Monday, September 16, 2013

Evolution by Persuasion

The BioLogos organization vigorously promotes evolution. It is presented as totally compatible with Christian belief. BioLogos does not promote traditional theistic creationism as it was conceived before the Darwinian revolution. Instead, BioLogos has lately repackaged creationism. It now promotes “Evolutionary Creationism” (EC). William Lane Craig recently answered a question posed to him about EC. He stated, “Evolutionary creationism is the currently chic name given to what we used to call theistic evolution (TE), which is the view that the current evolutionary paradigm is entirely adequate so that the evolution of presently observed biological complexity requires no causal input from God.”

Craig articulately outlines his doubts about the paradigm of evolution in his lengthy letter response. “The extrapolation of the Darwinian mechanisms from peppered moths to fruit flies and finch beaks to the production and evolution of every living thing is a breathtaking extrapolation of brobdingnagian proportions. We know that in science such extrapolations often fail…..When I, as an objective observer, look at the evidence, it seems to me that we haven’t been shown any good reason to think that the neo-Darwinian mechanisms are sufficient to explain the evidence of the extraordinary diversity of life that we see on this planet during the time available.” 

My recent participation in the “Burgess Shale Adventure” sponsored by Reasons to Believe has refocused my attention to the monumental wonder posed by the so-called Cambrian Explosion (CE), a startling example of the sudden “biological complexity” William Lane Craig addressed. Perhaps even the most unwavering evolution proponents are hard pressed to explain the CE within a traditional evolutionary apologetic. Stephen C. Meyer’s current blockbuster Darwin’s Doubt also rivets readers to the virtual irrationality that the CE can be explained within an evolutionary context.

The BioLogos organization has launched a campaign to promote their concept of evolutionary creationism. Traditional creationism and evolutionary creationism are poles apart. It appears evolution has lately been repackaged and aligned with the term creationism to aggressively persuade segments of the evangelical Christian community. One link on the BioLogos website, “View questions by Category,” directs readers to “Responses to Arguments Against the Science of Evolution.” We ask what young person desires to be characterized   against science? Evolution is not science, we respond. Rather, it is a theory birthed under the banner of science. The persuasive power of a well presented theory is considerable, especially if the theory itself is characterized as science.   

Several well-known geologists of Darwin’s time doubted the new theory sweeping through the scientific community, including Louis Agassiz, Roderick Murchison, and Adam Sedgwick. The latter voiced the opinion that the Cambrian animal fossils appeared to pop up out of nowhere into the geological column. Meyer claims, “The sudden appearance of the Cambrian animals was merely the most outstanding incidence of a pattern of discontinuity that extends throughout the geological column.” The discontinuities continue throughout the Paleozoic, including the four subsequent periods following the Cambrian. In the Triassic period following the Paleozoic, animals such as the dinosaurs and turtles emerged. These step-like sudden appearances were not exceptions, but rather the rule. In the ages to follow, many other major groups of animals appeared on the geological timeline in step-like fashion following extinctions.

Stephen C. Meyer presents a convincing, extensive rebuttal to evolution in his most recent book Darwin’s Doubt. He reminds readers that the fossil record should not present a top-down pattern of life appearances under the paradigm of evolution and defends this point in detail. Evolution is generally supposed to work toward increasing complexity from initial simplicity. Meyer explains how micro-evolutionary changes and other gene-regulatory mutations might affect features such as wing-coloration but not the rapid evolution of new body plans. Generating new phyla in a short time, on the other hand, is clearly wishful thinking for the evolutionist.

BioLogos personnel are strongly persuasive in their blogs and articles concerning evolution on their website. I was struck by the subheading “Does the Cambrian Explosion pose a challenge to evolution?” I was also struck by the confident denial that the CE poses any challenge. Perhaps many readers have not seriously questioned evolution and anomalies such as the CE. They willingly take the word of evolutionary bio-scientists whose powers of persuasion are excessive. Frequently I have encountered non-scientists or people professionally trained in other disciplines who subscribe to evolution’s broad paradigm on the strength of their confidence in persuasive evolutionary “specialists.” That community is powerfully driven by a philosophy of naturalism in their science investigation.

Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould has uttered many curious statements during his famous career. Gould is presented as an apologist for evolution even in BioLogos literature. For example, Gould is quoted claiming “pure, unadulterated luck” is as important to our (human) arrival as was natural selection. He does not mention any sort of creationism. We note that Gould, the author of the theory of “punctuated equilibrium,” initially described PE’s sudden appearances of new species several decades ago as “paleontology’s trade secret” and attempted to explain it by proposing creative theories such as “allopatric speciation,” discounting the traditional “natural selection” pillar of evolution. BioLogos also avows that the CE does not present a “challenge to the fundamental correctness of the central thesis of evolution, the descent of all living species from a common ancestor.”

BioLogos apologists for evolution reassure their readers that several million years is “plenty of time” to generate the numerous novel phyla of the CE. They cite other periods in geologic history claiming, “…there are other times of very rapid evolutionary change recorded in the fossil record—often following times of major extinction.” Even adherents of naturalistic evolution deny that macroevolution could occur in such a short time. Accordingly, perhaps theistic evolutionists may acknowledge that what they consider rapid evolutionary change really signals supernatural creation events.

The creation vs. evolution discussion has lately moved from a national discussion issue into narrower discussions within our religious institutions, including churches and colleges. Shortly after mid-twentieth century public opinion polls suggested that most Americans believed that God either supernaturally created human beings or guided evolution, we now, a half century later, are discussing “evolutionary creationism.” The discussion really is a disguised form of creation vs. evolution struggles which came to prominence decades ago. EC does not differ from naturalistic evolution in any significant respect. Humans descended from a simple common ancestor, according to EC. We now openly promote evolution under the banner of “Evolutionary Creationism.”