Is Evolution Actually Progressive Creation?
Carl: If you are ever going to make a Theist out of me, let alone a Christian, you are going to have to explain what is wrong with Richard Dawkins' claim in his book, The Blind Watchmaker, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
Lucy: Dawkins' claim appears to be based on the assumption that all of the diversity and disparity of life on Earth must have been the result of unintelligent design rather than purposeful progressive creation. An intellectually fulfilled atheist requires that the "arrival of the fittest" must have all been the result of unplanned, unpredictable and unrepeatable random events, not simply assumed because of one's worldview or because science cannot invoke non-natural causes. Invoking random events requires reasonable probabilistic support.
Carl: I think that's fair.
Lucy: I might add that for the atheist, the Darwinian filter of Natural Selection must also have been the result of unplanned, unpredictable and unrepeatable random events. In short, although Darwin's Theory of Unintelligent Design should make atheism intellectually fulfilling, in the end it collapses into the belief that everything must be the result of pure chance: random events acted upon by a randomly generated filter. Needless to say, such a theory does not make for good science.
Carl: But what about descent with modification? Doesn't that make for a good theory.
Lucy: The problem for the atheist is that descent with modification eventually points back to the origin of life which, in turn, points back to the creation of the universe in the finite past. Since Reason tells us that either God or the universe has always existed and Science tells us that it's not the universe, those who base their faith in Reason and Science should reasonably conclude that creation preceded evolution. This is not good news for anyone seeking intellectual fulfillment as an atheist. Ironically, it is intellectually fulfilling for Deists and Theists in that it points most reasonably to a fine-tuner of the laws and initial conditions of the universe and to the evolution of life on Earth by means of progressive BioEngineering.
Carl: Hmm. I see your point. To tell you the truth, I've always conflated descent with modification with Neo-Darwinian theory and a materialistic view of evolution. Now you're telling me "not so fast" and ...
Lucy: ... and I'm not finished. Getting back to Dawkins' claim, do you think that it's intellectually fulfilling to argue that the evolution of Microsoft Windows and its descent with modification over time proves that Bill Gates never existed?
Carl: Of course not. The evolution of Microsoft Windows was the result of what you like to call "progressive creation" or "intelligent design". I get it. Why would Bill Gates reinvent the wheel every time he wanted to create a new operating system?
Lucy: Good question. And why would God want to reinvent the wheel every time he wanted to create a new species?
Carl: If you are trying to sneak your "God-of-the-gaps" into the argument, it won't work. Science is resticted to the study of purely natural causes and effects.
Lucy: You seem to be arguing that since God is beyond nature, anything He does is non-natural and hence unscientific.
Carl: Well, it's true. That's the definition of science. Besides, why would He break his own natural laws?
Lucy: Science somehow restricts God to what He can and cannot do? So we can be genetic engineers but God can't? Really?
Carl: Of course, it is logically possible that God acted as a genetic engineer over time, but scientists aren't paid to invoke God for any genetic changes. They're only paid to explain natural phenomena.
Lucy: But it's OK to invoke the Darwinian "god-of-the-gaps"?
Carl: What do you mean?
Lucy: Remember that Darwin never explained the arrival of the fittest. Neo-Darwinism attributes that to random mutations and other genetic changes attributed to Naturalism's "god-of-the-gaps", pure chance, which can be invoked to explain the origin of anything and everything. Don't take my word for it. Listen to what Pierre Paul Grasse, former President of the French Academy of Sciences, had to say:
"Directed by all-powerful selection, chance becomes a sort of providence, which, under the cover of atheism, is not named but which is secretly worshipped." (See http://arn.org/quotes/mutations.html)
Carl: Hmmm. You may be onto something, Lucy, but you can't deny that random mutations happen.
Lucy: Of course not. The issue is whether or not they can accumulate and ultimately create new body plans without creating a lethal genetic burden along the way. Show me the math and you might even convince me that evolution is the result of God's secondary causes rather than any direct primary cause. In the meantime, I remain skeptical that evolution is purely natural.
Carl: You're the skeptic now?
Lucy: I'm most skeptical of Naturalism and Materialism. To be intellectually fulfilled atheist, you have to be able to anser the question, "Who put the material in Materialism, anyway?"
Carl: Fine. I told you that Deism makes sense to me but you still have to admit that evolution is a fact, Fact, FACT!
Lucy: That all depends what you mean by "evolution". If you mean the record of natural history, then recall that the history of most fossil species include two features particularly inconsistent with Darwinian theory: stasis and sudden appearance. Stephen Jay Gould described them this way (see http://arn.org/quotes/Discontinuties.html)
1) Stasis - most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless;
2) Sudden appearance - in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and 'fully formed'.
While I certainly agree that stasis is natural, I have real doubts about sudden appearance. This is particularly true about the sudden appearance of the major body plans and the higher taxa: phyla and classes.
So who-dunnit? Naturalism's "god-of-the-gaps" or the God who created the entire Cosmos and who has revealed himself to us through revelation, prophecy and ultimately in the flesh. As an eyewitness, Peter wrote, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). John put it in words that scientists and historians who love evidence would appreciate, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete" (1 John 1:1-4).
Carl: You don't expect that to be taught in science classrooms, do you?
Lucy: Of course not; history classes would be much better. ;-) But you have to admit it's rather ironic that while students in public schools are being indoctrinated in "cleverly devised tales" which are not subject to observation but built upon the ideology of Philosophical Naturalism, they aren't being taught very much about the most important person who ever walked the face of the Earth who was seen, heard and touched.
Carl: But you digress.
Lucy: OK. I'll admit that. Back to Dawkins.
He even admits later in The Blind Watchmaker, "... the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists."
This is not news. Darwin considered the fossil record to be the most serious objection that could raised against his theory and claerly stated as much in his Origin of Species. There have always been serious and obvious conflicts between his theory and the pervasive patterns of natural history. It's funny, really. Scientists don't often claim that a theory is good while the facts are bad, but that seems to be what we have here. Philosophical Naturalism and its "god-of-the-gaps" has been trumping science since at least 1859.
Carl: So you have a better theory, I suppose?
Lucy: I think one can be developed. As I mentioned, stasis (and particularly the stability of the higher taxa or what one might call macrostasis) is real natural phenomenon and is subject to scientific investigation. Genetic error-correcting codes and mechanisms exist that promote stasis. The natural history of life on Earth shouts stasis repeatedly. Even natural selection itself plays a role in eliminating useless incipient and transitional forms from accumulating thus preventing major evolutionary change from occurring on a gradual step-by-step basis. Why else would Darwin have admitted in the Introduction to his Origin of Species, "I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question, and this cannot possibly be done here."? The "opposite conclusion" he was referring to was probably the ability of natural selection to inhibit major evolutionary change. It is certainly a valid conclusion.
So, yes, a better theory can and should be developed. Call it a Theory of Conservation. It would certainly do a better job of explaining how nature actually functions. That is the goal of science, isn't it?
Carl: But what about explaining the Origin of Species. Your theory wouldn't explain that!
Lucy: Who said the origin of every species was natural? The origin of the universe wasn't, so it's a good idea to keep evolution in that context. (See Evolution in Context at http://www.charlesdarwin.org/)
Carl: Looks like I've got some research to do. Until next time, Lucy.
Lucy: Be sure to take a look at "The Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution" for a great overview of the issues. If you prefer watching videos, check out the "Scientific Critiques of Evolutionary Theory" and "Intelligent Design" sections of ARN's recommended videos.
Finally, start thinking of evolution as progressive creation where God doesn't reinvent the wheel with each new species. If you ultimately want a Homo sapien sapien, after all, there's no reason not to take a perfectly good hominid design and do a bit of BioEngineering.
Remember that the pervasive patterns of natural history are much more akin to the patterns we see in the history of technology than they are to the predictions of Darwinian theory: major new and novel designs appear abruptly in the record followed by variations on these pre-existing themes. (See Conflicts Between Darwin and Geological Succession)
Looking forward to seeing you again, Carl.
Carl: Until next time, Lucy, when the coffee is on you.