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REPLY #5c TO
"EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the third of a four-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Why accept something that is patently untrue? If someone had, indeed, refuted evolution - especially in a major way - the whole thing would have come down long ago.
(R) I don't think that this is true. The fossil record refutes it, as I have indicated already. New theories have emerged (evolutionary mechanism still unclear) taking the fossil record into account, it is true, but they are still evolutionary theories.
(MB) Again, if you can see the difference between the overall idea of evolution and the details that comprise parts of it, your worries will be assuaged. The fossil record does not dispute evolution. Interpretations (good, bad and bogus) of it have fostered debate about certain mechanics of evolution. Creationists have tried to advance their own ideas to account for the fossil record, but each has gone down to humiliating defeat.


(R) Dr. Gish points out many examples of different forms of life (butterfly, bombardier beetle, the woodpecker) that have very elaborate systems that could not have evolved piecemeal. No known or postulated evolutionary mechanism can account for their existence. These examples are either ignored or explained away with a "trust us, we'll find the answer some day: just keep the faith" from the evolutionists.
(MB) Just because Gish can't (or chooses not to) understand how things happen does not qualify as evidence that they did not happen. He also loves to postulate wild ideas that require structures such as the eye, for example, to suddenly appear overnight. He then uses them to put down evolution. The examples you refer to primarily concern the development of the wing. Again, he expects that fully-feathered wings suddenly had to appear on the offspring of a reptile in order for evolution to be affirmed. As this is obvious nonsense, he cites it (and similar examples) as "proof" of Creation.
    As to the notion that "there is no known or postulated evolutionary mechanism" for such things, this is another example of deliberately ignoring what has been written. There are a vast number of articles discussing exactly those mechanisms. A good summary of many of them is given by Ernst Mayr in "Evolution and the Diversity of Life" - a work which was available to Gish prior to his publishing his own work. It is clear, then, that Gish's claims are somewhere between uninformed, at best, and deliberately deceitful, at worst.



(R) I rather doubt that anyone has ever asked Dr. Gish, for example, what his Ph.D. was in, only to receive an evasive answer.
(MB) Indeed, not. As I have stated previously, Gish is one of the few Creationists who actually has some idea of what he's talking about. He is a biochemist by training - although he spends most of his time arguing paleontology.
    Creationists love "degree-dropping" in order to bolster the "argument by authority" angle. Normally, however, they merely state that so-and-so is a Ph.D. while carefully leaving out the discipline in which the degree was earned. In all but a few cases, the degrees are in fields whose relevance to evolution are rather questionable. It is instructive to refer to a Creationist publication entitled "21 Scientists Who Believe in Creationism". Investigation of the names listed that pub will reveal that three of them hold doctorates in education, two in theology, and five in engineering. There are also one physicist, one chemist, a hydrologist (Morris), an entomologist, a psycholinguist, and a Ph.D. in "Food Science Technology". The remaining five hold degrees that have peripheral relevance: two biochemists (including Gish), an ecologist, a physiologist, and a geophysicist. (An additional widely-quoted Creationist "authority", R.L. Wysong, is a veterinarian.) Where are the biologists, zoologists, paleontologists, geologists, etc. that might have real and direct expertise in relevant subject areas?



(R) To say that Ph.D.s trained in similar fields don't count is like saying that physicists don't know math because their degrees were in physics and not mathematics.
(MB) At least those are related disciplines. In any case, you are correct to a point. Any amount of higher education is better than none at all. However, when one flaunts his degree(s) in the interest of promoting "argument by authority", it then becomes proper to consider the relevance of his sheepskin. It should also go without saying that the average layman is more impressed by the arguments of a Ph.D. than by those of an untitled speaker.
    The proper way to judge the worth of an argument, of course, is by what the argument says and not by who is advancing it. So why, then, do Creationists use the "many scientists are Creationists" argument? Why do they flaunt degrees? Why do they bother to publish such things as "21 Scientists..."? They must think that those degrees count for something that will advance their cause.



(R) My degree is not in a "hard science" but I can still examine evidence and consider its logical consistency and validity, even if it would be very difficult for me to replicate such evidence myself.
(MB) The ability to do that is essential to debating any issue. Some people possess it naturally while others develop it by training and education. Some of the wisest people I've ever known have little or no higher education at all. Thus, my earlier comment about judging the argument by its content rather than by the degree its proponent possesses.


(R) In fact, I rather think that my degree in administrative and behavioral science qualifies me in a unique way to examine the evolution-creation debate. What we have involved is power, politics, perceptual biases, in- and out-group behavior, as well as studies in decision-making fallacies such as escalating commitment to a failing course of action.
(MB) And such things only exist on one side of the coin?


(R) This underpinning gives me ability to examine the human side of this debate, and provides the acuity to see through these fallacious "fact-vs-faith" arguments. Beware when one side in a debate spends much of its time proclaiming its objectivity while pointing out the subjectivity of the other side.
(MB) That's valid only when there is no such objectivity vs. subjectivity issue present. That is far from the case in this particular issue, however. On the one hand, you have an idea based upon observation, experimentation, peer review, and constant critique and revision. On the other, you have an idea based upon a few people's literal interpretation of a several thousand year old set of manuscripts that have suffered from the ravages of time and mistranslation which depends upon absolute acceptance of things even the believers admit can not be understood. Call it "fact-vs-faith" if you wish. I think it's more clear-cut than that.


(R) You have stated that you know values influence science, and then remarked that science pursues the truth of the universe. So do creationists, and in their world view is based on much stronger evidence than yours: eye-witness accounts from the One who actually made the universe.
(MB) "Much stronger evidence"? Self-validating accounts of a supernatural entity? A Bible that is "truth" because it is "God's inspired Word" - and we "know" this to be true because the Bible says so? "Evidence" that refuses to subject itself to review while demanding unattainably absolute proof from other ideas? Tell me, how does one go about defending Creationism to somebody who does not believe in the Judeo-Christian version of God or in the Bible?


(R) To reject such evidence as "not science" may be a fair criticism, but it is narrow mindedness and antithetical to finding the truth of the universe to reject such nonscientific evidence out of hand.
(MB) Yes, it is. That's why I don't do that. I merely ask the same level of evidence and proof from Creationism that I do from evolution -- or from any other scientific theory or old wives' tale. If something fails the test, then it may be rejected. Fair enough?


(R) So it may not be "science," but it can still be scientifically correct. I understand the biases of the academic community: we are very focused on finding questions that can lead to research grants and publications, rather than answers that seem to solve all the questions.
(MB) How, then, do you account for all of us who are *not* seeking grants or looking to publish anything? Leave the conspiracy theories to Oliver Stone...


(R) To many academic scientists, the Biblical claims of creation may seem like an "answer solving all questions," and therefore of little interest.
(MB) On the contrary, they are of great interest. Because of the ramifications should they be true, such claims have *not* been rejected without intensive examination. They have only been rejected because they have failed. Frankly, I wish the Biblical stories *were* true. It would make life *much* easier. I did not celebrate on the day I finally rejected them. However, it was more important to me to seek the truth than to take the easy way out. I don't begrudge anybody their religious faith as I understand what it means to them. I just don't want to stand by while watching nonsense being peddled as "science" or used to argue against science. This view is consistent with my opinions on other issues relating to pseudoscience and the paranormal.


Whether that is or is not true makes no difference whatsoever to any arguments either for or against evolution (or Creationism, for that matter).
(R) It certainly does when arguments against creation include such things as "Creationists don't have degrees in the correct fields of science" or "Creationists don't publish in scientific journals" are used in the debate.
(MB) I've already addressed the first point. The second didn't say "publish", it said "submit". Creationists don't even submit their arguments to scientific journals where they can be subjected to proper review. They take their case directly to the masses - the people who are least equipped to separate the intellectual wheat from the chaff. If the Creationist case had any value, it would be heard in the halls of academia. It is far too easy to belittle the "inertia" of science when one's own ideas do not find acceptance. In fact, that ploy is rather common - and meaningless - and is not confined to issues of science. Gays, blacks, feminists, and drug users all use variations of it to draw attention to their own causes.


In the first case, the best that could be done would be to prove that resurrection itself is possible. There would, however, be no way to prove that Jesus himself was resurrected. There is simply no hard evidence.
    Evolution, on the other hand, is not only historical -- it is also ongoing. Because of this, its existence can be proven by experimentation.

(R) When it comes to what occurred in the past (the possibility of evolution, for example) your statements concerning the resurrection are completely correct. Simply be rigorous in your application of them. If evolution is occurring in the present, that doesn't mean that is how life came to exist on planet earth. That is extrapolating beyond the data.
(MB) Indeed, it is -- and that's not what evolution seeks to describe. The question of how life came to exist on planet Earth is outside the scope of evolution. Evolution only kicks in once that life is already here. The evidence for what has happened since then is overwhelming. Extrapolating from that evidence into a theory of evolution only requires a belief that the laws of science apply to evolution just as they do to everything else we have ever observed.


This only shows a lack of understanding of the scientific method and/or of experimentation. Any scientific theory also has predictive power. In other words, it should be able to predict results of later experiments or observations. When evolution predicts which types of fossils will be found in which layers of sediment and that simpler forms will evolve into more complex ones, and every subsequent experiment or observation produces results consistent with those predictions, the theory gains strength.
(R) You need to differentiate between the scientific methods and the use of the methods of science. Let me elaborate. Were extraneous variables controlled for? For example, your sediment example is based on the assumption of uniformitarianism, that the present is the key to the past. But what if this assumption (a nonverifiable one) is incorrect?
(MB) Then, such things will need to be discovered and documented. Until such time, they are no more than idle and unsupportable speculations.


(R) What if an alternative explanation exists that was not controlled for, such as catastrophic change and widely varying rates of sedimentation? It may be that an illusion of the scientific method persists, but this is actually the use of the methods of science.
(MB) In such instances, there would be evidence of such alternatives. Also, such alternatives would themselves have to be internally consistent and be able to predict and explain the observed data. If such is not the case, then, once again, we have nothing but an exercise in meaningless speculation. Or, a plot device in a sci-fi comedy novel such as the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in which the Earth is actually an massive supercomputer on which organic life forms a part of its operational matrix and was constructed on the legendary planet of Magrathea in order to run a 10-million year research program to calculate the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything -- to which the answer is "42"...


(R) It may be better explained by the alternative (in this case, a world-wide flood).
(MB) Creationists have already tried that one. It has failed so miserably that even they tend to tiptoe around it now.


(R) You also implied that experiments demonstrated that simpler life forms will evolve into more complex ones. Simpler life forms may be induced in the laboratory to show more variety. But this variation will reach a limit. Other experiments conducted by creationist scientists have shown similar kinds of variation, but have found that variation will stop at some point, and the life forms can change no further. Such experiments (the ones evolutionists conduct) do not demonstrate what you claim for them.
(MB) Please detail some of these experiments. Also, is there some explanation for why variation should just stop at some arbitrary point?



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