EoE Reviewed in CT

Christianity Today has now published a review of Michael Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution. You might dimly recall this book, since it was briefly big news among the ID folks upon its publication last year. It disappeared pretty quickly on account of it being not only wrong scientifically, but dreadfully boring to boot.

CT got Stephen Webb, a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College, to write the review. Bad idea. Unlike Behe’s first book Darwin’s Black Box, whose major errors could be ferreted out by anyone capable of a bit of logical thinking, the present volume really requires a considerable knoledge of biology to review properly. Webb, one suspects, knows little about any relevant scientific discipline, which is why his review contains little more than mindless cheerleading.

The essay is nearly wall-to-wall howlers. Here’s the opening sentence:

Would an infinite number of Darwinians, working at [sic] for an indefinite period of time, eventually prove a single instance of evolution producing a new species?

Of course, the production of a new species by familiar evolutionary mechanisms is hardly news anymore. There are a number of well-documented cases, and even Phillip Johnson has conceded that reproductive isolation (the hallmark of separate species) is not really a problem for evolution. The argument, such as it is, concerns complex systems.

Next paragraph:

Philip Kitcher, a philosopher of science and committed Darwinian, confesses in his book, Living with Darwin, that if Darwinians “were to try experimenting on the natural selection of organisms with relatively long generation times it would take the lives of thousands of successive investigators to provide even the slightest chance of even the first steps toward experimental success.” Living with Darwin, it turns out, takes a lot more commitment than most people realize.

A creationist attaching his own beginning to a fragment of a sentence written by an evolutionist, without so much as a page number to check the reference? This is not going to end well.

Webb gives the impression that the “success” to which Kitcher refers is success in producing a new species by standard evolutionary mechanisms. Actually, Kitcher had something else in mind:

They want something much grander, a detailed study showing natural selection “transumting” one “kind” into another — giving an amphibian from a fish, or a bird from a reptile, for example.

Nobody can answer that demand. From a Darwinian perspective, however, that isn’t because the theory of natural selection is seriously flawed, but because the demand is absurdly naive. Biologists have measured mutation rates. They know that favorable variations arise by mutation quite rarely, and that, if they were to try experimenting on the natural selection of organisms with relatively long generation times, it would take the lives of thousands of successive investigators to provide even the slightest chance of even the first steps toward experimental success. They know that the Earth is ancient, that geological time has offered far more opportunities for evolutionary “experiments” than successive generations of human beings could manage. (pp. 80-81).

Kitcher lays out some elementary biology to show the absurdity of a particular creationist demand, and Webb turns this into a confession about some fundamental inadequacy of evolution. Charming.

Back to Webb:

Materialists do not accept an afterlife, of course, but they do believe in an infinite amount of time, and they surmise that given enough time, anything — including life as we know it — can happen. (Thus, it is famously postulated, infinite monkeys at infinite keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare.) This argument runs into an empirical wall with the big bang, which limits the amount of time for life to develop to about 15 billion years. It also has the theoretical problem that long stretches of time do not make impossibilities more possible. A lot of time does make improbabilities more probable, but multiplying time does not guarantee that long sequences of improbabilities will actually occur.

Let’s go in sequence. Nobody, materialist or otherwise, believes in an inifinite amount of time for evolution to occur. Does Webb think his strawman materialists are unaware of the Big Bang? Next “infinite monkeys” and “infinite keyboards” are nonsense phrases. He means “infinitely many monkeys” and “infinitely many keyboards.” Not a big deal by itself, but suggestive of a certain lack of comfort in discussing these sorts of topics.

It is not a postulate that infinitely many monkeys working at infinitely many keyboards will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. Actually, it is a statistical inevitability. (Assuming, that is, that the monkeys referred to in this thought experiment are understood to be perfect randomizing devices that strike each key with equal probability).

And in the context of biological evolution, long stretches of time do, indeed, guarantee that something very improbable will occur. Whatever evolutionary trajectory is actually traced out by some evolving population can be recognized retrospectively as something very improbable. I suspect Webb is merely expressing the usual lament that certain biological systems are just too complex to evolve by the usual mechanisms. He would have done better simply to say that, rather than blather about what some fantasy materialists believe.

From here Webb spends a few paragraphs parroting Behe’s talking points. Soon we come to this:

Behe’s previous book, Darwin’s Black Box, argued that some cases of design in nature are too elegant to have been produced by chance. His critics attacked him on two fronts. First, they suspected that his talk of intelligent design was merely a ruse for getting God back into public education. In other words, they impugned his motives, which is always a sign of rhetorical desperation.

And the second front?

Second, his critics argued that intelligent design, whatever its merits, is not science.

Pure nonsense, of course. That ID is not science by any reasonable definition is certainly true, as is the claim that the main function of ID is to provide a constitutionally acceptable form of creationism for inclusion in public school curricula (an idea that looks a bit foolish in light of the Dover verdict). Neither of those, however, were the primary arguments raised against Behe’s first book.

Instead, the main charges were that his argument was wrong first as a matter of logic, since there was nothing in his definition of “irrdeucible complexity” that preculded an origin in gradualistic evolution, and second that he was woefully wrong on the science, since actually quite a lot was known about the evolution of the systems Behe described as totally mysterious. Rather more substantive than Webb would care to admit.

On and on Webb goes, mindlessly accepting each claim Behe makes without the slightest cricitcal scrutiny or examination. Which raises a question. Why would a serious magazine like Christianity Today ask someone so obviously unqualified to review so technical a book? Could it be that they had no serious interest in assessing the book’s arguments, but instead just wanted an opportunity to stick a thumb in the eye of establishment science?

Behe’s book seems a lot less convicing to those who actually know the relevant biology. See, for example, Ken Miller’s review in Nature and Sean Carroll’s review in Science.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    March 28, 2008

    I’ve added this to the grand list of EoE reviews.

  2. #2 John Lynch
    March 28, 2008

    Which raises a question. Why would a serious magazine like Christianity Today ask someone so obviously unqualified to review so technical a book?

    Not the first time this has happened.

  3. #3 gary
    March 28, 2008

    I don’t think the ID plan was a bit foolish in light of the Dover case. I think the School Board’s motivation was just political, pleasing the rubes. And I think the DI’s motivation was and is almost entirely about money. From their standpoint, they have been sucessful, because they’ve made a lots of money writing books, giving lectures, collecting consulting fees, etc, etc, etc. They’re tremendously currupt, but they aren’t stupid.

  4. #4 Tex
    March 28, 2008

    (Thus, it is famously postulated, infinite monkeys at infinite keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare.) This argument runs into an empirical wall with the big bang, which limits the amount of time for life to develop to about 15 billion years.

    No, this argument runs into the problem that an infinite amount of monkeys would produce Shakespeare’s works (and everyone else’s) instaneously.

  5. #5 polymath
    March 28, 2008

    actually, the monkeys/typewriters thought-experiment doesn’t have to be nearly so dramatic. one monkey at one typewriter will produce shakespeare just as surely as every finite sequence of digits has to appear in pi.

    save your monkeys and typewriters for something more useful.

  6. #6 Reginald Selkirk
    March 29, 2008

    CT got Stephen Webb, a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College, to write the review.

    They got a professor of religion and philosophy to review what is ostensibly a science book?

  7. #7 Wes
    March 29, 2008

    I remember when I was reading Kitcher’s book coming upon a few phrases and thinking “This is the kind of phrase the creationists would love to quote-mine.”

    Thank you, Stephen Webb, for confirming that creationists really are as predictably dishonest as I had suspected.

  8. #8 Jim
    March 29, 2008

    I just would like some one the explain this to me, quoting from PBS “The hammer orchid’s flower mimics the female wasp looking upward for a male flying by, complete with a fake shiny head and furry body. The orchid even releases an enticing female wasp pheromone ” end quote. This is not just any wasp this is one specific type, the flower is the same color and shape and produces the same pheromone as this specific wasp. I think that it easier to see God’s hand in some of the simpler forms of life. Lets look at this plant, your argument may be that natural selection caused this plant to mimic this wasp to full it into pollinating or would you say that these are random mutations that caused this orchid to produce a pheromone specific to this wasp and a flower that looks like this specific wasp. As a boy I could not get enough science and nature programs, I remember David Attenborough’s life on Earth series that had this Hammer orchid in it. I remember almosted being shocked when I saw this flower.

  9. #9 JimCH
    March 30, 2008

    OK, I knew that it would eventually catch-up with me — using a simple, common moniker like “Jim” on a blog. So, since someone else has shown-up here using “Jim” (^) I guess that I’ll be a gentleman & switch from “Jim” to “JimCH”.

  10. #10 bibanu
    March 31, 2008

    You give a more complete quote from (Living with Darwin). Thank you.

    “They want something much grander, a detailed study showing natural selection “transumting” one “kind” into another — giving an amphibian from a fish, or a bird from a reptile, for example.

    Nobody can answer that demand. From a Darwinian perspective, however, that isn’t because the theory of natural selection is seriously flawed, but because the demand is absurdly naive. Biologists have measured mutation rates. They know that favorable variations arise by mutation quite rarely, and that, if they were to try experimenting on the natural selection of organisms with relatively long generation times, it would take the lives of thousands of successive investigators to provide even the slightest chance of even the first steps toward experimental success. They know that the Earth is ancient, that geological time has offered far more opportunities for evolutionary “experiments” than successive generations of human beings could manage. (pp. 80-81).

    I understand that NO ONE CAN ANSWER THAT DEMAND. However – why is it absurdly naive to desire it? I think that is the PROBLEM with this theory for many people. Since science “is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable and evidence…and the experiments have to be repeatable etc” – I have a hard time to see how this is science. I hope that you understand me (please do not call me an idiot – thanks).

    It is hard for me (and apparently for most Americans?) – to accept a theory which in many cases says something like this: “well…we cannot prove it, we cannot observe it …but given millions [billions?] of years this is what would happen…” Maybe you are right, maybe you are wrong. Many people do not see these statements as being “scientific” since they are not observable, repeatable, and/or falsifiable.

    One other thing that I have a problem with (and I am writing with respect because I would like to learn – I took Biology a long time ago in college) is the following.

    It is very hard for me to believe in materialistic explanations for the following simple motif:

    1) All of you and the best (most intelligent) scientists in the world CANNOT create one single cell (even given some material to start with).
    2) I hope that you see why I am having a very hard time to believe that this much more complex universe was created without any intelligence behind it. If you – intelligent and capable people cannot create the smallest amount of life – how can I believe that lifeless matter can do that and much more?

    I believe that most people think this way – and that is why they are having a hard time with materialistic evolution.

    With respect,
    Chris

  11. #11 FastLane
    March 31, 2008

    1) All of you and the best (most intelligent) scientists in the world CANNOT create one single cell (even given some material to start with).
    2) I hope that you see why I am having a very hard time to believe that this much more complex universe was created without any intelligence behind it. If you – intelligent and capable people cannot create the smallest amount of life – how can I believe that lifeless matter can do that and much more?

    We can’t create a complete cell from scratch….yet. What happens when we manage to? (After all, it took natural process approximately a billion years. I think before you call it quits, you should give science at least another decade or two. We are getting surprisingly close. Are you going to move the goalposts to some other ‘goal’ that you think we might not be able to do?

    I’m guessing from your second point that you think intelligence is somehow a necessity for complexity. Is that intelligence more, or less, complex, than the complexity you are attempting to explain with your hypothetical intelligence? Is this where special pleading comes in, or is it intelligent turtles all the way down?

    Inquiring minds and all that.

  12. #12 Valhar2000
    March 31, 2008

    1) All of you and the best (most intelligent) scientists in the world CANNOT create one single cell (even given some material to start with).

    Given that the theory is that NATURAL processes did this, I fail to see what the abilities of laboratory technitians in this regard have to do with the veracity of the theory.

    Have you (and the most relgious people) been able to create a god in the lab? Does that prove that there is no such thing? Of course not! We go by the available evidence: the evidence for naturalistic processes is copious, whereas the evidence for godidit processes is non-existent and undefined.

    Hence our views.

  13. #13 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 31, 2008

    Jason, there’s a serious issue you miss in this review of Webb’s review. Webb’s question whether “Would an infinite number of Darwinians, working at for an indefinite period of time, eventually prove a single instance of evolution producing a new species?” doesn’t make any sense in this context since Behe explicitly accepts common descent and natural speciation. One has to wonder if Webb actually read the book or if Webb did read the book whether Webb understood anything at all.

  14. #14 Wes
    March 31, 2008

    I just would like some one the explain this to me, quoting from PBS “The hammer orchid’s flower mimics the female wasp looking upward for a male flying by, complete with a fake shiny head and furry body. The orchid even releases an enticing female wasp pheromone ” end quote. This is not just any wasp this is one specific type, the flower is the same color and shape and produces the same pheromone as this specific wasp. I think that it easier to see God’s hand in some of the simpler forms of life. Lets look at this plant, your argument may be that natural selection caused this plant to mimic this wasp to full it into pollinating or would you say that these are random mutations that caused this orchid to produce a pheromone specific to this wasp and a flower that looks like this specific wasp. As a boy I could not get enough science and nature programs, I remember David Attenborough’s life on Earth series that had this Hammer orchid in it. I remember almosted being shocked when I saw this flower.

    Posted by: Jim | March 29, 2008 11:47 PM

    The orchid and wasp are an example of pseudocopulatory pollination, a form of aggressive mimicry (in which the mimic exploits other organisms through mimicry), which is very well-studied in evolution. The pheromone the flower emits is similar to but not exactly like the wasp’s, and the flower looks somewhat like but certainly not exactly like a wasp. The orchids could potentially go a lot further than they have in mimicking the wasp–and maybe as time goes on they will. And the fact that they only partially resemble the wasp, and yet it still works, shows that imperfect transitional phases are in fact viable.

    Anyways, nothing about such a scenario contradicts natural selection. The plants which more closely resemble the wasp will have an adaptive advantage, while those that less resemble it will die off. As time goes by, gradually the plants will more and more closely approximate the wasp, simply by necessity of the process. Pseudocopulatory pollination does not cause any problems for the theory.

    Trying to find the “hand of God” in it leads to contradictions and absurdities, to a much less elegant explanation and ultimately to a fruitless enterprise. For one thing, why is the orchid’s imitation of the wasp so imperfect? Also, why would God “design” one species to exploit another species and cause it to waste its resources? The wasp is tricked into mating with a non-wasp, and hence its sperm does the wasp no good. Why would God create such a wasteful process? And in addition, since God is untestable, the hypothesis “God’s hand is involved” cannot lead to new avenues of research or new discoveries. It’s a dead end. It tells us nothing more about the orchids than what we already knew without the hypothesis. You don’t learn anything new about Orchids by adding “God did it” to their description.

    Bibanu:

    1) All of you and the best (most intelligent) scientists in the world CANNOT create one single cell (even given some material to start with).
    2) I hope that you see why I am having a very hard time to believe that this much more complex universe was created without any intelligence behind it. If you – intelligent and capable people cannot create the smallest amount of life – how can I believe that lifeless matter can do that and much more?

    Scientists are much closer to creating cells from raw chemicals than you realize. The “life not yet created in a lab” claim is an issue on which creationists will have to eat crow very soon. And in what gap will you put your God then?

    However, even if we were still eons away from creating life in a laboratory, or even if it never happened at all, it would be an argument from ignorance fallacy to claim that this somehow disproves evolution. “We don’t know how to create life, therefore God did it” is not a cogent argument.

  15. #15 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 31, 2008

    It is very hard for me to believe in materialistic explanations for the following simple motif:
    1) All of you and the best (most intelligent) scientists in the world CANNOT create one single cell (even given some material to start with).

    God did not create butterscotch-flavored root beer, man did. How do expect me to believe in the divinity of any being which failed to create butterscotch-flavored root beer?

  16. #16 MartinM
    March 31, 2008

    The “life not yet created in a lab” claim is an issue on which creationists will have to eat crow very soon.

    Not really. If scientists can’t make life in the lab, it proves that abiogenesis is impossible. And if scientists can make life in the lab, it proves that abiogenesis requires intelligent agency. That’s the standard creationist line, anyway.

  17. #17 nolrai
    March 31, 2008

    Assuming, that is, that the monkeys referred to in this thought experiment are understood to be perfect randomizing devices that strike each key with equal probability
    to be totally nitpicky it doesn’t have to be equal, just non-zero.

  18. #18 Larry Fafarman
    April 1, 2008

    Jason said,

    That ID is not science by any reasonable definition is certainly true, as is the claim that the main function of ID is to provide a constitutionally acceptable form of creationism for inclusion in public school curricula (an idea that looks a bit foolish in light of the Dover verdict).

    IMO you Darwinists should forget about the Dover verdict — you only make yourselves look a hell of a lot more than just a “bit” foolish by citing it. The Dover defendants never had a chance. Judge Jones showed extreme prejudice against ID and the Dover defendants — regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept — by saying in his Dickinson College commencement speech that his Dover decision was based on his notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions. He said,

    . . . this much is very clear. The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state.

    Furthermore, the Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion is just the opinion of a single judge — it is not binding precedent anywhere outside the Dover Area school district.

  19. #19 Jim
    April 1, 2008

    Wes

    Thanks for responding, I don’t think that throwing a few old unproven theories at this is enough said.
    You have the pheromone and its delivery system, you have a mechanical pollinating system and the visual mimicry of the wasp. Lets remember this is a plant with out senses as we know them, are you saying that this just evolved with time, if that were the case why this one type of wasp? think of the endless easier ways a plant can pollinate, then add the pheromone, to me the pheromone that causes the wasp to mate with this flower is beyond belief of all the flowering plant on earth a few Orchids are the only ones that use the pheromone of a female wasp, if you made me sit in a room for a year and told me to think of different ways to pollinate a flower, a wasp mating with it would not be on my list. The thing about the pheromone is that it�s a chemical that triggers a hormonal response in this specific wasp to mate, I don�t know its complexity or even if its common to plants, but I’ll guess its not common to plants, because of all the flowering plants only a few orchids use wasp pheromone.

    As for it being an imperfect likeness and a waist of the poor wasps sperm, the plant is successful enough for us to be discussing it and maybe this was Gods way of controling the wasp population.

  20. #20 bibanu
    April 1, 2008

    I appreciate your answers – even though some of you misrepresented my points.

    If scientists DO create life – my questions and problems with materialistic evolution do not really disappear. This is for at least a two motives:
    1) You will be using some starting matter/substance(s) which cannot be proven to have existed at the time of creation. In other words – you are NOT creating EX NIHILO.

    2) YOU – the creators are INTELLIGENT – you are not matter creating/producing life. In a way – this only supports my argument that an INTELLIGENT mind created life.

    Fast Lane said (thanks for your time):

    “I’m guessing from your second point that you think intelligence is somehow a necessity for complexity. Is that intelligence more, or less, complex, than the complexity you are attempting to explain with your hypothetical intelligence? Is this where special pleading comes in, or is it intelligent turtles all the way down?”

    That intelligence does not have to be more complex than what I am trying to explain. Does it?

    Anyway – allow me to make a philosophical (not scientific) argument. I believe that all of us have at one point or another to go into a philosophical argument – science cannot explain certain questions (it deals mostly with HOW).

    We all have presuppositions that cannot be proved. Your presupposition is that MATTER was from the beginning and nothing else. You cannot prove that – because you do not have access to the universe that existed millions/billions of years, but it is a reasonable assumption.

    If this is true (all that existed was matter) – it is very difficult for you to prove (I think it is impossible) and to demonstrate that this unintelligent matter created the life and beauty that we see today.

    I have a presuposition too. Mine is that there is an Uncreated Creator which is intelligent and personal. This I do not need/have to explain – for if I was able to explain, I am more intelligent than he is. I do not believe in a God that can be put in a test-tube. That is NOT a God anymore.

    In the Bible (before the theory of evolution and other theories about life existed) the statement that God makes about Himself is clear: I AM WHO I AM (meaning: I AM; I am existence itself and nothing exists without me). Also – from EVERLASTING to EVERLASTING I AM GOD. Thus – from the very beginning – this God is assumed to have existed (uncreated) from eternity.

    To pose the question (as Dawkins does) of the complexity of God is irelevant. Because we do not believe in a created God (hence the question: how was it possible for God to come into existence etc).

    If this assumption is granted – all the rest makes sense. There is life, order, personality and intelligence – because behind it all there is a personal and intelligent God.

    Of course – if you do not grant my assumption (I have no intention to ‘prove’ to you that there is God; I do not think that God needs to be defended; I would rather defend a lion :)), you have to start with your assumption…

    And the fact is – it is very very difficult (I believe it is impossible) to ever demonstrate that matter can create life, beauty, and intelligence – no matter how much time you may take in the lab. [Of course if you take time in the lab and succeed in creating life – you just prove that an INTELLIGENT being with time, effort and some matter can create life etc). For me – this scenario requires much more faith than believing in a Uncreated Creator. He is the Creator – all the rest are created.

    In any case – thanks for your comments and observations.

    Blessings to all,
    Chris

    P.S. My first objection was not answered. I would appreciate a short answer. Thanks.

  21. #21 Larry Fafarman
    April 1, 2008

    Jim said (April 1, 2008 1:51 AM ) –

    Wes

    Thanks for responding, I don’t think that throwing a few old unproven theories at this is enough said.
    You have the pheromone and its delivery system, you have a mechanical pollinating system and the visual mimicry of the wasp.

    This wasp-orchid relationship is discussed on my blog at –

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2007/07/x-rated-orchid.html

    The above article says,

    One thing that is especially interesting about at least one of these wasp-orchid relationships is that the female wasps emerge a week later than the male wasps so that the orchids do not have to compete with real female wasps in attracting horny male wasps. Another interesting thing is that these relationships confer no benefit on the wasps except free porn.

    So why do the female wasps emerge a week later even though the wasp-orchid relationship has no benefit for the wasps?

  22. #22 JimCH
    April 1, 2008

    So Larry, why did you finally decide to develop a backbone & come out of the closet? I’m going to miss your transparent moniker. So much the better though for everyone to see for themselves what a psychotic twist you are.

    IMO you Darwinists should forget about the Dover verdict — you only make yourselves look a hell of a lot more than just a “bit” foolish by citing it.

    This from the brilliant mind that brings to his “readers”:

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008
    Even Jews have difficulty deciding who is really Jewish
    I have argued that a “systematic” Jewish holocaust was impossible because the Nazis had no objective and reliable ways of identifying Jews and non-Jews.

    Yes, now it’s out there for everyone to smell. Must be liberating Larry. No more hiding, no more covering your tracks.

  23. #23 Damian
    April 2, 2008

    bibanu said:

    I understand that NO ONE CAN ANSWER THAT DEMAND. However – why is it absurdly naive to desire it? I think that is the PROBLEM with this theory for many people. Since science “is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable and evidence…and the experiments have to be repeatable etc” – I have a hard time to see how this is science.

    It is hard for me (and apparently for most Americans?) – to accept a theory which in many cases says something like this: “well…we cannot prove it, we cannot observe it …but given millions [billions?] of years this is what would happen…” Maybe you are right, maybe you are wrong. Many people do not see these statements as being “scientific” since they are not observable, repeatable, and/or falsifiable.

    I am going to use an analogous situation to hopefully highlight my point and provide an answer to why it is absurd to expect that we can observe everything directly.

    Would you, bibanu, be happy to live in country that has no criminal justice system? Are you absolutely horrified that the US has executed so many people, and do you support an end to this practice, as well as an end to any criminal prosecutions?

    If not, welcome to the world of not being there to observe an incident directly, but still being able to develop techniques that help you to gather evidence and use logic to infer the most parsimonious explanation.

    It is very rare that anyone – except the criminal, of course – is there at the scene of a crime, and yet, we are pretty successful at piecing together evidence and making a strong case to convict people of crimes. Is it a perfect system? Nope. Do we make huge errors, putting innocent people to death (I’m am not an American, by the way, and I oppose the death penalty, in all circumstances)? Absolutely. Does our not being there mean that we should stop even trying to convict criminals? Only if you can show that we are so bad at it that it would be perverse to continue.

    Please read these for an idea of how we piece together evidence for phenomena that we are not able to directly observe:

    Reproductive history writ in the genome

    29+ Evidences for Macroevolution

    Also, read this to see how we Search for Extrasolar Planets, without being able to directly observe them.

    This is all that we have, bibanu. Of course, we could simply say that it isn’t worth bothering, but you will find that most of religion would become obsolete, as it would be impossible to for us to trust any history, and almost all of science would disappear in an instant, also. I really don’t think that you have thought this through, particularly. We would literally be sent back to the dark ages overnight.

    The great thing about science is that it lots of different people attempt to solve the same problems. Phenomena aren’t investigated only once and then accepted. For us to move forward it requires us to continually test the same phenomena, using different techniques, because it is the only way that we can be sure that we are on the right track.

    By the way, science can’t prove anything. No matter how unlikely, it is possible that the sun won’t rise tomorrow morning (the sun doesn’t rise, in actual fact, but I am accepting that it does for the sake of this argument). We can only falsify in science, ruling out explanations as we go. All that we are doing is tentatively edging closer and closer, tiny step by tiny step, to the best explanation. We will never be able to explain any phenomena completely. Given all that I have said, isn’t it amazing that these exact techniques have enabled us to come as far as we have? The success is the the main indicator of the correctness of the method.

    bibanu said:

    We all have presuppositions that cannot be proved. Your presupposition is that MATTER was from the beginning and nothing else. You cannot prove that – because you do not have access to the universe that existed millions/billions of years, but it is a reasonable assumption.

    If this is true (all that existed was matter) – it is very difficult for you to prove (I think it is impossible) and to demonstrate that this unintelligent matter created the life and beauty that we see today.

    This is simply not true, bibanu. We do not presuppose that there was matter and nothing else. We don’t know what happened at the exact moment or before the big bang. We are, however, very confident about much of the evolution of the universe, thereafter. We are not even sure if it is the correct question to ask, anyway. At this point, it is thought that the energy may well have always been around, and that both space and time (and matter) came in to existence roughly 13.74 billion years ago. Ask yourself whether it is even possible for there to be nothing, or whether it is more likely that there was always something? What does nothing look like? Scientists are honest about what we know, and what we don’t.

    Read Where did the matter in the universe come from?

    To pose the question (as Dawkins does) of the complexity of God is irelevant. Because we do not believe in a created God (hence the question: how was it possible for God to come into existence etc).

    How convenient! The problem is, bibanu, nothing that you’ve said has any explanatory power, whatsoever. You could replace God with almost anything, and it wouldn’t make a difference. It is a completely useless answer, scientifically. It won’t save any lives, or help us to solve any problems. That is why so many people don’t take it seriously in the scientific realm.

    If this assumption is granted – all the rest makes sense. There is life, order, personality and intelligence – because behind it all there is a personal and intelligent God.

    You are revealing the real difference between science and religion here, bibanu. It doesn’t matter to science whether something makes intuitive sense, or not. It matters whether it fits the evidence, enables us to make predictions, and is testable and falsifiable.

    You may not agree, but your explanation really is very selfish. All that you seem worried about is whether something makes sense to you, even though you have clearly shown that you haven’t even bothered to find out what science has to say about anything. I am not trying to be cruel here, but science couldn’t care less about what makes sense to you. It isn’t supposed to be a comfort blanket.

    And the fact is – it is very very difficult (I believe it is impossible) to ever demonstrate that matter can create life, beauty, and intelligence – no matter how much time you may take in the lab. For me – this scenario requires much more faith than believing in a Uncreated Creator. He is the Creator – all the rest are created.

    Matter creates life hundreds of thousands of times a day, bibanu. It’s called reproduction. I guess that it would depend on your definition of what is life, though. We don’t know exactly how life first arose, no. But again, that simply reflects the honesty of science. It doesn’t simply make stuff up, so that it “makes sense”.

    As far as beauty and intelligence is concerned, you would have to define those terms, first and foremost. Beauty is subjective. There is no intrinsic beauty in the universe. It is simply a matter of our taste. I would imagine that you might think that the structure of a snow flake is beautiful, yes? Do you believe that God makes every single one of them before it falls to earth? If not, then an unintelligent process makes things that you consider beautiful.

    I’d like to suggest that you at least attempt to read a few books, bibanu. I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place, but much of what you have said is rather unintelligible, and it would take a whole book to answer properly. What you need to at least consider is whether it is fair that you believe anything, above and beyond another explanation, without first attempting to explore the alternatives. The fact is that you don’t really know whether one thing is more believable or not, because you haven’t even tried to understand the scientific explanations. Asking questions is perfectly fine, but you really should attempt to learn some of the basics. Science is complicated and often difficult to grasp. Nobody has ever suggested that it isn’t, though. It will still save your life, whether you believe in it or not.

    Thanks.

  24. #24 Jason Rosenhouse
    April 2, 2008

    nolrai-

    I knew someone was going to comment on that! I left it in anyway.

  25. #25 ALEX
    April 7, 2008

    I remember when I was reading Kitcher’s book coming upon a few phrases and thinking “This is the kind of phrase the creationists would love to quote-mine.”

  26. #26 yutube
    April 7, 2008

    thanks nice post

  27. #27 Voice in the Urbanness
    June 8, 2008

    Larry Fafarman said:

    So why do the female wasps emerge a week later even though the wasp-orchid relationship has no benefit for the wasps?

    Why don’t you stop the arbitrary censorship on your own blog so this can be debated there?