[Graphic: Rod & Rhodopsin (`simple' eye molecular machinery), Bellarmine College.]
Thank you for your message. As is my usual practice when I receive a private message on a creation/evolution/design topic, I am copying my reply (minus your personally identifying information) to my blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, that others may benefit.
----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:35 PM
Subject: Question from a curious student
>I recently read an article about you and had a few questions.
I am not aware of any article about me. I would appreciate more details about it, including its URL if it is webbed. In fact, from your questions, you may have me confused with an evolutionist, perhaps London genetics professor Steve Jones? But as my blog's title block says, " I am an Australian Christian old-Earth creationist/IDist biologist who accepts common ancestry."
>In school, I have been debating a few of my friends on the question of creationism and evolution and which, or both, is correct.
You have fallen into the first trap, accepting that the question is between "creationism" (my emphasis) and "evolution." As Professor Phillip E. Johnson pointed out, a "the debate is set up as pitting creationism (that is, an ideology) against evolution (no ism, therefore a fact)" and therefore "No matter what the evidence may be, an ideology (especially a religious ideology) can never beat a `fact' in a debate":
"The essay by National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts, `Evolution Versus Creationism: Don't Pit Science Against Religion,' was published in The Denver Post, September 10, 1996, p. B9. The essay is a compendium of the usual spin-doctor arguments that official science organizations rely on to stop any serious questioning of evolution or materialism before it can get started. I recommend that teachers look for essays of this kind and use them for critical-thinking exercises ... One thing to notice right away is the title: the debate is set up as pitting creationism (that is, an ideology) against evolution (no ism, therefore a fact). No matter what the evidence may be, an ideology (especially a religious ideology) can never beat a `fact' in a debate conducted under scientific rules. Scientific materialists actually see the issue that way and so they naturally frame the debate in those terms. I always insist that an ism be put on both words or neither. Let the debate be between the competing facts (creation and evolution) or the competing ideologies (creationism and evolutionism). Better still, let it be between theism and materialism. What was present and active in the beginning, God or matter? That frames the question correctly and levels the playing field." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, pp.124-125. Emphasis original).
So the first thing to do in debating your friends is for them and you to define your terms. What do you each mean by "creation" and "evolution"? The "standard scientific theory" meaning of "evolution" is that "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process":
"Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)
Note that it is not merely "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life" because if "God guided this process" then that would not be "evolution" in the "standard scientific theory" meaning of the term.
"Darwin ... wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish...I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin, C.R., letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," , Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the whole point of this book. For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, pp.248-249. Emphasis original)
>Do you agree with the possibility that at one point a greater being could have set the world in motion and evolution naturally took hold from there?
This is why it is important to define your terms. The point is that if "a greater being" (e.g. God) "set the world in motion and evolution naturally took hold from there" then that is not "evolution" in the scientific sense of the term.
>After a bit of research, I have not found any information regarding how the first life, which we all evolved from was created in the first place.
See above on clarifying your terms. Your sentence "which we all evolved from was created in the first place" requires clarification. What do you mean by "evolved" and "created"?
I am not asking you to answer this question to me (since my long-standing policy is not to get involved in private discussions about creation/evolution/design issues), but to answer it to yourself.
But if your statement is, "I have not found any information regarding how the first life" originated by a fully naturalistic process (which is what "God had no part in this process" means) then there is no such information.
Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate that is the case of leading atheist philosopher, Antony Flew, author of a book, "Darwinian Evolution," who, based on the inordinate difficulty of "even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism" and "the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life)," concluded that "intelligence must have been involved":
"A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God -- more or less -- based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England. Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives. ...,' he said. `It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose.' ... Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates. There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife. Yet biologists' investigation of DNA `has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved,' Flew says in the new video, `Has Science Discovered God?' .... The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. `It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism,' he wrote. ... if his belief upsets people, well `that's too bad,' Flew said. `My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.' ... Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American `intelligent design' theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life." (Ostling, R.N., "Atheist Philosopher, 81, Now Believes in God," Livescience/Associated Press, 10 December 2004)
>The shakiness of current published studies on this does not impress me.
I would be surprised it it impresses anyone! It certainly did not impress Antony Flew.
>Also, how do you react to the criticism of evolution that it does not explain how complex structures, such as the eyeball, could have evolved in a single genetic mutation because if it evolved over a period of time, it would have no use until complete?
This is what made me suspect that you might have me confused with an evolutionist. I don't "react to the criticism of evolution." I make "criticism of evolution"! I am currently taking a one-year detour from writing a book, "Problems of Evolution," to compile an `Evolution Quotes Book' being an ebook of my ~10,000 online evolution quotes classified into topics.
The problem for evolution is not to "explain how complex structures, such as the eyeball, could have evolved in a single genetic mutation" since: 1) evolutionist don't claim that it did; and 2) the problem that needs explaining is not just any part of the eye, but the entire visual system.
As R.L. Gregory, Professor of Neuropsychology at the Brain and Perception Laboratory, University of Bristol, pointed out, the problem is not just "what use is a half-made lens?" but "What use is a lens giving an image, if there is no nervous system to interpret the information?" and "How could a visual nervous system come about before there was an eye to give it information?" given that "In evolution there can be no master plan, no looking ahead to form structures which, though useless now, will come to have importance when other structures are sufficiently developed":
"The problem of how eyes have developed has presented a major challenge to the Darwinian theory of evolution by Natural Selection. We can make many entirely useless experimental models when designing a new instrument, but this was impossible for Natural Selection, for each step must confer some advantage upon its owner, to be selected and transmitted through the generations. But what use is a half-made lens? What use is a lens giving an image, if there is no nervous system to interpret the information ? How could a visual nervous system come about before there was an eye to give it information? In evolution there can be no master plan, no looking ahead to form structures which, though useless now, will come to have importance when other structures are sufficiently developed. And yet the human eye and brain have come about through slow painful trial and error." (Gregory, R.L., "Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing," , Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London, Second edition, 1972, p.25)
But note that being an evolutionist, Prof. Gregory just assumes that "the human eye and brain have come about through slow painful trial and error," since: 1) they exist; and 2) `blind watchmaker' evolution is the only explanation remaining for their origin, given that intelligent design and/or creation by God are ruled out in advance as possibilities.
>I hope that you will engage me directly, as I am just a high school student seeking perspective on this issue, not some raving religious fanatic who will only see things one way. Thanks for your insight!!
Sorry, but I just don't have the time to "engage ... directly" anyone and everyone who wants me to. As I said, my long-standing policy is not to get involved in private discussions about creation/ evolution/design issues. I will usually answer only the first email (copying it to my blog), but not any subsequent emails. If you read my blog (and others listed in its side-pane) you will find over time that most of your questions will be addressed.