Thursday, April 08, 2004

Then why does it LOOK like Evo?...

In debating evolution vs. creation I’ve heard the argument that the fossil record MUST look the way it does in order for evolution to be true. That is, certain types of species must appear before others (e.g., reptiles before mammals, theropod dinosaurs before birds, etc.). A criticism is then levied against creationism that no matter what the fossil record looks like, the evidence can always be claimed to support the model. In essence, they are stating that creation is non-falsifiable. What I’d like to get into in this post, though, is not how creation is falsifiable. I’d rather investigate to what degree it really helps evolutionary theory that the fossil record looks the way it does. To do this I’ll use an example from an evolutionist by the name of Tim Berra. He’s a biologist who wrote a book titled, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism. One of the examples he used in showing how the fossil record gives us evidence for evolutionary change is none other than the Chevrolet Corvette or, rather, a series of Corvette models spanning multiple years. In Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Berra 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 paleoanthropologists do with fossils, and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people.” (emphasis in original)
Okay, let’s run with that in the fictional world of Berraland. Imagine there’s an evolutionist out there by the name of Chuck Darlose. Chuck is a bit of a strange creature in that he is completely unaware that Corvettes are machines designed and built by humans. Whether it was through some genetic mix-up or simply because he listened to Barry Manilow songs as a baby, he simply has no clue as to the origin of the Chevrolet Corvette. In fact, he’s spent a large amount of his research time and money digging up old Corvettes and arranging them in what he believes is their proper evolutionary sequence. This sequence, of course, was not only determined by the apparent age of the Corvette in question, but also by noting how overwhelmingly obvious it was that the Corvette exhibited descent with modification. Although his analysis is by no means complete, due in part to the lack of soft body parts, he has reached a point where he publishes his findings. Almost immediately after his publication he is contacted by engineers from Chevrolet urgently requesting a meeting. After introductions are completed he is led into a separate meeting room and he is shocked to see the engineers unveil detailed specifications and drawings of each Corvette that he had presented in his paper. Pounding his fist on the table, he shouts, “You’ve stolen my research material!” “No,” the engineers calmly respond, “you’ve been digging up previous versions of our automobile.” “Say what?” “Every one of these Corvettes was designed by our engineers.” After a few moments of dumbfounded silence Chuck, finally realizing his error, responds, “Well, why did you make it look like they evolved?” The engineers simply smile and reply, “We didn’t make it look like they evolved… Your initial premises and subsequent interpretations of the data were flawed; not to mention your methodolgy.” Notice that to question why a supposed designer would make a set of artifacts appear to follow a certain process (e.g., evolution) assumes at least two things: 1) that the designer, in fact, intended to make his design appear to follow a certain process and, 2) that the certain process is capable of explaining the origin of the artifacts.

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