evolution vs creationism: the ‘discussion’ continues

By Alison Campbell 11/06/2010

I’ve heard back from my correspondent on evolution. While I suspect we’re talking at cross-purposes & will probably continue to do so, it’s worth continuing to address his arguments.

Thank you for responce to my email. I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that none of your answers is anything more than “reasonings” (a big word for “guesses”).

Well, no – ‘reasonings’ is not a ‘big word’ for ‘guesses’. A guess is just that, an off-the-cuff suggestion. ‘Reasonings’ are based on reason i.e. they’re evidence-based.
You have the academic’s gift of not using one word where twenty will do.   Gotta love your “The Theory of Evolution [explains] …. the mechanics of evolution”. (ha ha ha)
For presentation I’d give you 26/33; for reasoning 18/33 and for factuality 4/33 = 48/100 = C. 
Leaving aside what’s really a bit of an ad hominem, this comment continues to reflect a misunderstanding of just constitutes a scientific theory. A theory is an explanation for a large body of observational data (‘facts’, if you like), one that allows us to make testable predictions. In the case of evolution, the data come from a range of sources (including palaeontology, embryology, geology, molecular biology) & the theory provides an explanation for these data. Darwin’s original theory of evolution posited natural selection as the mechanism by which evolution occurred – these days that would be joined by genetic drift as well.
Believers in evolution put their faith in the idea that: (a) Their opinions constitute “facts”.
(b) Their (relative) goodness is sufficient to absolve them from their wrongdoings.
Again, this (statement ‘a’) reflects a misunderstanding of how science works. Scientists don’t think that their opinions constitute ‘facts’. Scientists’ understanding of the world is based on facts – they collect data (from observation & experiment) & try very hard indeed to ensure that their collection methods are not biased by a priori assumptions or opinions about what they might find.
I’m also a bit leery of claims to ‘believe’ in evolution. From my perspective the theory of evolution represents the best currently-available scientific explanation for the origins & development of the diversity of life. This is not a belief but an evidence-based understanding.
As for (b) above – this is a straw-man argument. I don’t know anyone working in evolutionary biology who holds such a belief. I don’t presume to speak for them, but for myself – I see no need for some external agency to ‘absolve’ me from anything (I’m my own best [worst?] critic if I think I’ve done something reprehensible). Nor do I need that external agency to keep an eye on me to ensure that I’m ‘good’. Living by the precept of doing to others as I would have them do to me provides an internalised moral guideline for ethical behaviour.
Denial that such beliefs do not constitute a (humanistic) religion does not stop Evolution from being a religion.    Faith in the idea that your great-great-great etc grandma was a turnip is still faith.
Sorry, but this is simply setting up another straw man – a complete misrepresentation of how evolutionary biologists view the world. None of us would view the turnip–>human suggestion as anything but a joke (not least because turnips & humans are both modern species & their last common ancestor – which would have lived a very long time ago indeed – would have looked nothing like either of them). However, there is substantial evidence for evolutionary relationships between species: for example, in support of the statement that humans and chimpanzees last shared a common ancestor between 5 & 7 million years ago.
Creation did not “make itself”. We are, instead, the handiwork of the Eternal. Of these two options, the first lacks:   logic, order, purpose and hope. In God, life has:   meaning, direction, structure, and value.
I agree that in general life doesn’t have ‘purpose’ in the sense of being here ‘for’ some particular reason. But it’s wrong to say that lack of religious belief means that an individual’s life can have no logic, order, purpose or hope. People tend to live orderly lives – in fact, as ‘pattern-seeking’ animals it would be a bit surprising if we didn’t. I don’t think that I’m here for some purpose ordained by an external agency, but I do feel that my life is purposeful, in the sense of working towards self-determined goals (ensuring our children grow up healthy & have the best start in life we can give them, for example). Of course I have hopes, for them & for us & for others – why on earth shouldn’t I? The fact that my life, as I understand it, will be over when I die doesn’t mean that I can’t have hope for the future of those who come after me!
I realise that the choice for you is hard. You can continue to benefit from continuing as a Professor …. or seek a new life with God (see Mathew 10:32-33).
Thank you, but it’s not a hard choice at all. I will continue to live my life as best I can, treating others as I would hope they would treat me, and glorying in the wonders of the world that science can reveal.  

0 Responses to “evolution vs creationism: the ‘discussion’ continues”

  • What really intrigues me with creationists is that they never learn from their mistakes. At the great Oxford evolution debate in 1860, the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce asked whether it was through his grandmother or his grandfather that Huxley considered himself descended from a monkey. Thomas Huxley stated that he was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth. (paraphrased from the wiki entry on the 1860 Oxford debate).

    By the way, your parting note ” I will continue to live my life as best I can, treating others as I would hope they would treat me” is quite a good summary of what Jesus taught.

    • Yet in my correspondent’s eyes I am probably a Bad Person, because I’m an atheist…

  • Or, in the immortal words of Terry Pratchett:
    “‘I’d rather be a rising ape than a fallen angel”