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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Scientists Blow Billions Chasing Cherished Chimeras

"A thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve."  -- Google definition of "chimera."

Let us take a look at some Big Science projects which were funded mainly because scientists were very eager to find things that they eagerly hoped to find, things that are probably purely imaginary. 

The first example involves the Large Hadron Collider, a project that has cost nearly 5 billion dollars. Now, you may say that the Large Hadron Collider should not be on this list, because this gigantic machine was built to find evidence of the Higgs Boson, and such evidence was found. But the claim that the Higgs Boson had been discovered was announced in 2012, and the Large Hadron Collider has been running since then, at a very high annual cost that has been estimated at about 1 billion dollars a year.  Why were so many billions spent to keep the Large Hadron Collider running? Mainly to search for some of the cherished chimeras of physicists: the "superpartner" particles predicted by supersymmetry theory. 

The issue of the fine-tuning of the Higgs mass (the mass of the Higgs boson) was skillfully explained by physicist Ben Allanach in a previous article at the Aeon site: 

"Behind the question of mass, an even bigger and uglier problem was lurking in the background of the Standard Model: why is the Higgs boson so light? In experiments it weighed in at 125 times the mass of a proton. But calculations using the theory implied that it should be much bigger – roughly ten million billion times bigger, in fact....Quantum fluctuations of ultra-heavy particle pairs should have a profound effect on the Higgs boson, whose mass is very sensitive to them....One logical option is that nature has chosen the initial value of the Higgs boson mass to precisely offset these quantum fluctuations, to an accuracy of one in 1016. However, that possibility seems remote at best, because the initial value and the quantum fluctuation have nothing to do with each other. It would be akin to dropping a sharp pencil onto a table and having it land exactly upright, balanced on its point. In physics terms, the configuration of the pencil is unnatural or fine-tuned. Just as the movement of air or tiny vibrations should make the pencil fall over, the mass of the Higgs shouldn’t be so perfectly calibrated that it has the ability to cancel out quantum fluctuations. However, instead of an uncanny correspondence, maybe the naturalness problem with the Higgs boson could be explained away by a new, more foundational theory: supersymmetry."

In an article in Symmetry magazine, we have a similar explanation:

"To understand what’s fishy about the observable Higgs mass being so low, first you must know that it is actually the sum of two inputs: the bare Higgs mass (which we don’t know) plus contributions from all the other Standard Model particles, contributions collectively known as “quantum corrections.” The second number in the equation is an enormous negative, coming in around minus 1018 GeV. Compared to that, the result of the equation, 125 GeV, is extremely small, close to zero. That means the first number, the bare Higgs mass, must be almost the opposite, to so nearly cancel it out. To some physicists, this is an unacceptably strange coincidence."

How big a coincidence? The Symmetry article later quotes physicist Lawrence Lee Jr. as saying “the conundrum with the Higgs mass, which would require fine-tuning on the order of 1-in-1034,” which is a coincidence like the coincidence of you correctly guessing the full phone numbers of three consecutive strangers. 

Scientists should have just accepted this case of very precise fine-tuning in nature.  But instead, many of them made a long, quixotic, futile attempt to overthrow it (like someone trying to overthrow the observation that the sun is hot, with some elaborate theory trying to explain how the sun isn't really hot).  Why did they do that? Because they had a motivation, an ideological motivation rather than the motivation of simply discovering truth. Their ideological motivation was related to a belief that the universe should not be anything that looked like a product of design. This ideological motivation is clearly stated in the Symmetry article by physicist Lee, who states it as follows: “In general, what we want from our theories—and in some way, our universe—is that nothing seems too contrived.” If you want for the universe to not "seem too contrived," then you may twist yourself into knots trying to explain away cases of apparent fine-tuning in the universe. 

An article last year makes it rather clear that the supersymmetry theory was mainly motivated by a desire to get rid of a case of fine-tuning, and make the universe look like it was a little less lucky, a little less  providentially blessed. We read this:

"For example, the small mass of the Higgs boson is notoriously difficult to explain—its calculation requires subtracting two very large numbers that just happen to be slightly different from each other. 'But if you add supersymmetry, this takes care of all these cancellations such that you can get a light Higgs mass without needing to have such luck,' says Elodie Resseguie, a postdoc at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory."

All attempts to get evidence for the theory of supersymmetry have failed. The "superpartner" particles that are the core of supersymmetry theory are chimeras that scientists wanted to believe in so badly that they wasted billions in futile attempts to find them. Scientists also wasted countless millions in federally funded dollars spinning out endless different speculative versions of the supersymmetry theory.  A search for "supersymmetry" papers on the Cornell physics paper server gives more 15,000 matches. Physicists seem to have spent more hours speculating about supersymmetry theories than medieval theologians spent speculating about angels and the Second Coming, with the results being as futile.

Another type of cherished chimera which scientists spent endless effort and countless dollars on was cosmic inflation. Not to be confused with the undisputed reality of cosmic expansion (the expansion of the universe), cosmic inflation is the idea that the universe underwent a very unusual exponential expansion during its first instant. Like the endless versions of supersymmetry theory, scientists have created endless versions of the theory of cosmic inflation, which all have in common that the claim that the universe expanded at an exponential rate in its first instant, rather the normal linear rate of expansion we now observe. 

Just as supersymmetry was invented to try to avoid a very dramatic case of apparent fine-tuning in nature, cosmic inflation theories were created to try to avoid a very dramatic case of apparent fine-tuning in nature: the apparent fine-tuning of the universe's expansion rate at the very beginning of the Big Bang to about 1 part in ten to the fiftieth power. Just as scientists produced endless thousands of papers producing countless versions of the supersymmetry theory, scientists produced many thousands of papers producing countless versions of the cosmic inflation theory. 

cosmic fine tuning denialism

For many decades cosmologists have been lost in a strange little world of fantasy whenever they dealt with this cosmic inflation theory. No evidence has ever existed that the theory is true. As different versions of the theory have kept failing, cosmologists keep producing new versions of the theory; and by now there are hundreds of versions of it, making predictions all over the map.  

All attempts to provide some empirical support for the theory of primordial cosmic inflation have failed. Cosmic inflation theories  predict something called primordial B-modes, but nothing has come from searches for primordial B-modes that have gone on for years with fancy expensive equipment.  A 2019 article states, "Models such as natural and quadratic inflation that were popular several years ago no longer seem tenable, says theorist Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University."  But rather than discarding a theoretical approach that isn't working, our  cosmologists keep spinning out more and more speculative ornate versions of the theory (which already has hundreds of different versions).  Cosmic inflation theory is correctly described as tribal folklore, the tribe being the very small band of people who describe themselves as cosmologists. 

Gravitational waves have been discovered, but not the primordial gravitational waves predicted by cosmic inflation theory. Noting the complete failure of searches for the primordial B-modes, a scientist recently stated, "If, however, future measurements continue to find no gravitational-wave signal, it will likely imply that we must seriously reconsider our inflationary models or perhaps dismiss inflation altogether, which would be a significant paradigm shift."  A more candid version of that statement would say something like this: "All these observational failures are making it pretty clear that cosmologists have been wasting their time for forty years messing around with groundless theories of primordial cosmic inflation."   

It cannot be said for sure whether dark matter and dark energy are cherished chimeras that scientists have wasted very many billions looking for. But thus far it seems like such things are merely fond fantasies of astrophysicists. Call them "dark darlings" of the modern cosmologist, who loves them because it allows him to speak as if he understands the composition of the universe and the motion dynamics of stars and galaxies, something cosmologists do not actually seem to understand. Wikipedia.org lists 34 dark matter search missions, all of which have failed. A single 2019 press release mentions a 24 million dollar price tag, and some online sources say hundreds of millions have been spent in the futile quest for dark matter. At the "Dark Matter Crisis" blog (www.darkmattercrisis.wordpress.com), we have a post that looks like this, one that estimates more than half a billion dollars is being spent per year related to the fruitless quest for dark matter:

cost of dark matter searches

The post states the following:

"The dark-matter based models were clearly ruled out already in 2010 (read 'Local-Group tests of dark-matter concordance cosmology . Towards a new paradigm for structure formation') and definitely falsified in 2012 (read 'The Dark Matter Crisis: Falsification of the Current Standard Model of Cosmology'). Today, ten years later, ample time has passed even for the dimmest scientist to be able to catch up. Given that the arguments against dark matter have not been shown to be invalid, and have in fact multiplied manyfold (see the iai piece above), it is simply not to be understood from a rational point of view why we keep expending so many valuable resources into a falsified theory while, at the same time, suppressing a highly interesting and successful alternative [MOND]. The scientists who continue pushing for this falsified dark-matter theory are hurting the sciences and are, by ignoring the falsifications, being unscientific. They appear to behave more like ancient Egyptian priests who fervently guard their particular god(s) to thrive on the citizens by faking the ability for communicating with these imaginary deities. What keeps this system going? The LCDM [lambda cold dark matter] model is a gold of mine for those, the 'LCDM priests', who are able to sell the dark matter and dark energy stories to the funding agencies."

A post by a scientist describes a case of blowing lots of money chasing a cherished chimera, a search for a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle that could be a type of dark matter:

"This scenario became known as the 'WIMP miracle' scenario, because it seems like a miraculous coincidence that putting in these parameters would lead to the expected weak interaction-based cross-section just popping out. For many years, a series of direct detection experiments were conducted, with the hope that the WIMP miracle scenario would turn out to be real. As of late 2022, there is no evidence that this is the case, and the cross-section limits from experiments such as XENON have ruled out the standard WIMP miracle scenario in practically every reasonable incarnation."

DNA anatomy blueprints are another imaginary chimera that scientists spent billions looking for. The cost of the Human Genome Project has been estimated at 3 billion dollars. In the 1990's we were told that this expense was justified, because the project would discover a DNA specification for building humans, a genetic plan for what makes us us. All kinds of groundless claims were made about DNA and genes as part of the sales job for the Human Genome Project.  But no DNA anatomy blueprint was ever found in DNA. The Human Genome Project was completed about 2001. All that was ever found in DNA and its genes was low-level chemical information, such as which amino acids make up particular proteins. No one ever found a blueprint for making a human, or a recipe for making a human, or a specification for the human body, or a genotype that maps a phenotype. We can't quite call this a case of "blowing billions," because at the human genome (the contents of DNA) was mapped, an accomplishment of some scientific value.  

After the Human Genome Project was finished, our scientists never announced their failure to find the chimera of a DNA anatomy blueprint, something we had been told countless times would be discovered by the project. In government web sites built to hype the Human Genome Project, you can still read the lies that were told to drum up support for the project or to extol the project: false claims that DNA is a specification for how to build bodies. In the Guardian, science writer Phillip Ball says this about the Human Genome Project that ended in 2001:

"But a blizzard of misleading rhetoric surrounded the project, contributing to the widespread and sometimes dangerous misunderstandings about genes that now bedevils the genomic age. So far, there have been few attempts to set the record straight. Even now, the National Human Genome Research Institute calls the HGP an effort to read 'nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being' – the 'book of instructions' that 'determine our particular traits'. A genome, says the institute, 'contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism'. But this deterministic 'instruction book' image is precisely the fallacy that genomics has overturned, and the information in the genome is demonstrably incomplete. Yet no one associated with genomic research seems bothered about correcting these false claims...Plenty remain happy to propagate the misleading idea that we are 'gene machines' and our DNA is our 'blueprint'."

Another cherished chimera that scientists have blown hundreds of millions or billions seeking is the engram: a supposed part of the brain offering evidence of memory storage in brains. Over decades neuroscientists have spent billions of dollars looking for some place that offers evidence of physical memory storage in brains, but have found no convincing evidence of such a thing. 

There are claims in the neuroscience literature that engrams have been observed, but all such claims are spurious. No solid evidence has ever produced for the discovery of an engram in any type of organism. Just as there are some unjustified claims to have observed dark matter, there are some unjustified claims to have observed engrams.  I can describe the typical affair that goes on when neuroscientists claim to observe an engram:

(1) Scans will be made of some tiny parts of an animal's brain (typically synapses) before the animal is subjected to some type of learning, typically fear conditioning involving training the animal to fear electrical shocks when it touches some shock plate in its cage. 
(2) The animal will then be subjected to some learning program, such as fear conditioning. 
(3) Scientists will then rescan the animal's brain, looking for some tiny part of the brain (such as synapses) that underwent some very tiny little change, such as synapse strengthening. 
(4) Upon finding such a tiny change in any one region, such as a little strengthening of synapses somewhere, the scientists will triumphantly announce that they have discovered an engram, presuming that the little change that occurred must be an example of physical memory storage. The tiny change found may be called "learning-dependent synaptic modification."

This type of utterly fallacious technique has gone on in quite a few scientific studies. It is easy to explain why the technique offers no good evidence for engrams. The problem is that synapses are constantly undergoing what is called random remodeling or stochastic remodeling. This is partially the result of the very short lifetimes of the proteins that make up synapses. Such proteins have average lifetimes of only a few weeks or less. Also, synapses are attached to units called dendritic spines, which have short lifetimes, typically only weeks or months.  Synapses are rather like the sand of the edge of the seashore, which is constantly being remodeling by the action of wind and waves. 

Accordingly, it is fallacious to search out for some tiny bit of synaptic matter that looks different after some learning occurred, and to claim that this shows that the tiny bit of synaptic matter must have changed because memory storage occurred. Given a brain in which synaptic matter is constantly undergoing random changes, like the constantly remodeling sand at the edge of the seashore, we have no basis for suspecting that some change in the synaptic matter was caused by memory storage rather than mere random changes such as typically occur throughout the synapses of the brain. 

Using the Google NGram Viewer (which can search for the number of occurrences of a search phrase in the vast number of books indexed by Google books), we can search for how often the term "engram" has been used in the past 70 years. The result below is just what we expect if no real progress had been made in discovering an engram. Instead of seeing a rising line, we see a decrease in uses of the term. 

use of engram

Rather than use the term "engram," neuroscientists often push the same idea by claiming that memories are stored in "connection patterns" or "synaptic patterns." A search for the uses of those phrases hints at how they enjoyed a short heydey, followed by a reduction in popularity (just as we would expect if no evidence had been found for memories stored in connection patterns or synaptic patterns):

synaptic patterns

Searches for engrams have failed to produce any convincing evidence for them. What would be a convincing discovery of an engram? It might go something like this: scientists would be able to read memory information from the brain of a dead man. So given the corpse of John Hypothetica, and not told who the person was, the scientists would be able to read some memory information that would only be found in the head of John Hypothetica. For example, they might say, "Upon examining his synapses we found a memory that he had once been married to someone named Violetta."  No such thing has ever happened. A memory has never been read from the brain of a dead man or any organism. And scientists have never been able to extract a memory after removing brain tissue from the brain of a living person.  

Short of finding a memory in the brain of a dead person, one that could be read to discover something about who the person was or what he had learned, the next best thing would simply be to find evidence that brains stored the symbolic tokens that are the hallmark of information storage. Below are some examples of symbolic tokens. 

representational tokens

There are symbolic tokens in the brain, but only the same type of tokens found in almost every cell: the nucleotide tokens in DNA that specify mere amino acids, according to the system of representation called the genetic code.  No other type of symbolic token has ever been found in the brain. Scientists never found human memory information by examining brain tissue, and they have never found any symbolic tokens that could be the basis of some memory representation system they don't understand. Together such facts (and many other reasons discussed here) tell us that the notion of memory engrams in the brain is a chimerical one. We know from computers and from books the type of things found in a system allowing the fast retrieval of stored information, things such as indexing, addressing and sorting. The human brain has no such things. 

The fact is that humans can instantly form complex new memories, a fact completely contrary to the prevailing idea that memories form from "synapse strengthening," a sluggish process that would take many minutes or hours. The fact is that humans can remember things very well for 50 years or more, something completely inconsistent with claims that memories are stored in the synapses of brains, very unstable things subject to constant turnover and remodeling because of the short lifetimes of synapse proteins and the instability of dendritic spines which synapses are attached to. The fact is that given any of very many thousands of one-word prompts such as "Waterloo" or "Dickens," humans can instantly retrieve complex relevant information, something that should be impossible in a brain because of its total lack of the things (addressing, indexing and sorting) that make possible instant information retrieval.  

In a book a neuroscientist (Darold A. Treffert) discussed many marvels of human memory and enormously fast human thinking that should have been utterly impossible for a brain, given its speed limitations, high protein turnover in synapses, and unreliable signal transmission (synapses in the cortex transmit nerve signals with only 10% to 50% reliability).  In many cases Treffert discusses such marvels of memory and blazing fast thinking occurring in people with heavily damaged brains. The items discussed were only some of the marvels of the human mind and memory discussed here, all showing humans thinking so fast and remembering so well that such mental activity cannot be explained by brains.  On page 207-208 of the book the neuroscientist Treffert considers some facts that throw into doubt all claims of memories being stored in brains. He states this about memory storage:

"Is storage electrical? If so, then why aren't memories permanently destroyed during an epileptical seizure, which is truly an electrical storm in the brain -- as can be witnessed by watching an EEG during a seizure? Or, if storage is electrical, why aren't memories permanently affected when a patient receives electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), during which time an electrical current is passed through the brain ? If storage is electromagnetic in the same manner that storage of 'memories' on tape or storage of data on a computer is, then why isn't memory permanently affected by a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) brain scan, during which the brain is subjected to tremendous magnetic fields? Try that with some tapes or disks. If storage is an actual physical storage, like grooves on a phonograph disk, why isn't there some clear evidence of that process in microscopic examination of the brain?" 

Alas, our neuroscientist then stumbles by saying that these are "questions I guess we will need to leave for the future." No, rather that "sweeping under the rug" so many facts that conflict with prevailing dogmas by "leaving them for the future," we should instead be drawing an inference from such facts, and countless other facts of neuroscience and human observation, after very carefully studying them by doing things such as reading posts like those you can read at my blog www.headtruth.blogspot.com, or reading up on countless reports of people floating out of their bodies and viewing them from above during near-death experiences.  The inference that follows from such observations and facts is that the brain does not store memories and does not produce the human mind. 

There is a way for scientists to get a very high "bang for the buck" in research. That way is:

(1) Spend a great deal of time analyzing important-seeming observational reports that have already been made, insteading of "sweeping under the rug" and ignoring observational reports conflicting with your cherished beliefs.
(2) Do research looking for more examples and a greater understanding of things that many people have already reported seeing, rather than trying to discover new types of things that no one has ever reported seeing. 

Were scientists to follow such an approach, they would spend far more time and money researching things such as apparitions and near-death experiences and ESP and unexplained healing (all abundantly supported already by observations) than looking for things they hope to find which no one has ever reported seeing (such as supersymmetry superpartner particles). 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Two Types of Superstition

An interesting word in the English language is the word "superstition." Nowadays the word is used mainly as a term of abuse by those who do not want you to believe in something that is outside of well-understood physical reality, particularly things that humans have long believed in. But it is interesting to look at the varying definitions of the word "superstition." Such a look may suggest that the term "superstition" is applicable to quite a few things that are not commonly called superstitions. 

Below are some definitions of the word "superstition":

  • "A belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation" or " an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition"  (Merriam Webster dictionary).
  • "A belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like" or "irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion" or "any blindly accepted belief or notion" (Dictionary.com).
  • "A belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck : a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck" (Brittanica.com).
  • "Belief that is not based on human reason or scientific knowledge, but is connected with old ideas about magic, etc." (Cambridge Dictionary).
  • "An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome" or "A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance" (The Free Dictionary)
Using such definitions as a starting point, I can help clarify the notion of superstition by distinguishing between two types of superstition: what I will call intent-presuming superstition and chance-presuming  superstition. Not all superstition is either type, but these two types of superstition make up a large fraction of superstition. 

I can describe intent-presuming superstition as an illogical belief that something was caused by intention (volition, or the will of some agent), when the thing was most likely the result of mere chance. I can give some examples of volitional superstition. 
  • A person walks out of his house and sees that it is sunny. He says, "Thank you God, for making it sunny today."
  • A person enters a train car, and sees an empty seat. He says, "Thank you, Jesus, for arranging for me to have a spare seat where I can sit."
  • In the spring a person taking a one-hour walk in the park sees a small white butterfly. She says, "This must be a sign from my late mother."
In each of these cases, a person has attributed to intention or a will something that is more reasonably attributed to mere chance. Given the physical arrangement of clouds on our planet (with about 40% of the Earth's surface being covered by cloud masses that move around), there is roughly a 50% chance of any day being sunny by chance. So it makes no sense to think that some particular sunny day came as the result of an act of God. Similarly, given that most train cars do have an empty seat, it makes no sense to think that an empty seat in a train car was the result of a special blessing from some supernatural power. And given that small white butterflies are quite common in parks during the spring, it makes little sense to think that so common a sight was a sign from the deceased.  All of these cases seem to be an example of superstitious thinking. 

There is another very different type of superstition that is rather the opposite of intent-presuming superstition as I defined it above. I can call this type of superstition "chance-presuming superstition." 

When chance-presuming superstition occurs, someone unreasonably believes something was the result of mainly chance, when it is more reasonable to suspect that the thing was the result of will, design or intention. Below are some examples of chance-presuming superstition:
  • A person seeing a log cabin in the woods says "An interesting coincidence, that the falling trees randomly formed into the shape of a house."
  • A person sees a message spelled out in rocks and seashells on the beach and says, "It's remarkable that pure chance caused rocks and seashells to form a readable message."
  • A person sees a house's long entrance walkway lined with identically-sized rocks on both the left and right side, and says, "An interesting coincidence, that all these identically-sized rocks have randomly rolled to only the left and right sides of the walkway."
  • After seeing on the beach a very impressive sand castle like the one below, a person says, "An interesting coincidence, how the mere chance action of the wind and the waves have accidentally created a structure looking so much like  a castle."

All of these statements involve superstition. Involving faulty ideas of chance and causation not based on reason, the statements meet some of the characteristics of superstition mentioned in the definitions above.  The type of superstition involved in the statements above is chance-presuming superstition, which is illogically attributing to chance something that is not reasonably attributed to chance. 

It would seem that many of those who fancy themselves as opponents of superstition are guilty themselves of believing in superstitions: chance-presuming superstitions. Specifically:
  • Many of those who claim to be opponents of superstition believe in abiogenesis, the idea that life can originate from a chance combination of chemicals. Given the enormous organization and functional complexity of even the simplest one-celled things, which require a very special organization of millions of atoms, believing in abiogenesis would seem to be a chance-presuming superstition. When we analyze the minimal requirements of even the simplest self-reproducing thing, we find a degree of organization and suitable arrangement of parts very many times more impressive than we see in the sand castle above. 
  • Many of those who claim to be opponents of superstition believe in the doctrine of the accidental origin of protein molecules. Given that protein molecules consist of thousands of very well-arranged atoms, atoms that have to be arranged just right for the protein molecule to be functional, it would seem to be illogical to attribute the origin of any new protein molecule to chance or an accident.  The improbability is not lessened if you consider a protein molecule as being an arrangement of amino acids.  There are 20 different amino acids used by living things, and the average protein molecule has about 470 amino acids arranged in just the right way to produce some biological function.  The chance of getting a functional protein molecule from a chance arrangement of amino acids is very roughly about the same as the chance of getting a useful, functional paragraph from monkeys randomly typing on a keyboard. 
  • Many of those who claim to be opponents of superstition believe in the accidental origin of our universe, despite all of its fine-tuned physical constants which against all odds allow organisms such as ourselves to exist and long-lived stars such as the sun to exist. When you bring to their attention the microscopic probability that a random accidental universe would have the laws, fundamental constants and conditions necessary for living creatures, such individuals may claim that there is some infinity or near infinity of other universes, and that we should therefore expect our universe to be habitable. Such desperation obviously hints very strongly at some dysfunctional causal reasoning going on, if only because you do not increase the likelihood of any habitable universe being habitable by imagining some vast collection of other universes. 
It would seem, therefore, that those regarding themselves as superstition opponents are very often themselves guilty of believing in very big superstitions, superstitions of the chance-presuming type.  There's an additional reason for categorizing the two beliefs above as superstitious: the fact that such beliefs seem to arise largely from fear, and "fear" is a word that appears in two of the definitions of superstition I cited above. Why do some believe there occurred some chance arrangement of atoms in the early Earth (yielding life), an arrangement so improbable that we would never expect it to occur by chance anywhere in the galaxy? Largely, we may surmise, because they fear attributing the origin of life to some mysterious agency they do not wish to believe in. Why do some believe that there occurred countless chance arrangements of amino acids resulting (against all odds) in countless types of functional protein molecules, in events as improbable as random pebbles and shells at the beach forming accidentally into long functional paragraphs?  Largely, we may surmise, because they fear attributing the origin of protein molecules to some mysterious agency they do not wish to believe in.

There is a word we can use to describe the fear that seems to be involved in such chance-presuming superstitions. We can call such fear teleophobia. "Teleo" is a prefix meaning "end, goal, purpose." "Phobia" is a suffix meaning "fear." Those who are afraid of discovering evidence of purpose when it exists in nature may be described as being teleophobic people or teleophobes. I can imagine many reasons that a person might be teleophobic. A person may want to position himself as a kind of ace of explanation, who can explain the basics of how reality works, rather than admitting that reality is driven by some unfathomable agency far beyond his power to understand. A person of bad character may prefer to believe that he will never have to suffer consequences for his bad actions, and may fear the existence of any divine power that might imply that he might one day have to suffer sorrow or possible punishment for his bad actions. Another reason for teleophobia is that a person may prefer to believe that certain thinkers or certain belief systems have got things totally wrong. The person may be afraid of the idea of purpose in nature, on the grounds that this might force him to start thinking that belief traditions that he has totally rejected may have some large element of truth in them. 

What happens so often is that a simple-thinking person may mentally put all of the ideas he believes in into a kind of "good box" --a category in his mind of "smart ideas" -- and he may put all of the ideas he disbelieves into a kind of "bad box" -- a category in his mind of "stupid ideas." But let's suppose one of the main ideas in this "bad box" turns out to be true. That is a result that the simple-thinking person finds profoundly troubling, a result that he may fear very much. Such a result might force the person to reassess assumptions that he very much does not want to reassess. The person may end up twisting himself into knots, believing in multiple forms of nonsense, all for the sake of avoiding some conclusion he fears -- that some belief that he has concluded is one of the main things in the "bad box" should really be put in the "good box." As part of such a process, teleophobia may arise and stubbornly persist. Twisting himself into the most ridiculous knots, the telephobe may mentally conjure up an entire multiverse (some vast infinity or near-infinity of random universes), all so that he can avoid believing in what he greatly fears: that one of the items he has placed in his "bad box" of stupid ideas (a belief that the universe is purposeful) actually belongs in the "good box" (the category of smart, justified  ideas).  

We may compare the teleophobe to some inventor named Rowan who very much regards himself as a self-sufficient person, but who every week receives a check of more than $1000 check from his father. Let's suppose this man Rowan very much hates to believe that he ever gets so generous a gift from the father he dislikes, largely because it would upset his cherished theory that he is an independently successful inventor who has no reliance on his father. So the man resorts to a theory of chance. Rowan concludes that the weekly check is not really from his father,  but is merely an accidental check sent by a computer that malfunctioned (possibly because it was struck by a cosmic ray burst).  He concludes that when the computer malfunction occurred his address was randomly and accidentally generated, all because of a fantastically improbable coincidence, rather like someone emptying a box of Alpha Bits (or scrabble letters) on the ground, and all of the letters accidentally forming into a grammatical well-spelled paragraph. 

Now let us suppose that this happened week after week, with such an envelope arriving each week in each of twenty consecutive years, each time with a check of more than $1000. Suppose this man Rowan each week says to himself after opening the check envelope, "Oh, another check supposedly from my lousy father -- it must be merely another accidental computer error, probably caused by another cosmic ray burst."  What would be going on here is a chance-presuming superstition, an illogical presumption that something looking very much like an act of will was caused by chance. Rowan's ideas about what caused him to get such gifts would involve ideas of miracles of chance that are not as implausible as believing in the accidental origin of many thousands of types of novel protein molecules, which would be even more improbable. 

When there is illogical belief about causation often associated with fear, that is superstition, which may exist as either intent-presuming superstition (illogically attributing to will or volition something more logically attributed to chance) or as chance-presuming superstition (illogically attributing to chance something more logically attributed to will or volition).  It would seem that some of the biggest believers in superstition (superstition of the chance-presuming type) are those who fancy themselves as opponents of superstition. The Rowans of academia should analyze their own teleophobia. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Information Centralization and Knowledge Constriction Helped Materialism Flourish Between 1945 and 1995

To describe a particular system of belief that gained some ascendancy,  we may use the term "ideological regime."  An ideological regime is some structure of belief and related social structures and habits that have become popular in a particular place.  In a particular country there may exist more than one ideological regime.  For example, in the United States there are currently multiple ideological regimes, such as these:

(1) the belief tradition and social structure of Catholicism;

(2) the belief tradition and social structures of Protestantism, taking several different forms;

(3) the belief tradition and social structures of Darwinist materialism;

(4) the belief tradition and social structures of what we may call money-centered consumerist capitalism.

The interesting topic of the sociology of ideological regimes is discussed in my post "The Sociological Dynamics of Ideological Regimes." One of the topics I discussed in that post is how ideological regimes have often attempted to restrict the flow of information, so that people would not be exposed to information conflicting with the dogmas of such regimes. 

A prominent example of such restriction occurred during the Middle Ages. In Western Europe, information was largely controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. Since it was before the invention of the printing press, there were few books available to the masses. People in Western Europe got their information about how the world worked (and about history) largely through a priesthood that told a story line consistent with the dogmas of the Catholic Church. After the printing press was invented around 1436, it was almost inevitable that this highly centralized information structure would be weakened. It was now possible for independent writers to write and have printed books that conflicted with the story line of the Catholic Church. In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began, largely fueled by the availability of printed books. Protestants began telling a story line conflicting with the story line that came from Rome.  An ideological regime that had overwhelming dominance in Western Europe then had its hegemony weakened and challenged. 

There was another great case of information constriction that helped an ideological regime gain a kind of hegemony and dominance. I refer to the information constriction occurring in the fifty-year period between about 1945 and 1995. During these decades there was an extremely large degree of information centralization and knowledge constriction that helped a particular ideological regime flourish: the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism. This was a time prior to the large-scale adoption of the Internet, before it was easy to get information online. 

I can give a little sketch of some of the main elements of the kind of information constriction that occurred:

(1) People got information through books, magazines, television programs and college courses, which tended to be very biased towards the dogmas of Darwinist materialism, and which tended to restrict people from learning about things conflicting with such doctrines. 

(2) A small "elite" of publishers, producers and professors exerted enormous control over what type of information the average person would be exposed to. 

(3) A small number of encyclopedias displaying very heavy ideological bias were used overwhelmingly as information sources. Such encyclopedias used deplorable information constriction techniques and biased information presentation, to indoctrinate the public in the dogmas of a powerful elite, while minimizing mention of innumerable observations that challenged such dogmas. 

(4) There was through the first two decades of this time a very high level of submissive conformism that facilitated such information constriction. 

(5) In much of the world, there existed a situation in which challenging the dogmas of materialism might leave you dead, imprisoned in a gulag, or without a job. 

Let us consider one aspect of this information centralization: the very heavy influence of printed encyclopedias.  It is almost impossible to over-emphasize the effect which such printed encyclopedias had.  A few encyclopedias dominated, such as the massive one-volume Columbia Encylopedia, the multi-volume Encyclopedia Brittanica, and (in the Soviet Union) the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.  Since it was not yet possible to efficiently research things online during most of this period,  such printed encyclopedias had overwhelming influence. Such encyclopedias were overwhelmingly biased towards indoctrinating people in the dogmas of Darwinist materialism.  Instead of offering people an opportunity to research topics conflicting with such dogmas, the encyclopedias of the 1945-1995 era almost invariably made it very hard for people to learn things conflicting with such dogmas. 

I can give an example of the ridiculously biased information presentation that was going on. At the link here you can read online the 2224-page one-volume 1950 edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia. What happened if a reader looked up the topic of "extra-sensory perception"? He would find no article on the topic, only a "See PARAPSYCHOLOGY" statement. What happened if a reader looked up the topic of "Parapsychology" in the Columbia Encyclopedia?   He would find no article on the topic, only a "See PSYCHICAL RESEARCH" statement. It was as if the Columbia Encyclopedia had been edited to discourage anyone from reading up on ESP, making it hard as possible to find something on that topic. What happened if a reader looked up the topic of "Psychical Research" in the Columbia Encyclopedia? He would find on page 1612 a one-paragraph article that would tell him nothing of substance about ESP or parapsychology or psychical research, merely mentioning some people and groups who did research in this area, without mentioning any particular observations. 

The article begins with the highly inaccurate claim that "the use of scientific discipline in the investigation of the paranormal and supernormal phenomena is comparatively modern, having its inception with the foundation (1882) of the Society for Psychical Research."  To the contrary, any careful scholar of psychical research would be aware that the use of scientific discipline in the investigation of the paranormal occurred massively in decades before 1882, with highlights such as the 1825-1831 investigation of the French Royal Academy of Medicine, the 1869 investigation of the Dialectical Society of London, and the 1870's investigations of the world-class scientist Sir William Crookes.  The rest of the short Columbia Encyclopedia article gives us no substantive information about psychical research, merely mentioning a few books and researchers. So a reader of the 1950 Columbia Encyclopedia was prevented from learning anything about the massive laboratory evidence for ESP which had been accumulated in previous decades by researchers such as Joseph Rhine. If a reader had looked up William Crookes in the Columbia Encyclopedia, he would have learned that Crookes had discovered the element thallium and was the inventor of the Crookes Tube (the technological ancestor of computer monitors and television), but would merely be told that Crookes was "interested in psychical research," rather than being told of the eyewitness reports this eminent scientist made describing observations of human levitations, phantom faces and hands, a musical instrument mysteriously playing by itself, and paranormal materializations. 

This is the type of information constriction that occurred during the period from 1945 to 1995. Textbooks during that time were notorious for their failure to include extremely relevant information. If you read a psychology textbook during this period, you would not have been informed of hundreds of extremely important facts and observations you should have been told about. A "nothing spooky allowed" rule was generally followed in the halls of academia. If seemed after the first atomic bomb had been exploded in 1945, millions were treating the scientists rather like gods, forgetting that the ability to create enormous destructive power does not equal insight about topics such as life and mind. 

During the first twenty years of this period belief conformity was aided by the general tendency towards conformism in US society. In the USA the 1950's were in particular a period of astonishingly high conformism in which everyone seemed to want to conform to his neighbors in dress and speech.  In New York City in the 1950's almost all the men who went to office jobs wore both suits and hats, afraid to defy the prevailing dress customs. By the late 1960's we started to see a substantial rebellion against such conformism, largely led by youthful nonconformists. 

In the East communist regimes enforced ideological conformity with dire penalties for thought deviants. Information was centralized through sources such as the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, consisting of  65 volumes published from 1926 to 1947, 100 volumes published  between 1950 and 1958, and 30 volumes published between 1969 and 1978. The Soviet Union had suppressed religious expression during the first two decades of its existence. While such suppression was eased during World War II, it sprang up again in the Soviet Union after the war ended, persisting for very much of the time until 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up. If you had tried to challenge the dogmas of atheist materialism around 1975, you would have risked ending up in some gulag work prison, perhaps in Siberia. Similarly, for much of the period between 1950 and 1990, communist China actively practiced religious repression, persecuting those who deviated from Marxist orthodoxy. 

By about 1995 there were some hopeful signs. For one thing, the ideological oppression of the Soviet Union had ended, with the Soviet Union ending in late 1991. China maintained a communist regime, but seemed to have little interest in enforcing materialist dogmas.  Another very important development was the widespread adoption of the Internet, and Internet search engines, which became powerful and efficient for the average person around 1995.  Now anyone could quickly find information on almost any topic. The chance of information constriction was greatly reduced. 

We now have a situation in which people can very quickly and easily find information that discredits the dogmas of materialism.  But still materialism largely maintains a stranglehold over the minds of so many.  There are some factors that help to explain this paradox:

(1) Materialism maintains a gigantic power base in academia, where almost everyone dances to the tune played by professors indoctrinated in materialist belief traditions, or at least speaks as if they were afraid to criticize such figures.

(2) Rather than using the power of the Internet to properly research topics and discover the most relevant observations and facts, people are still kneeling to the authority of the professorial priesthood.  

(3) We have an extremely problematic situation in which most people have their viewpoints shaped by a small elite that controls the most widely viewed web sites. Such an elite often shows an unscholarly credulity to the unwarranted claims of an academia elite that often proclaims things in a way that promotes its own interests. 

(4) There has arisen a click-bait economy, in which web sites uncritically parrot unwarranted "science news" claims, largely for the sake of increasing page views that result in increased advertising revenue for those hosting the web pages. 

(5) The 1945-1990 problem of excessive influence by biased encyclopedias (such as the Columbia Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Brittanica) has now appeared in a new form, with search engines always producing at the top of their results links to an ideologically biased online encyclopedia (wikipedia.org). Whenever you reach a wikipedia page discussing any topic that challenges the dogmas of Darwinist materialism, you will typically find misleading and often factually inaccurate information. 

(6) Instead of supplying a broad range of web search results that are most relevant to search queries, Internet search engines and social media sites will often show results designed to parrot whatever dogmas prevail in academia. 

Despite all of the problems listed above, we should be hopeful that over the very long run the easy accessibility of information will help give rise to the decline of the materialist worldview, and to a decrease of its deleterious hegemony over our educational system and information sources.  When there is some great advance in the accessibility of information, it can take quite a few decades for the effects of that to appear.  It was 81 years between the invention of the printing press and the Protestant Revolution that the printing press made possible. After we have had 40 or 50 or 60 years of the average man having easy and instant access to the facts discrediting the dogmas of materialism, the power structure that keeps alive such dogmas may well weaken, and its spiritually poisonous stranglehold on the minds of the masses may well be lessened.  

But we should not be over-optimistic about such a topic. We should remember that Darwinist materialism is arguably a religion, a kind of stealth church in which indoctrination sessions are called "classes" rather than "sermons," the stone buildings are called "university facilities" rather than "churches" or "monasteries," and those teaching sacred dogmas are called "professors" rather than "ministers" or  "priests." Darwinist materialism qualifies as a religion if you use my definition of a religion, which is "a set of beliefs about the fundamental nature of reality and life, or a recommended way of living, typically stemming from the teachings of an authority, along with norms, ethics, rituals, roles or social organizations that may arise from such beliefs." Such a definition describes Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Scientology and also Darwinist materialism. Whether or not they call themselves churches, organized religions tend to persist for a very long time, and only slowly decrease in influence. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

When They Claim a "Fossil Series," Is It Mainly Just Paleontology Pareidolia?

Darwin's theory of evolution consists of three parts: (1) the doctrine of common descent, that all earthly species are derived from a common ancestor; (2) the doctrine of gradualism, that all new species and biological innovations occur because of gradual changes that very slowly occur; (3) the idea that the origin of species and biological complexity can be explained as a result of merely accidental natural events: so-called "natural selection" and random changes or random mutations. Don't be fooled by the constant attempts to make such a theory sound modern by mixing it with modern data. Inconsistent with modern data such as the enormous organization and fine-tuned complexity of protein molecules and cells, Darwinism is a moldy old ideology from the nineteenth century, which echoes ideas of Epicurus and Lucretius dating from the first century BC and earlier. 

Darwinism snake oil

Some think that series of very old fossils dating back many thousands or millions of years provide proof for Darwin's theory of evolution. But I will now explain why very old fossils do not prove Darwinism as a whole, and also do not prove any one of the theory's three parts.

No Fossils Prove Common Descent

There are almost no fossils dating back earlier than about 550 million years. Then the fossil record suddenly blossoms with a huge number of fossils. This explosion of fossils (very difficult to explain under Darwinian assumptions) is called the Cambrian explosion. The fossils that appear in the Cambrian explosion are fossils of highly developed organisms such as trilobites.

But it is believed that life began more than three billion years ago. We have virtually no fossil record of the first three billion years of life's history. So it clear that fossils cannot prove any doctrine of common descent, that all life is derived from the same ancestor. In order to prove that, you would have to have a complete fossil record showing the intricate details of the first three billion years of life's history. We have no such thing. From the fossil record, we cannot tell whether all life has evolved from the same ancestor, or 12 different ancestors, or 100 different ancestors.

The major groups of animals are called phyla, and there are about 24 different animal phyla. What the first major flourish of the fossil records shows us is not one phyla appearing, and then branching out into twenty. What we see is more like phyla suddenly appearing at the same time. While this is not (strictly speaking) incompatible with the idea of common descent, it is not particularly consistent with such an idea, and almost seems to suggest a very different idea.

No Fossils Prove That Natural Selection Drives Evolution

As far as the Darwinian doctrine that natural selection is the main cause of evolution, such an idea is a speculative idea that is not proven by any fossil or any series of fossils. Fossils suggest nothing about a cause of evolution. A series of fossils no more proves that natural selection is causing species to appear than it proves that magic fairies are causing species to appear. It might be otherwise if natural selection left some kind of tell-tale mark or trace element that you could use to tell when natural selection occurred. But there is certainly no such trace or tell-tale mark in any fossil.

It Is All But Impossible to Distinguish Between the Fossils of a Real Transitional Series and a Coincidentally Similar Set of Fossils That Is Not From a Real Transitional Series

Many Darwinists naively assume that once a series of fossils has been arranged into a series suggesting a transitional series, that such an arrangement proves a line of evolution from one species to another (the idea of gradualism that is one of the three parts of Darwinism). But such an assumption is erroneous. One reason is that assuming alternate scenarios under which gradualism does not occur, and one species does not evolve into another, we would coincidentally expect to see many sequences of fossils that a gradualist might mistakenly interpret as a transitional series.

For example, let's imagine some super-advanced and very old extraterrestrial civilization that visits Earth at long intervals. Suppose that 10 million years ago they introduced monkey-like species to our planet, that 5 million years ago they introduced ape-like species, and that 100,000 years ago they cause the human species to appear on Earth. This might result in a fossil record that cannot be distinguished from a Darwinian fossil record in which apes evolve from monkeys, and men evolve from apes.

Here is a very interesting idea for a computer program, one I may one day write. The program would first generate a hypothetical history of life of an extraterrestrial planet, based not on Darwinian assumptions, but on the idea that some unknown force or power causes species to suddenly appear and then survive for a random length of geological time. Each of these hypothetical species would have a certain set of characteristics. Then in its second phase the program would search through the data generated in the first phase, looking for sequences that look rather like transitional series in which one species evolved from the next (even though no such thing had ever happened in this hypothetical history). The program would probably be able to find many such series looking like transitional series, even though they would all be false alarms resulting from coincidence.

We have no idea whether the alleged transitional series presented by Darwinists are similar false alarms, resulting from coincidental similarities rather than actual gradual evolution in which one species evolves into another species. Those alleged transitional series could be the result of a kind of “paleontology pareidolia,” in which people find a few patterns they are hoping to find after spending great lengths of time scanning a large data realm, rather like people who spend countless hours scanning Mars photos and who occasionally find things on the surface they claim are evidence of ancient Mars civilizations. Dictionary.com defines pareidolia as “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist.” The scientist who spends decades searching for transitional series of fossils (and who eventually finds one or two alleged fossil series that seem to please him) may be like some person who for 40 years carefully checks his toast for dark spots that look like the face of Jesus, and who eventually finds something that pleases him.

Below is some random text. The characters in orange accidentally happen to be sequential characters in the alphabet.

If I have the entire text to scan through, and I am free to cherry-pick  any sequential progression of characters (such as “defghijk” or “pqrstuvwx” or “ijklmnopqr”), it may be quite easy (depending on the size of the text) for me to find a sequential series of characters. I can then cherry-pick my data, and make an “evolution graphic” that looks like this:

COLUMN NUMBER 1 2 3 4 5 6
LETTER a b c d e f

I have now presented a visual that seems to tell a “tale of evolution.” By making this table I have suggested that the letter in the first column has evolved into the letter in the second column, that the letter in the second column has evolved into the letter in the third column, and so forth. But this is purely a case of finding a pattern I was hoping to find. There was no actual “evolution of characters” in this random text.

This simple example shows how easy it is easy it is to search through a large amount of data and find some “evolution series” when evolution is not actually happening.

Doing research along these lines might be less speculative if we were able to recover the DNA of presumed human ancestors. But we have very little of such DNA. Here's the oldest thing found: scientists were able to retrieve a small fragment of DNA from a 400,000-year-old hominid fossil, but only the mitochondrial DNA which accounts for only 37 genes. That's only about a five hundredth of the total human genome. This fragment told no clear tale supporting conventional theories, and confusingly resembled DNA of the Denisovans who supposedly lived about 80,000 years ago.

We may contrast the typical visual claiming a fossil series with a scientific chart such as the periodic table. One shows an extremely arbitrary and doubtful claim of a series, and the other shows a series that involves no ideology at at all.  Nature really is objectively structured in a way that matches the periodic table. For example, all carbon atoms have six protons, all nitrogen atoms have seven protons, all oxygen atoms have eight protons, and so forth. Although the arrangement of the periodic table is somewhat arbitrary, there is nothing arbitrary about the numbering found in its squares or the ordering of the squares.  We might expect to find exactly the same numbering and ordering on periodic tables drawn up by intelligent species on other planets, because the numbers and sequences match  objective facts of nature. The periodic table does not push any ideology; it tells us objective indisputable measurable facts of nature.  Charts suggesting fossil series, on the other hand, are extremely cherry-picked affairs in which someone selects fossils out of millions that a particular age may have produced, for the sake of planting in our minds some particular storyline that may or may not be true. 

The Number of Alleged Transitional Series Presented to Support Darwinian Gradualism Is Small, and Many Say It Is Much Smaller Than We Would Expect If Darwinian Gradualism Were Occurring

Under Darwinian assumptions we should expect to find innumerable transitional series, but the evidence that exists for transitional series is something much, much weaker.  Below is a quote from a leading paleontologist, the late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould:

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our text-books have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record: 'The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties,  connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory.' Darwin's argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution."

Alleged Transitional Series of Fossils Often Involve Fossils Gathered in Places So Geographically Diverse That the Claim of a Transition Is Not Credible

When we see some chart showing an alleged set of transitional fossils, we never see any identification of where the fossils were gathered. What we sometimes get is something like this:

Fossil A --> Fossil B --> Fossil C --> Fossil D

where the fossils came from different continents, or different quadrants of a the same continent.  But claims of a gradual transition in such cases are often not credible, because of the impossibility or implausibility of descendants traveling from one continent to another, or traveling from one quadrant of a continent to some other quadrant of that continent thousands of miles away.  

If you do a Google image search for "oceanic dispersal," you can find maps depicting claims that plants or animals somehow crossed oceans long before there were any boats. The page here has one of those maps, which appeared in a scientific paper.  The arrows in the map tell us a large set of vastly improbable tall tales of oceanic movements before the existence of boats, such as (1) the claim that eons ago monkeys and cotton plants traveled from Africa to South America; (2) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from South America to Africa; (3) the claim that eons ago gecko lizards traveled from Africa to Cuba; (4) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from North America and Africa to Australia; (5) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from Australia to Hawaii;  (6) the claim that eons ago chameleons and frogs traveled 200 miles between  Madagascar and Africa; (7) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from New Zealand to South America; (8) the claim that eons ago some plant traveled from India to New Zealand; and (9) the claim that eons ago some trees traveled between Africa and Australia.  These are the kind of claims that paleontologists make in connection with some of their claims of transitional fossil series. The problem is that these claims are tall tales lacking in credibility, sounding like the tale of a cyclone taking Dorothy's house from Kansas to Oz.  

The Alleged Transitional Series Presented to Support Darwinian Gradualism Typically Involve Too-Fast Evolution That Darwinism Cannot Plausibly Account For

It's not enough to just have an alleged transitional series – you need to have a series with plausibility. Suppose you are a district attorney presenting a kind of transitional series as part of your case against a defendant. You maintain that the defendant left his job near Penn Station in Manhattan at 5:00, went to an apartment in eastern Brooklyn, killed the murder victim at 5:10, and then returned to his apartment in northern Manhattan by 5:20. This is a transitional series, but not a plausible one, because it happens too fast. Whether you take subway, train, car, or cab, you cannot get from Penn Station to eastern Brooklyn and back to northern Manhattan in only twenty minutes.

An equal lack of plausibility is found in most or all of the fossil transitional series alleged by Darwinists. The most famous such series is the fossils claimed to be a transitional series between 4-million-year-old primates and modern man. This series involves an explosive growth of brain power, requiring many favorable mutations. But the smaller the population, the lower the likelihood of getting favorable mutations; and it is generally held that about a million years ago the population of human ancestors was very small, only about 10,000. Given such a small population, Darwinian evolution cannot explain a rapid transition to human brains of the type that Darwinists imagine.

Four scientists (one from Cornell University) published a scientific paper entitled “The Waiting Time Problem in a Model Hominem Population,” which was published in the journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling. The paper can he read here. Using a computer simulation, they “simulated a classic pre-human hominin population of at least 10,000 individuals, with a generation time of 20 years, and with very strong selection (50 % selective elimination).” They were basically trying to see how long it would take before you got a mutation consisting of two nucleotides (which is a fairly minor mutation, only some tiny fraction of the mutations needed for the evolution of human intelligence). This is called the “waiting time problem.” The authors summarize their results as follows:

"Biologically realistic numerical simulations revealed that a population of this type required inordinately long waiting times to establish even the shortest nucleotide strings. To establish a string of two nucleotides required on average 84 million years. To establish a string of five nucleotides required on average 2 billion years. We found that waiting times were reduced by higher mutation rates, stronger fitness benefits, and larger population sizes. However, even using the most generous feasible parameters settings, the waiting time required to establish any specific nucleotide string within this type of population was consistently prohibitive."

Another series of fossils that Darwinists like to discuss is one that supposedly suggests an evolution from land-based creatures to whales. But the dating of these fossils shows they were deposited over a span way too short to plausibly account for such a transition under Darwinian assumptions of mere random mutations and natural selection. When a major popular science web site gives us a headline claiming, “Whales Evolved in the Blink of an Eye,” we have a series of postulated changes occurring too fast to be accounted for under Darwinian assumptions.

What does this “too fast” problem mean? It means that the most famous series of alleged transitional fossils must be “taken off the table” as evidence for Darwinian evolution. Like a wise jury that would need to disqualify and invalidate any “transitional series” claim that a defendant got from mid-Manhattan to Brooklyn and then to northern Manhattan in 20 minutes, we must disqualify and invalidate any series of fossils used to support claims of Darwinian gradualism that appear to show transitions happening way too fast to have occurred under Darwinian assumptions.

Once we do that, Darwinism seems to be left with very little in the way of supporting fossil evidence. Such a situation could possibly be reversed if Darwinists were to revolutionize their thinking to allow for some plausible method of fast evolution. But our Darwinists keep stubbornly sticking to their same old “random mutations plus natural selection” story that is way, way too slow to produce the transitions they claim occurred.

Visuals Used to Depict the Appearance of Alleged Transitional Species Are Often Fanciful or Misleading, and Do Not Correspond to Any Fossils 

What often occurs is something like this:

(1) Some fossil will be found that slightly suggests the possibility of something a little like some transitional species that paleontologists hoped to find. 
(2) There will then be many artist depictions which depict such a species as having characteristics that are not justified by the fossil that was found. 

For example, if you do a Google image search for "tiktaalik," you will see a great number of artist depictions showing a fish-like animal with forelimbs. But if you do a Google image search for "tiktaalik fossil," you will see that the very slight fossil evidence for such a species does not correspond to the artist depictions, and merely show slight protrusions that might easily be mere fins.  

So it's kind of a "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile" situation. 

A Large Fraction of the Fossil Evidence Presented in Support of Darwinian Gradualism Involves Subjective Interpretation,  Subjective Forensics, Social Construction and Adhesive Construction

Some of the leading fossil cases involve subjective analysis. An example is the famous skeleton called Lucy, which consists of fragments of a skeleton rather than anything like a complete skeleton. We have in this case subjective analysis both in the judgment that the fragments were all originally part of the same animal skeleton, and also subjective analysis when people speculate on what this Lucy animal looked like. If any prosecutor in a court were to try to argue that scattered fragments of a skeleton were bone fragments of a particular individual who died decades ago, a defense attorney would be able to raise all kinds of objections relating to how the evidence was gathered, how the conclusions were drawn, and whether there were alternate interpretations. Medical studies are double-blinded to avoid scientist bias, but no such procedure occurs for paleontologists who are gathering fossil fragments. We typically let some paleontologist eager to support some orthodox Darwinian interpretation do the evidence gathering and interpretation, without guarding against bias that might produce “find whatever you hope to find” kind of results.

A related example of subjective interpretation may be found in rocks that are claimed to be evidence that human ancestors existed about 500,000 years ago. It has long been claimed that flaked rocks from hundreds of thousands of years ago must have be stone tools made by human ancestors. But this link says, “Recent research published in Nature by a team led by Tomos Proffitt at the University of Oxford shows that capuchin monkeys regularly produce sharp-edged flakes indistinguishable from those made by early hominins.”

Claims made about the significance of particular fossils are typically socially constructed claims. They rely on some chorus of paleontologists repeating countless times claims about fossil fragments that are of debatable or doubtful significance. Paleontologists also often rely on a literal adhesive construction of fossil fragments. In the history of paleontology what has very often occurred is that bone fragments were found scattered around some site, and paleontologists or their helpers decided to glue together fragments to make some impressive-looking find.  This often involves dubious assumptions that the fragments came from a single organism or the same species, when no such assumption is warranted.  My post "Fragment Follies of the Guessing Glue Guys" discusses how paleontologists often resort to dubious gluing efforts to make speculative constructions from fossil fragments. Often, it is not merely glue that is used, but baking soda mixed with superglue, which allows massive gaps to be filled in with some binding substance that looks like bone. 

dubious fossil

The Deliberate Faking of Fossils Has Long Been a Cloud on Paleontology Claims

A history of paleontology will tell the tale of Piltdown Man, some fossil fakery that long fooled paleontologists, who for decades cited it is as important evolution evidence. Nowadays what looks like an important fossil can be sold for large sums of money. This has given rise to a "cottage industry" in faking fossils in certain countries. A Scientific American article entitled "How Fake Fossils Pervert Paleontology" states, "A nebulous trade in forged and illegal fossils is an ever-growing headache for paleontologists." We read of "a growing and serious problem of fraudulent fossils being produced on an industrial scale in China."

Proving an Example of One Species Gradually Evolving Into Another Would Not Prove That Most Species Have Appeared Because of Gradual Evolution

Darwinists typically take a kind of “if I've moved a meter, I've moved a mile” attitude in the way they act as if proving one case of a species evolving into another would prove the general idea that all species have appeared through gradual evolution. But, to the contrary, one would have to prove that very many or most species have evolved from more primitive species to prove the gradualism claim of Darwinism.

A Marxist may dogmatically claim that class struggle is the main thing that explains historical events, and he may try to prove that by giving the example of the French Revolution, which did seem to be a case of class struggle. But proving this one example (or a few similar examples) does not prove that most historical events occur because of class struggles. Similarly, if a Darwinist were, for example, to prove some particular transition showing that one species had evolved into another millions of years ago, this would not prove that most species had appeared because of such a process, nor would it prove that the rather recent appearance of mankind had occurred because of such a process.

Darwinists Lack Any Credible Theory of Macroevolution

Darwinism can possibly explain small-scale transitions, such as a species gradually changing its color to better adapt to environmental changes. But Darwinism lacks any credible theory of how dramatic evolutionary changes could occur, such as dinosaurs evolving into birds or ape-like animals evolving into humans. The modern theory of Darwinism (called Neo-Darwinism or the Modern Synthesis) relies  on a lie: the lie that DNA is an anatomy blueprint. DNA only stores low-level chemical information, such as which amino acids make up a protein. If there is no anatomy blueprint in DNA (and there certainly is not), then Darwinists cannot explain dramatic anatomical transitions by postulating gradual DNA changes. 

Almost Any Large Group of Richly Funded Researchers Will Produce Superficially Persuasive Results for Its Favored Tenets

There is a rule that I may call the Rule of Richly Funded Researchers.  I may define this as the rule that almost any large group of richly-funded researchers will be able to produce superficially persuasive evidence for its cherished beliefs, even if those beliefs are false. So, for example, let us imagine that there were to exist tens of thousands of astrology researchers, who were given more than a billion dollars in federal funding to do research. Such researchers would probably be able to crunch data on births, illnesses and deaths to produce superficially convincing evidence in favor of astrology,  the belief that stars and planets produce a mysterious influence on humans.  Given that very many millions of dollars have been given over the past century to paleontologists very eager to prove their Darwinist beliefs, we should not be surprised if they are able to produce a few superficially persuasive cases of "transitional fossil series," even if their ideas about origins are way wrong. Similarly, if there was some community of thousands of researchers who passionately believed that the ghosts of animals live in the clouds, and were such researchers to receive many millions of dollars in funding, they would no doubt eventually be able to produce some superficially impressive photos showing clouds that looked very much like animals. 

Correcting the Most Iconic Visual of Darwinism

The most famous visual presented by Darwinists is one in which we see a series of four or five species, all shown facing the right. The visual is misleading because it typically fails to display an implausible transitional state, and also fails to mention the intellectual gulf between these species.  But the famous visual may be corrected by showing it as below:

icon of human evolution

Now we can see why it makes no sense to imagine gradual accidental changes producing such a transition: (1) the lack of any explanation for the giant leap from speechless organisms to speaking organisms; (2) the lack of an explanation for why there would have been a "survival of the fittest" transition resulting in an intermediate organism that would not be able to walk as well as its predecessor.