Sunday, November 23, 2008

So they say

Darwin's lovers are alive and well.  Here are two samplings:

"[T]he way in which Darwin put together evidence and argument in On the Origin of Species marked a definitive break, and an undeniable beginning. The book, 149 years old this week, provided for the first time a way of reconciling life's past and present — a way to explain both the staggering diversity of life and its fundamental unity.
That view of life has been enriched and strengthened in the intervening century and a half, and will continue to be so. But the coming decades could also see Darwin's purview expanded in fundamental ways. The discovery of the universality of the genetic code in the 1960s — the same in elephants and E. coli, as the French molecular biologist Jacques Monod famously put it — magnificently bore out Darwin's view that life is united in a common descent. But that need not remain the case.
"An even more likely development is that life will be created de novo here on Earth. The first experiments in whole-organism synthetic biology, such as the synthetic mycoplasma being worked on at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, will cleave quite closely to the designs already developed by natural selection. But there are already schemes for going further — for using different genetic codes, for example. Although the synthesis of complex organisms might remain the stuff of fantasy for some time (see page 310), new ways of building self-replicating, one-genome, one-cell organisms seem quite plausible. The development of creatures born from an idea, not an ancestor, will undoubtedly provide new insights into evolution, not least because the proclivities of such creatures to evolve will need to be kept in check."

Author not listed.  From "Beyond the Origin."  Nature 2008, 456, 281.

That article quotes from Theodosius Dobzhansky's essay "Nothing In Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution."

"Shiek bin Baz and his like refuse to accept the radiometric evidence, because it is a 'mere theory.' What is the alternative? One can suppose that the Creator saw fit to play deceitful tricks on geologists and biologists. He carefully arranged to have various rocks provided with isotope ratios just right to mislead us into thinking that certain rocks are 2 billion years old, others 2 million, which in fact they are only some 6,000 years old. This kind of pseudo-explanation is not very new. One of the early antievolutionists, P. H. Gosse, published a book entitled Omphalos ("the Navel"). The gist of this amazing book is that Adam, though he had no mother, was created with a navel, and that fossils were placed by the Creator where we find them now – a deliberate act on His part, to give the appearance of great antiquity and geologic upheaveals. It is easy to see the fatal flaw in all such notions. They are blasphemies, accusing God of absurd deceitfulness. This is as revolting as it is uncalled for..."

"Is there an explanation, to make intelligible to reason this colossal diversity of living beings? Whence came these extraordinary, seemingly whimsical and superfluous creatures, like the fungus Laboulbenia, the beetle Aphenops cronei, the flies Psilopa petrolei and Drosophila carciniphila, and many, many more apparent biologic curiosities? The only explanation that makes sense is that the organic diversity has evolved in response to the diversity of environment on the planet earth."

It is crucial to note each author's "point of departure," the point where they stop collecting information, and begin voicing their worldview.  For example, Dobzhansky notes the incredible complexity of living beings.  He poses, then answers, his own question: "Why the diversity?"  He attempts to pass his worldview off as the only reasonable option.  But is he right in making this assumption?  Merely ridiculing others' positions is not enough to discredit them.  While Dobzhansky rejects the explanation that P.H. Gosse puts forward, he does so with a mere wave of the hand, and no rigorous explanations.  Has he become the spokesperson of God?  Or is he projecting his own preferences, assumptions, and prejudices onto God?  After all, God did create a mature man and woman, not a defenseless pair of babies.  Is God biased against the thought of a mature creation, or is Dobzhansky?
    Similarly, note the point of departure in the article from Nature.  All known organisms' genetic information is encoded in DNA.  This means... there!  The point of departure!  The evolutionist writing the article will now interpret the facts for his readers, and his interpretation will be consistent with his worldview.  I wonder if the author recognized the point of departure as he wrote it.  Did he recognize his transition from observation to interpretation?  While the author believes that the discovery and characterization of DNA "magnificently bore out Darwin's view that life is united in a common descent," I know that this is simply the author's opinion.  And yet, all too often, evolutionists lump fact and opinion, observation and interpretation.  Because of this, many people view DNA as evidence for evolution.  But does the universality of the genetic code necessarily point to common descent, or is it possible that it points to a common Designer?
   I am convinced that the latter case is true.  But I understand that not everyone will interpret the facts as I do.  Whether or not you agree with my assessment, critically analyzing the writings of authors writing about evolution (or any other topic) will be instructive.  The more you clearly demarcate observation and interpretation, the better you will understand the characterization and motivation of the authors you read.

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