I appreciate the thoughtful and well-written messages which you've posted up on your web site. I read the one in which you list the basic arguments against evolution, and I wanted to point out some misstatements you made. Regarding your list of five arguments:
1. There are two aspects to evolution: microevolution, and macroevolution. Microevolution has been observed in nature (see 'http://www.txtwriter.com/Backgrounders/Evolution/EVpage07.html' for an example) and reproduced through experiments countless times. Macroevolution (or speciation) is nothing more than lots and lots of microevolution, and there have been observed instances of it (see 'http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html'). There have also been many fossils found of transitional "missing link" species (see 'http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html').
2. The basic premises of evolution are widely accepted in the scientific community. There are some details which are still being worked out by posing hypotheses and supporting/refuting them. Scientists generally agree on when and how evolution happened -- I say 'generally' because that's what makes it science; anyone is free to disagree, and if they come up with a new explanation which fits the available data better than an old explanation, then the old explanation gets thrown out. Often I see people misunderstand science to be some sort of dogma which mustn't be questioned; nothing could be further from the truth. For example, while Charles Darwin was the father of modern evolutionary science, most of what he wrote in 'The Origin of Species' has been superseded in the century-and-a-half since.
3. Scientists can determine the age of a rock in many ways involving relative dating or absolute dating. 'http://www.ugs.state.ut.us/surveynotes/gladasked/gladage.htm' has a good summary of the most common methods used. The kind of circular logic you describe is not scientific; it's like saying 'God exists! How do I know? Because the Bible says so. Why do I believe the Bible? Because God wrote it.'
4. A belief in evolution can be assembled by examining the fossil record and the similarities and differences between species and putting together theories as to how they all are related -- in fact, this is how science came to understand evolution in the first place, and no faith is required. The difference between science and faith is that science works by making specific and well-defined assertions, finding ways to disprove them, and then replacing them with better assertions. There are no assertions anyone could make about the nature of God that could be disproved, because "God works in mysterious ways."
5. Evolution doesn't attempt to explain how the universe came to be in the first place. That question is in the realm of physics, and there aren't nearly as many answers for it yet as there are about evolution. As for caring for the lesser-abled, that's a trait which serves a group more than it serves an individual; for species (including humans) who derive a benefit from the strength of a group, there's value in putting effort into helping its fellow members. Another thing to note: A scientific hypothesis must explain existing observations and predict future observations. No such predictions can be made from creationism. In fact, if evolution is false and creation is true, if all animals were created together on the sixth day, then creation will have to explain why it is that the fossil record seems to indicate evolution -- why fossils of more primitive animals are typically found in deeper rock strata, and why no one has found any places where 'primitive' and 'modern' fossils are seen mixed together!
It is possible to believe in God while believing in evolution. Trying to deny that evolution took place is like trying to deny that the Earth is round or that it revolves around the sun: not only is it foolish, but it also prevents you from fully appreciating the way the universe works.
I thank you for your response. I guess I could take the intellectually dishonest way out and say that my answer did not reflect my beliefs, but just put forth some of the most common arguments. However, I did at least imply that those were the arguments I would use. That answer did point out that belief in a literal creation as given in Genesis 1 or a belief in evolution as a tool used by God in creation was not something that affected salvation either way. I pointed out that evolution (meaning macro-evolution), or science in general, dealt with totally different matters than religion. The Bible is generally not a science text and science generally ignores matters of religion and metaphysics. If I were forced to take a stand one way or the other my personal stand would probably be balanced on the fence rail. I believe the Bible is true, and gives me everything I need for salvation. Beyond that, the details of science are outside the Bible’s bailiwick. Additionally, I should have told the questioner that if a person chooses to take sides on the issue, then neither “side” is likely to back down from their beliefs. Anyone who makes both science and religion mutually exclusive will not accept the arguments of the other. That said, I do wish to make some comments in regard to your response. This is not intended as a personal attack on your beliefs, nor a disagreement with science in general.
1. In regard to point one, I grant that it would be foolish to argue against micro-evolution. I know too many owners of Labrador retrievers to do so. (That breed is only a little more than a hundred years old.) The problem many have is in accepting macro-evolution. Some would point out the lack of any current transitional species, arguing that if macro-evolution is a fact it should be a continuing process. We should not have to rely on the fossil record at all. While there may be what appear to be transitional fossils, the gaps, assuming the millions-of-years timeline, are also huge. This does not, in itself, deny macro-evolution. There are explanations for those gaps. However, it still requires assumptions, reasoned though they may be, about what filled those gaps.
2. That, of course, leads to point two. There are, as with many scientific theories, difference of opinion as to just how to fill those supposed gaps. Perhaps the general outline remains the same, but because the data is not yet available in all cases, “the devil is in the details.” Just as in religion many people discount Christianity because of the multitude of disagreements over the details, so others may discount the theories of evolution for the same reason. Of course, it is unfair to make a blanket condemnation of either for that reason.
3. There are several methods of dating rocks. The method I mentioned as being unscientific is one common method for preliminary dating. Even some of the more scientific methods, though, make assumptions which may or may not be true. For instance, half-life dating of a sample assumes that the sample was pure in the first place. If even a small portion of the resulting element was present in the original rock, the timeline could be off by thousands of years. Such methods also assume a steady rate of decay, although there are many scientists who propose a catastrophic model instead.
4. There is no discipline that does not require some degree of faith. It may be called premises, assumptions, or just faith. But until you have tried every event under all possible circumstances for an infinite number of tries, it is still faith. The scientific method is based on faith that something that has occurred every time for a given number of times will occur the same way the next. Some would also argue with your contention that you can not draw any conclusions from the existence of God. God is, by definition, outside the realm of science in one sense. That is, the one who makes all the laws need not follow the laws he makes. Some of us, though, believe that the mere existence of the scientific method proves God. (It is a broader view of what some refer to as “intelligent design.”) If there is a supreme lawgiver, then the fact that everything follows those laws shows his intelligence and power. As one friend of mine often puts it, “there are no laws of nature, only laws of God in nature.” That leads to point
5. I agree that most scientists who believe in macro-evolution do not claim that it attempts to explain where the universe came from. On the other hand, most laymen think and argue that it does. Actually, even physics can not determine an origin, because they still require some original energy-matter to begin with. It is only religion that claims to go all the way back to the original motive source.
In regard to your last point, some would argue (as in point 4 above), that creationism does indeed lend itself to predictions, because the scientific method is based on order rather than chaos. The unpredictable (miracles) occurred at certain times, but no longer occur, in their true sense. Most of the time God worked, and works, through natural means. It was their inexplicable and unpredictable nature that proves the predictability of science in general; the supernatural validates the natural. Some of us would argue that those “mysterious ways” God moves in today are understandable through scientific examination. The word mysterious does not mean unknowable as much as it means that God’s ways are unseen, except by those who are willing to see God’s hand in what he has created.
“For the invisible things of him, even his eternal power and Godhead, from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:20-21)
You argue that creationism can not be true because it doesn’t explain “why no one has found any places where “primitive” and “modern” fossils are seen mixed together.” That, of course, can be countered by an argument from one of the (broken) links you sent. In the faq-transitional article, the author argues that the lack of certain transitional fossils does not disprove evolution because we have not found all the fossils yet. That same argument could be used for why we haven’t found any place where ‘modern’ and ‘primitive’ fossils are mixed. In both cases it is a specious argument, trying to prove a positive from a negative. You could just as easily argue that I don’t exist because no evidence for me can be found in Rochester, NY or Havana, Cuba. Of course, an equally unprovable argument would be that God created the fossil record as it is just to see whether man would choose to ignore God because of that record.
Thank you for writing back! I appreciate your thoughtful and well-written reply, especially as I imagine you get a lot of questions to your web site.
“I guess I could take the intellectually dishonest way out and say that my answer did not reflect my beliefs, but just put forth some of the most common arguments. However, I did at least imply that those were the arguments I would use.” Well, those are the basic arguments against evolution, just like you said they were. Problem is, those arguments are empty and meaningless. It would be just as if I'd said "the basic arguments against Christianity are that nobody can see God, prayer doesn't have any effect, and evil still happens in the world." I hope to be able to show you how empty the arguments are that you listed against evolution. If you're going to disagree with evolution, and especially if you're going to give your readers reasons to disagree with evolution, I'd like to see you give reasons which at least have some substance to them.
“That answer did point out that belief in a literal creation as given in Genesis 1 or a belief in evolution as a tool used by God in creation was not something that affected salvation either way.” That's an important point. I've spoken with people who say that if you believe in evolution, then you're rejecting God. I'm reminded of the time of Galileo, when people said that if you believe that the Earth goes around the Sun then you're rejecting God. If someone else ever asks you, "How do I prove to my friend that evolution isn't real?" I hope your answer would be, "Why would you need to?"
“1. In regard to point one, I grant that it would be foolish to argue against micro-evolution. ... The problem many have is in accepting macro-evolution. Some would point out the lack of any current transitional species, arguing that if macro-evolution is a fact it should be a continuing process.” Actually, there are plenty of transitional species around today: all of them! There's no such thing as a "finished" species. Every species is subject to genetic mutation, natural selection, and gradual adaptation to its environment. Look at linguistics as an example. If at any point in time you'd asked anyone, 'Is the language you're speaking a transitional language?' he would have looked at you oddly. But the American English spoken today isn't the same American English which was spoken in the 1700's; our language began when it was separated from British English by the Atlantic Ocean, and then it took on traits from immigrants' languages and evolved into something different. Thousands of years ago, French and Italian and Spanish all evolved from Latin when different Latin-speaking populations were separated by geological and political boundaries; if it hadn't been for modern global telecommunications and jet airplanes, American English might have continued to become farther from British English until in a thousand years Americans and British would no longer be able to understand each other's language.
“2. There are, as with many scientific theories, difference of opinion as to just how to fill those supposed gaps. Perhaps the general outline remains the same, but because the data is not yet available in all cases, “the devil is in the details.” This is a common fallacy: "Because science hasn't yet answered all of the questions, I'm going to throw it out completely and believe in folklore instead." There are vast differences of opinion in the theory of gravity. Scientists dispute the atomic forces which create gravity; they dispute how gravity affects astral bodies; they even dispute whether or not gravity is constant throughout the universe. But that's no reason to say, "Since there's so much disagreement over gravity, my theory that atoms have glue all over them is equally valid." The details of evolution are still being studied, but it's a certainty that species evolve into other species.
“3. There are several methods of dating rocks. ... Even some of the more scientific methods, though, make assumptions which may or may not be true.” That's true. As with all areas of science, calculations can always be off. The goal, therefore, is to come up with an estimate which fits as much of the data as possible. If a better estimate comes up, which fits the data better, than it'll replace the previous estimate. And there are several ways which rocks can be dated; when the age of a rock really needs to be known, it can be dated in many ways and the estimates correlated. Saying 'the methods used to date rocks aren't always precise, therefore we have no way to date rocks' is nonsense.
“4. There is no discipline that does not require some degree of faith. It may be called premises, assumptions, or just faith. But until you have tried > every event under all possible circumstances for an infinite number of tries, it is still faith.” I once read a short story (was it something Lewis Carroll wrote?) about a girl who didn't believe in math, who didn't believe that addition and multiplication always worked, so instead she memorized the answer to every possible math problem so she could just remember the answers instead of having to rely on the methods to work them out. ;-) Yes, science is based on assumptions. Scientists assume that addition and multiplication will always work, that 6 x 9 will always result in the same value. Scientists assume that the laws of physics are constant and uniform throughout the universe. But if these assumptions are called faith, then almost everything we know must be said to be based on faith -- like, having faith that the sun will rise tomorrow -- and the term becomes meaningless.
“5. I agree that most scientists who believe in macro-evolution do not claim that it attempts to explain where the universe came from. On the other hand, most laymen think and argue that it does.” That's no reason to try to link them together, though. That's like saying 'most theologians don't say that the presence of evil in the world means that God is uncaring, but most laymen think it does.' Just because a lot of people are mistaken, doesn't make the mistake the truth. “Actually, even physics can not determine an origin, because they still require some original energy-matter to begin with. It is only religion that claims to go all the way back to the original motive source.” Just because a fable explains something that science can't, doesn't make the fable the truth. (Actually, there are many religions with creation stories, many religions which claim to know how reality came to be.)
“In the faq-transitional article, the author argues that the lack of certain transitional fossils does not disprove evolution because we have not found all the fossils yet. That same argument could be used for why we haven’t found any place where ‘modern’ and ‘primitive’ fossils are mixed. In both cases it is a specious argument, trying to prove a positive from a negative.” That's a very good point. Saying 'we haven't found the evidence for this but it's true anyway' is a logically weak position. So, we have to take the available evidence, assume as little as possible (see Occam's Razor: given two explanations of an event, choose the explanation which is simpler), and build theories, much like a crime lab forensic analyst, to come up with an explanation for how today's world came to be. And that's exactly how evolution science came to be. There's no Holy Book of Science saying 'thou shalt believe in evolution,' there's no Secret Brotherhood of Scientists threatening to execute any heretic who strays from the Science Gospel. In fact, any scientist who can logically demonstrate that creation explains the evidence better than evolution does would become rich and famous very quickly, and would put an end to this silly debate once and for all.
“Of course, an equally unprovable argument would be that God created the fossil record as it is just to see whether man would choose to ignore God because of that record.” And if THAT's the case -- or something like it, if we're all just a dream, or a simulation running on a computer -- then all bets are off! :) Okay, I've rambled for long enough now. Thank you for reading this far. :-) The basic message that I'm trying to get across is, please don't put forth nonsense arguments against evolution. You write well, you generally put a lot of thought into what you say; people listen to you and respect you. A lot of people are going to read those 'basic arguments against evolution' on your web site and spout them as dogma without ever giving them a moment's skepticism. It would be just as if I ran a web site on which I tossed around nonsense arguments against Christianity: there's simply no point to it, the arguments would never stand up to scrutiny, their only purpose would be to give a warm fuzzy feeling to the person who swallowed them. When someone asks how to prove that evolution isn't real, the answer is: evolution is the most logical explanation we have so far for how plants and animals came to be what they are today, accepting science isn't a rejection of God in any way, and learning more about it helps lead to a better appreciation of the way the world works.
Thank you for your response as well, Particularly for the suggestion that I should have replied "why do you have to" disprove evolution. I will post this exchange with, or at least linked to, the original response.
I started to say getting both sides of the issue out is the responsible thing to do. That is inaccurate, though, because there is no reason to be taking "sides."