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User:Philip J. Rayment/Question Evolution! questions still not adequately answered

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This is an essay by Philip J. Rayment.
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A response to Awc's "Question Evolution" essay

Philip J. Rayment

This essay is a response to Awc's essay, Question Evolution and Get Answers, which is in turn a response to the 15 questions posed by Creation Ministries International's (CMI) in their Question Evolution! campaign.

This essay shows that Awc has not succeeded in providing adequate answers to the questions, thereby effectively strengthening CMI's claim that evolutionists can't adequately answer them.

Contents

Disclaimer

In this essay I make a number of comments about CMI's opinions, attitudes, and/or purposes. I am not a spokesman for CMI, and I had nothing to do with preparing the 15 questions, so such comments I make are my opinion on what CMI is saying.

General comments

Awc makes a few comments indicating that he's not sure why CMI is asking these questions. One such comment begins "I suspect the point of this question is...". In assessing Awc's answers, it's helpful to clearly understand what CMI is saying and why they are saying it. They do, however, make the following comments (CMI's emphases):

  • [The campaign is] "A grass-roots movement to challenge the anti-Christian dogma of evolution".
  • "The campaign involves people empowering people to stand firm together against the evolutionary indoctrination so rampant in our schools, universities and media."
  • "Students certainly should question Darwinism in their schools and encourage others to do it too—after all, don’t teachers urge students to “question everything”? Students have a right to question the evolutionary pseudoscience peddled to them."
  • "Wearing Question evolution! clothing will clearly show your opposition to evolutionary dogma."
  • "...others will visit creation.com and find out the truth, empowering them to reject the lie that “everything made itself without God”."
  • "The rejection of the Creator’s authority via evolutionary indoctrination is a core issue in the erosion of traditional Christian values."

Notice that nowhere do they claim that any of the issues they raise disprove evolution. On the contrary, they have often pointed out that past events such as the claimed stages of evolution are not subject to scientific disproof. So trying to prove evolution wrong is not their goal. Instead, they talk about "dogma", "indoctrination" and "pseudoscience peddled".

Look at some of the questions themselves (CMI's italics):

  • (Q. 13) "...why do schools and universities teach evolution so dogmatically, stealing time from experimental biology that so benefits humankind?"
  • (Q. 14) "Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as this operational science?"
  • (Q. 15) "Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes?"
  • (Q. 15) "If “you can’t teach religion in science classes”, why is evolution taught?"

Note that none of these questions, which mention the teaching of evolution, suggest that it not be taught. Rather, they are questioning the emphasis given to teaching it, as though it is undisputed fact and vitally important. I also believe that in talking about evolution being "taught", CMI is not confining itself solely to evolution being taught in schools. Rather, "taught" is used both in that narrower sense and in a wider sense of what is fed to the public through schools, universities, government information sources, the mass media, and so on.

A major concern of creationists is the one-sided arguments that the public receive. Evolutionists are not simply good debaters; rather, they actively suppress contrary arguments. Effectively, they censor alternative viewpoints whenever they can. CMI sometimes uses the illustration of a judge hearing a case, asking if it's fair that the judge only gets to hear one side. The lesson is that it's not fair that only evolutionists get to be heard. It might be fair that only evolutionists get heard if the evidence was rock-solid and indisputable, so some of the questions are designed to show that the evidence is still lacking; that evolution cannot be claimed to be indisputable.

There is another very important point to note: CMI does not claim that evolutionists have no answers to these questions. Rather, they claim that evolutionists do not have adequate answers to them. That of course raises the question of when an answer is "adequate", but it excludes trite answers and "answers" that don't really answer the question. In the context of a claim that there are some questions that evolutionists can't adequately answer, an answer to the question "how did life start?" of "I don't know" is hardly an adequate answer.

Awc is one of the more reasonable evolutionists, and some of his "answers" essentially concede CMI's point in asking. But of course in doing so, he is out of step with typical evolutionists, to whom the questions are directed.

Awc's essay quotes the basic questions, but not the extra information CMI includes with each question, despite that extra information sometimes answering or rebutting Awc's responses. (Note also that in this essay of mine I've usually not quoted the questions; merely summarised them to assist with knowing which question Awc was addressing.)

The questions

Q. 1: How did life originate?

Awc's answer: "This is an easy one to answer: I don't know. Nobody does."

Although refreshingly honest, this "answer" falls into the category of an "answer" that doesn't really answer the question. In that sense, there is no way that it can be considered an "adequate" answer.

Assessing this answer against the criteria that evolution should not be taught dogmatically unless evidence for it is indisputable shows that it is most certainly not indisputable: a key question about evolution—how life got started—is unknown. The lesson, therefore, is that evolution should not be taught dogmatically.

Some of Awc's following comments on this question, such as the age of the Earth, assume the naturalistic/uniformitarian worldview that underpins evolution, so are not the "fairly good evidence" that he claims.

He says that "I suspect the point of this question is to suggest that we know enough to say that life could not have originated through natural processes. We do not know enough to say that." No, that is not the point. The point is that we don't know enough to be dogmatic that evolution explains it, and it therefore should not be taught dogmatically.

But he speculates on an alternative rationale: "Possibly the point is to suggest that, since we don't know how life originated, we can't be sure that life has evolved from a humble beginning. This is not logical." It took me a couple of reads of that to realise that he is probably referring to evolution after life originated. But again I would say that this is not the point. The point is that if an explanation only explains part of the process, then again, one should not be dogmatic that the explanation is correct.

Q. 2: How did the DNA code originate?

Awc's answer: "I would consider this question to be part of the first one so the answer is the same."

In that case, my response is the same: if we don't know, then it should not be taught dogmatically. But there is more to it than this. CMI's question includes (as Awc noted) the subsidiary question, "What other coding system has existed without intelligent design?" The point here is not simply that evolutionists can't explain the origin of DNA, but that there is an explanation that they are refusing to acknowledge. From the evidence that coding systems only come from intelligent minds, we can infer that this was the case with DNA, so the question is, in effect, why are evolutionists ignoring the obvious answer? Awc comments that he "would be perfectly happy if the answer is none.". So in effect, he's saying that he's happy if evolutionists invoke special pleading, because claiming that the genetic code could arise without an intelligence is inconsistent with what we do know about the origin of codes.

Q. 3: How do mutations create information?

Here Awc becomes unusually condescending: "Was someone not paying attention in class? The answer is mutations plus natural selection." But this is elephant hurling, as it doesn't explain how mutations plus natural selection create information. Further, mutations and natural selection do not create information. CMI point out that mutations are copying mistakes, and are known for the diseases they cause, but Awc ignores this. Richard Dawkins is very familiar with mutations and natural selection, but when he was asked to provide an example of information being created through such mechanisms, he was unable to supply an example.

Q. 4: Why is natural selection taught as ‘evolution’?

Awc agrees with CMI that it should not be.

Q. 5: How did new biochemical pathways originate?

Awc's answer: "it is hard to know what CMI is getting at here. Do they want to defend the position that there is no evolutionary path that could plausibly explain any biochemical pathway?"

I would say that they want to point out that evolution is not the indisputable answer to every question about living things that it is treated as, so should be treated with more scepticism.

Q. 6: Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed? Why should science be restricted to naturalistic causes rather than logical causes?

Awc's answer to the first part: "What something "looks like" is subjective. Why is it more correct to say "Living things look like they were designed." rather than "Living things look like they evolved."?"

The reason it is more correct to say that living things look like they were designed is simply because they do look like that! CMI, in their supplementary information to the question, quote Richard Dawkins admitting that living things look designed! They also point out that archaeologists routinely conclude the existence of design, as in pottery. This point brings out that in referring to what things "look like", CMI is not talking about a casual glance by a non-expert, but how something really does appear to an expert. So to suggest that the question is invalid in presuming that design is purely a matter of subjective opinion can hardly be considered an "adequate answer".

Awc's answer to the second part: "I don't believe that science needs to restrict itself to naturalistic causes."

In this, he has again sided with the creationists and against mainstream evolutionists, who do argue that science needs to supply naturalistic answers.

Q. 7: How did multi-cellular life originate?

Awc's "answer": See a linked article.

However, the linked article on Wikipedia introduces its discussion on the origin of multicellular life with the comment, "There are various mechanisms by which multicellularity could have evolved." In other words, the answer is not known; there are various ideas, but nothing is certain. So again, why should evolution be taught dogmatically as though it can explain everything?

Q. 8: How did sex originate?

Awc's "answer" See a couple of linked articles.

Again, we see uncertainty. One of the linked Wikipedia articles begins with, "The evolution of sexual reproduction is currently described by several competing scientific hypotheses." The other says that "The reason for the initial evolution of sex, and the reason(s) it has survived to the present, are still matters of debate.". So again, evolution doesn't have all the answers, so should not be taught dogmatically.

Q. 9: Why are the transitional fossils missing?

Awc's "answer": Apart from a link to a non-existent section of an article, he doesn't provide an answer.

Q. 10: How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years?

Awc's answer concentrates on the persistence of particular species, something that CMI's question didn't refer to except within a quote from Stephen J. Gould. He also pondered exactly what CMI might mean by "living fossils". The CMI question linked to an article in which "living fossil" is defined as "fossilized animals and plants that look similar to modern organisms".

Awc essentially denied the existence of species persisting over periods of more than 10 million years, seemingly on the grounds that longer-lived forms varied sufficiently to be classified as different species, hence couldn't be said to "remain unchanged".

However, this ignores two points, one of which is made specifically by CMI in their question's supplementary information. The first is that the question is about how much the organisms have changed; not about whether they are classified as the same or different species by scientists who have a motive to classify their finds as different species to already-known ones, and in the case of fossils, are unable to objectively do so by the normal method of determining species similarity, interfertility.

The second is that evolutionists have themselves recognised that organisms remain unchanged, as CMI showed by quoting Stephen J. Gould pointing out that this was a problem for evolution.

Q. 11: How did evolution create mind/ intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

Awc's answer: "I'm not sure it's a difficult question. ... I don't think it's too hard to imagine..."

But imagination is not a scientific explanation, which should be a prerequisite for evolution being taught in the way that it is.

Awc adds: "What CMI really seems to be concerned about is the implication that "there is no basis for right and wrong". I don't see why a morality inbred by evolution should be any worse than a morality infused by God ..."

I believe that the point of the question is that (a) morality exists, and (b) evolution does not have an adequate explanation for it.

Q. 12: Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated?

Awc's answer: "Speculative explanations can be stimulating, ideally leading to hypotheses that can in fact be tested, ... It is, of course, important to remember that they are only speculation."

The problem is that CMI is not talking about new hypotheses about particular details of evolution, but about a phenomenon that is common in evolution. Awc's answer ignores CMI's supplementary information on the sorts of things that amount to "story telling". In addition, in their rebuttal of some evolutionists' answers, they point out that the "question was based on a review by evolutionist Richard Lewontin who referred to “the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories”." I don't want to pad this essay out with large quotes from CMI, but suffice to say that Awc's answer sidesteps the examples that CMI gave both in their original question and their rebuttal to answers, which show that evolution relies on "just so" stories for much of its tale.

Q. 13: Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

Awc's answer: "Beats me. I wouldn't say there aren't any, but if there are, I can't think of them. Does that imply that the idea is false? Or is CMI simply advocating a more practically oriented curriculum?"

His last point gets close to the mark: they are advocating that evolution should not have so much emphasis put on it, given that it's contributed so little that's of any use.

Q. 14: Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as this operational science?

Awc's answer: "Each science is pursued in the way most appropriate to its character. That is no secret."

This answer simply denies the question, but without substantiating the denial; it doesn't answer it. The point is that evolution is taught as though it is on a par with operational science, as though it is just as empirical. Awc is implicitly admitting that it shouldn't be, but implying that it isn't, an implication that he provides no evidence for.

Q. 15: Why is a fundamentally religious idea (evolution) taught in science classes?

Awc's answer: "I am in favor of teaching in science classes theories that explain the evidence. That why I think evolution should be taught in science classes."

His answer completely fails to address the inconsistency of excluding creationism from science classes on the grounds that it is "religious", but allowing the religious idea of evolution to be taught. Creationism also explains the evidence (and does a better job than does evolution), but is not allowed in science classes. Does's Awc's answer indicate that he thinks it should be taught, even if that's alongside evolution? Is he rejecting the typical claim of evolutionists that creationism shouldn't be taught in science classes on the grounds that it's religious, not on the grounds that it doesn't explain the evidence? Scott Todd said, "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic". That is, the exclusion of creation from science has nothing to do with it's ability or otherwise to "explain the evidence", but everything to do with it being considered "religious".

Awc's answer fails to address the question, ducking it instead.

Summary

  1. Awc effectively concedes that evolutionists cannot adequately answer the question.
  2. Awc effectively concedes that evolutionists cannot adequately answer the question.
  3. Awc provides an inadequate answer by assertion.
  4. Awc agrees with CMI
  5. Awc misses the point
  6. Awc offers the opinion that design is subjective, so disputes the question. For the second part, he effectively agrees with CMI.
  7. Awc provides an inadequate answer.
  8. Awc provides an inadequate answer.
  9. Awc provides no answer.
  10. Awc misses the point.
  11. Awc provides an inadequate answer.
  12. Awc overlooks relevant information so misses the point.
  13. Awc provides an inadequate answer.
  14. Awc provides an inadequate answer.
  15. Awc ducks the question.
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