Science, Observation and Explanation

Ray Comfort’s latest column at the Worldnutdaily is an attempt to answer questions from atheists and the first one is about evolution. Comfort says he believes in speciation and adaptation, but not “Darwinian evolution.” So here’s the first question and answer:

“Can you please explain to me how ‘Darwinian evolution’ is different than ‘evolution and speciation via the laws of natural selection.”

We all believe in speciation and adaptation. Darwin often spoke if it, and we can see it all around us. Animals, insects, fish and even human beings adapt to their surroundings.

However, he also spoke of a change of “kinds,” or what he called change of “families.” He couldn’t find any observable and testable evidence for a change of kinds in nature or the fossil record, and neither can you. Darwinian evolution – a change of kinds – dinosaurs to chickens, whales to walking amphibians, etc., rests on nothing but blind faith, because it can’t be observed (it supposedly happened over millions of years). If you disagree, give me one example of observable evidence for it (the Scientific Method). Not hundreds of rabbit-trail links, not videos to watch – just one example that can be observed here and now – not over millions of years.

All of this betrays ignorance, both mundane and virulent. Let me count the ways.

1. The word “kinds” means nothing in biology. If he accepts speciation, where is the limit of a “kind”? Genus? Family? Class? He doesn’t say and he doesn’t know. And frankly, I doubt he accepts speciation either; in fact, I doubt he knows what the word means in the first place.

2. The notion that if you can’t actually observe something happen you are stuck with “blind faith” is utterly nonsensical and would rule out much of science. We convict people and put them in prison for their entire lives without actually observing them committing the crime. Why? Because we can logically infer what happened from the evidence left behind. And no one would take a defense attorney seriously if they argued that since no one actually observed it happen, all that’s left is “blind faith.”

Geology would be made pretty much impossible by this standard. When a geologist is studying a given formation, he or she applies what we see around us today and makes logical inferences. For example, we see that when a volcano erupts under water, it forms pillow basalts. So when we see a pillow basalt formation, we infer that it was formed by a volcano that erupted underwater. We can observe how, say, limestone forms today and then infer from that when we see a limestone formation that it was formed under similar conditions. None of this is “blind faith,” it’s entirely logical.

This is a standard trick from creationists, to create a false dichotomy where something is either observed directly and therefore “proven” or it’s purely a matter of “faith.” But it’s only convincing to someone who actually is basing their claims on blind faith.

The text that appears below is what I call my creationist challenge, a simple laying out of the evidence for common descent based mostly on the fossil record.

If you think evolution is false, please try to come up with a compelling explanation other than common descent for the evidence in the natural world. This focuses on one particular line of evidence for evolution, biostratigraphy. As you go up the geologic column, dated both relatively (in relation to younger strata above and older strata below) and absolutely (via hundreds of concordant radiometric dates using a variety of techniques), all over the world, you find the same successional order of appearance.

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