ZQTX Q&A

A semi-regular commenter, ZQTX, wondered aloud what “the precise point where you accept and do not accept the science”.  I think it’s a bit loaded, but asked in good faith nonetheless.  He provided a sample list of questions which I’ll answer here.  It’s not likely to interest many other readers, but I suppose it’s always good to take an inventory of your convictions.

At the heart of evolutionary theory is the basic idea that life has existed for billions of years and has changed over time. How old do you believe the earth to be?

I think the age of the Earth is likely billions of years old, current estimates are 13-14 billion years for the universe and 4-5 billion for planet Earth.  Both of these estimates I think are well founded and are not in conflict with the bible.  I suspect at the heart of this question is a jab at biblical inerrancy and the book of Genesis.  I’ve given a lengthy explanation as to why I don’t think the bible requires a 6/24 hour day creation, nor does it date the Earth at 6,000-10,000 years either.

Do you think that evolution is a random process?

As I understand Evolution, it’s not random in the sense that maybe a lot of people understand the term.  My understanding is that mutations appear, for whatever reason, within an organism’s DNA.  This mutation is either beneficial or maladaptive.  Through natural selection, the beneficial mutations are more likely to be passed on and maladaptive mutations eventually die out with the organism due to be non-conducive to survival and reproduction.

Would you agree that we have the ability to accurately determine the age of fossil records?

By and large, yes.  And I’ve seen how this sometimes uproots some of the current lineage models evolutionary biologists have created.  It would seem that there are many organisms which are at one time or another placed as later relatives only to be discovered to be contemporaries.

Would you agree that we can use fossil records to determine molecular similarities and differences among organisms?

Not necessarily.  I’d like some elaboration here.  As I understand it, most of the “relative” organisms are determined to be so based on appearance, not by molecular biological analysis.  The fact that we share 90%= of our DNA with certain apes does little to convince me when we also share 73% of our DNA with Zebra Fish, 88% with mice, 85% with cattle, 84% with dogs, etc. and evolutionary biologists do not place any of these as having common ancestry with humans.percent shared

Would you agree that we can use fossil records to determine homologies (similar characteristics due to relatedness) among organisms? (For example, the forelimbs of tetrapods)

There is no “determining” homologies.  They are speculated.  Homologies are assigned based on one structure looking like another in a different species.  This is not direct evidence of evolution any more than it’s evidence of common design.

Would you agree that we have discovered numerous transitional fossils that exhibit primitive traits in comparison with more derived organisms to which it is related?

No, I wouldn’t.  What I think has been discovered are fully formed organisms which appear suddenly in the fossil record, remain unchanged for long periods of time, then disappearing from the record as abruptly as they appeared.  What evolutionary biologists have done is speculate that one organism is descendant from another based on how the organism looks.

If small changes can occur over a relatively short period of time, then would it not be logically consistent that small changes adding up over extremely long periods of time would result in very large changes? If no, why not?

No, I don’t think we can make this leap.  This is especially doubtful when virtually every mutative instance is lethally detrimental to the animal.  Just because we see small changes does not imply these changes can compound to create new information leading to new and unique biological structures.  Think about, only the respiratory system overhauls that would be needed to make a sea animal a land animal.

Note also the extensive work done on fruit flies.  Scientists have studied through literally, and I mean literally as literally as possible, millions upon millions of generations.  Enough generations to simulate multi-millions if not billions of years and have yet to see any evolutionary changes that weren’t harmful and showed any promise of newly created bio-structure.

There seems to be a biological limit to what any organism could evolve.  Here’s what I mean.  Farmers and breeders have been breeding the largest and best samples from their herds for generations.  With a controlled environment where the biggest and strongest animals are bred together, we still have the size livestock we’ve always had.  If the evolutionary process had no limits, which is what’s claimed by evolutionists, we would have huge livestock, like bus sized.  They would just continually get larger over the thousands of years of breeding.  They can control for all kinds of traits, but there are biological limits which seem to be uncrossable.

I don’t think the evolutionary explanation is adequate to explain the degree of bio-diversity we see.  The large scale evolutionary process is not observable, it can only be inferred.  It is only inferred because scientists have, a priori, determined that only naturalistic explanations are acceptable.  Even Dawkins says that evolutionary biologists have to keep reminding themselves that organisms have not been designed because they give every inclination that they were.  Remember the words of Richard Lewonton in his review of Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

I also urge you to check out a book by Atheist, Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

 

Comments

  1. R. Nash says:

    Now I am left wondering why you don’t spend any time deriding the utter ridiculousness of young Earth creationists.

    They seem to be interpreting the bible quite differently than you. Who’s right?

    • I think young creationists don’t give enough weight to the fact that in genealogies often many generations are omitted.

      I think they believe that unless you gold to a young earth creation that somehow you endorse evolution and don’t take the bible seriously.

      What can I say. Not everyone is going to agree, but that’s not a liability of God or the bible, it’s a liability of people. So it’s not really relevant to my views and whether I’m right.

    • Nash

      I’d probably spend more time on yec vs. Oec if it were heretical. I did notice that whenever I voice my view around yec’s they become vitrioloc. It’s strange.

      • John,
        Good point. There seem to be reasonable arguments from scripture for either side and this is one of those where it seems that charity between the views should be the rule. You are definitely right about YEC’s getting their backs up, it seems strange.

  2. I think the “accept the science” question is dishonest, right from the start. It twists what “science” is, in order to garner and emotional or defensive response.

    “Science” is one of two things. It is a method, or a field of endeavor. Chemistry is a field of science, and the scientific method is used to study chemicals. To ask if one “accepts the science” is like asking if one “accepts chemistry” or “accepts physics”, etc. It’s logically incoherant and, dare I say it, anti-science.

    One can use science to study and test something, examine data and come to conclusions. Science, as a field of endeavor, relies on constantly testing and questioning those conclusions as more/new data emerges, technologies improve, etc.

    On that note, let’s go to the question of the age of the earth. How old do you believe the earth to be?

    The scientifically correct answer is, we don’t actually know. We can do some calculations based on the evidence we have, and the result has changed considerably over the years. When I first remember the age of the earth being talked about in school, it was somewhere between 2 and 3 billion years; less than a decade later, it was between 3 and 4 billion years. Now they’re saying 4-5 billion years.

    There is nothing wrong with this; those numbers *should* change as we our methods improve and new data is discovered.

    However, like everything else, politics plays its part. The various methods used to determine the ages of things, whether it’s the earth, the universe or fossils, each have their own flaws. Also, they do not – and cannot – give anything close to precise number. There is a large range of “scatter” in the results. The farther back in time, the greater the scatter. In the end, the final number is little more than a best guess. When it comes to the age of the earth and fossils, current dogma re: approved evolutionary theories demands the earth be exceptionally old. Otherwise, there just isn’t enough time for life to form and evolve through gradual and random mutation. So when an age range is revealed in the scatter, the oldest age becomes accepted, because the evolutionary theory du jour requires it.

    In the end, it’s not a matter of “accepting the science.” It’s choosing which results are most likely to be true. Sadly, those choices are often made to fit preconcieved conclusions, or for reasons of internal politics and trying to one-up one’s competition (the acrimony within scientific communities is astonishing).

    As for evolution, before that question can be answered, one has to be clear as to what, exactly is being asked. First, which definition of evolution is being used, and second, which theory of evolution is being discussed. Most of the time, when people talk about “evolution”, what they have in mind is some vague, amorphous allusion to Darwinian evolution. What they don’t know is that Darwin’s gradualism theory was disproved by the fossil record while he was still alive. Mutationism was a better theory to fit the evidence but, rather than replacing gradualism, a new category came into existence; neo-Darwinism. Today, neo-Darwinism has become so vague and broad that anything and everything becomes “proof” of Darwin’s theory of evolution, even when it directly contradicts Darwinian theory. Darwinian evolution has become its own religion that *must* be believed because “science” says it’s true. Dispite that fact that, within the scientific community studying evolution, there is tremendous division and *no one* actually understands it, the public view is that the “science” is settled, that “evolution” is true, and anyone who questions it is “anti-science.” Yet how many people, when asked to define evolution, even knows that there is more than one definition, and more than one theory?

  3. @Kunoichi
    Your decision to accept or not accept conclusions based on science is your choice. Your reaction to the findings may be emotional, but the science itself is not. It’s interesting that you’re so willing to inject the “we don’t actually know” reply with regards to science while having an unwavering certainty about your religious convictions.
    Your assertion about scientists trying to a reach preconceived conclusion is only a projection of the methods used to shore up religious beliefs. Scientists reach conclusions based on the available evidence. If new evidence is obtained a new conclusion may be reached.
    With all due respect, your last paragraph simply illustrates you really have no idea what you’re talking about.
    @ John
    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
    I agree with R Nash when he mentions the discrepancies with those who interpret the Bible differently.
    As for the science, you don’t seem to accept that all animals on the planet share some common ancestry and might lack a proper understanding of what transitional fossil actually is. I’m not trying to sound insulting here, John. It does seem, however, that you are quick to dismiss conclusions as mere speculation. I’m not trying to give you a “homework assignment”, but you or your readers might find the following links useful.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/universal-common-ancestor/
    http://www.godofevolution.com/the-top-10-signs-that-you-dont-understand-evolution-at-all/
    What I find disheartening is the utter rejection of science when conflicts with religious ideology and doctrine. It has been clearly demonstrated that Christianity is a detriment to the education of science in the United States.

  4. WideAwakeChristian says:

    I rarely have a problem with science, unless it becomes its own theology. How many times have we heard the call to kill the heretics that dispute what the Great God Science hath decree?
    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/prof-richard-parncutt-death-penalty-for-global-warming-deniers/
    When I hear the words “the science is settled” I know 2 things are absolutely correct:
    1. It’s not settled
    2. It’s not science

    • How many times have we heard the call to kill the heretics that dispute what the Great God Science hath decree?

      Exactly once.
      How many times have we heard the call to kill the heretics that dispute what God hath decree?
      Anyone want to make a conservative guess?
      Your hyperbole is so ridiculous it is “not even wrong”.

  5. I think it’s folly to pretend we can know one way or the other about the age of the universe. Is it all only 6000 years old, or a gazillion. The problem, in my opinion, is that for those who do not wish to deal whether or not God exists, it is easy to pretend science has provided the answers that, for them, are conclusive enough to settle it in their minds. They need that.

    But what they won’t consider is that science cannot measure the miraculous. While I don’t spend any time worrying about which side of the issue is correct, the God in whom I put my belief and trust may have done it all in the blink of the gnat’s eye, and the six days is just poetry, or metaphor. OR, it actually took six days.

    The thing is, how can we know? It doesn’t matter what the science says because there’s just no way to know for sure. All we can truly say is that based on our best minds and the best invented tools and methods they use, it looks like it was a gazillion years in the making. BUT, it could be that it just looks that way to our best minds using the best invented tools and methods. Based on those tools and methods, their conclusions are the best they could come up with. Does that mean the God is trying to fake us out? That He did something intentionally to confuse? Or does it mean that our best minds using those best invented tools and methods aren’t good enough? What the hell difference does it make now if they aren’t going to keep looking for answers?

    I think God can do anything. How He did this should still be an ongoing study. In the meantime, none of the science does anything to disprove His existence.

  6. I agree completely with @marshalart.

    I am a young earth creationist so I believe the earth is just shy of 6,000 years at 5,774 which is the current Hebrew year.

    I don’t think other types of creationists have less faith but I do think it’s important to make sure the dispute among creationists is based on what God wanted to do and not what he couldn’t do. I have observed that some people reject young earth creationism because they feel that it was too short a time to create the earth. It’s too short a time for us…

  7. Many folks here seem to think that science sets out to “prove” that god doesn’t exist. It doesn’t.

    Science gives us the tools to help us understand the world around us. Again, I see adherents use the “how can we know?” question to be skeptical about the science that conflicts with their preconceived conclusions. It’s a great question to ask, certainly, but it too must be directed at what texts we find to be sacred.

    I suppose there will always be people like marshalart out there…

    • “Many folks here seem to think that science sets out to “prove” that god doesn’t exist.”

      I haven’t been keeping track of who those folks might be, but that’s never been my position, especially given how in the western world, science sought to find out how God did it.

      I also do not have “preconceived” notions about the age of the earth or things like evolution. I simply don’t spend a lot of time with the issue. It’s quite clear that the non-believers have preconceived notions because they won’t consider anything BUT what they think the scientific community thinks it knows. There are some things about which we can be certain. I don’t care how nifty the toys and methods are, we simply can’t know how well they see back in time. Everything is assumption and can’t be more because there is no way to check the findings. It can’t be done without a time machine and from what I hear, we ain’t got one yet. Thus, either position is as likely to be true as the other, but the non-believing science worshiper can’t accept it because he refuses to consider the possibility of the miraculous. We have witnesses to miracles that such people won’t accept for anything in the world. As much as the non-believer would like to “believe”, he has no evidence that such testimonies are false, the result of fraud or anything but reliable. He doesn’t want them to be true. I’m far more open than the non-believer ever will be.

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