“How Should I, as a Non-Christian, React to Creationist Claims?”
Hello, I’m a French science student interested in the creation/evolution debate. I have had no religious upbringing, and don’t take the Gospel as gospel truth, so I guess I must be an Evil Darwinist. Where I live, there doesn’t seem to be a great “debate” about evolution: I haven’t heard of any creationist scientists, besides from when I find Religious sites on the Internet. So I guess we haven’t yet been blessed with Pseudoscientific Creationists. True we have fanatics, but they’re Catholic and tend to be old Nazis dressed in black who want to go back to saying Mass in Latin, so don’t even go near calling themselves scientists. OK I’m being facetious 🙂
Anyway, how do you advise me, a non-christian, to react to creationist scientific claims? I hope you’ll provide an answer other than “convert to Christianity” — you won’t get away that easily: If your claims are scientifically sound, I should be able to accept that. However I often find them a mere imitation of the scientific method, a rational method I understand and respect more than your personal interpretation of the Bible.
By the way I worked on Genetic Algorithms a little (programs using genetic mechanisms to solve specific problems), and have therefore witnessed how complexity and ingenious patterns can arise out of chaos — and how the dominant pattern will switch in a fairly short time, not showing so many intermediate genomes (punctuated equilibrum, generally used to explain holes in the fossil reccord). I am aware that you don’t seem to disagree with microevolution, but I don’t believe that “micro-” and “macro-” evolution mean anything. You seem only to use that definition by defining “macroevolution” as what can’t be witnessed directly at our scale, and is therefore false. Why not “micromechanics” and “macromechanics”?: We can’t prove that planets follow Newtonian mechanics, therefore the sun goes around the moon, ‘cos I think the Bible says so.
Anyway, what should I think of your site? It seems cunningly made, maybe even honest. I wouldn’t mind discussing this.
PS: I hope I get a better answer than “Go look at our site — it contains all the answers you need”.
PPS: I hope you don’t get too much of these. Actually I wish you get a lot and read them all. I don’t want to be a nuisance, I’m just curious.
Thank you for your interesting message. I am glad to know a little of your background and familiarity with our site. I will therefore assume a few things as I talk with you and rely on you to let me know if anything needs clarification. I certainly do believe that the Intelligent Design movement has something to offer science today. I think the contributions of Michael Behe and William Dembski in their books, Darwin’s Black Box and The Design Inference, lay the critical theoretical and evidential groundwork for a scientifically workable theory of design. It is crucial to realize that this does not mean a complete overhaul of science. Design is only meant to allow for design to be a legitimate hypothesis when addressing questions of the origin of complex systems. Some systems will carry the earmarks of design and some will not.
Behe’s concept of “irreducible complexity” claims to identify molecular machines within cells that require a design hypothesis due to the fact that they are composed of multiple parts which rely on each other for any activity. Our own experience tells us that when we see such things, like a mousetrap, an intelligence was necessary to put it together. Even things as ridiculous as a Rube Goldberg machine, inefficient and wasteful as they appear, are still designed. Arguments about the intent and intelligence of the “designer” are theological and superfluous to the scientific merit of the hypothesis.
Dembski’s emphasis on complex specified information being an indicator of design is another crucial piece of the puzzle. The DNA code is both complex and specified. All other codes we know of from experience require an intelligence to bring them about. These codes may operate on their own once in existence, but require intelligence to put them together. Now this does not in itself require an intelligence to bring about the DNA code, but it should at least be a viable option. Science will currently categorically rule out this possibility since it does not propose a naturalistic process for bringing about the DNA code. I believe this is done out of a philosophical prejudice as opposed to a legitimate scientific problem.
The connections between irreducible complexity and intelligence, and complex specified information and intelligence, are the crucial components of a viable theory of Intelligent Design (ID). I think there is plenty of data from molecular biology and astronomy (fine-tuning parameters of the universe) which already make Intelligent Design a worthwhile scientific pursuit.
Even Richard Dawkins admits that biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Maybe it isn’t just an appearance. If they have been designed for a purpose, we should be able to tell and it should fall under the umbrella of science since science is primarily a search for truth.
Genetic algorithms are still operating from a computer program utilizing the designed computer itself to arrive at its designs. In other words the potential for design is built into the program and the computer. The genetic algorithm program willl not write itself and the program will not run itself apart from the computer, a designed machine.
This perhaps provides a starting point. There are other places on our site that can give you some more details but this should do for now.
BTW, the micro-macro distinction is one that many evolutionists recognize and use so it is not just some creationist invention. But you are correct that it does have to do with the distinction between the minor changes we see happening all around us and the unobserved changes that must have occurred in the past which there is often no discernible fossil evidence for. There is also an embryological component to the distinction. Currently observed microevolutionary changes are all changes that would occur late in embryological development; the overall body plan is not affected. Body plans are determined very early in embryological development which, if all life is descended from a common ancestor, must have also changed in the past. But nearly all mutations observed that occur early in development result in catastrophic deformities. You can’t just add up microevolutionary, late development changes and eventually get an early developmental, body plan mutation. They are very different things.
Dr. Ray Bohlin