googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Who doesn't understand evolution? Part 1

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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4 comments:

Steven J. said...

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

You misrepresent Tyler Franke's argument here. His point is that you can infer unobserved events from observed evidence, and test rival theories about unobserved past events from evidence that has survived into the present, and that there is a lot of evidence for evolution. You may call this "indirect observation," or "inference from observation," as you prefer, but he certainly is not arguing against the relevance of observation to science. He makes the additional point that the failure to observe something that the theory predicts will not happen (e.g. the evolution from fish to camel during a human lifetime) is not a disconfirmation of the theory.

He is not arguing that it is reasonable to believe things with no evidence; he is arguing that there are many kinds of powerful evidence beyond direct eyewitness observation of a phenomenon.

Oddly, you don't really address Bill Nye's point. First, he does not concede that there is a difference between studies of the past and studies of the present. All studies are done in the present, in one locale or a small range of locales, and it is inferred that these results apply at other locales and times. No one would do science merely to find out, e.g. the tensile strength of a particular steel alloy in one laboratory on one date; the work is done on the assumption that these results will still be true in, e.g. a suspension bridge that will be built ten years from now. Why should we assume that our discoveries will be relevant to the future but not to the past, or to other places but not other times?

Second, you don't deal with the CSI question. Is there any reason, on your argument, for the existence of NTSB crash scene investigators, or arson detectives, or autopsies? All these efforts are attempts to reconstruct a unique, unobserved, unrepeatable past event. Are all of them invalid? If not, then why are attempts to reconstruct events millions of years past and evolutionary relationships invalid?

Behind all YEC arguments about "historical" or "origins" science is the idea that it is reasonable to posit myriad miracles not mentioned in Genesis to "explain" why we don't see any evidence of the miracles that are mentioned in Genesis.

Steven J. said...

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

First, a note: Darwin's comments on the extreme imperfection of the fossil record and the paucity of expected transitional forms has to do with gradual transitions between species (i.e. not genera, families, orders, classes, etc. -- or "kinds," for that matter). It is a plain fact that erosion is commonplace; enormous masses of fossil-bearing strata must have been obliterated over the eons (good luck looking for dinosaurs in Illinois: the Mesozoic rocks are long gone). Others must have been buried miles deep beneath later layers of rock. Humans have searched, in depth, only a very tiny fraction of the fossil-bearing rocks that do exist and are more or less accessible, even today. We haven't anything like a representative sampling.

But there are places where immense numbers of fossils have been laid down in succession over millions of years (trilobite beds are the usual example). We see thousands of fossils of one species of trilobite (varying among themselves slightly), and then atop it a layer with thousands of specimens of a similar but distinct species (differing, e.g. as brown bear differs from a polar bear or black bear), and atop that yet another layer with yet another similar but distinct species, and no gradations between species. Darwin's problem was that if you have such layers (the theory does not predict that you will), you ought to see no sharp boundaries between species. Eldredge and Gould later revisted this problem with their "punctuated equilibrium" idea.

In any case, the problem is that we lack fossil evidence of the sort of transitions we can actually observe (speciation has been observed), and which creationists readily admit, and have evidence of larger-scale transitions that creationists deny. This is a problem for evolutionary theory but not one that helps creationists, which I suppose is why creationists misrepresent it.

Steven J. said...

There are plenty of arms and plenty of wings. There are virtually none of the imagined in-between forms.

Look at a fossil of Archaeopteryx. If you ignore the feathers, how are its wings distinguishable from arms? Indeed, there was one case of an Archaeopterxy fossil mistaken, at first, for a Compsognathus fossil because the feather impressions were too faint to see easily. Most dinosaur fossils have no trace of skin impressions -- Compsognathus, for example, has none, though the very similar Sinosauropteryx shows impressions of a downy coat with brown and white bands of coloring). If early wings are basically arms with feathers (and they are), and feather impressions are missing from fossils of most animals that had them (and they are -- most bird fossils don't show them), you could be looking at a transitional form and not seeing its transitional features. Such features of birds that are relatively likely to fossilize (e.g. hollow bones and shoulder joints allowing arms to rotate in the motions of flight) do show up in earlier small theropods.

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!

The earliest tetrapods are fish. Eusthenopteron, for example, is just a lobe-finned fish with a few features that point to later leggedness. The "fossils in between" are simply divided into "non-tetrapods" and "tetrapods" the way we arbitrarily divide "not eligible to vote" and "eligible to vote" at midnight of the day before one's 18th birthday. Is one so much smarter or more politically informed come that birthday than one was the day before? Or is it simply a matter of "you have to draw the line somewhere, and this is where we decided to draw it?"

There is no “clear progression” of ... ape-to-man in the fossil record!

Okay, it's time for you to check out Talk.Origin Archives "Comparison of All Skulls" page. Every creationist agrees that every skull on this page is either a "fully formed human" or a "fully formed ape." They just don't agree on which is which. I'm not sure you could ask for a more perfect example of "transitional forms" or maybe even a "clear progression" (although given both evolution's tendency to branching and our own proclivities for mating with dubious mates, a "clear progression" is not really a reasonable expectation).

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

You said, “You misrepresent Tyler Franke's argument here. His point is that you can infer unobserved events from observed evidence, and test rival theories about unobserved past events from evidence that has survived into the present, and that there is a lot of evidence for evolution.”

Just to be clear, Franke explained how we make conclusions about the past but his point is that the criticism “it hasn't been observed” is not a good argument. My response is, yes it is. I've always said we can make observations in the present and draw conclusions – maybe even correct conclusions – about the past but we should not conflate the evidence with our conclusions. That's exactly what Franke and most other evolutionists do. When creationists try to point out the difference, many evolutionists simply double down and further obfuscate.

If you want more explanation of my position (particularly my responses to Bill Nye) you can click on the links in the post above.

Regarding transitional forms, if you want to quibble over how much an arm looks like a wing then forget that. Perhaps the sea-to-land is a more obvious example anyway. You said, “The earliest tetrapods are fish. Eusthenopteron, for example, is just a lobe-finned fish with a few features that point to later leggedness. The "fossils in between" are simply divided into "non-tetrapods" and "tetrapods" the way we arbitrarily divide "not eligible to vote" and "eligible to vote" at midnight of the day before one's 18th birthday.”

Did you read the National Geographic article I cited? Regardless of your characterization of the situation, let me remind you of what the article said: there is a rich fossil record of fish – then there is an abundance of LANDFORMS – and there is virtually nothing in between. The gap is so glaring they even have a name for it, “Romer's Gap.” The article said there were only 3 informative fossils from this supposed 25 million year span of time when sea-to-land evolution allegedly occurred. A zoologist quoted in the article said, “Romer's Gap is a 30-million-year black box that, frankly, keeps me up at night.”

Like I said, there are a few creatures that could be interpreted as transitional between two groups (like a platypus, which we know really isn't transitional). You can trumpet those few examples all you want. None are convincing and there certainly aren't enough of them to demonstrate a clear progressing from one group to another.

Finally, concerning human evolution: evolutionists are quick to trot out homonid family trees and display the skulls of what they claim are human ancestors. However, when they try to actually draw a family tree, they are never very clear on where each ancestor goes. The usual comment is, “We're not sure if this is a grandparent or a cousin.” I've posted the graphs drawn by evolutionists on my blog before and you can see that NONE of them draw a clear progression from non-human to modern-human.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!

RKBentley