Evolutionary Heresy

I’d meant to post Chapter One of my novel and have you folks cleave it to pieces, but I want a chance to rewrite it somewhat before I hurl it into cyberspace. In the meantime, I received a very recent comment to one of my very first posts, Evolution Poisons Everything, which led me to today’s magnum opus.

Philip, a fine young man who lacks Sarah Palin love, took issue with my statement that “the theory of evolution is pretty good at explaining intraspecies adaptation but woefully inept at explaining how one species evolves into another, or how complex systems like eyes develop out of a series of random mutations.”

Here’s Philip’s response:

no, in fact evolution is perfectly suited to explaining those things as well, does so in scholarly papers that are rigorously peer reviewed, and has been doing so for many moons now. the supposed holes in the theory are nothing more than the ignorant showing their epidermis.

I responded, too, saying the following:

Not so, Philip. There’s not a single peer-reviewed article that comes close to explaining the evolution of complex systems like the eye. And the fossil record has been woefully unkind to anyone trying to show gradual transition from one species to another. Articles provide much speculation on these subjects – and plenty of insult to heretics who dare to question – but nothing approaching hard facts.

I don’t want to rewrite and re-argue what I said back then, as the power of my original genius can still be seen by all, but I want to personalize this a little bit.

See, my wife thinks I’m a loon on this, too.

She’s coming from a different place than Philip is, I’m sure. She’s a woman of faith and a former Biology major who sees no conflict between science and religion, whereas Philip is not a big fan of religion of any stripe. Yet she also bristles when I start questioning evolution – and she mocks me mercilessly. She has told many people, on many occasions, that I believe dinosaurs “fell out of the sky.” That’s a gross misrepresentation of my position, which isn’t that big a problem, as I’m not really quite sure what my actual position is at any given time.

What drives her crazy is that I don’t particularly care about the issue much.

No, that’s not entirely true. I actually think it’s fascinating, and I’m certainly engaged in the political discussion surrounding it. What I mean when I say I don’t care is that I don’t care about the issue theologically. Nothing in what I believe about God, me, and the relationship between the two is remotely affected by whether fish sprouted legs and became squirrels/monkeys/people. I don’t treat the Old Testament like science, and, conversely, I don’t treat Darwin like religion. I believe truth is truth, and that when the whole picture becomes clear, we’ll see how the religion and science pieces fit together.

I’ve learned over the years, however, that atheists can’t afford the luxury of evolutionary disinterest.

One need not prove evolution false to believe in God. But the converse is not true; if there is no God, then evolution, or some other arbitrary explanation, has to account for existence. That is why evolution can’t be questioned dispassionately the same way, say, the theory of gravity is. Nobody’s personal concept of Deity is threatened by exploration into why objects of small mass are drawn to objects of larger mass. Questions like “why?” or “how?” with regard to gravity aren’t the equivalent of saying that you believe things fall up instead of down.

Yet when you start to say “why?” or “how?” about evolution, suddenly you’re announcing that the world was created on October 23, 4004 BC. Because questions about evolution aren’t just questions; they’re atheistic heresies. They need to be quashed, evaded, and ridiculed, because there’s too much at stake for those who rely on evolution as justification for their rejection of a higher power.

I think I am retreading some of the ground of my previous post, so I want to extend the discussion into a consideration of what has come to be known as Intelligent Design. Some think it’s little more than gussied-up Creationism, which is the province of those who think biology teachers should be using Genesis as a scientific textbook. From what I can tell, ID is much more sophisticated than that. It certainly raises excellent questions, particularly about the unlikelihood of natural selection as an explanation for complex systems. But its alternative answer – life was designed! – isn’t helpful. Or, at least, it’s not scientifically helpful.

Consider this: a car shows up in your driveway. Where did this car come from? Answer: It was designed! Well, okay, great, but how? Where? What was the process? And how did it get here? I don’t even need to know “why” as a scientific inquiry. Just telling me that the car has been “designed” doesn’t tell me anything of value. Unless Intelligent Designers can provide scientific evidence of an alternative process to evolution, just touting “design” isn’t adequate.

Fortunately, I can wait until all the evidence is in. It’s too bad that atheists can’t be nearly as patient.

A Fun Day
Debate Blog: The Veepstakes

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