googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Who doesn't understand evolution? Part 3

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.

Related posts:


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.

Related posts:

2 comments:

Steven J. said...

And let's be honest, evolutionists – people who believe in evolution – invariably also believe in abiogenesis and the Big Bang.

They also believe, pretty much invariably, in atomic theory and heliocentric astronomy. You don't call those "evolution" simply because people who accept the common ancestry of humans and monkeys also accept atoms and the solar system; rather, the term refers to all those ideas in modern science that contradict your interpretation of the Bible (e.g. radiometric dating is not, to an old-Earth creationist, part of "evolution"). Note especially "your interpretation;" by my literal reading of Genesis, meteorology contradicts Genesis, since it attributes rain to things like humidity, air pressure, and wind direction rather than to God opening hatchways in the solid canopy of the sky to let the water above the sky fall through. But that's not your interpretation, so to you, meteorology isn't "evolution."

I think the problem is this: you are arguing that because we don't have an explanation for the origin of life as finished and final as "it was magicked into existence by the ineffable sovereign will of an omnipotent Creator," then, e.g. pseudogenes for vitellogenin in the human genome are no reason for supposing that we had egg-laying ancestors, and identically-disabled GULO pseudogenes shared with chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys are no reason to infer common ancestors with them. If we can't tell you what, if anything, came before the Big Bang, then you need not trouble to explain, or explain away, the cosmic microwave background or the relative abundances of hydrogen and helium in the cosmos, or even why radiometric dating contradicts Genesis.

It's an "if you can't explain everything, there's no reason to accept your explanation of anything" argument -- as though a historian's conclusions about the American Civil War were invalid because he offered no explanation for why North and South had not been settled by, e.g. the French, or the Russians, or the Chinese.

Steven J. said...

When a creationist says, it's only a “theory,” he's expressing his doubts about evolution as an explanation of the objective, observable facts.

It seems to me that much of the time, the creationist means to distinguish between "laws" (ideas about the universe that have been proven, or that he has no theological or exegetical objections to), and "theories" (ideas that have not been proven, or that contradict his dogmas). They have no problem, quite often, with conclusions that are inferences from observations rather than observations themselves (e.g. radio waves, or atoms, or even, in some cases, solar fusion), as long as they can reconcile this with their own ideas of what scripture is and says.

A huge fraction of science is inference from observation rather than observation itself: no one's ever seen an electron, or a magnetic field, or a full orbit of the planet Pluto. In that respect, these ideas are no different from common ancestry of humans and hummingbirds or the Big Bang.

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!

An interesting choice of analogy. But the geologist isn't particularly interested in why the Earth is 4.54 billion years old, rather than, say, 3.95 billion or 5.33 billion. A better analogy, I think, would be: you come across a dead body in a room. There's a small hole in the dead person's chest, and a larger hole in the back, and a hole with a blood-smeared bullet in it in the wall. A mainstream, secular CSI infers that the person was shot with the bullet recovered from the wall, and you insist that this is "just a theory" and that it is equally reasonable to infer death from leprosy, with the holes in the victim being merely an unusual symptom and the bullet in the wall merely a coincidence.