Questioning Evolution!

Apparently tomorrow is Charles Darwin’s birthday and there are people who choose to celebrate it as Darwin Day. Personally that doesn’t excite me. That’s not because I have anything against Darwin, quite the opposite, his contribution to science is extraordinary and his dedication over many years to meticulous and sometimes boring experiments brought significant understanding and knowledge.

I just don’t get the need elevate a single man in this way. He will forever be a science legend, there is no need to name a day for him. Its arguable that he would shun such elevation himself. His work is testament to his status and stands on its own as a timeless statue. What gets to me is that this stinks of idolatry, the worshiping of a person. I would rather see an Evolution Day or a Scientific Endeavour Day, put the focus on what it was that he achieved and how it was achieved, not the man himself because that distracts from the result of his lifelong work. It’s the geek equivalent of a pinup, it grates on me and my default response is to reject it.

Stick to the Subject!

Rant over, now the subject of this post is taken from a creationist item I’ve just read (http://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/question-evolution-day/). Its stinks of the sort of nonsense I used to believe so I figured it would be fun to put up a response to it.

Firstly, yes we should question evolution. Everything we hold dear should be questioned honestly and with integrity (http://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/there-is-nothing-to-fear-in-doubt/).

The problem here is that the poster isn’t questioning evolution, he’s denying evolution, there is a very critical difference. I denied evolution for over 20 years, it wasn’t until I questioned evolution critically and honestly that I realised what a fool I had been.

On the post are 15 questions for Evolutionists, they’re not new questions; they’ve done the rounds and been rebutted and rebutted back. As someone who has been on both sides of the line I figured I’d look at them with my own perspective and comment on each one.

1.      How did life originate just by chemistry without a Designer?

That’s not known yet and is still being worked on. As a creationist I would have loved this argument. Now I am wiser I am interested in the work being done and am hopeful that I’ll live to see a breakthrough, sadly I doubt it.

This is a classic case of creationists being critical from a distance. They point at something that’s not got an answer and then claim that scientists don’t know therefore God! This level of poor judgement is embarrassing. If creationists want to see God being invoked for this then rather than mocking from a distance they should come up with a form of experimentation that can show a result.

2.      How did the DNA code originate?

I don’t know enough about the details here to really answer and I imagine few creationists do either. What I will address here is the assertion that DNA is exactly like code. Aparently untangling what DNA does leaves those who know with the impression that it looks just like computer code and there has never been anything else that looks like code that hasn’t come from an intelligent source. Well I know computer code and I do it for a living and have done it for fun too. If DNA looks like and acts like computer code and there has never been an occurrence of code like stuff from something that’s not intelligent then surely the conclusion must be that DNA came from humans, after all its them who created computer code and nothing else has ever created computer code.

Why should this imply God?

Also, if God is so great and intelligent, why did he create DNA in a way that looks like computer code? I am sure someone so clever could come up with a better way, I find it somewhere disappointing that the best way an intelligent creator can come up with to build life is to do it in a way that looks like the product of one of his creations. There’s something crazy silly about that.

3.      How could copying errors (mutations) create 3 billion letters of DNA instructions to change a microbe into a microbiologist?

Duplication, deletion and insertion. Things that work do better. I agree it’s a mind boggling concept. Just because I don’t understand it, doesn’t make it wrong.

4.      Why is natural selection taught as ‘evolution’ as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life?

It’s not and it doesn’t. Natural selection and evolution describe the mutation of one form to another. The origin is something entirely different.

5.      How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate?

This touches on the irreducible complexity argument. It’s an assumption that all the required components mutated at the same time. This needs to be demonstrated as true if it’s to be used as an argument. Mutations could have happened over time, some might have been useful elsewhere while others did nothing, a later mutation could have joined them up into another function.

6.      Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed?

They do? The laryngeal nerve doesn’t look designed (http://old.richarddawkins.net/videos/646660-the-laryngeal-nerve-of-the-giraffe-is-proof-of-natural-selection)  to name just one example.

7.      How did multi-cellular life originate?

Good question, I am sure the answer is being worked on by scientists who also want to know the answer. I guess it’s likely that cells clumped together and found being in a group benefitted the whole.

This is another case of Creationists jumping onto something that is not yet known and assuming that means God. How about rolling up sleeves and working on it. Remote criticism is boring.

8.      How did sex originate?

For fun?

Genetic variation is critical to a healthy population and sex seem to be the most direct and efficient way of getting the reproductive bits together. Relying on wind or insects to move the bits about, like plants do, is very wasteful.

No doubt creationists want the technical details of the how rather than a rational explanation as to why it may have happened. This is a familiar tactic to me as I used to employ it too. The technical details and the first animals to employ it may never be identified, but so what, why does the exact details matter? The creationists will always say ‘yeah but … ‘ to every answer given regardless of what the scientists come up with. This is not about being critical or asking honest questions, its about objecting to science because of a belief in god.

9.      Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing?

Fossils are hard to form, the vast majority of animals that die do not fossilise. Often animals are preserved to fossilise as the result of a tragedy, say a mudslide or a volcano (or yes, even a flood). Normal death in the open is not guaranteed to create a fossil due to scavengers and rot. The expectation is that there will not be all the fossils required.

The challenge is that every animal is a member of a species. We only see different species because of the present diversity. Looking back, how does one tell a transitional fossil from a species? All you would see is different species. That said, there are steps that are found which show animals with different configurations of the same bones. The conclusion of change over time is a valid conclusion from that evidence, this exactly what Darwin did when he examined the evidence. He also wasn’t the only one.

10. How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years?

Animals find a niche and so there is no need to change. Understanding evolution means knowing that a species will change according to its environment, they don’t just change to the sake of it. This is another question from ignorance which attempts to create a problem where one does not exist.

11. How did blind chemistry create mind/intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

Living in a group requires rules to govern and benefit the group. Study groups of animals and you’ll see the same there.

12. Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated as ‘science’?

This bugs me too. Scientists will create a story around a proposal to anthropomorphise the subject. I hate that too. It annoys me intensely. I think it is to try and make the science to bite-size for the common man.

That’s said, it is not a valid criticism of the science behind the conclusions. It’s a complaint about presentation.

13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

Huh?

I don’t get what is being asked here.

14. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as operational science?

Huh?

Evolution is a scientific theory about how species develop. Claiming its history seems to be intentionally misleading in the question. I don’t get what is meant by operational science. Evolution is tested through investigation and discovery. Can’t get much more operational than that.

Gravity is a theory too you know.

15. Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes?

This is a bullshit question. Its (not intelligently) designed to push the motion that evolution is on a par with religion in that it’s a belief system with no evidence. This ignores the fact that evolution came out of a whole butt load of scientific and investigative work and years of compiling the results to come up with ideas that explained the observed facts. Those facts have been subjected to many years of scrutiny since and continue to. If there was a way to scientifically prove evolution false, someone would have done this by now. Instead we have agreement across multiple disciplines of science.

8 thoughts on “Questioning Evolution!

  1. I just don’t get the need elevate a single man in this way. He will forever be a science legend, there is no need to name a day for him.

    I agree with you on that. We don’t have a Galileo day, nor a Newton day nor an Einstein day nor a Maxwell day. We don’t need a Darwin day either.

    And, yes, evolution needs to be questioned, but not in the way that creationists question it. As far as I know, there are disagreements between biologists, so the right kinds of questions are being asked.

    • Hi Neil,

      I think creationists fail to understand that evolution is constantly questioned. Every new discovery, idea and suggestion is examined and those to make them have to defend their suggestions. The creationist argument assumes that every evolutionary idea is accepted because its evolutionary, which is wrong.

      If only they would question their own assumptions with the same enthusiasm.

  2. Pingback: Especially on his birthday, don’t call Darwin racist — he wasn’t « Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

  3. Nice canned responses to the “15 Questions”. Now, how about if you submit them to CMI and see if they withstand scrutiny? Second, you obviously did not follow the links, read the material or watch the video. The first purpose of Question Evolution Day is for people to unite and say that we support intellectual, academic and professional freedoms. We should be able to say that we do not believe that the evidence supports evolution, but rather, the evidence points to the Creator, and should be able to say so without suppression, repression, punishment &c. Even an atheist *should* support such concepts, but they are more intent on protecting evolution against true free thought.

    • Hello CB,

      Thanks for the stopping by and leaving a comment. For reasons unknown to me, your comment landed in spam and I have only just checked my spam posts and rescued it. I assume it is because of the link you’ve put on your user name.

      That aside; yes my responses probably are ‘canned’ that doesn’t make them wrong though. Maybe the questions are so obviously tilted towards a creationist way of thinking that canned responses is the only thing possible.

      Evolutionists will welcome challenge and questioning of evolution. The caveat is that the questioning has to be based on scientific evidence and contribute to the greater understanding of nature through that scientific evidence. Creationist arguments for a god that created everything as we see it simply do not match up.

      Creationism gets short thrift because the level of scientific evidence and process involved is on a par with climate change deniers, 9/11 troofers and UFO conspiracists. Long gone are the days where it was valid to consider a young created earth as science. The evidence simply does not support it and crying foul will not change that.

      • You dodged everything he said in your reply, changed the subject and attacked straw man about creationism. Nice intellectually honest approach.

        • Hello Charles,

          In my creationist days I’d have probably felt and said the same as you.

          The fact is, creationism is not science and it is not supported by evidence. Go and look at the evolutionary evidence critically and question creationism honestly. Scientists accept evolution not because of an agenda, as creationists love to claim, but because that is where more than 100 years of critical questioning of evidence have led.

          Every new idea in science gets a rough ride by scientists, the ideas and the conclusions get rightly scrutinised. That is how science works, there is much delight in proving something wrong. Proving evolution wrong would be a major event. There is no such thing as a sacred cow in science.

          If the evidence supported creationism, then the majority of scientists would accept it. It really is that simple.

          If you want intellectually honest, go and look at the thorough and detailed work of Charles Darwin.

  4. How anyone can think that the Earth went from one person (Adam) with presumably just one language to billions of people with hundreds if not thousands of languages is beyond me.
    You have to be a real idiot to actually think we went from CroMagnon –> Neanderthal –> Stone Age –> Bronze Age –> Renaissance –> Industrial Revolution –> Digital Revolution in just 6000 years.

    If we co-existed wih them, then why are there no cave paintings of dinosaurs? I can’t imagine your average caveman would bother to paint something as boring as a horse or buffalo but then ignore the T-Rex that just chased him all the way home. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    Check my blog to see my thoughts on this…I guarantee they make a lot more sense!

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