Much obliged to Orac for the flood of visitors over the last day. I’ve been busy working on peds, and going to church as much possible in the evenings, so this is my first chance to read all the comments. Thanks to those who made polite and logical arguments. I’ll do my best to respond. To some of you others, get a life. :)
First, two disclaimers: I apologize for using the words “species” and “kind” interchangeably. I should have known better. They are not the same thing. Several commenters correctly pointed this out. A finch is not a species, it is a kind; and one created kind can over time degenerate into separate species, eg dogs. Also, I am not a biologist; I have neither the interest nor the time to spend on detailed study of either evolutionary theory, or even better documented things like the anatomy and physiology of various species. I am mostly interested in human biology, and that only to the extent that it gets sick and I can help fix it. Many of you have spent far more time on this, and I cannot possibly equal your wealth of knowledge and examples.
Which leads to my next point: You are all quite correct that my reasons for believing in creation are not what you might call “scientific”. I believe that God created the world, because he said he did. He said this in a book, in which he also explained that the book is perfect, truthful, and without error. I don’t have any outside support for that statement; there was no one watching God do all this, who then told me about it. However, perhaps you will agree that if in fact there is an all-powerful, completely righteous God who created the universe, and then condescended to tell us about it, it would be unbelievably insulting to him to produce a lesser witness to uphold the truthfulness of God’s statement. In other words, God is the final authority, and I do not apologize for taking his word for it. As for my literal interpretation of the Bible, I have the testimony of the Holy Spirit to my spirit of the truth, and I have the testimony of church tradition for two thousand years, which overwhelmingly tends towards what is now called a literal or fundamentalistic understanding of Scripture.
This is not to say there is no evidence for creation. It is before your eyes, in the meticulous engineering of every created organism, from the giraffe’s long neck, to symbiotic orchids and wasps, to the amazing mechanisms of Venus flytraps; from the hilarious idea of the platypus, to the delicate spectrum of visible light, displayed for us in the covenant rainbow; from the miracle of birds’ wings, to the craftsmanship of the tiniest flowers. This is what God says to you, through Paul, in Romans 1:
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who withhold the truth through unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it to them. For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse, because when they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations. . . and changed the glory of the incorruptible God to an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
No other evidence is needed than what God has plentifully provided in the natural revelation of the universe, and the specific revelation of the Bible.
But, to turn to “hard” science: these are the major themes I saw in the responses:
Tu and others ask, can’t micro-evolution add up over time to macro-evolution? No, there is indeed a barrier: Entropy. There is no other area in this world in which order naturally increases over time. Information does not spontaneously generate new information. To use a very old analogy, a junkyard of metal parts will not over time turn itself into a jet, or even a little car, not even with the added energy and assistance of a tornado through the junkyard. A pile of bricks and metal and concrete will not turn into a building. A typewriter, left to itself, or with the help of a monkey, will not spontaneously produce meaningful words. And as Chris says, I don’t think it is unscientific to ask for evidence before I believe this, since it is being presented as science, by people who claim to approve of the scientific method. The original explosion of scientific progress came with the recognition that facts ought to be replicatable; if the balls fell for Galileo, they ought to fall for everyone else who tries it. If macro-evolution happens, I would like to see it. I haven’t. All I’ve seen is a bunch of fossils, which can very easily be explained by an alternative theory.
Tu gives the example of a brown-haired dog mating with a brown-eyed dog. This does not create new information; it is simply a rearrangement or bringing together of the information for brown hair and brown eyes that already existed. Truly new information would be if these two dogs mated, and got a purple-haired dog, or a dog with feathers, neither of which are characteristics of the original mates. You cite translocations of genes possibly producing twice as much functional protein. Great; but does it happen that way in real life? The majority of the mutations we know of are where these “new proteins” turn out to work much worse than the original. Change one amino acid in hemoglobin, and you get sickle cell disease. Change a different one, and you get Hemoglobin C, which is not healthy either. Rearrange a few amino acids on the CFTR channel, and you get cystic fibrosis. And on and on; twice as many of one functional protein could produce an overload of the endproduct, resulting in toxicity – unless you have a simultaneous mutation in the next enzyme in the chain, in order to handle the doubled load; and so on.
So, it is not just the general unlikelihood of a useful mutation occurring, but the overwhelming-to-impossible chance that all the other changes that need to be made will mutate/evolve at the same time. Take the bombardier beetle, which has separate compartments for two chemicals in its abdomen. When threatened, it releases these two chemicals into the air, creating a small explosion in the face of its pursuer. For this to happen by chance, you would have to have the enzymes that made each of the two chemicals evolve, as well as the compartments to separate them, as well as the sphincter to release them in unison, as well as the neurological pathways to tell the beetle what to do. Anything short of this amazing series of events would leave the beetle defenseless, thus to be eaten before the species could evolve the rest of the way, or blowing itself up, which would be even more useless. Or to go back to hemoglobin: that molecule works amazingly well to transport oxygen under the conditions of human physiology. But what good would its sigmoid curve have been, if the creature it evolved in had a different blood pH, or didn’t have myoglobin functional, or all the other delicate pieces needed for oxygen exchange to occur? In short, irreducible complexity.
Next: several people have insisted that evolution is not “progress,” but simply change in an unplanned direction. I must say, if you don’t think that humans are an improvement on chimpanzees, salamanders, slugs, and hydrae, I am very sorry for you. If you don’t think that Shakespeare’s plays, and Jane Austen’s novels, and Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, are an improvement on frogs croaking and cows mooing, there isn’t much more we can say to each other.
Several people have also protested against the origin-of-life being lumped in with the development-of-species (or should we say kinds?). You can put it that way if you want, but it seems rather pointless. What’s the good of demonstrating that once Somebody put the molecules in place, and maybe even the first amoeba, everything else happened by itself? You’re still left with an omniscient, omnipotent Power, who could very well be quite angry with your habits of cursing, or stealing, or lying, or committing adultery, or hating others (which Jesus said is as bad as murder). He could quite well be telling the truth when he says that there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. The whole attraction of evolution is the idea that life (the universe, and everything) came about completely on its own, and there is no supernatural being to whom we owe our existence, and thus our obedience. After all, where did those first molecules and atoms come from? I do question the Big Bang: where did the matter that was involved in the Big Bang come from? It seems to make more sense to believe in the self-sufficient existence of God, who is outside of scientifice categories, than of matter, which all our subsequent experience tells us cannot be created or destroyed.
I am very puzzled by the suggestion that a belief in young-earth creationism (so no, no billions of years for all these accumulated mutations to occur) is inconsistent with reasonable medical practice. A randomised, double-blinded, controlled trial is a very nice piece of testing hypotheses and producing results that later investigators should be able to reproduce. (Wouldn’t y’all approve of some skepticism towards pharmeceutical-run studies, though?) As Chris suggested, when someone can show me a randomised, double-blinded, controlled trial resulting in the evolution of new characteristics through completely chance means, I will be impressed. I think that evolutionists are sadly and seriously mistaken on a number of scientific subjects; but I don’t doubt the discoveries they are making about the structure of genes, or the genetic causes of diseases, or even the possibility of gene-therapy. Let’s give each other a little credit.
An exciting discussion. Semi-courteous arguments are always welcome.