googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Moving the Goal Posts

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moving the Goal Posts

A good theory must be falsifiable; in other words, it must make predictions that can be tested to determine how sound or useful the theory is. I hear this as a criticism of creationism all the time but I believe proponents of the theory of evolution effectively excuse themselves from this criterion. For example, even Darwin offered suggestions/predictions on how his theory could be falsified. Some of the predictions are specific and reasonable. But as we close in on proving the theory wrong, evolutionary scientists simply move the goal post and dismiss that prediction as a valid way to disprove the theory. In this blog, we’re going to look at a few of the most egregious examples of this practice.

Darwin said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” In his book, Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe, a biochemist, coined the term, “irreducible complexity” which, I believe, describes the kind of organ that Darwin had in mind. According to Behe, a system is irreducibly complex if it cannot function if even a single component is removed. After all, how could a system evolve gradually if it had to have every piece in place before it has any function at all?

Behe offered several examples of systems he said were irreducible complex. Critics, however, began to assail his examples – some more successfully than others – and attempted to show how such organs/systems could indeed have evolved gradually. In the end though, it is of no consequence because many evolutionists now argue that irreducible complexity is simply an argument from ignorance; just because we cannot imagine how such a system could have evolved, it does not prove the system didn’t evolve. So Darwin’s prediction of a complex organ disproving his theory is of no effect. No organ, no matter how complex, will ever fit the bill. It may still have evolved, we just don’t know how.

Another difficulty Darwin recognized with his theory was the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. He said, “But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?” In another chapter he said, “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? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” Darwin, of course, blamed the imperfection of the fossil record for the lack of transitional forms. But now, 150 years and billions of fossils later, there is still a conspicuous lack of transitional forms: perhaps a hundred examples, not the countless numbers Darwin predicted should be there.
The late, Stephen Jay Gould, a champion of evolutionary theory, was frank about the nonexistence of gradualism in the fossil record. In a 1972 paper, along with Niles Eldredge, Gould, proposed an evolutionary theory known as punctuated equilibrium. According to Gould, evolution occurs first in a very small group of individual organisms isolated from the larger, parental population. The smaller group rapidly evolves while the larger group remains static. Since the large group leaves the most fossils, and the smaller group very few, it easily explains the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. How convenient that Gould would suggest a theory to explain the LACK of evidence. Remember, Darwin said the lack of transitional forms was “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” But the goal posts have been moved. Now, PE explains why evolution is still true in spite of the fact there’s no fossil evidence of it.

Evolutionary biologist, J. B. S. Haldane, is credited with having said, “I will give up my belief in evolution if someone finds a fossil rabbit in the Precambrian.” That’s a pretty specific prediction. Evolutionists argue that animal life began as microbes, evolved into marine animals, then amphibians, later reptiles, and finally birds and mammals. If a rabbit (or any animal believed to have evolved later) were found in the earliest rock layers, it would be strong evidence the theory wasn’t true. But even before such an out of place fossil is found, evolutionists have started distancing themselves from the idea it would be evidence against their theory.

From, we have the following quote: “In order to falsify a theory, you need to know what the theory says. Finding an out-of-sequence fossil or an "impossible" animal may not falsify evolution, but it would falsify the particular theories (in this case historical theories) about that group of organisms - for example, if we found a modern rabbit in the Cambrian Era, we would have a massive problem with existing phylogenies. We might even say that if the program of constructing phylogenies based on the theory of common descent were that wrong, there might be a problem with common descent, and abandon that theory. But this, in itself, would be insufficient to falsify the entire set of theories of evolution, although it might be enough to make people think twice about the general set of assumptions on which they are based.” [Bold in original]. So there you have it; to some evolutionists, not even a rabbit in the Cambrian layer would disprove evolution!

There are other examples I could list but I think you get the point. To the true believers, evolution is true – let the evidence be damned! Nothing, no matter how contrary to earlier predictions, can dissuade devout evolutionists. The Theory of Evolution cannot be disproved as long as evolutionary scientist continuously move the goal posts.

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