Darwinian Backfire Part III

10 08 2006

Filed under: Darwin, Evolution, Creationism, ID

This is Joe Carter’s third part in the list of ways in which neo-Darwinist critics are helping to promote the theory of intelligent design.

#8 By separating origins of life science from evolutionary explanations. – Nature is too complex to be encompassed in any one field. That is why it’s necessary for scientific disciplines (physics, biology, chemistry) to be broken down into sub-disciplines (cosmology, zoology, biochemistry, etc.). But while most scientists may not have no problems thinking in unconnected categories, the average person expects the various parts to be stitched back into a seamless whole.

That is why when looking for an explanation for the origins of mankind, most people naturally start at the beginning. The neo-Darwinists, on the other hand, prefer to jump ahead to the middle and begin the argument with “specifies evolve.” If you ask them how “life” (a necessary feature for any evolving species) began in the first place they will claim that the issue is outside the theory.

Perhaps. But since naturalistic theories rise or fall based on the plausibility of this issue, it would probably be a good idea to make sure that this one is nailed down.

Unfortunately for these advocates, modern science doesn’t have a clue how DNA, much less a living organism, could have been produced from non-living matter. If you ask most anti-ID critics about abiogenesis they will either be under the (false) impression that this problem has already been solved or will claim that it is only a matter of time before the process is understood. (See #3)

Some scientists, such as Nobel-prize winner Francis Crick, have at least attempted to come up with an alternative explanation. Crick, realizing the impossibility of abiogenesis occurring on earth, published a paper in which he suggested that life on earth was “seeded” from another planet. (That’s something to keep in mind the next time someone mentions that real science (as opposed to something like ID theory) is submitted through “peer-reviewed science journals”.)

An adequate theory of speciation must begin at the beginning. Before there can be species there must first be living organisms. How did these organisms evolve from inanimate matter? No one knows. But until the theory can be rooted in a firm explanation for how this occurs, explanations for an “intelligent designer” will appear quite plausible.

#9 By resorting to ad hominems instead of arguments (e.g., claiming that advocates of ID are “ignorant”). – About a year ago I had an email discussion about evolution and Intelligent Design theory with the Hugo-nominated sci-fi novelist John Scalzi. The debate quickly degenerated when he resorted to claiming, “the science is there for one and not for the other. By all means enjoy your ignorance, but don’t expect me to treat it or you very seriously.”

I suspect that if you gave Mr. Scalzi a test on the basic terms, concepts, and theories surrounding evolutionary biology, that he would fare no better than I would. (And I can almost guarantee that if you gave him a test on the basic terms, concepts, and theories of ID that he would flunk completely, for the reasons outlined in #1.) So why is it that Mr. Scalzi, thinks his position is superior?

I don’t know, and for the purposes of this post, a psychoanalytical analyis of his reasons isn’t necessary. What is important is not the motive but the dismissive attitude toward anyone who holds an opinion that differs from what is considered acceptable scientific dogma.

On occasion I’ve been known to gently mock those with whom I disagree (except for Dawkins and Peter Singer, who I despise). But to dismiss them entirely, even when, like Mr. Scalzi, they hold anti-rational opinions, would stifle genuine debate.

Perhaps I am too much a child of the Enlightenment for, like Voltaire and his fellow deists, I believe that the light of reason illuminates the obvious, namely that our intellects are not formed by a “crude, blind, insensible being.” Perhaps I just have too much faith in science which causes me to reject the science-fiction that neo-Darwinists explanations are sufficient. Or maybe I just assume that people who resort to ad hominems have run out of arguments.

#10 By not being able to believe their own theory. – Say what you will about advocates of ID, they actually believe in the basic claims of their theory. Not so, with neo-Darwinists.

For example, philosopher of science David Stove notes that ultra-Darwinists assert that while man was once trapped in the struggle to survive and pass on our genes, we no longer are trapped in the spiral of natural selection. Stove calls this the “Cave Man” attempt to solve “Darwinism’s Dilemma”:

If Darwin’s theory of evolution is true, no species can ever escape from the process of natural selection. His theory is that two universal and permanent tendencies of all species of organisms – the tendency to increase in numbers up to the limit that the food supply allows, and the tendency to vary in a heritable way – are together sufficient to bring about in any species universal and permanent competition for survival, and therefore universal and permanent natural selection among the competitors.

Natural selection, which is a “universal generalization about all terrestrial species at any time” can’t just be true sometimes: “If the theory says something which is not true now of our species (or another), then it is not true—finish.” Not only is this not true of our species now, it could never have been true:

Do you know of even one human being who ever had as many descendants as he or she could have had? And yet Darwinism says that every single one of us does. For there can clearly be no question of Darwinism making an exception of man, without openly contradicting itself. ‘Every single organic being’, or ‘each organic being’: this means you.

Those whose ideas about evolution are derived from Internet-debates or reading books by Richard Dawkins will quickly dismiss Stoves claims an dismiss it as a “strawman.” The problem is that this is Darwinism. It is the heart of the theory, which is why not one recognizes it which is why few critically thinking people actually believe it.

In fact, if you took what most lay advocates of neo-Darwinians believe about the theory and compared it to what evolutionary biologists actually say, you would likely find a vast, unbridgeable chasm. “Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians,” wrote Stove. “If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.”

People can get technical in a debate about theory, hypothesis, and how it is or isn’t true science.

I keep coming back to this fact: Creationists and evolutionists, Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence—the same facts. We all have the same earth, the same fossil layers, the same animals and plants, the same stars—the facts are all the same.

The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions. These are things that are assumed to be true, without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions.

It’s not until these two people recognize the argument is really about the presuppositions they have to start with, that they will begin to deal with the foundational reasons for their different beliefs.

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