It’s time to argue about Evolution again

About a year and a half ago now I put up a post in response to an article posted on the Biblicism Institute website regarding evolution. My post consisted primarily of the comment I attempted to post on the Biblicism Institute website in response to some of the claims main in the article. However, apparently my comments didn’t “advance the dialogue“, mainly I suspect because some of the things I said repeated “other points made by other commenters.” As such I thought that was the end of it, I wasn’t going to get the discussion I was hoping for, so I pretty much forgot about it.

Until yesterday, when someone posted a new comment on the article. This new comment started like this:

I would ask this of the e-theorists, as a Christian with a background in engineering and in computer science: what do you mean by “random”? There is simply “complex”. In saying this, I am adhering strictly to scientific and mathematical principles. Those things which we describe as “random” are merely so complex so as to appear “qualitatively” random; any scientist worth his salt knows that they are never actually random.

Well, I thought to myself, that is a question I can answer, and so I did, posting a response that started like this:

The term random is being used here to describe events that happen without a defined reason, aim or according to a specific pattern. The exact causes of these events do of course adhere to the laws of physics, no one is claiming otherwise. The fact that we may be able to trace back a specific mutation in a specific gamete cell to a specific proton coming from a specific star, all in accord with well understood laws of physics, does not mean that the mutation itself was not random. Or, to put it another way, it does not mean that the specific mutation happened for a defined reason, to produce a specific aim, or in accordance with a specific pattern.

Now again I didn’t expect things to go any further than this, and to be honest I really didn’t expect my comment to get posted at all…but it was, and this morning I found that the author of the original article had replied to it. As such I would like to address some of the things he had to say.

The Biblicism Institute guy starts with this response to my definition of “Random”:

1) There’s nothing RANDOM in nature nor in our lives. Case in point, don’t prepare for retirement or your future (i.e., be random about it and don’t have any purposeful design) and see what happens or better yet turn on your oven and don’t put food in it and see if food will miraculously materialize (i.e., see if the oven will randomly big-bang you some food).

To which I replied:

1) Your first point does not address the definition of random that I presented. If I am walking down the road and a bug flies into my mouth I would call that a random event, using the definition I presented. Sure, of course there was a cause for this event happening, but that does not mean the event happened to fulfil a specific purpose or aim, or in accordance with a specific pattern. As such, again using the definition of random I presented, it would be a random event.

The same applies to DNA mutations. They are random, in that they do not appear to occur to fulfil any specific purpose or aim, and they do not happen according to any pattern. They are therefore random, using the specific definition of the word I supplied. If you are not using this definition of random then you are not talking about the same thing.

Biblicism continues:

Everything in life and in God-created nature also has a purpose and a direction, hence not random. Just because you and other pseudo-scientists don’t understand it doesn’t make your “theory” truth. Many people don’t understand how planes fly, yet they still fly them. If you can’t figure something out doesn’t mean that its intrinsic God-created mechanism is not real.

This is not so much an argument as an assertion, but I replied anyway:

You claim that everything has a purpose and direction, I would be interested to know how you have come to this conclusion and what evidence you have to back it up? For example, sticking with the subject of DNA mutations, let’s say that a mutation occurs on a section of DNA that results in a neutral effect, or in other words the change does not have any effect on how the protein that section of DNA creates folds. Where is the purpose or direction here? There has been a change, but not one that has any measurable effect what so ever. Now you have argued that the fact that I can’t see a purpose or direction doesn’t mean there isn’t one, and I would agree. However the same argument applies to you. Just because you believe there is a purpose and direction doesn’t mean there is one, you would have to demonstrate that such a purpose and direction actually exists, not just assert it does.

At this point Biblicism decided to present a very common creationist argument, one that has been refuted more times than I can count:

2) Natural selection is a dud, even Darwin himself was big enough to recognize that.

“To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.” – Charles Darwin (1872)

Now anyone who has come across this claim before knows that this is an example of a quote mine, taking a section of a quote out of context to make it seem like the author is claiming something they didn’t. Often with something like this you may need to read through many pages to find what the author actually meant by their words, but in this case you just have to read to the very next line, as I pointed out:

2) Your claim that even Darwin recognised that Natural Selection was, as you put it, a dud is a common misconception, one clearly demonstrated by the lines that immediately follow the section of On the Origin of Species that you quoted above. The quote in full say this:

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of Spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.”

Reading the words Darwin wrote immediately after the section you claim supports the idea that he didn’t accept natural selection shows that he really did. He was simply using a common rhetorical technique of raising a possible argument against his position in order to show why that argument is wrong. And Darwin was right. Since he wrote those words scientists have found numerous examples of different eyes in nature that show the kind of gradation Darwin expected to see, from simple light sensing cells, to the kind of eyes we have.

After this Biblicism responded to the second part of my comment which, upon reflection, I probably should have left off. I wanted to make the point that even if there is a God it doesn’t mean that evolution is invalid, as God could have used evolutionary principles to create the diversity of life on Earth. This doesn’t really add anything to my argument, it was more of an olive branch offered to the person I was responding to, and was probably a mistake to include. What I said was this:

Given this definition of randomness, that is not in any way scientifically illiterate, natural selection is a completely plausible solution to the question of how species change over time. I would also like to point out that if God is guiding the evolutionary process that would not invalidate the findings of science. Science can’t see that God was the one responsible for causing a given mutation to happen, but what it can see is that certain mutations are more favourable for survival and reproduction than others, and therefore more likely to get passed on to the next generation. So even if God is ultimately responsible for which mutations happened, that still means the process of mutation and selection is responsible for the diversity of species on the planet. It is not a question of All God or No God.

Now I think the first sentence stands, and I should have left it there. As it is Biblicism responded to what I wrote:

3) God is responsible for everything. If not, it’s like saying that your computer (created by someone) is responsible on its own for all the marvelous things it can do. Further, if God had used evolution to cause species to evolve into other species, He would have come right out and said it in His word. You’re like an art critic who’s trying to explain to Picasso what his art means when Picasso is telling you otherwise. Or better still, you’re like the devil trying to convince Eve that what God said was not what He meant to say.

Now as I said this really doesn’t have anything to do with the point I was trying to make, and is pretty much just an attack on me personally, but seeing it was a response to something I said I felt I should reply:

3) I am not sure where you stand theologically, but do you really mean to claim that God is responsible for everything? Everything would, of course, include being responsible for things like evil coming into the world, for the “the devil trying to convince Eve that what God said was not what He meant to say”, and for me not believing that he exists. Now I have heard some argue that God is indeed responsible for evil, pointing to verses like Isaiah 45:7 to back this up:

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” King James Version

Now if this is the position you are coming from then fine, but if not and instead you argue that things like human free will is responsible for evil then it would appear you have a conflict in your thinking here. As this point is really just tangential to question at hand I am not really bothered either way what you believe, but if you wish to explain your theological position I’d be interested to hear it.

On a different note you are making the assumption here that the Bible is the word of God. I see no reason to make this assumption, and as such my suggestion that a God could use natural processes to produce the diversity of life on the planet is not really countered by pointed to the Bible and claiming that if God used evolution then “He would have come right out and said it in His word”. Demonstrate that the Bible really is the word of God then we can talk.

Biblicism’s last comment was again addressing the statement I shouldn’t really have made, and which I made pretty badly as well:

4) If it’s not a question of All God or No God, then what is it? You don’t even know where you stand.

Stop these gymnastics, will you? You’re making a fool of yourself.

See what I mean, I really didn’t explain myself at all well. So I had another go:

4) When I say that it is not All God or No God I mean that, if a God existed, there would be nothing to stop him using natural processes to accomplish his ends. It does not have to be all miracles all the time. A God could feasibly have sparked off the Big Bang, knowing that the natural laws he put in place would ultimately allow for the formation of a species of life with which he could have a relationship. Now I know you don’t believe it, mainly because you believe the Bible is the word of God, but there is nothing illogical about what I suggested.

And for the record I know exactly where I stand. I am however able to argue from different positions, granting premises that I may not believe in in order to see what logical follows from those positions.

So there you go, that is the comment I posted in response. I will wait to see if it makes it past the comment filters and will let you know if I get a reply. I must say that people like Biblicism really makes me appreciate those creationists who put a good deal more thought into their arguments.

UPDATE 03/05/2016 – Ok so as of yet the Biblicism Institute have not posted my reply to the direct questions they asked me. Now this doesn’t mean they are not going to, or that they instead intend to purposefully leave the questions unanswered in an attempt to imply that I am unable to answer them. No, I am not claiming that of a second. That said, they have decided to post a comment by someone who believes that the heliocentric model of the solar system is an “an incredible fiction” peddled “into the mind[s] of the (very) naive gentiles“. So, yeah, make of that what you will.

UPDATE 09/05/2016 – Yeah, yeah, I am completely wasting my time, and it is not in any way an important issue. But hey, it is the principle of the thing, and so I have just sent the following message to the Biblicism Website.

Hi there

I am writing to you in the hope that you can clarify your policy regarding posting comments on your website. Specifically I am interested in your reasons for not posting comments that provide counter arguments to specific points you make.

Recently I posted a reply on your X-Men and the Theory of Evolution in response to a comment posted by someone called Mil on the subject of randomness. You, much to my pleasure, posted this comment and promptly someone in your organisation, posting as Biblicism, replied to it, asking me specific questions.

I in turn replied to these specific questions, and yet my response has not been posted. Now I am aware of your comment policy regarding these issues. However, when replying to specific questions addressed to me by you I do not see how I am failing to “advance the dialogue”?

Furthermore, the main point I was responding to, your claim that Darwin himself did not accept natural selection, had not been made on the blog post before, and so had not previously been countered. As such I was also not “repeating other points made by other commenters”.

Lastly, I was not in any way posting a commment that included “derogatory remarks”, and as such my response should not have been refused on these grounds.

I am therefore left to conclude that you did not post my response because it clearly demonstrated that statements you had made were factually incorrect, and you did not want your readers to be aware of this.

Now if this is not the case then please let me know your reasons for not posting my comments. If it is, well, I guess I must question your commitment to honest investigation.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.


UPDATE 10/05/2016 – Wow, so the people at Biblicism have replied already, and I must I was not expecting the response they came back with.

If something is an obvious lie, we don’t publish it even if the one who sends it thinks it not. God knows there are enough lies out there.

Further, we don’t get involved in tit for tat because there are those who will never see our way since they prefer to fool themselves believing otherwise. As J. Heywood said: There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See.

Thanks for reaching out.

So apparently something I said in my response to them was an “obvious lie”. Well, if that is the case then I would like to know what it is…so I emailed them back.

Hi there

Thank you for your very prompt response, it is very much appreciated. I must say however I am still somewhat confused as to why you did not post my comment.

You have replied stating that “If something is an obvious lie, we don’t publish it even if the one who sends it thinks it not”. Could you please clarify what exactly I said that you believe to be a lie, as I clearly fall into the category of being someone who does not think they have lied.

Indeed, from my point of view the only lie evident here is the claim made by someone at your end that Darwin did not accept natural selection. They posted a quote from On the Origin of Species that seemed to suggest that he found the idea of natural selection “absurd”. However, the lines immediately following that quote prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Darwin did not think that natural selection was “absurd”, and in fact outline his reasons for why he did not think so.

As such, selectively quoting Darwin to make it seem as if he believed something he clearly didn’t strikes me as exceedingly dishonest. Furthermore, refusing to post a comment pointing out this falsehood suggests that you are well aware that you were taking Darwin out of context, but do not wish your readers to be made aware of this. As such the only “lie” I can see here is one being perpetrated at your end.

So again I ask for clarification as to why you chose not to post my comment. What “lie” have I told, and why did you not simply post my comment and then point out the lie publicly for all your readers to see? Again, from my point of view the only reason I can see for not posting my comment is that it clearly showed something someone on your team said to be false, and you didn’t want people knowing this.

I await your response.



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