Friday, November 28, 2008

A Review of Answers In Genesis' review of Eugenie Scotts talk on science and faith

Excuse the incredibly long name but there isn't really any other way to phrase it.

Anyway I was just reading a recent article on the AiG website about a talk Eugenie Scott gave back in September (yes it took them that long to get to it, but I can see why, they are probably quite busy). It is basically a discussion about how science and religion mix. Now since I am a theist and Eugenie is not I will probably find myself agreeing with a lot of things the creationists are saying from a philosophical standpoint yet rejecting many of their conclusions (example, I agree that there is a God who created the universe and revealed himself to mankind through a book, however I disagree that this means he couldn't have used natural processes to create the universe).

To begin, she points out that there are three ways of gaining knowledge; personal experience (intuition internal knowledge etc.), Authority (a book such as the bible, an experienced individual in a particular field etc.), and science which she describes as a limited way of knowing the world which through natural processes alone. She also points out that science is limited in the sense that it can only know what can be observed and tested. I agree with most of what she is saying, although if evidence of something outside the natural world (say, God) could be gleaned then it would probably be accepted as scientific.

Next she goes onto the creationist argument that you cannot know anything about something if it happened in the past because there were no witnesses. Eugenie uses a humorous example of finding on a road, cow dung with a road stripe painted over it, and then humorously asks the audience if we would not be able to figure out what happened because it happened in the past. She goes onto state that we could figure out what happened through seeing a logical sequence (cow comes and defecates on a road stripe, the road maintenance crew comes to paint fresh stripes on the road and doesn't clean of the dung but simply paints the line over it).

The creationist argument that we can't figure something out because it happened in the past is indeed a weak argument. And although I agree that an omniscient witness who can't lie is a good witness to have I also believe Creation is a witness from God telling the human race how he created the universe, it is simply logical that God's creation would be just as reliable as his on natural history as his revealed word would be on matters of human history, spirituality and morality.

Now enough babbling, lets get to the creationists' response;
Now, let me make it clear that, unlike Scott’s implication, creationists do
believe inferential explanation is, on the whole, pretty accurate. If you return
home and your dog is out of the cage with trash scattered about, it’s not
unreasonable to conclude, based on past experience and circumstantial evidence
(e.g., teeth marks on garbage, the dog’s dirty snout) that the dog is
responsible. This sort of deduction can be quite reasonable when there are no
observers and can be important even when there are observers—if they’re fallible
(for example, the aforementioned witnesses to a crime).
Likewise, Scott’s
answer to her highway conundrum makes sense based on what we know about the
behavior of cattle, the physics of highway paint striping, and so forth.
just as it seems foolish to conclude that inferential explanations are never
right, it also seems foolish to conclude that inferential explanation—especially
about unrepeatable historical events—is just as reliable as directly observing
repeatable, carefully controlled scientific experiments. This is where we get
into the distinction between operational (or observational) science and origins (or
historical) science
—a distinction evolutionists fail to recognize, by the
For instance, a dog tearing up garbage isn’t a one-time event; it’s
something that happens more regularly than most people would like, has been
observed many times, and violates no laws of science. We could even set up a
two-way mirror or hidden camera and document Fido’s destruction.

And now for my rebuttal: While it is true that sometimes accurately describing historical events can be difficult it is not impossible. Although we cannot absolutely know how a battle happened we can get a pretty good idea (like from where the enemy attacked, we can tell what era it occured in by the armour of the soldiers, etc.). A dog tearing up garbage isn't a one time event but neither is biological change, and we can actually observe it happening in the same way we can see dogs tearing through garbage. Creationists need to show that these two cases are somehow different; now it is true that we have not actually watched a reptile evolve into a bird but we don't have to. Just like in at a crime scene you look for clues from the site to see what happened, scientists look for any changes of that type in the fossil record which is essentially (not to use a word twice but) a record of earth's history. If we didn't find any evidence of this sort of change whatsoever evolution would have been thrown in the garbage can a long time ago.

Now onto why they think evolution is different;
But as for the differences: first, Darwinian evolution is based on
conjecture about a one-time event that we cannot repeat experimentally; the
“documentation” of the fossil record is actually just an interpretation of unevolving fossils that
presupposes evolution.3 Second, Darwinian evolution violates the law of biogenesis and the second
law of thermodynamics. Third, there are good alternatives to evolution regarding
the origin of life/biodiversity. These differences distinguish the dog-and-trash
and the cattle-and-road-stripe examples from Darwinian evolution.

Well I am sorry to say this creationist is w-r-o-n-g; Darwinian evolution is not based on conjecture and it is based upon an event which we can repeat experimentally, evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics or the law of biogenesis (evolution has nothing to do with abiogenesis), and no there are no good alternative explanations. It should also be pointed out that Intelligent Design as a concept is valid, however the current movement which wants to make Intelligent Design a scientific alternative to evolution has failed to make a convincing case. I would like nothing better then for a more theistic framework for biology to appear but until that happens, I will stay with evolution. Next he makes the point that inference is only accurate if the source is accurate. Now this is true, but if data gained through careful examination and experimentation is not a good source of inference then I don't know what is. Creationists deny it but that is indeed how our knowledge of evolution has been gained over the past 150 years.

The last point I am going to address tonight is that God being incapable of lying and omniscient would be a perfectly reliable witness; this is very true but creationists need to remember that creation was also made by God and it was made to give a reliable account of the past, shouldn't we also take the witness of God's creation into account?

I will be making a part two of this tomorrow (I apologize for my laziness in updating this blog, I will attempt to do better next month) but for now, farewell and goodbye.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why Life's Genesis Is Unrepeatable

QUOTE (HenisDov @ May 18 2007, PhysForum)
A. If one accepts, intuitively and logically, Pasteur's observation .... We are just beginning to comprehend the nature of the raw material called Life and that the purpose of OUR life is ours to choose and develop and follow.

I am asked, by TracerTong, two questions:

A. Shouldn't it (life's genesis) be repeatable? Wouldn't scientists have already been able to repeat it?

B. What about 'spiritual' happenings? Is it logical to assume only 'natural' genesis?

My answers:

A. Today's "scientists" are unable to "repeat it" because (1) they do not know how the first "life" arose and (2) they do not and will never know and will not be able to duplicate the environments and circumstances of genesis and (3) they do not and will never know and will never be able to repeat the environments and circumstances of post genesis evolution.

B. "Spiritual happenings" are virtual reality affairs. They are feasible only for living organisms that have a culture, i.e. that have a pattern of sensings and reactions to the sensings. Genes, and therefore also genomes, are organisms and display virtual reality phenomena, therefore also multicelled organisms, like dogs and humans, display such "spiritual" phenomena.

Dov Henis
(Comments From The 22nd Century)
Life's Manifest
EVOLUTION Beyond Darwin 200