One of my best friends, Steve, asked me to do a brief article on Evolution. What started off as a facebook response has morphed into a full-on brief response. Here is his wall post, in full:
What do you do with all this evolutionary stuff? Could you write a future topic on Coffee Shop atheist to comment on what you do with evidence against old earth & evolution? Some things I have in mind are the mosaic species; the seemingly sudden appearance of man in the fossil record; the folding of old rock layers; the source of comets; the discovery of T-rex blood vessels; vertical fossils; the thickness of topsoil; and the thickness of seafloor sediment. You could probably ask the same from me, and it would be fair. Thanks much!
My thoughts are below, tailored as a personalized response.
I Can’t Convince You
Hey sexy man. I wanted to respond to this but I’ve been swamped and couldn’t get away long enough for a good response to what you asked.
I guess first off, I want to confess I’m not as knowledgeable about evolution or geology as say, history of the bible, psychology, or theology, and those fields’ implications for Christianity. I.e. I don’t know enough about it to be able to deal with specific creationist (i’m assuming here) claims about ‘problems’ with evolution.
But evolution isn’t a theological issue; it’s a scientific one. It is like quantum mechanics, interharmonics, magnetic fields generated by 4GHz switching cycles [Steve is a fellow electrical engineer]. It is about what we know concretely about biology, geology, chemistry, and reality. It technically has nothing to do with God at all, which is why I am less concerned with it. It’s true, yesterday today and tomorrow, and says nothing one way or the other about God, but does say a bit about some of the books He is reported to have authored.
To that end, I guess I can give a more general mindset, because I know even if I try, I can’t convince you that evolution is true or false. You’re an extremely smart guy, which has benefits and problems: you can believe you are 100% correct about something, can come up with creative solutions to any new ‘facts’ that might change your way of thinking, and based on past experience, you’ve generally been correct.
So I don’t really want to ‘argue’ for evolution; you have to do the research for yourself. I can explain why I think it’s true, and why Creationism ultimately fails to pass the test for being an honest method of inquiry.
For evolution to be true, there are two facts that have to be true, and nothing more:
- Random genetic mutation occurs
- Some random genetic mutation leads some reproducing cells or groups of cells to have a better chance at either survival or reproduction (known as natural selection and sexual selection).
That’s it, that’s all that’s required. Everything else is extraneous. The Macro/Micro misinterpretation is irrelevant. If it happens on a small scale, it happens on a large scale. Geology, fossils, DNA, everything else is just fluff. So the question is, are these two facts true, always?
The answer is yes, and we have proof. These to facts have been observed in people’s lifetimes. My favorite examples are a group of lizards that evolved completely new necks and digestive abilities in a few decades after being introduced to a non-native island, or the nylon-eating bacteria that have evolved recently (Nylon was not invented until WW2). A final example takes the form of an experiment conducted by Richard Lenski, a researcher who undertook a 20-year long experiment in which E. Coli, after 30,000+ generations, developed the ability to process citrate. It morphed to adapt to a new climate. The comedy involves an attempt by Conservapedia to dismiss the results using attempts at logical fallacies and deliberate misinterpretation, but was met with a clear, strongly worded response by Lenski.
In addition to this, the genetic makeup of a species and its ancestors can be used to corroborate the claims of Evolution. Whenever a new species or bone or somesuch is found, we can use the information about it to determine where it fits in the tree of extant species. To see some of these examples, google “Dna Evidence Evolution” and see what comes up. One article from Sciencedirect presents the genetic sequencing of the human genome in the context of fossilized evidence, and presents a tremendous amount of information to exacerbate the linkage. There are hundreds of thousands more like it, and more produced every day.
Creationist Claim: T-Rex Blood
As far as the above claims, these seem like specific claims trying to pick holes in the theory. There’s a really cool website, TalkOrigins.com, that has an index of creationist claims and well-laid out layperson-style explanation of the claim and responses.
The dispute comes mainly from the overemphasis of the claims made, and is made clear by the quote (from that previous link) below:
“They have clearly stated they could not even assert that there were residual blood products, but Wieland falsely claimed Schweitzer asserted there were actual cells. The lack of permineralization (the infilling of the intravascular spaces with minerals, and recrystalization of the bone mineral itself) is the reason that Schweitzer could loosely refer to the bone as “not completely fossilized” in The Real Jurassic Park. Wieland grossly exaggerates this as “unfossilized”. [1997: pg. 42]
Schweitzer and Staedter (1997) is most charitably characterized as a dumbed down version of the scientific publications published the same year (Schweitzer, et al. 1997A, B, C). Schweitzer, et al., “Heme compounds in dinosaur Trabecular bone” (1997A) gives us a straight forward data presentation,and concludes that there were heme, and hemoglobin protein fragments sufficiently well preserved in a small portion of a particularly well preserved bone from which they could produce an immunological response in rats. There is no indication that there were “blood cells” found in the bone…”
Basically, what AiG and Wieland did was read into a single article, the watered-down, pop-science version of a journal paper, and conflated ‘cells’ with ‘residue,’ which is patently dishonest. This is, in my experience, par for the course when people seek to disprove evolution.
As far as the other problems,
- Sudden appearance of humans (CC100) has about 8 articles, discrediting most of the reports as completely false.
- Rock layers (CD510) can fold when heated or be deformed otherwise
- Comets (CE260,CE261): there are way more comets than just the ones that happen to come near the sun (these are exceptions), the Oort cloud and Kuiper belt exist and have been observed,
- Topsoil (CD620) is created and destroyed, and maintains an average level due to environmental factors
- Sedimentation (CD200) has about 12 articles. One in particular about attempting to discredit the old earth with the amount of sediment is similar to the topsoil claim; it is in a transient state, so claims about the earth based on its age are completely irrelevant.
There is a big huge article that takes specific aim at Kent Hovind’s claims, and goes through a majority of them. I’d love for you to check it out. I hope you understand I’m not dismissing you or ignoring what you have to say by writing brief summaries, but go check them out for yourself. I don’t know what you know, but I know you well enough that you can learn a thing or two.
Most commonly the arguments commit some sort of logical fallacy, whether equivocation (where a word has two meanings, such as “macroevolution” as defined and used by scientists or ‘macroevolution’ as defined and used by creationists. The other option is outright lying, such as repeated attacks on geological time measurement methods that aren’t used to date things the way creationists say they’re used (carbon/isometric/radiometric dating; problems with one don’t mean the others are flawed within their acceptable ranges)
As far as fossilization goes, as already discussed there is evidence in our own lifetime of evolution occurring, and genetics/DNA provide additional correlation. Fossils are the icing on the cake, and because of the very circumstantial conditions that must take place for fossilization to occur. Thus, it is a ‘miracle’ (a highly random possibility) that we have any fossils at all. To that end, finding some fossils out of order can be more easily explained as a fluke situation than something that undermines the whole theory of evolution.
I know there is much, much more here, and for every well-established truth about evolution or the age of the earth, there are a million misinterpretations of it from the creationist side. But that’s just what they are: logical fallacies wrapped up as trying to prove some belief true. That’s not how science or truth works. You find the truth, then let the truth inform your beliefs, not the other way around.
Science constantly and continually corrects itself, and you can bet that if anyone had real, demonstrable, non-fallacious proof that some other mechanism besides evolution is the cause of speciation, they would win the Nobel Prize and go down as the most influential person in history. But they haven’t. All that has happened is various people have latched on to “God of the Gaps” theories, which many Christians think demeans God’s character.
What these arguments boil down to is “Science hasn’t explained this yet! Look! Look Here! Ignore the mountains of evidence and look here at this pothole!” The weak nature of this claim is exacerbated when people are starting from the conclusion, rather than from the evidence. If I start with, “I’m right that the earth is 6 KYa, and evolution is false,” I’m not mentally capable of skeptical, rational, iquiry. I am only capable of tricking myself into believing what I want to believe.
So I urge you to look just at the evidence. Don’t look with an agenda, with a goal, with proving yourself right or wrong. Just look. Stare. Look at your own bias: Is it making you treat the evidence unfairly? I know it did me!
Ultimately, if you value truth, you will have to admit that bias and agenda-seeking is not a good path to it, and that is the entirety of what people like Kent Hovind and Answers in Genesis do. There is nothing honest about what they do, nor (with any amount of research) in the methodology they employ to attempt to convince others. If you value beliefs, by all means, don’t go down this road. However, I find that truth is much more palatable than mere belief, and much better at getting us to where we wish we could be.