Friday, June 10, 2011

God's Quality Control 7.2

Here I continue my thoughts on Ray Comfort's 2008 book Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups. We've finished the introduction, so now we move on to the body of the book, question #1.

I'll go ahead and read the question, the answer and all of the follow-up comments, then come back for a closer look.

In what year did USA Today report: "Paleontologists have discovered a new skeleton in the closet of human ancestry that is likely to force science to revise, if not scrap, current theories of human origins"? (A) 2001 (B) 1991 (C) 1981

The answer is "A" - 2001. Now, the follow-up comments.

<Read comments>

Wow, that all sounds pretty serious. Let's cross our fingers and go back for a closer look.

You'll see as we go through these questions that most of them seem to follow this formula: multiple-choice question with indistinguishable choices, followed by an answer that makes you wonder what was the point of having a multiple-choice question in the first place. After looking at a few of these, I conclude that the purpose of this strange presentation is to highlight, as Ray describes it, "an evolutionary expert quietly admitting that he has no evidence." Let's see what the admission is, exactly: "Paleontologists have discovered a new skeleton that is likely to force science to revise, if not scrap, current theories of human origins." Well, that is a problem, isn't it? That we might have to scrap evolutionary theory? Well, it would be, that's not what it says. It says that we might have to scrap theories of human origins. Now if you're not steeped in the science, it might be hard to catch the subtlety here, so let's not draw any conclusions yet.

The first comment says that the find might "overturn the prevailing view that a single line of descent stretched through the early stages of human ancestry." Well, even that sounds a little technical. Let's see the conclusion of this comment, which is a little more obvious: "Lucy may not even be a direct human ancestor after all." Interesting, but it has no bearing on our confidence in evolutionary theory in general.

What does the second comment say? "Lucy was a chimpanzee. The 'evidence' for the transformation from ape to man is unconvincing." This point also might go over your head if you're not a science nerd, but the title of the article makes the point obvious: "Lucy: Evolution's Solitary Claim for Ape/Man". This article is talking strictly about the relationship between Lucy and us. It's not saying anything fundamental about evolutionary theory.

Neither of these comments is saying anything about scrapping evolutionary theory, or even revisiting the idea that we are apes descended from apes. They're just talking about scrapping the prevailing views concerning "the early stages of human ancestry." All they're talking about here is the details of the family tree that we share with the other primates. Neither one of these comments says anything incriminating.

This last comment surely will be our undoing: the evidence points away from Darwinism? I just don't know what to think. Let's look at the article.
"Evidence from fossils now points overwhelmingly away from the classical Darwinism which most Americans learned in high school: that new species evolve out of existing ones by the gradual accumulation of small changes. Increasingly, scientists now believe that species change little for millions of years and then evolve quickly."
Context certainly does seem to be important here. The part that Ray quotes seems to say that evolutionary theory itself is in crisis. In proper context, we can see that the author is not saying anything about evolutionary theory. He's saying that the changes in species are often sudden, contrary to the prevailing gradualist view at the time. He even goes on to say that "the new theories are intended to explain how evolution came about—not to supplant it as a principle."

Clearly, no quiet admissions of lack of evidence concerning evolutionary theory are apparent in any of this commentary. The question itself and the first two comments simply say nothing negative at all about any facet of science. The third comment was quote-mined and grossly misrepresented. Finally, let's look at the sources for all these excerpts: USA Today in 2001; The New York Times in 2001; Newsweek in 1980; CRS Quarterly. So even if any of these quotes did say something incriminating about evolutionary theory, we should be very careful not to grant them too much credence, given that the first three are popular press and the last one is the quarterly journal of the Creation Research Society. Not to mention that two of the articles were already seven years old when Ray published his book, and one of them almost thirty. An awful lot of knowledge can be gained since in three decades. Question #1 is empty. Perhaps our blind faith in evolutionary theory was shaken, but the shaking stopped as soon as we looked at the facts.

That's 7.2. Thanks for watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment