Saturday, January 31, 2004

Testable Creation continues...

Thanks to Ed for his charitable responses and critiques of my statements. The area of Creation / Evolution and Old Earth / Young Earth can easily generate heated debate. I will give a final response to his latest critique but I need to state that this will not be an extended debate. I’ve done those in the past and not only do they tend to get drawn out, but in order to convincingly make one’s point one must draw in voluminous amounts of data. Suffice it to say that I have read several books by those holding to the theory of Evolution and a fair number of books by those in the ID realm. If pressed I could produce the references where my claims come from… but I typically don’t have the time to do that for these blog posts. Indeed, as Ed notes in his comments, it sometimes take several hours to produce a valid post on this subject. With that I’ll address some of Ed’s comments. The Biblical Creation Model posits that the first life on Earth was complex. Why? It is a typical expected characteristic of a designer to build a fully functional, integrated and complex system. Take, for example, the Wright flyer. In putting the first airplane together the Wright brothers tinkered and experimented with various designs as they gained knowledge in aerodynamics. In their research they built models, tested gliders and experimented with a variety of materials; but the actual Wright Flyer was a complete, functional system that had integrated complexity as well as a measure of irreducible complexity. Some of the attributes of the God of the Bible are that He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-caring. So our analogy to the Wright brothers is not a perfect one – for God, if He is all-knowing, does not have to experiment. In fact the very meaning of the word experiment would preclude us attributing it to God. Therefore, if God is all-knowing we should expect Him to produce functional life forms which, by the very nature of their required structure, will be complex. Note that this is not imposing a constraint on God – He is certainly capable of producing a simple life form but, in keeping with the Biblical record, He chooses to use the physics He has established (this will be the topic of a future post). Remember that with the Wright brothers, or with anyone else who has invented a functional system – the initial product has a measure of irreducible complexity. Also remember that I’m talking about a system’s complexity and not whether it is an advanced form of the system. A 747 is certainly more advanced (and complex) than the Wright flyer, but that does not take away from the minimal high complexity found in the Wright flyer. The point is that a designed, functional system will exhibit a high degree of minimal complexity. But what about the movement from primitive to advanced? The ORDER of appearance in the fossil record, as Ed has stated. Yes Evolution posits that this is what should appear in the fossil record. But remember that even if this were the case, and I’m not conceding that it is, it would not mandate that evolution be true. Why? Consider the movement from primitive Wright flyer to advanced 747. While this change is compatible with an evolutionary sequence, it is entirely compatible within a design scenario as well! Yet evolutionists are blind to the design implication and see such human artifacts as compatible with the evolutionary sequence. Zoologist Tim Berra referred to such a sequence in his book, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, where he stated, "If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious. This is what [paleontologists] do with fossils, and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people." (emphasis in original) Of course the Corvettes were all designed. What is typically shown as evidence for common ancestry is just as applicable to common design. What is needed is a mechanism with which to produce the change and I posit that evolutionists have yet to show such a mechanism in action. Evolution posits that the primitive moves towards the advanced and that simplicity moves toward complexity so that whatever life forms first appear will be primitive, as compared to advanced, and simple, as compared to complex. Now the word simple, as used in life’s most basic forms, can be misleading. The point of fact is that even the simplest forms of life are still so complex (e.g., ~ 750 proteins) that origins of life researchers concede that their chance organization is virtually impossible. Drs. Ross and Rana have attended the last few origin of life conferences and know that of which they speak. Doubters should pre-order their upcoming book Origins of Life. Note that we are investigating the aspects we should expect to see from an omnipotent Designer. Ed thinks I made a misstep when, later in my post I state that the primate fossil record leading up to humans may just indicate that God enjoyed the act of creating. But he misunderstands my comment. The reason he misunderstands it probably has to do with the fact that he interprets the primate fossil record to be evidence for evolution and, therefore, if God was doing that type of creating then God must enjoy tinkering with His designs in an evolutionary compatible sequence. I’ll address this further towards the end of this post. Suffice it at this point to say that I am not making a non-falsifiable statement such as, “God decided to do it that way.” Part of my post outlined the fact that the late heavy bombardment ended at approximately 3.85 billion years ago. This bombardment contained impacts with enough magnitude to be sterilization events – in other words, any life that may have been around prior to 3.85 billion years ago would have been erased from the earth. Yet life appears at 3.86 billion years ago – and it’s complex life to boot. That’s the point. Not only are there no prior simpler life forms around to evolve into the first recorded life forms, if there had been they would have been eliminated before they had the chance to evolve. The data is telling us that life didn’t have billions of years to originate but rather at most only a few million years in an environment that did not have a prebiotic soup and was hostile to the chance formation of life's building blocks. This is what I mean when I say if life appears as soon as conditions permit that it is indicative of supervision. Either we're unbelievably lucky (as in zero chance) or someone was fiddling with the equipment. Ed makes some statements regarding simple life forms evolving into more complex bacterial life forms and he refers to (imaginary) evolutionary pathways from (imaginary) biochemical precursors that we’ll never find. This is not science, it is conjecture. Produce, as Michael Behe has asked for, detailed evolutionary sequences that show us how we can produce a functional irreducibly complex system from no system. Better yet, produce sequences that show how a life form can exist with, say, only 50 proteins. The early conditions of the Earth are compatible with the Bible. I claimed that the early Earth was covered with water, as stated in the Bible. Ed states that the conditions on the early Earth were molten, as I also stated. Here we just have a misunderstanding about what is being stated. “The early Earth was covered with water.” “The early Earth was in a molten state.” Both statements of course are true; the key issue being how broad the definition of “early” is. Nowhere have I stated that the Bible directly records the molten state of the Earth or the late heavy bombardment. This is not the issue. What I am addressing is that the conditions for the early Earth described in the Bible over 2,000 years ago conform to the conditions we now know to be the case. The Genesis account describes a world covered with water with the land eventually rising out of the water. Whether anyone formally classified that as a prediction over 2,000 years ago is irrelevant to the fact that it is testable. For further information on how the days of creation in Genesis 1 compare to the history of the universe, download a PDF Creation Timeline Chart at Reasons to Believe’s website. Ed refers a few times to the fact that God waited for things to happen or spent time tinkering. He reasons that this is not the work of an optimal omnipotent designer. An omnipotent designer, according to Ed’s thinking, would be able to zap animals into existence in an instant. Perhaps I was not clear when I explained that optimally timed events in the formation of the cosmos point to a designer. First off let me reiterate that we need to understand that God chooses to act in whatever manner He wants. That He does or does not take a lot of time to act is not an indication of constraint. If God is a being that exists outside of our time dimension, as the Bible indicates, the accusation that He has taken too much time is essentially meaningless. With that understood we must also be aware of the Biblical record that God does not waste His miracles and that His purposes occur at His timing. Therefore, the Biblical prediction for God’s actions in creating would posit that we should find events occurring as soon as possible or at the precise time they need to occur. What this means is that we should not expect to find that life took billions of years to originate but that it appeared on the scene as soon as necessary. We should expect that advanced life forms, such as those found in the Cambrian Explosion, appeared on the scene in a geological instant. We should expect that the event of the Cambrian Explosion occurred at the first opportunity it could. We should expect that the collision of a Mars sized body into the Earth occurred at the right time, with the right force, and containing the right elements to sustain plate tectonics, disperse our early heavy atmosphere, and provide us with a right sized Moon – all in preparation for the advent of advanced life. We predict that future data will add to this list rather than detract. For example, future research into the aspects of the Cambrian Explosion should provide additional evidence that the event was finely tuned with respect to its extent, timing, dispersion, diversity, etc. The point is that the precise timing of such events indicates planning, supervision, and design. I must admit I’m perplexed that Ed clings to the fossil record as evidence for evolution. To put it bluntly, the fossil record, in terms of supporting evolutionary claims, is a dismal failure. Darwin predicted countless transitional forms would be found – there are none. The purported transitional forms are always fully functional and are more frequently larger animals that had smaller populations – understand that the very types of animals most susceptible to extinction are the ones usually purported to be the best examples of evolution (e.g., whales and horses). The evolutionary tree, with its branches reaching upward and outward, going from the few types to the many, from the primitive to the advanced, does not exist - in its place we have an evolutionary lawn. The aforementioned Cambrian Explosion gave us scores of phyla of which many have gone extinct, with no new ones added – that’s evolution in reverse! Within 10,000 years after the K-T Extinction event we see entirely new and large animal species appear in the fossil record - suddenly, not in a gradual progression. There is the already mentioned temporal paradox with regards to theropod dinosaurs and birds - don't even get me going on how cladistics attempts to rearrange the fossil record to support preconceived notions. The fossil record shows examples of convergent evolution - while the paradigm is supposed to be historically contingent. Early primate fossils are so disjointed that single discoveries alter entire evolutionary pathways with paleontologists arguing over whether the find belongs to Australopithecus or Kenyanthropus or Paranthropus – this should be an immediate warning flag of a poor model. Evidence for modern humans dating to 100,000 years ago is disputable, and the fossil record in this area goes strangely silent between 80,000 – 40,000 years ago and then – an explosion of fossils for modern humans. This list as well could go on and on. In re-reading Ed’s post I think I see where he is coming from. He accepts the evolutionary paradigm, regardless if it can’t give him a valid mechanism for producing the change it demands and, in so doing, he views intermediate forms of, let’s say whales, as indicative of transition. Never mind the issue of internal organ structure change, much less the entire morphological changes that must occur in less than 10 million years. Yet it must have happened! Why? Well we see it in the fossil record don’t we? That’s what is happening here – the record is being interpreted in light of the assumptions being brought to the table. Fully formed species appearing in the fossil record? – of course they’re fully formed, they wouldn’t survive otherwise – but that misses the point that they not only need to be transitional for the theory to work but that we should see that transition in the fossil record. Notable paleontologists freely admit the lack of continuity in the fossil record and that is why the concept of Punctuated Equilibrium was born - it's what we'd expect to find in the fossil record if evolution is true - that's simply a convenient way to get around the data in the fossil record. The order of appearance in the fossil record? – well that matches what we’d expect to see, from an overall viewpoint – but that misses the point that the transitional forms are missing and that it does not mandate evolutionary change. Scales to feathers? – sure, a single mutation will do it – but that misses the point that a reptile that that happened to would have a dismal chance of survival. This post has become excessively long so I will not spend any more space refuting the claims that Ed makes as to the validity of my claims regarding dinosaurs to birds, early humans, bipedalism, or human expression. I stand by my claims and one can do their own research to further their understanding. Check my post regarding the list of books I’ve read related to this field. If you are a skeptic and wish to get the skinny on some of the claims I’ve made I urge you to call in to the weekly webcast that Reasons to Believe has every Tuesday, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. PST. They welcome calls from skeptics and if you have research reports you believe counter their claims – all the better. Thanks to Ed for a thoughtful discussion!

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