God Talk: Debates and Discussions with Believers
These are actual conversations that have taken place between religious believers and myself, through forums, email, dialogue, etc. This discussion has been kept in its original format, with spelling and grammatical errors in tact.
Science vs. Fantasy
Christian: My question is why do the scientists who are "evolutionists" presume that their conjecture as to what was unwitnessed is any truer than the "creationist" view of origins? I shall admit to the veracity of evolution within the different species, I know of no proof of one species developing into a different, classifiable species. While there are species that share traits of closely related species, who has proven the laws of evolution support the evolution of life occurred, as has been proposed by some schools of thought, from a chemical soup to what we have now? If, as I believe, The Creator made the world, would he not have set up the world as explained by the laws of science so that it would continue in an orderly pattern? Is not the putting forth ideas of what is unobservable and unknowable no different than a religion doing the same? Is it not setting an humanist dogma in place of a theistic one?
Rebuttal: First of all, I have to ask what you mean by evolution being "unwitnessed". If you mean that it has not been directly observed, then I would agree. However, there is a lot within science that has not been directly observed, because it may be too far away, too small, or too far back in time. Especially in the case of distant stars and other celestial bodies, we are not actually observing them directly, because in the time it has taken for their light to travel across the vastness of our universe and to our measuring devices, many of those objects have died or been destroyed. Then there is general relativity, quantum mechanics, and other aspects of science that are not directly observable, yet they are certainly not considered conjecture either.
Indirectly observable phenomena are witnessed in some sense, though, because we can still study the effects they produce. I often use the example of a crime scene and a detective. One need not be there to see the murder firsthand to gather the clues, find evidence, and build an accurate model of the crime. In the same way, evolution is verifiable by the effects it leaves behind. It's not just that closely related extant species share traits, it's that we have found numerous fossil intermediates, DNA and genomic similarities, the curious "fusion" of chromosome #2 in humans that is identical to two separate chromosomes found in chimpanzees, and much more. Where would vestigial structures, like the eyes of the blind mole rat, fit in a creationist view of origins? The creator decided to have some fun, even knowing that it could deceptively lead some astray in their thinking centuries down the road?
You are not the first creationist to object to interspecies evolution while accepting evolution on a smaller scale, but let me ask why you seem to think there is some "barrier" between species that evolutionists have not accounted for? The definition of a species is not some immutable law of nature, it's simply that we consider two animals to be two separate species when they cannot mate with each other and produce fertile offspring. If you agree that evolution can occur within a species, through random mutations that are progressively selected to adapt them to their environments (I can think of no better example of this than the nylon-eating bacteria), then would it not stand to reason that the more these adaptations are accumulated, the more change in an organism they produce?
Imagine that a species of wolf diverges into two separate regions - half the group (G1) goes to a land of ice and snow, the other (G2) to a dry and arid land. In G1, wolves with thicker coats would stand a better chance of survival, as well as those with fur that matches the white landscape. In G2, wolves with lighter coats would fare better, as well as those with a darker shade of fur. A mutation for larger and tougher fangs might be favored for G1 too, so they can tear through the thick hides of other frozen climate creatures. In an open landscape of desert, G2 might gain advantage from an adaptation for stronger legs to be used for running, whereas a cold mountainous region like G1's habitat would maybe not favor such a trait, since the wolves would likely seek shelter in caves rather than remain in the open anyway. Then there are other issues that could come into play, like sexual selection, adaptations to dodge certain predators, and so on. This all may seem pretty standard to you and you may object, 'these are still both wolves,' however, as already remarked, all it takes for a new species to form is enough mutation to the genetic code to prevent fertile offspring between two animals. They may still be wolves, but they would each be a different species of wolves.
So asking for proof of one species developing into a different species can be thought of as asking how many mutations/adaptations it takes to put an end to successful reproduction. I can't give you the answer, but hopefully you're able to see that there really is no "barrier" between species, except for whether or not they can reproduce, and as mutations can directly affect that ability, I think it's quite easy to see how small changes in one species could eventually lead to big changes that result in a new species. This is why similarities between different species are not to be dismissed. When we can point to the hole in the bottom of the skull, called the foramen magnum, and show that it gradually shifts position from chimps to an intermediate (like Australopithecus afarensis) and finally to humans, telling us about the curvature of the spine and how walking on all fours became walking on two legs, I don't think anyone can honestly dismiss such details as sheer coincidence. There are many, many more similarities just like it too, and in 150 years since Darwin popularized the theory of evolution, we have only discovered more evidence in support of it, and no findings of any other branch of science have contradicted it yet in any major way.
But to return to another question of yours, the idea that we all emerged from a "chemical soup" is actually a different theory, known as abiogenesis. Evolution is a theory on the diversity of life, while abiogenesis is the theory on life's origins. As it happens, I recently wrote an article on abiogenesis: Can Life Arise From Non-life? The theory is certainly not a complete one yet, but I believe that the experiments we do have and the discoveries we've made constitute some interesting evidence, and the arguments generally made against abiogenesis are often flimsy at best.
As for a creator working in an orderly fashion, I think you presume this on the basis of your particular faith. Why a god of order instead of one of disorder? Nonetheless, if it's order and structure you want, I can't think of why evolution couldn't qualify. Natural selection is a very orderly and systematic process. I like to draw an analogy to a computer programmer. If you're looking for an efficient and orderly way of content management, why would you create a program that requires constant tinkering and intervention, when you could create one that auto-updates itself and weeds out the errors with a preference toward improvement? I don't believe evolution is incompatible with the idea of a creator at all. That usually seems to be the thinking of those who don't understand evolution, in my experience.
Lastly, there is a big difference between an unobservable and an unknowable idea, I should point out, and for something to not be directly observable does not mean it is unobservable. Evolution is observable, as I've already explained, but it won't be something to observe happening here and now with our own eyes, because it operates on a very lengthy timescale. We can still observe its effects and be on just as solid a footing as a detective who bases a case on DNA evidence rather than an eyewitness. So what's wrong with religion proposing that it has unobservable or even "indirectly observable" phenomena? Nothing. I have never objected to religion solely on the basis that it asks us to believe in what we cannot see. When I was a Christian, I often made the comparison to skeptics that, 'god is like the wind, you may not see him, but you can see the effects of him'. But where I draw the line of difference between this reasoning and the same employed in science is that I dispute the effects proposed by theists. It's as simple as that, really. While I think evolutionists have established the effects of evolution quite well, I have yet to see theists present anything of real substance.
© Copyright 2008-2012. All rights reserved.