Posted tagged ‘science’

Ida: A Missing Link to Human Evolution?

May 24, 2009

Only if you want it to be.

Much as been made of the discovery of this “Ida”, given the Latin name Darwinius masillae, as a solid missing link between other mammals and humans.  Alex Watts from Sky News Online exclaimed, “The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years—but it was presented to the world today at a special news conference in New York.”

Based upon glowing reports of the finding, we should expect to see an ape-like fossil.  Instead, what we see is this:

 

Ida-the-missing-link-prim-001

 

So, contrary to what some media outlets are reporting, this fossil is not ape-like in any way.  Looking more like a modern day lemur. 

The actual claims of the authors of the study is that Ida is a precursor to the ape. 

The truth is that the evidence is quite underwhelming.  It’s not that big of deal.  But why are the media outlets and scientists making such a fuss over Ida?

  • It’s 95% preserved, which is unheard of as far as fossils go.  Let’s face it, it just looks really good.  It’s about the size of a racoon and even includes fossilized fur! 
  • Ida has opposable thumbs which an ABC news article stated are “similar to humans and unlike those found on other mammals.”
  • The talus bone is described as “the same shape as a humans’ “
  • It’s teeth are more similar to a monkey’s than the modern day lemur.

Is Evolution the Only Explanation?

The part that the media nor the scientists don’t want to talk about is that it looks like a modern day lemur.  The only way you conclude that a lemur-like creature is a missing link to humanity is if you first assume that humans came from lemur-like creatures. 

Ida has opposable thumbs more like humans than other mammals  . . . OK, Ida also has a tail more like other mammals than humans, walks on all fours like other mammals, is the size of a raccoon like other mammals and unlike humans.  The point is that all they want to do is talk about the similarities to humans and monkeys, but not the dis-similar characteristics including the difference in the ankle structure in Ida than in monkeys and humans (J. L. Franzen, et al., “Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology,”).

Similarities are only evidence that two species are similar, not that one evolved from another.  That similarities are evidence of evolution is an unscientific conclusion because we cannot test or falsify that conclusion.  Similarities can be just as accounted for by a Creator who makes certain species similar and Ida’s differences from modern day lemurs can be just as easily accounted for by variation within a created kind.

The Problem with Ida is . . .

The science isn’t very sound.  Let’s forget the unscientific conclusions made by assuming evolution to give evidence of evolution.  Even the evidence that Ida is a evolutionary link to humans is disputed within the scientific community.

You don’t have to listen to me, just other news outlets that are more honestly reporting the story of Ida.

University of Michigan paleontologist Philip Gingerich told the Wall Street Journal: “There was a TV company involved and time pressure. We’ve been pushed to finish the study. It’s not how I like to do science.”

Responding to Professor Gingrich’s comments . . .

“That rings all sorts of warning bells,” University of New England paleoanthropologist Peter Brown cautioned “It’s nice it has fingernails, something we have, as do most primates . . . but they’ve cherry-picked particular character[istics] and they’ve been criticized (by other scientists) for doing that.” (The Australian)

“On the whole I think the evidence is less than convincing,” said Chris Gilbert, a paleoanthropologist at Yale University. “They make an intriguing argument but I would definitely say that the consensus is not in favor of the hypothesis they’re proposing.”

“The PR campaign on this fossil is I think more of a story than the fossil itself,” said anthropologist Matt Cartmill of Duke University in North Carolina. “It’s a very beautiful fossil, but I didn’t see anything in this paper that told me anything decisive that was new.”

“It’s not a missing link, it’s not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point they’re trying to make,” [Carnegie Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Chris] Beard said.

Those three quotes are from a LiveScience article.

“There is no phylogenetic analysis to support the claims, and the data is cherry-picked,” says paleontologist Richard Kay . . . of Duke University. Callum Ross, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois agrees: “Their claim that this specimen should be classified as haplorhine is unsupportable in light of modern methods of classification.” (ScienceNOW)

In another article by BBC News Chris Beard said:  “I would be absolutely dumbfounded if it turns out to be a potential ancestor to humans.”

Conclusion

It’s clear that even within the scientific community the more sober-minded scientists, unphased by the media hype, remain skeptical and critical of the claims of Ida and the science behind it.  We must also remain skeptical of the arguments employed, assuming evolution to prove evolution, and the unscientific methods of exploring only one option to explain similarities.

Apparently, Only Atheists Can Argue Theology

March 9, 2009

Awhile ago I saw a post over at Daniel Florien’s Unreasonable Faith that caught my eye.  Daniel was responding to a video of a creation vs. evolution discussion when he made a few interesting comments.

Apparently the proponent of creation admitted to having presupposed beliefs (presuppositions).  These beliefs are admittedly unscientific.  This is how Daniel summarizes his presuppositions:

(1) God exists, (2) that this God is the Christian God, (3) that this God wrote a book, and (4) that book is the Protestant Bible as we have it today.

Whatever discrepancies we can find in Daniel’s summary we’ll ignore because they are besides the point.  The point is Daniel’s reaction to these presuppositions.

Nothing big there — just everyday presuppositions that we all have. Completely rational starting points of a scientific worldview. Ugh.

I believe some explanation may be due here.  What Daniel is saying that the Christian presuppositions are not conducive to a scientific worldview, therefore they are invalid.  A scientific worldview, the worldview that Daniel holds to, is superior because it is scientific and the Christian worldview is inferior because it is not based upon science.  Would we all agree that this is Daniel’s position?

In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the Christian argument is a theological one.  That is, the Christian presuppositions are about what God would do and did do (created the world, wrote a book).  That’s what makes a belief in the Bible unscientific, because it’s about what God did, which, although it may be observable, is unrepeatable by science. 

Negative Theology

To the atheist, the fact that Christians make theological arguments at all disqualifies them from any rational discussion.  After all, the only thing that can be verified is science, right?

Unfortunately, at the end of his article, Daniel inadvertently gives the atheistic “Secrets to Denying God” away.

Just after he finishes chastising the Christian for making a theological argument, Daniel says:

I thought Peter Atkins makes a great point that if evolution is true and God exists, he chose a “particularly nasty” way of going about creating the world.

Oh the hypocrisy!  That God created the world in a “nasty” way is a theological argument as well!  It’s just a negative one.   In fact, the belief that Daniel is displaying is that “If God created the world, then He did a nasty job of it, therefore it’s unlikely that God created the world”.  That’s the definition of negative theology!

But does Daniel chastise Peter Atkins for making a theological argument just as the Christian did?  Of course not. 

Is Atkins theological argument rejected because it is unscientific, just as the Christians’ theological arguments are?  Of course not.

To science, what’s the difference between Atkin’s theological position, and the Christian one?  None except that Daniel agrees with Atkins.

It’s a perfect tactic.  It allows the atheist to make all the negative theological arguments they want, while rejecting any Christian rebuttal on the basis it is “unscientific”, denying the whole time that their original argument was unscientific theology as well.

Apparently, only atheists can make theological arguments.

When Life Begins; Scientifically Speaking

March 2, 2009

I ran across a great article on the scientific evidence for the beginning of life.  Keeping these things in mind might help us stop deluding ourselves that abortion isn’t killing a human being.

In 1997, Faye Wattleton, the president of Planned Parenthood said:

“I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.”

In his book A Defense Against Abortion, David Noonin admitted:

“In the top drawer of my desk, I keep [a picture of my son]. This picture was taken on September 7, 1993, 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clear enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows [my son] at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.”

Don’t you see?  Even among abortion supporters, their argument isn’t that abortion is not killing therefore it’s morally defensible, their argument is that abortion is the killing of a distinct human being but it’s morally defensible anyway.

Their admittance that abortion is killing is supported by the biological consensus on when life begins. 

Speaking of the zygote, Keith Moore says:

“This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

and . . .

“A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”

Ronan O’Rahilly says:

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”

Clark Edwards Corliss says:

“It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitues the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”

J.P Greenhill and E.A. Friedman wrote:

“The term conception refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of procreation from which a new living being develops.”

“The zygote thus formed represents the beginning of a new life.”

E.L Potter and J.M Craig proclaimed:

“Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.”

In 2005, National Geographic explained:

“The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual’s unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.”

A Scientific Consensus

I could go on with the quotes for a bit longer, but I think you get the idea.  That a distinct, never to be repeated, human life begins at conception is a biological, scientific consensus.  Regardless of the arguments after this point, isn’t abortion still killing?  No matter what you say?

And, if abortion is the planned killing of a distinct human life, is that not the legal definition of murder?  Don’t get crazy, I’m just asking a question.

So can we now, at the very least, stop deluding ourselves about what abortion is?  Can we at least start the argument at the scientific consensus?

Faith vs. Science

February 11, 2009

This was sent to me by one of my friends.  This is conversation was reported to have actually taken place.  Whether that is true or not, I think it’s a great illustration of the epistemological and metaphysical problems atheists have.

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, ‘Let me explain the problem science has with religion.’

The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

‘You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?’

‘Yes sir,’ the student says.

‘So you believe in God?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Is God good?’

‘Sure! God’s good.’

‘Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you good or evil?’

‘The Bible says I’m evil.’

The professor grins knowingly.  ‘Aha! The Bible!’   He considers for a moment.  ‘Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?’

‘Yes sir, I would.’ ‘So you’re good…!’

‘I wouldn’t say that.’

‘But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.’

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. ‘He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?’

The student remains silent.

‘No, you can’t, can you?’ the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

‘Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?’

‘Er…yes,’ the student says.

‘Is Satan good?’

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. ‘No.’

‘Then where does Satan come from?’

The student falters. ‘From God’

‘That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?’

‘Yes.’

‘So who created evil?’ The professor continued, ‘If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.’

Again, the student has no answer.

‘Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?’

The student squirms on his feet. ‘Yes.’

‘So who created them?’

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. ‘Who created them?’

There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. ‘Tell me,’ he continues onto another student. ‘Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. ‘Yes, professor, I do.’

The old man stops pacing. ‘Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?’

‘No sir. I’ve never seen Him.’

‘Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?’

‘No, sir, I have not.’

‘Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?’

‘No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.’

‘Yet you still believe in him?’

‘Yes.’

‘According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?’

‘Nothing,’ the student replies. ‘I only have my faith.’

‘Yes, faith,’ the professor repeats. ‘And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.’

At the back of the room another student stands quietly for a moment before asking a question of his own.

‘Professor, is there such thing as heat? ‘

‘Yes,’ the professor replies. ‘There’s heat.’

‘And is there such a thing as cold?’

‘Yes, son, there’s cold too.’

‘No sir, there isn’t.’

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.

‘You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees.  Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.’

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

‘What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?’

‘Yes,’ the professor replies without hesitation. ‘What is night if it isn’t darkness?’

‘You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word.  In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?’

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester.

‘So what point are you making, young man?’

‘Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.’

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. ‘Flawed? Can you explain how?’

‘You are working on the premise of duality,’ the student explains. ‘You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.’  Science uses electricity and magnetism, but we have never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.’

‘Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey??’

‘If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.’

‘Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?’

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

‘Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?’

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

‘To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.’

The student looks around the room. ‘Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?’

The class breaks out into laughter.

‘Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.’

‘So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?’

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the professor answers. ‘I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.’

‘Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,’ the student continues. ‘Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?’

Now uncertain, the professor responds, ‘Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.’

To this the student replied, ‘Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.’

The professor sat down.

To that I say; amen brother.

The Rise of Evolution (Part 3): Evolutionary Metaphysics

February 9, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; using the definition of God handed down to him by the modernists and Victorians to reconcile the problem of natural evil.

As expressed in the previous article, it isn’t whether or not Darwin was right or wrong, only that he used such presuppositions about God to formulate evolution.  Similarly, since Darwin, this definition of God has been used to further the metaphysical argument for evolution. 

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

What is Metaphysics?

There are many different ways to describe metaphysics.  However, I find the simplest to be that metaphysics is merely a method of thought that ponders the state of being of certain things, be it the universe, the world, ourselves or God.  For instance, the modernist definition of God is a metaphysic because it ponders the state of being of God (what God does and does not do). 

For our purposes here, the main point is that since science is only concerned with giving empirical evidence and does not make statements about the state of being, metaphysics are outside the bounds of science.  Put another way, metaphysical ideas and arguments are unscientific. 

The Inherited Modern God

Again the point must be made that Darwin, and the evolutionary thinkers after him, inherited a certain definition of God. 

Goodness is more fundamental than power . . . There is nothing worthy of worship in power as such . . . After all, the object of religious worship is a perfect ideal rather than a perfect power (Edgar Sheffield Brightman).

A less domineering God is not only distanced from evil, but is also more worthy of worship. 

Robert Chamber wrote in Vestiges:

How can we suppose an immediate exertion of this creative power at one time to produce the zoophytes, another time to add a few marine mollusks, another to bring in one or two crustecea . . . This would surely be to take a very mean view of the Creative Power.

In other words, because God would have been forced to be involved in the dirty, mucky trenches of creation, He must not have acted this way.  When considering the issue of God’s divine intervention, the co-founder of evolution, Alfred Wallace, wrote:

As a matter of feeling and religion.  I hold this to be a fair higher conception of the Creator of the Universe, than that which may be called the ‘continual interference hypothesis’

This kind of thinking led to . . .

Religion and Science Are Separate

This is one of the most powerful metaphysical arguments for evolution out there.  Since God doesn’t dabble in nature, and science only studies nature, and religion only studies God, therefore religion and science are of two separate camps.  Though it may be pointless, it’s OK to consider God in religion, but it would never do to insert Him into science.

The Reverend Baden Powell wrote in 1838 (The Connexion of Natural and Divine Truth):

Scientific and revealed truth are of essentially different natures . . . The mistake consists in confounding these two distinct objects together, and imagining that we are persuing science when we introduce the authority of revelation.  They cannot be combined without losing the distinctive character of both

The famous evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould mirrored this sentiment in Rock of Ages:

I do not see, how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis.

Religion and science are to be kept separate.  Bruce Alberts, when writing for the National Academy of Sciences (Science and Creationism), says:

Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature.  Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious.  But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience.  Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each.

The question becomes, where did Powell get the idea that combining science and religion would lose the distinctive character of both?  Where did Gould get that the combination of science and religion is not unifiable? And how does Alberts know that doing so detracts from the glory of each?  Certainly not from a scientific experiment as such an experiment would be impossible.

So where did they get it?  From their preconcieved idea that God and nature are separate.  Another metaphysical belief untestable by science.  And yet, this argument is used all the time in defense of evolution isn’t it?  Especially when attacking the likes of the Intelligent Design movement.

The Intellectual Necessity of Evolution

Since God was not actively controlling creation, and nature governed by predictable natural laws, scientific inquiry is possible.  If God was constantly changing His creation, how would we be able to tell the difference between the natural law and God’s actions? 

This uniformitarianism that science depends upon is just as presuppositional as religion, and yet, why is it preferred?  For William H. Harvey, it isn’t that evolutionary theory is more true, it’s just that it has more room for advancement.

but . . . they do give you room to reason and reflect at present, and hopes for the future, wheas the old stick-in-the-mud doctrines . . . are all used up.  They are so many stops to further inquiry; if they are admitted as truths, why there is an end of the whole matter, and it is no use hoping ever to get any rational explanation of origin or dispersion of species – so I hate them (quoted in Gillespie, Charles Darwin, emphasis added).

In other words, since evolutionary theory gives us room for further inquiry, it is preferred.  Darwin echoed this sentiment in Origin:

The hopelessness of the attempt has been expressly admitted by Owen in his most interesting work on the “Nature of Limbs.”  On the ordinary view of the independent creation of each being, we can only say that so it is; –that is has please the Creator to construct all the animals and plants in each great class on a uniform plan; but this is not a scientific explanation.

Darwin’s metaphysical extrapolation led him to his ultimate proof against creation.  His main point, that nature fails to show divine design, was now protected from any counter-argument, because any such arguments would be unscientific.  Here, Darwin is able to ignore that he also uses metaphysical arguments to prop-up evolution, just as the design argument does. 

Evolutionists today correctly observe that creation and it’s supporting arguments hinge on one’s concept of God, but conveniently forgot that arguments against creation equally hinge on one’s concept of God.  They find it fair to argue against creation, but not for it.

Since creation cannot be a scientific argument, evolution is the correct scientific theory.  Thus, evolution isn’t proved on it’s scientific merits alone, but by default.

For Niles Eldredge (The Monkey Business.  A Scientist Looks at Creationism) the key responsibility of science is to predict.  This cannot be possible with a capricious God:

But the Creator obviously could have fashioned each species in any way imaginable.  There is no basis for us to make predictions about what we should find when we study animals and plants if we accept the basic creationist position.

Paul Moody also expresses this idea:

Most modern biologists do not find this explanation [that God created the species] satisfying.  For one thing, it is not an explanation at all; it amounts to saying, “Things are this way because they are this way.”  Furthermore, it removes the subject from scientific inquiry (Introduction to Evolution).

Tim Berra (Evolution and the Myth of Creationism) is much more direct in his warning about creation:

Creationism has no explanatory powers, no application for future investigation, no way to advance knowledge, no way to lead to new discoveries.  As far as science is concerned, creationism is a sterile concept

What the evolutionists are saying here, is not so much that creationism is wrong, as it is improper.  Evolution is intellectually necessary because divine creation cannot be investigated and analyzed.  In contrast, Isaac Newton and many of the scientists of his day found the prospect that God created the universe a stimulus to scientific inquiry.  The opposite view it taken by today’s evolutionists.

An Uncritical View of Science

Since creation is seen as being the opposite of science, any attempt to explain phenomena with God is relegated to being a “God-of-the-gaps” type argument.  We are only inserting God where science has yet to find the answer.  The implication here, is that one day science will find the answer.

To hold to the position that one day scientists will find the natural explanation for what we are now filling God with, is to take an uncritical view of science.  The question becomes, how are scientific theories proved, especially to the exclusion of God?  How is such a thing possible?  Where perhaps previous naturalists have been cautious in subscribing to theories that may be true today, and wrong tomorrow, the modern evolutionist has unbridled optimism.

We are told that evolution is fact and this unguarded confidence has simply bolstered the rejection of the God-of-the-gaps argument.  We used to believe that God created life, but now we know that natural phenomena will suffice.  This conclusion hinges on the success of evolution, which in turn hinges on one’s concept of God.  A God who must be distanced from the world and it’s evils was assumed so now we conclude with a God who must not stand in the way of naturalistic explanation.  The original assumption feeds right through and becomes the final conclusion (Hunter, Darwin’s God). 

We may not have all the answers now, but if we just give science time, we will provide a naturalistic story.  Surely, if we look hard enough, we could find a plausible naturalistic explanation for anything.  But that doesn’t make it scientific.

Conclusion

Two powerful metaphysical beliefs are being used to support evolution:  That religion and science are separate and intellectual necessity.  God is properly distanced from creation, and humans are properly motivated to explore creation.  Evolution is true, not because of it’s science, but because the opposing view point isn’t scientific at all.

Evolutionists are blind to their own hypocrisy regarding this:  they are able to use metaphysics to argue against creation, but no one can argue for it.

The point isn’t wether they are right or wrong, the point is that they are using unscientific, metaphysical beliefs to support evolution.

Can the Mind of a Monkey Be Trusted?

February 5, 2009

I ran across a very interesting quote from Darwin.  It relates very well to the topic I’ve been pondering over the past two weeks.  What kind of unscientific arguments did Darwin use in support of evolution?  What were his presuppositions?

Creationists are often criticized for starting with their conclusion (that God exists and the Bible is His Word).  What will be obvious in these passages, is that Darwin did the same. 

Darwin was reasoning through the apparent design in the Universe in his autobiography (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin) when he said the following:

Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.

Darwin realized the problems with speculating that everything came about by pure chance, especially considering the “immense and wonderful universe”, including our ability to contemplate that Universe.   However, he continues:

This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species, and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt—can the mind of man which has, as I fully believe been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions.

And yet, Darwin expresses a problem he sees with concluding the design of the Universe, namely that since we evolved from “the lowest animals” how can we trust the conclusions that our mind comes to? 

Does anyone see what he just did?  His fallacies are two fold.

1.  He assumed evolution in order to speculate that perhaps he can’t trust his evolved mind when it concludes design.  He assumed evolution to prove evolution.

2.  He applies the principle that we wouldn’t trust the mind of the lowest animals to why we can’t conclude that nature was designed, and yet fails to apply this also to his conclusion that nature evolved.  Why the double standard?  Given where our minds came from, if we can’t trust a design conclusion, then why can we trust a non-design conclusion?  

Darwin applies his logic to creation but not evolution, for no other reason except that he doesn’t.

In another place, Darwin asks a very important question:

But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

Evolutionists are quick to point out that we have 99% of our DNA in common with an ape.  And yet, do ape’s minds have convictions?  Would we trust what a monkey “decides”?  Can a monkey even decide something that isn’t put into motion by simply the chemicals in his brain reacting to outside stimulus?  (And yes, I know the biological difference between an ape and a monkey, but for this argument they’re no different).  

Why do we consider the conclusions of our minds, so close in every way to the ape, to be reliable or trustworthy?  A very good question indeed, Charles Darwin.

The Rise of Evolution (Part 2): Darwin’s Problem with Evil

February 4, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; attempting to reconcile the problem of natural evil.  Even in this regard, Darwin’s theology was not unique, only his method made him stand out.  In this article, I’ll explain the great influence the problem of evil had upon Darwin’s forming of evolution.

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

The Modern View of God

As was discussed in the previous article in the series, the popular view of God that developed in the two hundred years leading up to Darwin was a God that only acted through natural laws.  God’s actions could be rationally explained and God could be logically verified.  A God that acted through the natural laws, instead of just arbitrarily breaking them at whim, had much more wisdom and power.

However, what was not discussed was the view of God that the pious Victorians held.  This article does not have the space to contain even a sufficient summary of Victorian thought, so a simple statement will have to do.  The consensus among Victorians of the purpose of science in the early 1800’s was to demonstrate “the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation” (Bridgewater Treatises).  The focus is on the clean parts of God, completely to the exclusion of God’s judgement, wrath and use of evil.

Where the apostle Paul saw nature groaning, the Victorians looked only for signs of a pleasant Creator.  

Where David declares that “Our God is a consuming fire”, the Victorians declared that God must be omni-benevolent.

Although Isaiah proclaimed that God creates calamity, the Victorians focused on where Isaiah proclaimed God’s glory.

Darwin, on the other hand, could not reconcile what he saw in nature with this “all-nice” Creator.

Darwin’s Problem with Evil

The general premise of the problem of evil is “if a benevolent God exists, therefore evil shouldn’t exist”. 

Darwin wrote to Asa Gray in 1860:

There seems to me too much misery in the world.  I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent  God would have designedly  created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.

The definition of God that the modernists and Victorians had laid down, the definition of God that Darwin subscribed to, did not fit with what was so easily observable in nature.  Since God had to make rational sense, then why should species cross so easily if they were created separately? Also, seemingly specialized and unique fauna flourished in foreign environments (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, Neal C. Gillespie).  It just didn’t follow.

And there were the mal-adapted species; land animals with webbed feet and the marine creatures with non-webbed feet.  Why was there just so much wasted pollen?

Nature seemed to lack precision and economy in design that was “inexplicable on the theory of creation”.  Darwin observed that different species used “an almost infinite diversity of means” to accomplish the same task and that this is inconsistent with the design of independent, special Creation.  Yet, on the other hand, Darwin viewed that different species used similar methods for different tasks.  To Darwin, this too argued against special creation.  (The Origin of the Species, 6th edition).  

What Darwin expected Creation to look like, we’ll never know.  The point is that Darwin was greatly influenced by non-scientific arguments against special creation.  Especially the ones that boil down to “God would not have done it this way”.  He had a specific idea of God, defined by the modernist thinkers and Victorian naturalists, that informed the direction of his thinking.

Paradise Lost

John Milton’s Paradise Lost was one of Darwin’s favorite works (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin).  Not only was Paradise Lost a favorite of Darwin, but it was supremely popular in Victorian England to the point of being almost church doctrine (God’s Funeral, A.N. Wilson).  The point of Milton’s work was to “Justify the ways of God to man”.  Specifically, in regards to evil, God had to let man choose between good and evil, so that He could separate the good from the bad.  This absolved God of any responsibility of evil, but it also made God passive and somewhat aloof from the events of history.

Obviously, Milton and Darwin were on opposite sides of the spectrum with Darwin leaning farther towards naturalism as his life went on, and Milton having God as the ultimate source of creation.  However, both men were dealing with the problem of evil; Milton with moral evil and Darwin with natural evil.  And both men found solutions that maintained the purity of God but more importantly, both men had similar views of God.

The Evolution Theodicy

A theodicy is a branch of  theology/philosophy concerned with explaining the problem of evil.  Just as Milton’s Paradise Lostwas a theodicy for the problem of moral evil, evolution is a theodicy for the problem of natural evil.  While Milton’s theodicy removed God from the choices of human beings, Darwin’s theodicy removed God from the workings of nature.  If everything could be explained by natural phenomena, and all things could come about through natural processes, then surely God was not responsible for the misery, death and waste that was so obvious to Darwin. 

The added affect of this is that God became unnecessary.  Separating God from creation and it’s evils meant that God could have no direct influence or control over the world.  The gruesome, wasteful and chaotic world – the world observed by naturalists of Darwin’s day – did not fit with the modern definition of God.  Creation was irrational, therefore there was no benevolent Creator, or at least not one who was involved in the world.

In his autobiography, Darwin summarized:

Suffering is quite compatible with the belief in Natural Selection, which is not perfect in its action . . . A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient.  It revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the suffering of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time?

The obvious implication is that suffering is NOT compatible with an all-powerful, all-benevolent God, therefore “all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection” ( Autobiography).  

Darwin summarized his position in his letter to Asa Gray:

I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.

From what Darwin saw in nature, God needed to be absolved of responsibility for the suffering and misery apparent in it.  Evolution allowed Darwin to reconcile his observations with his definition of God.

A Theodicy is Not Empirically Verifiable

The point isn’t whether Darwin was correct or incorrect, logical or illogical in his explanation for natural evil.  The point is that the arguments he found “convincing”, and are still convincing to evolutionist today, are not scientifically testable.  Darwin’s argument, which basically boils down to “God wouldn’t and couldn’t do it this way”, is not only immune to empiricism itself, it is also based upon presuppositions laid down by the modernists and Victorians and how they defined God.  Since God is limited to working only through benevolent means, then surely God is not involved in this world in the slightest.

As we’ll see in the rest of the series, these kind of negative theological arguments are used to support of evolution all the time.  In fact, they’re what give evolutionary evidence it’s power and what brought evolution to where it is now.  Nature doesn’t seem very divine, therefore evolution must be true.