Re: Apologetics, Genesis, and C S Lewis

Jonathan Clarke (jdac@alphalink.com.au)
Tue, 08 Dec 1998 19:01:56 +1100

Moorad Alexanian wrote (in part) :

>
>
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> Richard Dawkins, famed author of "The Blind Watchmaker," has said that
> Darwin made it possible to be an "intellectually fulfilled atheist." He
> also said: "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should
> expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good,
> nothing but pointless indifference." Dawkins's statement is not science but
> a melange of all sorts of philosophical and theological presuppositions.
> People do not attack scientific inquiry that truly searches for the truth.

People were intellectually fulfilled atheists long before Darwin! What about
Lucretius, Hume, and Marx? Dawkins is here (as usual) engaged in a travesty of the
history and philosophy of science, presumably coloured by his own wishful thinking.

> Unlike physics, paleontology is a science in the sense of forensic science.

So what? Unlike palaeontology, is a science in the sense of chemistry.

> The evidence for evolutionary transition of humans from apelike ancestors is
> not abundant enough to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it has
> occurred. That is why the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe
> in a Creator.

The evidence for an evolutionary transformation of humans (as far as I can tell) is
as well documented as for any other species. Whether is is abundant enough to
conclude "beyond reasonable doubt" is obviously debatable. People have different
criteria for this. There are still a few geocentricists about! If doubt over the
palaeontological record is human evolution is the main reason the "overwhelming
majority of Americans still believe in a Creator" then they are guilty of an
appalling category error. However, a majority of Americans probably couldn't find
Iraq on a blank map of the world and it is unlikely that they are any more
knowledgeable with respect to epistemology. The opinions of a majority of Americans
are no more relevant to the issue than that of the majority of Chinese.

> The underpinning of biological sciences is biochemistry and at that
> microscopic level there is no scientific model that can explain the
> evolution of complex biological systems and functions. The biochemist
> Michele Behe, "Darwin's Black Box," shows that neo-Darwinism cannot account
> for the molecular structure of life.

I am wading my way through Behe at the moment. So far I have found he makes some
very interesting points but is at times logically inconstant. Although his main
complaint is against Neo-Dawrinian evolution, Behe is hardly hostile to evolution in
the more general sense: "... I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms
share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt
it." (page 5). Of course, although Behe's speciality is molecular biology (a
CD-ROM database I checked today had 42 citations), only a small part of this corpus
(about 3 papers) appears to be specifically on evolutionary problems. His peers
seem less impressed by "Darwin's Black Box" than outsiders, to judge by the number
of critical responses to his book. I think Behe has done us a great service in
mapping out an agenda for further research. Whether his book is the death-blow to
Neo-Darwinian evolution remains to be seen.

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> The theory of evolution has nothing whatsoever to do with advances in
> medicine, science, and technology. Is such a theory, therefore, that
> indispensable for our students?

The Big Bang has nothing to do with advances in these fields either. Should it
therefore be excluded? Quantum mechanics has done nothing for palaeontology and
stratigraphy - who needs it?. Heliocentric astronomy is irrelevant to medicine, so
that is obviously dispensable as well! Mind you, if more doctors and veterinarians
understood evolutionary ecology there might not be such a problem with antibiotic
resistance as there is now.

> No one is objecting to the teaching of evolution. However, students of faith
> ought not to come out of biology classes with the notion that there is no
> God. Otherwise, theology and not merely biology is being taught in such classes.

I concur most strongly with you on this one. Properly taught, there is no reason
why they should. We must dissuade people, including science educators, that
philosophically naive people like Richard Dawkins speak for science as a whole.
There is a need to compare what he says with what people like Francisco Ayala say
from a different perspective (see his section about evolution on the CTNS site at
http://www.counterbalance.org/evolution/index-frame.html)

> Moorad Alexanian

in Christ

Jonathan Clarke