googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Answering the Critics about the Five Lies of Evolution

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Answering the Critics about the Five Lies of Evolution

When visitors leave feedback, I always try to be polite and respond. I appreciate all my visitors and especially welcome people who disagree with me. Two visitors had a lot to say about my recent blog, Five Lies Evolutionists Tell. One poster, who goes by the name Steven J (hereafter referred to as SJ), left seven comments. Another poster hosts his own blog (The Palaeobabbler (hereafter referred to as TP)) where he critiqued my post. Responding to them will be a challenge because I copied their comments into a Word document and it was 7 pages long. Certainly the comment section is not enough so I thought it would be best write another post that covers some of the key points they raise. Even then, I will have to greatly abbreviate my response.

Lie #1: “Evolution is a FACT”

SJ said, “That's not equivocation. Evolution is defined by biologists as "descent with modification" or "change in the frequency of inherited traits in a population over time." Neither definition species the amount of modification or how much traits have to change. Part of the problem creationists have in arguing against evolution (or is this a tactic?) is that they don't use scientific terms in their proper sense.”

I wrote a post a while back where I discussed how much of evolution occurs “by definition.” That's not the kind of evolution we're talking about. Remember that I was talking about lies evolutionists tell; it's clever that you try to pin this on creationists. When I hear evolutionists say, “evolution is a FACT,” they aren't careful to distinguish that they mean only changes in population. They are happy for the confusion between evolution (changes within a species) and evolution (the common ancestry of all species). This is why I say they are equivocating.

To his credit TP has noticed this as well. He said, “He [RKBentley] is not completely wrong as I have seen some debaters online make this claim. The proper claim, or rather that which is put forward by actual scientists, is that evolution is both theory and fact.” However, he goes on to say that I am, “completely unaware that most scientists consider common descent to be the fact of evolution.” I assure you that I am well aware of that. I said as much in my post. To quote, “A person who says, “Evolution is a FACT” is merely stating his conviction that “evolution” is true; that doesn't make it true regardless of his use of all capital letters!”

Lie #2: “Evolution and the Bible are compatible.”

SJ and TP are on the same page in their response to my second point. Just as I has accused proponents of the belief of doing, they both believe that evolution and the Bible could be compatible if the Bible doesn't mean what it says. I'm not sure of SJ's spiritual beliefs but he points out how (he assumes) I don't believe the Bible “literally” about things like “the windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11). I have written before about the difference between believing the Bible “literally” and understanding its plain meaning. I would refer SJ to that article.

TP and I had a protracted discussion on Face Book about the genre of Genesis. Anyway, he asserts overtly that the creation account in Genesis is a “powerful creation myth and is not meant to be literal.” In other words, the Bible doesn't mean what it clearly says.

TP did bring up one point that I should clarify. This “lie” is used by both atheists and theists. The atheists (such as those in groups like NCSE) who offer this are clearly lying. They are merely trying to make evolution more palatable to Christians; they don't believe the Bible personally so how can they sincerely claim that the Bible and evolution are compatible? Theistic evolutionists who make this claim may be wrong but are still being sincere.

Lie 3 - There is no evidence for Creation

TP and SJ had a field day with this one and devoted most of their comments to this point. It's tempting to address individual points they raise but there's simply not enough space. Many of their points are off topic anyway because I believe they both have missed the main thrust of my claim.

My point is that theories are attempts to explain the evidence while the evidence itself is neutral. SJ brings up a lot of individual items of evidence and says that creation doesn't explain them. He says for example, “there is no creationist theory that explains why, e.g. there are primitive whales... that have hind limbs.” Then he concludes his comments on this point by saying, “Then what is some of this evidence [for creation]? "Science can't explain this yet" is not really evidence;” Consider his comments very carefully: He suggests on one hand that since creation can't explain something, it is evidence for evolution; then on the other hand says that saying, “science can't explain this” isn't really evidence for creation. That's hilarious. I might have to add a hypocrite label on this post.

TP does a lot of the same thing as SJ except that he doesn't contradict himself at the conclusion of his remarks. He talks about how the evidence “shows” the age of the earth and how long evolution has been occurring. Again I say that the “evidence” doesn't “say” anything. Scientists have looked at the evidence and constructed their theory to explain their observations.

I spoke in generalities before but let me give a specific example. I believe that complexity is evidence for design and therefore is evidence for a Designer. Aldous Huxley once said, “Organisms are built as if purposefully designed, and work as if in purposeful pursuit of a conscious aim. But the truth lies in those two words 'as if.' As the genius of Darwin showed, the purpose is only an apparent one.” Francis Crick later said, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see is not designed, but rather evolved.”

I believe design is evidence for creation. Evolutionists go to great lengths to explain why they believe it isn't but the more they explain the more they prove my point. They know things look designed. The difference isn't the evidence but the theories that explain the evidence.

Both SJ & TP took different approaches to my assertion that the Bible itself is evidence for creation. SJ claims that, since the Bible isn't peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal, it can't be considered evidence. This doesn't mean it isn't evidence only that he disqualifies it as evidence. One might say he's ignoring the evidence. TP professes to believe the Bible but interprets it differently than I do concerning creation. Again, this goes back to my claim – same evidence, different explanations. Either way, their explanations as to why they don't accept the Bible don't make the Bible disappear. It is still on the table for people to consider as evidence.

Lie #4: “Evolution has been tested and proven even more than gravity.”

Now it's TP's turn to contradict himself. He claims I'm making a straw man then immediately says, “I have certainly seen the claim that gravity has been tested more, but this needs some qualification.” Indeed it does need some qualification but not from me. It is the equivocal people who he has seen make this claim that need to explain themselves. I say they are equivocating and intentionally conflate the theory of gravity with the phenomenon of gravity. What gravity is is uncertain. That gravity is is a fact. I did a simple Google search and uncovered this pithy example written by “free thinker”, Douglas Schrepel, “Evolution is just a theory... like gravity.” Doesn't it sound like Mr. Schrepel is calling gravity a theory? Is he qualifying his remark? I'll let my readers decide.

SJ waxed on and on about predictions made using evolution or gravity but, in my opinion, never really addressed the point. There is a theory of gravity but to say something like, “Well, gravity is a theory too” is terribly misleading.

Lie 5 - Microevolution over time leads to Macroevolution

Once again I believe both TP and SJ have missed the point. I'm aware that, according to their theory, novel traits are being added to the population. My point is that TIME is not the mechanism. We can witness changes in populations. They seem to suggest that time is a magic wand that turns small changes into big changes. But not all change is equal. You cannot add colors to a population by removing colors. It doesn't matter how long it happens.

Natural selection is a process by which traits not suitable to an environment are removed from a population. Contrary to TP's claims, it indeed does remove variation from a population. Have you noticed there is a lot of variety among bears but not as much variety among polar bears? Animals adapt to their environment and become more specialized and less diverse. That's natural selection. TP makes the unsubstantiated claim that, “variation does not run out.... With more variation entering the gene pool, natural selection can become more versatile.” So what is the mechanism that adds variation to the gene pool? I know what the mechanism supposedly is and it isn't time.

SJ hits the nail on the head. He says, “Why, I suppose it would take until a mutation produced an allele which coded for a new color.” Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. Time doesn't add traits to a population – mutations do. At least, mutations are the only candidates that could possibly add traits to a population. I've blogged about supposed trait adding mutations one a few occasions but that isn't the point here now. The point is that time is not the agent that can turn a frog into a prince. It's true that populations change. It's true that populations change over time. But don't tell me that change and time are the only things we need. It's a lie.

Further reading: Five Lies Evolutionists Tell


Steven J. said...

First, thank you for your response to my post.

Regarding point (or "lie") one, when evolutionists say that "evolution is a theory and a fact," they mean "evolution is both common descent with modification, which is supported by evidence to such an extent that it would be perverse not to accept it until (if ever) strong contrary evidence surfaces, and an explanation for how speciation and modification take place." In other words, the idea that we share ancestors with gorillas and goldfish is the "fact" and mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, etc. as the cause of that fact is the "theory."

"Evolution is a fact" cannot be separated from point (or "lie") four, "evolution has been tested and proven." Evolutionists accept common ancestry because it is supported by evidence ranging from fossils to details of anatomy like the recurrent laryngeal nerve in different vertebrate species and embryonic teeth and hind limb buds in baleen whales, to the tree pattern of shared genetic traits, such as the pseudogenes and endogenous retroviruses I mentioned in an earlier post. Within our own species, we consider such shared genetic variants to be compelling evidence of shared ancestry (e.g. in paternity tests). Unless we assume a priori that changes in populations over time must be limited to "kinds" acceptable to creationists.

Making predictions is not missing the point; it is the point: testing predictions is how one tells whether a theory should be counted as true or false.

Steven J. said...

Regarding point ("lie") two, I am a nonbeliever and regard Genesis as myth and legend, and perhaps you will dismiss my argument on that ground (after all, if I don't buy it myself, why should you?). But I read the article about taking the Bible literally, and it seems to me that you are rather too blithe about how obvious it is whether various biblical passages are figurative or literal.

When Jesus says that he wishes he could gather Bethsaida under his wings, okay, that's pretty clearly figurative, as the Bible is pretty clear that the Word did not become chicken flesh. But are "pillars of the Earth" obviously figurative? If you think the Earth is a flat disk (and we know that, e.g. Josephus the Jewish historian, Theophilus of Antioch the early Christian, and many others believed exactly that, because they flat-out said so -- so it isn't obviously impossible that the authors of the Old Testament also believed these things), then it isn't at all implausible or absurd that the flat Earth rests on pillars. Likewise, if you think that the sky is an opaque, solid dome over the flat Earth, references to the "windows of heaven" could be as literal as references to the mountains or the sea.

What you think of as "obviously" literal or figurative depends heavily on what you think [a] science has actually demonstrated about the universe and [b] the biblical authors knew (or were prevented by divine inspiration from contradicting) about what science has shown about the universe. If you think that the Old Testament writers knew that the Earth was a globe that orbited the sun, then you assume that references to the "pillars of the Earth" or the immobility of the Earth are figurative. If you think they knew about common descent, you assume that the creation accounts in Genesis are figurative.

Steven J. said...

Regarding point (or "lie") three, I think I failed to make myself clear.

First, when I was listing items that creationism doesn't explain, my point was that evolutionary theory does explain them. They are potential tests and actual confirmations of the predictions of evolutionary theory. It is certainly not the point that anything that creationism can't explain is evidence for evolution. It is, rather, that data that evolutionary theory can explain are evidence for evolution -- and there are many, many such facts.

If they were, viewed another way, evidence for creationism, then creationism could explain them: it could say that, given the methods and design philosophy of the Creator, we can predict that these things would be this way rather than that way. I was arguing against the common creationist position that different assumptions yield contrary, equally reasonable and scientific explanations of the evidence: creationism doesn't explain the evidence, and evolution does.

My main point with regard to the Bible isn't that it isn't peer-reviewed. As I noted, even peer-reviewed articles are not assumed to establish facts in their own right that cannot be contradicted by other observations. And I argued that your point about rival interpretations based on different assumptions applies to the Bible itself, arguably more than it applies to, e.g. comparisons of homologous pseudogenes or organs. The Bible is a whole lot of data, but "Genesis is a literal inerrant account of how things began by the Person Who began them all" is not the only plausible account of those data.

Steven J. said...

Regarding point ("lie") five, I see your point; I just don't see the point of your point. No one is claiming that time alone suffices. You practically note that yourself, when you rephrase the claim as "change and time are the only things we need." "Change" includes changes at the genetic level during reproduction: mutations. Change and time are more than time alone.

"Microevolution" includes mutations. Granted, in some cases of microevolution, the mutations may not have figured in natural selection: the traits that spread through the population may have existed for a very long time in the population at low levels. But in some cases, such as the (micro)evolution of antibiotic resistance in monoclonal (genetically-identical) bacterial colonies, the mutations occurred during the experiment.

I also noted the variety of observed mutations. To say (as some creationists have said, and as you may have been thinking of saying) that mutations cannot "add information" is to say, basically, that no possible change to the genome could "add information." That's pretty much the same thing as saying that a bacterium and a blue whale contain equal amounts and values of information ... which doesn't seem to argue against common descent.

By the way, I like the new look of your blog. I finally figured out what your avatar is: a Christian wielding the sword of the Spirit and wearing the full armor of God (but isn't that breastplate of righteousness a little big?).

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

Thanks as always for your comments. It's been fun but I cannot devote all of my time to these points. I'm sure I'll address some of these again from various angles so keep visiting. Also, you might read some other posts I've already made on related topics:

Also, you said, “By the way, I like the new look of your blog. I finally figured out what your avatar is: a Christian wielding the sword of the Spirit and wearing the full armor of God (but isn't that breastplate of righteousness a little big?).”

Thanks. I was wondering what people thought of the new look. I'm still a little worried that the colors make it hard to read. And you couldn't make out my avatar before? I apologize. I know that some computers display my blog differently but I had no idea some people couldn't see that. I really didn't have Ephesians in mind when I chose that but that's a good comparison. I was thinking more of a “Christian soldier” angle with a little “childlike faith” thrown in. I also thought it was appropriate for my blog theme, “A Sure Word” (from Psalm 19:7), “making wise the simple.” That's one thing that's so great about art; it's means a lot of different things to different people.

God bless!