In my previous post, i introduced you to Matt Slick, founder of CARM & popular apologist of the Christian religion.
We looked at his introduction to the section on evolution found within his Apologetics Notebook, an introduction which clearly establishes that Matt Slick is not an expert in biology or any other relevant area of study and, therefore, should probably not be making authoritative statements regarding a subject as complex as evolution, especially when the majority of actual experts disagree with his conclusions.
Furthering our endeavor through the Apologetics Notebook, we discover just what sort of experts Slick likes to appeal to in his research.
Slick begins with explaining what evolution is:
Evolution is the theory that life developed by chance out of inorganic material…
- Evolution is not a theory. The theory of evolution is a theory. There is a difference, just as there is a difference between gravity and the theory of gravity.
- The theory of evolution says nothing about how life arose from inorganic material. Biogenesis is a related but different field of study than evolution, as biogenesis refers to the origin of life while evolution refers to the change of life through time.
Given that Slick claimed to have read both the “pro and con” arguments regarding evolution in his introduction, it’s a little discouraging he’s already making such basic errors.
…and then grew in complexity and variety sufficient to fill the earth with all the species we have today.
Not just those we have today, but countless species which have already gone extinct!
The driving forces of evolution are mutation and natural selection.
That’s a little incomplete. Genetic drift, genetic hitchhiking, and gene flow are also mechanism driving evolution. In fact, the torrential flow of data which came from unlocking the world of genetics in the past several decades has enabled scientists to come to an even greater understanding & confirmation of evolution.
Mutation provides new genetic information and natural selection (predation, environmental conditions, etc.) removes or prevents non-beneficial mutations from being passed on. Those organisms that survive pass the new “improved” genetic information to their young, who, if they survive, in turn pass it to t heir young, and so on.
Account for the factors mentioned above as well (gene drift et al.), and that’s a fair, if perhaps oversimplified, explanation. If there is fault with it, i’ll let someone with a greater knowledge of biology point it out.
Slick continues with a very brief origin of the theory of evolution, touching on Charles Darwin and his landmark work The Origin of the Species, mentioning the controversy it caused, and pointing out that “science has largely accepted the theory.” A quote from 1952 by geneticist Richard B. Goldschmidt is offered in confirmation of this acceptance: “All other points of view besides the basic concepts of Darwin have been discredited completely.” You can read the quote in its original context online.
From here, Slick offers the “con” perspective on evolution:
However, though one respected scientist says the theory is a fact…
This is pretty biased language, and as worded makes it seem as though only one respected scientist supports evolution.
As a diversion, then, i invite you to read up on “A Scientific Support for Darwinism”, a four-day petition in support of evolution, which amassed thousands of signatures from scientists, including dozens who hold or held very notable positions.
Likewise, i invite you to consider Project Steve, which is a list of scientists named “Steve” (or a variation thereof) who accept the theory of evolution. Despite this limitation, the list of scientists dwarfs similar lists compiled by creationists of scientists who believe in the Bible’s account of creation.
The support of the theory of evolution among scientists is not in question. If there was scientific evidence to the contrary, the theory of evolution wouldn’t be a theory in the first place. That it is a theory, in scientific parlance, means that it has already been affirmed as fact.
…other respected scientists disagree: “This theory can be called the “General Theory of Evolution” and the evidence that supports it is not sufficiently strong to allow us to consider it as anything more than a working hypothesis.” [Kerkut, G. A. Implications of Evolution, New York, Pergamon Press, 1960 p. 157.]
I own’t deny that Kerkut was a notable scientist, but Kerkut did not set out in his book Implications of Evolution to reject the theory of evolution; rather, he was pointing out some of the then-unsolved problems or points of concern with the theory, which is a completely fair & expected thing for a scientist to do, especially with any new field of study (evolution is relatively new compared to, say, astronomy).
However, would you look at that date? Kerkut wrote what he did over fifty years ago. Half a century of scientific progress has been made, and while evolutionary theory has been refined, it has yet to be disproven.
Another scientist says, “Evolution is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless” [Professor Louis Bouroune as quoted in "The Advocate', March 8, 1984, p. 17. He was former President of the Biological Society of Strasbourg and Director of the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, later Director of Researcher at the French National Center of Scientific Research.]
A cursory Google search reveals that this person’s one claim to fame is becoming a token expert for creationists to quote. (Also, note that the quote is over two decades old as well, rendering as irrelevant any and all recent advancements in evolutionary theory.)
All that said, has evolution helped progress science? Well, perhaps most practical to most of us, we have an evolutionary understanding of viruses, allowing us to understand why we need a different flu shot each year. (Read more about the relationship between evolution & medicine.)
Understanding evolution has allowed us to better understand animal behavior as well as explaining why we have the emotions & tendencies that we do as a species. Agriculture, too, takes advantage of our modern, evolution-based understanding of genetics.
Actually, i’ll just put it bluntly: All of modern life-based sciences are done via an evolutionary framework. The reason for this is that this simply is not science, no matter how much you want to believe: “Why does a monkey have a tale? Because God made it that way.”
The question ought to be turned around on the creationist fringe: What advancements in science have been afforded by either accepting the Book of Genesis to be literally true or by acknowledging the involvement of a God at all?
Instead of finding the gradual unfolding of life, what geologists of Darwin’s time, and geologists of the present day actually find is a highly uneven or jerky record. Species appear in the sequence very suddenly, show little or not change during their existence in the record, then abruptly go out of the record. And it is not always clear, in fact it’s rarely clear, that the descendants were actually better adapted than their predecessors. In other words, biological improvement is hard to find.” [Dr. David Raup (Curator, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago), 'Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology'. Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 50 (1), 1979, pp. 22–29.]
Again, a dissenting view is offered from decades ago. Are there no relevant, modern-day dissenting views offered by scientists in relevant fields? More importantly, where is the evidence?
Offering up a series of quotes from folks who disagreed with evolution decades ago means very little other than to point out that there are folks who disagreed with evolution decades ago. This isn’t news. More important to the discussion is what they specifically disagreed with and (even more important) why they disagreed with it.
Regarding the fossil record itself, it’s entirely possible that, for varying reasons (such as climate changes), species would move to different areas of a continent over time, leaving one sort of fossil in one area and years later, as they’ve evolved and moved on, another fossilized form altogether. This is the understanding preferred by Richard Dawkins, for example.
The theory of punctuated equilibrium also explains how some species may go a very long time undergoing minimal changes, while undergoing a lot of change in a fairly rapid period after many generations. This, too, would explain the fossil record.
The point here is that simply because there are so-called “gaps” in the geologic record, we are not at liberty to fill that “gap” with whatever we dream up, whether it’s a creator god or some other construct. We should endeavor to understand the “gaps” or any other supposed problem of evolution, unimpeded by religious thought.
The next portion of Matt Slick’s Apologetics Notebook is called “There Are Many Problems with Evolution,” and despite such a grandiose claim, it’s only four paragraphs long. I’ll be looking at it in the next entry in Perpilocutionism here at BrazenlyAtheist.