a person or group of people or to separate a group into smaller groups. Moreover, based up those stereotypes we acted or behaved in a certain fashion to them, which would be different if they did not match the stereotype. We may have even jumped to a conclusion that may or may not have been justified based upon the erroneous stereotype.

Bing dictionary defines stereotype as:

  1. oversimplified conception: an oversimplified standardized image of a person or group
  2. metal printing plate: a metal printing plate cast from a mold in another material such as papier-mâché
  3. reduce somebody to oversimplified category: to categorize individuals or groups according to an oversimplified standardized image or idea

Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination are understood as related but different concepts. Stereotypes are regarded as the most cognitive component and often occurs without conscious awareness, whereas prejudice is the affective component of stereotyping and discrimination is the behavioral component of prejudicial reactions. In this tripartite view of intergroup attitudes, stereotypes reflect expectations and beliefs about the characteristics of members of groups perceived as different from one’s own, prejudice represents the emotional response, and discrimination refers to actions.

The freedictionary.com defines : jump to conclusions: to judge or decide something without having all the facts; to reach unwarranted conclusions; to guess the facts about a situation without having enough information; to judge a situation without enough information about it.

We all know that we should not jump to conclusions based on stereotypes and oversimplifications, but it seems to be built into most of the cultures of the world. Some sociologists (and you can easily look them up) believe that it serves a positive image role in helping us to define groups that we as individuals wish to be associated with.

What surprises me is the amount of stereotyping and conclusion jumping that is increasing in frequency in the scientific community. This would be one area that we would expect the most rigorous demands for facts to be demonstrated and verified before one would make a proclamation about having advanced a certain area of scientific endeavor to new heights.

Let us demonstrate the dangers of conclusion jumping. About a year ago, the scientific community was all a buzz with “proof” that a bacterium had undergone a genetic mutation and it was duplicated in a laboratory setting. This was proof that “evolution” had occurred and put to rest the creationists complaint of no new species have evolved. This subject bears emphasis because evolutionists from Darwin on have been guilty of jumping to unwarranted conclusions from inadequate data. We will look closely at the paper by Burleigh et al. (1974, Biochem. J.143:341) to illustrate the roblem.

Ribitol is a aturally occurring sugar that some soil bacteria can normally metabolize, and ibitol dehydrogenase is the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in its etabolism. Xylitol is a sugar very similar in structure to ribitol, but does not occur in nature. Bacteria cannot normally live on xylitol, but when a large population of them were cultured on only xylitol, mutants appeared that were able to metabolize it. The wild-type enzyme was found to have a small activity on xylitol, but not large enough for the bacteria to live on xylitol alone.

substrate_1

The mutant enzyme had an activity large enough to permit the bacterium to live on xylitol lone. Fig. 1 shows the activity of the wild-type enzyme and the mutant enzyme n both ribitol and xylitol. Note that the mutant enzyme has a lower activity than ribitol and a higher activity on xylitol than does the wild-type enzyme.

An evolutionist would be tempted to see here the beginning of a trend. He might be inclined to ump to the conclusion that with a series of many mutations of this kind, one after another, evolution could produce an enzyme that would have a high activity on xylitol and a low, or zero, activity on ribitol. Now wouldn’t that be a useful thing for a bacterium that had only xylitol available and no ribitol?

Such a series would produce the kind of evolutionary change NDT ((NDT=neo-Darwinian theory) calls for. It would be an example of the kind of series that would support NDT. The series would have to consist of mutations that would, step by step, lower the activity of the enzyme on the first substrate while increasing it on the second. But Fig. 1 is misleading in this regard because it provides only a restricted view of the story. Burleigh and his colleagues also measured the activities of the two enzymes on another similar sugar, L-arabitol, and the results of these measurements are shown in Fig. 2. With the additional data on L-arabitol, a different picture emerges. No longer do we see the mutation just swinging the activity away from ribitol and toward xylitol. We see instead a general lowering of the selectivity of the enzyme over the set of substrates. The activity profiles in Fig.2 show that the wild-type enzyme is more selective than is the mutant enzyme.

substrate_2

In Fig. 1 alone, there appears to be a trend evolving an enzyme with a high activity on xylitol and a low activity on ribitol. But Fig. 2 shows that such an extrapolation is unwarranted. It shows instead a much different trend. An extrapolation of the trend that appears in Fig. 2 would indicate that a series of such mutations could result in an enzyme that had no selectivity at all, but exhibited the same low activity on a wide set of substrates.

The point to be made from this example is that conclusion jumping from the observation of an apparent trend is a risky business. From a little data, the mutation appears to add information to the enzyme. From a little more data, the mutation appears to be degrading the enzyme’s specificity and losing information. Just as we calculated information in the two special cases above, we can calculate the information in the enzyme acting on a uniform mixture of the three substrates for both the wild type and the mutant enzyme. Using the measured activity values reported by Burleigh et al. we find the information in the specificities of the two enzymes to be 0.74 and 0.38 bits respectively. The information in the wild-type enzyme then turns out to be about twice that of the mutant.

The evolutionist community, from Darwin to today, has based its major claims on unwarranted conclusion jumping. Darwin saw that pigeon breeders could achieve a wide variety of forms in their pigeons by selection, and he assumed that the reach of selection was unlimited. Evolutionists, who have seen crops and farm animals bred to have many commercially desirable features, have jumped to the conclusion that natural selection, in the course of millions of years, could achieve many-fold greater adaptive changes than artificial selection has achieved in only tens of years. Such extrapolations are ill founded because breeding experiments, such as those giving wheat greater protein content or vegetables greater size, result from mutations that disable repressor genes. The conclusions jumped to were false because they were based on data that could not be extrapolated to long sequences. One cannot gain information from a long sequence of steps that all lose information. That would be like the merchant who lost a little money on each sale, but thought he could make it up on volume.

However, just think: if you buy two copies of the newspaper, do you buy twice as much information? Of course not. Duplication of anything does not constitute an increase of information. Another simple experiment will help clarify the point that changing the gene frequency is not the same as producing evolution. Obtain multiple copies of the back page of both an early and a late edition of an evening newspaper. These pages of information represent the genetic information in the two forms of peppered moth. The information printed on both versions of the back page will be very similar. Probably only the stop press and one or two minor items will be altered, but this is enough to make them two different and unique sets of information. If we now make multiple copies of the late edition’s back page but keep only the original single copy of the early edition’s back page, we have increased the frequency of the later edition’s information. Note carefully that we have done nothing whatsoever to alter the total amount of unique information. It would not matter if we made a million copies of both editions of the back page; we would still have only two pages of unique information. The multiple copies are merely that-mere copies, mimics. They do not add any new information. To obtain increased information (rather than just an increase in the frequency of existing information) is far more complicated. It would entail journalists researching a new story, layout people formatting it up, so as to yield a unique back page full of new information. You could not get new information without intelligent design.

Random mutations to change the duplicated gene would not add information unless the mutated sequence coded for some new, useful protein. To illustrate: if “superman” were the duplicated “gene”, and mutations in the letters changed it to “sxyxvawtu ”, you have clearly lost information, although you have a new sequence. This is the difference between complexity and specified complexity. A pile of sand is complex, but is information-poor, because it specifies nothing. A sand sculpture is a complex structure that has had intelligent design applied to the meaningless pile of sand.

sand_sculpture

Another recent and highly touted conclusion jumping was the combining of certain reptile-mammals into the evolutionary precursors of all mammals. The so-called mammal-like reptiles are believed by evolutionists to be the ancestors of the mammals and to have become more mammal-like with the passage of time. Evolutionists consider anatomical traits to be mammal-like if they occur in modern mammals but not in other modern vertebrates.

The highly-touted, alleged succession of mammal-like reptiles towards increasing ‘mammalness’ is not found at any one location on Earth. It can only be inferred through the correlation of fossiliferous beds from different continents. Judgments are made as to which stratum on one continent is older than another stratum on another continent. Moreover, intercontinental correlations are made even when the fossil genera do not correspond with each other. Instead, the correlations are based on the general similarity of specimens, as well as their assumed degree of evolutionary advancement. The circularity of such reasoning is obvious.

A very detailed (more so than I want to go into at this time) discussion showing the fallacy of counting similar traits to determined the ‘mammalness’ of a fossil is discussed here: http://creation.com/mammal-like-reptiles-major-trait-reversals-and-discontinuities

Clearly, the ruling evolutionary paradigm existed before the discovery of mammal-like reptiles, and would have flourished had these reptiles never been discovered. In that event, today’s evolutionists would be extolling some extinct amphibian group as the transitions (or stratomorphic intermediates) leading up to mammals. Cladograms would be constructed to show the close branching pattern between that chosen group of amphibians and mammals.

All else would fall in place according to the dictates of evolutionary dogma. The evolutionist triumphalists would be telling everyone that evolution is fact because of the many obvious similarities between the ‘ancestral’ amphibians and the ‘descendant’ mammals. Compromising evangelical evolutionists would preach about the fact that God would never mislead us by separately creating mammals and amphibians with so many shared structures. Leading humanist scientists would inform us that anyone who questions the amphibian-mammalian transition cannot possibly be a scientist, no matter his degrees or publications. And, of course, the secularist fanatics would whip up considerable hysteria about the fact that the questioning of the amphibian–mammalian transition is a dangerous threat to the very survival of science and reason, and that, if not quickly reversed, it will soon return us to the Dark Ages.

It is similar to if Hilary had been elected president then every time we opposed what she was doing we would be called sexists instead of racists because of Obama’s heritage.

Natural selection is simply the effect the natural world has on living things, selecting out living forms that can survive from those that can’t handle their environment and therefore perish. All too often we see the results of natural selection being claimed as evidence of ‘evolution’ in action. Such a conclusion is either a bad case of ‘jumping to premature conclusions’, or shows a poor understanding of what ‘evolution’ really is. Evolution and natural selection are two entirely different things.

pile_of_buttons

The following simple and easy-to-do experiment will show what that difference is. It can be performed with a large stack of miscellaneous clothes buttons and some builder’s sieves of different mesh sizes.

Sieving the buttons through the mesh, mimics the action of natural selection—sorting out which objects will survive the testing process. The use of different mesh sizes will sort out the buttons quite differently (this is analogous to different environmental conditions or selection pressures). Buttons that survive one sieving may be caught out in the next.

What we have at the end of the sieving or selecting process are groups of buttons of similar size, each of which will be quite different from the original collection of all shapes and sizes thrown in together.

sorting_buttons2

No button has changed, but what if some buttons did not make it right through the sieving process? If all the buttons which stuck on the first sieve were thrown into the fire and burnt, you could claim they had become extinct. That is what natural selection does—it can eliminate species. Likewise from our button experiment, it would be extremely naive to claim that the button populations (the groups of buttons) had ‘evolved’ since all the buttons were present right at the start—no new types of buttons had appeared from the beginning. If you wanted new buttons to appear on the scene, only the supplier of the buttons could introduce new kinds of buttons. However, note that each pile of buttons you have from your sieving will be a new combination, a previously unseen combination of those things that already existed at the start.

So the choice of NOT jumping to conclusion and keeping an open mind and not stereotyping results to fit your point of view is up to you. Evolution and natural selection occurs and both Biblical scientists and evolutionary scientists can generally agree on those facts but disagree on the conclusions and implications. Evillutionists however want to prove that viruses might have evolved into virologists or one of those buttons became a zipper.

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