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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!

Related posts:


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!

Related posts:


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:



Friday, March 2, 2018

I'm an equal opportunity opponent of despots!


I heard a few days ago that Lt. Governor, Casey Cagle, threatened to use his position as president of the state Senate to kill a proposed sales tax exemption on jet fuel. The move was aimed at Delta Air Lines after their recent announcement they would no longer offer discounts to NRA members. Then, this morning, I hear that lawmakers officially struck down the exemption yesterday. From Reuters.com, we read the following:

Delta said it was ending a discount program for NRA members and had asked the gun rights group to remove its information from the group’s website after the Feb. 14 slaying of 17 students.... Georgia Republicans had criticized the airline’s move to cut its ties to the NRA. They were led by Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, president of the state senate, who vowed to kill any tax legislation that benefited Delta. The bill that passed the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate on Thursday had previously included tax exemption language that had been projected to save Delta some $40 million a year in jet fuel tax.


Really, people?  OK, I know this isn't rocket science but come on!  The first amendment is supposed to protect us against government retribution when we speak out on certain issues. If the NRA speaks out against gun control, people have the right to protest them. If a company like Delta Air Lines decides not to offer discounts to members of the NRA, that's their right. I don't have to like it. I don't have to fly on Delta. I can go on social media and tell everyone who will listen that they should boycott Delta because of their actions toward the NRA. That is what freedom looks like. When government officials use the power of their office to punish a company exercising its God given rights of speech and association, that is what tyranny looks like.

A straightforward reading of the First Amendment shows that it specifically forbids the government from infringing on our right to free speech or association. In other words, the First Amendment doesn't restrict what Delta can do or what the NRA or what I can do; it restricts what the government can do. I will also remind you that we're talking about gun control – a heated political issue. So GA Republicans are specifically punishing Delta Airlines because of its political speech! How much more blatant of a violation does this have to be before more conservatives speak out against it?!

It was just a few years ago when I spoke out against my own state of KY for trying to take away a sales tax exemption from the Ark Encounter. How is this any different? It was Democrats then but I'm an equal opportunity opponent of despots. As they say, "What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."  I do not overlook tyranny just because the tyrants have a little “R” after their names.

People have the right to be stupid and Delta has the right to offend millions of NRA members. They will have to live with their decision when the offended members stop flying on Delta or start calling for boycotts. But when they suffer political reprisal because of their position, they will have an ally in me. I do not want the government choosing sides in political debates, even if they happen to be on my side this time.


Further reading:

Monday, February 26, 2018

Even extraordinary claims require only ordinary evidence!


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post describing how some critics of Christianity use demands for “evidence” as a way of dodging tough questions rather than dealing with them. In that post, I described a hypothetical example of two strangers: one tells me he has a pet dog and the other tells me he has a pet sloth. In these cases, I would be apt to believe the claim to own a dog but be skeptical of the claim to own a sloth.

A few people have tried to point out to me that my heightened suspicion of the claim to own a sloth actually contradicts a point I made later in my post. Carl Sagan made a famous claim that, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” By me being more critical of the claim to own a sloth than a dog, they say I'm engaging in exactly the kind of skepticism Sagan said was necessary before believing an extraordinary claim. I don't think so, but since a few people have accused me of the same thing, I thought I'd use this as an opportunity to expound my earlier point.

First off, Sagan's claim is self-contradicting. If it were true, then where is the evidence for Sagan's claim? I'm not even asking for extraordinary evidence, mind you. I mean any scientific evidence whatsoever to justify the claim that claims require evidence? If Sagan were here and I asked him to present the evidence for his claim, I'm sure he would resort to logic and reason which proves my point. Through logic and reason, we can make judgments about the truthfulness of a claim – even a claim for which there may be no scientific evidence! In my example about the sloth, you will notice that not once did I demand to see the sloth. My point in asking more questions was so that I might judge the truthfulness of the claim using only my skills of logic and reason.

But let's examine that a little but further. What if I were an especially stubborn skeptic and demand to see a picture of the sloth? If he pulled out a photo of him holding his sloth, that really still wouldn't prove anything. How do I know he didn't have that picture taken some exotic petting zoo somewhere? How do I know it's not a Photoshop? Maybe he could take me to his home and show the sloth in person. It's still not enough because, if I were especially bullheaded, I could ask for proof that this was his home. You say he has the deed? So what?! Maybe he's leasing part of his property to someone else who actually owns the sloth! No matter what evidence he shows me, I could sit cross armed and skeptical saying, “That's not enough evidence!”

This is my frustration with many unbelievers. I try to give reasoned arguments and ask they consider them objectively yet they respond only with a demand for more evidence. For some people, I could say that it would take God appearing to them personally to make them believe but I know even that wouldn't be enough because they could still dismiss God's appearance as a hallucination. For someone who truly doesn't want to believe, no amount of evidence – not even extraordinary evidence – is sufficient.

Now back up a minute. Remember about the person claiming to own a dog? If I were just as skeptical of his claim, what evidence might he produce that is different than the evidence that I demanded from the owner of a sloth? In other words, how is the evidence that proves someone owns a dog substantially different than the evidence that proves someone owns a sloth? If I am truly a “blank slate” and will never believe something unless I have evidence for it, then the evidence necessary to prove someone owns a dog need not be any different than the evidence necessary to prove someone owns a sloth.

To prove conclusively a person owns a dog or a sloth or even a stegosaurus, it would take roughly the same evidence: 1) look at his address on his ID, 2) drive to that address, and 3) see if the animal is there. One claim may seem more extraordinary than another, but the evidence to prove any of the claims is rather ordinary. The critic might ask, “what if he doesn't really own the animal? Maybe he's caring for a friend's or relative's pet.” Regardless, whatever could be said of a pet sloth could also be said of a pet dog. The evidence to prove either is still the same.

What if I claimed to own a Big Foot? Simple – drive to my house and see it for yourself. What if I claimed to own a unicorn? Drive to my house and see it for yourself. What if I claimed to have a flying saucer in my backyard? Drive to my house and see if for yourself. What if I claimed to have created a to-scale model of the Grand Canyon in my backyard? Drive to my house and see it for yourself. What is so “extraordinary” about the evidence that could prove any of these extraordinary claims?

Besides the famous quote we've discussed here, Carl Sagan also left us the analogy, The Dragon In My Garage. In that story, he pretended to have dragon in his garage and invited his skeptical friend to see it. Of course, the garage appeared to be empty. Sagan explained the dragon was invisible. The friend thought of ways to see if the dragon was there: spray paint the dragon to make it visible, sprinkle powder on the floor to see its footprints, or use a sensor to detect its flames. One by one, Sagan explained why none of these would work. A subtle irony here is that the skeptic only seems to be looking for ordinary evidence: he wants to see the dragon! Owning a dragon is an extraordinary claim. According to Sagan, it should require extraordinary evidence to substantiate that claim but in this analogy, merely seeing the dragon seems to be enough. So even Sagan, who made this famous quote, seems to understand that the proof for owning a dragon really isn't any different than the proof for owning a dog.

In Isaiah 1:18, God says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” To have the clearest picture of reality requires that we employ our God given gifts of reason and deduction. For someone to set the ridiculously high standard of evidence before believing anything is a guarantee to have a distorted view of reality.

The word “extraordinary” is enormously subjective. It describes more about the person hearing the claim than the nature of the claim itself. When a claim is labeled, “extraordinary,” it means the person hearing the claim has a hard time believing it. Maybe he just doesn't want to believe it. But even extraordinary claims require only ordinary evidence. To say one claim requires “extraordinary” evidence simply means the skeptic is likely to reject most of the evidence you present because of his own incredulity.

Further reading: