Saturday, July 18, 2009

More on the Darwinists' Dilemma

I had asked in an earlier post why, while Darwinists say on the one hand that the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are impossible because of seemingly uniform experience against them, they turn right around and propound the view that life came from non-life despite the equally uniform experience against it.

The responses were various, ranging from that of Art, who thought it sufficient to wave his hand and dismiss it without giving any reason, to Isaac, who actually attempted an argument against my position. So, while it is difficult to respond to hand waving (other than to wave my own hand back--Hi Art!), let me respond to Isaac's points:

First, he argues that evolution does not necessarily involve the belief in abiogenesis. To that, there are two responses: First, I did not say it did. I used the term 'Darwinism', not 'evolution'. I have explained my use of the term 'Darwinism' a number of times on this blog as referring to the belief that the current state of biological life resulted solely from prior material factors. This is distinct from the mere theory of evolution, which involves only the belief in biological development over time, regardless of how that life came about in the first place. The former involves metaphysical assumptions which its adherents expects everyone else to accept without question, and the latter, it seems to me, does not.

But it is curious to me that the video Isaac linked to, while it claims that abiogenesis is no necessary part of evolution, defends abiogenesis, as if it is. And, of course, it does so by some rather extravagant speculation. And it does make you wonder: if the people who advocate it know the procedure of how life came about from non-life as well as they seem to think they do, then they ought to be able to perform the procedure, which, of course, they can't.

Isaac says there is "very good proof" behind the doctrine of abiogenesis. But there is no "proof": there is only speculation. And just because the speculation is extravagant and even plausible on its face, it doesn't amount "proof"--at least not in any sense of the word 'proof' with which I am familiar. A proponent of parthenogenesis could simply respond that they have proof too: in form of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Undoubtedly this will not satisfy a Darwinist, but point is that the Darwinist will be at pains to explain why his "proof" for abiogenesis is any better that for parthenogenesis.

The irony, of course is still that a worldview that proposes to exclude parthenogenesis from the realm of possibility requires a strict belief in abiogenesis, about which there is an equal lack of scientific evidence.

To say that one believes in abiogenesis is a faith statement that is a part of the larger body of Darwinist dogma.

Isaac then asserts that, on the matter of the Resurrection, a "man rising from the dead has the problems of what occurs after death--enzyme breakdown, cell decay due to fermentation and decomposition (anaerobic), etc." I'm not sure that this is something that dead men spend a lot of time pondering. Actually, Isaac's point here completely misses the whole idea of what a miracle claim involves.

A miracle claim is simply immune from these kinds of criticisms--precisely because it is a miracle claim. If someone says, "I believe the normal and otherwise uniform course of nature was interfered with in Instance A," it is hardly a valid response to say, "But Instance A is problematic because it violates the normal and otherwise uniform course of nature," which, for all practical purposes is what Isaac is saying here.

The processes which he mentions as problems for the idea of a resurrection are only problems if the claim is that a resurrection occurred within the normal course of natural processes. But, of course, that is not the claim. The claim is that the normal course of nature was suspended or interfered with. To simply invoke a list of the natural problems such an event would involve doesn't address the claim.

Isaac concludes, saying:
God does not appear to suspend the laws he puts forth if he exists, and we have no reason to believe the contrary. Why then, should we state that it is so?
Well, all I can say is that the religion that formed all of Western civilization has maintained for 2,000 years that that's exactly what he did--and given reasons for it.

's why some of us say that it is so.


TomH said...

I would like to address the issue of the natural vs. the supernatural.

The natural realm is composed of natural things--atoms, energies, beings, and laws. Things are called supernatural because they are not subject to natural laws and hence have supernatural abilities. Thus, miracles aren't a violation of natural laws and supernatural beings don't have to act in accordance with natural laws when they affect the natural realm.

The Matrix was an allegory of the relationship between the natural and supernatural realms. Those in the Matrix were subject to those outside the Matrix. Those outside the Matrix weren't bound by the laws (programs) in the Matrix.

Anonymous said...

Like unicorns, fairies, and elves?

Anonymous said...

Martin, why don't you clarify how you define "Darwinism" and "Darwinist" for us? Do you think most, or even a substantial portion of biologists would agre with your definitions?

Martin Cothran said...

Like unicorns, fairies, and elves?

Or like life coming spontaneously from Primordial Ooze...

Martin Cothran said...


Martin, why don't you clarify how you define "Darwinism" and "Darwinist" for us?

Did you read the post? Check out the third paragraph.

Do you think most, or even a substantial portion of biologists would agre with your definitions?

Is there some reason I should care? There is no agreed upon definition for the term 'Darwinist', and so one is left with being explicit about what one means when he uses it, which I have done repeatedly on this blog.

If a biologist wants to use it in another sense, and he is clear about the way he is using it, then let him go for it. It's a free country.

TomH said...

Like unicorns, fairies, and elves?

Like you can stay on topic? The issue was whether supernatural entities had to use natural means to effect their goals, not whether they existed.

Isaac said...

I apologize for the delayed response. I posted my response elsewhere to do your post justice.

Isaac Mils

TomH said...

Dr. Leslie Orgel, who was one of the leading abiogenesis researchers, presented a paper in 2008 on the extreme implausibility of abiogenesis. This should be read as a review paper that was relevant only for its time.

Anonymous said...


I just looked over that paper briefly. I must ask, did you even read any of it? Or did you simply read the title and make assumptions based upon your narrow worldview?

To say that the paper argued "the extreme implausibility of abiogenesis" is intellectually dishonest to a great degree. The paper simply discussed the implausibility of of metabolic cycles. In the paper, Orgel argues for non-metabolic chemical cycles that could just as likely be the cause for the origins of life on earth.

TomH said...


Have you read the article by Shapiro?

He published a devastating critique of state of support for the geneticists' research program, of which Orgel was a part.

Orgel returned the favor, publishing his critique of the metabolists' program, of which Shapiro was a part.

Both combatants, geneticism and metabolism, are down for the count.

In the paper, Orgel argues for non-metabolic chemical cycles that could just as likely be the cause for the origins of life on earth.

Nope, while Orgel suggested some possible future directions, you failed to read the final paragraph:

The prebiotic syntheses that have been investigated experimentally almost always lead to the formation of complex mixtures. Proposed polymer replication schemes are unlikely to succeed except with reasonably pure input monomers. No solution of the origin-of-life problem will be possible until the gap between the two kinds of chemistry is closed. Simplification of product mixtures through the self-organization of organic reaction sequences, whether cyclic or not, would help enormously, as would the discovery of very simple replicating polymers. However, solutions offered by supporters of geneticist or metabolist scenarios that are dependent on “if pigs could fly” hypothetical chemistry are unlikely to help.

Conclusion: There's no substantial experimental evidence for OOL.

Here's an analysis of Orgel's article:

Isaac said...

I'll assume that TomH is too busy ignoring my longer post in the hopes that Martin will respond to it.

I await Martin and any other person to comment. At least then I'll get a laugh.

Bro Cope said...

I have been a campus preacher since 1977. I have addressed these issues times without number, and it never ceases to amaze me when people point to "proof" for evolution. As a scientist, my standards of proof are much different than the advanced atheist/naturalist/evolutionist. It has to be observable, falsifiable, and reproduceable. Sound familiar?

St Anselm's ontological proof of God seems to be the often logical construction put forth as "proof" of evolution. What??? you say!

The ontological argument was proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) in the second chapter of his Proslogion.[8] Although he did not propose an ontological system, he was very much concerned with the nature of being. He distinguished necessary beings (those which must exist) from contingent beings (those which may exist but whose existence is not necessary).

In Chapter 2 of “The Existence of Nature and God” Anselm′s Argument for the Existence of God is as follows:

1. God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.
2. God may exist in the understanding.
3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.
4. Therefore, God exists in reality

In simpler terms, it is that if God can be created in thought, he must exist in realityl.

How does this apply to evolutionist? When I challenge the Darwinists to produce some, ANY, evidence for evolution, I am told that there is massive amounts of evidence. But when pressed to produce, all that can be produced is two points. They allude to fossil A dated x years before common era and fossil B dated y years. But what is put forth as the proof is the large gap between the fossils. The gap has been filled with millions of steps that can not be demonstrated in any concrete manner, but I am expected to accept the products of their imagination as "proof".

It dawned on me that this argument is so very close to St Anselms proof. They see point A. They see point B. And then they imagine the connection between the two. Because they are able to conceive of a massive transformation from point A to Point B, therefore it must have happened precisely in that way. Whereas Anselm said because we can conceive of God, therefore He must exist. They say because we can conceive of a transformation, therefore it had to have happened that way. Are they not the same?

Thomas said...

Bro Cope,

The problem with Anselm's ontological argument seems to be that it equivocates on the term "existence", not so much that Anselm imagines an absent connection between two steps of the argument (of any problem the argument has, that's not one of them).

And, anyway, Anselm makes an a priori argument based solely on concepts, whereas the various arguments made for evolution are a posteriori. Some of them can be tested in a laboratory, but some arguments cannot be. This doesn't mean the historical argument is false, but it runs along different lines and must live up to a different standard of proof. One that it convincingly meets, by the way. In any case, the Anselm's argument and the different arguments for evolution are not comparable.

Bro Cope said...

In your erudite state, you failed to realize I was not arguing Anselms ontological proof, but pointing out the great contradiction in the arguments of evolutionist. Every evolutionist on the planet will reject Anselms proof, yet they use an analogous "proof" in their arguments. The similarities are in the fact that both rely on the imagination. Anselm can imagine a perfect being, therefore he must exist. An evolutionist can imagine fossil A turning into Fossil B, therefore it must have happened in that way.

As far as your statement about things being tested in laboratories, I am 62 years old, and have been actively researching this subject for half my life. In all that time I have never come across anything from the evolutionists fertile imagination that has been or even could be subjected laboratory tests. Your assertion is just another example of applying Anselms proof. Because you assert there must be proof, therefore the assertion of the existence of the proof is sufficient to prove the argument.

Come on now, name me even one thing about evolution that has ever been tested in a laboratory. Just one?

Thomas said...

Bro Cope,

In my "erudite state" I pointed out that the argument for evolution and Anselms' argument aren't similar at all; though you did mischaracterize his argument. Anselm's argument is an a priori argument based on the examination of the content of ideas, whereas the argument for evolution is an a posteriori argument which is made based on empirical evidence. The only similarity you would have established between them would be that the conclusions don't follow from the premises, which could be said of any bad argument. The fact is, the two arguments work very differently. If Anselm's argument is wrong (and I'm not convinced of this), it's because he uses the term "existence" equivocally, or else that "existence" is not a predicate, not because he makes an a priori argument. If the argument for evolution is incorrect, it's because the theory does a poor job of explaining the evidence.

As to lab tests, I would assume you're not thinking of the genetic testing of, say, plants over generation (virtually every research university does this for undergrad courses).

Bro Cope said...

aren't similar at all???

Is that so? Both arguments are based on the ability to imagine something, and then that imagination is then used as the proof of the argument. How much more similar do you need it to be?

But then you replace fossil A and B with genetic testing, and you think that redeems the argument? It is the same. The genetic transformation from one species to the next only can show two distinct points. Even though they may have similarities, the species are connected by the imagination of the "scientists". It is no evidence at all because it is only the assertion of the "scientist" who thinks the similarities are proof of common descent, rather than an indication of the reuse of a common design by a really smart designer.

The evidence from genetics is even weaker than the evidence from bones. While it takes longer to discredit genetic arguments, the arguments are abundant to do just that. Besides, genetic similarities proving common descent can only be proven by taking species A and causing it to morph into species B. That is the laboratory evidence which is completely missing all across the board.

Now, back to my challenge. One? Just one?

Bro Cope said...

evolution is an a posteriori argument which is made based on empirical evidence

That is the crux is it not? Produce the empirical evidence that is empirically solid, not dependent on filling in the blanks by simply asserting the existence of the connections. It is in using assertions based upon speculation as the proof that evolution is shown to be a fantastic myth. Creation, on the other hand has physical observable forensic proof.

Thomas said...

"Both arguments are based on the ability to imagine something, and then that imagination is then used as the proof of the argument."

Any argument at all uses the imaginative function in some way. Can you think of one that doesn't? And of course when one makes an argument, one imagines that the premises are true and that the conclusion follows. Saying that an argument doesn't work the way the one that puts it forward thinks it does, or that the proof isn't what one imagines could apply to almost any bad argument. If you want to think the ontological argument and the evolutionary argument both don't live up to what their advocates think they do, more power to you. Anyone who disagrees with any argument (that I can think of) can say the same, and it's not going to be very convincing to anyone who understands either argument. Can you think of a bad argument in which the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises the way the one who puts it forward thinks it does, or a case where the evidence doesn't convey what one thinks it does?

Again, the ontological argument is made on the basis of an examination of concepts, and doesn't appeal to experience. If it fails to work, it fails to work for the reasons I already stated. The argument for evolution is different. It is made based on the interpretation of empirical evidence, and if it fails, fails because of the evidence itself, or the way it is interpreted. The arguments work in fundamentally different ways, and fail in fundamentally different way (if they fail). You might at least have picked an a posteriori argument for the existence of God to make your comparison.

Thomas said...

You also seem to not understand how theories work in science. Evolution is an umbrella theory, that is really made up of smaller theories. I'm assuming you're thinking of common descent when you're asking for lab evidence (since experiments involving natural selection in action are abundant). Common descent, because it is a claim about past events cannot be reproduced in a lab. This does not mean they are not scientific, any more than those claims of physics which cannot be tested in a lab are not scientific. Testability doesn't require lab testability.

If you want some evidence of common descent, I'd start here.

But if you really want to understand the subject, I'd enroll in a good biology class, then take a lab class. Physical anthropology or genetics classes would supplement that nicely.

Bro Cope said...

The argument for evolution is different. It is made based on the interpretation of empirical evidence,

That is my point. Where is the empirical evidence. Just because I can see that a species looks a little like another species, does not establish a common descent between them. What is being presented as evidence is the speculation that they are related. That, dear boy is the difference between science and whatever it is you think you are engaging in.

Science deals with things that are observable, reproducable, and falsifiable. What you are asserting has no empirical evidence to connect any two points in the life continuum. All you offer is the speculation that it exists, and then you claim you have empirical evidence. It doesn't fly. Your assertion that the evidence is just that.

I defy you to present any actual empirical evidence for evolution that does not require a leap of imagination to complete. I have made this challenge for longer than you have most likely been alive, and it has NEVER BEEN ANSWERED. I can see you are no more qualified to answer the obvious. Like Tom Cruise saying "Show me the money", I say to you "show me the evidence". and leave off your tortured speculation. I don't think your philosophical assertions are sufficient to satisfy my scientist's mind.

Bro Cope said...

I am old, and well educated in the scientific method. My degree is in science. I understand the difference between science and blathering. When a theory is developed, it is developed to explain an observable phenomenon. Then the theory is repeatedly tested to see if it can be falsified. If it can, the theory is discarded or modified. But evolution has been falsified times without number. Why has it not been discarded? Because is is a necessary part of atheistic existence. It is not science it is an ideology, and those who spue out their "defenses" are ideologues. An Ideologue is one for whom the belief is more important than the truth.

Common descent, because it is a claim about past events cannot be reproduced in a lab. This does not mean they are not scientific, any more than those claims of physics which cannot be tested in a lab are not scientific.

If it can not be tested, it does not fall within the realm of science. It can only fall within the realm of speculation. Science requires concrete evidence, not some moron looking at two different things and inventing the missing connections.

The same weakness applies to all of your "Physical anthropology or genetics classes". They all require the mental filling in of speculation for those missing pieces of concrete scientific evidence. Just because you SAY that A turned into B, just isn't of sufficient authority as to prove it to be true.

Enough of your peurile arguments. Show me the physical evidence.

Thomas said...

You do know that falsifiability isn't limited to lab testing? And that a theory itself doesn't have to be repeatable, only experiments which might be used to validate a theory? These question belong in the domain of philosophy of science, not science itself (as you asserted).

If you wish to define the theory of common descent as belonging within the field of natural history rather than experimental science, that would be fine, as long as you keep in mind that common descent is tied to kinds of experimental (the study of genetic trends, for example). In that case, the evidence need not be experimental in the way that particle physics is researched, but evidential in the way history, archeology, and paleontology works.

You should also realize that all causes are imaginative rather than observable in the strict sense. Hume points this out rather effectively, that we see one thing happen, then another, but never the cause itself. That is, loosely speaking, imaginative. The fact that evolution as a cause does not appeal in the senses in the evidence it cites for itself does not disprove it, unless you wish to throw out every explanation of cause. In this sense, causes are always speculative.

Lee said...

Wow. Somebody ignited an interesting thread. How did I miss all this?

Thanks, everyone, for the fun reading!

> [Proof] has to be observable, falsifiable, and reproduceable. Sound familiar?

I guess I would ask, would you, Bro Cope, consider a proof based on inference? Criminology, for example, cannot necessarily observe, falsify, or reproduce a murder, and must often rely on circumstantial evidence. Admittedly, it is not the same sort of proof you are talking about. With your standard, it can be can proven that a bowling ball falls at an acceleration of 32 feet per second squared, but not that Colonel Mustard killed the butler with a candlestick in the library.

This sort of proof would allow the fossil record to be presented as evidence of the circumstantial sort. But by the same token, it would also allow the arguments based on probability to be presented as circumstantial evidence of God.

Tom Bethell, by the way, refers to the evolutionary narrative as a series of "just so" stories.