Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Explaining the Differences

(This is part 6 in a series evaluating Dinesh D'Souza's reasons for accepting evolution.)

In his otherwise excellent book, What's So Great About Christianity, Dinesh D'Souza seemingly takes off his thinking cap in the chapter about evolution. We have already dismissed (as both fallacious and false) two of his four reasons for accepting the evolutionary myth of our day. The other two reasons he offers (his reasons #3 and #4) are found in this paragraph...
The great strength of evolution as a scientific theory is that it makes sense of two huge facts about life. On the one hand, all living things from trees to cats to humans are formed from the same genetic material. Beyond this, it is evident that many groups of organisms show similar characteristics. So there is a unity to life. At the same time, living creatures exhibit incredible diversity. There are literally millions of living species with widely varying characteristics. Evolution accounts both for the similarities and the differences. It accounts for common characteristics by positing that the creatures possessing them descended from the same ancestor. It explains the differences by suggesting that creatures evolved new traits over a long period of time under the pressures of survival.
My first reaction to reading this paragraph was "Hello? Is that supposed to be an argument?" D'Souza notes two things about life on Earth; it is both diverse and yet similar. It so happens that people throughout history have noted these same two things, so Darwin broke no new ground there. It would be a poor theory about life's diversity that did not attempt to account for these two hallmarks of living things, but what we need from such a scientific theory is supporting evidence, verified predictions, coherence with the available record. But what's more bothersome is that D'Souza gives no indication that he understands the issues at all. He does not (except in the hand-waving sort of way typical of the evolutionists he is here parroting) make any attempt to support the claim that evolution accounts for these things.

In the next post, let me deal with the similarity or unity issue. This is the one that seems to impress many folks today. For this post, let me focus on the fact that life is diverse. And let me break it down very basically...

Let us say, for the sake of simplicity, that there are only two scientific explanations on the table. One is evolution, the idea that all life evolved from a single common ancestor through a gradual, unbroken chain of normal reproduction. On this view, the mechanisms invoked are random genetic mutation and natural selection. The other theory is that the same transcendent, personal Being who created the universe also created life, both first life and subsequent versions.

Now, in exactly what way does the fact of there being a great diversity of life somehow argue in favor of the former and against the latter? I'm not seeing it at all. And if there's something here that I am missing, D'Souza was remiss in not making it clear. It seems, on the face of it, that an appeal to the great diversity of life provides absolutely no positive support for evolutionary theory and quite a bit of refutation of it. That life is diverse was known long before Darwin came along, and offers no refutation of the default view that diverse life forms are not linked by evolution but were created as diverse life forms.

If there were, in fact, evidence that life has bridged the great gaps between diverse forms, than we might take such a claim seriously. But the very diversity that impresses D'Souza in favor of evolution was seen by Darwin as a real and valid objection to his theory, and he hoped that further paleontological work would demonstrate a continuum bridging the diverse groups. It has not, of course.

Let me put it another way. Darwin's theory was never (contrary to D'Souza) about explaining the similarities between living things (we'll reiterate that in the next post). It was an attempt to explain the differences. And while it is true that modern evolutionists claim that their theory accounts for the differences, the fact remains that the hoped-for evidence is entirely missing. Evolution as an explanation for the differences among living things remains nothing but a story, much like the expensive new clothes bought by the emperor in Hans Christian Anderson's short story.

Regarding evolution's success at such an explanation, all D'Souza offers is this...
It explains differences by suggesting that creatures evolved new traits over a long period of time under the pressures of survival.
He's close to the truth here. Evolutionary theory merely suggests, but offers no supporting evidence for that suggestion. It appeals to long periods of time (as though the seemingly impossible becomes plausible by such an appeal to time). But whereas Darwin assumed that his theory had infinite time in which to work its hidden marvels, today's evolutionists naively ignore the findings of modern cosmology, which show that the universe is instead quite finite. And then, the "pressures of survival" (natural selection) can now be seen as a force that keeps living things from changing, and not one that magically helps them to produce new traits.

The failure of evolution to account for the differences between living organisms is exemplified by the gap between chimpanzees and humans. The genomes of these two creatures are far more similar than evolutionists hoped or feared, and yet that similarity utterly fails to explain why humans are on a completely different level (consciously, intellectually, technologically, spiritually, with regard to moral awareness) than this species with such a similar genetic make-up. And on this issue, the default (and competing) scientific theory remains viable, unrefuted by the evidence. That theory claims (and has always claimed) that humans and chimps were created as different species, and that no purely materialist differences will be sufficient to account for their significant differences.

We have now seen through three of D'Souza's four reasons for accepting evolution. Last, we'll tackle the similarity among living things...

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