Re: Social problems and evolution

Russell Maatman (
Tue, 10 Mar 1998 16:18:32 -0600

George Murphy wrote on Tuesday, March 10, 1998 1:22 PM

> Russell Maatman wrote:
> > George, suppose someone says to you that the gaps in the fossil record
> > exist because God created groups of living things separately and that
> > are no fossils to be found in the gaps. This is a typical YEC argument.
> > might--at least for the sake of the argument--concede that there are
> > "missing links" between groups of fossils. But you would probably add
> > those links might be found, and then the "god" of the other person
> > a bit smaller. You'd be correct. Every time God is invoked to fill in
> > our ignorance, and later we find that we really didn't need God for
> > supposed gap in our knowledge, our "god" would diminish. Too many
> > Christians have gone down that road.
> > In our discussion of human evolution, you seem to depend on
> > mechanisms to link the human race to other hominids. Aren't you falling
> > into the same trap as the person who invokes God wherever there is a
> > mystery?
> No, because:
> a. I think there are good _theological_ reasons ("functional
> integrity of creation", "theology of the cross") for believing that
> scientific explanation which makes no explicit reason to God is, in
> principle, possible. If you think there's something wrong with those
> reasons, that's what we need to debate.
> b. In practice, the gaps have very often been filled in by
> scientific explanation.
> That person says our ignornace points to divine action; you seem
> > to be saying that the fact we are presently ignorant about a gap tells
> > some scientific discovery will be made in the future. In the one case,
> > ignorance is proof that God acts; in the other, ignorance indicates a
> > mechanism will be found in the future.
> There isn't really a parallel between "God of the gaps" and
> "science of the gaps". The parallel would exist only if the need for
> "science of the gaps" were eliminated by an explicitly theistic
> explanation, which doesn't happen. But of course this whole way of
> stating the matter prejudices things, because it assumes that one must
> have a scientific explanation OR one in terms of divine action.
> > I'd rather go back to my original point. Genetic and structural
> > cannot be proof of descent, given that the organisms are subject to the
> > same physical laws. There is, of course, no "god of the gaps"; our God
> > active in whatever happens. And we simply do not know that mechanisms
> > presently unknown will be discovered, or are discoverable.
> I agree - if by "proof" is meant something which logically
> compels the conclusion. What you are pointing out is a special case of
> the problem of induction. All the observations of wavelengths, cross
> sections &c don't _prove_ the Schroedinger equation, but most physicists
> feel that the number of phenomena it does explain, together with a
> difficult-to-define-but-quite-real sense of the beauty of the theory,
> convince most physicists to think it's true.

Exactly--induction. Of course the principle of induction is great in all
sorts of scientific contexts. But it can be a fallacy to proceed from the
general to the specific. It is not enough to say "functional integrity" and
then conclude that the origin of the human race resembles the origins of
other living things. I don't agree that "evolution has been proved in
general"--a statement often made. But _even if_ that statement were
correct, such a conclusion could not be used to show that human beings
descended from animals. After all, another respectable claim for the origin
of the human race is on offer: God created Adam and Eve, the parents of all
humanity, de novo.

In that context, my original claim (lo! these many e-mail messages ago) is
relevant, namely, the claim that similarity of structure in the supposed
human line is not proof of descent.


Russell Maatman
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