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Friday, December 8, 2017

Proof for Evolution? Part 2

In my introduction to this series, I pointed out the casual use of the word “prove” in the article, Three Pieces of Evidence That Prove Evolution is a Fact. People who claim to respect science are usually quick to point out that science never proves anything so, if anything, this evidence only proves evolution is dogma to some people. Generally, theories are falsified rather than proven. Think about this:

If I ate an entire pizza, I'd be full.
I'm full.
Therefore, I must have eaten an entire pizza.

Of course, I could be full if I'd eaten an entire pizza but being full by itself doesn't prove my theory. I could be full for some other reason, like eating a pound of bacon. Likewise, the three evidences presented in the article could be explained by evolution but they still don't prove evolution because some other explanation – the correct explanation – might exist for the same evidence. In the case of these three, I would say they can all be explained by supernatural creation but even if I had no other explanation whatsoever, I would still say they don't prove evolution because there could still be some unknown explanation waiting to be discovered.

So let's look at these three “proofs.”

Common Traits. Common Ancestor.

Think about your family. You and your closest relatives look more alike than you and your cousins. Likewise, you look more like your cousins than you do more distant relatives, and more like distant relatives that people on the other side of the globe. The closer you are related, by-and-large, the more similarities you share.... This patterning, like in your family, extends throughout all life on Earth.

It's true that evolution could explain similar features in closely related species. Of course, created things can also have common traits. Consider this illustration. The tricycle and the cart obviously have features in common but the cart certainly hasn't evolved from the tricycle. Their only relationship is that they were designed to perform similar functions. Some of their similarities, the blue frame, the black tires with heavy tread, the black seats and steering, etc, are merely the preferences of the designers. Likewise, similar features among different creatures could be evidence they were designed by a Creator and reflect his purpose and preferences.

What evolution fails to explain well are similar features in creatures that aren't considered closely related by their theory. Humans and chimps both have an appendix. If they are both descended from a common ancestor that also had an appendix, it would make sense we both have one. However, possums also have an appendix. Possums are marsupial mammals which supposedly split from placental mammals 65 million years ago so they cannot have a recent ancestor. If evolution were true, we should be able to trace the appendix along the so called, “tree of life,” and see that all species with an appendix also have a common ancestor. Instead, it appears randomly across the tree of life while being absent in species that supposedly link them.

There are also fingerprints. Humans and chimps have fingerprints but so do koalas. According to LiveScience, “[K]oalas, doll-sized marsupials that climb trees with babies on their backs, have fingerprints that are almost identical to human ones. Not even careful analysis under a microscope can easily distinguish the loopy, whirling ridges on koalas' fingers from our own.... The remarkable thing about koala prints is that they seem to have evolved independently. On the evolutionary tree of life, primates and modern koalas' marsupial ancestors branched apart 70 million years ago.” So common features are not “proof” of common ancestry, even according to evolution!

We See Species Changing Over Time

One of the most important discoveries that lead to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was extinct animals found as fossils. Early paleontologists, like Charles Lyell and George Cuvier, noticed a very simple fact: Species that lived in the past are very often drastically, wildly different from anything alive today. Trilobites, dinosaurs, giant sloths, baculites, etc., they all suggest that life on Earth has changed quite a bit.

I like to use dogs as examples of change in populations because most people are familiar with dogs and know they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The problem with evolution is that dogs never come in new shapes, sizes, and colors. Take color, for example. Dogs can be white, brown, black, blonde, and red. However, they aren't green or blue. Why not? It's because the “change” we observe in species are merely rearrangements of traits already present in the population.

Natural selection can only ever select from traits that already exist – hence, we call it, “selection.” For evolution to be possible, creatures have to acquire new traits. For a dinosaur to become a bird, you would have to add feathers. For a fish to become a frog, you would have to add legs. To turn a bacterium into a basset hound would require a millions of years long parade of new traits being added generation after generation. We don't see any new traits. We see changes among animal populations. We don't see evolution!

I noticed something very interesting about the illustration of human evolution used in the article. If you look carefully, you'll notice the only direct ancestor shown for Homo sapiens is Homo erectus. All other species are linked by some unnamed, imagined common ancestor. Isn't that interesting? Finding a human ancestor is the life dream of any paleontologist but after more than a century of looking, no “clear progression” from ape to human has been found.

The Remnants of Past Generations

Turn over a manufactured product today, and you are likely to see a small sticker or tag that says what country it was made in. Like those tags, species bear the marks of where they came from. These signs of origin might come in the form of repurposed traits, traits that hurt a species chances of surviving or reproducing.

The author appears to be talking about vestigial organs. The champion of all vestigial organs ever touted by evolutionists is the appendix. I've discussed above how the appendix being present in some mammals but absent in the species that are supposed to link them is evidence against common ancestry. What I didn't mention above is, if the appendix is vestigial, it's even more difficult for evolution to explain how it would evolve independently in different species. Put another way, why should I believe the appendix served some function so well that “nature” created it in several different species of mammal but now it's nothing more than a useless leftover?

Some people say human facial hair is vestigial, left over from a time we had a heavy coat of fur. However, have you every noticed how men have hair on their lips, chin, jaw, and brown while chimps (supposedly our closest cousins) have virtually no hair around their mouths nor on their brow? Did we evolve this since human/chimps split from their alleged ancestor? If so, how is it vestigial?

Even defining an organ as vestigial is problematic because there is no, simple, rigorous definition of the word, “vestigial.” Just as above, some people claim it is a useless leftover. In a article dealing with vestigial organs, LiveScience said this about the appendix: Any secondary function that the appendix might perform certainly is not missed in those who had it removed before it might have ruptured.This definition fails because I could live a long, normal life even if I cut the little finger off my left hand. That certainly doesn't prove my finger is vestigial. Furthermore, sometimes a structure might have a purpose that hasn't been identified. We have found, for example, that the appendix does help our immune system. But even if an organ can be found to truly have no function, it can still be explained by the creation model. God could have created an animal with a functioning structure but over time, through mutation and degradation, the structure has become functionless.

In conclusion, these three evidences are not only fail as proof of evolution, I believe they are weak at explaining anything. The same things are explained as well, or maybe better, by creation.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Proof for Evolution? Part 1

I came across an article recently on titled, “Three Pieces of Evidence That Prove Evolution is a Fact.” You'll notice the article is over 3 years old but I'm sorry – it's a big world wide web and I haven't gotten to all of it yet. Even so, the “proof” presented in the article is the same stuff I continue to hear so I thought I'd write a post discussing it. At first I thought about making this a 3 part series but I've done a couple of series recently and didn't want to start another. Even so, if I tried to address everything in a single post, it would be a very long post. Therefore, I've decided to make this a very short series: an introduction and a rebuttal.

I'll address the three evidences in my next post. For now, there's a lot I could say about the article just from its opening paragraphs. I think they shed a lot of light on the attitude of its author. First, there's the title: “prove evolution is a fact.” Really? Prove? I thought science doesn't ever prove anything. Actually, let me quote another article from, Don’t ever say around me that science has “proven” something unless you want an ear full. Understanding why that phrase is problematic is essential to understanding the most important tool humans have ever devised to understand reality – science. Isn't that a hoot? The same website that warns us to never say science “proves” anything turns right around and says the evidence has proven evolution!

The first paragraph starts saying,For over 150 years—since the time of Charles Darwin—the Theory of Evolution has been through more scrutiny and rigorous investigation than just about any other scientific claim.Hmm. “Investigation”? Maybe. “Scrutiny”? Please! I've said many times before that most scientists proudly boast that they only ever consider natural explanations. Regarding our origins, evolution is the only natural explanation so they don't scrutinize it. No matter how weakly it might explain some phenomenon, no matter how little evidence there is for some point of the theory, no matter how absurd some of its explanations are, they will never question the theory itself because the only alternative is supernatural creation which they've disqualified in advance.

The article continues, And the theory has only been strengthened as more evidence has been accrued. I wouldn't say the theory has been strengthened but, rather, it has been fleshed out as more evidence is found. It's a case of having a theory and then seeking out evidence for it. You see, every time they think they have some part of evolution figured out, some new discovery is made that forces them to rethink everything. I've asked before, how many times are they allowed to redraw the tree? How many times does will different points of the theory be proven wrong before people begin questioning the theory itself?

Next, the article says, While there are many that people who, for ideological reasons, want to make it seem like evolution is not widely accepted within the scientific community, this is not actually the case. Of course that's not the case and no one says it is. Creationists might sometimes point out a contention in the scientific community about some point of evolution but that's only to show that evolution is not the neat package that's being presented to the lay public. However, we completely understand that, even though scientists might disagree on different points of evolution, they don't question the theory itself. Where creationists disagree with evolutionists is over whether evolution is true, not whether evolutionists really believe it!

Across universities, research institutions, and scientific organizations, evolution is not only nearly universally accepted,...” Yes, “the science is settled” and most scientists do not question the theory of evolution. By the way, there is an oft quoted statistic that 99.9% of all scientists accept evolution but I've never seen a scientific survey to support that. Regardless, how many scientists believe evolution isn't evidence for evolution. Scientists – even the majority of scientists – can be wrong. Before Galileo, for example, the majority of people believed the sun orbited the earth. Anyway, back to the point, “... [evolution] is also the basis upon which active, exciting, and important research is being done. Indeed, the scientific fact that is evolution is the basis of most of biology. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Evolution is the basis only for research into evolution; it's completely irrelevant to any other field of science.

If you were to google, “how evolution helps research,” you'll find plenty of articles by people trying to convince you that understanding evolution is critical to scientific research. Here's another exercise to try: see if you can find any invention, scientific advancement, or life improving technology whose discovery hinged upon evolution being true. From a survey into the relevance of evolution to academia, we have this quote:

The message that Darwinists convey to the public is often very different than what they recognize as true among themselves. Although they state to the public that, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” most scientists can “conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas”.... One “notable aspect of natural scientists in assembly is how little they focus on evolution. It’s day-to-day irrelevance is a great ‘paradox’ in biology”.

There you have it, folks. Scientists say evolution is important but it's seldom referenced in their research. This is why I call evolution the trivial pursuit branch of science.

I'll discuss the three evidences in my next post. We can see from just the opening paragraphs, though, we shouldn't expect too much. Please check back soon!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How many jellybeans are in this jar?

I was watching Michael Shermer on YouTube the other day. He was using an argument that I've written about before, where he basically says Christians are mostly atheists. We reject a myriad of gods – there's just one more God over which atheists and Christians disagree. He puts a little twist on the argument, though, suggesting that since there are so many religions out there, no one can possibly know which of them is true.

I've always found this argument to be curious. What is he really trying to say? That since we can't know which religion is true then none of them are true? That's what he'd like you to believe but he knows he can't say it in those words because it sounds absurd.

I love using analogies and sometimes try to use analogies to show the weaknesses of certain arguments. In this case, I'm going to use a jar of jellybeans to demonstrate why I think Shermer's argument fails.

Imagine there's a jar of jellybeans and we're given the task of guessing how many there are. The rules are pretty liberal; the only restriction is that we're not allowed to open the jar. If everybody made a guess, I'm sure you'd have a very wide range of answers. Of course, they can't all be right.

Just by looking at the glass, I could come up with a guess that might be reasonable. But if I were really determined to know how many jellybeans there are, I could go to greater lengths:

  • I could count how many jellybeans were visible at the very bottom, count the number along a straight line up the side, and multiply the two together. This could get me pretty close.
  • I could find an identical jar and count how many jellybeans it would take to fill it. That would be a very close estimate too.
  • I could weigh the full jar, weigh the empty jar, then weigh an individual jellybean. The difference in weight between the full jar and empty jar, divided by the weight of an individual bean should tell me about how many jellybeans are in the full jar.
  • I could compare all these different methods and see if any or all of them arrived at the same number or a very narrow range of numbers.

Consider, too, that as I narrow down my estimate, I could also rule out other people's bad guesses. I know the guy who guesses there's only 1 bean in the jar is wrong because I can see more than one through the glass. I know the guy who guesses a million jellybeans is wrong because a million wouldn't fit inside. Furthermore, I could focus on those guesses that are close to mine and ask those people how they arrived at their number. Based on what they say, I might think of other experiments which might give me even more confidence in my estimate.

My point is this: there is a correct answer. There is an objective answer that could be known if I were allowed to open the jar and count the jellybeans. There is only one correct number and every other guess is wrong. Even if I can never know the exact number, I know that by determination and investigation, I can have confidence that my estimate could be the correct number or, at the very least, be very, very close.

When we apply Shermer's argument to the jellybeans, he seems to suggest that any guess is as good as another but because we don't have the actual number, then all guesses must be equally wrong. It's like he's saying that, since I can't ever be sure of the exact number, my guess can't be correct nor even close. In the case of beliefs, Shermer is literally saying that, because there are so many beliefs, mine cannot possible be true. How does that follow? At best, Shermer might say we should all be agnostic but he isn't arguing for agnosticism – he's making a case for atheism. That would be like saying since we can't know how many jellybeans are in the jar, then there aren't any! You can see how that doesn't work.

There are lots of religions in the world. There are a lot of ideas about God. I admit, they can't all be right but that alone doesn't prove they're all wrong. Reasonable arguments can be made that God must exist. Reasonable arguments can be made that the Bible is His revealed word. Reasonable arguments can be made that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Even if I'm wrong on some minor detail here or there, I am confident that I am very, very close to the Truth. What is not reasonable is to say that, because other people have different beliefs, then we shouldn't believe any of them.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Friendly Atheist Has 78 Questions for Christians: Conclusion

When I started answering Hemant Mehta's questions for Christians, I knew I wouldn't get to all of them. This is my last post in this series and I have managed to answer more than I thought I would. These last few questions kind of deal with general theology but they're a little more random than the questions included in each previous post so this will seem to jump around a little.

51) What are the minimum requirements for being a Christian?
52) And who falls under that definition?

If I had to strip away everything but the bare minimum, I would say there are 2 non-negotiable items that identify someone as a Christians:

First, he must understand who Jesus is. Jesus is the eternal Son, the second Person of the Trinity, the God who became flesh, who lived, died, and rose again. Next, a person must repent of his sins and accept Jesus as his Lord. Either one of these alone is not sufficient; a person must believe both to be saved.

The Bible attests in many places that demons understand who Jesus is. James 2:19 says, Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. The demons, of course, do not worship Jesus as their Lord. There are also certain cults, like Jehovah's Witnesses that say Jesus is their Lord, but they have a wrong understanding of who Jesus is. To them, He is a created being not equal to the Father. So anyone who believes one or the other cannot be saved unless he believes both.

Who is a Christian, then? Only God knows for certain. Jesus did tell us many times that we can identify them by their fruit. Just like in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the workers did not know that some of the plants were tares until the wheat began to show its fruit (v. 26). We can ask a person what he believes about Jesus. We can examine his life for fruits. But Jesus knows for certain and at the end of this age, when the harvest comes, the wheat will be gathered into barns and the tares will be burned.

60) If you could go back into time to when Jesus was being crucified, would you try to save Him or would you stand back and do nothing since your entire faith depends on Him being crucified?

Let's be clear about something: Jesus didn't need to be “saved.” At His arrest, when Peter tried to fight off the guards, Jesus said to him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:52-53). Nobody took Jesus' life from Him. He laid it down willingly and nothing I might have done could have stopped Him.

My question to Mehta is, will you admit your part in Jesus' crucifixion? Is there any guilt, regret, or remorse for any of the sins you committed for which He died to atone?

70) Can you pause the video right now and tell me what the 10 Commandments are?
71) And if you know them, and good for you if you do, why do so many Christians believe that the first four of them belong on government property and in the classrooms?

Hosea 4:6 says, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It has always been a pet peeve of mine that too many Christians will not invest the time nor effort into learning God's word. Having said that, I'm not sure what the point of this question is except to embarrass Christians for not knowing the commandments given by the God they claim to worship. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us we should, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. I suppose the opposite is also true – if we don't study, God doesn't approve and we should be ashamed!

Richard Dawkins tried to make this same point. When self-identified Christians couldn't answer basic questions about the Bible, he doubted their Christianity. One radio host turned the tables on him by asking if Dawkins knew the full title of Darwin's book. Dawkins hemmed and hawed. So do I conclude that anyone who doesn't know the full title of Darwin's book really doesn't believe in evolution? What does this say about the truth of the theory? So you can see that questions like this really don't prove atheism is correct or that Christianity is false. It's nothing more than a gotcha!

Mehta asked if the first four commandments “belong on government property and in the classrooms?” I'm a big proponent of the First Amendment and I hate the popular paraphrase: the separation of church and state. The 10 Commandments belong anywhere people want to exercise their religion. In other words, people do not give up their rights when they step onto government owned property. I'm reminded of Brittany McComb, the valedictorian at Foothill High School who had her mic turned off during her speech because she was talking about the influence God had in her life. I guess if she had thanked Oprah or Tony Robbins, that would have been OK.

I can agree that the state should not display the 10 Commandments and exclude any other view. I cannot agree that anything religious should be banned from government property. That type of “neutrality” actually makes the state hostile toward religion.

57) Do you really believe Mary was impregnated without having sex?
58) If someone came up to you and said she was pregnant but she was totally a virgin, would you believe her?

I would start by pointing out that Joseph did not believe Mary, either, and sought to divorce her (make a legal ending to their formal engagement). Sometimes, people of ancient cultures are maligned with the accusation that they were unlearned and unscientific. In this case, Joseph understood how women become pregnant and so assumed Mary had been with another man. You could also say even Mary didn't believe at first. She too understood how women become pregnant and asked the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (Luke 1:34). My incredulity at the claim of a virgin being pregnant would likely have been the same as Mary, Joseph, and Mehta. Perhaps it would take an angel appearing to me before I believed.

What was truly of the virgin birth is also true of every miracle. Even ancient people understood certain things about the world and when Jesus performed a miracle, they knew it had to be a miracle because the world doesn't operate that way. It is by performing miracles, we know Jesus has the ability to keep His promises. Jesus told Martha, Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25). He then raised Lazarus who had been dead 4 days.

Jesus spoke the universe in existence. He walked on water, calmed the storm, healed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, turned water into wine, and performed a host of other miracles. Do you really think He couldn't split an egg in a virgin?