Dispatches from the Creation Wars

A Response to Bob Gardinier

A few days ago, I wrote a strongly worded but entirely accurate critique of an absolutely abysmal article by Robert Meyer. I pointed out that every single claim he made about Gould’s views on evolution was not only false, but exactly the opposite of what Gould actually believed. That led to an email exchange with Mr. Meyer, which I posted previously, in which he didn’t bother to even address the criticisms I made of the falsehoods he perpetrated in his article. Now I’d like to post the e-mail exchange I had with Mr. Gardinier, beginning with the comment he left on the previous thread and my response to that. Here was his initial comment, with his words in italics and mine in regular type:

This response to Meyer is just more incredible pseudo-science fiction masquerading as the real thing from yet another defender of America’s great fairy tale…evolution. I couldn’t help but shake my head at this statement…

“The answer to Meyer’s question, how can Gould account for abrupt changes in the fossil record without proving that the earth went through major environmental change, is patently obvious: he wouldn’t try, nor would he need to.”

And Brayton calls that science? Don’t try to test the theory, don’t try to explain every aspect scientifically, just toss in assumptions where there are scientific holes and simply believe what Gould tells us. Wow! And I thought the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses had spun great tales. These cults have nothing on the evolutionists.

What a bizarre response. No, that response was not “science” and there was no theory in it to be tested. It was simply a refutation of the basic assumption in Meyer’s claim. He seemed to be claiming that there was no evidence for major environmental changes in the history of the earth. If that is indeed his position, it is simply one of the most moronic statements one could possibly make. You want evidence that the environments around the globe have changed radically over time, just go to the Grand Canyon. There you will find sedimentary formations, one of top of the other, of limestone, shale and sandstone, each of which requires an entirely different depositional environment. The environment of the Colorado plateau has changed dramatically over the course of the last billion and a half years, going from shallow marine environment to terrestrial desert formation to deep marine environment and back again.

The study of geology is largely the study of changes in the earth’s environments over time. You want cataclysmic changes? How about nearly 400 major meteorite craters found at various levels throughout the geologic column? How about volcanic eruptions damming up rivers and lakes and wiping out the entire topography of a region, as in the scablands, or any of the thousands of individual volcanic eruptions whose lava flows can be seen in formations around the world? How about tectonic movements powerful enough to uplift entire mountain ranges and push continents apart? All of this and more has occured throughout the history of the earth and continues to occur today. Meyer’s suggestion that there had been no major environmental changes is simply a ridiculous suggestion. No sane human being who had taken even a geology 101 course would make such a statement.

In asking why there weren’t abrupt changes in the earth as well Meyer hints at uniformity and purpose. These are two dirty little words that evolutionists simply can’t stand because they have no answer for them.

An even more bizarre statement. Why would the lack of abrupt changes in the earth, even if it was true that there were no abrupt changes (and it’s not) hint at “purpose”? And purpose of what? It might hint at uniformity, as in the notion that the environments on the earth had stayed the same over time, but since that’s emphatically not the case, what difference does it make?

After all, if everything was created via random chance, did random chance create logic? Logic is neither random nor is it chance. Think about this as you think about evolution and let’s get back to the kind of real science that many of it’s founders stood for.

Who thinks anything as silly as “everything was created via random chance”? No one that I know. I’ll take straw men for $1000, Alex.

That then led to the following e-mail exchange, again with his words in italics and mine in regular type:

Here’s some information from the late Greg Bahnsen, a man who had great success in debating atheists like the late Gordon Stein...

*snipping all the Bahnsen stuff*

I’m well familiar with Mr. Bahnsen. I have no idea why you bothered to quote him to me. I’m not an atheist and nothing he said has anything at all to do with your silly claim that the earth has not undergone serious environmental changes throughout history. Bahnsen is entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

Also, Ed, any form of evolution, whether its from Gould or anyone else, has as its basis, pure random chance, a factor that doesn’t exist. You replied in your post that it does not. If not, what do you feel is the basis for Gould’s “evolution”? But back to random chance. If it did exist, you and I would not be having this dialogue. Atheistic evolution with random chance is an undertandable idea but it’s scientifically and philosophicaly flawed.

Sorry, there is no such thing as “atheistic evolution”. There is only “evolution”, the theory that all modern life forms are derived from a common ancestor through descent with modification. That’s it. Evolution does not conclude with “and therefore there is no God”, any more than the theory of relativity or the germ theory of disease does.

It’s a limited form because the only reason “chance” as most people define it exists, is because there are properties and processes of uniformity that surround these chance events.

Thank you for proving my point. We call certain events “random” because they are not predictable before hand. We can’t predict what mutations will take place in a genome, for example, but that doesn’t mean that they are uncaused. Evolution involves both random aspects (random in the first sense, not the last) and algorythmic aspects. Mutation of the genome is random (1st sense), while natural selection is the opposite of random, it is algorythmic. Hence, evolution does not rely upon “random chance” in the second sense (totally uncaused) but on random events in the first sense (unpredictable) filtered by the entirely non-random algorythm of natural selection. So what you describe as “scientifically and philosophically flawed” is really the straw man you have of evolution, not evolution itself.

Think about it. If pure random chance existed, why doesn’t electricity change it’s behavior or worse yet, completely go away from one second to the next. Why do atoms work uniformly all the time. In other words, who or what is controlling the speed, timing, space, volume and other factors of anything in the universe at any given momment. Also, if random chance is creating anything, there’s the opposite prospect of random chance destroying the very thing that was allegedly created but here again, if we use the term, “created” regardless of whether we mean biblically or non-biblically, we run headlong into the dilema of a source, an intelligence, or something that has purpose.

This is all one giant irrelevancy. I am not an atheist and I have nowhere made an argument for atheism. And it has absolutely zero to do with your ridiculous claim that the earth’s environments have not changed.

Think about these things as you ponder the basis for your worldview.

LOL. Thanks, I’ll do that. But my worldview seems to differ strikingly from the worldview you are so eager to thrust upon me. And I have no interest in getting into the incredibly boring presuppositionalism debate. It has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

And that email led to this email:

The reason I stepped in to comment on the criticism of Robert Meyer was to take readers back to the faulty worldview that I see that evolution demands in the first place, this is why I eventually mentioned Bahnsen. I’d be interested in hearing you refute the quote I sent you by him.

Why would I even attempt to refute the quote from Bahnsen? It is irrelevant to the entire discussion. The issue is whether Meyer’s article portrayed the views of Gould accurately or not. You jumped in to attack atheism, but that attack has exactly nothing to do with that issue. Even if Bahnsen is 100% right that you can’t have the laws of logic without the existence of the Christian God (and frankly, I think presuppositionalism is one of the silliest ideas ever invented, but that is neither here nor there on this particular issue), that does not make Meyer’s statements any less false or ridiculous. Gould either denied the existence of transitional forms or he did not. Meyer claims he did. Meyer is wrong, and I proved that with Gould’s own words. Gould’s PE is either equivalent to Goldschmidt’s hopeful monster idea or it is not. Meyer claims it is. Meyer is wrong, and I proved that by explaining what each idea says and why they are not only distinct ideas, but ideas that deal with entirely different questions. Gould either admitted that evolution was “in grave crisis” or he did not. Meyer says he did. Meyer is, again, wrong. Gould said no such thing and Gould believed no such thing. In fact, he spent his entire academic career explaining why evolution is a valid and true explanation for the evidence. I also noted that these mistakes are not merely ones of misinterpretation or being slightly spun to support a point, they are just plain 100% false, and anyone with even the most basic understanding of evolutionary biology would have known that. None of this has anything whatsoever to do with whether there is or is not a god, nor does it have anything to do with Bahnsen’s silly theological claims.

I just had breakfast with Meyer and it appears that you and other readers misunderstood what he was saying. I sense he was wondering how you can have change in any species without an outside environmental cause that would initiate such evolutionary changes in the first place.

Okay, but that means that I did not misunderstand what he was saying. That is exactly what I thought he was saying, that there could not have been any evolutionary changes because the earth’s environment had not changed significantly in the past. I’ve already shown why that is an incredibly stupid thing to say, and neither of you has bothered to respond to what I said in that regard. Again, you are simply making my point for me. Mr. Meyer, and apparently you as well, really do believe that the earth’s environments (yes, there are many many different environments on the earth) have remained unchanged over the last 4.5 billion years. No sane human being with ANY knowledge of geology whatsoever would say such a stupid thing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a theist, an atheist, a pantheist or a rodeo clown, that is an absolutely ridiculous thing to claim. I’ve already given you a long list of examples of why it’s a ridiculous thing to say, and rather than responding to the evidence that was given, you write back to tell me that I “misunderstood what he was saying” while telling me he was saying precisely what I responded to.

You assert there is no such thing as atheistic evolution. I ask, what caused/causes evolution? What caused the elements that started the process? Do you feel that God was involved somehow?

I believe that the universe was created with the physical attributes and laws that govern it. I believe that the operation of those laws eventually led to the development of life on at least one planet (Earth, of course) and perhaps on more (we are of course but one planet around one of a hundred billion stars in one of some 100 billion galaxies). And on that planet, life has evolved according to the operation of those physical laws in response to the changing environmental conditions on the planet. I see no reason to believe that whatever created the universe was involved in that process beyond having set up the physical laws in the first place.

You say you are not an atheist. Thank you for pointing that out. That’s my mistake and for that I apologize, however, it appears from many of the responses to my post, many readers are.

I’m sure some of my readers are atheists. Some of them are Christians. Some are deists. Some are Jews and Buddhists and who knows what else. None of that has anything to do with the truth or falsehood of anything I said about Meyer’s ridiculous article.

Perhaps there’s a place on the Internet where you give readers some background on your worldview and how it meshes with your scientific belief and maybe I missed it by jumping in like I did.

Well, it’s a really big blog with lots of my thoughts on almost everything. But you won’t find me ever laying out my “worldview” because I think that’s a meaningless phrase.

Nonetheless I see only one other option. That would be the option of theistic evolution, which to me is not a logical choice because it requires elements of faith that simply don’t comport with science and logic. To me it’s nothing more than veiled atheism with an “insurance rider” in case their really is a personal God. The point to remember is not that everything has a cause, but that every affect must have a cause sufficient to account for that affect. God is not an affect (sic) and God did not need a cause. God is an eternal being and there has never been a time when he did not exist.

I honestly cannot imagine why you would bother throwing out the argument from first cause to someone who just told you he accepts that there is a first cause. But then this whole conversation makes little sense. It makes me wonder if you are bothering to read what I said or if I’ve just managed to trigger some sort of Pavlovian reaction against atheism that has no bearing on the issue at hand.

In reference to the term, “exist” this does not refer to some entity that is “somewhere else”. In other words, God did not wind up the universe and walk away from it so that it can operate on its own. That won’t fly, at least not biblically because God is everywhere constantly powering the universe. To say that God can walk away from it all, assumes that there was/is matter with intrinsic properties that already exist(ed) apart from Him. It’s like the ridiculous Bible thumper stumper that asks if God can create a rock so big that not even He can move it. The answer is “no”. What must be understood is that God’s strength lies not in a finite physical property or characteristic but rather in his perfection or holiness as it relates to purpose. Any evolutionary scenario is, biblically speaking, antithetical to purpose as it relates to holiness.

Congratulations, you have managed to conclusively prove that my beliefs are incompatible with the bible. I already knew that. I am again left wondering whether you have an actual point to make.

*snipping a bunch of stuff about “random chance” that is pretty much incoherent so you can see this ending. Brace yourselves.*

As this relates to logic, I can have laws of logic because I have an absolutely personal purposeful God, He knows all things, I’m supposed to think His thoughts after Him, etc. God never lies, He doesn’t contradict himself, so there’s a foundation for logic in my worldview. But in a worldview where everything’s matter in motion,(random) there can’t be any laws at all because laws aren’t material nor are they in motion. So if everything that’s real is matter in motion then there are no laws of logic in any evolutionary worldview. (Again, Ed, it’s either one or the other, not both) Therefore, by responding to me, you have already assumed my worldview to be true. You argue against my worldview but are using my worldview to argue against it because as it turns out, Christianity is the precondition of the intelligibility of the laws of logic. You’ve got to use the laws of logic but the evolutionary worldview won’t comport with them. It cannot provide the preconditions of the intelligibility of logic and it’s not just logic, or the inductive principles of science, it’s morality as well.

Honestly, if you’re going to go around claiming that only Christians can account for the laws of logic, you really should learn to apply those laws in some coherent fashion. This is just a ridiculous mishmash of nonsense, especially in response to someone who accepts that the universe was created with specific physical laws in place. Your argument reminds me of the brilliant comedian John Wing, who when booed will say, “You know, when you boo me you’re still making an audible response in direct reaction to something I said, so while booing you’re still totally under my power.”

Comments

  1. #1 eon
    July 27, 2004

    “alogrithm”

    Otherwise, flawless reasoning. Mr. Gardinier, I think, realized that he was exposed for being completely out of his depth, and deliberately misrepresented your position.

    I couldn’t bring myself to call it “misunderstanding” when it’s so systematic.

    E

  2. #2 Jason Kuznicki
    July 27, 2004

    You’re entirely right, and you’ve done a great job, but I think that by this point you’re also wasting your time. Let them go.

  3. #3 joseph duemer
    July 27, 2004

    That last quoted paragraph is a doozy, all right. I’ve long suspected that the Real American Religion is The Church of Solipsism.

    “As this relates to logic, I can have laws of logic because I have an absolutely personal purposeful God, He knows all things, Iím supposed to think His thoughts after Him, etc. God never lies, He doesnít contradict himself, so thereís a foundation for logic in my worldview.”

    Notice how even God gets contained in the first-person pronoun? Astonishing.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    July 27, 2004

    Hi Joseph. Nice to see you here again, it’s been a while. Hope things are well in your world. I need to add a link to your blog on this page so I remember to visit it regularly. Literature and food, who can beat that combination?

  5. #5 Tim B.
    July 27, 2004

    “because God is everywhere constantly powering the universe”

    When this is *logically* extrapolated to its impact at the human level, it leads to the conundrum of double-agency. To my knowledge, the most astute theologians have been unable to resolve this free-will paradox. The problem is somewhat ameliorated with Ed’s deistic god, but even that, I think, just pushes double-agency back to entanglement with originary laws, leaving the problem intact evolutionarily. Like a system of Chinese boxes, God’s original Will is perennially tied up inside all the “smaller will-boxes” moving through space-time and substance.

  6. #6 Troy Britain
    July 28, 2004

    Ed: And I have no interest in getting into the incredibly boring presuppositionalism debate.

    “Presuppositionalism,” in my opinion it is not merely boring or silly, it is down right repugnant. It is not only anti-science, it is anti-intellectual; a sort of mental masturbation if you will.

  7. #7 Bill Ware
    July 29, 2004

    “As this relates to logic, I can have laws of logic because I have an absolutely personal purposeful God,…”

    “Therefore, by responding to me, you have already assumed my worldview to be true.” etc.

    Oh, brother!

    If it weren’t for a personal purposeful God, I wouldn’t be breathing. Since you’re breathing, too, you have already assumed that my concept of God is true.

    What a crock. The next time I shovel out the barn, I’ll think of this guy.
    B

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