By Merle Hertzler
Clifford Bean wrote to me with a challenge to evolution. (Click here). I address his arguments here.
As I understand it, your basic argument is that evolution seems impossible to you, and therefore must be impossible. But does your intuitive insight prove that evolution can't happen? Sometimes things that we originally think to be impossible are actually quite possible. For instance, at first sight it seems impossible that big, heavy jet airplanes can fly. And yet they can. As another example, consider that at one time it seemed impossible that the earth was a sphere that was spinning in space, thus making the sun appear to be moving across the sky. But we now know this is how the world works. Things that seem impossible at first sight are sometimes possible. So even though it appears to you that evolution is impossible, could it be that there are aspects of nature that you do not fully understand that make evolution possible? Is it possible that the vast majority of scientists who believe that evolution happened know something that you don't know? Is it possible that further study will prove to you that evolution is possible?
A second response to the evolution-must-be-impossible-because-it-appears-impossible-to-me argument is to ask for an alternative to evolution that does appear possible to you. Creatures exist. There is no denying that. So how did they get here? Science has an answer: We evolved from simple creatures. If you don't like that answer, what do you propose as an alternative? How, for instance, was the first zebra made? Did it suddenly appear, created instantly out of nothing? Okay, can you understand how some might argue that the spontaneous emerging of zebras from nothing is impossible? You might agree that spontaneous animal creations are normally quite impossible in nature, but that they are possible with God. Ah, so you are bringing God into the picture? Are you saying that your proposed method of creation is just as impossible as you perceive evolution to be, but that once you bring God into the picture, this otherwise impossible creation event can happen? Do you agree with me that the idea of zebras spontaneously popping into existence is completely ridiculous, unless, of course, one postulates that an all-powerful God did it? Okay, if your view of origins is completely ridiculous unless you postulate that God did it, could your God not also have evolved a zebra from an early horse (if he really wanted to)? Surely you think God has enough power guide evolution, don't you? For if that is too hard for your God, then he seems to be quite powerless. But if your God has the power to guide that type of evolution, your evolution-is-impossible argument completely disappears! For if you need to bring an all-powerful God into the picture to explain creation anyway, do you not then have all the driving force needed to accomplish evolution? So evolution then becomes quite possible. Your evolution-is-impossible argument disappears.
So even if you think that God created life, this still does not answer the question of whether God used evolution to create. And that is a very interesting question. How did we get here? Since the argument from the perceived impossibility of evolution can easily be defeated by the two arguments that I presented above, it seems to me that we ought to look at the evidence, and find out if the evidence supports evolution or not.. If the evidence supports evolution, let's believe it. If it supports another means of creation, let's believe that method.
Can you accept that God might use evolution as his tool to create? If not, why not?
So can we agree to first look at the facts, to see if they support evolution? If we find evolution true, we could then go on to ask if a God directed every step of the way, or if there are aspects of nature that could have guided evolution on their own. But that is getting ahead of the game. We must first determine if evolution occurred.
Okay, Clifford, let's look at your comments, which are shown below in red. My responses are in black.
You are not a scientist, and yet you condemn what they have found? Is it not possible that these experts in their fields know something that you don’t? Can you simply dismiss all their findings without studying their reasoning?
I'm curious: Would your God be upset if you would read a book about evolution written by a mainstream scientist? Or does your God want you to condemn the opinions of mainstream science without ever taking the time to read what the scientists have to say?
But could not God exist and use evolution as his tool? Many believe evolution happened, and still believe in God. The two ideas are not incompatible. So belief in evolution would not eliminate God, would it?
But we do see evolution in our time. All of the current varieties of dog have evolved from common wild dogs. And bacteria have evolved resistances to antibiotics. Of course the changes we see today are small, but that is because we are looking at only a very small portion of the millions of years required for macro-evolution.
But hundreds of intermediate creatures have been found. See Transitional Vertebrate Fossils for examples.
And why would there be a need for the known fossils of past animals to show a steady incline of progress? Jumps in evolution are believed to have occurred in small isolated populations over a number of generations. The newly evolved creatures then spread out into other areas and dominated. We might never find any trace of the gradually changing creatures leading up to the next species. But we do find many incremental transitional fossils.
How can you explain all of those transitional fossils we find? How can you explain all of the mammal-like reptiles, for instance? Why do mammal-like reptiles appear in the fossil record before mammals appeared, and then disappear? Could it be that they were transitionals leading up to mammals?
But what if those intermediates are no longer viable creatures? For instance, the first vertebrates to start leaving the sea are believed to be small fish that used their fins to push into shallow waters to escape larger predators. Over time their fins evolved into legs, and their swim bladders evolved into lungs. The survival strategy of those fish worked well when there were no land predators. Today, such fish would be easy prey to land-based predators. So those intermediate fish are no longer around. Evolution does not predict that they would stay around forever.
Why so? The evolution to multi-cellular life probably required many millions of years. The intermediates that were alive when life evolved from single-celled creatures might not be viable in today’s world, which is filled with advanced creatures. But protozoa still inhabit a niche that multi-cellular life cannot fill. So both protozoa and modern multi-celled creatures survive today, but the intermediates are gone.
Have you read the passage in question, or have you simply copied what somebody wrote? Would you object to reading Darwin’s book for yourself to find out what he said? Would God be upset if you read Darwin before you criticized him? Or does your God require that you criticize him without first taking the time to read what he had to say in context?
In the section that you quote, Darwin was recognizing your objection to his theory. He then went on to explain why he thinks this objection is not valid. Perhaps we should see how Darwin answered this objection before claiming that there is no good answer. (See his book here.) And you may also want to remember that Darwin lived a long time ago, and many new advancements in the theory have occurred since his time.
There is no “need” for protozoa to evolve into something higher. But there is a constant force of nature that drives creatures to fill every available niche. Since some of these niches require complex animals, some—but not all—simple creatures tend to evolve into more complex creatures.
It took many millennia for the eye to evolve, yes. But remember that a million years is a thousand millennia. And a billion years is a million millennia. And the earth was around for 4.5 billion years.
There were plenty of millennia available.
You may want to study the theory of evolution, and see how organs are believed to have evolved. Creatures were not running around without essential organs while they waited for them to evolve. Rather, the basic organs and creatures evolved together.
Yes, things like the Eiffel Tower do not suddenly appear out of nothing. Even if one postulates a God, one still does not find that Eiffel Towers or animals suddenly appear out of nothing.
Wait! You seem to be shooting down your own view! For the view that creatures were suddenly created out of nothing is very similar to this analogy of the sudden appearance of Eiffel Towers. And we both agree that such things just don’t happen. You have destroyed your own view!
Your Eiffel Tower analogy is not even close to the way evolution occurs. A better example is the way antibodies evolve in our bodies to fight disease. When a disease first strikes a person may have no immunity. But the antibodies gradually evolve to the point where they can effectively fight the disease. And the means by which they evolve is very similar to biological evolution. (See The Evolution of Improved Fitness by Random Mutation plus Selection)
So use the right analogy, please. Evolution is like evolving antibodies in the immune system, not like sudden appearances of Eiffel Towers. Creationism, on the other hand, is very much like sudden appearances of Eiffel Towers.
Ah, but the evidence clearly indicates that evolution did indeed happen. (See 29 Evidences for Macroevolution )
No, we do not point out the Big Bang to remove God. We point it out because there is evidence for it.
Ah, but you haven’t seen the Big Bang. Could it be that the Big Bang was quite different from the bangs you have seen?
Okay, so you have no problem with stellar evolution. Your God could have guided the galaxies as they evolved?
Could not your God do the same thing to animals and plants?
Ah, but you cannot explain where God came from. And the God whose origin you cannot explain is far more complex than the universe. So it seems to me that this does nothing to solve the ultimate question of why anything exists.
"All things proceed as they have for millennia past" is not a good description of what scientists say. Rather, they tell us the present is the key to processes of the past, but that there were different circumstances as the universe progressed.
Fred Hoyle believed some things you do not believe. Do you quote him as an authority on such issues, thus proving that you are wrong? Why do you use Hoyle as an authority only when he agrees with you, and not when he disagrees? And why do you ignore the thousands who disagree with Hoyle, and you quote only the people who agree with you?
True science is not based on quotes from authorities. Arguing by quoting an authority is considered a logical fallacy.
And are you aware that studies into the origin of life have progressed a long way since 1981? So why do you use a quote from 1981?
But DNA actually verifies evolution. For instance, we find different DNA to encode for the same protein in many species. Now it turns out that the more closely related two creatures are, the more closely their DNA matches for creating such protein. Why would God want an elephant and horse to use similar DNA to produce the same protein, but a bird would to use very different DNA to do the same job? Could it be that the reason is that the elephant and horse had a recent common ancestor, and there has been less time for their DNA to vary?
The guiding light of evolution is natural selection. See Evolution and Chance
Why do you think DNA cannot work in intermediate forms? One would think DNA could work in any life form.
That is why scientists believe that natural selection was involved in the development of DNA..
Okay, you believe there was a God who guided the path of creation. But what path did your God use? Why could not your God have used evolution?
No, I do not come to destroy the Bible. I come to help people think about religion for themselves. I hope I can help people find a better life.
Ah, you do not waste time with a book that espouses false religion. Fine. Is it okay with you if we examine the Bible to see if it espouses a false religious system? After all, how can we know if it is true unless we first examine it?
Did you ever hear of the Dark Ages? That was a time where Bible teaching was prominent, and culture deteriorated.
And the modern western advancements came after the Enlightenment, in which people turned to sources other than the Bible.
Have you read what the Bible says about women? Do you not see that it can be quite downgrading? And have you read about the Bible’s condoning of slavery? Is that how your God wants us to treat the disadvantaged?
Fanatical clinging to an ideal, such as religion or radical Marxism, leads to disaster. Radical Marxism is not the answer. I prefer secular humanism.
Ah, but evolution does have clothes. See Evidence for Evolution.
Uh, evolution does not prove there is no Creator.
I believe in evolution, not because I am trying to avoid a creator, but because I found the evidence overwhelming.
Okay, so now you turn to urban legend for support? The claim that Julian Huxley said this has not been verified. (see The Julian Huxley Lie) Can you see how unsubstantiated claims like this do not prove anything?
And even if you can prove that Huxley was motivated in this way, that does not prove all believers in mainstream science are motivated by evil . I, for instance, came to believe in the fact of evolution because of the overwhelming evidence for it.
I believe evolution happened. And so you blame it on my heart? But I have found overwhelming evidence. (See Did we Evolve?) What is wrong with my evidence?
You try to tie belief in evolution to disbelief in forgiveness through shed blood. Those are totally different issues. Some people believe in both evolution and the shed blood.
Since you mention the subject, why would the shedding of the blood of God’s son make it easier for God to forgive? Wouldn’t Calvary make it harder for God to forgive?
If God indeed works in such a way that he forgives after his Son sheds his blood, well, so be it, are we not all then forgiven? Or must we believe that this is the way that God forgives before we are forgiven? If so, why would God require a certain belief before he can forgive?
If the penalty for not believing in the shed-blood story is eternal punishment in hell, then you must be highly motivated to believe, for if you did not believe you would face hell. If you believe that belief in Creationism is important to maintaining belief in the blood—and thus to escape hell—are you not highly motivated to believe in Creationism regardless of the evidence? Can you understand how your motivation might make it hard for you to approach this topic objectively? Could it be that your motivation makes it hard for you to see all of the facts?
I urge you to study the facts of evolution from the mainstream science side. And I urge you to question your beliefs in origins. Will not your God continue to accept you even if you ask such questions?
I think you will be surprised at the sense and reason of mainstream science's case for evolution. See more information at http://www.talkorigins.org/.
I invite Clifford to provide a response that could be posted at this site.
Copyright ÓMerle Hertzler 2006. All rights reserved.