Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is the Last Evolution Post

For awhile at least. Really. I mean it this time. I don't care what comes up to entice me to go on, I am done with this subject.

But... I keep feeling led to post this one last bit of reflection relative to the whole evolution thing. It's something I wrote after reading Fossil Hunter, but wasn't going to put up, seeing as I'd already put up enough. But then... I found this article in the Washington Post by Kathleen Parker on An Evolution for Evangelicals.

It tells about Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian, home-schooled until the sixth grade and the physician-geneticist in charge of the Human Genome Project for the NIH. Though later in the article he is also said to have been an atheist, believing only what science could prove, so I would guess he was one of those to leave the home school environment only to be shocked to discover that the world is far older than they were taught, encounter the theory of evolution and lose his faith. Subsequent wrestling with various life questions brought him back to God, his "mission" now to let people know that one can believe in science and God, but that belief in God doesn't preclude believing in evolution. "[h]aving earned a PhD and a medical degree, Collins is nonetheless a scientist with little patience for those who insist that evolution is just a theory that one may take or leave. Most human genes, he points out, are similar to genes in other mammals, "which indicates a common ancestry."

I would note 1) he's a physician/geneticist, not a paleontologist.

And 2) the fact that human genes are similar to genes in other mammals doesn't necessarily indicate a common ancestry. Mammals are similar. We have hair, four limbs, skin, warm blood, produce live births, feed our young with breast milk... why wouldn't the information for those characteristics be similar? The similarity of genetics between forms is no different than the similarity of observable physical (phenotypical) characteristics. Neither prove anything about ancestry.

But enough of Collins. He was only the prod that got me thinking about the whole thought process involved here... to wit:

You have a collection of items, creatures. They may be radically different. A modern whale, say, and also a “putative” or alleged ancestor, the pakicetid, which was a carnivorous land animal. You have only the skeletons to work with. If the task is to determine the order in which they are related, then it seems to me that you have to already have the idea in place that these all “evolved” not the other way around.

But what if they aren’t related? What if they didn’t lead one to another? Then you are going to be looking at them and seeing similarities and reach a false conclusion.

Instead of seeing the incredible variety of God’s creation, instead of seeing the amazing design involved, instead of seeing how each organism has its own unique habitat and ecology, you instead see only what you are trying to see.

Furthermore, you want this to be true for many reasons: everyone around you that you respect say that it’s true; you will be impugned and cast out if you don’t agree; the force of all these people over a couple hundred years having looked at the data and agreeing that it’s true must make it so; you desire to look intelligent, not like an ignoramus; you need for grant money if you are to continue working; you see no reasonable alternative; you have no desire to really believe what God’s word says over what the world and man’s reason says… Therefore, you insist upon evaluating the data from the accepted, preconceived standpoint.

Even if the data doesn’t really support it. Pakicetids are believed to be the ancestors of modern whales based on three things unique to whales: 1) peculiarities in the positioning of the ear bones in the skulls, 2) the folding in a bone in the middle ear, and 3) the arrangement of cusps on the molar teeth. (Wikipedia)

“The current theory is that modern whales evolved from archaic whales such as the basilosaurids which in turn evolved from something like the amphibious ambulocetids, which themselves evolved from something like the land-dwelling pakicetids.” (Wikipedia) (But look at the language used in that sentence: “such as,” “something like,” “which themselves evolved from something like.” Could it be more hypothetical?)

These are based on I don’t know how many finds in particular locations … dated by the geologic or radio carbon metric…. on, of course, the assumptions that carbon has always decayed at the same rate as it does today.

So first you assume that the dating method that arrives at an age of billions of years is accurate, though no one has any way of proving that it is. No way of confirming it, watching it real time. No way of knowing if things were very different than they are now, but assuming they were not.

Then you assume that these creatures lead one to the other because they occur in different strata that are assigned to particular dates and if one is earlier than the other then you fill in the blanks of how the earlier changed into the later, using computers modeling a gradual line of genetic change based on rate of mutation. [They use computer models to predict global warming, too…]

Even though the fossil record shows no intermediaries, but rather sudden explosions of new organisms. Never mind about that, they say. The intermediaries just didn’t leave any fossils. But they were there. Believe us. We are experts…We are Scientists and Scientists know.

So everyone dutifully assumes these all lead one to the other and they just have to figure out what order they’re in. So they strive and scrape and bend and ignore the actual evidence to come up with “supposed” evolutionary patterns that “prove” it’s true.

How can a “supposed” anything prove something?

Because people want it to, because other people say loudly, forcibly and frequently that it does and denigrate any that say otherwise. In Expelled, Richard Dawkins said, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution is either stupid, ignorant or insane.” (There. Now he doesn’t have to grapple with the actual issues because he’s destroyed the credibility of those who advance them by calling them names.) Lots of different scientists throw different scientific talk and jargon at the subject of evolution, that are actually irrelevant if you consider it, calling their beliefs “objective” while any other viewpoint is not. Especially one that includes God in the picture.

I so clearly see the great Deceiver in all this. The arrogance of man in it… It’s a grand deceit. Masterful, really, getting people all involved in did God really say that He created things in seven days? That seems a bit ridiculous. Given what we know, and we are so wise. We are clever. God just doesn’t want us to think that, because He’s afraid we’ll get to the truth and the truth is, He doesn’t exist. Or He does, but He can’t make himself clear in His word.