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Evolution vs. Creation again, Part 1 - (from another list)

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  • distazo@aol.com
    I read this post on [anti-atheist-websites]. It is part of a discussion between Donald McLaughlin and Brian van der Spuy. Brian was on CED for a short while,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2003
      I read this post on [anti-atheist-websites]. It is part of a discussion
      between Donald McLaughlin and Brian van der Spuy. Brian was on CED for a short
      while, until he removed himself after a disagreement with Steve (see the CED posts
      around May 17, 2003 for the particulars).

      I enjoyed Brian's discussion with Donald, and even though it's from a non-C/E
      list, it's relevant here, especially since Donald, like Steve, relies a lot
      on theology in his anti-evolution arguments.

      [[[From: "Donald McLaughlin" <donald@...>
      Subject: Re: Re: Evolution vs. Creation again
      I apologize for the length of this post, but I did want to respond
      to Brian's post.]]]

      {{{WARNING TO UNINTERESTED PARTIES: THIS IS A MEGAPOST}}}}

      ---This thread is running out of all control. I have every intention
      of trying to limit the length of my response, but knowing myself, I
      can confidently predict that I won't succeed.

      [[[I never said it was representative of whole book. What I said
      was the thinking characterized in the quote undergirds the entire

      argument. And that thinking continues to the present day among
      contemporary evolutionists. I've already provided some quotes along
      those lines from Gould, et.al.]]]

      ---The point of science is to answer the 'why' questions. I.e.
      questions such as 'why would the creator do X?' are perfectly
      legitimate, if we're goping to assume a creator. And as all those
      quotes you posted quite amply demonstrate, ID *cannot answer any of
      these questions.* 'Why did the creator do X?' is a rhetorical
      question that points out the intellectual poverty of ID as
      explanation.

      [[[You totally mis-characterize the argument. The argument is that
      Darwin could not accept that the actual arrangements he found in
      nature could possibly have been the handiwork of God as creator.
      His conception of God simply wouldn't allow it.]]]

      ---Actually, *no* conception of God would work, until such time as
      there is a testible theory of creation.

      [[[For example (again), after discussing the grouping of species in
      Orgin, Darwin concludes that "these are strange relations on the
      view that each species was independently created" and that is
      is "utterly inexplicable on the theory of creation." In other
      words, IF God had created the species, there is no reason we should
      find similarities among them. It just
      isn't something that God would have done, according to his
      theology.]]]

      ---And those who want to bring God back into science, should then
      tell us what their testible theory is.

      [[[This same thinking crops up everywhere in the evolutionary
      literature today. Thus Mark Ridley writes in his book "Evolution",
      speaking of certain trees, "If the 11 species [of trees] had
      independent origins, there is no reason why their homologies whould
      be correlated" ..."if they were independently created, it would be
      very puzzling if they showed systematic,
      hierarchical similiarity in functionally unrelated
      characteristics." Really? why? ]]]

      ---Because all examples of designed things that we have studied fail
      to show such nested hierarchies, especially twin nested hierarchies.
      They fail to do this because intelligent designers are not
      constrained by history, as evolution is.

      [[[Naturally, Ridley and Darwin and all the others are entitled to
      whatever of view of God they wish. The point is that they smuggle
      that view of God into the very heart of the evolutionary argument
      and use it to justify evolution.]]]

      ---Um, no, they don't. The evidence for evolution points to
      evolution all by itself, without needing any assumptions about God.
      It also fails to point to any other known explanations. If you want
      to bring in other possible explanations, then by all means do.

      [[[If it was all "just science", why would it be necessary to bring
      it into the argument at all?]]]

      ---Because people like you keep on complaining about how no-one
      wants to consider design as theory anymore. So it keeps on being
      necessary to ask rhetorical questions that will show why design
      isn't an explanation. As I pointed out, these questions about
      designers all appear in *popular* books, i.e. the type of book the
      average guy is going to read. But feel free to go scour the peer-
      reviewed literature for more examples of how evolution depends
      crucially on theology.

      [[[You're right, they don't. But they continue to present it as if
      they do. They use this sort of argument to bolster the argument for
      evolution. Thus Steven Gould (again), "Odd arrangements and funny
      solutions are the PROOF [emphasis mine] of evolution--paths that a
      sensible God would never tread but that a natural process,
      constrained by history, follow perforce. No one
      understood thie better than Darwin. Ernst Mayr has shown how
      Darwin, in defending evolution, consistently turned to organic parts
      and geographic distributions that make the least sense."
      (Gould, "The Panda's Thumb")
      Note the argument here: evolution is true because creationism is
      false.]]]

      ---Donald, I can only suggest that you actually *read* some of these
      books instead of quote mining them. Now, if it makes you happy to
      think that evolution depends on theology, you are welcome to it.

      [[[Why does Mayr take the trouble to point out that Darwin
      used "organic parts and geographic distributions that make the least
      sense" in order to defend evolution? Because it fits with the view
      that "God wouldn't have done it that way." ]]]

      ---Indeed. Because if God is an intelligent designer, then the
      designs ought to make sense to other intelligent beings such as
      ourselves. Mayr et al are trying to do *science* here: when
      confronted with two different possible explanations for the same
      data set, you try to eliminate one of them. So if you don't like the
      way in which Mayr eliminates one explanation, then TELL US WHAT ELSE
      YOU WANT HIM TO DO. There is only one way to do that: TELL US WHAT
      THE SCIENTIFIC THEORY OF DESIGN IS.

      {I am merely emphasizing, not screaming.}

      [[[Well, I think they do. Without it, the whole evolutionary
      argument loses steam. I have yet to see any formulation of
      evolutionary logic that doesn't beg the question OR include the
      theological premise.]]]

      ---So my initial claim some months ago, namely that you are not very
      scientifically literate, was accurate. <shrug>
      A word to the wise, Donald: the evidence for evolution is freely
      available. Anyone interested can go look it up for himself. Anyone
      can go put your quotes back in their original context to see for
      himself whether your characterisation is fair.

      [[[[Any attempts at formulating evolutionary arguments without the
      theological premises always
      includes premises that are highly doubtful, beg the question or are
      just plain speculation.]]]

      ---So the fact that we can observe evolution happening is doubtful
      or just plain speculation. Thanks for enlightening us.

      [[[You could of course change all that by providing a syllogism that
      goes from observation to the conclusion of evolution without passing
      through a theological premise or including one that begs the
      question or that is outright speculative. Do you have such a
      syllogism, Brian?]]]

      ---Yes, I have given it to you several times:
      1. Ten million years ago there were no humans on the planet.
      2. All humans have ancestors.
      3. Therefore, whatever our ancestors ten million years ago were,
      they weren't human.
      4. Therefore, we evolved from non-human ancestors.

      Possible test of this theory: if we found human fossils in
      precambrian rocks, it will make nonsense of common descent.

      Confirmation of theory: if evolution does indeed take place in
      relatively small steps, we would expect our recent ancestors to be
      human-like, but no human. As such, we would expect to sooner or
      later find fossils of human-like creatures in the relatively recent
      fossil record. Well, guess what we find.

      Feel free to point out where in the above formulation I made any
      theological assumptions.

      [[[Ah yes, the old "out of context" line. Tell me, Brian, why is
      that whenever an evolutionist quotes an IDist or Creationists it's
      always assumed to be IN context, but whenever an IDer or
      Creationists quotes an evolutionist it is always assumed to be OUT
      of context?]]]

      ---I don't assume quotes of IDists to be in context. I never make
      sweeping conclusions from quotes alone.

      [[[It is precisely because I HAVE read these books (and several
      others) that I make the argument. I keep looking for strong
      evidence, but I don't see any.]]]

      ---None so blind as those who don't want to see. <shrug>

      [[[You're right. I made a bad word choice. But the point remains.
      The evidence claimed for evolution is far less convincing than
      advertised, absent theological premises.]]]

      ---Quite the contrary. As you pointed out, all the theological
      speculation is actually the weakest part of such arguments. The rest
      of the evidence is a matter of public record. If you don't find it
      convincing, that is all right by me. There are also people who do
      not find the evidence for a spherical earth very convincing, and
      people who do not find the evidence that bacteria cause disease very
      convincing.

      [[[A bad theory is still a bad theory even if there's nothing to
      take it's place.]]]]

      ---Ah, but what makes you think evolution is a bad theory? It neatly
      explains just about everything we observe in nature, and has a
      gazillion successful predictions to its credit. If it was completely
      arbitrary, there is no reason why this should be the case.

      [[[ I'm under no obligation to provide a competitor. Now you're
      telling me that evolution wins, not on the strength of the evidence,
      but because there's no other operative competitive theory.]]]]

      ---Indeed. That is how *any* scientific theory wins. The purpose of
      science is to explain and predict. Any theory that does this better
      than not at all, is worth having a look at. If we have more than one
      theory, we set up tests to work out which one is the best. If we
      have only one contender to begin with, then we use it until
      something better comes along.

      As it is, evolution has been used quite extensively to explain and
      predict phenomena in the natural world. If you think it is going to
      be abandoned because you personally don't find it very convincing,
      you are mistaken.

      [[[Well, you're in good company. None other than the eminent Dr.
      Ernst Mayr writes: "The
      greatest triumph of Darwinism is that the theory of natural
      selection, for 80 years after the 1859 a minority opinion, is now
      the prevailing explanation of evolutionary change. It must be
      admitted, however, that it has acheived this position less by the
      amount of irrefutable proofs it has been able to present than by
      default of all the opposing theories." (Mayr: "Toward a
      New Philosophy")]]]]

      ---When was this book written? Mayr has been at it since the 1920s.
      If he thinks that even now there is no evidence for natural
      selection, he is quite mistaken. The mechanism has been proven as
      nearly as it is possible to prove anything in science.

      [[[Naturally, evolution can advance as other theories fail, but IF
      the compelling supports for evolution come not from the evidence,
      but from arguments against creationism, then the *scientific* status
      of evolution is far less than advertised. Such, I contend, is the
      case.]]]

      ---Which leads me ineviatbly to the conclusion that you have not
      read any of these books beyond trying to find supportive quotes in
      them. And I do not mean this as a mere empty insult. I genuinely
      cannot see how you could possibly have really read and understood
      those books, if you think they are mainly theological theses.

      [[[No, Brian. The contention that each fact by itself disproves
      creation is a broad sweeping one and needs clarification. Which
      facts of creationism? For that matter, what does creationism mean in
      this context? The claim lacks any specifics and I'm perfectly
      justified in looking for the details. It does NOT follow that I'm
      under obligation to put forth any alternative theory.]]]

      ---Don't then. I'll stick to the only remaining theory that does
      what a scientific theory should do, namely to explain and predict.
      <shrug>

      [[[I'm questioning the logic and evidence being put forth in support
      of evolution.]]]

      ---Actually, you're not. To question the logic means you have to
      point out flaws in it, which you have more or less failed to do up
      to now, mainly because you have failed to understand any of the
      evidence in the first place.

      [[[ THAT does not require in any way that I have to make an
      alternative theory.]]]

      ---Actually, it does. When I make any argument, there are two ways
      in which to refute it:

      1. Point out the my premises do not appear to have any logical
      connection with my conclusions. E.g. if I argue that "grass is
      green, therefore Bigfoot exists" then you do not need to do any more
      than point out that there isn't really any clear connection between
      green graas and bigfoot's existence.

      2. Point out that while my premises can lead to my conclusion, they
      are not the only ones to do so, and *alternative possible
      explanations exist.* E.g. if I argue that John was the murderer
      because he was found crouching next to the victim's body with the
      murder weapon in his hand, you might agree that this is consistent
      with him being the murderer, but you can then point out that it is
      also possible that the murderer was someone else who dropped the
      weapon next to the victim's body, after which John arrived on the
      scene and picked it up. Whenever such alternatives are at all
      possible, they are usually quite easy to think of.

      Now, in the case of evolution, if you really think there is simply
      no connection at all between the observed data and the conclusion
      that evolution explains the data, then I cannot do anything more
      than to advise you to go see a psychiatrist. I think you'll agree
      that evolution is one possible explanation for the data we observe.
      As it happens, it is also the only explanation, until such time as
      you can come up with another.

      [[[[Likewise, if I did put forth some theory contra-evolution, and
      you questioned my evidence and logic, it would not obligate you to
      provide an alternative theory, no matter how many times
      I asked for one.]]]

      ---See above. If I could point out that your theory doesn't make any
      sense at all, then it would remove my obligation to come up with an
      alternative. However, if you have evidence *for* your theory, then
      the only way I can attack it is to show that your evidence might
      also support alternative explanations (which I would have to
      provide).

      [[[You and some of the others are putting forth all sorts grand
      claims and evidence for the wonders that evolution hath wrought.
      I'm the skeptic in this case. I question the nature of the evidence
      and the logic used to support it.]]]

      ---As I have pointed out above, you have not yet even begun to
      question the evidence. What you have done is to (quite erroneously)
      claim that evolution rests solely upon a theological argument. Well,
      it doesn't, as I have have shown when I provided you with one
      argument for evolution that makes no theological claims of any kind.

      [[[Um, the one's with the 'private' definitions here are the
      evolutionists. Evolutionists can't even agree on what a species is
      or even where the boundary between micro and macro evolution should
      be.]]]

      ---I can tell you what a species is. I can't quite remember it
      verbatim, but it goes something like this: 'a population of cross-
      breeding or potentially cross-breeding organisms.' Of course, in non-
      sexually reproducing organisms, one cannot use that definition. But
      then again, in such organisms, sweeping claims for macro-evolution
      are not made.

      [[[Hence, telling me that "macro-evolution" has been observed is
      merely begging the question.]]]

      ---Well, actually not. If there are really no clear boundaries
      between species, then evolutionary theory isn't under any obligation
      to demonstrate that such boundaries can be crossed. The anti-
      evolutionsists are the ones claiming that there are uncrossable
      bounadries. I am waiting for them to point out some.

      [[[[Thus Mayr writes (oh my,another quote!), "Obviously one cannot
      study the orgin of gaps between species unless one understands what
      species are. But naturalists have had a terrible time trying to
      reach a consensus on this point. In their writings this is referred
      to as "the species problem." Even at present there is not yet
      unanimity on the definition of species." (Mayr: "What Evolution
      Is") And this from the guy who's supposed to be the Grand Pubah of
      evolution writing in a book intended to convey what we know about
      evolution to a general audience. He even has a handy info-box in the
      chapter entitled "The Three Meanings of
      Species". In short,the word species, even among evolutionary
      biologists, is not a clear cut term with a specific definition.]]]

      ---Which, incidentally, is more or less what I would expect if
      evolution took place. If there are no species, it *solves* the
      problem of demonstrating macro-evolution. The term macro-evolution
      only has real meaning if there are clear boundaries between species.

      [[[The same problem exists with respect to the line between micro
      and macro evolution. Evolutionists, it turns out, will use whatever
      definitions of these terms suits their purposes. So when you tell
      me that "macro-evolution" can be directly observed...what are you
      really
      telling me?]]]

      ---I am telling you that species transitions between biological
      species (i.e. species as I defined them above) can be observed.

      [[[You'll press into service whichever definition suits the
      occasion. Of course, I know what you really mean. You mean we've
      observed beak size variations, or coloration changes in months, or
      offspring becoming reproductively isolated from the parent stock.
      None of this is denied, of course. What is denied is that these
      observations are sufficient to warrant
      the grand extrapolation that these changes can account for the
      entire diversity of life on planet earth.]]]

      ---Why can't they? Small changes slowly accumulating is all that is
      necessary to account for any observed big change. A dripping tap
      will inevitably accumulate into a whole reservoir of water, unless
      you can tell me what exactly will stop it from happening.

      [[[Oh, I see what the rules are now, Brian. UNLESS and UNTIL I
      actually provide some specific alternative theory it is OFF limits
      to question some other theory.]]]

      ---Nope. It is just that you have not really advanced any arguments
      against evolution. Thus far your entire argument have consisted
      of "I don't find the evidence very convincing." Well good for you.
      The flat-earthers use that exact same argument, and they are also
      ignored by science, and for the same reason. Their 'contribution'
      isn't exactly useful.

      [[[Are those the rules, Brian? If so, perhaps you'd be so kind as
      to explain why? Questioning the evidence being put forth in favor
      of some theory does not require putting forth an alternative
      theory. It does, however, require the one presenting the evidence
      to demonstrate how, *scientifically* it supports the theory in
      question.]]]

      ---I think I have quite adequately shown how the evidence supports
      evolution. Evolution does what any other scientific theory does: it
      explains and predicts, and it is testible.

      (to be concluded next post)
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