Saturday, January 19, 2008

Musings on "good" science

Certain blogs I frequent seem to be posting more and more about the ID-versus-evolution or creationism-versus-evolution debates. While evolutionists keep insisting that there is no debate, they persistently ignore or belittle evidence provided by creationists in response, saying that it is either false or just bad science. I won't make any judgment on those statements here; rather, I will simply throw some small darts, if you will, a few points to consider.

  • Darwinian evolution has been blamed for such items as gangs, murders, and a general rising worldview of "if God doesn't exist or didn't create the world, what prevents me from naturally selecting myself by firing this gun at someone's head?" Evolutionists reply that these conclusions are based on misapplications or misunderstanding of social Darwinism. Are they? If not, show me they aren't.
  • Evolutionists claim that creationism is pseudoscience. Does pseudoscience beget itself? Read this post from Cao2, then bring your answer.
  • Microevolution, or the theory that species change gradually over time, into more specialized species, has been well established. Creationism relies on that too. However, the other component of Darwinian evolution, macroevolution (that, over time, something like a paramecium could develop into a human), has somewhat less support. Looking at this post, a good summary, I wonder how much the second component really matters. Reasons 1 and 2 therein are certainly dependent on microevolution, not macroevolution. While reason 3 depends on both components, this is because it refers to the AP test, which assumes the truth of both.

6 comments:

Ed Darrell said...

As to the first point, the question is what helps us understand those societal dysfunctions in order to stop them. Many hypotheses offer explanations for why people are cruel or unethical. A nod to evolution seems to work quite well in understanding the psychologies of all sorts of people. Evolution theories' aid is both good and appreciated. It's no more a justification for evil than scripture.

As to the second point: Evolution was discovered by Christians, too. The faith of the scientist has zero to do with the value of any scientific branch, theory, or fact. Cao's list is misleading (chiefly to Cao) in its implicit assertions that Bible believing scientists would not support evolution theory. As I noted, the discoverers of evolution were Bible believers. The ethical assumption is that other Bible believers would support Darwin and Wallace, as indeed they did, because of their ethical commitment to doing the honest thing with regard to the evidence available. Cao's list should be regarded chiefly as a list of people who did or would have supported evolution theory had they had occasion to study it. Many on her list were dead long before evolution theory was discovered (Newton). Others she assumes, erroneously, opposed evolution (Agassiz, Linne, Lord Kelvin). Bible-believing scientists do well so long as they stick to the facts. Creationist scientists of the late 20th and 21st centuries should follow their examples, but don't. (What was the point of Cao's list, anyway?)

As to the third point, there is no discernible difference between microevolution and macroevolution. The processes are exactly the same in both -- if microevolution is conceded, then, there is no barrier to macroevolution. In the very few cases any scientist has used "macro" evolution, it's usually defined as speciation. Speciation has been observed dozens of times, in plants, in bacteria, in insects, and in animals. The American apple maggot and perhaps the cotton boll weevil are rather recent innovations, new speciations of insects since Europeans started colonizing the Americas: Macroevolution. The AP test is based on no assumption, but is instead based on what evidence shows in observation in the wild, and in the lab.

Hannah J said...

Ed, you seem to be answering a different question than the first one I asked. Good answer, but invalid.

"Evolution was discovered by Christians, too." Who? Darwin? Lyell (who deeply influenced Darwin's thinking)? Here are two quotes from the book "Darwin of the Beagle" (Bern Dibner, Cambridge, MA: Burndy Library, 1964, 82, 83):

"[Darwin was ridiculed by several of the officers for quoting the Bible as final authority on some moral point." This led to his statement "...that the Old Testament from its manifest false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than...the beliefs of any barbarian." A reading of these quotes implies that his faith in God was eroded by his faith in science. There is a relationship.

"...implicit assertions that Bible believing scientists would not support evolution theory." Either God created the heavens and the earth in six days a few thousand years ago as described in Genesis 1, or He did not (letting it happen some other way). What especially gets my goat is the twisting of the intended (literal) meaning of the text by theistic evolutionists. If each day was an age (be it a million years or some other number), why would there be the words "evening and morning, the (nth) day"? In the singular? Would plants survive, for example, for half an age without light, then half an age with it? Genesis 1, because of this and other reasons, cannot be reconciled with Darwinian evolution.

"As to the third point, there is no discernible difference between microevolution and macroevolution. The processes are exactly the same in both -- if microevolution is conceded, then, there is no barrier to macroevolution." Why not? There is a certain amount of genetic variation (quite broad in some species) WITHIN a given genome. If one proposes to change, say, a cow into a whale (macroevolution) by genetic processes such as mutation, what is the likelihood of a pileup of spontaneous, beneficial mutations? I could go on--but the fact is, that micro- and macro-evolution are two distinct processes. Genesis speaks of animals reproducing "each according to its kind"--i.e. within a group of some size, perhaps a family or genus. That's microevolution.

Ed Darrell said...

"Evolution was discovered by Christians, too." Who? Darwin? Lyell (who deeply influenced Darwin's thinking)?

Yes, Darwin, and Wallace, both of whom were devout Christians when they discovered evolution theory. Darwin never left the church, raised his children as Christian, stayed active in parish affairs to his death, and tithed plus his entire life. By any fair measure, Darwin was the model of a Christian English gentleman (with the possible exception of sexual double standards -- Darwin was faithful to his wife).

The point is that mere membership in the church cannot imply that Christians would oppose evolution, especially honest Christians.

Lyell, for his part, refuted flood geology up one side and down the other -- but could not bring himself to endorse evolution theory. As a good Christian, however, he did not spread creationist falsehoods against it.

Cao's list claims Newton, who took the angels out of planetary motion, was a creationist. What a crock. Newton was dead over a hundred years when evolution was published. Faraday worked in electricity. There is no indication he opposed evolution theory.

The point Cao missed was this: Creationists do not do good science in biology. There is no body of science knowledge that supports a case, in science, against evolution.

Lord Kelvin was no biologist. Most of the people Cao names said nothing against evolution, ever. That they did good science was often despite church opposition (Pasteur, for example), and can in no way be taken as an endorsement of creationism, nor as an endorsement of religion against science. (The list is from the hoary old ICR lists -- did Cao give proper attribution, or just plagiarize hoping we'd not seen the list before?)

Here are two quotes from the book "Darwin of the Beagle" (Bern Dibner, Cambridge, MA: Burndy Library, 1964, 82, 83):

"[Darwin was ridiculed by several of the officers for quoting the Bible as final authority on some moral point." This led to his statement "...that the Old Testament from its manifest false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than...the beliefs of any barbarian."


It that book says that, it's wrong. Darwin noted his creationist beliefs as a voyager aboard the Beagle, but he never suggested that his discussions with other men influenced his religious thinking, nor his rejection of Genesis as a literal and historical account. They were unrelated. (You really should mention Capt. FitzRoy's anger at Darwin's refusal to agree that the Bible favored racially-based slavery here, don't you think? It would give a more accurate portrait of Darwin's own religious beliefs and his conflicts with prevailing religious ideas of the time.)

A reading of these quotes implies that his faith in God was eroded by his faith in science. There is a relationship.

Darwin never said his faith in God was ever eroded, except by claims from creationists against what God's creation showed to be true. Darwin said that, if God created a deceptive universe, then Darwin would not believe in that God.

So the question is this: Do you agree with 19th century creationists that God deceives? Darwin and most Christians of the day refused that as an obvious falsehood. Most Christians today would refuse to believe in a deceiver God.

Surely no rational person would argue Christians must believe God lies, would they?

Ed Darrell said...

Either God created the heavens and the earth in six days a few thousand years ago as described in Genesis 1, or He did not (letting it happen some other way).

So, then the creation God describes to Job, in and around chapters 28 and later, is not the creation God made? It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the creation story in Genesis 1. For that matter, the story in Genesis 2 differs on key details, too, such as the order of creation for animals.

Was God lying to Job?

How do you decide which creation story is the right one? Why? The Bible makes no claims that any of them are scientifically correct. The point of the creation stories is that God is the creator, regardless the how of creation.

Which prophet got to say which creation stories are wrong?

Ed Darrell said...

"As to the third point, there is no discernible difference between microevolution and macroevolution. The processes are exactly the same in both -- if microevolution is conceded, then, there is no barrier to macroevolution." Why not? There is a certain amount of genetic variation (quite broad in some species) WITHIN a given genome. If one proposes to change, say, a cow into a whale (macroevolution) by genetic processes such as mutation, what is the likelihood of a pileup of spontaneous, beneficial mutations? I could go on--but the fact is, that micro- and macro-evolution are two distinct processes. Genesis speaks of animals reproducing "each according to its kind"--i.e. within a group of some size, perhaps a family or genus. That's microevolution.

If you had read Darwin, you'd remember that he spends the first couple of chapters making the point that there is enough variation in most species as they exist to produce entirely new species, with no further mutations. There is no limit beyond which species may not evolve. By 1870, several examples of spontaneous speciation in nature were documented. That's "macro" evolution, to the creation of a new species. As a pragmatic matter, most of the time in sypatric speciation, the changes are so minor that we can only tell in retrospect that a speciation event occurred, and sometimes that's difficult if there are not at least two surviving branches.

If one proposed to change an even-toed ungulate, land-dweller, into a whale, one could do it in about 40 steps. We already have fossils showing no fewer than 23 of the steps. What was your point? Whale evolution is well established, one of the premiere examples of evolution -- confirmed now by DNA evidence.

Here's one source, written before another dozen species were found:
http://www.talkorigins.org/features/whales/

As the bumper stickers say, "Evolution? We win -- we have the fossils." And, "We have the DNA, too."

Hannah J said...

I didn't ask you to engage in a fact battle. That can easily be waged on other blogs. All I ask is that you answer the question straight. If you prefer the former, no more comments on this post published for you.