Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No Debate Allowed

One popular method of elevating the case for evolution and diminishing the case for creationism/ID is to deny any debate exists or to deny there are even grounds for a debate. This method comes from some of the same ideologically mindlocked cheerleaders for evolution who sling epithets such as IDiots at the advocates of intelligent design. The blogosphere is plentifully populated with this sort of enthusiast. This public harangue is effective among many evolution supporters. Increasingly, however, they are being exposed as merely implementing damage control. The phenomenon reminds us of advice supposedly given to a preacher whose wife was asked to proofread his sermon. Next to one paragraph, she wrote, “Weak point--Shout loud.”

Is there warrant for debate over the truth of evolution? Yes, there is. With increasing frequency, even some evolutionary scientists are raising questions about long-held evolutionary beliefs. In an interesting interaction between Steve Newton, Programs and Policy Director for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and Casey Luskin, staff member at Discovery Institute, these issues were highlighted. Luskin quotes Eugene V. Koonin: ...The modern synthesis of evolution “has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.” Lesser known biologist Gunter Thiessen states, “It is dangerous to raise attention to the fact that there is no satisfying explanation for macroevolution.” Science philosopher John Dupré says, “The evolutionary debates with creationists have also undoubtedly tended to discourage admission that major conceptual issues about evolution remain unresolved.” Nonetheless, evolutionists are intensely loyal to the creed set forth decades ago by evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Topics such as horizontal gene transfer (HGT), evo-devo, and gene expression do not help make clear to the public the simple idea that we are supposedly descended from a single-celled ancestor. These and many other complex topics are always presented as mechanisms of evolution in the available reams of literature. Newer proposals that the straightforward concept of evolution is now, instead, “The plurality of processes and patterns,” do not make evolution easier to explain or defend. The debunked ideas of gradualism and transitional species, and questions about the validity of idealized trees of life (TOL) adorning our biology textbooks, are the new elephants in the room. Perhaps the largest elephant in the room is the obvious fixity of species existing between the so far poorly explained sudden appearances of major biological transitions and new life forms.

Evolutionary biologists are uncomfortable when questions are raised by creationists and believers in ID. They publicly intone that, “There is no debate over evolution among scientists,” and that creationist and ID proposals are simply “bad science.” Among themselves, however, evolutionary scientists continually debate the hypothetical mechanisms of evolution. Legitimate science questions are publicly cast aside as having a social, political, or religious agenda. Good practitioners of science welcome robust debate on scientific questions. Evolution should be questioned on its scientific merits. The claim that there is no debate is a false claim made by naturalistic and theistic evolutionists alike.