Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reply to a 14 year old creationist

Blogging tends to be a rather immediate, short-term activity. Posts that are more than a few days old might as well be ancient history as far as blogging is concerned. Yet, every so often, a post will provoke a reaction long after I've forgotten I had even written it. So it was last week, when in my e-mail I found a comment about a post I had made over a month earlier. The post in question was a bit of ridicule directed at Frank Peretti, a writer of Christian-themed novels, who had recently written a horror novel whose theme was that "evolution makes us monsters." My beef with Mr. Peretti was the utterly incorrect statements he made while promoting his book, among which was his claim that there are no "beneficial" mutations. Here is what the comment said:
A 14 year old Creationist (and proud of it!) said...

I agree with Frank Peretti and his statements. I also agree with his beliefs on evolution and its "evidence" of mutations. Evolutionists practically contradict themselves by saying that mutations support their theory of evolution. (That's right, evolution is a theory, not a fact!) By definition the word mutation means an error in the genetic code. The word error as defined by the Webster Dictionary means a mistake or inaccuracy with a negative effect (notice the key word 'negative'). It is a scientific fact that negative effects have negative results. Therefore the human race, by the Theory of Evolution, is a negative effect to the universe. I find that a little depressing and inaccurate. Don't agree? Visit www.arky.org and complain some more.
Hmmmm. How should I handle this? I asked myself. Should I even handle it at all? If this really is a 14-year-old, I don't want to treat him or her as roughly as I did Mr. Peretti. To see where he was coming from, I clicked on the link he mentioned, heading to the "Who We Are" section. It's pretty hard-core young earth creationist stuff, stating: "We believe Biblical Truth first, scientific theory second, especially since it defines itself as always changing." Would I be wasting my time replying? Probably, but I still felt that I had to try to get through, even if there is little hope of changing this young mind. So, here goes:


Dear 14-Year-Old Creationist (And Proud of It!):

I received your comment. I'm guessing you're probably a fan of Mr. Peretti. I'm further guessing that you probably found my blog through a Google search on his name. In way of a reply, let me first start by emphasizing that my post was not meant to disparage Mr. Peretti's religion or yours. Rather, it was intended to criticize him for making statements about evolution that are incorrect while promoting his book. Although your writing suggests that you're probably a pretty smart kid, I hate to tell you this, but in your comment you too made some comments about evolution that are incorrect. I realize that you've probably learned these ideas from your parents, your school, and your church, all of whom you trust. Consequently, I also realize that it is unlikely that you'll change your mind based on a reply from a semi-anonymous blogger like myself, but, believe it or not, I feel a responsibility at least to try to persuade you. I care about the education of our youth, and I don't want to see someone as apparently smart as you say such things without being exposed to a careful explanation of the "other side."

You state that "evolution is a theory, not a fact!" You are half correct in this statement. In actuality, evolution is both a theory and a fact. It is a fact in that evolution has definitely occurred. Indeed, one reason that creationism "evolved" from its original Biblically literal young earth variety to its current "intelligent design" concept is because the evidence that living things evolve is so overwhelming that even most creationists were ultimately forced to acknowledge that evolution has occurred. Evolution is also a theory in that it is a set of ideas that attempts to explain how and why evolution occurs. However, I'm wondering if you are aware of what the word "theory" means to scientists; in science the meaning of the word is different than it is in colloquial use. To most laypeople, the word "theory" in essence suggests an "educated" guess. Indeed, the famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said this about the "just a theory" claim about evolution: "Creationists make it sound like a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being out drunk all night." That they do so (often, but not always, unknowingly) is mainly because of the more rigorous meaning that scientists give to the word "theory" compared to its more common meaning.

You must understand that, to scientists, the word "theory" has a much more specific meaning. To scientists, the word "theory" means a supposition or statement of ideas intended to explain a natural phenomenon (such as the "theory of evolution"). But it is more than that. To scientists, the word "theory" implies that the supposition or statement of ideas at present best explains the available data, has utility as a conceptual principle, and makes predictions regarding the behavior of natural phenomenon. To be recognized as a "theory," such a statement of ideas must be supported by an enormous quantity of data, so much so that scientists at present cannot think of a better set of suppositions that explains the data and makes predictions of natural behavior. So it is with the Theory of Relativity, and so it is with the Theory of Evolution. No other set of ideas comes close to explaining the wealth of fossil, observational, experimental, and molecular biological evidence regarding how species adapt and evolve and how species come to be. Creationism, regardless of whether it's the "intelligent design" or Biblical "young earth" variety does not come close and even contradicts much of the known evidence. That is why scientists do not consider creationism to be a theory. Also, to be useful to scientists, theories must be falsifiable. That means there must be evidence that, if found, would prove the theory incorrect. Creationism fails as a theory in that respect as well, because there is no way any scientist could ever prove that there is no God. That is one reason why scientists consider creationism to be religion or philosophy and not science, and thus not properly part of the teaching of biology. The problem with creationism, as far as scientists go, is that the explanation for unanswered questions becomes, in essence, "God did it." That answer may be fine as a matter of faith, but it does not help science progress.

Because it is a theory, does that mean that the theory of evolution is set in stone? Of course not! Scientific theories are always subject to revision as new evidence is discovered and new experiments yield results that the old theory does not explain. However, such changes must always continue to explain the wealth of old data and old experiments that have been done, which means new theories almost always encompass the old theory somehow. One example is the Theory of Relativity. Einstein didn't prove Newton wrong. He simply showed that Newton's Laws of Motion described the special case of bodies traveling at velocities that are very small fractions of the speed of light. He also showed that his theory described the motion of such bodies more accurately when velocities approached the speed of light. Given that Newton had no way to measure the motion of bodies traveling that fast, his Laws were the best that could be derived at his time. If any new theory of evolution rises to replace the present one, something similar will almost certainly happen, and the new theory will not invalidate the old theory. Rather, it will likely show that the present theory is incomplete.

Next, it is true that mutations are changes in the genetic code that come about during DNA replication. You can view them as "mistakes" in DNA replication if you like. However, it is not true that all mutations have a negative consequence. Most are neutral in that they either change one amino acid to another in the protein the gene encodes without significant functional consequence or they occur in areas of DNA that do not encode any proteins. Some mutations are, of course, harmful, although rarely in the "monstrous" way Mr. Peretti fictionalizes. Contrary to what Mr. Peretti says, some mutations are beneficial. For example, did you know that some Scandanavian people carry a mutation in a gene called CCR5 that makes them highly resistant to infection by the AIDS virus? It's true. If that's not a beneficial mutation, I don't know what is. This same mutation probably became prevalent several hundred years ago because it also confers resistance to the bubonic plague. There are also other beneficial mutations. One more example is a mutation in a gene called apolipoprotein AI, carriers of which have a much decreased risk of heart disease due to clogged arteries. The list goes on.

I do have to admit one thing. I'm rather intrigued by your inference that "the human race, by the Theory of Evolution, is a negative effect to the universe." Although the theory of evolution implies no such thing, it is a rather interesting philosophical question whether humanity is, on balance, a positive or negative effect on the universe. I like that you're thinking about such things, but I have to tell you that such questions can't be answered by the theory of evolution or even science itself, because deciding whether something is "negative" or "positive" is largely a value judgment. But keep thinking about such issues. It's good for your intellectual development.

Finally, given that you seem to be trying to think for yourself, even if the conclusions you're coming up with aren't scientifically correct, perhaps you'd like to contemplate the relationship between religion and science, specifically the science of evolution. One self-described "Bible-thumpin'" minister recently commented on my blog:
Those who use the Bible to disprove evolution obviously do not understand how to read and interpret scripture. The Bible is not a book about the "how" of creation, but of the "who" of creation. Leave the "how" to the scientists and the "who" to the Bible.
To me, this sounds like very reasonable advice. In addition, many other highly religious people have decided that there is no inherent conflict between their belief in God and accepting the theory of evolution. These clergy, for example. Even the highly conservative late Pope John Paul II stated that evolution is not incompatible with Catholicism. Similarly, although it is a common misconception even among Mormons that Mormonism mandates belief in creationism, there is no such requirement in the Mormon religion. As has been pointed out here:
Science can never prove nor disprove the existence of a God. The argument is circular. If a higher power created the universe and established its rules, it could choose to remain forever anonymous.
Do you see the truth of that statement?

I'd like to leave you with a few questions to ponder: If, as you almost certainly believe, God is indeed the source of all truth, why would He leave so much evidence scattered about His creation showing that the earth is billions of years old and that animals and plants evolved into different species over hundreds of millions of years if it were not the truth that this is so? Why would He endow humans with the intellect and desire to delve deeply into the mysteries of His creation to try to learn what His natural laws are, if the truth of creation and His natural laws are not the same as what His creation tells them? As a Christian, does it not make more sense to conclude, as the minister above (and others) do, that God set things in motion and evolution was His preferred mechanism to produce all the diversity of life on this planet?

Ponder these questions, and I hope that you will start to see why faith does not necessarily have to be incompatible with science. I hope I've also shown you that creationism is based on incorrect understandings of what the theory of evolution actually says. After all, if your faith depends upon believing something that can someday be shown to be untrue, than it is on shaky ground indeed, and each new scientific discovery could put it at risk.

Sincerely

Orac

P.S. Also, check out this comment from Dan S., who made some good points in answering you.

62 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 6/08/2005 3:45 PM, Anonymous drdarcy said...

I thought that was very kindly done ... if this young person is willing to open his or her mind, you've helped that process along without raising the specter of loss of faith. It's very difficult and frightening to learn how to think critically, no matter how bright you are, when for most of your life you've been told you you'll burn in hell for all eternity if you ask questions.

I've always wondered if that's part of the appeal of being a teen suicide bomber ... if I'm a martyr, then I'm home free (albeit dead) ... no more opportunity for those pesky questions to arise, or to notice the inconsistencies between the teachings and the behavior of the teachers ... but I suppose that's a totally different topic.

 

At 6/08/2005 4:06 PM, Anonymous drdavid said...

drdarcy,

"It's very difficult and frightening to learn how to think critically, no matter how bright you are, when for most of your life you've been told you you'll burn in hell for all eternity if you ask questions."

drdarcy,

I have been in church all my adult life, conservative (Calvinistic) churches. I have never heard anyone mention or teach, at any time, that you'll burn in hell for asking questions. Care to back that statement up, or is stereotyping the best you can muster?

 

At 6/08/2005 4:22 PM, Blogger Krizz said...

As an avid reader of your blog, I would like to thank you for your educational and at the same time very sensitive summing up of the situation. I have followed the present US debate on Evolution vs. Creationism (aka Intelligent Design) which, to a Swede, seems to belong to a bygone age, ending as far as I knew with the film “Inherit the Wind”.

 

At 6/08/2005 4:31 PM, Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Orac, I received a degree in Environmental Science from a Christian university which of course, I suppose for accreditation purposes, taught evolution. When I asked a professor how evolution fit in with our faith he didn't really have an answer (that I can remember). The reason why I visit your blog is because I enjoy reading about crazy alties, but I skip over your entries about evolution due to the fact that I sense an air of superiority (creationist are ignorant) in your writing when it comes to that. But I have to say that I enjoyed reading your reply to the 14 year old--you did a wonderful job explaining in a non-judgmental way. I liked it and feel like maybe my old professor could have used the same explanation.

 

At 6/08/2005 4:47 PM, Anonymous drdarcy said...

Drdavid,
Sure, happy to back that up, to the degree that it's possible to do so. I was referring to my own personal experiences as a child, as well as those of my siblings, cousins, a number of childhood friends, and adult friends who have discussed similar experiences with me. I am happy for you that your adult religious experiences have been different- that's great. I do not know whether you have children or have any familiarity with how children are taught in your church. But, I would like to raise the possibility that many children are taught a simplified and concrete theology, often by unskilled teachers, that may lead to fear, shame, and guilt instead of joy. Perhaps your church handles this more smoothly than most, perhaps not. Again, I am speaking from my own experience, which includes the experience of "adult" church teachings tolerating some ambiguity, and "child" teachings tolerating almost none.
Perhaps it's projection on my part, but I sensed a certain need-for-certainty in Creationist And Proud of It's post, which reminded me of myself as a child. I was attempting to respond to that need, as well as to compliment Orac on what I considered to be a very respectful and kind reply. It was the kind of reply that would have been helpful for me as a young person.

 

At 6/08/2005 5:13 PM, Anonymous drdavid said...

Drdarcy,

That is what I guessed. It seems as if everyone has a convenient anecdote about fire and brimstone preachers (right out of central casting) that scared them away from Christianity. Sometimes they preach about "evilution" and sometimes about the dangers of mixing the races, and sometimes the deacon has three rows of buck teeth and smacks you on the head if you yawn. Amazingly, I have never had such an experience.

 

At 6/08/2005 5:55 PM, Anonymous Equinox said...

Orac:
As usual, well done. A good job of both answering and raising questions that will, hopefully, linger in 14-year Old Creationist's obviously active mind.

drdavid:
Why is it amazing to you that other people have had different experiences than you have had? Why are their descriptions of these experiences "convenient anecdotes"?
Are you accusing them of making up stories in order to bash Christianity? Care to back the accusation up?

Convenient anecdote: In my childhood church (conservative Presbyterian), I never heard anyone say that we would burn in hell for asking questions. But I was told, straight to my face, that my best friend and other non-Christians (the list included Jews, Moslems, and Buddhists) were going to hell. That would have been terrifying to me if I hadn't decided on the spot that my teacher was flat-out wrong and what else was she wrong about? My parents left the church soon after when a friend of theirs was silenced-told to shut up, to stop speaking-in front of them during an adult Sunday School discussion about abortion. Their friend had simply said, "But what about the women?"

Not quite the same thing, but these experiences certainly showed an ugly side to conservative Christianity. Perhaps better teachers would have handled things differently, but churches, like other human institutions, are composed of people, who make mistakes, and do ugly things sometimes-including threaten children. Why is it so hard to believe that?

 

At 6/08/2005 6:45 PM, Anonymous Alice said...

I want to say to any young creationists reading this page that it is possible to be a scientist and a creationist at the same time. I am a second-year med student, and I get along just fine without believing the evolutionary theories.

Re: Orac's questions at the end of post: God did not "leave evidence" suggesting an old age for the earth, rather people who wish to deny their responsibility to the Creator and his laws have misinterpreted the evidence. Evidence is always understood through the bias of the interpreter.

God did create us with thinking and questioning minds. That is why creationist organizations encourage young people to understand the biblical and scientific evidence for creationism, and to challenge the blind faith of evolutionists, who believe that matter came into existence out of nothing, and then randomly organized itself into a meaningful DNA code, with translational machinery somehow materializing at the same time. Isn't that as much a leap of faith as our belief in an intelligent Creator?

You can read a longer comment on my blog. :)

 

At 6/08/2005 6:52 PM, Anonymous Damian said...

DrDavid said:

"That is what I guessed. It seems as if everyone has a convenient anecdote about fire and brimstone preachers..
..Amazingly, I have never had such an experience."

Please. Stop it. Just stop it right now before this gets any sillier.

People, like jellybeans, come in many flavours - any of which will appeal to one person, but disagree with another.

I've had my share of bad jellybeans and it showed me that I really don't have a sweet-tooth, but, despite that, I'm happy to know that you still enjoy them.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

I've also heard of something called English Toffee - although I've never seen it. Can you tell me, does it actually exist?

 

At 6/08/2005 7:17 PM, Anonymous Damian said...

Dear Alice,

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I can't believe a person could read that entire post and STILL make a fool of themselves by making the EXACT mistake that Orac has so patiently (and repeatedly) highlighted.

It is this: if you're going to criticise something, get to know your topic.

But, as a second-year medical student-cum-creationist-cum-scientist-cum-etc, you're apparantly above all that.

I absolutely love this bit of your comment:

"..challenge the blind faith of evolutionists, who believe that matter came into existence out of nothing, and then randomly organized itself.."

Wow! Its like going through the looking glass, and the world has turned upside down.

People who blindly believe in the universe being created out of nothing are now called.. evolutionists. Amazing!

And all this time I was blaming God for expecting blind faith and creating stuff out of nothing - I guess my Sunday school teachers had it all wrong!

 

At 6/08/2005 7:45 PM, Anonymous Alice said...

No, honestly, I would like understand: Where did the universe come from? Not how the planets and suns formed, but the original matter that made the galaxies. How did matter get here?

 

At 6/08/2005 8:39 PM, Anonymous HCN said...

I have a 14 year old son who chose for his 8th grade independent research project "Evolution: Everyone has an Opinion". He seemed to do quite well (I confess I got him the book _The Complete Idiot's Guide to Evolution_), I learned quite a bit from reading his report. I got to watch his class presentation because he had me bring in his cat to demonstrate how evolution shaped her. He was challenged by another student, but he seemed to handle it well.

I don't know why he chose this subject, since some of his friends chose things like "History of Basketball" or "Who were the Aztecs". I keep thinking it may have been when one of his friends was eating at our house. This boy who is a 7th grader at a well regarded Lutheran school announced he did not "believe" in evolution because it is not happening now. At that time both adults and two of our kids all turned around and in unison said "Yes it does!!!".

(Since I was reading about the 1918 influenza pandemic I got to explain about the changes viruses go through... as best I could since I am only an engineer).

 

At 6/08/2005 8:45 PM, Anonymous Ron Sullivan said...

Alice, what has that question got to do with evolution?

 

At 6/08/2005 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.

I just hope a 21st-century 14-year-old has the attention span to read everything you said.

I do wish you had tackled more directly her reliance on the dictionary definition of "error."

 

At 6/08/2005 11:57 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Alice, Alice, Alice,

And the discussion was going so nicely.

First off, you are confusing abiogenesis and evolution. The theory of evolution says nothing about how life came to be. It only deals with how life has evolved after it came to be. I'm surprised they didn't teach you that in one of the prerequisite biology courses you took in college. Nor does the theory of evolution have anything to do with how the cosmos came to be or where matter came from.

Second, yes, people interpret data through their own biases, but the beauty of science is that it is less prone to that because of the emphasis on data and experimentation and the fact that scientists challenge each other all the time. If I as a scientist write something that's weakly supported, I will get called on it. However, the evidence is overwhelming that the earth is billions of years old and that evolution has occurred. It's doubtful that so many could "misinterpret" so much data. I stand by my question about why God would leave so much evidence lying around showing that the earth is billions of years old if He did not want us to find it and draw such conclusions.

Finally, there was a time when you could get by as a doctor without understanding evolutionary concepts, although even then the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria (also the development of tumor resistance to chemotherapeutics and radiation) was a prime example of natural selection in action and the principles of evolution are at the heart of common strategies to prevent the emergence of resistance. Ditto the development of vaccines. However, that time, as you will soon see, is rapidly disappearing. Evolutionary principles underlie the very heart of genomic medicine, which will be the new wave of the future. You can choose to deny them if you wish, and you might even get away with it if you're in a specialty that doesn't use the new tools. If you're in a specialty that does, however, you will rapidly find that you will have a problem.

Let me say one last thing. I don't have any beef with creationism per se. I really don't. What I do have a big beef with are creationists who misrepresent what is inherently a religious belief (creationism) as science and try to teach that religious belief as an "alternative" to the sound science of evolution in schools using public money.

 

At 6/08/2005 11:58 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Anonymous: I didn't attack her use of the dictionary definition of "error" because Dan S. did it for me in the comments section of the original post.

Yes, I realize I wrote a rather long piece. I may edit it down at some point. I just didn't have the time today.

 

At 6/09/2005 1:20 AM, Blogger Dreaming again said...

Don't edit it down. Leave it alone.

I like the way that you have respected his intelligence, his faith and his ability to understand. I don't think you should touch a word. Leave it as is.

If people agree or disagree with the content of what you have said ..they cannot disagree with the way it has been said ...and if you edit it ..something may get lost in the editing.

 

At 6/09/2005 6:07 AM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Orac wrote,

“Alice, Alice, Alice,

And the discussion was going so nicely.

First off, you are confusing abiogenesis and evolution. The theory of evolution says nothing about how life came to be. It only deals with how life has evolved after it came to be.”

Alice’s question is fair. The excuse that “oh, we are not concerned with the abiogenesis” is used selectively.

I noticed P.Z., on his evolution blog, had a rant about The Privileged Planet, a book that deals with cosmology and, in the history of the universe, far earlier times than abiogenesis. I noticed you have a comment on that post. I noticed it was not anything along the lines of: Why are we discussing this? We know that abiogenesis is not our problem, and cosmology is even further outside our domain.

Equinox wrote:

“Are you accusing them of making up stories in order to bash Christianity?”

Not so much to bash Christianity but to support some point they are trying to make.

 

At 6/09/2005 8:23 AM, Blogger OutEast said...

Heddle wrote:

I noticed you have a comment on that post. I noticed it was not anything along the lines of: Why are we discussing this? We know that abiogenesis is not our problem, and cosmology is even further outside our domain.

Say what? Orac was quite rightly pointing out that evolution (which is a proven theory, albeit with much detail work to be done) does not ride or fall on the question of abiogenesis and is not by any means synonymous with the same.

He was not claiming that the question of abiogenesis is irrelevant to science or that he (or any other scientist) should not be interested in that. Your 'point' is at best ignorant, Heddle. And I'm sceptical as to whether it deserves so noble an accolade as that...

Frankly, it looks like disingenuity; why you would bother with such a self-evidently fractally fallacious post is beyond me, though given your record it does not surprise in the least.

I was going to break your post down in detail and demonstrate to you why it is nonsense. There are three reasons I opted not to: in the first place, the fractally fallacious nature of it is such that it would be difficult to stop tearing it apart; in the second, the flaws are so glaring as to make it demeaning to do so; and in the third place, I could only conclude that you were being deliberately disingenuous and thus trolling, in which case you don't deserve a reply so much as a good flaming.

 

At 6/09/2005 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting enough to note that the reply relies heavily on rhetoric and little on EVIDENCE.

 

At 6/09/2005 8:48 AM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

OutEast,

If you wrote anything of substance, I missed it.

Evolutionists are always unleashing this "abiogenesis is not our concern" talking point, when it serves their purpose, and they are far from consistent.

If abiogenesis is not a fair part of the evolution discussion, then I assume that the folks at Panda’s Thumb would have no problem with a teacher beginning an evolution class stating either:

This is an evolution class, which is not concerned with the origin of life, which I believe began as a result of the proper chemical environment and self-organizational principles.

or

This is an evolution class, which is not concerned with the origin of life, which I believe began as a result of divine fiat.

Or would they come down much harder on someone making the second statement?

I have never once read where an IDer was allowed to get away with a statement to the effect that the nature and identity of the designer is not relevant--on the contrary IDers get harangued to spell out what they think about the designer.

What abiogenesis is to evolution, the designer is to ID.

 

At 6/09/2005 9:21 AM, Anonymous JustAPreclinical said...

I post here with a degree of trepidation, as I haven't actually commented in a medblog before. I hold such sources in high regard, so while I hope desperately not to shoot myself in the foot, please feel free to correct some of the inarticulacies in my argument.

I am rather disconcerted that the attitude which Alice displays is all too familiar to me. I too am a medical student, albeit in third year. Within my own cohort I have noticed a number of students who seem all too keen to take scientific inquiry with a grain of salt. Alice illustrates this phenomenon quite effectively. She assumingly "believes" the science behind medicine, yet chooses to cast aside what, as Orac repeatedly mentioned, has been shown to be more than a simple postulate - namely, evolution. What is to stop such a person from simply disregarding evidence advocating or condemning certain treatments (ie the MD in Orac's worrying story of The Orange Man). As Orac already mentioned, such faith in creatonist (*cough* and even some religious) dogma poses the dilemma of working in a field which is rapidly using tools developed from Evolutionary principles.

However, the reason Evolutionary theory and its offshoots are becoming so central to scientific healthcare is because they have accurately and dependably explained the phenomena, both in health and disease, that we see in the clinical and epidemiological setting.

I fail to understand how one can merely pick and choose what to believe, when it is not in the best interests of patient health and safety to do so. If you honestly believe that channeling God's healing energy can cure all the major ailments of humanity, then honey, you're in the wrong profession. Having "faith" in scientific principles is rarely a matter of blindly believing. It is about rationally assessing the evidence before you. Or at least listening to notable peers who have already done the hard work for you.

What saddens me the most, however, is that open discourse has failed to really achieve anything in my circumstance. Trying to foster rationality in the face of such beliefs is like banging your head against a brick wall - explaining my reluctance to address a rebuttal directly to Alice. Furthermore, there seems to be a general feeling among my peers that such ideas are not really in need of challenging. Thus I use this forum merely as a means to express my profound anxiety and to see which lines of argument prove most effective.

In all honesty, should I be as worried as I am? Is medicine increasingly becoming incompatible with such ideas? Do people "see the light" (ahem. sorry about that) when they finally witness first-hand what scientific reasoning is able to do for the ill, and humanity more widely (despite the fact that anecdote is poor evidence)? Is it not ultimately a farce to practice medicine by applying merely selected principles while disregarding those obtained via the same methodology? What is wrong with critical reasoning?!

By the way, thanks for the post Orac. I hope that with some careful pruning I can couch my appeals for critical thinking so eloquently. It is often tempting to just respond with frustrated disregard. Although I despair that even such eloquent prose can be so hideously misred.

 

At 6/09/2005 9:30 AM, Blogger HaloJonesFan said...

>She assumingly "believes" the
>science behind medicine, yet
>chooses to cast aside what...has
>been shown to be more than a
>simple postulate - namely,
>evolution.

Ahhaha. Evolution is extremely far from being a "simple postulate". The only people who believe in evolution as a simple fact...well, they do just that--believe. They don't learn everything about it and understand its abilities, limitations, and how it actually works. They just parrot Discover-magazine scriptures on evolution to fit in with the crowd that they admire. It's like a cargo cult, for these people; scientists are smart, and scientists say "evolution", so if you say "evolution" that means you're smart too.

 

At 6/09/2005 9:57 AM, Blogger OutEast said...

If you wrote anything of substance, I missed it.

OK, fine. I'll reiterate: you're either a fool or a fraud.

Your entire riposte to me is built on the premiss that 'What abiogenesis is to evolution, the designer is to ID.' You realize, I assume, that in order for that to be the case the ID position would have to be 'we believe that life originated by the action of a creator, but thereafter evolution guided the development of life and of species.' Is this what you believe ID to be? If so, then I will concede that we are merely failing to communicate because others here assume that ID involves the repudiation of macroevolution and so on. Otherwise, however, you are either displaying an incredible inability to reason from A to B (in which case you're a fool) or you know full wqell that your claims are boogus but are pushing them anyway (in which case you're a fraud).

I believe that most (though by no means all) people who believe in evolution are willing to consider the possibility of abiogenesis because they are aware that simply to argue for a creator as the source of life is to appeal to a 'god of the gaps' - that is, to argue from incredulity.

The argument over what is appropriate in the science classroom is a distraction here: I was attacking you for your pathetically flawed thinking, not for any claim made about what should or should not have a place in the science classroom.

To return to your claim, it would be more accurate to say 'What evolution is to evolution, the designer is to ID.'

Evolution is about the whole process from the start of life to the diversity of today; abiogenesis is 'merely' about the very commencement of that process with the first living organism. Is this the sole role your designer plays?

 

At 6/09/2005 10:36 AM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

OutEast,

OK, fine. I'll reiterate: you're either a fool or a fraud.


Golly, are those my only choices?

Your entire riposte to me is built on the premiss that 'What abiogenesis is to evolution, the designer is to ID.'

No, that was not the premise at all, the premise was that evolutionists use the "abiogenesis is not germane" rubric inconsistently.

You realize, I assume, that in order for that to be the case the ID position would have to be 'we believe that life originated by the action of a creator, but thereafter evolution guided the development of life and of species.'

No, it doesn't mean that (although one could take that position.) What it means is that, as the details of how life started are not relevant, only how life evolved, so also we can say the details of the designer are irrelevant, the only important matter being that nature gives evidence of the design.

I believe that most (though by no means all) people who believe in evolution are willing to consider the possibility of abiogenesis because they are aware that simply to argue for a creator as the source of life is to appeal to a 'god of the gaps'

Consider meaning discuss? Most are not willing to discuss abiogenesis when also discussing evolution. And it is not god of the gaps, it is god in the details.

The argument over what is appropriate in the science classroom is a distraction here

Well, I know what that means.

 

At 6/09/2005 11:21 AM, Anonymous MD said...

Heddle,

You are, as usual, mistaken.

Scientists do not make a clear distinction between the Theory of Evolution and postulates concerning the origins of life as some sort of cop out, or because they do not wish to answer "a fair question."

They make the distinction because the two are different, and acceptance of the fact of evolution does not compell a scientist to also subscribe to various theories of abiogenesis.

There is an infamous creationist who's offered quite a bit of money to anyone who can prove "the theory of evolution" to him; the problem of course being that he does not understand what it is, and his idea of evolution would entail reproducing everything, clear through the Big Bang. Ie. for this guy the TOE even includes Big bang Theory.

Nothing wrong with pointing this out.
=============

I noticed P.Z., on his evolution blog, had a rant about The Privileged Planet, a book that deals with cosmology and, in the history of the universe, far earlier times than abiogenesis. I noticed you have a comment on that post. I noticed it was not anything along the lines of: Why are we discussing this? We know that abiogenesis is not our problem, and cosmology is even further outside our domain.

When Orac or PZ discuss abiogenesis or cosmological theories, they discuss abiogenesis or cosmological theories. They are under no obligation whatsoever to refrain from commenting on either, just becuase they also discuss another theory, the TOE, and have from time to time pointed out to the misguided the distinctions between these theories. Pointing out to the ignorant that the TOE does not include the Big Bang, and that people who attack the TOE with arguments really better aimed at the Big Bang Theory does not at all mean that one should not be allowed to talk about the Big Bang.


The design crowd, "evolutionary," "cosmological," and everything else, all make the most fascinating logical errors.

 

At 6/09/2005 11:30 AM, Blogger OutEast said...

Heddle:

a) The summary of your position which I quoted was just that - a quotation. Your own words.

b) Abiogenesis is a hypothesis to describe the origin of life in its very simplest form. It is currently one of the least proven areas of the theory of life which incorporates evolution - unlike the principle of evolution itself, which is proven beyond reasonable doubt. To claim that the creator occupies the equivalent position in ID is ludicrous; although it is true that a creator is as unproven as abiogenesis, the rest of ID 'theory' is as unproven as the creator and thus stands in stark contrast to evolution. One could argue (as I suggested) that while the evidence proves evolution it does not demonstrate the possibility of abiogenesis and that in this context a creator can fill that first split-second gap just as well; this would, however, still be a god-of-the-gaps argument. QED.

You say that 'Evolutionists are always unleashing this "abiogenesis is not our concern" talking point, when it serves their purpose'.

This is nonsense. As an 'evolutionists' I for one would not say 'abiogenesis is not our concern', and nor has anyone I've ever seen. What may be said is that evolution is a valid, well-supported and tested theory regardless of the question of abiogenesis. In case you cannot see the difference, I'll hammer it home... I personally believe that abiogenesis is the most probable account for the origin of life, and do not believe in a creator. However, as far as the very origin of life goes there is as yet no evidence to demonstrate that abiogenesis is actually how life came to be - at least to my knowledge. Although there is work going on in this area, there is not yet a cohesive theory of abiogenesis.

Evolution, however, is far more developed. To reject evolution you need to reject the mountains of supporting evidence available. When I say I believe abiogenesis to be the most probable hypothesis for the origin of life I say that in a tentative way, making what I consider a not-unreasonable supposition that we are likely to have some success in identifying a mechanism or possible mechanisms therefor (much as when I say, for example, that I believe Tony Blair to be a liar - I think it a reasonable position but cannot claim to know it as a definitive fact).

When I say I believe in evolution, however, it is qualitatively different. There I talk of something with mountains of evidence to support it; it is more like my saying that I believe in gravity. It's something I can feel sure about because it is proven regardless of the unproven hypothesis of abiogenesis. I could come to believe in a creator as the source of life without denying any evidence I know of: the same CANNOT be said of evolution.

This is going on forever... I'm trying to keep it simple, but it's like trying to explain why grass is green to a three-year-old...

 

At 6/09/2005 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Heddle: Abiogenesis is impossible and therefore evolution is false!

Someone Smart: Abiogenesis and evolution are two different things. We can talk about one or the other if you want, but it would be silly to try to combine them, since evolution as a subject is limited to what happens to life once it already exists.

David Heddle: Aha! I caught you out! If you're willing to talk about evolution AND you're willing to talk about abiogenesis, then they MUST BE THE SAME THING!

Someone Smart: I'm also willing to talk about food, porn and people who say things so dumb they MUST be comedians. Perhaps you need to expand your list of things that scientists are willing to discuss and are therefore inseparable.

 

At 6/09/2005 12:15 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Anonymous:

"David Heddle: Abiogenesis is impossible and therefore evolution is false!"

And where did I write that? Ever?

 

At 6/09/2005 1:39 PM, Blogger Rockstar Ryan said...

Why is it the credulous never post comments on my blog...

 

At 6/09/2005 2:11 PM, Anonymous Man with No Personality said...

Wait for it, people. Any moment now, Heddle's going to state some variation of his "I've never claimed ID is science--it's religion" escape route.

Having wasted quite some time attempting to debate with Heddle, a feat which is impossible because he never keeps a consistent position, I strongly recommend you avoid the undeniable temptation to show up his shoddy logic, and ignore him. Nothing you say can make an impression on the man, due to his protective covering of slimy disingenuity and lies, and really, I think he enjoys the attention.

 

At 6/09/2005 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac- Nice, very nice. As a fellow skeptic who tackles dearly-held prejudices, I can attest that being polite, firm, and thorough is the best way to pierce through the armor of faith-based opinions. This goes doubly for young folks, who may not yet have learned how to think critically. I certainly hope the 14-year-old reads what you wrote carefully, and asks more questions.

-Phil Plait
The Bad Astronomer
http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog

 

At 6/09/2005 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Heddle: "And where did I write that? Ever?"

In my post, obviously. I was only using your name as an example and because it has such a nice ring to it. And in this example, you were only saying it to trip someone up, not because you necessarily believe it. I could have had someone else start the conversation, but I didn't want to bring a third character into the story. It wasn't necessary, IMO, but you must admit that it did give you a lovely opportunity to protest that you never said those exact words when it was unnecessary to make such a protest. It should have been obvious that the whole story was a fabrication to make an illustration and that the points contained within were to be discussed, not simply whether or not you said something that was obviously not something you actually said.

I prefer stories, because they're so much more fun, but here's the point I was trying to make:

Just because someone can talk about more than one subject doesn't mean that all the subjects they talk about are the same subject or even that the subjects they discuss are even related in any way. Nor should any person be restricted to only discussing one subject. Also, when someone tries to thrust two different subjects together in a way that doesn't make any sense, it's okay to let them know that what they're doing doesn't make any sense. It's helpful!

 

At 6/09/2005 6:44 PM, Blogger Dr. Charles said...

all i have to say is well-done. if you aren't already, you'll make a great dad or uncle!

 

At 6/10/2005 12:10 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Anonymous: No evidence? I linked to tons of evidence. I just didn't discuss it in detail.

Rockstar: People are credulous in some areas and not in others. As one person mentioned in this very post, some enjoy my debunking of alties but get annoyed when I discuss creationism. I'm betting the reverse is true as well.

Dr. Charles: Thanks. Sadly, I am neither yet.

 

At 6/10/2005 3:40 AM, Anonymous Julia said...

Orac--

Thanks for this post. Once again, I think you've touched on the heart of the problem--miscommunication, where meanings are misconstrued and therefore arguments arise. It seems to me that a lot of the support that the ID/creationists generate is centered around the word "theory" and a misunderstanding of how that word is used in science. Perhaps a future post on how one moves from a hypothesis to a theory might be in order. My dad (my high school science teacher for six years) had a great teaching lesson on his hypothesis that there were squirrels with radioactive teeth in the lightbulbs, and when they ran really fast, they would glow--hence, the light in the room. And then, he'd make us work through how we would prove that and make it a theory--or not.

Thank you for the link to the MetroWest Daily article. I really enjoyed the religious/scientific viewpoint in it. It's refreshing to see an article that points out that a person can "believe" (I hate using that word in science circumstances. I don't "believe" in DNA or "believe" in genetics, but I'm lacking the right word) in both. I have never expected science to confirm or support my faith in God. I don't need scientific proof to explain my feelings. Likewise, I also don't use my faith to figure out science--somehow I don't think that "feeling" or "believing" that a double helix was the blueprint of life would have won Watson and Crick the Nobel prize. :) These are two different ways of sensing, experiencing, living the world, and I have never understood why I must limit it to one way or another. Deep down, I might say that I have some of the beliefs of ID, whereas I still believe that God created the world, using the natural laws of the world. That's my personal belief. I have not the physical, scientific evidence for it, and nor do I claim it to be unrefuted fact.

However, having taking numerous evolution classes, I am also aware of the, as you put it, overwhelming quantity of data supporting evolution. I know how genetic mutations, drift, and natural selection work--I still remember the computer program that inserted a bad gene into a population and watched it take over by random selection. It is one of those "natural laws" and I have no problems with believing that the world was brought into creation with evolution as one of those processes.

But, the instant somebody wants to take the creationist theories into the classroom or textbooks, then I get queasy, very queasy. Teach the evolution portion in the schools, and if you want, add the creationist stuff in the sunday school lessons.

Sorry for the ramblingness. It is getting late. Thank you for letting me spout, it's been a while since I did this.

 

At 6/10/2005 11:06 AM, Blogger Guy said...

Of course, as a linguist, I'm biased, but I truly believe on of the problems here is one of semantics. English is sadddled by a lack of knowledge words. We can only 'know' something. But many if not most languages in the world distinguish between, to put it glibly, knowledge of the heart and of the head. I don't know my friends the way I know welsh or mathematics. There is a difference in the knowledge we gain through learning, and the knowledge we gain through experience. This is demonstrated in German kennen and wissen. Wissen means 'to understand'. Kennen means 'to be familiar'. Science is responsible for the wissen; spirituality the kennen. They don't negate each other, surely.

 

At 6/10/2005 4:14 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

Mr. Heddle, I'm just curious: is there anything in this universe that can't be looked at as being designed? If we are going to say something's designed, we must have something undesigned to compare it to, otherwise how would we know the difference. I was going to specifically ask if you think snowflakes are designed, but then I realized I was hard-pressed to think of anything that couldn't be viewed that way. Is dirt designed? Are clouds?

It seems the meaning of 'design' in this context is almost a philosophical term that could apply to everything. Maybe you'll say that yes, snowflakes are 'designed' by the natural laws that govern the crystallization of water. Maybe each one is designed by God. How does one tell the difference if under both cases, they're 'designed'?

Also, you seem to be able to bring up arguments, and some non-sequiturs, *against* evolution or people's ideas about it. Do you have a theory of your own that better explains the evidence? Is your position that the evidence does not support evolution, but you don't have an alternate theory that better explains it?

 

At 6/10/2005 5:39 PM, Anonymous David Heddle said...

Dave wrote:

I'm just curious: is there anything in this universe that can't be looked at as being designed?

Well, basically nothing in the universe was designed. It was the universe itself. Everything else follows from the laws of physics. It is the theological idea of secondary causes.

"Is your position that the evidence does not support evolution, but you don't have an alternate theory that better explains it?"

No, my position is that the evidence does support evolution. I was arguing against the tactics including evasiveness of evolution proponents, which are often repulsive, not against the theory itself.

That said, I don’t think evolution is a science in the same sense as physics. Physics makes grand, ballsy predictions: Mercury’s orbit will precess, go check and see (Einstein). Antimatter exists, I’m sure, go do this experiment and you’ll find it (Dirac.). Carbon must have an undetected energy level right here, or stars won’t work, go look for it (Hoyle.)

Evolution is much more reactive: yes that data fits. Yes that finding is easily accommodated. Bleh. It is such a sissy science compared to physics. But yes, I think the fossil record supports it.

 

At 6/10/2005 10:47 PM, Anonymous Mazaranne said...

I am new to the world of blogging, so my wonder might seem a bit naive. I can't help but get a lump in my throat when confronted with such overwhelming evidence of the theory of intelligent life in the universe. I grew up in the Northwest, but was born in Texas and now reside there permanently. I'm an enthusiastic proponent of the theory of evolution which wasn't all that remarkable in my formative years as it was unquestioningly taught and accepted by all around me. I'm not saying that I was schooled in a progressive system, but it was a huge culture shock to find out how vehemently the religious conservatives here in Texas argue against evolution and their efforts at trying to have creationism taught with the same level of surety and importance as the theory of evolution. That is, when they aren't trying to eliminate the study of evolution altogether. I must admit to probably sounding very disdainful of those who don't believe in evolution, with all its supporting evidence, but who can so easily believe in a creator God with no other evidence than that of 'feelings'. I admire Orac's calm, thoughtful and anti-hysterical presentation of the facts in such an easily understood and anti-inflammatory manner. I hope you don't mind if I make a file of it and try to memorize it for later recitations. I find myself embarrassingly unable to stay calm for very long when this subject of conversation pops up in my life. By the way, Orac, will you marry me?

 

At 6/11/2005 2:28 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

From my earlier comment:
"I have a 14 year old son who chose for his 8th grade independent research project "Evolution: Everyone has an Opinion". He seemed to do quite well"

He actually got a 97%... his lowest score was a 91% for the oral presentation. He said he was shaking the entire time.

His presentation included a Powerpoint presentation with cartoon figures he drew. Some of the more interesting statements in this were "Many people would say it was Dawrin that first theorized evolution. In truth it was really the Greeks that had an idea about it. Two of the theorists were Anaximander's theory of metmorphosis and Empedocies theory of random organ mix".

I'm only really posting this to show that some 14 year old kids actually can study and understand more complex things than how to win a video game (though he does spend too much time playing World of Warcraft... which he says he can quite anytime. Sure, yeah, ya betcha!).

And, yes... I am also bragging. So there!

 

At 6/12/2005 1:33 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

It's refreshing to see an article that points out that a person can "believe" (I hate using that word in science circumstances. I don't "believe" in DNA or "believe" in genetics, but I'm lacking the right word) in both.

Julia, I've been successful by saying that I "have confidence in" the results of science. There is a big difference between my belief that the sun is coming up tomorrow, which is supported by empirical evidence, and a person's belief in God, which is supported by faith. Some people like to suggest that there is no difference. Fortunately I think most of us agree that there is a difference, and it is the difference between science and religion.

 

At 6/14/2005 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OutEast:
Sounds to me like evolutionists couldn't explain the origin of life, realized that some folks were smart enough to see through the charade, and decided to come up with a convenient tertiary with which to deflect any real, serious inquiries into the subject, and thus lend more credence to evolution itself. Abiogenesis has long been proven false.

David:
Kudos for intelligent discourse on evolution, without the blind belief portion.

Mazaranne:
The creationist (generally speaking) sees evidence all around him/her. The very fact that you as an individual exist and can put finger to keyboard to respond in this blog serves as evidence. Empirical evidence for the creationist is overwhelming, and doesn't require "blind faith" at all.

On a side note, I find it quite ironically humorous that the second definition given for "empirical" is: 'Guided by practical experience and not theory, especially in medicine.' Makes this whole thread a moot point, don't you think?

73's

 

At 6/14/2005 4:24 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

This is (at least) the fourth blog where David Heddle has engaged in unwanted attempts to inject his spectacularly unfunny brand of "humor." This time around he varied a little bit from his script, however: he forgot to post his inane (and, it goes without saying, untrue) quip that the only people opposed to "Cosmological ID" are Kent Hovind, the Ayn Rand Institute, and the Panda's Thumb. I guess laziness must come with the territory when one is Spammin' for Jesus.

 

At 6/14/2005 6:01 PM, Anonymous Mazaranne said...

Anonymous. How many countless times have I heard the old "the proof of creation is all around us" argument? Things exist, therefore there must be a creator? LOL....it's like one of my coworkers who is an ordained fundamentalist minister. He is always bringing up "the 66 books of the Protestant Bible". They are God's word because they say they are. Um....okay. I'm Jessica Simpson because I say I am. Wonder if that'll allow me access to her fortune? Don't get me wrong. I view nature and my existence with the awe and wonderment it deserves. But I am not about to credit it automatically to an 'intelligent designer' because it is so awesome and can't have been realized with any other mechanism. And besides, if nature is so fabulous it has to have been intelligently designed, then who designed the designer? That entity must also be fabulous. And if something so complex and wonderful has to have been designed, then it follows that something had to design the designer. And if not, then why can't existence fall under the same rules? The designer didn't need designing with all of his/her/its complexities, why does the universe have to fit ID rules? Huh, huh, huh??

 

At 6/15/2005 5:19 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

That said, I don’t think evolution is a science in the same sense as physics. Physics makes grand, ballsy predictions: Mercury’s orbit will precess, go check and see (Einstein). Antimatter exists, I’m sure, go do this experiment and you’ll find it (Dirac.). Carbon must have an undetected energy level right here, or stars won’t work, go look for it (Hoyle.)

No ballsy predictions?

How about Darwin positing a moth with a 10 inch probocis because of a 10 inch deep flower?

How about predicting that human fossils will be found in Africa because that's where our closest relatives live now.

(People didn't want to look for human fossils in steamy jungles. The Chapman expedition to Mongolia that found all those Protoceratops and their eggs was actually in search of our noble ancestors, despite Darwin's prediction as to their eventual location.)

How about "eyes will have evolved gradually, even if I don't know the pathway yet." ? (to paraphrase Darwin)

How about "whale ancestors had legs".

Scientists have made many predictions in the field of evolution, and you can hardly call them reactive or accomodative. If it seems that way at times, that's because evolution encompasses so many real-world phenomena.

"Ballsy" is a subjective term, but I personally find it more ballsy to be able to make bold (correct) predictions _without_ the math, than simply following the equations to their logical conclusion as they often do in physics.

 

At 6/16/2005 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogspot really needs a threaded comment system so we can more easily respond to particular comments.

 

At 6/17/2005 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mazaranne: "...but who can so easily believe in a creator God with no other evidence than that of 'feelings'...."

Mazaranne, I think you misunderstood my post. I was simply making the point that, to the creationists (from their point of view), there is much evidence. Generally speaking, this argument has nothing whatsoever to do with 'feelings'. Perhaps if you understood it from that perspective, you might begin to understand more about the argument itself. Just trying to help, that's all. My intent (which, of course, is difficult to portray via text posts) was merely to help everyone see the other side a little more clearly, since there seemed to be a bit of confusion about the approach and mindset that is common among creationists.

"...And if something so complex and wonderful has to have been designed, then it follows that something had to design the designer. And if not, then why can't existence fall under the same rules?..."

See, from the creationist perspective, this is an attempt to force the supernatural to follow the laws governed by the natural. Is it possible that there is an entity who designed all of this? Sure it is. 100 years ago, would anyone have thought it was possible for man to walk upon the surface of the moon? Probably not many, if any. If someone were to have stated "Within 50 years, man will walk on the moon" he would have been laughed to scorn. The skeptics of such a statement would have abounded. The individual would have been made a mockery and ridiculed to shame. The fact that no one knew HOW to get to the moon at the time, doesn't make it an impossibility. The salient points are these - a) the creationist sees evidence all around him/her; b) an honest thinker must admit that the possibility exists that a Designer indeed created the world; and c) absence of knowledge is not equivalent to absence of understanding (by this I mean, simply because we, as an individual, may not have the full knowledge of something doesn't necessarily imply that it is not knowable).

What happens if, say, fifty years into the future, some incontrovertable, irrefutable evidence surfaces as to the existance of God, the Designer, the Creator. I'm talking about something that no skeptic in the world would dare challenge, for the foolishness of such which would be evident to all.

What will we then say?

 

At 6/17/2005 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mazaranne: One more thing...
An analogy for you and everyone else who seems to misunderstand the creationist' perspective:

Imagine for a moment that I worked at a local jewelry shop. One day, I walk in, right past the counter, into the back part of the store, where the jewelry is created, formed, and fashioned. Imagine that I then took the box sitting in front of the nearest jeweler, containing thousands of tiny parts, and dumped it all into a paper sack. Next, I shake it all up just as fast and furiously as possible (without breaking the sack), and then I place it into the refrigerator, under lock and key, with myself only having a key. Next day, I take the sack out of the refrigerator, shake it again, and place it back into the 'fridge. This goes on for a week, then a month, then a year, and so on and so forth. After a long time, let's say 20 years, of shaking and refrigeration and a few lightning strikes, and whatever else I wanted to do to it (salt/pepper, axle grease, sand, whatever), I finally pull it out of the fridge and open the bag to find...


an expensive wristwatch. Keeping perfect time, already set to the correct time and date. Let's say it's a fancy one, with lots of little details, and beautiful as well. A fine piece of craftsmanship. This wristwatch mysteriously formed itself over a long period of time (20 years) and is keeping perfect time and is already set! You see how ridiculous that is?

You see, to a creationist, you are simply attempting to rearrange the pieces to fit the idea that they just happened to put themselves together in the right order and manner and arrangement, so as to be working in perfect harmony with each other, performing their various roles according to the way they are supposed to.

That's what the creationist sees whenever he views evolution. I hope that helps you and others to approach your arguments from a different perspective.

 

At 6/17/2005 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a final note:

Check out this discussion, for an intelligent analysis of the issue.

73

 

At 6/17/2005 6:31 PM, Anonymous Mazaranne said...

Except that the components of the watch are static. Nothing is added to the bag. It's just jostled, but the ingredients remain the same. The environment remains the same. Not so in evolution.

 

At 6/17/2005 6:49 PM, Blogger Annie said...

One more thing. I consider myself an agnostic. I grow very tired of hearing people tell me that I don't want to believe in 'GOD' because then I would have to 'behave.' (liberal but accurate paraphrase alert) You can dress up the creationists' arguments all you want, but there is NO scientific evidence for intelligent design. This 'much evidence' you speak of........it's all around us, you say. Still, to me, all it boils down to is feelings, pure and simple. Faith. Belief. Science? Not that I've seen. Please, show me the evidence. I've searched and searched for years and years. And when I still can't force myself to believe what I don't see evidence for, I still get the old, "you don't WANT to believe because you'll have to give up your sinful ways of life." I live a very moral life. I think morals are instrinsic in us. They are an evolutionary tool. Our survival in prehistoric times was contingent upon our ability to work as a group. Groups need rules in order to operate successfully. The more sophisticated our brains and environment became, the more sophisticated our rules. I don't need threats of eternal damnation from some "loving God' to keep me in line. I prefer to live as a successful product of evolution. I have no idea what started life, hence agnosticism, but I see no evidence at all anywhere that points to intelligent design. Sometimes it's quite the opposite. I may have gotten off-track a bit. I apologize. Show me the beef, show me the money, show me the evidence.

 

At 6/17/2005 6:50 PM, Anonymous Mazaranne said...

Oops....forgot to give my post name. That Annie post was from Mazaranne.

 

At 6/23/2005 11:27 PM, Anonymous Sotek said...

Idly, whoever claimed that abiogenesis is proven to be false and "proved" it by linking Wikipedia apparently didn't bother to read the linked article.

 

At 7/02/2005 12:03 AM, Anonymous jeff said...

An execellent judgement. I'll only hope that others are as generous with my daughter when she steps on toes.

 

At 8/05/2005 11:43 AM, Blogger Bill Hooker said...

Also, to be useful to scientists, theories must be falsifiable

What would falsify the theory of evolution?

Actually, as you point out, there are effectively two "theories of evolution", and in confusing the two lies a world of unhappiness. Theory A states that (to oversimplify a bit) natural selection acting on a base of random mutation causes organisms to change gradually over time so as to better fit their environment. That one's pretty uncontroversial, since we can watch it happen (in real time with microorganisms). Then there's Theory B, which says something like "evolution produced the sum of observable biodiversity, including making humans out of simian ancestors". That one's the real vitriol mine, and the part of the whole mess that most requires an understanding of what "theory" means to science.

But short of actually hearing from a supernatural entity of some kind -- in particular, one willing to take the blame for this whole mess -- what would falsify either A or B?

 

At 8/08/2005 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how about a reply from me, a 28 year old creationist ^__^

Sennoma (the last commenter) is right that the theory of evolution falls victim to your own criteria for creationsim. What exactly would falsify evolutionary theory? Until you can answer that you need to hold your own theory suspect as well.

The truth is that science is completely biased against any theory except a naturalistic theory (IOW, a theory excluding God as a cause). Science, being built on naturalistic precepts, cannot stomach an explanation including a creator. It really has nothing to do with the science, because there actually is a great deal of scientific evidence for creationsim, it's just that because a God lies at the end of that road, scientists aren't willing to even take the first step. Go look up Jack Cuozzo's book called "Buried Alive" which deals with the neanderthal skulls we posses, scientifically measuring them with a new machine and proving that these skulls are not mere simian ancestors, but rather antediluvian ancestors from only a few thousand years ago.

As to the evidence that you say is all over the earth pointing to evolution, you have to understand that a conclusion is dependent upon your precepts. All of evolutionary theory is a case of 'good observation, bad conclusion'. If you believe the earth is a couple billion years old (precept), and then obtain a result which shows that it may be only several thousand years old (observation), you as a scientist will either be confused, or simply throw that metric out (conclusion) because it doesn't fit your expected results.

Take decay rates. Scientists assume decay rates have been constant throughout time (unproved precept). Scientists measure the amount of decayed isotope in a material (good observation). Results show then that in fact certain materials are hundreds of thousands to millions of years old (bad conclusion based on false precept). This is a bad conclusion because it's still anchored by the assumption that decay rates are constant through time. If, in fact, as creationism supposes, decay rates were actually far, far shorter in the time after the fall of man (or lightspeed was much higher in other words), then your conclusions for measurements could be off by a factor of millions of years.

And recently there has been evidence for this. Evidence that the speed of light is in fact slowing down after all - a long time prediction by creation scientists (which if true proves that it once was faster, perhaps much faster). Of course, this seemed impossible until they realized that by locking the measure of time to a cesium atom they had locked the measure of light to something caused by light itself. So, of course it's constant if you measure it by itself. As it changes so too does its measure, thus variable constancy!

Anyway, one last comment, micro-evolution and macro-evolution. You say evolution is 'proved'. You mean micro-evolution. But then by proving micro you then assume macro is true. Don't think so, that doesn't work. Macro-evolution is a historical event and can never be repeated in the laboratory over and over, thereby it cannot be proven scientifically in the same sense. So let's drop the smug know-it-all routine, because in fact you have a lot to learn about evolution yourself, and it is you who has also been relying on those you trust to tell you the truth, and yet has been misled by them.

 

At 8/08/2005 9:15 PM, Blogger Orac said...

If you want to know pieces of data that would falsify evolutionary theory, go here.

You've trotted out a whole bunch of creationist canards, which are also handled at Talkorigins.org, particularly the question of the earth's rotation slowing or the speed of light slowing. None of these falsify evolution or the age of the earth, as the estimates take them into account.

As for science being built on "naturalistic precepts," well duh. That's the whole point of science, my friend.. Science concerns itself with natural phenomena that can be measured, observed, and tested, not with phenomena that cannot be quantified. Barring a visit by the Almighty and His Heavenly Hosts to announce His existence, it cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. You are incorrect that science "cannot stomach" explanations involving God. It is simply that science is not intended even to address the question of God or whether God drives evolution

 

At 8/15/2005 3:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac,
I just fell upon this post from another site and have to say that after reading your very eloquent and sensitive response I myself even learned something. I too wish that this was something a professor at a christian college I attended could have expressed. I have been in a church that was very conservative and closed-minded and not very tolerant of outside influence or independant thinking, (again my personal experience)but your statement, "Why would He endow humans with the intellect and desire to delve deeply into the mysteries of His creation to try to learn what His natural laws are, if the truth of creation and His natural laws are not the same as what His creation tells them", hit to the heart of even my own feeble mind. I have been pursuing a career in medicine for a while and have been derailed because of lifes hardships and duty to family but once again I am back on track. Of course though medicine is a respectable career the people of my old congregation were not impressed with my choice and thought that I should go back to christian college and pursue the church leadership degree that I was there for. I believe though that my calling is for medicine. It is something that drives me and that excites me. God is a part of that too but just because I do not want to pursue only ministry doesn't mean that what I am pursing is wrong. Science and religion can complement eachother and evolution was just a tool--"As a Christian, does it not make more sense to conclude, as the minister above (and others) do, that God set things in motion and evolution was His preferred mechanism to produce all the diversity of life on this planet?"--
Just as we pray for healing and God uses the hands of a surgeon, the mind of a physician and the power of medications to enable healing to take place.
Anyhow I will stop my rambling and just say thank you for your insight and your gentle response and thought provoking prompting to delve further...

 

At 8/15/2005 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orac, thanks for the link. That's exactly what I wanted. I felt a bit silly after my first comment as I could think of at least one testable hypothesis myself, pretty much as soon as I stopped to think about it (the protein functional redundancy one; I'm a mol biologist by trade) but I'm glad to have a thorough examination of the question to hand.

--senn (too lazy to log in)

 

At 10/19/2005 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous : "simply because we, as an individual, may not have the full knowledge of something doesn't necessarily imply that it is not knowable".

This, to me, is THE argument for the scientific (naturalist) method of explaining the world. Just because something is not fully understood in accordance with observed natural laws does not mean that it has not natural explanation, merely that one has not been found yet.

 

At 11/09/2005 8:59 AM, Anonymous David Edwards said...

Tangential diversion (though relevant):

In answer to anyone who says (as the child in one of the above posts was reported to have done) that "Evolution isn't happening now", two words constitute a sufficient response.

Bird flu.

Now, with many infectious diseases, what happens is this. You are infected by the causative organism, and your immune system responds to fight it off. If you're in a robust state of health, or the organism ins't too virulent, you survive and beat it off. If you're unlucky, you die. Let's assume you're lucky and survive. Now what happens is this. The same organism comes along some time later, and finds itself facing an immune system pre-armed against it, and thus has much less chance of causing disease in you.

Influenza is somewhat different from the run of the mill of infectious organisms, however. It's genetically unstable. in particular, the segments of DNA that code for two proteins - haemagglutinin and neuraminidase - are particularly prone to changes over time. Which is why we suffer from repeat infections of influenza - the virus has changed, so as to become harder for the immune system to target. Guess what? The influenza virus has evolved!

This is, by my own admission, a non-rigorous statement of what happens. I'm sure Orac and the other specialists in the requisite medical fields can turn this into a rigorous account. But if I can work this out from first principles without being a specialist in the field, it shouldn't be too hard for someone else to do so. Any creationists out there listening?

 

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