Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mount Improbable

Richard Dawkins has achieved fame speculating on the mechanisms of evolution. One of his books a decade ago was "Climbing Mt. Improbable." The "fact" of evolution is not in question for him and his followers, but he speculates cheerfully on its mechanisms. We may ask just how "improbable" production of effective new organs or new species by happy accident really is.

Evolutionists mostly agree that the "rare and rapid" changes which characterize the entire fossil record (punctuated equilibrium) must occur in a population of organisms which has become isolated from the main population. The change to a new species is said to occur in a large number of the isolated organisms all at once, using the theoretical processes of random mutation and natural selection. Voila! That is supposed to explain how a new species is produced. We may ask, "Is there is anything wrong with that picture?"

The idea that new species have been produced in such a manner is subject to doubt on many counts. Random mutations (harmful to the organisms 99.99% of the time) and natural selection would need to successfully produce new and vital proteins/genes, then new cell types, followed by new tissues, new organs, and new body plans before a new species could be recognized. This random process needs to occur in every specimen of the isolated group. The likelihood of this scenario is remote beyond comprehension. Lack of transitional fossils casts doubt on any gradualistic process.

Let's conclude our discussion with a few quotes from two scientists with no theological basis for their views. David Berlinski, self-proclaimed agnostic, has expressed strong skepticism for evolution's paradigm. "Evolution is the object of superstitious awe," he says, and claims evolution's "...difficulties are resolved by 'sleight of hand.' " Berlinski also says, in reference to evolutionary claims such as the mechanism of PE, "Religiously-based objections may reflect nothing more than skeptical good sense." Michael Denton has also raised significant questions about evolution's claims: "Ultimately, the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the cosmogenic myth of the Twentieth Century."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Experimental, Observational, or Historical?

Levels of science investigation are threefold. Science may be classified as experimental, observational, or historical. This sounds simple enough, but public confusion about these terms may match their uncertainty about what scientists mean by fact, hypothesis, and theory, or even about "scientific method" and when or how it is used. Let's try to bring more clarity to the picture.

You may recall your early science courses as being mostly "experimental." Simple experiments affirmed the behavior of water when it froze, salt when it dissolved, or objects when they fell. You were able to control the conditions. Mathematics helped quantify the results beautifully. "Observational" sciences were a little different. You studied the motions of stars and planets. You made field visits to study rocks or plants and collected a few specimens. Perhaps you did experiments to illustrate apparent movement of stars or duplicate rock forming processes. Methods of observing and reporting observations were of primary importance.

Finally, we have the "historical" sciences such as evolutionary biology. Such sciences do not possess the same opportunity for testing and proof. Therefore, we gain knowledge in a more subtle way. We study events which occurred long ago when no one was present to see what actually happened. Events of long ago cannot be duplicated and observed. We must rely heavily on inference and weight of evidence. This is not to say historical sciences are not useful, but the certainty of knowledge is more tentative, even controversial. Scientists keep searching for new and better explanations. Whether we study history of life on earth in the distant past or history of events in the early Christian church, we must still view our study as a search for objective truth.

Evolutionists think their historical science conclusions about origins are completely certain. They confidently claim successive forms of life arose from each other. But what do evolutionists actually see when they look at fossil history? They observe that the fossil column does not manifest gradual changes, but rather, sudden changes with no antecedents. Our blog has previously noted this reality, dubbed "punctuated equilibrium" by scientists. Evolutionary gurus Eldredge, Mayr, Dawkins, Gould, and Dennett have been having an intramural "food fight" for years over how the process is supposed to work. Their disagreement over theoretical process apparently does not trouble the evolutionary science community. Their reaction is to tout the certainty of evolution, promote it ever more stridently, and force-feed the public education system with evolution, evolution, and more evolution.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cultural Spin Zone

Evolutionary theorists have captured not only the hearts of a vast majority of science professionals, but the education and media establishments as well. Consider this: the educational establishment controls almost constant attention of our young people for approximately 35 hours per week. In public schools, our children's science teachers are the product of a higher education establishment overwhelmingly pro-evolution. Media journalists are intensely pro-evolution. With the combined effect of these influences we may conclude that our population has been heavily indoctrinated with evolutionary concepts. Perhaps partly as a result, Pope John Paul's 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences supported evolution, thereby strengthening its credibility for a large segment of religious people. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that only about 40% of Americans endorse evolution.

The non-scientist population has been relentlessly propagandized to the extent that many people, not having made an impartial study of the evidence, pro and con, claim confidently that evolution as "science" has been "tested and proven." This is not so. Even Christians familiar with the fallacy variously called "argument by concensus," "appeal to authority" or "the bandwagon fallacy," have used the authority of the scientific, educational, media, and religious establishments as one of their primary reasons to accept evolution. Speaking as a science educator, I feel strongly that scientific concensus is a good thing if bias, philosophy, special interest, and worldview are minimized. In science, we should not filter truth about the natural world through the filter of philosophical preference. Even the leaders of the scientific, educational, and media establishments may acknowledge the existence of such filters when considering the explanation for life's uniqueness and diversity.

Let us add a theological dimension to this truth search discussion--something scientists boldly tell us we are not permitted to do. When we consider the uniqueness of God's highest creative achievement--modern man--we realize, with David of old in Psalm 8, that the Creator has "crowned [man] with glory and honor." Belief in either naturalistic or theistic evolution is problematic when we attempt to reconcile it with archaeological evidence showing a well-defined "cultural explosion," a burst of technological, artistic, and spiritual advancement, in very recent geological times. It is also problematic if we regard holy scripture as divinely inspired in passages such as these verses: "Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?" (Deut. 4:32-33 NIV). Are you judging scripture based on the opinions of others? Exercise caution!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Disparate Views of Evolution

Evolutionists cannot understand why so many Americans do not share enthusiasm for their theory. Members of the science profession overwhelmingly support evolution. But public support for evolution in the United States is near the bottom among western nations. Only about 40% of adults accept the theory. Another 40% outright reject it, while roughly 20% are unsure. These figures vary depending on how questions are asked.

Researchers report anywhere from 95% to 99.9% of all scientists accept common descent evolution. Only 4.7% of evolutionary biologists endorse any sort of theism, according to the 2003 Cornell Evolution Project. A survey of members of the National Academy of Sciences revealed 93% to be either atheist or agnostic. Polls differ, but they all reveal a similar picture. In my discussions with Christian friends and Christian authors who support theistic evolution, frequent citations of statistics showing overwhelming support for evolution in the science profession are given. They say this support is a good reason for us to accept it. This is the "appeal to authority" fallacy. Our fervor for investigating supporting and conflicting evidence on our own should be as strong as our enthusiasm for appeal to authority, perhaps even stronger!

Scientists who relentlessly promote evolution view evidence for and against it through lenses which do not permit passage of a theistic option...anywhere, anytime, anyplace. This is true, in part, because (1) they have wedded themselves to a view of science as a totally naturalistic enterprise, and/or (2) a significant number of scientists are atheist or agnostic. We might ask, therefore, if their "findings" are worthy of our acceptance? The conclusions of such scientists are driven by their potent bias and worldview as much as the evidence or lack of evidence. Science is presented as an evidence-based enterprise, but evolutionary scientists seldom speak about the bias and worldview they bring to the table.

In light of 20th and 21st century archaeological and biological discoveries which actually strengthen interpretations of theistic design and intervention, evolutionists claim they are more confident of their paradigm than ever. They claim current and future discoveries will eventually resolve all questions from a naturalistic standpoint. A significant number of Americans find evolutionary claims to be hollow. Evolutionists are not winning this battle. They are slowly losing it, even as they claim victory.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Theistic Evolution

When you read the title of this post, what did you think? When you read several descriptions of "theistic evolution" in previous posts using imagery of God creating, then winding a watch and stepping aside, did you interpret those descriptions as support for theistic evolution, or merely a description of what theistic evolutionists believe? Let's be perfectly clear. I support neither naturalistic neo-Darwinism nor theistic evolution. Let's explain why...

Several major transcendent creation events are evident along the timeline of history of earth life. Powerful evidence in the fossil and archaeological record supports this belief. The first event was the remarkably sudden appearance of microbial life. There is no naturalistic explanation. There were several other geologically sudden appearances of fully formed creatures, including the "Cambrian Explosion" 530 million years ago. Dozens of new phyla (body plans) appeared in a geological overnight. This has been called a "riot of disparity." Much later, following several major extinction events, there were other abrupt appearances of new life forms such as birds and later, mammals. Finally, modern man himself burst on the scene in what even secularists call a "cultural explosion," a proliferation of technological advance, creative thinking, and artistic and spiritual capabilities.

Ancient Hebrew scripture has several words (bara, asah, yasar) having different shades of meaning centering on "create." "Bara" sometimes, but not always, refers to creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. However, the term always refers to God's action in events such as creation of the heavens and the earth (the entirety of matter and space) in Genesis 1:1, creation of a great variety of living creatures in Genesis 1:21, and the creation of man in Genesis 1:27. Theistic evolution does not allow for transcendent miracles along the timeline of life's history on earth. It places emphasis on natural processes and de-emphasizes supernatural events. In this way it alters the meaning of "bara" in the scripture quotations above. The geological record, with its periodic sudden appearances of new forms, and scripture, with its references to God's direct creative action, appear to be in harmony.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Theistic Intervention

We've referred to "theistic evolution" as God winding the watch of life, then stepping aside to let it run. This compares to a watchmaker designing a mechanism, supplying it with power, fashioning and assembling the parts, setting the timepiece in motion, then observing the changes in time. Both God and the watchmaker may be said to be "responsible" for the changes over the passing of time. If evolutionary processes in living things could be proven to have occurred beyond any doubt, could we accept those processes as God's sovereign method? This may be a moot question. Other factors must be discussed, such as what is revealed in the fossil record.

The fossil record does not show gradual, transitional changes from one species [A] to another species [N] with [B, C, D...M] in between as we might expect. Instead, the changes are sudden and step-like following lengthy periods of no change (stasis). The sudden change to new forms of life often follows major extinction events. To deal with this inconsistency, evolutionist Niles Eldredge has proposed an imaginative theory called punctuated equilibrium (PE). The theory is more descriptive than explanatory. It has been described by evolutionists themselves as a "valid scientific hypothesis" but "not a well developed theory." This anomaly should give evolutionists fits, but it doesn't. For them, the desciption of punctuated equilibrium seems to pass for an explanation. In reality, there is no adequate naturalistic explanation for punctuated equilibrium.

There is an even more powerful event which lacks an adequate naturalistic explanation. It is the first appearance of life on this planet under harsh conditions about 3.9 billion years ago. This life was in the form of microbial mats of cyanobacteria. Among other things, these bacteria supplied the oxygen in our atmosphere. Some cyanobacteria are still present on earth today. Scientists tell us of the intricate complexity of this so-called "simple" life. Stuart Kauffman, theoretical biologist, has stated "Life emerged...not simple, but complex and whole and has remained complex and whole ever since." Scientific literature contains sparse information on the origin of life on this planet, because there is no naturalistic explanation. The origin of life is a profound enigma for evolutionists, perhaps even a source of despair. For creationists, the origin of life is neither an enigma nor a source of despair.

Friday, February 8, 2008

"It's Only a Theory"

"Evolution is not a's only a theory." How many times have creationist believers said this? Many would be startled to discover deficiencies in that line of argument. In spite of weaknesses in the theory, this line of reasoning will not be convincing. Darwinists, as we pointed out in the previous post, have modified their definition of "fact." They also use one of several definitions of "theory" which may be unfamiliar to non-scientists. To clear up the confusion, let's distinguish between the definitions.

Every day usage of "theory" leans toward vague, fuzzy conjecture, even guesswork. Under this usage there is a low probability of truth. For example, someone may observe a large flock of blackbirds heading off in an unusual direction at an unusual time of day. He could propose a theory to account for the behavior ranging from a food quest to impending weather to moon phases. Supporting evidence may be lacking. On the other hand, a scientific "theory" is a unifying conceptual framework used to explain carefully gathered evidence. It is less speculative with a higher probability of truth.

Neo-Darwinism (modern evolutionary theory) is more soundly supported than frivolous speculation about blackbird behavior, notwithstanding its weaknesses and the ongoing arguments about its mechanisms among even its staunchest supporters. The theory is appealing to many scientists because a large volume of evidence seems to suggest a unifying concept. The beauty of science is that analysis of new evidence sometimes forces reappraisal of theories. However, the rock-solid commitment of neo-Darwinists to the evolutionary paradigm stands in sharp contrast to uncertainties surrounding the theory itself.

Clarification of misunderstanding about the terms "fact" and "theory" is only a first step in resolving the lively debate between evolutionists and creationists. Members of both groups embrace various shades of opinion and acceptance within their belief models. These shades relate not only to hard evidence supporting one view or the other, but also to philosophical, social, and world view commitments. The search for truth is sometimes compromised. Our question continues to be "What is the truth?"

Monday, February 4, 2008

It's a Fact!

How many times have you used the expression “It’s a fact”…or “As a matter of fact”… or “In fact”? What did you mean? You probably meant to indicate that something actually happened or that something you had referenced was really true or that it corresponded to reality. Scientists’ use of FACT is often considerably different. They use words like fact, hypothesis, theory, and law with a variety of overlapping meanings.

Most people without a strong science background (a majority of the population) would be startled to discover when a scientist says “Evolution is a fact,” he means something quite different from the dictionary definition. When we come back from a fishing trip and tell our friends “I caught a 22″ bass and that’s a fact!” we mean the story is a true statement of reality. On the other hand, an evolutionary scientist looks at the geological record and also says “Evolution is a fact.” Search through the scientific literature, however, and you will discover that a fact is sometimes described as a mini-hypothesis, something directly observable but always having some uncertainty, and subject to further observation, measurement, and testing. Awarding fact status is also sometimes conditioned by culture and individuality.

I’ve read several letters to the editor written by non-scientists on the subject of evolution, exuberantly claiming “Evolution is a fact, tested and proven.” Many endorse such statements, confident that scientists, of all people, know about such things and have tested away the doubt about Darwinian evolution as we defined it in our last post (1/29/08). This confidence is not justified.

Stephen Jay Gould, the late evolutionist and vocal public advocate of the theory, said “Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts.” Gould would have been the first to admit that the mechanisms of macro-evolution are uncertain and hotly debated among evolutionary scientists. The reality of evolution and its driving processes are not “tested and proven.” Evolutionists’ definition of fact does not match the dictionary. Definitions may change or be manipulated, but there can be no compromise with the concepts of reality and truth.