Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Problem With Evolutionists

Perhaps the greatest problem with evolutionists is the fact that they often ask questions of creationists but refuse to stick around to hear the answers.

I am currently reading the book Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil, by Cornelius G. Hunter, and his main premise is that the theory of evolution, at its core, is a theological hypothesis, rather than a scientific one. For Charles Darwin, whose favorite book was Milton's Paradise Lost, reconciling a loving and benevolent God with the cruelties of nature was impossible. As he wrote, "What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel works of nature" (quoted in Hunter, p. 10). Similarly, Darwin noted, "There seems to be me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice" (Ibid., p. 12)

And evolutionists have followed Darwin's line of thinking ever since. More often than not, when they see various aspects of nature, these scientists conclude that "God wouldn't have made it that way," thus taking their research from the scientific arena to the theological. As Hunter observes, referring to one particular evolutionist, "[He] obviously has specific ideas of what the designer is and is not allowed to do. First, the designer must be sensible to us, going about his work as we see fit" (83).

In essence, we conceitedly try to make God in our image, implying that He has to operate within the framework that we think He should. It is the epitome of self-love, in my opinion. Are we so arrogant as to believe that we know how things should or should not work? (Admittedly, I am nowhere near a scientist so I am not as optimistic about the capabilities of the field.)

Ultimately, however, we are confronted with the reality that, although evolutionists demand answers from creationists, they refuse to stick around to hear those answers. In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, time and again, points to different aspects of nature as evidence that an Intelligent Designer is disqualified (which, of course, is not a positive argument for evolution, but a negative argument against design - the precise accusation he flings at creationists). Yet while he makes these accusations, at the same time he has no room for theology, saying that he has never heard a good explanation as to why theology should be considered a subject at all.

So which is it, Dawkins? You demand an explanation from creationists as to how such works of nature can be reconciled with God, yet you laugh at the very field of study you are questioning. There seems to be a bit of hypocrisy.

Dawkins isn't alone, of course, as Hunter has shown. Many of them have taken the bait - hook, line, and sinker. As he writes, "They [evolutionists] employ assertions about what God would and would not do to prove their point, yet they claim that evolution is a scientific conclusion" (84). They do this while scoffing at those who try to answer the questions that allegedly prove their intellectual superiority.

19 comments:

Joel said...

First, one must realize that there are a least two sections in the evolutionary bookstore, those which are anti Intelligent Design, and which give basically no information on evolution or anything but very basic examples. Dawkins is shelved in this first sub-category, and many scientist themselves recognize his goals as being to directly attack those who still claim that I.D. is a science. What many forget is that Dawkins books are neither examples of research or anything more than a cursory discussion of some simple issues. Your post claims to be waiting for a positive argument from a place where it won't admittedly be found. Moreover you leave the implication that this positive argument cannot be found. But, that is where the second shelf comes in, a place many people miss, because it is inherently technical, as any practical and applied science will be. For positive arguments and to understand evolution one must look at real work in the field. A good place to start is www.nature.com.





The second shelf consists

Shawn Brace said...

Joel,

Thanks for your thoughts. They are certainly stimulating. As I may have mentioned, my understanding of science is rather limited, so I appreciate your perspective on things.

I believe what you have mentioned is a good analysis of the issues, but there is one thing that I am still hesitant about. That is, it seems to me that the majority of evolutionary literature starts with the assumption that evolution is, in fact, true. Many explanations fall back on this a priori belief.

I have talked with a number of individuals who have studied biology and other sciences at public universities, and they have told me that evolution is always assumed, yet never really explained or supported. In essence, evolutionary scientists are looking at their discoveries through the glasses of Darwin's theory. This is subjective, at best.

Of course, I cannot deny that proponents of Intelligent Design are often guilty of this as well, but let's not try to imply that they're the only ones who look at science subjectively!

Thanks for the discussion.

holamickey said...

Shawn... I smiled when you made your utterance about fitting God into our box. That has been on my mind this week. I don't want to take the easy escape, but my thoughts are that this might help us more than we think.

Shawn Brace said...

Joel,

To underscore my previous point regarding the "second shelf" you have described, I just came across this enlightening quote from the aforementioned book I just finished reading. Notice what the author says:

"Most evolutionists today are not particularly aware of evolution's theodicy. The vast majority of work in evolutionary studies is concerned with detailed questions about how evolution works, not the overarching arguments for why evolution is supposed to be true" (p. 162).

Joel said...

Shawn, this difference of the "why's" vs. the "how's" is the essential problem when a person tries to reconcile discussions between a scientist and a theologian. The point that is continually lost on the general population is that science is based only the details of how things work. We sometimes talk about the why's and in fact get into a lot of trouble for our small endeavors into these why's, many people mistake the personal convictions of scientists for science, when in fact they are at that moment just conversing and not practicing science.

Some say God is in the details, well science without details is not science. Details are the fundamental quanta which eventually must be exchanged for an work to be respected. That said, is it easy to understand why the point that we don't properly address the why's of evolution is moot.

For those who deal with the why's there are literally a lifetime of books that deal with those issues, all the while lamenting that the people who deal with the how's do not properly address these why's. The How's of course, for the most part do not care, for they have no way of talking a why and creating a observable how, so for them it is useless banter.

For the How's, talking about these things is like talking about a sonata, but never playing or hearing it. I hope it is clear why they (we) pretty much ignore the issue.

Shawn Brace said...

Joel,

I just want to thank you again for giving me some stimulating feedback. As someone who is on the "why" side of things, very rarely do I get to engage anyone on the "how" side!

With this being said - can the "hows" and the "whys" not converse with one another, or will we always talk past each other? I am not so sure that, as Stephen Jay Gould has suggested with his Non-Overlapping Magisteria idea, that this is totally warranted. I believe - perhaps naively - that the two areas can be synthesized and that they do not necessarily have to be opposed to one another.

At the same time, what the author of this book was suggesting is that evolution is not a scientific theory, but a theological one. Darwin had a hard time reconciling God with nature, so he formulated this idea. Thus, he started with a theological presupposition to his whole argument (ie., "God wouldn't have created the world this way."). The author is simply trying to raise our awareness to this reality - that all of this other supposed science is simply trying to support a theological argument. And, conversely, all scientific discovery since Darwin has been interpreted through the lens of this theological presupposition.

What do you think? Interestingly, the author, Cornelius G. Hunter, has a Ph.D in Biophysics from the University of Illinois, so he's not simply a theologian taking shots at science. I feel as though he has done a very good job of synthesizing science and theology (then again, I agree with his conclusions so of course I would think he has done a good job of that).

Brigno said...

For balance (if anyone is interested) i would recommend a book called "Why Darwin Matters" by Michael Shermer.

I think is good to consider all sides of an issue and not limit ourselves to only books that have conclusion we already agree on before hand.

About Dawkins i would like to know how many here have read "The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution". To say this tome (for example) is "a cursory discussion of some simple issues" would be a really difficult statement to back up.

To end i have to tell you Shawn that you are a gifted writer. Nice blog. See you later at Vera's.

Shawn Brace said...

Brigno,

Thank you again for your comments and compliments. And I appreciate the book recommendation. I am not at all opposed to reading authors with differing views. In fact, I very much enjoy reading them. One of the best books I read this past year was Dawkins's God Delusion. It was very enlightening, especially since some of the core Christian doctrine that he is so opposed to are not even held by Adventism.

I, too, would strongly urge you to do the same: read books by creationists. The book that I just read, which I recommended here, Darwin's God, is a very stimulating read.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the bottom line to my argument is that as much as evolutionists like to veil their views in the guise of science, they are still proposing a theological/philosophical theory. The honest evolutionists will admit that they're agenda is to discredit the creationist theory.

One evolutionists has written, "It must be admitted, however, that [the evolutionary theory] has achieved its position less by the amount of irrefutable proofs it has been able to present than by the default of all the opposing theories."

Similarly, Stephen Jay Gould wrote, "What alternative can we suggest to evolution? Would God - for some inscrutable reason, or merely to test our faith - create five species one after the other . . . to mimic a continuous trend of evolutionary change?" Is Gould's statement a scientific one or a theological one? To be sure, there is scientific discussion in the statement, but the heart of it is a theological proposition: "God wouldn't have created it this way; therefore, it must be evolution."

There is nothing wrong with such a statement, but please don't try to pass it off as a purely scientific theory. If a person asks, "Would God make it this way?" then at least let us answer the question in the theological framework that you are attacking. Most creationists freely admit that they have theological underpinnings to their science. Evolutionists do not admit the same.

The next evolutionist who looks at the scientific evidence completely objectively will be the first to do so. The same holds true for creationists, of course; but I, for one, will at least admit that. If only evolutionists would do the same.

Joel said...

The other day I heard quote about pagan religions, the main point is that "one can be a part of many religions and not participate in ritual, but one cannot be pagan and not have a passion for ritual". In some places it actually doesn't matter what you believe, only what you do.

For example, you could commune telepathically with electrons and photons and visualize them as empathetic mushrooms with eyes, but you could still be a top scientist if you also used a formalism that is degenerate with Schinger's quantization of the Dirac equation.

This is why these questions will only ever matter on the interface of the scientific/theo bubble. Those inside the bubble can believe anything they want, just as long as what they actually do can be understood in other's coherent bases. (knowledge must be transformationally invariant to be useful)

It is one of the hardest things for a person to understand, that their point is irrelevant from the other's point of view. We all dominantly cling to the transferability of relevance.

Theology and Evolutionism move very slow in terms of macroscopic human experience, yet many make grand extrapolations about time periods less than are reasonable for the given scale.

This argument cannot end, the boundaries are too ill defined, and there are no objective persons, my job is to do physics, your job is make religion useful. Our effectiveness does determine our source of income, we cannot be objective.

Now if someone without means was sitting beside the road who rejected all form of external support
talked about creationism, then I would listen politely. If she was talented and also rejected all forms social currency while maintaining composure, then i would listen intently. If she also explained the thermalization times-cales in QCD with clarity, I would never leave her presence. Many satisfy the first 3 points, but then talk about crazy stuff that I can measure and they are most certainly wrong.

This was the attraction to the personality of Christ, he satisfied also the first 2 points, but how many have you seen walking around that satisfy those points.

Now one may point to the many "poor" who satisfy the first 2, yet it is tough to tell as to whether they are just underachievers and so it essential to also have the 3th in order to be effective.

Joel said...

haha, I said 3th. hilarious.

brigno said...

"as much as evolutionists like to veil their views in the guise of science, they are still proposing a theological/philosophical theory. The honest evolutionists will admit that they're agenda is to discredit the creationist theory"

Shawn: There is no such thing as creationist theory. If it were a theory it would explain something taking into account the many lines of facts we encounter (geological, molecular, radiological, fossil and hundreds more). Creationism would have to be falsifiable, and make predictions that can be tested.

Saying evolutionary science is just an attempt to discredit creationism is as silly as saying that that cosmology is just an agenda to discredit astrology.

Trying to equal evolutionary science to a religious agenda does not addresses the mountain of evidence from which evolutionary SCIENCE was discovered.

As i pointed elsewhere, if Darwin didn't publish his results when he did, Wallace would have discovered evolution by himself. Discovery of evolution was just a matter of time. That is why historic revisionism on Darwin's life is useless. Either the facts support evolutionary science or they don't. We all now they do. Every time you take an antibiotic you are benefiting from evolutionary science.

Although i respect Gould discoveries as a scientist, i don't agree with his philosophical views (which are distinct from his science). He formulated NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria), a philosophical concept that has no warrant (we could discuss this another time). The point is that, once again, an individuals motivation is useless in science. Either the facts support the theory or they don't. Period.

That is why science is so powerful. It makes a positive argument based on evidence. Religion, on the other hand tried to hide in the unknown, philosophically snipping at that which it cannot explain with evidence.

Shawn Brace said...

Just a very quick response, Brigno: I admire your aspirations when you say, "an individuals motivation is useless in science." If only that were true! Every person comes to a set of data with certain glasses on, even if they are trying to be "objective."

I could site example after example of scientists who look at a set of data and are unable to draw the right conclusions because they do not even allow for the possibility of something that would contradict their theory.

Secondly, you write that "the facts" support evolutionary science and we all know that. First: no, the facts don't and, therefore, we don't all know that.

Similarly, evolution was not "discovered," it was proposed (and continues to be proposed). Such a theory will always be a theory because one cannot completely prove something that allegedly happened in the past - "millions" of years ago.

Contrary to what you try to get others to believe, creationists have found plenty of positive evidence to support their theory (and yes, it is a theory as well). It's just that two people can look at the same data and conclude two different things. Why? Because they are wearing different sets of glasses and make no room for the possibility of their hypothesis being contradicted.

As I said before, the next scientist who looks at something objectively will be the first one.

Joel said...

and in summary, this is always the way the debate ends...

It is a complete waste of time talking about this stuff.

Shawn Brace said...

Well said, Joel. The fact of the matter is, this is kind of futile because those on both sides who are committed to their theory will not surrender, no matter what the evidence says. I have no problem admitting that I will not surrender my preconceived ideas very easily. I just wish that those in the scientific community - who claim "objectivity" at all costs - would admit the same.

I have been asking myself lately what the point of debating evolutionists is, realizing that no matter what evidence is presented they will never give up their theory. The only reason I will continue to do it in the future is because there are individuals out there who are on the "fence" and do need to get a balanced view of things. I am not a scientist - or the son of a scientist - at all, but maybe something I can say will be compelling enough to sway someone's mind to the truth.

Lastly, Joel, I meant to respond to your last lengthy comment. I agree with what you're saying. Ultimately, ideas are just ideas and they don't amount to anything unless we lead an admirable life. I like to believe, though, that a person's ideas and philosophy shapes and affects the way they act and who they are. Granted, a person's actions may never live up to their philosophy, but their actions will certainly never rise above that philosophy. Thus, I do like to talk about philosophical ideas so as to raise the bar very high for our life's behaviors.

Thanks for keeping us on track!

Brigno said...

Shawn:

1) All science is a "theory". I don't understand what else you want evolution or science to be. Your use of the word theory reflects lack of knowledge on what theory in a scientific context means.

2)As i said elsewhere, not knowing the evidence that gave way to the discovery of evolution does not make a case against it. You assert that evolution has no evidence for it. I affirm the contrary based on evidence. I'm fully confident science can present an evidence based case to any claim to the contrary. Why i am so confident? I spent years trying to make sense of all the scientific evidence in light of creationism. After years of research i arrived to the conclusion the scientific community reached. Evolution is a fact. It is so well established that it is and it will continue to be taught as science.

Everyday there are new evolutionary predictions and discoveries being made. Can anyone show any creationist advancements?

3)I would love to see the positive evidence the creationism theory has. Could you provide any links? All I've seen (like answers in genesis) are very disappointing. Maybe you have found something i (or the thousands of Christian scientists that accept evolution) have not seen.

4)Why dont we see the same fervorous religious opposition to evolution on other siciences like chemistry, astronomy or physics?
It is not because evolution is less scientific than the other branches of science. It is because evolution
is the only one that clashes with religious preconcieved, unwarranted and unjustified notions.

The only way of making evolution go away is by finding a better explanation for the observations. Creationism is not a better answer. As a matter of fact creationism doesn't explain anything. It just declares god's magic did it and that is it. That is the epitome of a non-answer.

5) It is true different people reach different conclusion on a given set of data. But this is the beauty of science. It is peer-reviewed. It involves discussion, experimentation and constant checking and rechecking of results. This is the best method we have of knowing what is true, what is real. Evolution works under these processes as well. If you don't believe it (or don't know how this could be) i am open to discuss it further. It is really interesting stuff.

6)That is how science is objective. It is because it is tested and retested interminably. There is nothing to test on creationism (or religion for that matter).

7)A science/reason based life can and will make for a better individual because it is based on a search for truth. When you value truth, your conduct shows it. That is why you don't see suicide bomber scientists.

8)"no matter what evidence is presented they will never give up their theory"

Evidence like? (See point 3)
Science, in the face of evidence, changes and adapts. The fact that evolutionary science is not rejected (even by lots of bible believing Christians) it is because there has been no evidence that could over turn it. And let me tell you, this hasn't happened for lack or trying.

Shawn Brace said...

Brigno:

"Everyday there are new evolutionary predictions and discoveries being made." Yes, I have no doubt that micro-evolutionary discoveries are being made, but this in no way proves as "fact" the idea that all life forms come from common origins.

Secondly, I am not saying that there isn't "evidence" that evolution could have happened, but such evidences don't necessitate that it did. Simply because I find Easter eggs in my backyard doesn't mean that there is an Easter bunny.

Thirdly, one place you could look at - outside the Bible - that provides positive science for creation is http://www.discovery.org/a/2640. I'm sure very few hard-core evolutionists would read such peer-reviewed data with an open-mind, though. Such is the uphill battle that the few scientists, who do subscribe to a creationist model, have to fight. They are scorned and not given a fair chance.

Shawn Brace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shawn Brace said...

Brigno, one more thing: you wrote, "This is the beauty of science. It is peer-reviewed." Can we really consider such peer-review legitimate if everyone subscribes to the same presuppositions?

If I, as a Seventh-day Adventist minister, make a theological assertion that I know other Seventh-day Adventists agree with, can I then act as though it is a legitimate endorsement when I use those peers to prove my point?

Such "peer-review" is pure nonsense - the equivalent of getting your wife to endorse you for president - and if the same conclusions were handed to "peers" on the opposite side of the fence, they would not receive such endorsements. That is the challenge with peer-review; it is simply using circular reasoning.

Brigno said...

0)If you believe micro-evoluton exists, why is it so hard to accept macro-evolution? (BTW there is no macro-micro difference in science. Change is change no matter how you want to call it)

It so hard to understand that a lot of little changes, over time, amount to big changes overall? Little by little you get, invariably, a lot. Here are 28+ evidences for "macro-evolution".

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

One recent example. A fossil of a bat with no sonar was discovered last week.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/080213-bat-fossil.html

Evolutionary science predicted such fossil. And intermediary step. this contradicts some creationists sites that declared that "In fact, the fossil record also confirms that bats emerged suddenly and with today's complex structures".

Here is the link:
http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/natural_history_2_13.html

As you can see, evolutionary theory always trumps the creationist objections day in and day out. I could give thousands of examples more like this (only referencing studies in the last 2 - 3 years).

Was Darwin refuted? Nope, again.

The most simple way of seeing common origins is by studying DNA.
It is sad that this facts are not being taught in schools. (I went to SDA academies (and got my bachelors on an adventist university) and never heard any of this. I found it out by myself.)

1) It is true that science builds on previously established scientific advancements. Like calculus depends on algebra. But to say that it is all presuppositions is a mistake. If you take the time to follow scientific discussions and progression you will see the tests and procedures scientific discoveries are put trough.

It is not like religion which is a non-productive battle of theological opinions that can never be decided one way or another (this reminds me of a theology class in college. Some theology students were discussing if there was going to be sex in heaven. The discussion got really heated. I wondered if they were going to discuss how many angels fit in the head of a pin next. At the end no conclusion was reached. How could you conclude something which you cannot test?)

Science is about TESTING. It is about empirical proof. And peer-review is simply investigating if such proofs stand up to multiple test by different observers.

Science is not an opinion that all scientist agree on before hand. Is nothing of the sort. That is why it changes as new data comes in. Scientist renounce previous belief in X theory if the data warrants it. There a lot of great example. I may post some on my blog so i can keep a limit on this kilometric answer i'm posting.

If you don't take the time to check this out by yourself you will never see the point. Evolution has empirical test and proofs. Many line of evidence that support it.

2)At the end of the day peer-review works. If it didn't there would be no effective drugs, electronics, satellites or any other scientific advancement of any sort. The fruits of such method speaks by it self. If it were only "circular reasoning" no good results could come out of it.

3)I understand you easter egg example. But i will give you a counter example. If an animal walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has a beak like a duck, what could it be? Saying it could be something other than a duck is being ignorant on purpose. Science (and life as a whole) is not about 100% certainty. There is no such thing. Either something is more likely than other things or not. Evolution is much more likely to be true (based on evidence) than creationism. Then, why oppose it?

Lightning could be the act of Zeus throwing bolts from the clouds; or it could be the result of thr difference of magnetic charge between clouds or the ground and the clouds. Which is more likely? Which explanation has evidence in its favor? Which one a reasonable person should believe?

With evolution and creationism is the same thing. One is infinitely more likely than the other. There is no way around this fact.

4)Thanks for the opportunity to discuss topics like this on your blog. I will leave the discussion here, i don't want to sound like a troll or anything of the sort.

I do commend you for the emphasis on action i see on your posts. At the end of the day what we do is more important that the conceptual things we believe. If more people had this point of view the world would be a much better place.

Thanks.