Thursday, July 01, 2004

DarkSyde debate (part 1)...

In my posts regarding naturalistic evolution I’ve had the pleasure of having comments from a person who goes by the web name of DarkSyde (hereafter referred to as Dark). During a recent volley tied to my post Naturally Necessary, Dark decided to respond via e-mail since the free Haloscan comment provider I use limits comments to 1,000 characters. I will post Dark’s entire e-mail in two parts, and reply to each section accordingly. For those new to the series it might help to review some of my recent posts on this topic: Naturally necessary…, The obvious nature of evolution…, On the one hand…, and The world goes round and round… On to Dark’s e-mail:
[Rusty] Then, as DarkSyde alludes to, why not rely on a naturalistic explanation for speciation events? [DarkSyde] Well, for starters we've seen speciation happen, and we've seen drunk drivers pass out behind the wheel and flip over. We've never seen species created by superanatural means, and we've never seen a poltergeist wrest control of the wheel of a car and force it off the road for some unfathomable reason. That's why we lean towards naturalistic explanation in both cases.
I would argue that we’ve never seen speciation happen. One should note, however, that the definition of “species” can be tricky, and that is probably where Dark and I would disagree. Not knowing what Dark is referring to I will venture to point out that varieties within a species should not qualify: e.g., one bird species that, over time, migrates its habitat location from one end of the globe to the other, with the resulting species unable to breed with the original species; or bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In each case we see that the source is the same type of animal as the final (i.e., birds are still birds, and bacteria are still bacteria). With regards to a supernatural explanation for an event (in this case, speciation), we must be careful not to exclude an explanation simply because we’ve never witnessed it. The core of the issue isn’t whether we’ve witnessed the event ever occurring by supernatural means, but whether the supernatural is an admissible potential explanation for the event. Certainly it is admissible. Any explanation is admissible... whether it is the proper explanation is a different story. Before we can ascertain whether an event was supernaturally caused we need to first analyze whether the event was intelligently caused. Upon observing that the words “John loves Mary” are written in the sand, we reasonably conclude that the words appeared through intelligent action. There is a miniscule chance that the interaction of the waves on the seashore is what caused the words to appear, but the most reasonable explanation is intelligent causation. Note, however, that even if the words were written by John, he was constrained to act within the laws of physics, i.e., within nature. Although a supernatural explanation is allowed as a potential explanation, the natural, intelligently caused explanation appears sufficient. Now consider an event in which human intervention is unlikely or, perhaps, impossible. The options for explanation are: 1) purely natural causation due to determinism and chance or, 2) intelligent causation. The determining factors here should be similar to those in our “John loves Mary” example – the probability of a highly specific event occurring by chance vs. by intelligent causation. If it can be shown that the probability of an event occurring through purely natural means is unreasonable, then the intelligent causation option should be explored. If no intelligent beings exist with the power to accomplish the task, then is it not unreasonable to conclude that a being exists with the power to do so? This is not simply an argument from ignorance, for one of the primary reasons that we conclude supernatural activity is our ever increasing level of knowledge of the event in question. This increased knowledge reinforces our determination of the unlikelihood of an event occurring through purely natural means. There are some adherents to methodological naturalism who declare that the supernatural must be excluded from contention (when analyzing natural phenomenon). Yet their own paradigm forbids them from justifying their exclusion of the supernatural. By definition, they are limited to analyzing events through empirical means. If supernatural events have the property of passing through empirical filters, then the naturalist has no way of analyzing the supernatural event. But the naturalist is further constrained from declaring that supernatural events cannot occur, because he has no empirical tests to show that this is the case! What to do? There are at least four options: 1) Assume that the supernatural does not occur, 2) Posit that the supernatural may occur, but since we have no way to detect it, we must exclude it from contention, 3) Posit that the supernatural does occur, but since we have no way to detect it, we must exclude it from contention, or 4) Posit that the supernatural does occur and that we have the means to rationally conclude it has occurred. One may protest that a supernatural being may choose to cause an event within the natural realm, and then proceed to cover-up all natural evidence pointing towards the supernatural act. Of course this is certainly a possibility. I, however, am not positing just any supernatural being, but the God of the Bible. Based on the characteristics we believe God to have, it does not follow that He would act in a supernatural manner, and then cover-up His tracks in an attempt to deceive us. In other words, I am positing that if God acts in a supernatural manner to cause certain natural events with which we have the ability to analyze, then He will have left us with the means by which to determine that the events were supernaturally caused. This leads us, actually, to the core of my recent posts regarding what I will now refer to as “evolutionary lensing.” Evolutionary Lensing occurs when one imposes the evolutionary paradigm on the empirical data, instead of letting the data point wherever it might.
[Rusty] Simply because it is not the best fit for the data. Now I'm certain that most, if not all, evolutionists would disagree with that statement. [DarkSyde] LOL...Yes, they would disagree until they were purple in the face and in need of CPR and a defib unit. You brought up data...The best fit for what data? We can certainly cherry pick data which supports IDC, or YEC, or even flat earthism for that matter. That's a good part of what IDCist spend their time doing by the way is cherry picking and dismissing data, quotemining, and distorting legit science. The classic routine portrays, or flat out contrive a problem as intractable for evolutionary biology, and then declares IDC the winner by default. That argument takes two primary scientific forms. 1 Simply ignore evidence we do have such as transitionals or genetic base pair comparisons as being tentative, misinterpreted, or down right fraudulent, and then say "SOooooo, where are all the transitional fossils Darwinist predicted?" Then ignoring request for what data would be acceptable and responding instead with something like 'but you can't prover it's a transitional'. The second simply makes stuff up, the classic strawman. Nebraska Man, or Java Man, or for YEC'ers, the Lunar Dust 'problem', and then goes from there along the same vein. (Re: Lunar Dust, I realize you're not a Young Earther Rusty and I intended no guilt by association with that remark) That's precisely why I ask, ahead of time, what kind of evidence the IDC'ist will accept. I do so in large part because I don't want my opponent to be able to rig his answer down the road by dismissing the evidence ad 'not convincing'. It's also a fallacious argument. E.G.: It's like saying if you prove the Shroud of Turin is a clever fake, or that the prettified hand of John the Baptist is a fake, then Christendom is all invalid. Another tact has been to attack the scientific methodology as being hopelessly, erroneously, and fatally exclusive of supernatural possibilities. It's a highfalutin philosophical argument which I have neither the inclination or patience to pursue. I suggest John Wilkins or Brian Lieter if you wish to discuss this in depth.
This issue hits the nail on the head with regards to why evolutionists appear baffled as to why anyone would consider Intelligent Design. The many laughing evolutionists, purple in the face, and in need of paramedics, are under the assumption that data equates to proof. Yet data is simply just that… data. Notice that I stated the evolutionary conclusion is not the best fit for the data… not cherry-picked data but data – all the data, past, present, and future (that’s a scientific prediction, by the way). We must tie back to Evolutionary Lensing in order to fully appreciate this problem. Many times an evolutionist will respond to a creationist with a boat-load of data, assuming that the data is fully supportive of the evolutionary paradigm. If the creationist balks, or chooses not to respond, it is seen as a win by default for the evolutionist. Yet my whole point has been that the evolutionist is guilty of reading his theory into the data. To illustrate my point let’s look at Tim Berra and Berra’s Blunder. Briefly, Berra is 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)
This is a classic example of Evolutionary Lensing. Berra has explicitly stated that the similar structures we find in the fossil record are analogous to intelligently designed human artifacts. The problem is that the corvettes did not evolve through Darwinian descent with modification – they were designed. So my response to the oxygen deprived, purple faced, evolutionists is to catch your breath and apply a bit more objectivity to your data. A footnote to the problem of Evolutionary Lensing would be the phenomenon of unwarranted extrapolation. We see this occur time and time again in evolutionary analysis. Data is first interpreted through Evolutionary Lensing, and then unwarranted extrapolations are made. I took H. Allen Orr to task for this in my analysis of his review of William Dembski’s book No Free Lunch. That the beaks of finches vary in size because of varying amounts of yearly rainfall is taken to mean that the birds can eventually evolve into other species. That bacteria display resistance to antibiotics is taken to mean that simple, single-celled life evolved into the diversity of life we see today. That chimps and humans share a genetic similarity is taken to mean that they both have a common ancestor. There are two problems with these types of analyses: 1) the means by which the change is posited (i.e., descent with modification) has not been shown to actually produce the changes needed and, 2) the correlation of the data to the design scenario is completely ignored. While there certainly are creationists (and evolutionists) who have cherry-picked and / or fudged their data, that really isn’t the issue. Take a book like Evolution: a Theory in Crisis, by Michael Denton. His analysis could hardly be considered cherry-picking. Or take the stance of Reasons to Believe. Anyone who closely follows their efforts will notice that they are open to reviewing all the data and they have, on occasion, admitted when they have overstepped their interpretation of the data with regards to its support of the design scenario.
[Rusty] Yet it doesn't take too much digging to find out that there are some very real issues within the naturalistic paradigm that currently have no satisfactory answers (e.g., the origin of life,) [DarkSyde] DS~There are unknowns in all of science. One could accurately say that the ultimate nature of gravity is intractable, yet objects still fall. In abio, there's plenty of competing scenarios. But you're essentially correct that we have no overarching theory for abiogenesis which does for the formation of life what evolution does for diversification/speciation of life since then. It's my view that we never will fully know. It's also a nasty, physical science which necessitates lots of chemistry knowledge and has nothing in the way of grandiose mechanisms readily comprehendible to the average guy such as you and I. We don't know the details. That's ignorance in my book. Those events may have been supernatural or natural, but they likely left no discernible record either way as far as we know.
I would refer readers to the book Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana. While the issue of descent with modification is rightfully excluded from the issue of life’s origin, the implications of intelligent causation are not. The book does an excellent job of explaining how increased knowledge, over the past 50+ years, has strengthened the claim that intelligent causation is responsible for life’s origin. Such an analysis spells doom for the naturalistic scenario, for if we find that the Divine foot has come in the door from day 1 of life here on Earth, then what's to stop Him from acting since then? (to be continued)

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