Welcome to the second installment in my 3-part series, Arguments From Ignorance, where I attempt to answer Creation Ministries International’s “15 Questions for Evolutionists” (Part 1 is here). In the last post, I dealt with questions 1 through 5, and for this I intend to deal with 6 through 10. If, once you’ve read the post (or posts), you happen to have any questions, would like me to clarify something, or simply want to inform me that I’m going to burn in hell, please let me know, and I’ll be sure to respond appropriately. Now, on to the questions!
6. Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed? Richard Dawkins wrote, “biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.” Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, wrote, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”The problem for evolutionists is that living things show too much design. Who objects when an archaeologist says that pottery points to human design? Yet if someone attributes the design in living things to a designer, that is not acceptable. Why should science be restricted to naturalistic causes rather than logical causes?
We appear to actually have two questions here. The first refers to the argument from design, which states that if something appears to have been designed, it must have been designed. Well, let’s see what happens when we turn this argument to religion: Your god appears fabricated in the same way that any other mythical being was fabricated; how do you know that your god was not fabricated? By the rules of the argument, because the god of the Bible appears to have been invented in the same way that other ancient gods were designed, the god of the Bible must have been designed by man. An easy counter-argument to this would be that just because the drag queen you met at the club appears to be a woman, does not mean that the drag queen is actually a woman. And as such, you may or may not want to take him/her home (hey, I don’t know your life; do what you want). Now, how do we know living things weren’t designed? Well, we don’t. Not entirely, at least. As it turns out, the theory of evolution does not necessarily preclude the existence of a designer. But, before you start shouting “checkmate!”, there are a couple very important caveats to this. First, if the theory of evolution is true, though it does not make the existence of a designer impossible, it does make a designer unnecessary (and therefore less likely) with regard to the development of life. Second, the theory of evolution also means that it is impossible to accept a literal, fundamentalist religious explanation for the existence of the universe from any of the currently extant world religions (at least the ones that I am aware of). Furthermore, appealing to a designer for the beginning of the universe without actually providing any hard evidence for the existence of such a being represents intellectual stagnation of the highest level; essentially, we are left with a god of the gaps which does not actually help us to understand or explain anything about the world around us. So, the potential for a designer is still there; however, it is extremely weak, as there is no hard data to support it, and the only real strength the idea has is that we currently have no way to disprove it. However, this unfalsifiability is the exact reason why the designer “hypothesis” cannot be considered scientific. Which, conveniently, leads us right to the second part of the question…
Why must science be naturalistic? Well, here, we are dealing with an apparent lack of understanding as to what science actually is. CMI seems to make the mistake of thinking that scientific tests are intended to prove theories. This is a common misconception. Scientific tests are aimed at disproving particular hypotheses. This is because the scientific method was developed on the premise that it is impossible to ever prove something absolutely. Even the theory of gravity is not 100% certain; there is always the chance, however small, that all of a sudden all matter on earth will begin flying upwards, away from the planet itself, at which point the theory of gravity will have to be either discarded, or at the very least re-thought (assuming we survive the ordeal). The way scientists prove hypotheses is through repeated tests looking for data that would falsify the specific hypothesis. If a particular hypothesis does not adequately explain a phenomena in a statistically significant manner, the hypothesis is discarded. If the evidence does not support falsification of a particular hypothesis, it is re-tested multiple times, by many different scientists, until the hypothesis is either disproved or the body of evidence in support of the hypothesis becomes so great that it can be considered to have achieved the status of “theory”. Now, the only way to go about doing this is to deal with hypotheses which are testable. If something cannot be tested, it is impossible to falsify it, and therefore impossible to say anything scientific about the subject. The supernatural is traditionally considered to not be testable, and therefore is generally considered to be outside the jurisdiction of science (this is the basis of Gould’s principle of non-overlapping magesteria). So the answer to the question: anything which is testable is considered to be naturalistic.
Now, as a side note, there are claims made with regard to religion which can be tested. This is because any interaction a supernatural force may have with the natural world could be measured, making it plausible that we could come across testable evidence of a supernatural force. The easiest way to test claims of religions would be to test the efficacy of prayer by following the instructions particular holy books for prayer, or to look for evidence with regard to claims made about the earth and universe (i.e. size, age, shape, etc.). But that’s a different discussion entirely.
7. How did multi-cellular life originate? How did cells adapted to individual survival ‘learn’ to cooperate and specialize (including undergoing programmed cell death) to create complex plants and animals?
Like this. For those of you who don’t want to click the link (which you should; it’s very interesting), an experiment was performed in which single-cell organisms were placed in a centrifuge, and selective pressures were induced which would tend to select for individuals which were more prone to clustered living (i.e., they turned on the centrifuge). This is essentially what the most basic species of sea sponges are, and sea sponges are often considered to be one of the first steps (evolutionarily speaking) in multicellular evolution. But, as I’ve already stated, the results of a single test cannot be considered definitive without further research. This experiment does seem to hold some promise though, and it could very well be the best explanation we have at present for the development of multicellular life. Later developments would likely be shaped by greater degrees of competition and selective pressures. Thanks much for the relatively simple question. Hopefully you learned something.
8. How did sex originate? Asexual reproduction gives up to twice as much reproductive success (‘fitness’) for the same resources as sexual reproduction, so how could the latter ever gain enough advantage to be selected? And how could mere physics and chemistry invent the complementary apparatuses needed at the same time (non-intelligent processes cannot plan for future coordination of male and female organs).
Well, as is the case with most scientific questions which are still being researched, we’re not entirely certain. But again, this current lack of a definite explanation does not mean that god did it. For example, just because people could not fully explain gravity 1000 years ago does not mean that gravity didn’t exist back then. It just meant we didn’t fully understand it yet. Now, as far as the evolution of sex goes, the idea that asexual reproduction provides twice as much fitness is misguided. For successful individuals, this may be true. However, there are important reasons why sexual reproduction may increase an individual’s reproductive success. First of all, in asexual individuals, a single deleterious mutation can end an entire genetic line, whereas sexual reproduction allows for combination of genetic material which can help to “mask” the negative mutation and keep the negative trait from manifesting. There is also the chance for what are referred to as novel genotypes, which can allow two individuals to produce offspring with greater reproductive fitness than the two originally mating individuals, thus offering greater chances for future reproductive success for the genes of both individuals. And these are just two possible reasons for the development of sexual reproduction (for a more complete list, click here).
As far as the development of specific sexual apparatuses goes, the earliest forms of sexual reproduction may not have been that complicated. The process of conjugation in bacteria (in which one bacterium transfers genetic material to another) could very well mark an early step in the development of sexual reproduction. It is also important to note that the organs involved in sexual reproduction of species which are believed to have evolved earlier than others tend not to be as complex as species which appear to have developed later, suggesting a gradual development in sexual organs.
(Words cannot express how hot this gets me.)
9. Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing? Darwin noted the problem and it still remains. The evolutionary family trees in textbooks are based on imagination, not fossil evidence. Famous Harvard paleontologist (and evolutionist), Stephen Jay Gould, wrote, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology”.Other evolutionist fossil experts also acknowledge the problem.
They’re not. You see, by definition, all fossils are transitional fossils. This is because changes in gene frequency which lead to the development of different species happen gradually across many generations. We don’t have as many fossils as we’d like, true; but fossilization is a relatively rare phenomenon. Given this, the lack of an absolutely complete fossil record should not be that surprising. But we are adding to the fossil record quite frequently (see: Australopithecus sediba). And while it is true that the branching tree image associated with evolution is largely speculation based only on the species and fossils we have access to, it is far from being pure imagination. A combination of fossil and genetic evidence is used to develop the family trees, and the trees are fairly accurate, considering the information we have available to us. And considering said evidence, I’m really curious as to what the basis of the claim that the trees are “based on imagination” is.
Now, if you’re asking why we don’t have fossil evidence of Kirk Cameron’s “Crockoduck”:
That would be because the suggestion is…for lack of a better term…the most moronic fucking thing I’ve ever heard. The “crockoduck” and other half-and-half species that creationists like Mr. Cameron seem to think would be representative of transitional fossils are about as real as the functioning portions of Mr. Cameron’s brain, and have nothing to do with the theory of evolution, whatsoever. The process of evolution is gradual; that is, species slowly grade into each other across generations, and will not look like this abomination that this creationist decided to display on national TV. To think that the crockoduck is a legitimate example of a transitional species is to display absolute, blatant ignorance as to what evolution actually is.
Now, if you’re not asking for that kind of transitional fossil, I applaud you for being one of the few creationists to actually have even the slightest clue as to what they’re talking about.
10. How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years, if evolution has changed worms into humans in the same time frame? Professor Gould wrote, “the maintenance of stability within species must be considered as a major evolutionary problem.”
With all due respect to Dr. Gould, I really don’t see how this is a problem. “Evolution” isn’t some ethereal force changing things constantly for the hell of it (hard concept for creationists to understand, I know). It is simply the change in genetic frequencies over time, and genetic frequencies tend to change at higher rates when selective pressures are higher. All the existence of “living fossils” means is that a particular species was incredibly well adapted to its particular environment, and as such it did not face significant evolutionary pressures. No more, no less. In fact, if you look at most species which are referred to as “living fossils”, such as the platypus or the coelacanth, tend to live in relatively limited geographical areas, suggesting that these species’ survival was largely dependent on adaptation to a particular environment which was maintained relatively unchanged across time.
(Or god just got really drunk while making this one.)
And so ends Part 2. I hope it was as entertaining as it was informational, and vice versa. Expect to see Part 3 up tonight (or tomorrow at the latest). Until then…I dunno. Go read a book or something. I’ll see you when I see you.