Re: Apologetics, Genesis, and C S Lewis

David Campbell (ecphora@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Tue, 8 Dec 1998 13:24:43 -0400

>The rule of publishing a paper in a physics journal is such that from the
>article one cannot discern anything about the author--gender, state of mind
>when paper was written, inspiration for the ideas presented, etc. The paper
>has to be totally objective--nothing subjective about it. That is the way
>the hard sciences, e.g. biology, chemistry, physics, are conducted. At times
>I ask myself how can such science predict the existence of man which has
>been totally extricated from the science. That would be a miracle if I ever
>saw one. Clearly paleontology is not a science in the sense of the hard
>sciences. Yes the hard sciences are used in forensic science but the
>evidence that leads to conviction can be totally circumstantial. We know
>that innocent people have been convicted even to capital punishment on such
>circumstantial evidence.

Most paleontology journal articles are descriptions of new fossils, and
involve fewer assumptions about interpreting the results than most physics
(e.g., "This fossil is round" is a direct observation whereas "A subatomic
particle did..." requires some sort of detector and assumptions about how
the particle and the detector interact.). If evolution is important in the
paper, it is usually a relatively small change. However, some of these
small changes were very significant in hindsight, such as the recent
discovery of a fish with toes in its fins.

Trying to predict the existence of man from evolutionary theory or from
pre-Pliocene fossil evidence is like trying to predict which atom will
decay next in a sample of a radioactive isotope. As far as we currently
know, there is no mathematical formula that predicts to that level of
detail. From a Biblical perspective, it seems likely that we will never be
able to predict evolution to that degree of detail, because of God's
tendency to pick "the weak things of the world" (I Cor. 1:18-31, etc.). If
you can find a historian who can predict the development of a nation whose
beliefs would influence the whole world from an elderly infertile couple,
see if he can predict the course of evolution.

>I do agree with you that Behe's book is not the final word. I use what is
>available to present my case against macroevolution. I believe the latter
>represents an unwarranted conclusion from the existing data.

"Macroevolution" is used by many of the young-earth or intelligent design
camps to refer to aspects of common descent that they reject (e.g., common
ancestry of phyla). In paleontological usage, it refers to the belief that
something different happens in evolution above the species level than at
and below the species level. I believe Behe believes in macroevolution in
both of these senses. I am not sure how you are using the word.

>Stephen Jay Gould refers to Darwinian evolution as the centerpiece of the
>biological sciences. I am sure that that statement is just as foolish as to
>say that the Big Bang theory is the centerpiece of the physical sciences.
>Believe me the overwhelming majority of physicists, including ALL Nobel
>laureates, do their work without ever thinking of the Big Bang. I am sure
>evolutionary ecology is governed by microevolution and not macroevolution.

Almost anything could be called a scientific centerpiece, since it is not a
technically defined term. Evolution by natural selection and other factors
and common descent do provide a unifying concept that explains observations
from all parts of biology, though in many specific studies the importance
of that aspect is either minor or else almost common sense (in particular,
the belief that there is probably a reason for most features or behaviors
of an organism). For medicine, common descent explains why certain animals
are better models for the human system than others. The realization that
many natural medicinal substances are produced as a defence to improve the
probability of survival can help direct the search for likely new drugs.
Similar considerations can provide useful insights into other fields of
biology, also not directly evolutionary.

More importantly at a general level, evolution is widely misunderstood by
scientists and non-scientists alike. A presentation of the scientific
evidence and the lack of significant philosophical content (i.e., why the
whole "evolution- creation debate" is based on "god of the gaps"
presuppositions that are not Biblical nor accepted in various other
religions) would help a lot in promoting truth.

David C.