Friday, 21 November 2008

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

5. What use is half an eye?

This bit is more technical. I found it irrelevant, because DA misses the point and spends some pages telling us about already formed systems, though limited ones, rather than telling us what use half a system would actually be!

One interesting bit was where he contradicts the approach to Darwinism, chance and providence he takes elsewhere in the book. He tells us that the human optical system is sub-optimal because there is a blind spot due to the optic nerve having to cross the retina to get to the brain - a defect the octopus does not have. He then remarks, "This provides a good illustration of the various ways in which our organs reflect their own sometimes idiosyncratic evolutionary histories." This idea of defective design due to idiosyncratic history, though, cannot be made compatible with his earlier assertions (e.g. in the answer to the first objection) that Darwinism is not a random process but perfectly superintended by God at every point to bring about the well-formed creation he desired. Either the human eye is a idiosyncratic hodge-podge limited by its own evolutionary history, or is what a perfectly wise designer intended it to be. You can't posit one of those ideas when the objection at hand makes it convenient to do so and the other when it suits you on another occasion.

6. "Surely if evolution were true, God would have told us in his Word so that we don't need to have all this discussion?"

Three-fold answer here, and a dud on all accounts:

a) The Bible is about spiritual matters such as salvation, not about the natural world.  Ugh. That dichotomy is an Enlightenment dualism that is unbiblical.

b) God, like a wise parent, does not just give us all we need to know on a plate - he allows us to explore and find the truth. Humph. This answer has a load of false assumptions, such as: that whether creation is a long, upward process full of struggle or death or whether it was a supernatural event perfect at completion which then fell, is a distinction with no theological consequence and so the Bible doesn't need to inform us. Another: that telling us that creation was through a multi-billion year process would somehow be "telling us all we need to know on a plate". Hardly. That one sentence doesn't give you an iota of knowledge about genes, DNA, and so on.

c) That if the Bible were to tell us about evolution, it would then be an impractially long book. Balderdash. The Bible could say something to indicate that the universe is billions of years old, or was formed through slow and gradual processes, in just a few words. When we're debating creation versus evolution, we're debating two broad frameworks with considerably flexibility on squillions of biological details which could be accomodated by either system. This answer is exceptionally weak.

7. "Perhaps God made the original kinds by special acts of creation which then underwent rapid evolution to generate the species diversity that we see today."

The answer to this objection is a bit special, because DA actually condescends to name an actual creationist, albeit a dead one (Henry Morris). But it's not accompanied by any references to his works or quotes so that you can check out if he's accurately represented or not... I think DA's intention throughout the book is to imply that doubting Darwinism is beneath his intellectual contempt, and he doesn't demean himself by actually touching any of their works: so neither should you!

DA's ridiculous answer to this objection is that it amounts to "throwing out the whole of current science", because if you reject speculative evolutionary dating scenarios then, well, those scenarious are based upon irrefutable scientific principles which if you were consistent you should reject everywhere else too. i.e. It's a thin end of the wedge - reject it here, you should for consistency reject it everywhere, so let's say that that's effectively what you do do!

By this kind of reasoning, I should set DA a maths test, and if he gets one single question wrong then I'll give him 0% on the entire test because maths is after all a coherent system - and if you mistakenly get a sum wrong in one place then, well, that mistake if consistently applied everywhere else would falsify the rest of mathematics too! Great stuff. But in terms of logic, this argument is pants.

The other part of the answer is that there simply isn't enough time for rapid enough speciation to occur. I find this answer also incredible, because the objection itself doesn't state just how many different specimens of each created kind there were, or any figure for how much genetic diversity was present in their original state. It just states that there were several original created kinds, rather than just one common ancestor for the whole family of life. How many species there were within those kinds and how long would then be needed for further diversifaction to today's levels is not stated in the objection, so the answer that there's "not enough" needs to be argued with some numbers, not just boldly asserted.

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