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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Who doesn't understand evolution? Part 3


5. You think it has anything to do with the origin of life, let alone the origins of the universe.

This is like the king of all straw men, and it’s extremely common. It involves something like the thoroughly debunked theory of spontaneous generation (the idea that life can come from non-life under normal circumstances) being used as evidence against the theory of evolution. Hear me on this, guys: Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life.

Strictly speaking, biological evolution does not address either the origin of life nor the origin of the universe. I get it. What evolutionists don't seem to get is that creationism does! So when we're talking about the origin of everything, we're comparing the miraculous explanation with the natural “explanations” of everything (I put explanations in quotation marks because there really are no compelling, scientific explanations of things like the origin of matter/energy or abiogenesis). In other words, we're comparing everything about origins and we're just calling the natural explanations, “evolution,” for the sake of brevity.  You see, in the evolution v. creation debate, “evolution” is sometimes used as a term of convenience – just like “evolutionist.” We're not limiting the discussion to just the common descent of all life from a single common ancestor, we're also talking about things like the origin of the supposed ancestor and the origin of time, matter, and space. There just isn't a convenient term that encompasses all secular theories of our origins so creationists sometimes lump them all into “evolution.”  And let's be honest, evolutionists – people who believe in evolution – invariably also believe in abiogenesis and the Big Bang.  It should be no surprise, then, that we describe their entire set of beliefs with a single term.  

Furthermore, even evolutionists sometimes use the term, evolution, in much the same way as creationists do. How many times have you heard the debate described as “evolution versus creationism?” Creation, as described in Genesis includes the origin of space/matter/time and the origin of life. So when evolutionists compare “evolution” with “creationism,” it has to include everything involved in both sets of belief.

I think it's strange that critics ever use this objection. I mean, let's face it, for something that's not part of their theory, they certainly spend a lot of time talking about it. For example, Berkley.edu has a web page called, Understanding Evolution, which begins with a section titled, “From soup to cells – the origin of life.” From that site, we read the following, Evolution encompasses a wide range of phenomena: from the emergence of major lineages, to mass extinctions, to the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals today. However, within the field of evolutionary biology, the origin of life is of special interest because it addresses the fundamental question of where we (and all living things) came from.It seems, at least, that Berkley feels the origin of life is of special interest “within the field of evolutionary biology.” Also, I don't even need to point out all the biology text books that still include the Miller-Urey experiment from nearly 70 years ago! Why is such an old experiment, one which failed to produce life, still included in biology books if abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolution?

They can't have it both ways. They spend time talking about the origin of life, yet when creationists point out there is no natural explanation for the origin of life, evolutionists retreat to, “well, that's not part of the theory.” This objection is obviously a red herring. Evolutionists don't like to be called out for clinging to an idea that is virtually indistinguishable from “spontaneous generation,” which has been debunked for more than a century. They know the origin of life is a legitimate question, which is why they research it, but when pressed on the issue, they want to end the discussion.

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6. You use the phrase “it’s only a theory” and think you’ve made some kind of substantive statement.

I think the “only a theory” argument is so popular because of the unfortunate disparity between the common definition of “theory” in American pop culture, and the working definition of the word in science. In popular usage, “theory” means a “hunch” or a “guess” — and it’s the opposite of a “fact.” It’s conjecture, a shot in the dark that has just as much chance (and probably even more so) of being wrong as it has of being right.

I'm pretty sure Francke speaks English, right? Because, when he makes comments like this, it's like he's not familiar with the language at all. Since when does “theory” ever mean “a shot in the dark that has just as much chance of being wrong as it has of being right”? If you google the definition of theory, it says, a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.Francke's unusual definition is merely a straw man that he can use to ridicule people who use the criticism, “evolution is only a theory.”

Now, the scientific community claims to be a little more stringent about which set of ideas qualifies to be called a theory. To call something a “scientific” theory supposedly means that set of ideas has been repeatedly tested confirmed through observation and experimentation. Of course, they loose all credibility when they use the term, “theory of abiogenesis.” Abiogenesis has never been observed anywhere. We don't know how life began so there can be no scientific theory of abiogenesis. All we have are theories, plausible explanations based on general principles, about how it might have happened. In other words, the scientific community frequently uses the word theory in much the same way they harp on the general public for using it!

This goes back to what I was saying in my first post of this series: we examine the evidence and invent theories to explain the evidence. That's all we ever do because we can't observe theories. Evolutionists frequently want to conflate the evidence with their conclusions about the evidence. They want to blur the line between objective facts we can observe and the conclusions we make about those facts.

To illustrate this point, here's an analogy I've used before. You can open a carton of eggs and see there are a dozen. That's an objective fact. But why are there a dozen? It's easier to count by 10 than by 12 so why don't we sell eggs in cartons of 10? I believe it's because there are more ways to divide 12 evenly than 10. That's my theory – my explanation of why eggs are sold in dozens. I could interview farmers, do historical research, or even try a google search. Maybe my theory will be confirmed or maybe it will be falsified. Either way, why there are a dozen eggs will never be held in the same regard as the fact that there are a dozen eggs.

In an interview with Larry King, theophobe, Bill Nye made the following comment:

My concern has always been you can't use tax dollars intended for science education to teach something akin to the earth is 10,000 years old. To... 'cause that's just wrong. It's very much analogous to saying the earth is flat. I mean, you can show the earth is not flat; you can show the earth is not 10,000 years old.

Nye is saying he can show us the age of the earth just like he can show us the shape of the earth. No he cant! We can observe certain features of the earth and draw conclusions about its age but we can't observe our conclusions any more than we can open a carton of eggs and observe why there are a dozen!

When a creationist says, it's only a “theory,” he's expressing his doubts about evolution as an explanation of the objective, observable facts. He's drawing a distinction about what we know from observation and what we know from inference.  It's as simple as that. Then some evolutionist responds with a technical definition of the term “theory,” and thinks he's made some kind of substantive statement. Please spare me.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Who doesn't understand evolution? Part 2


3. You think macroevolution is an inherently different process than microevolution.

In his article, THE TOP 10 SIGNS THAT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND EVOLUTION AT ALL, Tyler Francke said, “At its core, “macroevolution” is simply the steady accumulation of the small changes we observe in “microevolution.” Francke has repeated one of the 10 lies told by evolutionists. In fact, this is perhaps one of the better examples of the lie; I think I'll probably cite it many times in future posts.

Not all change is equal. For a species to evolve, new traits would have to be added to the population. To turn a dinosaur into a bird, for example, you would have to add feathers. The supposed, first common ancestor had neither scales nor feathers. Neither did it have skin or bones or blood or organs of any kind. To turn a molecule into a man, it would require a millions of years long parade of new features constantly being added. Natural selection, on the other hand, can only remove traits already present in the population. It should be agonizingly clear that you cannot add traits by continuously removing traits.

In the famous example of peppered moth “evolution,” the ratio of light/dark moths changed over time in response to changes in the environment. Some people call this “microevolution” and it does fit the technical definition of evolution. But please explain to me how birds continuously eating one color of moth can ever add new colors to the population? You cannot add colors by continuously removing colors no matter how long you do it.

Francke said, “It seems any sane person must admit that, if small changes can occur, then it is logically consistent that small changes adding up over extremely long periods of time would result in very large changes.”

Evolutionists like Francke would have us believe that birds continuously eating one color of moth could eventually change it into something that is not a moth – it just has to continue for a long enough time. What sane person would believe that?!

If evolutionists want to convince people that evolution is possible, they need to stop talking about examples like the peppered moth and start showing us examples of trait-adding mutations. There's a reason they don't is the same reason. It's because examples of natural selection removing traits are common place while examples of trait-adding mutations are scare or non-existent. By continuing to repeat the lie that any change over time can result in big change, evolutionists are either ignorant of their own theory or are preying on the ignorance of the less informed.

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4. You think mutations are always negative.

This is another one of those incredibly common and completely untrue statements that nothing more than a few minutes’ research on the Internet could have corrected. The truth is that mutations in nature are usually neutral — i.e., they have no effect on the gene or resulting protein.

Francke should be more careful with his wording. Even “neutral” mutations have an effect on the gene. What he means to say is that neutral mutations seem to have no effect on the host animal. This is a significant point and not merely a game of semantics. In a real sense, genetic mutations are always negative in that they are mistakes or errors in the genome. Even if they seem to have no effect on the host they are still present in the gene and will be passed along to the offspring. Over many generations, the mutations will continue to accumulate and there becomes a greater danger of some mutation becoming expressed.

Expressed mutations in genes are usually called genetic disorders. My son, for example, has a fairly ordinary genetic disorder – he's color blind. He probably inherited it from his maternal grandfather who is also color blind. It's not a debilitating disorder and my son leads a fairly normal life. There are occasions, though, when his color blindness has caused a certain amount of difficulty. Once, when he was younger, he followed me out into the parking lot of our church and he was attempting to get into the wrong car. My car was red and he was trying the door of a green car.

Some genetic disorders are very serious – even life threatening. Francke mentioned sickle-cell anemia, which is a genetic disorder that causes red blood cells to be deformed. People with sickle-cell suffer a variety of symptoms and tend to live shorter lives. But it is true that the deformed, blood cells cannot host malaria parasites so people who have sickle-cell cannot have malaria. Perhaps this is an advantage in environments where malaria is a real threat. Otherwise, the small benefit of malaria immunity does not outweigh the host of maladies people with sickle-cell suffer. It's a wonder how evolutionists continue using this as an example of “evolution.”

We actually have observed several genetic mutations that convey a benefit to the hosts in certain environments – blind cave fish, wingless beetles, and tusk-less elephants are examples. However, nearly all of these represent mutations where the host creature looses something (like eyes, wings, or tusks). Furthermore, the mutation is usually weeded out of the gene pool when the animal is reintroduced back into the general population. Even so, examples of mutations removing traits from animals doesn't really help evolution which requires animals to acquire new traits. That is, a fish born without eyes doesn't explain how a dinosaur could acquire feathers. The blind fish may have an advantage in a cave where there's no light but it really doesn't help the theory of evolution in the least.

Why do evolutionists continue to hold up such weak examples of “beneficial” mutations? They're certainly not convincing examples of “evolution.” It's for the same reason I've already stated above: examples of trait-adding mutations are astonishingly scare. When I ask for examples of new traits being observed in a population, I only ever hear the same 3-4 questionable examples. If evolution were true, new traits would have to appear in populations fairly frequently. We should have plenty of examples – but we don't. That's why they continuously trot out the same few over and over and over and over.

There's one more thing about mutations that spell trouble for evolution. For every beneficial mutations that might happen, there are far, far more neutral or harmful mutations that occur. A creature may have 1,000 neutral or harmful mutations to every one beneficial mutation. Why can't evolutionists see the obvious problem with this? The genome is deteriorating 1,000 faster than it's improving. For a creature to inherit just two beneficial mutations means there would be 1,000,000 neutral or harmful mutations! To inherit 3 successful mutations means there would be 1,000,000,000 unsuccessful mutations. How long could such a wasteful process continue until the genome becomes to corrupt to sustain life?

Yikes!

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Who doesn't understand evolution? Part 1


I came across an article the other day that listed THE TOP 10 SIGNS THAT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND EVOLUTION AT ALL. It's written by Tyler Francke, who also wrote 10 THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS NO YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONIST CAN ANSWER (all 10 of which I answered here). It seems Francke has a penchant for Top 10 lists with presumptuous titles. Anyway, I thought I'd write a reply and, so, went through my usual, internal struggle – should I write a series or not? Once again, I chose to write a series. Sigh. I intend to cover 2 points per post so the entire series shouldn't be more than 5 posts long.

It's a common fallacy suggested by evolutionists that creationists don't believe evolution because they don't understand evolution. It's a classic No True Scotsman argument where the critic is basically saying, “Everyone who understands evolution believes it.” No matter how well a creationist might understand the theory, unless he believes it, the critic will continue to accuse him of not understanding it. Worse yet, critics often accuse creationists of lying. To ardent evolutionists, it's impossible to imagine how anyone can understand evolution and still sincerely disagree with it.

Now, I'll admit there might be some things about evolution that some creationists misunderstand. Let's face it – no one is an expert in everything and most people aren't evolutionary biologists. However, I would say that the average, lay creationist understands evolution about as well as the average evolutionist. It's a fact that most creationists went to public schools and learned about evolution while sitting in the same classrooms as evolutionists. What I find amusing is that some evolutionists are very forgiving of people who misunderstand the theory as long as those people believe the theory. I can sort of understand why a person might disagree with something he doesn't understand but is it any better for a person to be zealously committed to a theory he doesn't understand?

Consider this too, whether or not a person understands something is not evidence for or against that thing. Some subjects are complicated and even if there are things I don't understand about it, doesn't mean I'm wrong about the things I do understand. I may not be able to write a scientific paper on gravity but I know what happens if I drop an egg. If someone else wrote a scientific paper saying that gravity is an illusion and he included several, complicated, mathematical formulas to prove his point, it wouldn't matter if I don't understand the math. I still know what happens when I drop an egg. The truth of any theory doesn't rise or fall on any person's ability to understand it. Reality doesn't care what we think about it.

In short, the 10 points listed here are primarily straw men arguments of creationists' positions. Rather than pointing out where any creationist may be wrong, I think they are more successful in revealing the flawed – even deceptive – arguments frequently used by evolutionists who try to shame or embarrass creationists into being silent. The article should have been titled, 10 Stupid Arguments Evolutionists Use Against Creationists.

Are we ready? Then let's get started!

1. You think “it hasn’t been observed” is a good argument against it.

If you think about it, this point is rather hilarious. It's basically saying that, just because we've never observed something, that's not a good reason to believe it doesn't exist. //RKBentley scratches his head// Isn't it the critics who insist we should always be skeptical? Aren't they the ones who “withhold judgment” until they see the evidence? Well, since we've never seen a dinosaur turn into a bird, or a fish turn into a frog, or an ape turn into a man, some people might question if it ever really happens.

Of course, just because I've never seen something happen doesn't mean it didn't happen, I'll admit. Things can happen when nobody is there to see. But if no one anywhere has seen a certain thing, to suspect it might not have happened is normal skepticism. To say, “it hasn't been observed” is a fair point.

Francke, on the other hand, wants to give the impression that science isn't about making observations. From the article he said, Making viable conclusions based on inferences from the available evidence is not at all unscientific, and it is this reasoning that has compelled us toward the theory of evolution.... This, of course, is the defining characteristic of science: Not that is observable and repeatable, but that it is testable and falsifiable. [Bold removed from original]

I would ask Francke how does one infer anything from the evidence unless he can observe it? How can we test and falsify theories except by repeatable experimentation? What Francke is doing – deliberately, I believe – is conflating theory with evidence. Evolutionists do this all the time. What we observe is evidence – a fossil, a rock, an animal, or whatever. We can only examine evidence by observation. We then invent theories that try to explain the evidence. In the quote above, the “viable conclusions” we can infer is what other people call the theory of evolution and the “available evidence” are the things we observe (like fossils, rock strata, ratios of radioactive elements, etc).

Evolutionists understand the difference between making observations and drawing conclusions even though they usually refuse to admit it. Did you catch when Franke said, If the idea (that “scientific evidence must be both observable and repeatable”) were carried to its logical conclusion, it would cripple not only the study of evolution, but every line of historical inquiry. He has unwittingly conceded the thing that other evolutionists have stubbornly denied – namely that there really is a distinction between the science done in the lab and what some creationists call, “historical science.”

In the famous Ham v. Nye debate, Bill Nye said the following:

So here tonight we are going to have two stories, and we can compare Mr. Ham's story to the story from the outside, what I call mainstream science. The question here tonight is, does Ken Ham's creation model hold up? Is it viable? So let me ask you, what would you be doing if you weren't here tonight? You'd be home watching CSI TV show, CSI-Petersburg. I think that's coming. And on CSI, there is no distinction made between historical science and observational science. These are constructs unique to Mr. Ham. We don't normally have these anywhere in the world except here.

The fact that there is a qualitative difference between studying events from the past and studying things in the present should be self evident. Indeed, it is self evident and evolutionists simply avoid acknowledging it because it clearly undermines their arguments. It's perfectly valid to point out that evolution is a conclusion that is being made about past events and not a thing we can observe. Let's be very clear - we can't observe theories. Ever!

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2. You think we’ve never found a transitional fossil.

I wouldn't say there are no transitional fossils. Instead, I would say there are a scarcity of unequivocal examples compared to the number that must have existed if evolution were true. One sub-point in the over-arching theory of evolution, for example, is that dinosaurs evolved to become birds. According to this point, the forelimbs of dinosaurs were modified over many generations to become wings. If this were true, there would have to have been an enormous number of generations between “fully arm” and “fully wing.” Indeed, there would have been more of the part-are/part-wing forms than either arm or wing. Charles Darwin commented about this in his book. He described the hypothesized transitional forms as “infinitely numerous connecting links” and said the following.

But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?”

Darwin understood that, if his theory were true, transitional forms should fill every stratum of rock. We shouldn't be able to turn over a shovel of dirt without finding one. Darwin even remarked that the absence of transitional fossils was, perhaps, “the most obvious and gravest objection” to his theory.

Darwin blamed the glaring lack of transitional fossils on “the extreme imperfection of the geological record.” In other words, these creatures lived, but since fossilization is allegedly such a rare event, there just weren't any fossils made of them. How convenient. His “just so” story, though, doesn't hold any water when you think about what we do find in the fossil record. There are literally trillions of fossils in the world and we've found hundreds – maybe thousands – of dinosaurs and birds. There are plenty of arms and plenty of wings. There are virtually none of the imagined in-between forms.

Several years back, National Geographic published an articled titled, New Fossil: Link Between Fish and Land Animals? The whole point of the article is how scientists may have finally found a transitional sea-to-land fossil. Let me direct you to the following passage from that article:

The late Devonian period has is a rich fossil history of lobed fishes.... After the Devonian the fossil record disappears, at least for a while—20-30 million years. Only three informative fossils dating back to this time have been found. When the fossil record resumes roughly 25 million years later, there was already a tremendous variety of tetrapod landforms. Ancestors of modern mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds had already evolved and were diverging along distinct branches.

That paragraph is worth rereading. First, we have “rich fossil history” of fish. Next we have “a tremendous variety of tetrapod landforms.” And we have virtually no fossils in between! Let that sink in!

But, yes. Evolutionists have a few dozen, maybe even a couple of hundred fossils they've dubbed as transitional. Big whoop. They're hardly compelling. Sure, I could arrange some species in a way to make them appear to be a progression. A flying squirrel could be resemble a hypothetical transition between squirrels and bats but of course it isn't. Likewise, there are a handful of species that could resemble a cross between two different kinds of creatures. But that isn't enough to fill the enormous gaps between the groups.

Evolutionists need to come to grips with this weakness in their theory. If evolution were true, transitional forms should be the rule – not the exception. There is no “clear progression” of fish-to-frog, or dino-to-bird, or ape-to-man in the fossil record!

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Monday, April 30, 2018

What is morality?

The existence of objective morality is one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. However, some critic don't get the argument. Well, maybe they don't get it. Or maybe they do get it and intentionally misrepresent the argument so they can create a strawman. I'm not sure which. Here's an example of someone who doesn't seem to get it:

The idea that atheists have no reason to be moral without a god or religion may be the most popular and repeated myth about atheism out there. It comes up in a variety of forms, but all of them are based on the assumption that the only valid source of morality is a theistic religion, preferably the religion of the speaker which is usually Christianity. Thus without Christianity, people cannot live moral lives. (Thought.co)

Yikes! That's bad. Rather than accusing Thought.co of deliberately misstating the argument, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and work with the assumption that the author simply doesn't understand the problem. In this post, I hope to bring into focus the foolishness of believing in there can be objective morality in a godless universe.

First, we have to understand what makes something wrong. I checked several definitions and found they all suffer from the same weakness. Merriam-Webster, for example, defines “wrong” as, an injurious, unfair, or unjust act : action or conduct inflicting harm without due provocation or just cause. That's an OK definition, I guess, but it still doesn't answer the question of what makes something wrong. In other words, why is it wrong to be unfair or unjust? Why is it wrong to harm someone?

Implicit in every definition of wrong is the idea that something is not the way “it ought to be.” To say it's wrong to be unfair, implies that things ought to be fair. Get it? So for anyone to believe something is wrong, there needs to be an objective understanding of how that thing ought to be instead. In a godless, purposeless universe, how would we know how things ought to be? Could it be wrong, for example, for water to freeze at 32°F? Of course not because there is no other objective temperature at which we could say water should freeze instead!

If the universe were undesigned and purposeless, we can only describe how things are – not how they ought to be. If we think something should be different, that is only a preference and not an objective standard. Consider the candy, Starbursts. I like the red flavor. Maybe most people like red, I don't know. But I think people who like orange are crazy. In fact, I think people who eat orange Starbursts are evil! Does that make any sense? It certainly doesn't. It's gibberish. My preference is only my preference and there is no “correct” flavor of candy. Preferences can change over time but none are ever “right.”

Consider now a more substantial subject – like slavery. Most people would agree that the type of slavery once practiced in the US was wrong. However, it used to be legal. Obviously, there were slave owners in the south that didn't believe it was wrong. What makes our opinion right and theirs wrong? Some might say it's because our morals have evolved (improved over time) since then. OK, then let's look at another issue – abortion. In the US now, abortion is legal. What would pro-abortion advocates say if, 100 years from now, people viewed our generation with the same outrage that we view slave owners? They might ask how we could allow such a cruel and immoral thing to be practiced. Would they be wrong then? Or are we wrong now?

You see, if there is no immutable, objective standard of morality, then issues like slavery or abortion can never be viewed as right or wrong; they are only practiced or not practiced as our opinions change. So when an unbeliever attacks my faith by telling me the Bible condones slavery or that Saul committed genocide against the Amalekites, it sounds to me like he's speaking gibberish. He might as well be saying the Bible condones eating orange Starbursts.

This brings me back to my opening point. The Thought.com article quoted above said, “The idea that atheists have no reason to be moral without a god or religion may be the most popular and repeated myth about atheism out there.” No Christian apologist, to my knowledge, has ever said that atheists can't be moral. Nor has anyone said atheists don't have a reason to be moral. What we're saying is that, if atheism were true, then there can be no such thing as morality. There are only shifting preferences that are about as objective as the correct flavor of gum. When atheists claim to be moral, or share their opinions of Christian morality, they are acting in ways not consistent with their stated belief. It's irrational. It is like a person who claims to not believe in gravity but still knows he would die if he jumped off a building.

Genesis 1:31 says, And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.God created a “very good” world so we know that there is a way things ought to be. Sin is when we disobey God. When we sin, we are judged. The Bible says the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin and death were not part of God's original creation. They are not the way things ought to be. There can only be such things as good and evil because there is a God! It's not that I believe in God because it sort of make sense. I know there is a God because that is the only thing that makes sense!

Further reading: