Sunday, March 23, 2008

I have been having complications with this evolutionist and I am not quite sure how to answer him


I have decided to respond in a separate post to your comment under my July 27, 2005 post, "'Lucy' walked upright just like us"

[Above (click to enlarge): "The diagram used by Darwin [in his Origin of Species] to illustrate evolution ... over the vast expanse of geological time," but which is "The most graphic demonstration of the inadequacy of Darwin's hypothesis" (Carroll, 1997, p.2. My emphasis)]

because it may be of benefit not only to you, but also to others like you who are debating with evolutionists.

>Dr. Jones? is it.

It is plain Mr Jones. I only have a BSc in Biology.

>I have been having complications with this evolutionist and I am not quite sure how to answer him.

The first thing is to define what this "evolutionist" claims, i.e. what exactly he means by "evolution". If by "evolution" he means:

"... 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)

then all you have to show is that, on the basis of the evidence, God had (or may have had) some part in this process, and "evolution," as he and "the standard scientific theory" of "evolution" define it, is wrong (or at least unproved).

And even the former world's leading atheist Antony Flew, has admitted that, based on the scientific evidence, God must have created the first living organism:

"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. ... Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God .... 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 .... `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. [Flew, A., "Letter from Antony Flew on Darwinism and Theology," Philosophy Now, August-September, 2004] ... 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, 10 December 2004).

>His following statements are whats getting me confused.
>"200 years of Geology has proven that the Earth is extremely old and that modern fauna have evolved from primitive orders."

This "evolved from primitive orders" is a typical example of how evolutionists commit the fallacy of "begging the question," i.e. assuming in their premises what needs to be proved.

That "the Earth is extremely old" and "modern fauna have" descended from primitive orders" is accepted by some creationists (including me). What evolutionists like him need to show is that "God had no part in this process."

>"Phylogentic relationships, homologous and vestigial structures, as well as DNA and embryonic similarity also points to the fact of evolution.In fact, these phylogentic relationships can also be observed in the fossil record itself, in the form of transitional fossils. For example, the transition from theropod dinosaurs to modern birds...Or the transition from lobe-finned fish to early amphibians."

Again, he is begging the question by tacitly defining "evolution" as common ancestry. But common ancestry is not necessarily "evolution" because God could have supernaturally intervened in chains of common descent, as Christian philosopher Del Ratzsch pointed out:

"Suppose contemporary evolutionary theory had blind chance built into it so firmly that there was simply no way of reconciling it with any sort of divine guidance. It would still be perfectly possible for theists to reject that theory of evolution and accept instead a theory according to which natural processes and laws drove most of evolution, but God on occasion abridged those laws and inserted some crucial mutation into the course of events. Even were God to intervene directly to suspend natural law and inject essential new genetic material at various points in order to facilitate the emergence of new traits and, eventually, new species, that miraculous and deliberate divine intervention would by itself leave unchallenged such key theses of evolutionary theory as that all species derive ultimately from some common ancestor. Descent with genetic intervention is still descent-it is just descent with nonnatural elements in the process." (Ratzsch, D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1996, pp.187-188).

See my "Why I (a creationist) Accept Common Ancestry (Not Evolution)".

>"Ok fine, if you'll concede the point that evolution does not mean "upgrade" and hence, symbyotic relationships aren't a problem, onto my next favorite.

This tacitly makes the point that it all depends on what "evolution does ... mean". Stick to the point that the only definition of "evolution" that really matters is "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.'" (my emphasis).

>"If evolution has taken place our museums should be overflowing with the skeletons of countless transitional forms. Yet after over one hundred years of intense searching only a small number of transitional candidates are touted as proof of evolution."

There is an important truth in this criticism, in that Darwinian evolution (which at bottom is still the theory of evolution taught in schools and universities) predicts that "the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great":

"By the theory of natural selection all living species have been connected with the parent-species of each genus, by differences not greater than we see between the natural and domestic varieties of the same species at the present day; and these parent-species, now generally extinct, have in their turn been similarly connected with more ancient forms; and so on backwards, always converging to the common ancestor of each great class. So that the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great. But assuredly, if this theory be true, such have lived upon the earth." (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," John Murray: London, Sixth edition, 1872, pp.266-267).

and therefore "Geology" should "reveal" a "finely graduated organic chain":

"But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record." (Darwin, 1872, pp.264-265)

including from "before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited" (i.e. before the Cambrian explosion):

"Consequently, if the theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited, long periods elapsed, as long as, or probably far longer than, the whole interval from the Cambrian age to the present day; and that during these vast periods the world swarmed with living creatures. ... To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer." (Darwin, 1872, p.286).

but it does not!

>There are countless transitional fossils. What evolution-deniers do is give you a straw man version of what's actually been found, and try and mislead you with semantic games. Archaepteryx is an early bird with many reptilian traits for example. And it's found before modern birds, but well after we first start finding reptiles."

This is just a play on the words "countless" and "transitional form." Leading paleontologists like David M. Raup have admitted that there are not enough transitional forms for Darwinian evolution to be true, i.e. " Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection" (my emphasis):

"Darwin's general solution to the incompatibility of fossil evidence and his theory was to say that the fossil record is a very incomplete one that it is full of gaps, and that we have much to learn. In effect, he was saying that if the record were complete and if we had better knowledge of it wee would see the finely graduated chain that he predicted. And this was his main argument for downgrading the evidence from the fossil record. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information - what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection. Also the major extinctions such as the dinosaurs and trilobites are still very puzzling." (Raup, D.M., "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History: Chicago IL, January 1979, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp.22-29, pp.24-25).

See also the `tagline' quote by another leading paleontologist, Robert L. Carroll about "the inadequacy of Darwin's hypothesis of the constancy of evolutionary patterns over all time scales" compared to "The patterns established from the fossil record of the major groups of vascular plants, vertebrates, and nonvertebrate metazoans" which "are conspicuously different" in that "Instead of showing gradual and continuous change through time, the major lineages appear suddenly in the fossil record, already exhibiting many of the features by which their modern representatives are recognized" and "Very few intermediates between groups are known from the fossil record."

Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel, in reviewing in Nature a book on "The Pattern of Evolution" by another leading paleontologist Niles Eldredge, admitted that "instead of" being "the slow, smooth and progressive changes ... Darwin had expected" what "the fossil records" revealed was "patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation"!:

"Palaeobiologists flocked to these scientific visions of a world in a constant state of flux and admixture. But instead of finding the slow, smooth and progressive changes Lyell and Darwin had expected, they saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years-patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation." (Pagel, M., "Happy accidents?" Review of "The Pattern of Evolution," by Niles Eldredge, W.H. Freeman, 1999. Nature, Vol. 25 February 1999, pp.664-665, p.665).

>I am kind of overwhelmed. I am not to sure what he is saying in other words. Could you translate this for me and answer? Please email your response to ...

I hope this has helped. Sorry but my long-standing policy is that I don't respond privately to emails about creation, evolution or design issues, but respond publicly via my blog, after removing any of the sender's personally identifying information (not an issue here). But feel free to copy this post in your debates with evolutionists, provided you include a link back to this post.

It is not uusual to be "overwhelmed" in the early stages of debating with evolutionists. I was overwhelmed when I started back in 1994 debating evolutionists, some of whom were biologists and science teachers. But I found that I could hold my own while I was learning the scientific terms by focusing on, as Law Professor Phillip E. Johnson did, "analyzing the logic of arguments and identifying the assumptions that lie behind those arguments":

"Before undertaking this task I should say something about my qualifications and purpose. I am not a scientist but an academic lawyer by profession, with a specialty in analyzing the logic of arguments and identifying the assumptions that lie behind those arguments. This background is more appropriate than one might think, because what people believe about evolution and Darwinism depends very heavily on the kind of logic they employ and the kind of assumptions they make. Being a scientist is not necessarily an advantage when dealing with a very broad topic like evolution, which cuts across many scientific disciplines and also involves issues of philosophy. Practicing scientists are of necessity highly specialized, and a scientist outside his field of expertise is just another layman." (Johnson, P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.13).

Probably the most important advice I can offer you is that you (and your evolutionist opponents) clearly define your terms upfront, e.g. what exactly do you mean by "evolution"? And then stick to debating each point before you move on to the next one, e.g. "transitional forms," etc. Otherwise evolutionists who are more experienced in debate (including in "Manipulation of the terminology"):

"Manipulation of the terminology also allows natural selection to appear and disappear on command. When unfriendly critics are absent, Darwinists can just assume the creative power of natural selection and employ it to explain whatever change or lack of change has been observed. When critics appear and demand empirical confirmation, Darwinists can avoid the test by responding that scientists are discovering alternative mechanisms, particularly at the molecular level, which relegate selection to a less important role. The fact of evolution therefore remains unquestioned, even if there is a certain amount of healthy debate about the theory. Once the critics have been distracted, the Blind Watchmaker can reenter by the back door. Darwinists will explain that no biologist doubts the importance of Darwinian selection, because nothing else was available to shape the adaptive features of the phenotypes." (Johnson, Ibid., pp.153-154).

will continue to make you feel "overwhelmed".

A good primer on the fallacious arguments evolutionists use is Prof. Johnson's "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds" (1997). See `tagline' quotes (emphasis italics original, emphasis bold mine) from this book that I have used when I debated evolutionists. There is also on the Internet Chapter 3 of that book: Johnson, P.E., "Tuning Up Your Baloney Detector: How to Get a Good Grasp on Logical Reasoning and Investigative Procedure," Cornerstone, Vol. 26, Issue 112, 1997, p. 12-16, 18).

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
My other blogs: TheShroudofTurin & Jesus is Jehovah!

"The most graphic demonstration of the inadequacy of Darwin's hypothesis of the constancy of evolutionary patterns over all time scales can be seen by comparing his hypothetical representation of the patterns of evolution for both very short and very long periods of time with the patterns of evolution that have since been reconstructed on the basis of the fossil record of multicellular plants and animals over the past 500 million years (Figs. 1.2-1.4). The diagram used by Darwin to illustrate evolution both at the level of populations and species and over the vast expanse of geological time is characterized by gradual and continuous change. Most populations within species, or families with in orders, diverge progressively. Some lineages continue with little change, but most eventually become extinct. The entire adaptive space is occupied by the groups diagramed, and the rate of change, indicated by the slope of the lines, remains fairly constant. The patterns established from the fossil record of the major groups of vascular plants, vertebrates, and nonvertebrate metazoans are conspicuously different. There are relatively few major lineages, all of which are very distinct from one an other. Gaps between the lineages indicate that adaptive space is not fully occupied. Instead of showing gradual and continuous change through time, the major lineages appear suddenly in the fossil record, already exhibiting many of the features by which their modern representatives are recognized. It must be assumed that evolution occurs much more rapidly between groups than within groups. For most of their evolutionary history, fundamental aspects of the anatomy and way of life of these lineages do not change significantly. Very few intermediates between groups are known from the fossil record." (Carroll, R.L., "Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1997, pp.2,4).

"First, Emilio has trivialized the conflict between evolution and creation portraying it as merely a dispute over whether the word day in the book of Genesis can be interpreted figuratively rather than literally. His logic is that if the `days' of Genesis are really a poetic way of describing long geological ages, then `evolution' is merely God's chosen method of creating, and one can without difficulty be both an evolutionist and a creationist. ... Unfortunately, this much-too-easy solution to the problem rests on a misunderstanding of what contemporary scientists mean by that word evolution. If they meant only a gradual process of God-guided creation, then Emilio might be on the right track. A God-guided process is not what modern science educators mean by `evolution,' however. They are absolutely insistent that evolution is an unguided and mindless process, and that our existence is therefore a fluke rather than a planned outcome. For example, the 1995 official Position Statement of the American National Association of Biology Teachers (hereafter NABT) accurately states the general understanding of major science organizations and educators: `The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.' Or, in the words of the famous evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson, `Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind' [Simpson, G.G., "The Meaning of Evolution," [1949], Yale University Press: New Haven CT, Reprinted, 1960, p.344]" (Johnson, P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1997, pp.14-15. Emphasis in original).

"I will explain in subsequent chapters why the biologists insist that evolution must be unsupervised and why God's purposes are not listed among the things that might have affected evolution. For now I will just say that this claim is not one they can afford to abandon, because their whole approach is founded on naturalism, which is the doctrine that `nature is all there is.' If nature is all there is, then nature had to have the ability to do its own creating. Darwinian evolution is a theory about how nature might have done this, without assistance from a supernatural Creator. That is why `evolution' in the Darwinian sense is by definition mindless and godless. Pretending otherwise is an evasion of the conflict, not a resolution of it. Yet many Christian theologians and educators take this evasive approach because they are hoping to find an easy way to avoid coming to grips with a very difficult problem." (Johnson, 1997, pp.15-16).

"Naturalism and materialism mean essentially the same thing for present purposes, and so I use the terms interchangeably. Naturalism means that nature is all there is; materialism means that matter (i.e., the fundamental particles that make up both matter and energy) is all there is. Because evolutionary naturalists insist that nature is made up of those particles, there is no difference between naturalism and materialism. In other contexts, however, the terms may have different meanings. Materialism sometimes used to mean greedy for material possessions, as in `he who dies with the most toys wins.' Naturalism also has quite different meanings in other contexts, such art and literary criticism. These other meanings are irrelevant for our purposes." (Johnson, 1997, p.16).

"Darwin's theory of evolution was originally stated in risky form. It predicted, for example, that fossil hunters would eventually find a great many transitional intermediates between the major groups (they didn't) and that animal breeders would succeed in creating distinct species (they didn't). Today the theory is usually stated in risk-free form. Naturalistic evolution is identified with science itself, and any alternative is automatically disqualified as `religion.' This makes it impossible to hold a scientific debate over whether the theory is true (it's virtually true by definition), which explains why Darwinists tend to think that anyone who wants such a debate to occur must have a `hidden agenda.' In other words, critics couldn't seriously be questioning whether the theory is true, so they must have some dishonest purpose in raising the question." (Johnson, 1997, pp.43-44).

"Vague Terms and Shifting Definitions Make sure people don't mislead you by using vague terms that can suddenly take on a new meaning. In the creation-evolution debate, the key terms that are subject to manipulation are science and evolution. Everybody is in favor of science, and everybody also believes in evolution - when that term is defined broadly enough! But science has more than one definition, and so does evolution. Watch out for `bait and switch' tactics, by which you are led to agree with a harmless definition and then the term is used in a very different sense. Here's an example of how you can be deceived: `You believe in dog breeding, don't you? Well, did you know that dog breeding is an example of evolution? Now that you know that, and have seen all those breeds of dogs for yourself, you realize that you actually do believe in evolution, don't you? Good. That's enough for today. Later on we'll tell you more about what evolution means.' (It's going to mean that all living things are the accidental products of a purposeless universe.) This is not a `straw man' example, by the way. Selective breeding of animals is a process guided by intelligence, and it produces only variations within the species; yet Darwinists from Charles Darwin himself to the more recent Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick have cited it as a powerful example of `evolution.' If somebody asks, `Do you believe in evolution?' the right reply is not `Yes' or `No.' It is: `Precisely what do you mean by evolution?' My experience has been that the first definition I get will be so broad as to be indisputable - like `There has been change in the course of life's history.' Later on a much more precise and controversial definition- like the one by the National Association of Biology Teachers I quoted in chapter one - will be substituted without notice. That one word evolution can mean something so tiny it hardly matters, or so big it explains the whole history of the universe. Keep your baloney detector trained on that word. If it moves, zap it!" (Johnson, 1997, pp.44-45).

"Learn to use terms precisely and consistently. Evolution is a term of many meanings, and the meanings have a way of changing without notice dog breeding and finch-beak variations are frequently cited as typical examples of evolution. So is the fact that all the differing races of humans descend from a single parent, or even that Americans today are larger on average than they were a century ago (due to better nutrition). If relatively minor variations like that were all evolution were about, there would be no controversy, and even the strictest biblical fundamentalists would be evolutionists. Of course evolution is about a lot more than in-species variation. The important issue is whether the dog breeding and finch-beak examples fairly illustrate the process that created animals in the first place. Using the single term evolution to cover both the controversial and the uncontroversial aspects of evolution is a recipe for misunderstanding." (Johnson, 1997, p.57).

"There are two definitions of science at work in the scientific culture, and a concealed contradiction between them is beginning to come out into public view. On the one hand, science is dedicated to empirical evidence and to following that evidence wherever it leads. That is why science had to be free of the Bible, because the Bible was seen to constrain the possibilities scientists were allowed to consider. On the other hand, science also means `applied materialist philosophy.' Scientists who are materialists always look for strictly materialist explanations or every phenomenon, and they want to believe that such explanations always exist. This raises the question: What will the scientists do if the evidence starts to point away from materialism and toward the possibility that a Creator is necessary after all? Will they follow the evidence wherever it leads, or will they ignore the evidence because their philosophy does not allow it to exist?" (Johnson, 1997, pp.80-81).

"The contradiction between materialism and reality arises frequently in biology, but it is most inescapable when we consider the human mind. Are our thoughts `nothing but' the products of chemical reactions in the brain, and did our thinking abilities originate for no reason other than their utility in allowing our DNA to reproduce itself? Even scientific materialists have a hard time believing that. For one thing, materialism applied to the mind undermines the validity of all reasoning, including one's own. If our theories are the products of chemical reactions, how can we know whether our theories are true? Perhaps Richard Dawkins believes in Darwinism only because he has a certain chemical in his brain, and his belief could be changed by somehow inserting a different chemical." (Johnson, 1997, pp.81-82).

"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, 1997, pp.124-125).


Anonymous said...

You have helped me in my ability to comunicate more effectively on this subject. I believe in the Biblical creation but am also open to the possibility that God included for His purpuses, the appearance of evolution in His deign.
My daughter is using "Defeating Darwinism" as a text in a science class. The first chapter places great importance one the NABT's definition of evolution including the words mindless and purposeless. He uses this as an aurguement for the incompatabilty of believing both creationism and evolutionism. I'm concerned that this old definition is still being used as part of the arguement more than 10 years after the NABT agreed to remove the words from their definition. My concerns are two fold. First that using this "out dated" definition makes creationist look uninformed and thus continues the Inherit the Wind view of creationists. Secondly I'm less confident that the two ideas are incompatable.
My true desire is to please God and seek truth in all matters including science.
I would love to here from you.
Please forgive my mistakes in spelling and grammar. My time is very limited right now but I was anxious to commit.
Thank you

Stephen E. Jones said...


>I'm concerned that this old definition is still being used as part of the arguement more than 10 years after the NABT agreed to remove the words from their definition.

Thanks for your comment.

Since it raises points that other readers might be interested in, I will answer it in a new blog post, rather than down here in comments to an old post that few would read.

Stephen E. Jones