Friday, 21 November 2008

Creation or evolution - chapter 6 continued ("Objections to evolution")

2. "The theory of evolution is not truly scientific because it does not involve repeatable experiments in the laboratory."

This objection seems to be aiming to make the distinction that creationists often make, between "operational" and "origins" science. One is based upon repeatable observations, whereas the other is a degree of magnitude more speculative, being based upon inferences about unique events. The world only began once, and we can't run back the tape; science can only observe the present and try to piece together the bits. Origins science by its nature must be much more humble and tentative, much to the chagrin of atheist apologists who'd love to assert that they know we're just a cosmic accident.

A truly Christian scientist trying to reconstruct the past has a great advantage. He believes that God has spoken many words about  the past These words are infallible and without error, and recorded for us in Scripture. By studying God's word, we can gain a much better interpretation of God's world. True, the Bible's principle subject is to reveal the glory of Christ and draw a chosen people to salvation in him; but that Christ and that salvation are not timeless, a-historical entities, but have come in flesh and blood. Thus the Bible contains a great deal of history, as God has unfolded his primeval promises until the coming of his Son and caused it all to be recorded so that we might believe. The Christian origins scientist can thus use this infallible word as a framework in which all the valid activity of investigation, speculation and so on can take place.

Unfortunately you won't get any idea of the above from DA's answer to this objection. His is simply to assert that whilst, yes, scientists investigating the past are building a case, yet they do it very carefully, according to accepted rules of evidence, and thus its conclusions can after all be treated as certain. With no sense of irony, he compares this to the work of the legal system, with its forensic experts, judges, lawyers and court cases. Here I wanted to say "precisely", because even with all that, yet horrendous miscarriages of justice occur and occur continually - because man in his fallenness is not as objective, clever or rational as he flatters himself to be, and the nature of original sin is that no matter how many layers of procedure, counter-balances and checks you build in, that's how it will always be apart from the grace of God intervening. Another feature of DA's answer has been commented on before - the refusal to explain that science works in terms of paradigms, and contrary evidence is often explained away or just put on the shelf; in DA's explanation, the whole Darwinian community would drop its theory at the first instant if you produced a single fact that contradicted it. All together now, in our best Jeremy Paxman voices... "oh come on, pull the other one!"

3. Evolution runs counter to the second law of thermodynamics

Here DA gives a short and not particular relevant answer. That was easy for him to do, because he doesn't state the objection in a strong or accurate form, so there's not much refuting needing to be done. He doesn't answer the question in terms of an increase in organised complexity. The impression given in the answer is that simply providing a large amount of heat (from the sun, which is gradually winding down) will be enough to account for the "winding up" of the earth. But, since when did just naked heat bring about organisation, information and complexity? DA's answer does nothing more than shoot down a straw man.

4. Perhaps God makes things look old, although in reality they are much younger, in order to test our faith?

Whereas a good question, from the second law of thermodynamics, got just one page, this silly objection gets three - three pages which I think may be the most tedious and pointless in the book. DA goes to town to patronise and re-educate the simple and naive creationist who might believe such things as this, making God a liar - though it's not a viewpoint you'll find expressed by any mainstream creationist ministry or speaker. Such is the author's luxury when he grants himself liberty to choose his own objections without reference to the actual literature of the strongest representatives of the opposing position.

There is a real question that could have been answered here. On the day Adam was created, how old was he? And how about Eve? By the Bible's testimony, they were created as adults. Eve was made from Adam's rib and brought to him as a mature woman. The anthropologist examining them would have declared them to have been alive for several years - but he would have been wrong, because his underlying assumptions of gradual development instead of instantaneous creation were wrong. The real question here is over the mere assumption of gradualism - that we can wind back the clock on today's world as far as we like, with no dramatic interventions or catastrophic events to worry about. That real question, though, is overlooked in favour of an amusing tail about Philip Gosse and his Omphalus. DA reminds us that fake histories would make God a liar. The real point is, though, that God has given us his Word so we know how to interpret the history - but DA doesn't interpret creation history using God's word; he gives that whole task to Enlightenment-mode science, and then tries to harmonise what he finds in God's word with Darwinism after the event.

No comments: