What Am I Up To? »« A Second Rwanda

If Only Ken Ham Made These Arguments! – A Rebuttal

This one’s also from the Christian Post and was part of a request by a creationist who took umbrage to my posts on evolution. Upon insisting that these 5 Christian Arguments are solid, and that had Ken Ham pulled these out, Bill Nye would have crumbled.

I was intruiged, because I came up with a similar argument. With regards to the anti-vaccine “debate”, I found that asking anti-vax about the basics of how the human immune system functioned would often cause them to stop talking altogether as there is no real response to it that supports an anti-vax standpoint.

So it is with interest we delve into this creationist equivalent of the ultimate weapon.

“My objection to the format of the debate, is that it’s Ken Ham verses Bill Nye, and I want people to know that there are more options out there,” Jack Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, told The Christian Post in an interview Thursday. Collins, who also served as Old Testament chair on the translation committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, argued that the most important argument for Christianity and science is not the age of the earth, but the Christian foundations of science itself.

Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and a leading voice of the intelligent design movement, argued that Ken Ham made a grievous tactical error by focusing on the age of the earth rather than the weaknesses of evolution. “Ken Ham has made a very significant mistake by focusing on that subsidiary issue and giving Darwinists a pass on the more significant issue that there is evidence for design,” Meyer explained.

Jay Richards, senior fellow at The Discovery Institute, noted, “The target audience was Christians who aren’t yet young earth creationists. That’s a rhetorical mistake when you’re debating somebody like Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy.’” Richards is co-author of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.

Below, follow five of the arguments Collins, Meyer, and Richards made to enhance the faith and science debate.

Let’s delve into them….

1. The Evidence for Design

Apologist, scholar, and intelligent design advocate Jay Richards presenting his new book, “Infiltrated: How to Stop the Insiders and Activists Who are Exploiting the Financial Crisis to Control Our Lives and Our Fortunes,” at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, August 15, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

“When we focus on the age of the Earth, we lose sight of all the evidence in nature for intelligent design,” Richards argued. He listed the information in the cell, the origin of life, “mind, consciousness, our knowledge of moral truths – all of these things weigh in favor of intelligent design or maybe even theism.” Richards explained that the complexity of life, and the existence of human reason, seem more likely products of design than random chance.

Meyer agreed. “There is, I think, compelling evidence for intelligent design, and very little of that evidence was proposed in Tuesday night’s debate.” The intelligent design leader further lamented this failing, saying, “It seems really unfortunate for Ken Ham and others to make the young earth not only a point of orthodoxy but also the main argument they present the secular world which is wondering whether or not there is any evidence of design at all.”

The evidence for design is illusory. The notion that a clear repeating pattern is evidence of a divine engineer. The information in the cell is self replicating and does not require an intelligent designer merely because you cannot understand how it came to be. Neither is abiogenesis.

And the mind and consciousness are the operating system of our chemical brain. That to me is more wonderful than any divine mind. The mind is malleable and we know this. There are plenty of unfortunate souls who have had strokes and head injuries who have helped progress our understanding of the mind to know that the structure of the brain is vital to the mind and that our mind is merely an illusive concept brought about by trying to separate the physical structure of our brain and the metaphysics of our consciousness. The fact that we have people here attributing a natural process to a divine engineer who hates prawns is testament to the fact that human reason is not perfect and that reasonable humans can believe in unreasonble things.

Ken Ham is honest in his creationism, he believes in it because he is a literalist. The old earth creationist is a different beast. A man who has claimed that the age of the Earth is allegory but we were created by magic.

2. The Weakness of Darwinism

“Just at the time when the standard Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is on the ropes, we’re focusing on this subsidiary issue” of the age of the Earth, Meyer said. He argued that the modern theory of evolution “is in its death throes,” referring to his book Darwin’s Doubt, which lists the different ways Darwin’s theory is failing and how biologists are searching for new theories.

Bio-Chemists “are working on new theories of evolution because they know the mutation mechanism has very little power,” Meyer explained. The Neo-Darwinian view, which argued for “an unguided, undirected biological process which presented the appearance of design,” is increasingly untenable, which creates a tremendous opportunity for proponents of design, Meyer said.

The fact you used the term “Darwinism” is testament to the fact that you know precious little about the topic.

Darwin’s theory was not perfect. It was bereft of a mechanism. Survival of the fittest is not the issue either. Fitness is determined by survival. That which survives is fit.

So there are creatures that die to pass on their genes like salmon.  There are creatures like male birds whose plumage gets them killed and the risk of death is perfectly fine as long as they breed.

And Meyer is a fool if he thinks that a mutation has very little power. A single mutation can kill you. One single germline mutation is all there is to a genetic defect. And small changes to a genome give Beta-Lactam resistant Bacteria their capacity to beat penicillins.

Meyer’s statement is a hopeless lack of understanding of genetics. And the literal throwaway of the cornerstone of evolution.

3. The Bible and Old Earth Creationism

One of Ken Ham’s major arguments hinged on a “literal” reading of Genesis 1, that the world was created in six twenty-four hour days. Collins argued that this is not supported by the biblical text.

In Genesis 2, which has traditionally been seen as an expansion of the sixth day of creation, there were no plants on the land until God made it rain. This, Collins explained, is a reference to the climate cycle in Mesopotamia. “You need to have the climate cycle to be in effect for at least one year – that tells you that the creation period is longer than a regular week.”

Another problem with the six 24-hour day interpretation is the fourth day. “In day one, you have God saying ‘let there be light’ and then in day four you have the sun, the moon, and stars,” Collins explained. Then there’s the issue of God’s rest on the days of creation – the Bible scholar argued that this is “an analogical presentation, because God doesn’t really get tired and need rest as we do.”

Many Christians – especially Ken Ham – argue that no animals died previous to Adam’s sin, because Scripture says that death entered the world with sin. But Collins explained that the Bible does not portray animal death as an evil. Rather, it celebrates it in Psalm 104:21, which praises God for giving lions their food. “Biblically, the death of humans is the problem, the death of animals is not.”

This is literally like watching two Harry Potter fans argue over the minutae of their book.

The only difference is that Harry Potter fans realise their book is an act of fiction and do so for their pleasure rather than to insert Dumbledore into our children.

4. Christianity Supports Science

Collins said if he were given the opportunity to debate Bill Nye, he would start out “by insisting that the Christian faith gives us grounds for scientific enterprise because it assures us that the God who made the world also made our minds so we can understand the world and manipulate it.” Christianity presents an understanding of the world uniquely suited for scientific discovery.

Meyer agreed, referring to the history of science. “It is a widely recognized point by leading historians of science that science in its modern form came out of an early Christian milieu that the world would submit itself to rational investigation precisely because the world had been made by a rational creator who had also made our minds,” he said. Christians in the late medieval period investigated nature “to figure out how God put it together because they realized God was free and could have made it any number of ways.”

Which ignores the countless scientific advances that were stymied by the Church if they tread on the feet of their god. Or that the declaration of some aspects of creation as sacred will eventually have real science run up against those constraints and demand to know what is so sacred about those things.

This ignores the scientific knowledge that was effectively crushed by religion or the fact that the divine attitude towards evolution would in effect stop all biology and that includes medicine where an understanding of genetics has revolutionised our attitude to disease.

The fact remains that evolution means we share a genetic code. Which allows us to make drugs like insulin from genetically modified bacteria. This would be impossible if humans were a unique and divine creature rather than something that evolved from a common ancestor.

5. The Miracle of Life

Collins argued that science should follow wherever the evidence leads. “There certainly seems to be a discontinuity at the beginning of biological life,” he claimed, and “nobody in science actually has a better explanation than the idea that something special happened.” If Christians call it a miracle, “a biologist doesn’t have any grounds to disagree with that.”

The gulf between human beings and other animals is similar, the biblical scholar explained. “There is not a chimpanzee or dolphin scientist,” he quipped. He argued that the uniqueness of humans – who alone reason, make conscious choices, and investigate nature – is “fantastic” and “should fill us with wonder.”

“I would want somebody to understand that I as a Christian think that science is cool,” Collins concluded. “God likes it and He wants me to like it.”

Yes. Yes we do.

We don’t know how abiogenesis has occurred. We do not know if life is found in other parts of our own solar system, let alone other planets. We are going to assume it’s a natural process since the alternative is to say “it was magic” and that is stupid. Nothing else turned out to be magic and experiments show that it is very much possible that it is a natural process.

If Christians call it a miracle  then Christians are ignorant. They are taking a little understood process and saying that we cannot fathom it so we should call it a miracle since that is what supports our divine view of the world. Do not seek the knowledge.

It is not an alternative. If “Jehovah” is an alternative then so is Allah or Brahma and I bet you would balk at the idea of Hindu creationists. The fact of the matter is, evolution and biology is a sticking point for religion because this brings life out of the notion of divinity and into the idea that life is just another natural thing.

It is a fear that we will no longer be special or unique. Just a small being on a planet in an uncaring galaxy in a universe. And we cannot fathom how impotent that makes us.

But that is because we demand in our arrogance that the stars spin to tell us about our love lives. That all of the universe was created for some hairless apes to hate prawns and Elton John. These are terrible arguments, arguments made from a position of ignorance about the reality of evolution and science.

Comments

  1. matty1 says

    “There certainly seems to be a discontinuity at the beginning of biological life,” he claimed, and “nobody in science actually has a better explanation than the idea that something special happened.”

    This is false, there are plenty of ideas for how molecules might become self replicating and how to get from there to the first cells. As far as I know none of these has enough evidence to gain widespread support but they pretty much all depend on details of actual chemistry and potential conditions on the early earth, which is a wee bit more detailed than “Something special happened”.

  2. Al Dente says

    Evidence for Design:

    Richards explained that the complexity of life, and the existence of human reason, seem more likely products of design than random chance.

    The ever popular (among creationists) argument from incredulity. “Gosh, that science stuff looks really hard and complicated, GODDIDIT is easier.”

    The Weakness of Darwinism

    He argued that the modern theory of evolution “is in its death throes,”

    Creationists have been saying this for the past 150 years. Meanwhile evolutionary theory just keeps being supported by more and more evidence.

    The Bible and Old Earth Creationism

    One of Ken Ham’s major arguments hinged on a “literal” reading of Genesis 1, that the world was created in six twenty-four hour days. Collins argued that this is not supported by the biblical text.

    Collins interprets a 2500 year old myth some Hebrew priests stole from the Babylonians in a different way than Ham interprets it. Meanwhile the emperor is as naked as ever.

    Christianity Supports Science

    the Christian faith gives us grounds for scientific enterprise because it assures us that the God who made the world also made our minds so we can understand the world and manipulate it.

    Then the creationists shut down their minds by ignoring the real world in favor of mythology. Actually this is disrespectful to their god. The creationists say the universe, supposedly created by their god, is false and only a book, written by humans and edited, translated, redacted, censored, revised and altered by various other humans over the course of centuries, is true.

    The Miracle of Life

    “There certainly seems to be a discontinuity at the beginning of biological life,” he claimed, and “nobody in science actually has a better explanation than the idea that something special happened.”

    As Dara O’Briain put it:

    But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … science in its modern form came out of an early Christian milieu that the world would submit itself to rational investigation precisely because the world had been made by a rational creator…

    What a pity that all those ancient Greeks (and Hindus, and Chinese, and Sumerians, and …) never got to read Genesis so that they could have figured out that logic and mathematics were even possible!

  4. says

    The Weakness of Darwinism

    Intellectually dishonest weasels!!! As if Darwin being completely wrong (which he wasn’t) would make one whit of their religious explanation true. No, if I’m wrong, that doesn’t make you right. And they complain about the problems with Darwin, and completely ignore the fact that their holy book – which is all their religion is based on – is obviously neither divinely inspired or divinely written.

    You’ll note that evolutionary biologists don’t go around saying stuff like “The fact that the bible has the value of Pi wrong proves evolution!” Um. Why don’t they do that? Could it be because there are tons and tons and tons of supporting facts proving evolution?

    the world would submit itself to rational investigation precisely because the world had been made by a rational creator who had also made our minds

    Then why don’t they accept that prayer doesn’t work, we don’t have souls, free will appears to be an illusion, and evolution is true? Because if any of those were untrue, then the creation and the creator would have to be irrational and/or deceptive. After all prayer and miracles are violations of causality. When someone prays they are asking for a violation of physical law; that’s irrational and it’s actually flying in the face of divine causality if that’s what you believe in.

  5. says

    I wrote:
    Because if any of those were untrue

    Should read “true”
    Belief in prayer or miracles is a rejection of the rational world. Christians can’t say that they have god-given rationality and then turn around and believe in an irrational god.

  6. says

    As if Darwin being completely wrong (which he wasn’t) would make one whit of their religious explanation true. No, if I’m wrong, that doesn’t make you right

    There are only two contending explanations: Evolution (as it stands right at this moment, not counting any future research) and my personal interpretation of Christianity (not any other versions of Christian dogma and certainly no other religions).

    If the first explanation fails (i.e. fails to answer any and all questions I or anyone else can come up with, explained in terms I personally find convincing at my current level of education), then the other explanation must be true (and shouldn’t at any point be subjected to the same scrutiny as the first explanation).

    The decision must be made now and then the matter is forever settled. We can’t possibly accept “I don’t know” as an answer, nor could we possibly allow for preliminary conclusions, pending more data. We must make the choice now and for all time and it must be one of the two choices, according to the criteria established.

  7. hoary puccoon says

    The “evidence for design” argument probably would be a better gambit in a debate than the “earth is 6000 years old” gambit. But that’s only because it’s so woozy and amorphous you can’t pin it down. I don’t see how it’s much use in inspiring the faithful to fill the pews or put money in the ol’ collection plate, though. It’s more of a “huh, interesting” argument.

    Since the collection plate is pretty obviously all Ham is interested in, I’d say he was better off going with the 6000 year gambit and then screaming persecution when he got steamrolled.

  8. Wylann says

    The IDiots always win the debates in their head.

    …that is, of course, because they are debating with a moron.

    They also win all of their imaginary court cases. Real court cases, on the other hand, don’t tend to go so well for them.

    These post debate/court analysis that mostly consist of ‘If I had been there…” penis waving are inversely proportional to how well they think their side came off in the debate, so I’m guessing the consensus is that Ham got spanked.

  9. mistertwo says

    The gulf between human beings and other animals is similar, the biblical scholar explained. “There is not a chimpanzee or dolphin scientist,” he quipped. He argued that the uniqueness of humans – who alone reason, make conscious choices, and investigate nature – is “fantastic” and “should fill us with wonder.”

    This one takes quite a leap. No, there are no dolphin or chimpanzee scientists, because those species do not have the ability to communicate well enough to develop the sciences. But they certainly reason and make conscious choices! Even less intelligent animals can be seen to use reason.

  10. says

    Even less intelligent animals can be seen to use reason.

    This video was posted in Pharyngula’s Lounge. It’s a guy playing a trick on some dogs (using sleight of hand to hide their treat) and filming their reactions.

    It struck me that the dogs very clearly are trying to figure out what happened. They may not be intelligent enough to work out exactly what’s going on, but they clearly understand that something isn’t right and can be seen going through some possible explanations (such as sniffing on the ground to see if he simply dropped the treat).

    It’s quite clear that the dogs at least have some degree of object permanence and have an expectation that the treat behave in a certain way. When those expectations are violated and no reasonable explanation can be found, the dogs get confused, agitated or scared.

    Humans obviously have superior mental faculties compared to other animals, but claiming that we’re the only ones who can “reason, make conscious choices, and investigate nature” is just flat-out wrong.

  11. Kevin Kehres says

    My dog hates it when I “fake throw” his squeekie toy and hide it behind my back. Takes him a couple of tries to figure it out – but when he “gets” that I’ve faked him out again, then the trick doesn’t work. He looks behind my back.

    Smart dog.

  12. Kevin Kehres says

    @7: The argument from design is objectively wrong. Its premise is that god created the universe and everything in it in order that it accommodate human life. Not just life — human life. Why? So human souls can go to heaven with god. (wut?) It’s incoherent on its face, and not merely because a god with that kind of power wouldn’t need to create corporeal humans in order to create human souls.

    Any good god would have been able to build a support system for human life using the tiniest fraction of the matter in the universe. There’s no reason for the moon, other planets, other stars, other galaxies, or the vast emptiness of space if the universe were built specifically with “us” in mind. Why the overkill? Why so much stuff that isn’t compatible with any life, much less human life? And why wait 14 BILLION years from the inception of the universe to the appearance of human life? What in the world was he waiting for if humans were the entire point of the enterprise? Especially since it looks like we’ll be extinct in a tiny fraction of the time the sun has left in its life cycle.

    The bigger the universe gets, the less it looks like we were created specially for it; but rather are a mere accident. We’re a slight film of replicating amino acids covering a tiny pebble in a vast unfathomable ocean of mostly nothing. That’s not “design”. Or if it is, it’s spectacularly bad design–which would invalidate the kind god they worship.

    The argument from design was probably a good one right up until the time Copernicus figured out we weren’t at the center of the universe. Once that fact was uncovered, the jig was up.

    I know, professional bloviaters like William Lame Craig will babble on and on about constants and fractions of a percentage of this or that and how the universe wouldn’t exist except for blahblahblah. But a real and true god wouldn’t need any of that — he could just create life and constants be damned. The fact that all we see all around us is natural and not supernatural is all the proof I need to figure out the argument from design is as crappy as every other theist argument.

  13. John Roguetech says

    #4 is a restatement of #1. Because the world has order, it can be studied for benefit. Since it can lead to benefit, the Church has supported research. However, claiming that the Church allowed the universe to be studied is absurd. The Church had the wealth and therefore the means to do so, but that can be said of most groups that have held wealth. Corporations today drive most scientific research, yet it would be nothing short of stupid to claim that science is because of corporations.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>