Re: Apologetics, Genesis, and C S Lewis

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Fri, 11 Dec 1998 08:58:40 -0500 (EST)

At 01:24 PM 12/8/98 -0400, David Campbell wrote:
>>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.

It is in principle impossible to predict which atom will decay next in a
radioactive sample. But such questions fall outside the scope of the
underlying quantum mechanics that describes such processes. You mean to say
that it lies outside the scope of evolutionary theory to predict the
existence of man? As I have indicated many times, evolutionary theory is
forensic science and no definite statement can be made there either.

>>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.

The statement that man descends from lower forms of life, e.g. apes, is
macroevolution. That is to say, there is a change in kind not merely in degree.

>>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.

The reason certain animals are better models for the human system is
experimentation. Witness the cosmetic industry and experiments, I believe,
with dogs. It is at the molecular level that more exact comparisons can be
made and that has nothing to do with common descent. You can invoke common
descent as often as you want, but in most cases, common descent has nothing
whatsoever to do with the underlying science which is being studied.

>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.

The notion of "God of the gaps" intrigues me. It is often said, in a
positive fashion, that people meet God when they find themselves in
desperate situations when all other sorts of help have failed--e.g. the rich
person who becomes destitute and then turns to God and his life is radically
changed. Now if in this instance such a need for God is praised, why is the
same situation--when it arises in the attempt of explaining the physical
universe--characterized in the negative fashion of "God of the gaps?"

Take care,