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Eating the Bread of Foolishness

September 16, 2010

Evolution is by it’s nature an “also ran.” For a theist, it can never rise above the “second best” explanation of origins of what is. It answers the question “How do we account for a universe that is obviously engineered, if we eliminate from consideration an actual engineer?” This is actually clear from Darwin, who (somewhere) points out that his theory is an alternative to special creation. In other words, it begins its interpretation of the data by deliberately discounting deliberate creation. You have to start with “not A” to get to his B.

What you get as a result is an ultra-hyper-super improbability when it comes to the point where, necessarily, life arises from non-life. Life is not just matter with a mysterious force indwelling it. Biological life, as we know it, operates primarily at a cellular level, through intricate and elegant machinery, whose structure and function takes the obvious in “obviously designed” to a degree unimagined by macroscopic examination alone. These processes defy credence in the enginered-without-an-engineer premise of evolution.

What I have just stated is, you will recognize, an “intelligent design” argument. It effectively, as far as I can see, pushes the life-from-non-life aspect of evolution completely off the science table.

Not only this, but understand that “evolution” in the first place only deals with the presence and the variety of biological life. If we have a theory, a la Steven Hawking, of being coming from non-being, that is something other than “evolution” as we know it in the biological sciences.

So what is happening is something along the line of Sherlock Holmes’ dictum: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable has to be the truth.” Evolution, as I have said, particularly when we get to the life-from-non-life juncture is improbable in the extreme. Yet many voices proclaim that it must be the truth. What lies behind this, clearly then, is the a priori elimination of a creator as an possibility. Apart from this step, evolution becomes far, far too improbable to accept.

Now comes the “theistic evolutionist.” Even though the theory of evolution necessarily contains in its logic the “not A” proposition, i.e. that no engineer is behind the engineering, the theistic evolutionist re-inserts God further down the line, for whatever reason he/she chooses to do so.

As a result, a theistic evolutionist holds simultaneously to a “not-A” propostion and an “A” proposition. This is a logical absurdity, of course. Theistic evolution, then, is like fortified white bread. To make white bread you first adulterate the wheat, removing from it actual nutrients, leaving little more than bare starch and some glutin. But since nutrition matters, you pump back in some synthetic vitamins, and voila, now your concotion helps build strong bodies twelve ways.

Why would any theist, then, even consider “theistic evolution”? Not thinking the matter through, really, has to be a part of it. Another is, at some level, buying into the propaganda a la Dawkins of “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked” charge, and wishing to respond “none of the above.” Disinformation, I am told, is when the propagandist manages to have you giving voice to his talking points.

An additional power boost arises, I am sad to say, from those textual scholars, who weaken the effect of the Scriptures by constructing arguments that they should not, using their analytical and rhetorical skills to make poor arguments appear plausible. Teachers, we are told, face a stricter judgment, and I certainly am not their judge, but when one encounters wood, hay and stubble, it is worth pointing out.

Fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. The fool has said in his heart there is no God. Therefore, folly is the beginning of evolution. Theistic evolution is, at best, “sophomoric,” the oxymoronic wise-fool. If you then choose to embrace folly so as to be considered wise by fools, why, this is a choice you are free to make.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2010 4:57 pm

    Your entire post seems to be predicated on the view that evolution is a necessarily atheistic theory. If that’s true, then of course, theistic evolution is an oxymoron.

    So, how do you define evolution? Shouldn’t that be a prerequisite for a discussion such as yours?

    I checked the Free Dictionary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Evolution and the Wikipedia article, “Introduction to Evolution.” Neither of them said a word about evolution being atheistic, and both sources include only the origin of biological entities in the theory — not the origin of the universe.

    • asphaleia permalink*
      September 17, 2010 10:24 am

      Yes, I’m saying that what evolution does, what it is intended to do, is endeavor to explain the phenomena of biological life–factoring out special creation as a possibility. Whether a particular individual is atheist or not, the logic that leads from the evidence to taking biological evolution as the most likely explanation for the evidence NECESSARILY and deliberately excludes God.

      If you do a medical trial, let’s say, you need to control all relevant variables. If half your subjects are seeing another doctor at the same time and on a different medication for the same problem–that is a relevant variable. One needs to control for that variable. You do this by eliminating those subjects that are seeing another doctor.

      If you decide, hey, let’s just ignore that fact, act as if it isn’t happening, wear all the white coats you want, that isn’t science.

      Similarly, if you believe in God, He is a relevant variable. If you encounter a study that similarly handles this variable by simply ignoring it, pretending it doesn’t exist… again, this isn’t science.

  2. September 17, 2010 7:22 pm

    OK. Thanks.

    Reading the first paragraph in your comment, and the original post, you seem to be equating evolution and naturalism. Naturalism certainly does reject God, or, as you say, “ignore that fact,” and is incompatible with Christian belief, as I see it. But you can believe in some forms of evolution without being a naturalist.

    Darwin’s book, after all, was entitled _On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. . ._ It wasn’t about the origin of life, or of the universe, at all. It was about the origin of species. To me, and to many other scientists (and others) evolution is a biological theory. Most of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement are on record as believing, or at least not disagreeing with, the idea that the earth is billions of years old. See here: http://sunandshield.blogspot.com/2006/07/young-earth-creationism-vs-intelligent.html. Although this does not necessarily mean that they accept some form of evolution, it at least means that they do not reject it because they believe that there hasn’t been enough time for it.

    Thanks again for your response.

    • asphaleia permalink*
      September 21, 2010 8:41 am

      A few things:

      1. Darwin’s book was indeed about, as the title states, the origin of species. But what it offered was an explanation for the existence of biological diversity which removed a “creator” from the process.

      Speciation by mutation and natural selection would be a process that must have happened untold millions of times. Yet this process has never been observed or demonstrated to have happened even once. It probably cannot be so demonstrated. And yet it is considered “science,” and assent to this proposition is enforced with societal sanctions for any who express doubt about it.

      2. Though Darwin’s book was limited in subject, the concept of “evolution” has a far broader sense in our culture and in the conventional understanding of what is. It thus includes (somehow) both the origin of matter and the origin of life as well as the origin of species. Though I also prefer to be precise in terminology, I don’t get to choose what other people actually mean by “evolution.”

      3. I understand that ID proponents do not by that argument arrive at a “young” earth. (I am not sure I said anything about a young earth, either.) I do recall from my school days finding it interesting that the same science class that found it quaint that people used to believe in sponanteous generation essentially declared that it was possible given enough time. It merely concealed the impossible in the vastness of the eons. I actually stumbled onto “ID” through studying microbiology. When, a few months later, I heard Behe (I think it was) expressing his views on the radio, this reinforced the impression I already had, having considered the unmistakable engineering of the cell. Anyway, it little matters what ID proponents make of the timing. That isn’t their contribution.

  3. September 21, 2010 9:32 am

    Thanks.

    1. Speciation has never been observed to have happened? OK. Not often, but if it really takes a long time, that’s what we would expect. But there is some very solid evidence for it, such as the great number of Cichlid species in an African lake, chromosome re-arrangements in Drosophila species, Chromosome duplication in wheat, or the so-called Darwin’s finches. There has been cases involving chromosome manipulation, such as Raphanobrassica, which have been observed. It was the result of a scientist.

    2. You are right about the meaning of evolution, unfortunately.

    3. No, you didn’t say anything about a young earth.

    I used Behe’s first book in a college class when it first came out, but have come to see that every one of his examples can be explained by selective processes. That includes those in his second book, as well, I believe. For example, see here: http://biologos.org/blog/behes-b-cell-bravado/ (This is a blog from a Christian organization.)

    Here’s a criticism of Behe’s second book, by a Christian: http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2008/10/why-im-not-behe-fan-conclusion-and.html

    Thanks again.

    The most important question about origins is not when or how, but whether or not there was a Who. I am convinced that there was (and is).

    • asphaleia permalink*
      September 21, 2010 10:54 am

      The Who is certainly by far the most important thing, yes.

      This is because the Who is the Person who has revealed Himself and whom to know is of ultimate importance.

      Of the two (distinct) concerns: (1) what God has to tell us in the Scriptures, and (2) what we can learn about the created cosmos through observation and reasoning, I am not unconcerned about (2) but I am far more interested in (1).

      In regard to (2), in a word “science,” this subject is a tangled skein, and various elements need to be sorted out, untangled. In other word, serious critical thinking needs to happen in the face of various truth claims that we encounter living in our society. Those that present themselves as “science” claim for themselves supreme authority, and entail significant societal sactions for those who don’t comply.

      This is to say that “science” does not come to us in purity, but mixed with social and political complications as well.

      The “world” has had one primary “political” concern throughout history. It is summed up in Psalm 2:1-3:

      Why do the nations rage
      and the peoples plot in vain?
      2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
      and the rulers take counsel together,
      against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
      3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
      and cast away their cords from us.”

      This is a world at enmity with its creator, and fallen man has sought to rebel to flee from God’s authority.

      Whatever else Darwin’s contribution may have been, it was a major “political” advance, in that it allowed, in a way unprecedented, for mankind to remove the Creator from his consideration.

      I am convinced that this is the primary reason that Darwin’s hypothesis has achieved the acceptance that it has.

      It’s actual scientific contribution is and has always been significantl open to question. One of the sources that question it is ID, a cogent scientific argument. As a scientific argument, it too is subject to scrutiny (as you sugggest) but in large measure opposition to this argument has been (patently) based on this “political” consideration, NOT a scientific one.

      How this is clearly seen to be more “political” (thus theological and even moral) than scientific is in the vehemence of the opposition. A scientific argument is best made dispassionately. Let the facts speak for themselves. Political arguments come with passion, with vehemence. And this is what we get in the case of Darwin being questioned by anything–a visceral reaction.

      So I say, as Christians, we need to be all the more careful to exercise critical thinking, to untangle the skein, to separate as I call it science from “science.” This before we endeavor to “integrate” science with faith. I don’t think this untangling is being done very well out there or to any significant degree.

  4. September 21, 2010 9:00 pm

    ” cogent scientific argument?”

    I respectfully disagree with that.

    Behe, himself, in his testimony in _Kitzmiller_ was hard pressed to name any valid scientific research supporting ID.

    The Bible, in Hebrews 11:3, says that we understand about origins by faith. I know, it doesn’t say that there is no scientific evidence.

    The Discovery Institute has been mostly political and religious. To be sure, there has been political (and religious) opposition to ID, but that doesn’t prove that ID is right.

    We’ve probably gone far enough with this.

    Thanks again.

  5. September 25, 2010 7:30 pm

    I’m sorry, but I return. Today, I ran across this, from Stephen C. Meyer, who, as you probably know, is one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement:

    “The theory does not challenge the idea of “evolution” defined as either change over time or
    common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin’s idea that the cause of biological change is
    wholly blind and undirected.” (The theory is Intelligent Design theory. The article is Meyer’s history of the development of the ID movement.)

    Source: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=3241

    The quotation is on the second page.

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