Like many of the “wars” being fought out there, I generally look at both sides with disdain on the Creation vs. Evolution debate. Like many issues, both sides are arguing against a straw man. The Creationist thinks that evolutionists designed this theory specifically so they can try to disprove God. While Evolutionists think that Christians live in a lala world completely inconsistent with reality.
I’m wholly sympathetic to the “science” side of the argument, even when they talk about evolution and millions of years, simply because when you start with the position that nothing is proved without evidence (skepticism) and then presuppose naturalism, it’s entirely rational to arrive at the conclusions that scientists deduce. It’s also not entirely unreasonable for them to judge people who do not presuppose naturalism to be superstitious. Naturalism simply says that nothing is knowable that cannot be detected by the 5 senses. This would seem to then imply that there is nothing supernatural, since only natural things can be detected by the 5 senses. This is a bit like an ear trying to assert that there is no such thing as light because it cannot hear it, but I digress. Even still, I don’t consider it irrational for scientists to believe what they believe.
I’m also sympathetic to the “creationist” side of this debate. The most vocal of this group may in fact fit the straw man or stereotype, a la Answers in Genesis, but like the Westboro Baptist Church on the issue of homosexuality, Answers in Genesis does not represent the whole of Christianity, and I would content they don’t even represent the majority. Most Christians on this issue are concerned with reconciling what they believe to be true in the Bible with what science tells them.
Ultimately I believe that the Word of God is true, but I see reason not to take Genesis 1 word for word literally. It simply was not intended as a Science curriculum and it was written for entirely different reasons. Nevertheless, I see other evident reasons to be skeptical of evolution. Because of my “in the middle” leanings on this issue, I roll my eyes when I see things like this:
What bothers me about this video is not what Bill Nye believes. Nor is it that he thinks that people who disagree with him are holding science back. I think those two things are logical. What does bother me is that this is a classic example of scientists trying to appeal to authority. Bill Nye is not making a scientific argument here. He is not making a logical argument here. His reasons for not wanting creationism taught are entirely driven by what he imagines to be the consequences rather than by the principle of the matter. I take exception to that on principle.
Underlying this video is Nye’s constant assertions of the truth of evolution. Does Nye present any evidence in this video? I’m not pointing that out to say that no evidence exists. I’m simply saying he doesn’t present any. When was the last time you heard an evolutionist claim that evolution was true and then went on to clearly show evidence to support his position?
Don’t get me wrong! There is evidence for evolution. Well… We have to define our terms. Anyone who is intellectually honest will acknowledge two kinds of “evolution”. There is Micro-evolution (or speciation) which involves the genetic drift in the population of a species in which natural selection causes different sets of genetic information to be lost in the two sub populations resulting in distinct variations. Over time these two species become extremely different, and even lose the ability to interbreed.Then there’s Macro-evolution, which is the theory that one species through a series of fortunate and beneficial mutations gains new genetic information which causes the species to change its form and ultimately develop into an entirely new species altogether.
Most of the time when scientists talk about evolution, they are talking about Micro-evolution. Micro-evolution is indisputable. It’s reproducable in a lab. It is testabale. It is quantifiable. It is observable. But Macro-evolution does not meet this same criteria. It cannot be tested in a lab. It is not quantifiable. It has never been observed. Further it is fraught with logical and theoretical problems.
This would be fine except that you have scientists like Richard Dawkins who want to take the evidence for speciation and apply it to macro-evolution as though they are somehow equivalent. However, the mechanisms at work in the two processes are significantly different. One involves taking a population and dividing it into two groups which are removed from proximity to each other and placed into significantly different environment in which those who have genes better suited to the environment will survive and breed better than the others. The other involves random chance granting a beneficial mutation (which has never been observed even in an isolated case) on a large enough scale so that interbreeding remains possible and at a timing such that fish growing lungs instead of gills does not cause them to drown. Since the mechanisms are completely different, it can’t be concluded that evidence for one is evidence for the other.
Scientists talk the way Bill Nye does all the time as though the evidence of what they are saying is so obvious, you’d have to be delusional not to see it. I wonder if Bill Nye is speaking more toward creationists in trying to convince them to change their minds, or whether he is speaking to evolutionists in trying to inspire a certain attitude toward creationists. Scientists speaking this way is one of the major reasons why creationists scoff at evolutionists. If there really is that much evidence, show it to us! The ironic thing is that scientists put out these statements in an attempt to take the intellectual high ground. Instead they only come off condescending and arrogant which is neither intellectual nor a high ground. Bill Nye puts it to evolution deniers this way:
Once in a while I get people that … claim they don’t believe in evolution. And my response generally is “Why not?”…
When building an argument, throwing the “Why not?” in there is usually used in one of three ways. The intellectual high ground uses two of these. Either it is a segue into taking one or more specific objections against their position in order to give a counter argument, or at the very least it is an introduction to the clearest, most irrefutable evidence in favor of your position. “I don’t believe it is raining today.” “Why not? There’s water falling from the sky!” The third use for “Why Not” is employed by the “low ground” which uses it as a rhetorical so as to imply “My position is so obvious, you must be an idiot to disagree.” What does Nye say?
Really, why not? Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don’t believe in evolution. Here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils. Here is radioactivity. Here are distant stars… The idea of … billions of years … explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your worldview just becomes crazy… untenable
Nye gives a brief nod to evidence by mentioning fossils, radioactivity, and distant stars, but each of these items he mentions is an entire encyclopedia of information in and of itself all with theoretical questions which still have been unanswered and assumptions that must be made in order to draw any kind of conclusion. Because of this, there are varying explanations for each, none of which are clearly more obvious than another based on the evidence. It is only when naturalism is presupposed that one become preferrential over another, so it is no surprise where a naturalist like Nye would land, but it is not wholly irrational for one who does not presuppose naturalism to draw an alternate conclusion. I could unpack this further, but I’ll just give a shot across the bow at fossils and say that the entire fossil record is based on circular reasoning in which the fossils are dated by the rock layers which are dated by the fossils. They coroborate these dates with radioactive dating methods, but those have been proven to be unreliable. Meanwhile, Mount Saint Helens erupts and blows every previous geological theory of stratification to bits. Anyone interested in following the evidence should go away from Mt. St. Helens with major questions about the validity of the fossil record as presented by evolutionists.
If Nye was interested in proving evolution here, he would unpack exactly how each one of these is proof of his position. Better yet, he would focus on the strongest, clearest and most irrefutable one. However, none of these are irrefutable, and while they may be clear and strong to an evolutionist, they are not to the one who maintains the skepticism required by science!
Nye does not include them as evidence for evolution, he includes them as evidence for the complexity of the creationist worldview which is his real argument. His reason why you should believe evolution rather than creation is because comparatively, evolution is the less complex worldview. This, aside from being false, is extremely condescending.
To sum up, the point of all of this is that scientists try to play this intellectual high ground card. They act as though their conclusions are based solely on the evidence and anyone who disagrees with them must be superstitious or trying to squirm their way out of what’s really true. This is dishonest. There are plenty of cases in which scientists themselves must make assumptions based on their presuppositions in order to draw a conclusion. My problem is neither that they make assumptions nor with the conclusions they draw. My objection is that they do not acknowledge that they do so. They speak as though they have not done so. They speak condescendingly to those who have differing presuppositions. They act as though their position is entirely indisputable. They refuse to re-evaluate what they have previously determined to be gospel truth when new evidence like Mount St. Helens comes to light. They are intellectual hypocrites. This does not necessarily make them wrong, but it removes any wonder that those who disagree with them would give them no credibility.