A Creation/Evolution Debate
The post has generated a long discussion. I am posting redacted parts of it here now to make it easier to read. I welcome readers to add their thoughts to the discussion.
I apologise for the length of this article!
[27 September 2015] ANDREW: These [misconceptions] have all been thoroughly addressed by thoughtful creationists. But there is a lot of misdirection and disingenuity (not sure if that’s a word, but I’m claiming it!) in this article. For instance, none of the “examples” of observed evolution involve the appearance of any new genetic information, it’s always the shuffling (or loss) of previously existing genetic material, which doesn’t explain how that material arose in the first place. Also, evolution has been used to justify all manner of atrocities throughout the 20th century, including racism, though this doesn’t speak to the theory’s truth or falsehood.
[28 September 2015] YEWNIQUE: I realise that some YECs have addressed the misconceptions and have told adherents not to use those arguments.
n case you weren’t aware: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB102.html
The whole list is worthwhile reading:http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html
(I haven’t read the whole thing myself. Also, the site does not seem to have been active for a long time now.)
[29 September 2015] ANDREW: It depends what you mean by “information” – which is notoriously difficult to define, however the TalkOrigins claim that creationists leave the term “undefined, impossibly vague, or constantly shifting” is manifestly untrue. See link for a discussion.
Also: Laws of Information and following
Examples like antibiotic resistance do not demonstrate any new information, see link.
[All the links that Andrew gave are to Creation.com, a YEC organisation.]
[29 September 2015] YEWNIQUE: I don’t think Creation.com is a good source because:
(1) There is an overt “us” vs “them” mentality. Evolutionists are by default bad.
(2) Evolution is considered an atheistic worldview.
(3) They use the word “evolutionist”. This term is often used disparagingly.
(4) Lack of peer review.
(5) False dichotomy: Creation vs Evolution. If evolution is wrong, creation must be true.
[29 September 2015] ANDREW: On 1,2 and 3 we’ll probably have to agree to differ. Evolution is considered part of the atheistic, anti-God worldview that the Enemy is using to blind people, and I agree with them. In view of this, the us-vs-them approach is not entirely unreasonable, as it is seen as part of the overall warfare of the kingdom of God vs the kingdom of darkness. Of the existence of this spiritual warfare I assume we are in agreement, though you may disagree as to where the battle lines are to be drawn.
There is peer review, though you presumably discount it because it is by other creationists. Nevertheless these are qualified scientists who do genuinely hold each other to account.
They document extensively the different positions held regarding creation and evolution, and do not attempt to prove YEC purely on the basis of disproving atheistic evolution. At the level of worldviews, the dichotomy is not false: either someone made us or no one made us, there are no other possibilities. And I agree with them that evolution is historically motivated by the desire to remove the need for God.
But none of this addresses the huge amount of scientific content on the website, which is generally clear and well argued. Did you read any of the articles above? I maintain that my point stands: the idea that the insanely complex and heavily inter-dependent systems of life could have arisen by chance mutation coupled to natural selection is mathematically untenable, and none of the alleged examples of evolution being “seen” deny this.
[29 September 2015] YEWNIQUE: I read bits of the articles.
Re: Someone made made us vs No one made us
It is not that the YECists claim that Someone made us, but that He made us in a particular way.
The alternative to YECism’s “God made us on the sixth day ca. 6000 yrs ago” is not “no one made us”.
[30 September 2015] ANDREW: No one at CMI would dispute the existence of positions other than YEC and atheistic evolution. In fact, they have sometimes used materials produced by theistic evolutionists within the Intelligent Design movement, when those materials make a strong argument against evolution by chance.
But philosophically speaking, evolution belongs squarely in the “no one made us” worldview – the very reason for the theory’s existence is to explain how life came to be what it is without any need for a creator, and conceptually it is logically linked to the non-existence (or at least the practical irrelevance) of God. To attribute the evolutionary process to God is not a logical fit. See: The Horse and the Tractor.
Also, it is not as though CMI argue the YEC position in a vacuum. You have a problem with them arguing that God created us “in a particular way”, but that is precisely the way that a straightforward reading of the bible implies. Surely God’s testimony carries some weight here? There is nothing in the biblical account that would lead one to evolution and millions and years if you haven’t some prior commitment to these concepts. And far from being irrelevant to the Gospel, these concepts destroy the foundation of the Gospel – physical death being a part of the ‘very good’ world before the fall, means death is not part of the consequence of sin, hence Christ’s death to atone for our sins is meaningless. I’ve seen various attempts to get around this (including the one in the book you lent me) – but none of them good.
Hence the drawing of the battle lines. On the one hand the biblical worldview which says that God made us, and told us how in a very straightforward manner, without appearing to say one thing but actually meaning something very different. On the other hand the anti-God worldview which says that everything made itself, so there is no God (for all practical intents and purposes), and which positively requires evolution in order to float (hence the real motivation behind evolution).
CMI’s chief concern is not for people to reject evolution, but for them to be saved, so they combat the anti-God worldview root and branch, and their approach is, on the whole, no worse and usually far better than the reciprocal approach I’ve seen taken by evolutionists – YEC is treated as a joke by many, something to be believed only by imbeciles, despite the fact that there are many PhD qualified scientists (including in the bio-sciences) who hold exactly this position.
And again, none of this addresses any of the scientific content on the site, which is surely the most important aspect in any fair debate. I have read many articles from this site over many years, and found them to be almost always cogent and clear-headed. The above linked articles demonstrate that the alleged examples of evolution being seen, which are often touted as “proof” of evolution, involve nothing that would help in the process of developing the vast amounts of genetic information seen in living things. As a theistic evolutionist you can attribute the addition of this information to divine agency (though in doing so you make yourself an enemy of most evolutionists who are committed to the position that it arose by chance), but still the evidence of this happening through mutation + natural selection isn’t there, so #2 of the above list of “misconceptions” is not a misconception at all, and some of the others can be treated similarly (#3 and #9 have already been touched on).
[30 September 2015] YEWNIQUE: Evolution is not about where life came from or how life began. Evolution is about how life changed after it appeared. HOW that life first appeared is another topic altogether.
Since evolution is not due to random, chance processes, anything written that “makes a strong argument against evolution by chance” is good.
“There is nothing in the biblical account that would lead one to evolution and millions and years if you haven’t some prior commitment to these concepts.” I think I could say that there is nothing in the natural world that would lead one to conclude that the universe is only ca. 6000 years old, unless one had a prior commitment to these concepts.
I understand that the Creation Account is of vital importance to YECs because of its role in Redemption and Salvation of mankind. As for me, I heard the Gospel BEFORE I heard of the Creation account. I know full well I am a sinner. HOW that sin came about is actually irrelevant to me. When I read the Creation account, it did not strengthen the Gospel account. That’s my experience. Obviously, for many others, it is different.
FWIW, I tried being YEC for a while because I thought that that is what “Good Christians” believe. The environment at CCF was somewhat conducive to that, too.
[30 September 2015] ANDREW: Yes, origin of life and subsequent evolution are different ideas, but very, very related. Evolution is, essentially, an effort to explain life without God, and origin of life is a necessary part of that.
Actually, people only “see” millions of years in nature because it’s what they’ve been conditioned to see, based on the idea that everything was formed by natural processes, without the direct, supernatural involvement of a creator. It wasn’t the case prior to uniformitarianism being the prevailing view, and it isn’t a logically necessary deduction. Besides which, we have a good reason to have a prior commitment to YEC – the bible at least appears to plainly teach it. On the other hand, there is no good reason to judge the bible according to a worldview which was conceived in order to render God unnecessary.
The historical origin of sin and death is completely relevant to you. Unless sin has a historical origin and is causally linked to death, Christ’s death is meaningless and your faith is in vain. Whether you acknowledge that or not is another matter. But it is relevant to you that your belief system be internally consistent and have a coherent foundation. I’m not talking about one person’s experience or perspective vs another’s, but about objective truth, and an objectively valid basis for the faith we profess.
I can appreciate your desire for intellectual integrity rather than simply upholding the status quo. Can I ask, what convinced you of evolution over YEC?
[30 September 2015] YEWNIQUE: “Evolution is, essentially, an effort to explain life without God” No. It is an explanation of how organisms change, ie descent with modification.
Actualism (modern uniformitarianism) takes into account slow, gradual processes as well as catastrophes.
“Unless sin has a historical origin and is causally linked to death, Christ’s death is meaningless and your faith is in vain.” No.
If evolution is true, would you reject Christ?
I am convinced of evolution because of the overwhelming evidence for it.
Todd Wood (a YEC) said this: Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well. (Emphasis in the original.)
[2 October 2015] ANDREW: I think we can agree that by evolution we mean not just descent with modification, which can include (observable) speciation within kinds based on pre-existing genetic information, but common descent, the idea that all life is descended from a common ancestor, adding vast amounts of genetic information along the way (which has not been observed). Evolutionists try to explain common descent using descent with modification, but it doesn’t work – the types of changes observed are not of the right kind (as per above articles). And yes, the motivation behind this is to explain how all the different kinds of life arose by natural processes, rather than supernatural intervention, which is seen as “against the rules” of modern science.
If I became convinced of long ages (let alone evolution) I could not maintain my faith with any intellectual integrity, unless someone could show me how they were compatible. To date no one has, and there are strong arguments showing them to be incompatible. I have already given a valid argument showing that the Cross is stripped of meaning if death and suffering are not causally linked to sin, but you have not actually engaged or refuted my argument at any point. If death and suffering are unrelated to sin, but Christ’s suffering and death as punishment for our sin is meaningful, show me how.
Again, if you accept long ages, you must accept that the “very good” world before sin was full of not just death, but sickness, suffering and a constant struggle for survival, a veritable war zone, indeed “red in tooth and claw” and full of all kinds of horrors. Is this the world that the God revealed in Christ made right from the get-go, in the total absence of sin, looked around at satisfied and called “all very good”?
“… because of the overwhelming evidence for it.” I mean specifically. Can you summarize or give me some examples of what you found personally compelling?
[2 October 2015] YEWNIQUE: While it is true that “evolution” is an attempt to explain how life evolved without supernatural causes (God), it does not rule one out either. It is a field of study and, in that sense, it is no different from other fields of study. To me, studying evolution is an attempt at understanding HOW God did it. WHO is behind it and WHY (teleologically) is beyond the field of science.
I believe there is evidence for common descent. Obviously, there is more to be learned and, in the process, ideas to be refined, but I firmly believe the evidence is there.
“If I became convinced of long ages (let alone evolution) I could not maintain my faith with any intellectual integrity”
And this is one of the reasons why I think YECism is on shaky ground and the cause for many people to leave the faith. There are many Christians who do not hold to a young-earth view. I know Ken Ham calls such people “compromisers”. Whatever.
I believe that Christ came to reconcile us to God and to show us a better way to live, ie by faith and not by works. He came to abolish the old righteousness-by-works method by dying on the Cross. He instituted the new righteousness-by-faith by his resurrection.
I understand the argument that Death and Suffering is a result of Sin, but I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that ALL creation was CURSED because a naked man and woman ate some forbidden fruit in a garden 6000 years ago as a result of being tempted by a talking serpent.
I don’t believe that Genesis 1-11 must be interpreted literally. I don’t believe those are accounts of actual, historical events.
If Christ took the punishment for sin by suffering and dying on the Cross, why is there still death and suffering? Hasn’t it been “Paid in Full”?
I know there are explanations for those questions, but to me, they are unsatisfactory.
So….I believe “sin” is spiritual. It is falling short of God’s standards. We sin every day. Many times a day.
And yes, death and suffering have been around a LONG, LONG time. How can this be “very good”?
(1) We don’t get to dictate to God what is “good” and what is “not good”.
(2) The Creation accounts are not meant to be interpreted literally.
It is hard to pinpoint what I find especially compelling evidence for an old earth and evolution. There are many intersecting multi-disciplinary fields that provide evidence for an old earth: astronomy, biology, geology, paleontology, etc.
[5 October 2015] ANDREW: I accept that evolution doesn’t rule out a supernatural cause per se, but neither do they naturally fit together. For one thing, the theological problems of identifying God as this cause are, I believe, insuperable. And historically, evolution is not an explanation that arose in the 19th century because it was the best fit for the data. It is a philosophy that is thousands of years old, and has always entailed a naturalistic basis. In the 19th century it was employed as an interpretive framework to the scientific data, and became popular. You could argue that this popularity is due mainly to the way it appeals to hearts that are hostile to God.
The point is, supernatural intervention is considered “against the rules” due to the prevailing naturalistic worldview, so many scientists are not even willing to consider an alternative to evolution – the very idea attacks their underlying philosophy. Hence no matter what the data, they will ALWAYS look for an explanation consistent with evolution, and naturalistic evolution at that.
I understand there is evidence that can be compelling from within an evolutionary worldview, however there are also, I believe, fatal flaws, and I consider the evidence to be far more consistent with a comprehensively biblical worldview, when that worldview is allowed to be taken seriously.
How does Christ’s death abolish “righteousness-by-works”, if not by satisfying the demands of justice? And faith in what – just faith without reference to anything particular, or faith in something solid, like: I am released from the consequences of my wrongdoing because Christ has borne them in my place?
And why did we need reconciling to God? Were we created in a state of estrangement and moral depravity (what would that say about God) or were we originally created in moral perfection and fellowship with God, and subsequently fell (what the bible clearly teaches)? How did Christ’s death interact with this estrangement in order to effect reconciliation?
The concept of God’s righteous anger and judgement against sin, and condemnation of sinners, is ubiquitous in the bible. If there is one thing that could hardly be clearer, it is that as sinners we are guilty before God, and liable to judgement. So when Christ “bears our sins”, this inevitably entails that He bears the judgement or punishment for our sins. Especially in Isaiah 53:5: “… upon him was the CHASTISEMENT that brought us peace…”. This isn’t the only thing accomplished by Christ’s death – the Cross is a multi-faceted thing, but central to all and that on which all else depends is: “in my place, condemned He stood.”
“… why is there still death and suffering?” We could equally ask, why didn’t God send Adam and Eve immediately to Hell upon sinning? Sin and redemption have consequences 1) in time and 2) in eternity. In this world, we only see the temporal consequences of either. But events which for us are separated by time, even thousands of years, are to God simultaneous from His perspective in eternity. The temporal consequences of sin work out in time in a world under curse, and the consequences of Christ’s atonement also work out in time, but to God they are all “at once”. The Cross is not an event in isolation, it is the central event of redemptive history that began with the fall, was ongoing through all God’s dealing with Noah, Abraham, and Israel, as well as the church in our own time, and culminating with His future return. From the standpoint of eternity, these events are all “immediate”, so while the consequences of sin and redemption are in one sense immediate and eternal, they also have their outworking in time, which at the proper time will be brought to conclusion.
Also, what is paid in full? Not every sin of every person ever, otherwise everyone would go to Heaven. Christ has paid in full every sin of everyone who will receive Him and be saved. He has not borne the sin of those who will persist in rejecting Him – they will bear their own sin in Hell. So a sin-cursed world remains, until God completes His purposes of redemption in time, finally removes the wicked and restores the creation for His own people.
1. There is nothing intrinsically implausible about Satan possessing and using a serpent (even speaking through it) to accomplish his ends.
2. It was not the severity of the crime that mattered, but the fact that it was a disobedient action by two people who were up until that point in a state of moral perfection. This necessarily broke the fellowship they had with God and incurred His judgement, bringing about a state of estrangement, with very, very far-reaching consequences.
3. Adam was the federal head of creation (Gen 1:26, 28), so his estrangement from God necessarily entailed the whole creation being involved in that estrangement (Rom 8:20,21).
4. Sin is spiritual, as you say. It also has an effect in the physical world – physical and spiritual are not independent, but intrinsically linked.
5. It is much easier to think that God created a world free of suffering and death, then subjected it to such as a result of the rebellion of the head of that world, than that He created the world full of suffering and death to start with (effectively cursed from the beginning).
“We don’t get to dictate to God what is “good” and what is “not good”.” Of course not. First of all, we equally have no right to alter the straightforward meaning of God’s words because we don’t like them, have a hard time accepting them, or because they don’t suit some unbiblical theory to which we adhere. Informed creationists don’t hold that the bible should be interpreted literally, but straightforwardly, according to grammatic-historic analysis. The Hebrew of Gen 1-11 is clearly narrative history, not allegory, poetry etc. Secondly, it’s not a question of dictating to God – God has told us in no uncertain terms what He considers good and bad. In Isaiah 11, God gives a striking picture of what He considers good in nature. In Galatians there’s the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace … kindness, gentleness etc, compared with the fruit of the sinful flesh: … enmity, strife … rivalries, dissensions, division etc. In Rom 1:28-31, evil people are given up to a debased mind to be filled with strife and maliciousness, and be heartless and ruthless. In Rom 5:12, death entered the world through sin, and in 1 Cor 15:26 death is the “last enemy”. If you’re still not convinced, try a word study through the bible of words like death, sickness, etc compared to love, joy, peace etc to see what God thinks of these things.
Nor do we even actually need to go to the bible to know this. We have a God-given instinct for good and bad which, though marred by sin, is still operative and not totally askew in most people. Your average person, when they hear of a heinous crime being committed, just “knows” that it’s bad, and when we check the bible, we find God agrees. Likewise, when you see a fox viciously dismembering a lamb, or a parasite slowing eating its victim from the inside out, or a creature suffering and dying of cancer, we don’t need anyone to tell us these things are bad – we instinctively know it, and then we find agreement from God in the bible.
It is abundantly clear what God considers good and bad, and that a world filled with creatures fighting, suffering and dying most definitely belongs in the “not good” category. This is not about dictating to God, but about listening to what God has told us about Himself, rather than listening to an unbiblical idea conceived by fallible humans.
[5 October 2015] YEWNIQUE: I think the theological “problems” with God as the Creator via evolution come about because of a strict adherence to a literal straight-forward reading of Genesis. If we allow that Genesis may not necessarily be straight-forward narrative — and I believe there is strong evidence to suggest this is the case, YMMV obviously — then some of the problems can be overcome.
[5 October 2015] CHRIS: Theological problems aren’t real problems on their own. And are at best secondary. However this creation / evolution thing always seems to be making them number one. Which seems like back to front.
[8 October 2015] ANDREW: I believe I’ve made a good case (in the thread below my previous reply) that the theological problems are not limited to Genesis 1-11, but have far-reaching implications for the rest of Scripture, in particular stripping Christ’s death and resurrection of any real meaning, and impugning God’s holy character by attributing to Him the creation of a world filled with death and suffering from the start. Far from solving any perceived problems, if you reject the historicity of Genesis 1-11 the whole witness and internal consistency of Scripture breaks down.
These first eleven chapters are the foundation of the whole bible. As I’ve already noted, evolution is not a new concept, but dates back to ancient times. This begs the question, if God really used evolution to create, why didn’t He say so? It’s not as if the concept was unknown. Instead we find in the first chapter that God created all living things “according to their kinds.” The phrase is repeated over and over, quite harped on in fact – as if God is trying to make a point. On the other hand, suppose God did create in six literal days approx 6000 years ago, and wanted to tell us that in the bible. What should He have said? How could He have made it clearer?
Evidence doesn’t speak for itself, it must be interpreted within a framework, that is, a set of presuppositions. In other words, you can’t just “follow the evidence” to see where it leads, you need to pick a framework within which to interpret it, and see how consistent it is with the physical evidence. When evidence seems consistent with a given framework, that doesn’t prove it, just lends weight to it – many models that seemed right have later been overturned. When the evidence is inconsistent with the framework, it calls it into question.
Evolution is a framework devised by fallen, fallible people, in order to eliminate God from the account of the world’s origin. Creation is a framework derived from a straightforward reading of God’s Word, which He has personally assured us is true and can be trusted. Furthermore, there is nothing in Scripture that would even suggest evolution. This sets the context for comparing the frameworks to see how consistent the physical evidence is with each. Since no framework can be actually proven, it is entirely valid to examine these frameworks from a philosophical perspective, as well as evaluating the physical evidence. In particular, if you are already convinced of Christianity on other grounds, it is valid to ask which one should be trusted more or is more likely to be true based on what you know about men and about God, and whether the evolutionary view destroys the internal consistency of the bible and the entire christian belief system. This is not putting the cart before the horse.
From this background, I believe that while the evidence can seem consistent within the framework of evolution up to a point, it nevertheless has some fatal flaws, and the physical evidence is, I believe, very consistent with a creationist framework, when that framework is applied properly.
[8 October 2015] CHRIS: Andrew, not sure if you really want to have that discussion, but lets start here: I am having trouble with this statement, in the third line of your post,
“For instance, none of the “examples” of observed evolution involve the appearance of any new genetic information”.
This is a phrase that I see bandied about a lot. But I have yet to see anyone with a credible definition of new, that can actually be measured. So what do you mean by *new genetic information*, and how can I (assuming I have the right equipment) assess if genetic information (by which I assume you mean DNA) is new or not ?
If such an empirical definition cannot be found precisely, then this idea is invalid outside of individuals interpretation, and this argument has no scientific merit in the creationism discussion.
[12 October 2015] ANDREW: Very difficult to quantify information precisely, but it is an active field of study. The articles I linked to cover the topic fairly well, and link to other articles.
But just because it is hard to quantify doesn’t mean it is irrelevant or that we can’t make meaningful statements about it. For instance, one of the main ways bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics is by a degenerative mutation in a control gene, such that the pumps that the bacteria use to take in nutrients from outside the cell no longer work very efficiently. The bacteria become resistant in that they will no longer actively pump into themselves the poison that will kill them, so they have a survival advantage in an environment high in antibiotics, but they are less good at surviving overall, and will be selected against in the wild. This is essentially damage to the cell’s functional structures, so we can conclude that this is a loss of information, they are now less good at something they previously did well.
On the other hand, evolution requires the kind of changes that see these structures arise in the first place – whole new functional structures that previously weren’t there, and the DNA to code for them (new information), and this kind of change has not been observed.
[13 October 2015] CHRIS: Unfortunately, yes it does. You cant say for example that evolution creates no new information and use that as an argument against evolution when you can’t measure it. Worse that that I don’t think anyone has any idea how to measure it outside of using traditional information measures which they object to because they are too sensitive to randomness. The statement is thus an unsupported opinion, its required to be true to support your argument but you have no empirical evidence of that. It’s not therefore a rational objective argument for your side, therefore it is irrelevant. It is as simple as that. It is worth studying no doubt, but until you have evidence, it is not useful.
Your example showing how a bacteria mutates by not pumping poison into itself shows how it can better survive in its new environment, it does survive better overall because it can reproduce in that new environment. This is its “new natural environment”, they are much better suited to that environment and the organism has adapted to it. Just because it wont survive in the old environment is also irrelevant, because the whole purpose of the mutation is to allow it to survive in the new.
The statement was made as a sweeping generalisation too, as if this is always the case. It is not.
In the case of G6PD mutations in humans for example, and there are hundreds of them that are particularly present in the tropics, the cell walls on red blood cells are weakened. The weakened cells provide a greater level of immunity to malaria, and on average prolong the lifetime of these people in a tropical environment. Are you saying that these people are less able to live in their environment ? you cannot possibly be. And this is one instance where a mutation is certainly favourable to survival. Of course you could argue that the original human genes have this code and thus most people now have a detremental mutation, however having stronger walls on red blood cells increases tolerability of some food types in temperate climates, and is thus an advantage there.
There are many ways that a gene can mutate. Many of them end in degradation, if by degradation we mean a synthesized protein either becomes inactive or unviable. This is the simplest class and thus should be the most common. Other mutations involve duplication of the material that makes proteins, or insertions of new genetic information. A duplication that mutates further can thus result in a new sequence being added (in addition to the one that is still there to manufacture the original protein). However this seems less common
This is the reason why many evolutionsist think that on average mutations are degrading.
In fact the great atheist evolutionary scientist Steven Gould also shared your position that on average evolution creates no new information (you need to talk about averages because the process of mutation is random), as do many evolutionists. Many other evolutionists do not have that position. In other words it matters not if evolution creates new information on average or not. (The measure they would use would be close to shannons measure of information, which is rejected by YECs because it doesn’t give the result they want, but as you have said is somewhat imprecise.)
Anyway we can continue to give example and counter example however in order to talk against your hypothesis all I have to do is objectively demonstrate a single mutation that has positive benefits dependant on the environment that the organism resides in, and I have done that. The example you have given also is such an example.
As far as what evolution requires if you are saying that many many mutations lead to a more complex genome, then that seems possible. It seems unlikely that it would be completely undirected because there is a large number of possibilities. On the other hand if you are saying its hard to imagine how the system could have developed undirected in the first place, I agree with you. Both seem like interesting things to study, and I think a good question to ask in this regard might be, if mutations are specifically directed by God then what would they look like to a human observer studying them ?
[22 October 2015] ANDREW: Your argument appears to run as follows: 1. You cannot use an information argument against evolution unless you can prove that not even the tiniest bit of information can be added via an evolutionary mechanism. 2. You cannot prove part (1) unless you can measure information precisely.
In order for this argument to be valid, you must assume an additional premise, namely: if an evolutionary mechanism can add even the tiniest amount of information (and by any measure), it can therefore add any amount of information. This premise has not been demonstrated, only assumed, and there are good reasons for rejecting it.
But in the examples given, we don’t even need to go this far. It is often possible to make meaningful qualitative statements in the absence of precise quantitative measurement. For instance, you don’t need to be able to measure information precisely to know that a whole page of intelligent prose contains more information than one short sentence, nor to conclude that an example of a pre-existing structure or function no longer working (or working less efficiently than before) is the wrong type of change to demonstrate evolution. By anyone’s definition, DNA contains information. And according to evolution, there was once no information in any genome for things like lungs, feathers, eyes etc, and now there is. To demonstrate evolution you would need to give examples where there previously wasn’t any information for such things, and the information appeared following a mutation or series of mutations. An example of something which was already there breaking doesn’t do this. It’s not just a question of a change conferring a survival advantage, evolution absolutely requires the information for these structures to appear where it didn’t exist before. Examples like antibiotic resistance and G6PD mutation (which makes people prone to anemia) are the wrong type of change – they only show things that were already there breaking, and it is completely relevant to the debate to point this out.
[23 October 2015] CHRIS: No. what I am saying is you cannot use the argument of information against it unless you have an idea of what information actually objectively is – measuring it is a second step but that should come from the first – if its objective then its conceptually measurable. Furthermore, the argument cannot be used against evolution unless it is demonstrated that evolution requires this in the first place, and this is not required, even by evolutionists.
What I am saying is the information argument is not valid, because it is premised on the assumption that it will work as both a counter argument (that evolution requires it to be true) and as an assessable quality (that when applied to a genome or whatever it is that one applies it to it provides something that can be objectively assessed)
Concerning your points:
A. “For instance, you don’t need to be able to measure information precisely to know that a whole page of intelligent prose contains more information than one short sentence”
but intelligent prose IS prose where a whole page contains more information than a sentence – your definition is circular.
B. “nor to conclude that an example of a pre-existing structure or function no longer working (or working less efficiently than before) is the wrong type of change to demonstrate evolution”
again the context is the issue, and by saying its not working, you assess it as being disadvantageous, when it is in fact advantageous, In the context in which it stops functioning, this is life saving to the organism. Isn’t that the goal ? It’s “working” by not killing the organism. This organism doesn’t need a pump in the new environment, the quickest way to deal with that is to break it.
C. “And according to evolution, there was once no information in any genome for things like lungs, feathers, eyes etc, and now there is. To demonstrate evolution you would need to give examples where there previously wasn’t any information for such things, and the information appeared following a mutation or series of mutations.”
well based on current mutation rates, (and you would have to be more specific about what kind of change you would consider significant, because some are obviously bigger than others), you are going to need a long time to experience this. Would you consider evidence from the fossil record ? (no ?? ok, then so you have asked for proof that denies any reasonable method of providing that proof), If not, the only proof that is permissible is then small mutations, but you will assess those as too small to be significant, I have given at least one example of this.
D. ‘the right kind of change” – as I have said, you need to define this. What is a right kind of change that is consistent with estimated rates of mutation ? Where is the objectivity in this if every example is going to be shot down because its not the right kind of evidence.
Before you build something new, sometimes you need to clear away the old stuff. If the old stuff is what is doing the damage, then its imperative to do that, no matter how nice it looked in the old environment. It is easier to destroy things than to create, everyone agrees on that.
It is easier to induce detrimental mutations than beneficial ones, which is why there are so many disadvantages, and few advantages. But the advantages do exist, and the easiest to find examples will come by breaking things first.
To outright dismiss the evidence I have provided because it isn’t the right kind or doesn’t fit your paradigm will not prove anything, unless you care to propose what it means to be *the right kind*, so that we can both agree when / if it can be found.
As far as mutations that create things. there are splicing and duplicating mutations that do create things, if there is a duplication, and one of the duplicates mutates, then you have added new information (or at least an elongated genome). Using this argument, one would expect that amount of *junk* DNA to far exceed the amount of useful DNA, and the duplication mechanism would be one of the ways that new structures can be added without breaking the code for the old one (which is preserved)
[7 November 2015] ANDREW: But it’s not as if we have no idea about how to quantify information. Shannon information measures statistical quantities regarding symbols, which are useful for some things, but not very useful for measuring semantic content. But it’s not hard in principle to see how this could also be measured. As a first approximation you could just count the number of propositional statements. This could then be refined by counting qualifiers to gauge the semantic content of each statement, and then further refined by rating individual words according to how general or specific they are. In fact we all do this intuitively anyway – when you read a page of intelligent text you know that it contains more information (ie tells you more stuff) than a single short sentence. You can also see very quickly that a page of concise, specific text contains more real information than a vague, repetitive one. Clearly then, the concept of information content is a real and meaningful one, although if the definition were truly circular it would not be.
To be circular both (intelligent prose and information content) would need to be defined purely in terms of each other with no reference to anything else. But in fact both the “intelligence” of a sample of prose and its information content are determined by an independent, intelligent agent: the reader. But the point of the example was to show that information content can be recognised and at least qualitatively measured, enough to make meaningful statements, such as: “the examples given are of the wrong sort to demonstrate evolution because they demonstrate a loss of information (ie structure/function), but evolution absolutely requires a gain.”
How can you say evolution doesn’t require the addition of information? Again, by anyone’s definition, DNA contains vast quantities of information (or, if you prefer, instructions for how to build and regulate the structures of living organisms). To get from a small amount of info (the original “simple” life forms) to a large amount (today’s life forms) – it has to be added somewhere.
“…It’s “working” by not killing the organism.” You can’t just define a function as “working better” when it has stopped doing what it did, and the cessation of function is what provides an advantage. The organism as a whole works less badly (which is not strictly the same as better), but that particular function has stopped working, and evolution requires new functions to start working. Again, it’s not just about survival advantage per se, but with the addition of structures and functions that weren’t there before.
Also, the change is often not entirely advantageous, only relatively so. For instance, with the pump no longer working properly, it’s harder for the organism to take in nutrients, so it may struggle to get enough to survive, but that’s better than taking in poison. Also, the G6PD mutation makes people less susceptible to malaria, but more susceptible to anemia. So it’s not as if they “didn’t need” what the unmutated gene would have provided, just that it’s of relatively lower importance in their specific environment (ie less bad is not the same as better).
“Isn’t that the goal?” In a word, no. The “goal” of evolution isn’t just to make existing things work better overall, but to evolve new things that were never there before. You can’t demonstrate how this might happen by giving examples of things that already exist breaking, now matter how much that might help the organism in a specific environment.
“Where is the objectivity in this …” Well, if every example given demonstrates a loss of structure/function, and evolution absolutely requires massive amounts of gain in this area, then I consider it completely objective to reject those examples (In fact it would not be objective to accept them). It’s pointless to say the loss must come before the gain – unless you can actually demonstrate the gain, demonstrating the loss by itself is of no value.
The “right kind of change” would be one in which some completely new, complex, functional structure appeared that was never there before. This is not the sort of thing that really can be seen in small changes, as the first change toward a new complex structure typically would be either detrimental or do nothing (in which case it would be selected against, or at least not selected for), so even if one did appear you could not identify it, and in general it would not be selected for in order to progress further.
Whether there is time in one or even a hundred human lifetimes to observe this sort of change is beside the point. I’m not asking you to give such an example, just pointing out that the examples given don’t qualify, and I’m not going to accept examples that don’t demonstrate evolution just because the ones that would (theoretically) do so could not be practicably observed. The point is, things like antibiotic resistance are often given as examples of “demonstrating” evolution, when in reality you might just as well demonstrate how your business will make a long-term profit by giving examples of transactions that have lost money.
[7 November 2015] YEWNIQUE: Andrew, what I’m hearing you say is:
* Evolution must always involve an increase in information. If there is no increase in information, it cannot be called evolution.
* That increase in information must be entirely advantageous with no decrease in previously-held functions. If there is a loss anywhere, then evolution has not taken place.
* Small changes in organisms don’t count as evolution because we can’t readily tell whether there is an advantage or not. Also, most changes involve some detriment so, ultimately, these are not the right kind of changes to be called evolution.
[10 November 2015] ANDREW: Correct – evolution absolutely requires an increase in information, however I did not say that no old functions could be lost. In the (hypothetical) process of evolution, you would expect some things to break and new things to form along the way, the point is, you MUST have the new things forming – if no new structures are formed along the way, you don’t have evolution.
Whether a change involves an increase or decrease of information, and whether it is advantageous or disadvantageous, are two completely different questions. A change can involve a loss of information, and be (relatively) advantageous, or disadvantageous (or neutral). A hypothetical change involving an increase of information could, also, be either advantageous or disadvantageous. It is important not to get the two mixed up. It is clear that changes which confer an advantage tend to be propagated, while those that are detrimental tend to be selected against, and creationists have no problem here. But it has not been demonstrated that any changes (whether advantageous or disadvantageous) add new structure or function, and this is required for evolution.
Evolution is sometimes referred to as simply a study of how living things change, and how natural selection favours advantageous changes. But creationists accept that natural selection is a valid principle, and that organisms change within limits from generation to generation – rearranging and sometimes destroying existing information. The specific difference is that according to creation, all the information was present from the beginning, while according to evolution, most of it was added along the way. This is the point at issue, not whether changes can be advantageous.
A particular change might make sense within an evolutionary paradigm, but if it makes just as much sense from a creationist perspective, it can hardly be called evidence for, or an example of, evolution.
[10 November 2015] CHRIS: I think regarding the information / intelligence thing, in order to prove they are different you have to allow for the possibility of intelligent prose which does not satisfy your information criterion, or non – intelligent prose that does. You have gone to great lengths to suggest that I should have used tautology instead of circular to describe the connection, but have not dealt with the logical problem. The gene is a string of letters, what is the equivalent of semantics in this context, and does the assessment you have suggested actually work, or can a computer program string together random text that satisfies this criterion ? If it’s conceptually simple, as you have indicated, then surely this has been done before ? So why is this idea still so illusive, and what kind of semantics have been applied to the letters of the gene ? Again if this is so simple conceptually there must be a way forward. If one uses a variation of Shannon measure one can show that there is an increase, and that definition suffices for me, we don’t need to quibble about weather a word is well chosen or not here, so long as the underlying logic remains.
The goal of evolution is to allow survival of the fittest. That is the driving principle. What you are saying is its difficult to imagine how breaking something can be an advantage. Changing the definition to suit your understanding does not provide a convincing case in your favour
Ok, examples, tetrachromatism in females, you will say this advantage in women leads to color blindness in men, so even though there is a clearly new structure in women, it doesn’t work for the human species, what about Apo-AIM or LRP5 or CCR5 (ateriosclerosis, osteoporosis, aids). I would like to know why you would say that they do not fit.
You have stated effectively that none of the examples I could give would suit because they are too simple, in other words your position is not able to be falsified by observation.
All you need is one example, and even though finding it is an arduous process, that should be conceptually straight forward. But if your position is to a priori refuse to acknowledge anything that might challenge that position, then you really do have no case to present.
[10 November 2015] ANDREW: Information/intelligence – I’m unclear as to what the supposed logical problem is. I never denied that intelligence and information content are inherently linked – they obviously are. But what’s your point? Are you saying that you can’t tell which has more information, when presented with such alternatives? If you can (and of course you can), that demonstrates that semantic information content is a real and meaningful concept, and is to some degree measurable.
“…or can a computer program string together random text that satisfies this criterion”. Well, what do you think would happen if you wrote a program that puts letters or even dictionary words together randomly? Every so often you might get two or even three words that fit together and look like they could be starting to mean something, but they won’t be connected to anything else meaningful, and the vast bulk of it will be nonsense.
In the context of genetic information, the equivalent of semantics would be what each gene sequence “means” – i.e. what protein does this gene code for, what function does it regulate etc. Ultimately, what does each gene “do” in the machinery of the cell. Of course, our knowledge in this area is far from complete – it’s a language we’ve only partially learnt. But we understand some things, enough to know for instance, that a particular change is brought about by a damaged copy of a gene, so the structure or function it codes for doesn’t work, and that this is different to new genes appearing that code for new structures or functions.
Shannon measure doesn’t measure useful information – you could write a long computer program that does effectively nothing – lots of Shannon information, but nothing useful. For evolution to work, you need an increase of useful information, genes that code for structures and functions that work together properly.
“The goal of evolution is to allow survival of the fittest…” But for evolution to work as an explanatory principle, you MUST have lots of new structures and functions being added that weren’t there before. Creationists accept survival of the fittest, the point of contention is arrival of the fittest: how and when did those structures appear – you say along the way, I say right from the start.
“What you are saying is its difficult to imagine how breaking something can be an advantage.” I’m … really not. I thought I’d made it clear that just because something breaking provides an advantage, that doesn’t mean it’s evolution. It’s easy to imagine how breaking something can be a relative advantage. What I’m saying is that breaking something that was already there is different from adding something new that was never there before.
Tetrachromacy: Firstly it’s not at all clear that this “developed” from trichromacy, and it makes sense from a creationist perspective that both tri- and tetrachromacy were present from the beginning. But even if it did, it’s an additional copy of an existing structure with some tweaked parameters, not a new structure.
LRP5: Do you mean increased bone mass alleviating osteoporosis? But it does so through a damaged ability to regulate bone mass, and causes other problems along the way.
CCR5: This is another example of a damaged gene providing an advantage by breaking the pathway through which the HIV virus enters a cell. Again this is something that already existed being damaged, not something new.
A-I Milano: This is the best candidate you’ve put forward, as the structure acquires anti-oxidant function. The key thing to note is that the specificity is provided by the existing structure, while anti-oxidant activity per se is not particularly unusual, chemically speaking. Also I’m not convinced that the protein hasn’t lost some of it’s original efficiency – I’d need to study it further. The point is, what’s changed is a single base-pair. While highly unlikely, it’s conceivable that a random point change to an already complex function could tweak it in some way or add some extra function, if the existing structure was already conducive to it. There is a world of difference between this and the whole complex, interdependent structure/function arising from scratch in the first place. To return to the natural language analogy, the sentence “all dogs have four limbs” might be changed by a random word-replacement program to “all dogs have four legs” – which is slightly clearer, although the increase in sense would be accidental. It does not follow that random changes could produce an entire paragraph, or even a complete coherent sentence, or a whole new function in a program, and that’s the kind of change evolution requires.
“… not able to be falsified by observation”.
1. The fact that something cannot be falsified doesn’t automatically mean it’s not true. For instance, how would you falsify the existence of God?
2. If evolution is true, it is in theory able to be demonstrated, although the time required to demonstrate a genuinely new, complex structure may be several human lifetimes – also we would need to completely understand the genetic code to be sure that a structure hadn’t been “hidden” in the code (like a zip file) and subsequently “unpacked”.
My “position” is to evaluate the data to see how consistent it is with both creation and evolution, and not to accept something as demonstrating evolution when it fits well in a creationist framework. My “case”, at least in this thread, is that none of the “examples” of evolution really demonstrate evolution as distinct from creation, that is, they do not demonstrate new, complex structures appearing. As such, my case has not been refuted.
In reality though, we’re not getting to the heart of the matter. I think you agree with me that blind, random processes could not produce evolution, ie it would need to be directed by an intelligence. And I agree with you that God is capable of directing such a process. That being the case, the information argument is not (or shouldn’t be) an issue between us – I say God put all the information into the genome from the start, you say He added it little by little along the way. The fact that evolution requires vast amounts of new information along the way just isn’t an issue for you. The information argument is really aimed at atheistic evolution, to demonstrate the implausibility of evolution by chance. Indeed, from your perspective, it is entirely plausible that God, having long since achieved His purposes for evolution, is no longer driving it, in which case you would never now expect to see the kind of new structure/function changes that it requires.
The real question then is not “could He?” but “would He?”, and science cannot help here, you must see what He has told us about Himself. And what we find is that God reveals His character to be loving, kind, compassionate and gentle, loving peace and harmony, and hating strife and discord. Uncompromising in His condemnation of sin, but in the absence of sin there is not a trace of harshness in Him. Evolution on the other hand, requires a world in which, right from the start, creatures were fighting and killing, suffering and dying, and constantly struggling to survive. This is entirely irreconcilable with God’s character as revealed in Scripture. This is not about the historicity of Genesis 1-11, the problem remains regardless of how you interpret Genesis – if you accept evolution then you say God created a world which was cold and brutal from the beginning, which is the antithesis of His revealed nature.
Posted on Monday, December 14th, 2015, in Answers in Genesis, Atheism, Bible, Church, Creation Ministries International, Creation Scientists, Creation vs Evolution, Evangelicalism, Evolution, Faith and Culture, Fundamentalism, History, Misconceptions, Religion, Science, Theistic Evolution, Young Earth Creationism, Young-Earth Creation Organizations. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.