Thursday, 20 November 2008

Creation or Evolution (Dr. Denis Alexander) - Chapter 6 - Objections To Evolution

After the three chapters explaining what is meant by "evolution", DA gives us a chapter in which he answers a few objections. If you could voice seven questions concerning evolution, what would they be? Here are the seven that DA treats:
  • "Evolution is a chance proess and this is incompatible with the God if the Bible bringing about his purposeful plan of creation."
  • "The theory of evolution is not truly scientific bceause it does not involve repeatable experiments in the laboratory."
  • "Evolution runs counter to the second law of thermodynamics."
  • "Perhaps God maeks things look old, although in reality they are much younger, in order to test our faith."
  • "What use is half an eye?"
  • "Surely if evolution were true, God would have simply to us so in his Word so that we don't need to have all this discussion?"
  • "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."
Why these seven? DA gives us two things here. Firstly, he recognises that the biggest theological concerns expressed usually concern Adam and Eve, death and the Fall, and there are going to be separate chapters on these topics. Under the last objection, this little phrase tells us what to expect then - "an idyllic non-violent pre-Fall world, as young earth creationists imagine it to have been" - because DA certainly doesn't imagine such a thing. But that's in later chapters. The main selection criteria (p131) is that tehse objections are ones that DA has come across personally as he's given loectures, or that he's himself "read in books critical of evolution."

At this points our hopes are raised that DA is actually going to interact with something an actual critic of Darwinism has said, or at least give us some references so that we can cross-reference what he's critiquing. But, it's not to be. The nearest we get is in the last objection, when DA mentions the name of Henry Morris and something he's supposed to have believed... but alas, without a reference, not even to the name of a book, much less the page. Having read the whole of DA's book, it seems to me that the most likely explanation for his refusal to even provide the most basic documentation or interaction with anything he says that "the other side" believe is that it's part of his rhetorical strategy. Darwinism is a fiercely controversial issue, but DA's overall aim is to paint it as utterly uncontroversial, fixed and settled, and to imply that those who question it are beneath his intellectual contempt as a bona fide scientist. To actually mention their names or indicate that he's really read their works would be like confessing to having waded through dog poo, and would spoil the impression that individuals with brains float several leagues above such unworthy activities.

It's a bit ironic, then, given this kind of methodology, to find that DA begins the chapter with a two-page general lecture on the proper scientific method. Because what we're then given in terms of the particular arguments answering particular questions, is anything but scientific. It's really a bit rich to give us two pages talking about the proper sifting of evidence and intellectual inquiry with integrity to then have it followed up with some supposed answers to objections that stedfastly refuse to actually interact in any meaningful way with any real live creationists (boo, hiss). The burden of the first two pages is to repeat a talking point we're more used to hearing from the atheists - science is a rational, free inquiry, and anyone can make any point they want as long as the back it up with good research, and then if they do that and if it stands up to scrutiny, it'll get published in the journals and be accepted. There's no bias, no philosophical prejudice that stops anyone doing anything - and in fact, if you had any facts that did call into question evolution, the science journals would make you an overnight hero, because everyone loves it when long-cherished shibboleths get challenged and overturned.

This drivellous nonsense about the unbiased and objective nature of scientists' work is somewhat ironic coming only so few pages after clear warnings about the dangers of Christians uncritically swallowing an Enlightenment way of looking at the world. Mr. Kettle, the pot is on line one and would like to address you with some remarks about your colour? Puh-lease! The burden of these opening few pages is really to make a catch-all argument: it doesn't matter what objections you have to evolution, because you don't wear a white coat like I do, and therefore are not sufficiently expert enough to have anything worthwhile to say. But this Enlightenment sell-out won't do. Darwinism involves two parts of philosophy to every one part of biology, and theology is still the queen of the sciences which gets to tell even men in white coats what they are and aren't allowed to believe. God's word claims the authority to test every theory, especially speculative reconstructions of ancient history, and not even the peer-reviewers of Nature or Science get exempted from that. So, a big fat raspberry to this unworthy attempt (the like of which we expect to come from atheistic rather than Christian writers), to exempt such a far-reaching theory from its proper scrutiny.

To be continued...

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