Archive for June 2008

What Do Creationists Believe?

June 30, 2008

I have no problem with PZ Meyers, or any other evolutionist, labeling any creationist a “wackaloon“.  In fact, their personal attacks suit my argument more then it suits theirs’.  However, the least they could do would be to properly represent what the creationist position is.  I’m not saying that PZ Meyers has particularly misreprested our worldview, but I’ve noticed a general trend in this area.  So here it goes.

Christian Worldview

The basic Christian worldview is one in which a benevolent and just God created the Universe and everything in it.  This God created the Earth and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1).  This allows Christians to account for the order in the Universe.  More particularly, how the universe exists and acts as a collected, integral whole.  This God also formed man in his “image”.  One implication of this is that our morality, reason and intelligence were created by God.  Since God created us, He then has ultimate authority over our lives, His wisdom is the ultimate wisdom; man’s wisdom, no matter how wise, pales in comparison.

The Bible

Creationists believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  We take Biblical parables as parable, poetry as poetry, metaphor as metaphor and historical accounts as history.  One of the more controversial (not to Christians however) accounts, the Creation account found in Genesis 1, we take it as the historical account it is.  At no point, after Genesis 1, does the Bible make a “ok, NOW we’re talking about facts” literary break.  Genesis 1 is meant to be a literal account of how God created the world, and we take it as such. 

Through Genesis 1 we know that God exists, He is the creator of all things, and the Universe is not eternal, since there had to be a beginning.  Notice that Genesis 1 doesn’t ARGUE for the existence of God, it assumes it and declares it.  This also establishes a two-level reality.  We have the uncreated, infinite, eternal, personal God and then everything else.  Genesis 1 also expresses an absolute ease of creation, a testament to the all-powerful nature of God. 

The Bible is also the main way in which God imparts His wisdom and will onto the world.  2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 

Science

If any atheist or theistic evolutionist wants to make a strawman out of the creation position, they can just label the debate as “science vs. religion”.  When has a creationist argued against the use of penicillin?  Or against the utility of open heart surgery?  The creationist fully embraces, and furthers, the utility of modern science.  The “science vs. religion” strawman also ignores the fact that the fathers of science (Newton, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus to name a few) were creationists by belief.  Many of whom wrote more about theology than they did about science.  Taking Genesis 1 literally obviously didn’t stop them from becoming the greatest scientists of all time.

Labeling the debate “evolution vs. religion” is also a strawman.  The creationist knows that God created life to evolve as we can observe quite easily.  It is the assumption that the small changes we can see around us will necessarily lead to the large changes we can’t see that the creationist challenges.  How large the gap is between observable science and unobservable science must be more fully and honestly explored. 

The argument isn’t about the utility of science, which is obvious to everyone.  Over the last 150 years, naturalism has attempted to explain the unobservable past, the origin of all things.  This worldview is directly attempting to take God out of the picture.  The presupposition that God is not needed must be shown to be the house built upon sinking sand that it is.  That’s what this argument is about.

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The Myth of Neutrality

June 26, 2008

I’ve just completed reading the first two chapters of Pushing the Antithesis:  The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen.  Instead of doing a general review once I finished, I thought I would post about the first central idea of the book and reason it through with you all.  First, let’s define a term.

Apologetics

As Christians, we are called to always have a defense of the faith.  Apologetics, from the Greek word apologia, meaning to speak in defense, is used several times in the New Testament.  When Paul was answering the charges from Agrippa and Festus, he used the word (Acts 26:1-2).  However, the most well known call to defend the faith is 1 Peter 3:15:

“but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being readyto make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”

Notice how were are called to “always” be able to defend the faith from “everyone” who is against the faith.  This also implies that EVERY Christian should have this ability, this isn’t a selective calling.  Once we understand the commandment God has given us for apologia, we must

“understand that the proper manner, the right method, and the correct procedures for proving God’s existence to skeptics, doubters, and unbelievers are essential to the defense of the Christian faith.  Not just any old method will do.” (pg. 6)

That’s what Pushing the Antithesis is about.

The Call to Neutrality

Since the Enlightenment, there has been a decided effort for intellectual and rational “neutral ground” to be the starting point of all knowledge and discussion.

  • David Hume (1711-1776):  “Nothing can be more unphilosophical than to be positive or dogmatical on any subject”.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935):  “To have doubted one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man.”
  • Bertrand Russel (1872-1970): “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hand a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted”

Don’t these quotes sound like reasonable assertions?  I know they did to me when I first read them, recognizing the authors and their assertions from high school on up.   In fact, I realized that this has been so ingrained in me, that I don’t even recognize when neutrality is being called for.  When telling someone about the existence of God, Christians are often called to “put away your faith for a second” before speaking.  We are asked to prove God “without depending upon Christianity” to do so.   Can this even be done?

Why Reject Neutrality?

  1.  Neutrality doesn’t exist.

The idea of coming to a place where “brute facts” are interpreted in a vacuum with no outside influence is a philosophical ideal that can never be reached.  Come now, let’s be honest, could we really ever put away the influences, experiences and biases that make us who we are?  “…there simply is no presupposition-free and neutral way to approach reasoning” (Bahnsen).

Especially when it comes the the things of God, neutrality is an impossibility, you are either for Him or against Him.  The Bible makes this very clear.

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;” (Eph 4:17-18 )

The worldly man’s heart is not “neutral” it is “hard”, their understanding is “darkened” and their thoughts are “futile”.  That isn’t to say that every unbeliever knows nothing, but it is to say that they don’t know any thing truly.  God created man, the world, and all the things in it for a purpose, to know facts and ideas while denying that purpose, is to not know those things truly.  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24).

2.  Christians are called NOT to be neutral

We believe that Christ is our Lord and Savior right?  We seek to obey His word?  We want to honor Him in all that we do?  Right?  Then how can we be neutral?  How can we put aside the words of our Savior during argument?  Bahnsen puts it that, neutrality “strikes at the very heart of our faith”.  The reality of Scripture teaches that the mind is not neutral, so we should not stoop to this imaginary level of thinking.

Our Savior calls us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).  Are we really loving God with all our mind if we are putting aside His words during discussion? “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 2:12).  AND, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor 10:5).

We can do none of these things if we are striving to be neutral.  In fact, to be neutral in talking about God is to lose the argument before it begins and it to be literally unfaithful to God in our actions.

The worldly nature of neutrality was a kick in the teeth the first time Bahnsen showed it to me.  The Bible is so clearly against neutrality, and shows how it doesn’t exist, that the words of our Savior should be our new starting point when discussing the things of God.  I’m sure that Pushing the Antithesis will delve into more practical methodologies later on, but these two opening chapters have laid a good and necessary framework.

Response to DonExodus

June 23, 2008

This is a video in 3 parts that purports to be able to “prove” evolution.  DonExodus is a surgeon of some kind and has put several videos up on YouTube.  These are two of them that I watched and formulated a response to.  The third was flagged by YouTube so I couldn’t watch since I don’t have a YouTube account and have no desire to get one.  Please, watch the videos, my arguments will make more sense.  Also, these are really good arguments from an intelligent evolutionist in the field of medicine.

Part 1

Part 2

Introduction

He assumes that evolution CAN be proven without a doubt.  Molecules-to-man evolution is an explanation of the unobservable past, about the origin of all things.  Since either God or nothing was there at the time, any theory of the past cannot be “proven”.  Science attempts to infer about the past using present evidence, that’s all it can do.  To give science an ability of proof above this is a statement of faith. 

Neanderthal DNA

He uses circular reasoning by assuming that Neanderthals died out 40,000 years ago, and uses this assumption to show “proof” of evolution.  This assumption is built upon the assumptions of radiometric dating.  If Neanderthals really didn’t live 40,000 years ago, this evidence goes out the window. 

DonExodus claims 1.  that contamination is not an issue because independent labs have found the same results and 2.  because even IF the DNA was contaminated it would make the DNA look MORE human.  Problems:  1. Perhaps the DNA was contaminated BEFORE it was removed from the Neanderthals.  How can we be sure it wasn’t?  Independent labs would recieve the exact same contamination.  DonExodus doesn’t address this.  2.  Only if the contamination came from human sources.  Also, perhaps the contamination DID make the DNA look more human than it is. 

Where did the DNA of the Neanderthals come from?  Is the archaeological community unanimous in their conclusion that the samples were taken from neanderthals?  Was it taken from an entire skull?  A fragment of skull?  A fragment of a femur?  Is it possible that it was actually ape DNA that got contaminated to look MORE human?  These are questions I don’t know the answer to because DonExodus doesn’t address them and then calls this evidence “conclusive”.  That claim is quite unfounded.

The chart:  5% difference are you serious?  He shows a 5% difference from human-to-human variation and says that it was “blown out of the water” and says that the Neanderthal DNA “wasn’t even close” to human.  Come again?  Also, the chart shows that the difference between human-neanderthal to be 5% greater than human-chimp!  Aren’t neanderthals further along the chain of evolution to humans?  Shouldn’t they have LESS genetic variation than human-chimp?

DonExodus also says the Dr. (who’s name I couldn’t catch) had no response to his arguments when he just listed 4 rebuttals to his arguments the Dr. gave.  What DonExodus really means is that the Dr. had no arguments that he accepted as true rebuttals, as if that was possible since Don believes “evolution has been proven without a doubt”.

Chromosomal Fusion

Ken Miller sets up an ad hoc thesis, an argument of his own construction, and then answers it.  Once you realize he’s doing this it’s quite fun to watch.  He says that, “If we don’t find the fused chromosomes then evolution is wrong.”  But that doesn’t exclude evolution from being wrong ANYWAY.  Then he assumes that it’s the fusion of “2 ape chromosomes” (they are only “ape chromosomes” if we actually evolved from them, they’re human chromosomes if we didn’t) to provide evidence that we evolved from apes.  That’s circular reasoning.  

So apes have 48 chromosomes and humans have 46 with two that were apparently fused.  Ok, so can we observe them fusing?  No, so we must speculate that they did.  Even if they did fuse, what caused this fusion?  We don’t know.  That event happened in the unobservable past so we cannot test it.  So what we REALLY see is our genetic similarity to apes and our fused chromosomes.  One explanation based on the evidence is that Natural Selection fused them, the other is that God made us similar to apes but one of the differences is the fused chromosomes. 

Ken Miller makes a big point of this saying that Creationist must believe that it was “designed” with “no rhyme or reason” to look “as if it was fused from a common ancestor”, and that these statements are unscientific.  He’s right.  Firstly, however, the chromosomes only look “as if it was fused from a common ancestor” if you assume evolution happened.  Secondly, the problem is that his statement, “Natural Selection fused them” is just as unscientific.   Both statements (“Natural Selection did it” and “God did it”) are statements of faith.

DonExodus says that since we have the exact place of the fusion, this negates the “so what if we have a fusion?” rebuttal.  Saying something doesn’t make it so.  Knowing the exact place of fusion has nothing to do with the fact that it’s STILL JUST A FUSION.  An unobservable, untestable fusion that can be inferred either that Natural Selection did it over millions of years, or God did it at creation.  Neither can be proven.

Endogenous RetroViruses

What Don refrains from acknowledging is that several ERV gene sequences have been found to be essential to reproduction.  These aren’t “inactivated” as he suggests all ERV’s are.  Syncytins, products of the env gene of HERV-W and HERV-FRD, contribute to human placenta development and the sheep ERV genes have been shown to be essential for sheep reproduction.  Also, some ERV’s have a beneficial role in bacteria.  The main beneficial role of viruses known to date is the ecological role of horizontal gene transfer (DNA transduction) by bacteriophages.  These viruses enable bacteria to share traits such as antibiotic resistance that would give an advantage to the bacteria.

Admittedly, I do not know that much about ERV’s.  However, it seems that if some ERV’s are essential to reproduction, and therefore essential to life, then how did they evolve into the human or sheep genome?  They must have had to be there from the beginning.  Now, DonExodus will probably say that they BECAME essential later on in evolution but again, that’s a statement of faith since there can be no evidence for that.

However, here is the real question.  It took me about an hour to learn the above information.  Why didn’t DonExodus, the medical doctor, include this information?  Especially since I’m sure he has an answer to it.  If DonExodus is attempting to “prove” evolution by excluding contradictory information then I wouldn’t consider that very honest.

Summation

At the beginning of the Part 2, DonExodus defends his use of the word “proof” in the title of the videos because “it serves his purpose”.  What he is really saying is that only those who are smart enough to know that “proof” is only used in math and can’t really be used for biology, already believe in evolution; ie:  Only nincompoops don’t believe evolution has been proven.  “His purpose” also refers to attempting to be as inflammatory as possible.

DonExodus here takes all the procedural and observable forms of evolution, shows how useful they are (a fact that I am completely on board with) and then says that is proof of the unobservable origins of things.  It’s that famous “bait and switch” again.  He also assumes that the value of a theory makes it more true.  If DonExodus followed that value line of logic to it’s conclusion, he’d be forced to become a Christian.

Comparative anatomy:  The evolutionist must make the logical leap that similarity = common ancestry.  The creationist will say that similarity = similarity and stop there, why the extra assumption?

Embryology:  Trying, again, to pass off evidence of similarity for evidence of evolution.  He shows Haeckel’s Embryos (the black and white drawn one) that long ago was shown to be almost a complete fraud.  If one studies Haeckel’s photographs from which the chart was drawn, you will see that he LITERALLY faked the similarity of the early stages!  This is not controversial, even evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould called the continued use of Haeckel’s Embryos, “the academic equivalent of murder”.  I’m sure that DonExodus knows this too, but apparently as long as it supports his theory, it’s worthy of Don using it.  There are two more major problems with Haeckel’s Embryos that are too lengthy to get into here.

Gene predictions:  If the biologists were only using this to compare similarities with all living things then I would would not have a problem with that, in fact, I would be fascinated to see what I have genetically in common with a sea slug.  Unfortunately, they are trying to insult my intelligence by telling me that since I am similar to another animal, I therefore must share an ancestor with that animal.  It just doesn’t necessarily follow.

Useful applications:  Absolutely, showing the genetic sequencing of every animal and bacteria is essential to modern medicine and many many other disciplines.

Phylogenic trees: If one studies the phylogenic trees, evolution is not necessarily a conclusion one comes to based on the phylogenic tree itself.  Let me attempt to briefly explain.  The simplist of animals, lacking even true tissues, is the sponge (Phylum Porifera).  The next animal up the phylogenic tree is the jelly (Phylum Cnideria).  If you study WHY they are classified the way they are, it’s because of their characteristics/traits.  Every single phylum up the phylogenic tree offers at least one wholly new characteristic/trait.  Sponges are the most primitive animals while jellies are the most primitive that have a stomach cavity.  This is extremely brief of course, but this IS the basics.  Similar and more advanced characteristis does not evolution make.

Conclusion

Creationists and evolutionists are looking at the same evidence.  Every piece of evidence that DonExodus put forth CAN be explained by evolution, but you must make several assumptions to do so.  DonExodus assumes that molecules-to-man evolution has the ability to be proven, that similarity is evidence for evolution, that chromosomal “fusion” is evidence for evolution; he also uses apparent misinformation and exclusion of information to make his evidence more solid.  In fact, one can clearly see that DonExodus is already convinced “without a shadow of a doubt” that evolution took place and this conclusion is used in every single one of his evidences.  That’s more dogmatic than it is scientific.  

Proof of Evolution?

June 20, 2008

Ironically, after I posted “Not All Science is Created Equal” I read an article that was a perfect example of this principle put into action.  The article was in the June 9th issue of New Scientist and was entitled “Bacteria Make Major Evolutionary Shift in the Lab.”

Summary

Twenty years ago, an evolutionary biologist from Michigan State University named Richard Lenski, planted a single E. coli bacteria and allowed it to grow.  Since then, Dr. Lenski now has 12 lab colonies which have seen 44,000 generations of bacteria.  Every 500th generation Dr. Lenski freezes a sample of the bacteria as an evolutionary reference point.

Mostly, Dr. Lenski has seen just larger cells and faster growth rates, but somewhere in the 31,500th generation, the E. coli did something drastic.  All of a sudden, one of the colonies developed the ability to metabolize citrate, something E. coli shouldn’t be able to do.  Indeed, one of the characteristics that seperates E. coli from other bacteria is it’s inability to metabolize citrate. 

This spontaneously developed “citrate-plus” trait is an example of evolution in action.  Dr. Lenski went into his freezer and brought out samples of each of the 12 populations, hoping to see if other populations would develop this “citrate-plus” trait.  Unfortunately only the original population redeveloped the trait, and only if he “revived” the bacteria past generation 20,000.  Something must have happened around the 20,000 generation to allow for the addition of this trait.  Dr. Lenski and his team are working hard to find out exactly what allowed for this change over 10,000 generations later.

Evolution in action?

As we discussed before, this IS procedural evolution in action.  This is definetly a change of alleles in a population of bacteria, that’s obvious.  However, this not how the article means to define evolution.

“A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.”

Notice how they assume “molecules-to-man” evolution to be true and this just the first time it’s been “caught in the act”.  Very scientific of them.

” ‘It’s the most profound change we have seen during the experiment. This was clearly something quite different for them, and it’s outside what was normally considered the bounds of E. coli as a species, which makes it especially interesting,’ says Lenski.” 

Lenski describes an out of the ordinary case of bacterial adaptation and then the article pulls the old “bait and switch”.  By saying,

“Lenski’s experiment is also yet another poke in the eye for anti-evolutionists, notes Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. “The thing I like most is it says you can get these complex traits evolving by a combination of unlikely events,” he says. “That’s just what creationists say can’t happen.”

See what they did there?  They provide evidence for bacterial adaptation and then claim it as evidence of “molecules-to-man” (or “expanded” as defined in the previous post) evolution.  In order for this to be true, the bacteria would have had to turn into something NONE bacteria over the 44,000 generations.

This kind of “evidence” for molecules-to-man evolution should be intellectually insulting to all parties, evolutionists included.  It just shows that they assume evolution to be true a priori and any case of life adapting will be evidence for that evolution.

Note to Dr. Jerry Coyn from the University of Chicago:  The ability of bacteria to develop a new food source, is that considered complex?  Even if it is, evolution requires the slow addition of genetic information that leads to new traits, new body forms and eventually all of life we see around us.  THAT’S what creation geneticists and information theorists say can’t happen.  Did that happen in this case?  They don’t know.  Don’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon, you might have to retract later.

How and Why Did the E. coli Develop this Ability?

They have no idea. 

“Lenski and his colleagues are now working to identify just what that earlier change was, and how it made the Cit+ mutation possible more than 10,000 generations later.” 

So, for all they know, it could have been an outside contaminant or factor that caused this adaptation.  Eventhough they don’t know why or how, the article claims, “In the meantime, the experiment stands as proof that…”  How can it stand as “proof” of anything if they don’t know how or why?  Again, very scientific of them.

 

Not All Science is Created Equal

June 17, 2008

Why do we, as Christians, think that we have any intellectual basis to reject evolution?  Is it just that we hate science?  If that’s true then why do we accept anti-biotics, built on the same principles as evolution, from our doctor, expecting them to work?  It seems that we are being hypocrites, accepting science where it helps us and rejecting it when it doesn’t agree with a two thousand year old book.

This would be true if all science was created equal.  To be fair, let’s start with some scientifically acceptable definitions of evolution and go from there. 

Brief Definition of Evolution

“In fact, evolution can be precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next.” (Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes, Biology, 5th ed. 1989 Worth Publishers, p.974)

The change in alleles in humans is easily observed every generation (you don’t look EXACTLY like your parents do you?).  In fact, it is this change in alleles that we are trusting every time we use something that ends in cilin.  This doesn’t sound like such a bad definition.  Why are we Christians up in arms about something so obviously true?  But wait, here is a more extensive scientifically acceptable definition of evolution.

Expanded Definition of Evolution

“The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions.” (Douglas J. Futuyma in Evolutionary Biology, Sinauer Associates 1986)

If you aren’t careful they almost slip it past you.  Did you catch it?  According to this more extensive definition, evolution accounts for everything from bacterial adaptation “…to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes and dandelions.”  So basically the small changes of allele frequency that we can easily view today inevitably lead to the entire tree of life we see around us.  So what the difference between the two definitions?  Why make a distinction?

Procedural Science vs. Historical Science

The brief definition of evolution is all the things we can see around us.  We can observe bacteria developing resistances or a species of moths’ coloring changing over several generations to match their new surroundings.  This is called procedural science.  We can observe it, test it (manipulate it) and falsify it

The expanded definition of evolution includes the brief definition and expands it to other heights.  It literally takes what we can see around us and purports to explain what we cannot.  This is called historical science which is an attempt to explain the origin of things or “where it came from”.  The difference is subtle but momumentous to one’s thinking when one realizes it.  Historical science is neither observable, testable or falsifiable.  Let me show you.

Observable

Has anyone seen a fish develop legs fit for walking, an amphibian developing lungs fit soley for air, or a mammal developing the ability to drink salt water over thousands of generations?  Of course not.  And evolutionists will agree.  “But,” Mr. Evolutionist will be quick to tell you, “we observe lobe-finned fish, we know frogs already have lungs, and we have the intermediate fossils showing whale evolution.”  The astute evolutionary skeptic will notice that the question wasn’t answered.  The evolutionist gave you nouns when you asked for verbs.  You asked for “developing legs” and he gave you lobe finned fish?  Which is just that, a species of fish.  You asked for amphibian “developing lungs” fit solely for air and he gives you frogs that must ALSO breath through their skin to survive?  You asked for mammals “developing the ability to drink salt water” and he gives you dead animal bones?  Shaky indeed Mr. Evolutionist. 

To be fair, this inobservability of evolution in action is part of evolutionary theory.  Since these changes described above must take place over thousands of generations, evolutionists wouldn’t expect to see them in action.  Wether it’s expected or not, can we can observe evolution, as described in a more expanded way? The answer is a resounding “No”. 

Testable

Since we cannot directly observe evolution, in the expanded sense, are we at least be able to test wether or not it might happen?    Mr. Evolutionist will point you to the many experiments done, the most common of which is with fruit flies,  that show we can cause a change in species, a process called speciation.

The astute evolutionary skeptic will notice that the question was not answered, again.  We asked to test wether or not evolution can happen, and the experiments we are pointed to are with fruit flies being manipulated to change species.  The fruit fly, however, is still a fruit fly.  It did not change into a beetle, or a butterfly, or a giraffe.  I’m being a little sarcastic, but the point remains.  Evolution requires MUCH bigger changes than a fruit fly that is still a fruit fly although it is called another name in Latin.  These changes have never been observed and, obviously, cannot be tested.  And here is the kicker, even IF scientists were to actively change the genetic code of a fruit fly to give birth to a beetle, we would be proving that it takes intelligence to manipulate the change evolution requires.  So can evolution, in the expanded sense, be tested to see if will actually happen?  No it cannot.

Falsifiable

Most of the time, in science, you will not be able to “prove without a doubt” that a certain phenomena takes place.  To ask this of evolution would be unfair.  If evolution has the ability to be proven wrong and we are unable to do so, then it’s still a scientific theory.  However, if we cannot possibly prove evolution wrong, then it cannot be considered scientific.  So the question is asked, “Is evolution, in the expanded sense, falsifiable?” 

Mr. Evolutionist will tell you that evolutionary theory predicts many things, and they turn out to be true.  Since life began, we would expect life to become very diverse, and it has.  Since the first animals appeared we would expect there to be a fossil record cataloging common ancestry, and there is.  We would also expect their to be a genetic similarity between like species, and there is.  “See?”.  Says Mr. Evolutionist.  “If these predictions turned out incorrect, then evolution would have been wrong.  That makes it falsifiable.”

The diversity of life is no more evidence for evolution than it is for creation.  Christians would expect God to be able create a diverse tree of life as He said He did in Genesis.  Wether or not the fossil record supports common ancestry is a topic for another day that I will no doubt tackle.  However, it suffices, for our purposes, to say that Creationists are not surprised by fossils that are similar to one another in the fossil record.  God created similar species that died in different times and different places.  Creationists are also not surprised by the genetic similarity of living animals.  If God created one species more similar than another, monkeys and humans for example, then we would expect them to be more genetically similar to each other than a monkey is to a giraffe.

The part of the equation that is unfalsifiable is wether or not ONLY evolution can account for the diversity and similarity of life.  Sure, evolution is one theory for how what we see around us got that way.  But since we cannot observe or test evolution in action, we cannot test if it WOULD NOT have happened.  We can’t prove it wrong.  It’s very convenient for the evolutionist. 

Conclusion

When it comes to attempting to explain how life as we know it got this way, historical science is not that same as procedural science.  The answer, “Evolution did it” is not any more scientific then the answer “God did it” since neither phrase answers the question, “How?”.  So the next time you ask an evolutionist “How” and he gives you similar answer to our fictional “Mr. Evolution”, show him how he didn’t really answer the question, ask him the question again, and watch him squirm.  Don’t let him get away with it!

 (Writer’s note:  The above is, of course, a cursory treatment of the arguments and evidences on both sides.  I would be happy to discuss/divulge more upon request.  However, each example I gave from “Mr. Evolutionist” I recieved from a secular university biology class and are not examples of my own construction.)

On Radiometric Dating and Common Ancestry

June 11, 2008

This conversation took place a few days ago here on wordpress.  This fellow, let’s call him Rob, and I were debating the validity of radiometric dating and the validity of common ancestry.  Let’s briefly explain these two.

Radiometric Dating:  Is the main technique used by evolutionary geologists to determine the age of rocks.  The basic process uses the rate of decay of radioactive isotopes found in rocks.  These isotopes decay, becoming a “daughter” isotope, with the “parent” isotope being the one decaying.  By measuring the amount of the daughter isotope, the theory goes, the amount of decayed parent isotope can be measured.  Taking into account the rate of decay (the half-life) of the parent isotope, the age of the rock can be calculated.  There are many different types of radiometric dating but Potassium-Argon (K-Ar) is the most widely used. 

Common Ancestry:  Evolutionary theory predicts that as species evolve over millions of years organisms will leave fossils.  These fossils will be a sort of chronicle of the evolution of a specific species.  This is shown by similar species being found in different geologic levels (strata) and locations.

Another blogger, besides Rob, made the statement that the radiometric dating evidence and the evidence of common ancestry clearly supported evolution, directing a question on Creationists about how we reconcile these facts.

(note:  Both Rob and my posts have been cut down to the essential parts and summarized in some cases for the sake of clarity and brevity.  If anyone would like a full transcript of the discussion, or proof that it took place, then PM me.)

I answered with…

“The thing you don’t realize about dating techniques is that they are built upon unscientific, unprovable assumptions. To be able to get a date out of a rock in this way you must assume three things…
1. The rate of decay of the parent isotope has NEVER changed
2. The starting amount of the parent isotope (when the rock formed) is ALWAYS the same
3. There must be NO daughter element in the rock when it hardens (the dating process would be contaminated)

These are things you can’t falsify or test, you must assume them

Also, the evidence of similarity is one that Creationists don’t deny.  We are all looking at the same fossils.  However, only evolutionists point to the evidence of similarity and claim it is also evidence of common ancestry.  The Creationists says that similarity is evidence of similarity only, and not that a species evolved from another.  The fact that species are found in different geologic strata and locations also isn’t suprising to the Creationists, similar species lived in different times…and?  God created similar animals in different places…and?

(At this point, Rob jumped in)

Rob

1. The rate of decay of the parent isotope has NEVER changed
2. The starting amount of the parent isotope (when the rock formed) is ALWAYS the same
3. There must be NO daughter element in the rock when it hardens (the dating process would be contaminated

“Yes, and there are instances where any or all of these things can mess up a dating attempt. Scientists are fully aware that dating cannot be absolutely exact.

However, there exists a truly enormous body of evidence, built up from many different dating methods, that points to this stuff being accurate.”

(Responding to my assertion that radiometric dating needs to use those assumptions)

“Could you provide some evidence for that?”

Geographical distribution: God put them there.

Could you provide evidence that this statement is true?

Me

“This is actually not true. You are attempting to downplay the importance of the assumptions. If these assumptions are true, which you just admitted they are, then radiometric dating is nothing more than a guess, and not even an educated one.

Me (in regards to Rob requesting evidence for my radiometric dating assertion)

Sure, my evidence is my reason. Let me put it into terms of the very basic math that geologists must do to find the age of a rock.
X (amount of starting parent isotope)
Y (Rate of decay)
Z (amount of daughter isotope present)

X(Y) = Z
Sounds about correct? (very basically of course)
1. So Y cannot be known for sure. We have no way of knowing wether or not any pressure, temperature or chemical factors have altered the rate of decay in the unobservable past.                                                       2. X can also not be known in any sense of the word.
3. X(Y)=Z is not completely accurate because there could be some starting initial Z on the other side of the = sign denoted by Zo. So a more correct equation would look like X(Y)+Zo = Z. Zo cannot be known, it must be assumed there is none.

Z is the only value in that equation that can be known. So does the equation X(Y)+Zo = 8 seem like a solvable equation? Of course not. But that’s the equation that geologists are trying to solve, and they must make several assumptions to solve it.

Me (in regards Rob’s request for evidence regarding “God created similarity”)

“The onus of evidence is not on me in this case. We are both looking at the fact that there is a geologic distribution of species. I am making a “God put them there” statement and you are making a “evolution put them there” statement. My assertion isn’t that “God put them there” is right persay, my assertion is that both statements are equal in validity.   The only difference is that you claim your statement to be scientific. By doing so, you must prove that it is.”

(This is where the tone of the conversation changed.  Instead of responding to my assertions and questions, I recieved this…)

Rob

“I’m sorry, but that’s BS of the highest order. If your statement isn’t scientific, it can be safely ignored in a scientific discussion. What you’ve said here is that you have no evidence and no opinion that anybody should care about. From now on when you say ‘God did it’, I’ll switch it out for ‘I have no idea and am not interested in finding out’. Sound fair to you?

I know your opinion on this probably won’t be ’scientific’, and thus will be no different to a wild guess, but what age do you think all of this rock is? What evidence do you have that practically all of modern science is completely wrong? (Sorry, I mentioned the word ‘evidence’ again. I keep forgetting you’re exempt!).

The scientific explanation for similarity is evolution. (Well, not quite, but you don’t know anything about science anyway… ;) Yours explnation is nothing. Nothing at all. Honestly, can you give us a single reason to take your argument seriously? Not only do you have no evidence, but you’ve actually stated that you don’t think you need evidence and that you’re not going to give us any – and yet, you think this is good enough to overturn the entirety of modern scientific thought.

Me

(At this point I basically asked Rob if he was insulting my intelligence and asked how our cordial conversation turned nasty.  I also asked if he could support common ancestry with something other than similarity)

Rob

You’re damn right I insulted your intelligence, and with good reason. You’re attempting to pass off religious belief as science, and you’ve got the gall to pretend that something you know nothing about is equally as valid as Creationism?

No amount of evidence is going to change your religious beliefs, and I can say that confidently because every single one of your posts has demonstrated fundamental ignorance about practically every facet of science.

The fact that you don’t even realize the implications of your argument – that, if correct, it would throw all of science into complete disarray – just proves that you haven’t done the first iota of real research on the topic. You’re trying to replace everything I just listed above with, essentially, magic – ‘God did it’.

Now, I’m well aware of none of this is going to get through to you, but I would hope that anyone else reading this – people who aren’t already addled by Creationist indoctrination – can see how completely ridiculous this kind of thinking is and how facetious is the claim that those who support evolution don’t have the evidence on our side. There’s a very good reason why Creationists steadfastly refuse to advance any evidence for their own ideas – they don’t have any.

Conclusion

Besides an ad hominem attack, Rob makes several other fallacies here that I want to point out.  He ignores the fact that his statement “evolution did it” is just as religious a statement as “God did it”.  In his case, evolution is being worshipped as the “doer of unobservable things” while I’m worshipping God as the same. 

He is equivocating the words “evidence” and “conclusion”.  The scientific evidence is that “the amount of Argon in the rock is X” while the evolutionary conclusion is “that means the rock is X years old”.   A conclusion that is based upon assumptions he is attempting to ignore.  A conclusion is not evidence, it’s a conclusion.

He claims that I have a “fundamental ignorance” of science without being able to show where my ignorance is.  What he really means is, “you don’t believe in evolution so therefore you’re ignorant”.

He argues that the entirety of science is based on “old Earth” and common ancestry.  Come again?  Science was just fine before those two theories came about and would be fine today without them.

He’s got a real problem with his statement that those “addled by Creationist indoctrination” can’t understand real science.  I’ll name a few scientists that were creationists in belief and we can all decide wether or not they understood science; Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Descartes, Kepler, Bacon.  It sure seems like being a Creationist isn’t a hinderance to scientific thought at all doesn’t it?

While most won’t do so as vehemently as Rob, these are several of the common fallacies a Creationist will encounter when arguing with an evolutionist and/or atheist.   Don’t let them get away with it!

Is Theistic Evolution Viable?

June 8, 2008

In order to reconcile the obvious “fact” of evolution with Biblical teaching, many Christians will make a compromise with the majority of the academic community.  These Christians contend that God can be inserted in the evolutionary process at several points where current evolutionary theory does not have adequate explanations and the Bible can still be followed as the story of humanity and Christ, once humans evolved that is.  The problem lies in that believers in theistic evolution must make several deviations from Biblical doctrine, evolutionary theory and logic.

Biblical Doctrine Must Be Changed or Ignored

Gen 2:1-2 states that God rested once creation was completed.  However, if evolution is true then at what point did God rest?  It must have been after humans evolved.  That begs the question, what is a “human”?  Is it australopithecus ramidus or homo erectus or homo sapien?  Let’s say that it’s homo sapien which, according to evolutionary theory, first popped into the scene some 130,000 years ago.  So God rested from “the work which He had done” 130,000 years ago.   Did evolution stop at that point?  Obviously not, so then God must not be necessary for evolution to function.  If God’s not necessary, then exactly what “work” did He do?  So either God is necessary for evolution and He didn’t rest or God isn’t necessary for evolution and He hasn’t done much work after the initial setting of life in motion.  Either way Gen 2:1-2 is wrong.

Gen 1:24-25 asserts that God made all the animals “after their kind”.  Evolutionary theory is in direct opposition to this.  Evolution requires a change in kinds, the Bible claims the opposite.  They can’t both be right.

 Exodus 20: 8-11 exactly equates the days of creation with the days of the week.  The reason that God creates the Sabbath, and made it at the end of the week, is because that’s exactly how God created the universe and everything in it, in six days and rested on the seventh.  The evolutionary theist must define the word “day” at the beginning of the passage as literal days and the word “day” at the end of the passage as “age” or another word that allows for the inclusion of billions of years. 

Matt 19:4-5 states that God made humans male and female “from the beginning”.  If evolution is true then the Christian must tag on the phrase “…of humanity” at the end of “from the beginning” or must define “beginning” a different way.

The Bible:  Literal or Mythological

In Matt 19:4-5, Jesus clearly takes Genesis’ claim that God created humans “in the beginning” literally.  In Romans 5:12 Paul also takes the Genesis account of humanities’ first sin to be literal.  Paul also basis the explanation of how, through Adam, sin and therefore death entered the world, and (Romans 5:16-18) how one man, Jesus, was able to reconcile humanity to God, on his literal understanding of Genesis. 

In fact, reading the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Exodus, there is no shift in literary style.  Meaning the  teaching form of writing, meant to be taken as recorded factual events found in Exodus, does not differ in literary style from the events recorded in Genesis.  There is no literary “break” to signify the end of mythology and the beginning of history.  To reconcile this, someone might be tempted to say that the entire Pentateuch is myth.  You would then have to contend, however, with the plethora of Old Testament cities archaeologists have dug up and soon you’d find yourself back where you started (attempting to separate history from myth).

The Christian evolutionist find themselves in the precarious position of questioning the understanding of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  He must also attempt to explain his reasoning for separating myth from the history which surrounds it.  

Chronological Statements

In addition to Genesis claiming God created the universe in 6 literal days, God says he created the Earth before He created the Sun (Genesis 1).  This doesn’t make sense in the evolutionary world-view.

Reading through the Biblical narrative, one gets the sense that there is a definite beginning, climax (the birth of Jesus Christ) and an end to the story of humanity.  Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  This verse speaks of a purpose for the existence of humanity and when the preaching of the gospel has ended, the “whole world” will end.   The book of Revelation is God revealing what form this “end” will take and how and why it will come about. 

This is not the evolutionary picture.  If evolution is true, humanities “purpose” is lost.  To evolution, homo sapien is just another species that will become extinct some time in the next few hundred thousand years. 

God-of-the-Gaps

Evolutionary theory has several holes that it cannot explain scientifically.  Inserting God into the beginning of life, the Cambrian explosion, and the creating of human consciousness (reason and intelligence) is how the Christian evolutionist reconciles the two theories.  Those things, he contends, cannot be explained by science so therefore, God did it.  Instead of one all-encompassing act of creation, God, at several points in the evolutionary world history, made His power known through smaller acts of creation.  The creation of DNA, the creation of novel body plans, and the creation of human intelligence and reason.

The problem is that this reduces God to being inserted where modern scientific knowledge is lacking.  A God-of-the-gaps.  God, it seems, must intervene when the evolution He set into motion fails to produce as many body plans and plant fauna as He would have liked and fails to produce the human consciousness.  Not exactly the all-powerful God the Bible claims Him to be.

The larger problem however is that this God-of-the-gaps will rightly seem impotent and arbitrary to any athiestic evolutionist.  The argument legitimately becomes, “Just because we don’t scientifically know the answer YET doesn’t mean we should insert God there.”  This God-of-the-gaps is powerless to destroy the science-of-the-gaps and any Christian evolutionist will find himself frustrated in an argument with a moderately informed atheist. 

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor can be paraphrased with “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”  This can apply to both sides of our current issue.  If evolution is true, adding God is just an added assumption that cloud’s the issue.  Our knowledge may be incomplete but that doesn’t mean “Godidit”.  The power of evolution is that God isn’t NEEDED. 

To the Christian evolutionist, if God is powerful enough to create DNA and human consciousness then why does He go through all the extra steps, extra assumptions, of common ancestry and evolution, being forced to insert Himself several times along the way?  Why not create everything as is and “after their kind”?

Conclusion

Providing accomodations regarding a single scientific theory (common ancestry) to academia is not required of the Christian.  All it does is force several deviations from Christian orthodoxy, evolutionary theory, and rationality.