Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Creationist's Argument

“Zor” at the Stardestroyer.net BBS recently shared an email message from a Young Earth Creationist he met at his university. Apparently this message follows a conversation that the two of them had when she noticed him reading Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. It contains examples of pretty standard creationist thinking, so I thought I’d look into it a bit. I’m using Nicole as an example because she seems to be pretty sincere but misinformed, instead of being one of those creationists who routinely lie.

Hey [Zor],

Here is some food for thought concerning our discussion the other day!

I'm not exactly sure how to begin, but i think the origins of everything would be a good place to start. The heavens and the earth were created by God, in the beginning. God was, is and is to come...this would explain the origins of everything. We exist because we were created by God to exist, to serve Him, for His glory. Evolution cannot expain the origins of everything because there is no way that everything that exists today and the order in which it exists came from nothing and then evolved into what it is today by random chance and selection. (even if evolution were true, it still does not explain how everything got there in the first place).
A standard problem with creationist thinking is the assumption that the Theory of Evolution is supposed to explain everything in the universe. That’s expecting far too much from the theory. The Theory of Evolution only explains how all of the varied species of life on Earth are related, having diversified from a single common ancestor after life on Earth actually began. The Theory of Evolution does not even attempt to explain “how everything got there in the first place”, yet creationists seem to think it should. Please, folks, if you’re going to try to disprove a theory, at least try to understand what the theory actually claims to explain before you dispute those claims.

It takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does creation because creation has a Creator, a Maker of the earth, the heavens, life itself. Evolution says that everything came from nothing. Doesn't it make a ton more sense to believe that we were created by an almighty God than from nothing 'a bazillion' years ago?
This is a good example of a creationist using a “strawman argument” against the Theory of Evolution. The term comes from old military training exercises, in which trainers would set up a straw dummy that soldiers – swordsmen, archers, horsemen, etc. – could attack to develop their skills. The “strawman”, of course, doesn’t dodge or fight back, because it’s not a real opponent. Similarly, a “strawman argument” is a harmless imitation of the real argument that is easy to strike down.

In this particular example, Nicole’s claim that “Evolution says that everything came from nothing” is a strawman. As noted above, the Theory of Evolution does not say that. It’s easy to make a misrepresentation of the theory seem like nonsense – much easier than arguing against the real Theory of Evolution.

Take for example, an airplane. There is careful design and thought put into an airplane. It must be DESIGNED and then built, it wasn't as if there was an enormous storm and then POOF! one day there is a brand spanking new airplane sitting on the runway, ready for use. (the 'airplane' i am referring to is the earth and how everything in it works, for example-the water cycle, the human body, etc).
Here, Nicole makes another strawman argument, this time trying to compare the origins of the universe (which, as we’ve already noted, is outside the scope of the Theory of Evolution) to the construction of an airplane. The Theory of Evolution doesn’t involve a “Poof!” in which numerous animal species appear from nowhere. In fact, her analogy has far more in common with Creationism than the Theory of Evolution.

You had mentioned in class that there was plenty of evidence for evolution. I'm wondering what the specific examples are and the proofs behind them.
The sad part is that she probably really doesn’t know. Here are a few quickies:

Progressionism: Everywhere in the world, if you dig for fossils, you will find that as you get deeper, the fossils become simpler. This trend is known as progressionism and it indicates that highly evolved animals occupy only a small, recent portion of the fossil record, so they couldn't have been there from the beginning.

Structural similarity: There are fundamental similarities between divergent species within their families. For example, the forearm skeletal structures of hundreds of vertebrate species (including man and ape) are remarkably similar.

Biochemical similarity: The chemical makeup of numerous related species is profoundly similar. For example, human DNA is 98% identical to that of other apes. At a more fundamental level, the protein enzyme known as cytochrome is part of the respiration process and is found in everything from plants to bacteria, fungi, and mammals.

Embryological similarity: The embryos of different species are often indistinguishable from one another, even when the end product is radically different, eg- lizards, birds, and mammals. This early similarity indicates common origins.

Transformed organs: Many related species have similar organs in similar places, but altered to perform different functions. This is consistent with evolution from one species to another, but a staggering coincidence if one believes in individual species design.

Poor design: Many biological structures are obviously haphazard and less than optimal. For example, all vertebrates swallow and breathe through the same tube, which creates a choking hazard that can easily be fatal. Evolution accepts that these will occur when parts are pressed into new functions, but a Creator or Designer would be expected to correct these flaws.

Vestigial features: The human appendix, the fingerbones of whales, the hollow bones of flightless birds… there are many examples of features that serve no useful purpose for modern species. These features make sense only if the modern species descended from ancestors that actually used those features.

Geographical distribution: Thousands of separate species which are similar in every respect are coincidentally located in such a manner that they appear to have spread outward from a single place of origin.

Paleontology: The fossil record demonstrates that the structure of animals has historically been consistent with their environmental conditions. Some animal lineages – horses being a good example – have a well-defined “family tree” of ancestral species going back through time.

Observed adaptation: We have observed changes in populations of existing species in response to new environmental pressures. Examples include bacterial resistance to antibiotics and insects growing resistant to pesticides.

This list is a tiny sampling of the wealth of evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution. If you truly don’t know about any of this, you need to start studying the subject before you criticize the theory.

Also, you had mentioned that everything that exists today is derived from one cell. How is that possible, what with the diversity of living things on earth? If everything that exists is derived from one cell, why would there not continue to be more and more life forms evolving, coming into existence (like bacteria reproducing-wouldn't more and more life forms continue to be reproduced?) Its not as if the entire evolutionary process would be stopped!
This statement shows that the Nicole simply doesn’t understand reality, let alone the Theory of Evolution. The whole point of the Theory is to explain how today’s diversity of living things evolved from a single common ancestor over the course of time. The most bizarre question she asks is “why would there not continue to be more and more life forms evolving, coming into existence?” New species are evolving. The evolutionary process has not stopped.

I'm also just curious about what your basis for being an athiest is-do you just not believe that God exists at all, or is it that you don't want to acknowledge His existence?
Nicole doesn’t realize it, but she’s an atheist, too. Does she believe in Vishnu? Odin? Zeus? Quetzalcoatl? Zoroaster? Baal? The religious difference between her and Zor is that he believes in one less god than she does.

There is so much more that I could and would like to write (as proof for creation), but I'll just leave it at that for now. I look forward to your response!

In Nicole’s case, I’d settle for just one piece of testable, verified evidence supporting Creation. Nitpicking the Theory of Evolution – especially such bad misrepresentations of it as she has presented – simply doesn’t cut it. To make the case for Creationism, you’ve got to show that Creationism does a better job of explaining the physical evidence than the Theory of Evolution.

Acknowledgment: I borrowed the “quickie evidence” from Creationtheory.org.


Anonymous said...

Slight nitpick. I'm not sure that you should list the hollow bones of flightless birds as a vestigial feature. As I understand it (and I could easily be completely wrong about this), the hollows in the bones of avians are part of their highly-efficient respiratory system. Without the hollow bones, flightless birds wouldn't have their speed or stamina.

Lord Runolfr said...

I'm hardly an expert, but as far as I know, the hollow bones of birds have nothing to do with respiration. They're hollow to reduce the birds weight, making it easier for them to fly. A hollow bone is not a strong as a solid bone of equal volume, which can be a problem for a heavy bird that has to run on the ground. They still function, but they're not the optimal design.