Sunday, February 06, 2005


Creationism: plausible or simply hokum? Let's start quibbling.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I have read Gerald Schroeder. His treatment of evolution reveals what is either a profound willful ignorance of evolutionary theory and processes or a deliberate attempt to mislead the less scientifically informed. Needless to say I was not impressed.

As for the plausibility of creationism, it doesn't actually matter whether the Biblical account can be twisted into plausibility or not; God's omnipotence means it's always logically possible. And the way science works means that invoking divine fiat is completely useless to the process of science, even if it WAS divine fiat. Science is the study of the natural world; invoking the supernatural defeats the purpose entirely. Since God by definition is beyond natural law, science can neither be used to describe God nor can theology be helpful to science. Theology can certainly be helpful to scienTISTS- plenty see their role as examining the ultimate statement of God, His material creation- but it's useless for the actual process of study.


2/06/2005 9:58 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

What, specifically, do you find wanting in Schroeder's argument against evolution? My opinion is that it is the evolutionists who are trying to mislead. For instance, why did Walcott hide the Burgess Shale fossils for so long? Why is Gould's punctuated equilibrium still invoked, even though it is contradictory to science?

As for the plausibility of Creationism, it matters very much whether it can be brought into the realm of plausibility. Intellectuals tell us that the six days are a farce, and on this basis we are supposed to reject God and biblical wisdom. But Schroeder claims that this idea needs to be re-examined in light of cosmological evidence -- the six days are, in fact, scientifically feasible, the Bible may actually be reporting events post-Big Bang with an accuracy not scientifically possible at that time. At the very least, an honest person has to look at this and open his mind to the possibilities.

Yes, science is the study of the natural world, but who created the natural world and for whom? If you believe the Bible, God created the world for mankind. You seemed to have missed an important point in Schroeder's books, which is that God interacts with man through nature so as not to interfere with free will. From what I have read, neither Schroeder nor the ancient biblical commentators implied that science was meant to describe God, Himself (which is impossible), but rather to understand His purpose. If we want to understand God's purpose, then we must understand how the natural world works.

2/06/2005 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I found wanting in Schroeder's account was chiefly that he acknowledged that evolutionary biologists are not and never have been saying that evolution works through random chance (by perfunctorily acknowledging natural selection), and then proceeds to argue as if they were, in fact, arguing for evolution entirely from random chance. It indicates either deliberate ignorance or deliberate mendacity. Do you take attacks on the Bible from people who've clearly made no effort to read it or understand it seriously, or do you dismiss their arguments because they're clearly illiterate on the subject they're claiming authority on?

It would be fairly pointless (or at least space-consuming) to get into a pissing contest about who is trying to mislead, because in the end the charges rest on the intellectual merits of the argument, not the merits of the people making it. I could drop a small mountain of examples of creationists quote-mining, ignoring counter-arguments and evidence, and outright lying, and it wouldn't ultimately prove much of anything. (Incidentally, since when is punctuated equilibrium "contrary to science"? I've read quite a bit of debate on the subject, but I also read Gould and Eldredge's original paper, and it's not so bad. Then again, it also bears little resemblance to what both its critics and some of defenders claim it is.)

"Intellectuals tell us that the six days are a farce, and on this basis we are supposed to reject God and biblical wisdom."

"Intellectuals" can say that the earth does not look as if it was created in six literal twenty-four-hour days, and they'd be right. Using it as a basis to reject God entirely is intellectually false: the same reason I've said that theology cannot inform science also holds true in the reverse. If God is above and beyond natural law, then nature and the conclusions of natural law can't be used to draw conclusions about God. I don't speak for "The Intellectuals" (whoever they are), so please don't argue with me as though I do.

"At the very least, an honest person has to look at this and open his mind to the possibilities. "

I don't have a problem admitting that it's logically possible, I have a problem with people who refuse to admit that the problem with their science is that it isn't science. People who want to introduce theology into science and people who want to refute theology with science fall into the same category there.

"Yes, science is the study of the natural world, but who created the natural world and for whom?"

They are entirely seperate disciplines, with seperate methodology and practices. Philosophy and theology have too long and distinguished an intellectual tradition to fall victim to Physics Envy.

"If we want to understand God's purpose, then we must understand how the natural world works."

That's wonderful. In that case, accept the conclusions that the study of the natural world gives us and go from there. Evolutionary biologists in America are like the rest of America- the majority of them are religious, and they recognize that acknowledging the conclusions their work brings them to doesn't threaten their faith. While there are plenty with an anti-religious agenda who are also evolutionists, that doesn't demonstrate anything about the theory of evolution any more than the existence of those who have used Christianity to justify murder and torture demonstrates anything about Christianity. Mainstream science doesn't accept the theory of evolution because religion threatens it, it does because that's where the evidence- many, many different lines of evidence- point. (And isn't part of the definition of faith that it does not depend on physical evidence anyway?)

Besides which, we come back to the point I was trying to make earlier: while we may use the natural world to inform theology in the process of trying to decipher God's communication, because of the way science works, theology cannot inform science. Since it depends on the assumption that natural laws are invariant, working on the assumption that they aren't because God may be invoking divine fiat doesn't lead to any conclusion or progress of any kind. Intelligent design may lead to fruitful theological speculation... but it's completely barren ground for a scientist, because from his perspective it explains nothing and predicts nothing: as a scientific theory it's completely useless.

2/07/2005 3:15 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

If you ask the average high school biology teacher or layperson how evolution works, he's going to tell you that it works by chance. That's Schroeder's audience, and that's why he refutes the chance argument. The evolutionary scientists may not believe that argument anymore, but the average person on the street still does. Nevertheless, when you talk about natural selection you are talking about chance in the form of random mutations. Nature takes randomly occurring mutations and then selects the ones that work.

Here's my problem with interspecies evolution: where are the transitional fossils? To my knowledge, there's no fossil evidence to show one species morphing into another. What has convinced you that evolution is correct? If you believe in evolution, what is the evidence? Please draw it out for me.

...I have a problem with people who refuse to admit that the problem with their science is that it isn't science. People who want to introduce theology into science and people who want to refute theology with science fall into the same category there.That's Schroeder's whole point. Judeo-theology is NOT incompatible with science, and he offers a hell of a lot of proof. Where's your proof to the contrary?

The problem with the rest of your post is that you're confusing Christianity with Islam. Islam believes that every single thing that happens is the will of Allah, and therefore there's no use in studying how anything works. Christians believe that God set up natural laws and that the world operates by these laws. Many also believe that God can suspend natural laws so that you get the occasional miracle, but the laws are still there and they still work.

2/08/2005 10:04 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I've got to go with LabRat on this one. If your system depends on the actions of a - by definition - supernatural being, then it isn't science, it's religion. It's an effort to tack a "Why" on a question that science's current answer to is "we don't know and may never know."

You ask "where are the transitional species" in the fossil record. I'm constantly puzzled by this question. We've constructed an evolutional tree for the modern horse going back to the Hyracotherium (Eohippus). We've done something similar for Homo Sapiens going back to Australopithecus. What "transitional species" are you not seeing?

"Creationism" isn't science. It's a "then a Miracle Occurs!" answer to questions we just don't have (and may never have) enough information to answer.

2/10/2005 2:58 PM  
Blogger carnaby said...

The lack of transitionals is not with regards to intraspecies evolution, but with interspecies evolution, if I'm using those terms correctly.

The point is that there's no evidence of an early crocodile evolving into anything other than a crocodile. Sure, it's possible that modern man evolved from early man, but not from an early crocodile. As far as I know, there's no evidence that any one species evolved into a different species.

Further, this whole debate gets kinda boring on account of, as far as I can tell, there's no incompatibility between evolution and religion. Why is it that God couldn't create beings that evolve? Right you are that now we're getting away from science. Anyway, the thing is is that evolution as origin of life, the universe and everything fails miserably. The questions I'm most concerned with are why are we here and where did we come from. Where did the universe come from? Why is the universe here. Why is there such a thing as existance. All these questions are interesting, but probably unanswerable.

2/11/2005 10:33 AM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...


How does the system depend on the actions of a supernatural being? Except for the occasional miracle, Christians believe that God created the universe complete with a set of natural laws, and then it was hands-off. The Bible says we are endowed with free will, which contradicts the idea that God has His hands on the controls at all times. It sounds like you and LabRat are both confusing Christianity with Islam. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Re the question of the transitional pieces, this is the lynchpin of evolutionary "theory." Forgive me if you already know this stuff, but let's get the definitions out on the table before we proceed. Darwinian interspecies evolution is supposed to occur by the very gradual morphing of one species into another, aka "gradualism." A transitional form is a creature that is in-between two observed species and possesses semi-developed organs. (Not to be confused with mosaic creatures, like the platypus or archaeopteryx, which possess features of more than one species.) What is seen in reality -- as evidenced by countless fossil pieces -- is that changes occur abruptly, not gradually. There are very long periods of stasis followed by the sudden appearance of a new species. To my knowledge, there are no fossils on the record showing the transitional species predicted by Darwinism.

Stephen Jay Gould, considered one of the evolutionists in his time, realized that the lack of transitionals constituted a major crisis for evolutionary theory. He and somebody (Niles Eldredge, I think) came up with "punctuated equilibrium" in order to explain the lack of fossil evidence, the idea being that interspecies morphing occurs so abruptly and in such small animal populations that there simply would not be any fossil evidence in the first place. I don't know what mechanism Gould & Whoever came up with to explain why or how sudden changes would occur in the first place, but the whole idea is completely implausible, because its assumptions fly in the face scientific fact.

The examples you provide for transitionals aren't really transitionals by definition, and have long since been discredited anyway. The evolutional tree for the modern horse consists of a hodge-podge of species that existed in different parts of the world and at significantly different periods in time. Apparently, there are over 20 different evolutionary trees for the horse, and they all differ from each other except on one point: the belief that Eohippus is the ancestor of the horse. In reality, Eohippus is almost identical to the modern hyrax, a rabbit-type creature that lives in Africa.

As for the evolutionary history of man, there is still the "missing link" problem, which will never go away. The furthest back we can go in an unbroken line is to Cro-Magnon -- about 40,000 years ago -- and then there is a yawning chasm of time. If the missing link exists, then, statistically speaking, we should have found it by now.

Evolutionists have not been able to come up with a single plausible theory to explain the lack of transitionals -- even Gould's punctuated equilibrium is too uncomfortably close to "then a miracle occurs!" to be classified as science. So what does it mean when we have an unsupported conjecture of evolution to which people still cling for whatever reason? Either they are unaware of the evidence (or lack thereof) or they so desperately want the myth to be true that they cling to it despite the near-total lack of evidence. How is the latter any less "nutty" than a Christian who believes in Creationism? Belief in something for which there is no proof (let alone evidence) is faith. And in my not so humble opinion, there is more to believe on the side of Creationism than there is for evolution.

Someone once asked me, why is it that God could not simply have used evolution as the mechanism by which life on earth does its thing? I think it's a very reasonable question -- especially considering Schroeder's claim that God "speaks" to man through nature -- but it's not a valid question. Evolution simply does not work. One has to acknowledge the lack of evidence and move on; not necessarily in the direction of Creationism, but at least away from evolution.

2/11/2005 3:06 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Carnaby, you wrote: "The questions I'm most concerned with are why are we here and where did we come from. Where did the universe come from? Why is the universe here. Why is there such a thing as existance. All these questions are interesting, but probably unanswerable."

That's it, in a nutshell. The province and provenance of religion is the answering of the unanswerable. Science says "we don't know and will probably never know." A lot of people are more than a little uncomfortable with the unknown and unknowable.

To both of you, sorry, I missed the Intraspecies reference. Yet, I wonder why you reject archaeopteryx as a "mosaic creature"? How is one to recognize what is and what isn't a "transitional form"? And it's hardly as if the fossil record is smooth and regular. We're drawing a lot of conclusions from what is, in reality, a very spotty database.

One of the arguments against evolution is the very spottiness of that database. What are the odds of A) an ancient animal dying in such a way that it is preserved, and B) someone finding it and retrieving the fossil for scientific study? Infinitesimal, I'd think - but given the volume of life on Earth, we've gotten some damned fine, but tremendously rare specimines.

Think of history as the spiral track on an LP record (remember those?) What we've retrieved is tiny microsecond clips of the soundtrack - sometimes in little clusters - with huge gaps in between. With that little bit of information, we're trying to piece together what the entire recording sounds like.

Personally, I think you're asking too much of the scientists, and of the record.

The record does show, however, a climb from less complicated to more complicated life. It does show large quantities of life forms that no longer exist. It shows repeated mass die-offs, followed by new life forms. Logic compels one to the conclusion that evolution does work. It's the "exactly how" part we're still working on, and will be for decades if not centuries.

2/11/2005 4:10 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...


Sorry for the delay in responding. The Mr. and I just bought a house, and I've been too busy to keep up with the blog.

So, where were we?

A mosaic creature is not a transitional, because it is classified (by biologists) as being fully one species or another. In the case of the archaeopteryx, it is classified as being fully a bird, even though it possesses some dinosaur features (nevermind that these dinosaur features -- claws, for instance -- are found on some modern birds). The distinction is this: mosaic creatures are fully formed, functional, and stable species; they are not in the process of changing from one species to another. A transitional species, according to the definition used by evolutionsts, must possess organs that are semi-developed, i.e. the animal is not a stable fully-functional species. No such fossils have been found (yet), and this is what prompted Gould to come up with punctuated equilibrium.

According to Darwinian evolutionary theory, the morphing takes place very, very gradually. We're talking millions of years during which these animals morph and die off, so there ought to be countless fossils showing the transitionals. If Darwinian evolution is correct, what are the odds in favor of finding only the stable species and none of the transitionals? I think Occam's Razor applies here.

Are you familiar with the Burgess Shale fossils? It's a good example of what I'm talking about. The Burgess Shale, located in British Columbia (where Carnaby and I lived for many years), is the site of what is probably the most famous fossil dig in the world. What is so remarkable about the Burgess Shale dig is that it yielded a very large diversity of well-preserved invertebrate species dating to the Middle Cambrian age -- fossils from every phyla except for one were found in the dig, all of which pointed to a simultaneous burst of life forms. Totally at odds with Darwinism. Charles Walcott, the man who discovered and collected about 60,000 of these fossils back in 1909, knew what the implications of his find were, but he was so "steeped in Darwinism" (as Schroeder puts it) that he buried the fossils away in the Smithsonian, where they remained hidden until 1985. How is that for cognitive dissonance.

2/16/2005 2:27 PM  

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