Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Battle Ensues

Here is my reply to AJMac's response over at Pithy Banter. Why, oh, why have we gotten into this topic? For any of you who might just now be tuning in, please know that AJMac and I have a great deal of respect for one another and do not take any of this personally. Others on opposing sides of the fence on this issue out in the blogosphere are not so fortunate. Here it is:

Yes! We've unleashed the hounds! Over one-hundred years of peer-reviewed science has revealed a methodology to us. But we're still stuck. Amazing.

First of all, let me correct two things. AJMac obviously read my post too quickly. I wrote: "Since I have no problem with God somehow making this happen (and I fall into 88% of the American population based on 20 years of Gallup polls), I'm not troubled." AJMac interpreted this to mean just the opposite, that "88% of the population is purportedly Darwinist." Perhaps he might take a break while schooling me in the fineries of debate tactics and read what I wrote. Or maybe I'm being too harsh and wasn't clear. 88% of Americans believe God either created (*snap!*) life on earth or otherwise created (by evolution or whatever process) life on earth. (By the way, I have no doubt AJMac is a better debater than I am. And I couldn't recite half the Latin he knows by heart.) Second, AJM writes: "'He employs the dismissive argument that Darwinism is science and anyone who doesn't buy it is "uneducated about natural selection' and only studying 'natural selection... for fun and in an effort to synthesize Biblical references to scientific observation.'" Evolution by natural selection is a scientific principle. I never said anyone who doesn't "buy it" is uneducated about natural selection. Being uneducated about natural selection, however, seems to be a common occurrence among those berating Darwinism. I do not believe AJMac is uneducated about it. I do believe, however, that his particular stake in making sure it's not true undermines objectivity he--like scientists attempting to falsify their data--might otherwise exhibit. But I don't want to get him started on the "ideal of objectivity" that he believes is such a crock. Third, as long as we're off-topic, AJMac speaks of "publicly-sponsored indoctrination in schools and universities for the past two generations" of Darwinism. Does he have a better idea of what one might teach about origins of life in a science classroom? Does he have any other methodology that is accepted by the vast majority of life scientists to show us? Everything in nature has come about as the result of some biological method. But not new species? Spontaneous generation was explicitly disproven long ago, and no one today would argue that mold, or for that matter, butterflies or bluegills, just appear. Has science given us anything more compelling, or are we to ask children to ignore the scientific method for a chapter and pick up Genesis instead? Maybe just as an alternative, right? Maybe as an alternative to math we should read the poetry of the Psalms or the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Maybe as an alternative to contemporary American history, we should substitute the history of the Jewish Diaspora as driven by the Exodus. I'm all for kids being open minded and learning the Truth. But in science class, they should be learning ONLY what science--based on peer-reviewed, well-accepted theory, can teach us. If science doesn't get us to God (and I think it does; but not as directly as AJMac and others want), then parents, role models, and churches need to do it.

Now I'll pause for AJMac to rip that apart because I was so juvenile. . . . OK. Back to Darwinism. As a threshold matter, I wonder why AJMac chose to ignore so many of my specific examples. That aside, AJMac writes: "This logical fallacy -- post hoc ergo proctor hoc; it followed after therefore was caused by -- is the foundational flaw in Darwinian logic. That humans resemble apes does not tell us whether humans evolved from apes or whether God created humans and apes distinctly while endowing them with similar genomes. Even if it could be established that humans appear after apes in the fossil record, chronology does not establish causation." Ah, I do respect and have a high opinion of AJMac's arguments. But he's missing the point. Darwinism is not about one species following another. Many species follow many others and have nothing in common with them. It is, however, about the ability of organisms to change themselves (or be changed by God, if you like) for the better of their species in response to their environment. I like AJMac's idea that perhaps God created human and apes distinctly while endowing them with similar genomes. OK. I can accept that. But the scientific process has yielded no evidence of this. That doesn't mean that someday science will not reveal it as true. What it does mean is that we have limited sight through science. (And, by the way, homo sapiens and the Great Apes are said to have evolved from a shared ancestor, not humans from apes, as the usual scare-tactic fallacy goes.) If that means we need to add to science for an honest understanding of the Truth--as I know AJMac agrees--then, fine. Just not in a science classroom.

AJMac also writes: "In other words, belief in speciation is the product not of scientific observation but rather, as the Accipiter puts it, of inference. Just like belief in creation by an Intelligent Designer is the product of inference. However, not all inferences are equally reasonable and the sheer mathematical improbability of speciation makes it rather fanciful, indeed." AJMac chooses to ignore my arguments and revert back to his own, which--check--is hisprerogativee. Scientific observation includes that which is both direct and indirect (or inferential). Belief in God is the product of inference, true. Belief in speciation is also the product of inference. For me, I have absolutely no problem melding both beliefs. Others cannot. As to the "sheer mathematical improbability," AJMac, without the slightest bit of his usual logical analysis, throws out the notion that "billions and billions" of years are required for evolution, and the Earth is not old enough. Darwinists and thousands of scientists whose livelihoods depend on their applying the fundamentals of natural selection don't seem to have a problem with this proferred time constraint. So why should I or anyone else believe an Orthodox Christian trial lawyer who claims to know better? For my part, I would say the sheer mathematical improbability of the anything in the universe existing apart from God is overwhelming. So, God it is. But He gave us science, and a hell of a lot of clues turned evidence that lead--if one is willing to follow the path--right to Him. Just not in the way AJMac and others who won't accept evolution by natural selection believe. Whether Biblical literalists like it or not. (And I'm not saying AJMac is a Biblical literalist, just for the record.)

Next, AJMac slides back over to the mousetrap/watchmaker/eyeball irreducible complexity argument he's read so much about. He writes: "organs and systems cannot evolve piecemeal." Says who? I'd like to poll the research M.D.'s over at the University of Colorado Hospital and see if they agree. What really surprises me is that while the irreducible complexity argument argues for God, so does the argument that organs and systems could evolve piece by piece. Whether AJMac wants to admit it or not, the vast majority of scientists out there are not the raving, illogical, senseless, evil-prone atheists he imagines. Most of them--I dare say--would admit to an awesome intelligence far beyond our understanding that could imagine forth such a puzzle as life on Earth. This next part just pisses me off: "The Accipiter might mean that an Intelligent Designer 'tuned,' 'detailed,' and expressed His 'preferences' through His own mysterious, creative processes that defy scientific explanation. Of course, that cannot be his meaning; he has not otherwise demonstrated a willingness so to surrender to the compelling logic of intelligent design." Let's see. I wrote this: "I believe--evolution by natural selection shows us how incredibly elegant, complex, and beautiful God is." And this: "As the environment forced the best traits to be exploited through reproduction and the worst ones to be eliminated, the best traits prevailed. (For me, this amounts to God making music with genes as notes.)" And this: "The eyeball--or for that matter the human brain--is so complex as to be otherworldly, or, as some would say, only within the province of God as Creator. I certainly empathize with such awe." Now, I don't know about you, but does it seem that I might just think God had something to do with making all this happen? Whether I fall into the camp of "Intelligent Design" gurus that AJMac has evidently joined with, I have no idea. But to say that I've not "surrendered to compelling logic" of their Creator version is only to say that the "logic" expounded by AJMac has not been compelling enough.

Finally, AJMac writes: "The Accipiter differs from me in his willingness to give God credit for the special design of various species, particularly humans. Instead, the Accipiter insists that "'we have incredible genes that have best adapted us to this thing we call humanity.'" Maybe I missed something. AJMac surely did. What I am saying here is that God have us our humanity. Is it special? Of course. Are we like no other creature on the planet? Of course. Do we have souls? I sure think so. I have no doubt why AJMac puts so much energy into his defense of humans. But it's not an argument with which I disagree. Just for the record, chimps and gorillas paint and sing and are on record doing so. While they might not "aspire to careers," they live lives of emotional purpose and have been recorded for the last 40 years learning and interacting with humans with great intelligence. I'm sure they create dance steps, and I'm just as sure they don't care about Valentine's day. And they certainly do long (for lost family members; it's well documented), tell stories, and (one of the only animals to do so) contemplate their existence (they're the only other species to recognize themselves in a mirror). But I don't find any of that threatening like I think AJMac seems to. Because humans resemble the Creator so much more.

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