Total Drek

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Monday, October 10, 2005

The conversation continues...

As most of you will recall, last week I answered a series of questions posed by creationist Tim Therrien on his own blog. After reading my response, Mr. Therrien asked for some time before responding. I, of course, was more than willing to grant his request for time.

This past Friday, Mr. Therrien responded to my comments, and those of other individuals. I reproduce his response here for those of you who may be interested in following the discussion, but are too lazy to click a link.

And yes, I mean you.

I will, doubtless, respond later in the week but, for now, I invite you to respond in your own way, either here or on Mr. Therrien's blog. I ask only that you be polite as Tim Therrien seems to be of the mistaken impression that evolutionists have only rhetoric and vitriol to back their case.

And with that, I give you Mr. Therrien's response:


My Problem With Evolution

by: Tim Therrien

I would like to start by moving beyond the clumsily phrased questions in my original post. They served the purpose, quite well actually, of getting the ball rolling. I have learned that there can be great deal of value in a poorly worded question. However, I would like to turn my attention to the real matter at hand. Before I do, I would like to thank Drek for his courtesy and for the links. They served to help me focus in on some very important issues.

First, I must explain that I am not attempting to show that Creationism is science. Quite the contrary. But I am attempting to show that evolutionism is not science either.

It has become obvious during the development of this thread that there are a few preliminary problems that must be cleared up before I can continue. The most significant of these is the difficulty of language.

It is quite clear to me that there is a tremendous difference in how scientists use certain words, as opposed to how virtually anyone else uses the same words. This creates the sensation of “I’m hearing English, but I don’t understand a word you’re saying.” Therefore some clarification is needed. I am sure the scientists out there will correct me if I am wrong. But, please understand, I am trying to make this understandable for those outside of the sciences (myself included). It seems
to me that what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Definitions:

Theory - To most of us this term, generally, means something that is supposed but may not be supported by fact or evidence. An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture. The average person does not give this the weight that a scientist does. To the scientistit is as close to “proven” (see below) as is possible. The scientist seems to define Theory thus: “A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one
that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” For the scientist, what the non-scientists means by “theory” is actually an “hypothesis”. I.e. - an assumption.

Prove / Proven / Proved - “To establish the truth or validity of by presentation of argument or evidence.” For the non-scientist, this has far greater weight than a theory. Since the non-scientist sees a theory as an assumption, they like to have evidence establishing the truth of an idea. We want proof. The scientist finds this anathema because they reject the idea that this is possible (which I will discuss shortly). Proof for the scientist is simply the validation of a part of any
concept, which can later be shown to be false. Therefore, to request proof of evolution is to ask for an impossibility.

Falsification / Falsifiability - This is slippery for the non-scientist. We see “falsification” and automatically think “lies”. To the scientist, Falsifiability is the hallmark of good science. No theory can be established unless it is subject to being refuted (falsified). This concept is so important that it is one of the four criterion of the Scientific Method (see below). I will discuss Falsifiability
shortly.

Evolution - This is a very broad concept. For the purposes of this discussion, Evolution is defined as “1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. 2. (A) The process of developing. (B) Gradual development. 3. Biology: (a) Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of
new species. (B) the historical development of a related group of organisms,; phylogeny. “

Species - This is where I am, probably, most at fault for muddying the waters. Not being a scientist, I am sometimes sloppy with my terms. In general, I think of species as a grouping at the bottom of the classification ladder. (I.e.- Class, Order , Family, Genus, Species). For the scientist this is true, but they often go even further. For instance, I might think of “trout” as a species of fish. The scientist will even break this down into “the species of Brook Trout” or “the species of Rainbow Trout”. This, too, will be important later.


Now, having laid this groundwork, let’s look at the “science” that goes into the “theory” of evolution.

Scientists argue that religion, by definition, is not scientific. For an idea, concept or theory to be considered scientific it must meet four basic criteria:
1. It must be Observable.
2. It must be Testable.
3. It must be Repeatable.
4. It must be Falsifiable.

Therefore, the scientist argues, religion is not scientific because
A. You cannot Observe God (you cannot see Him, you cannot watch what He is doing).
B. You cannot Test, directly, what He is doing. (Though this is based on the idea that you cannot observe Him.)
C. Since you cannot Test what He is doing, you cannot repeat it.
D. If none of the previous criteria are possible, God is not subject to Refutability or Falsification. Or, put another way, if you can’t observe or test it, it must not be.

Let’s take a look at the last of these elements, as it seems to have the largest impact on the “scientific” view of religion (or virtually anything else, for that matter). According to the information I was pointed to, the leading proponent (indeed the developer) of the idea of Falsification was a scientist named Popper. Popper insisted that scientific knowledge is never final “truth”. For finality concerning knowledge closed the door to refutation. No theory can ever be proven true. Science can only show, with any degree of certainty, that something is “not true”. You can only have a state of evolving understanding through the method of successive rejection of falsified theories. Popper proposed falsification as a way of determining if a theory is scientific or not. If a theory is Falsifiable (refutable) then it is scientific; if it is not Falsifiable, then it is not
science. So, according to Popper, If I can show that a theory or hypothesis is not true, then I have shown that it is false. This may not lead me closer to the truth, but it establishes what something is not. Build up enough of these “what it’s not” examples and (supposedly) you come closer to what it is. That may be a rough explanation, but it seems to be reasonably close.

The problem with Popper is that many reputable scientists disagree with him. Physicist Alan Sokal points out: “When a theory successfully withstands an attempt at falsification, a scientist will, quite naturally, consider the theory to be partially confirmed and will accord it a greater likelihood or a higher subjective probability...But Popper will have none of this: throughout his life he was a
stubborn opponent of any idea of confirmation of a theory, or even of its’ probability...[but] the history of science teaches us that scientific theories come to be accepted above all because of their successes.”

As another observer pointed out: “The Popperian criterion provides a definition of science that excludes much that is of value; it does not provide a way to distinguish meaningful statements from meaningless ones.”

So, one of the foundations of the Scientific Method is - by no means - accepted by all scientists. Indeed, numerous articles indicate that there are many scientists who disagree with this requirement outside the non-evolutionary scientific circle.

However, since Popper is considered by many to be the authority, one would have to accept that you cannot scientifically establish that mankind is not immortal. To do so you would have to demonstrate that all men, everywhere, throughout all time - die. It is not observable, testable, repeatable or refutable. You can only say that there are numerous cases where men have died. So you can say that some men are not immortal, but not all men.

Before going further, however, I must take a short detour into the issue of speciation

1. Scientists do not entirely agree upon a definition of “species”. This is apparently a topic of considerable debate in the biological community.

2. The scientific concept that seems to enjoy the most popularity is the Biological Species Concept (BSC). BSC separates “species” into very fine groupings. I.e. - “Bluegill Sunfish” and “Pumpkinseed Sunfish”. Yet both are capable of interbreeding. Although, some scientists seem to base speciation on the ability to interbreed. They point to strains of yeast, or varieties of flies that have manipulated in the laboratory and are incapable of interbreeding. BSC is not useful in discussing evolution because some questions are unresolvable. Such as “Do Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens represent the same or different species?” We cannot know because they did not, apparently, exist at the same time or in proximity to one another in order to attempt interbreeding. Regardless, using BSC, what is often referred to as evolution is commonly held to be adaptation. Changes in species are merely adaptations to their environment. Two groups get separated for long enough and they may not be able to interbreed. But it does not change the nature of what
they are.

3. “The literature on observed speciation events is not well organized.” Four factors relating to this include: A. Lack of scientific interest. Few researchers and grad students look beyond their assumption that the literature exists. B. The assumption is that “speciation” takes a long time, so few events would be observable. C. “The literature contains many instances where a speciation
event has been inferred . (Not documented or substantiated, simply inferred.). D. “Most of the current interest ... concerns theoretical issues.

So, as regards speciation, the literature is not well organized. The researchers are basing their research on the assumption that supporting literature exists. And the process may be too long to document so they go on information that has been inferred (rather than substantiated.) This is apparently deemed sufficient because they are more interested in theoretical issues than in establishing, for certain, that speciation actually occurs.

Now, before anyone starts claiming that this is all conjecture, or my own interpretation, the entire foregoing sections on speciation and Falsifiability are largely direct (or near-direct) quotes from links that Drek sent me. This is not my interpretation, it is what your own literature says.

For the purposes of the rest of this article I will use the term “species” with the Folk (or common)definition (again, from one of Dreks’ links). A. “reproductive compatibility and continuity. Dogs beget dogs, cats beget cats.” B. “You can tell species apart by looking at them.”

So, what is my problem with evolution? First of all, it does not fit with what we KNOW about species currently in existence. There are no “Dats”, “Cogs”, “Higs” or “Porses”. There are no feathered lizards, no scaly birds. There are not even wolves or cows with fins seeking to return to the water, or whales with feet or fingers sunning on the beach. In fact, a whale on the beach is
considered so “unnatural” that we mount huge rescue efforts to get them back in the water. Are we actually hindering evolution?

Second, it is not scientific.

1. It is not Observable. Outside of the lab, no one has yet cited anything to me beyond “It’s all around us” or “It’s happening all the time”. Which tells me that most of you cannot think of one instance (that you can observe) of evolution in progress. We have been keeping records of descriptions of animals for at least a thousand years. No one can point to a significant difference between what they were then and what they are now. The only differences are adaptational
(color, size, habitat, diet, etc.).

2. It is not Testable. Efforts have been made with yeast and flies. But neither has resulted in yeast or flies becoming something else. Yeast at the start, yeast at the end. Any differences seem to be only in compatibility with one another. Even after millions of evolutions. To truly test evolution, as stated by the staunch supporters of evolution, would require millions of years. By definition it is impossible for man to do so. (Quite convenient for the evolutionists, though. You can’t argue
with something that so outdistances your own lifetime, eh?).

3. It is not Repeatable. In spite of their best efforts, scientists cannot make what they say happened happen again.

4. It is not Falsifiable. If you can’t test it, you can’t repeat it. If you cannot do those things, you cannot set up an experiment to subject it to verification or refutation. By Poppers’ standard, you cannot prove that evolution is right, only that it may not be wrong. Which is a far cry from proof by anyone’s definition.

Therefore, by the scientists own criteria, evolution is not science. I did not establish the criteria, some scientist(s) did. I am only pointing out that they are hoist by their own petard.

Evolution suffers from another contradiction with science, in that it violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. This, basically, observes that the universe is breaking down. Things go from order to disorder. A new car rusts. A rusty car does not become more solid, no matter what environment you place it in. However, evolution is defined as “A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.” Evolution is supposed to be a process through which single celled organisms became mutli-celled (more complex). It assumes that the stronger organisms survive (they are a better form). Yet we see that nature lends itself to a process whereby things break down, decay and die. Once dead, they revert to elemental forms (molecules, atoms, etc.). They do not get better, they get worse. Evolution is the scientific belief that the development of life is, as a whole, capable of defying the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

In summary, I am not a scientist. But I can readily see that even scientists are in disagreement over key issues regarding evolution. They cannot even agree on what defines a species, or the basics of the Scientific Method. There are serious flaws with the concept of Falsification, a key component of the Scientific Method. Evolution violates established scientific principles and cannot even be subjected to the Scientific Method. It does not rise to the level of “science”.

I am not opposed to science. There are a great many scientists who acknowledge a Creator and are considered to be highly respected by their peers. I am opposed to treating evolution as science when it does not meet the standard.

I know that there are some, perhaps many, who will read this and reject it out of hand. They will go on calling Creationists names and refusing to allow serious discussion, using ridicule in place of reason. So be it. I have done my best, in my limited fashion to bring up the flaws and engender debate. Feel free to disagree with me. But consider this, please. If I am wrong, I lose nothing. When I die I will return to my elemental form and feed worms. If you are wrong, you risk rejecting the Creator of all things. The price of that rejection is terrible. Not that He will send you to Hell. But that you send yourself there.

A parting quote:

“One of the reasons I started taking this anti-evolutionary view, or let’s call it a non-evolutionary view, was last year. I had a sudden realization for over twenty years I had thought I was working on evolution in some way. One morning I woke up and something had happened in the night and it struck me that I had been working on this stuff for twenty years and there was not one thing I knew about it. That’s quite a shock to learn that one can be so misled for so long. Either there was something wrong with me or there was something wrong with evolutionary theory. Naturally, I know there is nothing wrong with me, so for the last few weeks I have tried putting a simple question to various people and groups of people. The question is: ‘can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing...that is true? I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology seminar at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time...” Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist for the British Museum of Natural History, at a
lecture given at the American Museum of Natural History, 1981

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