New Blog Post: Bad Objections to Evolution

Jim responds to a video put out by Genesis Apologetics regarding back to school and dealing with evolution at school.

READ: https://biologos.org/post/bad-objections-to-evolution

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Good article. In my experience (which doesn’t include public school), platitudes like those shared in the video can make things more confusing once they’re employed. They can lead to a very one-sided conversation which might go well with the mirror or a less-informed peer, but when up against a knowledgeable teacher or professor, “gotcha” phrases only seem to work if you avoid listening to any of the responses.

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I had a secondary/high school science teacher who refused to teach the big bang because it contradicted with his faith (strangely he was okay with teaching us evolution). Terrible that this was allowed in a school rated outstanding in the UK no less.

Good article.

Seems like a better response to a professor saying science shows there is no need for God would be to say, “You’re going outside of science with that claim.” Enough said. :woman_shrugging:

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Life cannot come from non-life…”

“Evolution is an explanation for the diversification of life on Earth, not for the origin of life on Earth.”

How can you have “Origin of Species” without explaining the origin of the first species? Clearly as a purely natural explanation for life on Earth evolution assumes abiogenesis. If a fundamental assumption of a theory is false then the theory falls.

In “The Origin of Species” Darwin did not propose a materialistic origin of life but we know from his letters that in this he “truckled to public opinion”. Privately he supported spontaneous generation and speculated about life beginning in a “warm little pond”. While Darwin didn’t mention abiogenesis his Bulldog certainly did; he invented the term. So from the beginning if it is not actually part of the theory it has always been close coupled.

But do evolutionists consistently separate the two? No they don’t. Here are two examples.

  1. Jerry Coyne in “Why Evolution is True” talked about evolution beginning from perhaps a “self replicating molecule”. Unless you (and he) consider that molecule to be living then this is a reference to abiogenisis as the starting point of evolution.

  2. The AAAS in their collection of papers for the Darwin Anniversary included as the very first paper one on the origin of life.

Origin of life research (sometimes called “abiogenesis”) is an exciting field of research, but one where there is no consensus. More to the point, there is no plausible theory for abiogenesis! James Tour covers this in a YouTube video. This apparent failure of abiogenesis on Earth has led some to propose Panspermia; once upon a time long ago and far away life originated naturally from non living matter.

But of course theistic evolutionists don’t need to have a purely natural explanation for life since they can propose that either directly or indirectly life had a supernatural origin.

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That is a 3 minute video. It’s clearly not an in depth critique of evolution and it is intended for a general audience. None of the topics are discussed in detail so it is pretty easy to criticise it.

It is also possible to talk for three minutes about science and faith without saying so many things that are demonstrably wrong. The problem was clearly not the lack of time to get into the details.

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The same way you can have a reproductive biology class without explaining the origin of the first baby. This is not a hard concept.

If you could demonstrate tomorrow that the first living thing on Earth was the direct result of a miracle, it would have no effect at all on how scientists study evolution. Abiogenesis is studied by different researchers using different techniques.

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Nonsense. The only truth in this that rocks do not turn into tigers. But if you dispense with such strawman absurdities and look for what a first step might be then we see this all the time. The universe is filled with self-organizing phenomena.

Most of the rest is adequately answered by glipsnort.

Irrelevant. At one time there was no plausible theory for a lot of things. But now there is and this is flaw in this whole god-of-the-gaps approach to things.

This is an out and out lie! There is no failure of abiogenesis. This is an investigation which has proceeded quite steadily, is accelerating recently, and promises an answer in the near future. Panspermia was offered as an alternative from very beginning in the oldest biology texts and only for logical completeness. It has never been taken seriously and is ultimately a scientific dead end which can only lead right back to abiogenesis with the question of where did that life come from.

Theistic evolutionists don’t need to resort to such a supernatural origin either and most do not (avoiding the obviously flawed god-of-the-gaps dodge). This does not conflict with their theistic beliefs because they believe the laws of nature themselves had a supernatural origin in God.

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Mutation only loses information…”

Well nooo …. theoretically; it could happen.

But there’s no evidence that it can gain significant information at a quantity or rate sufficient to support the theory of evolution.

The information in DNA is encoded in 4 bases abbreviated as CATG. In themselves these bases don’t mean anything in the same way that the letters a-z don’t mean anything in themselves, but just as the letters of the alphabet can be arranged into words and sentences to encode information so the 4 bases can be arranged in “words” of 3 bases called codons, and the codons into sequences, to encode information, the amino acid sequence in a protein. But there is no chemical or mechanical coupling between a codon and the amino acid it codes for, which is why the genetic code is not quite universal; a codon can code different amino acids in different organisms. So DNA is a symbolic code like a language or even a computer code .

If you take say, the Gettysburg Address, and start making random changes to it what is the chance you will produce a completely new meaningful document? For practical purposes, nil. You will soon have a page of gibberish. In the same way making random changes to a gene will almost certainly destroy any function of the gene long before it produces any new functional information. In fact it’s worse for a gene than for text because on average any codon is part of the code for 5 different proteins, so even if you improve one you will probably impair others.

But still some minor improvement is possible. In bacteria mutation + natural selection can start with an enzyme with low action on nylon and significantly increase its action. But this is a trivial change, as demonstrated in the book “Only a Theory”.

Or to take another example; we have a toaster with a blown element on one side so it now produces one sided toast. You could say that it has gained a function because it now produces something it didn’t before, but clearly it is just producing a faulty version of toast.

Similarly people with Sickle Cell Anemia have DNA that has mutated at one point. Because of this, many of their red blood cells are produced in the shape of a sickle , a faulty version of normal red blood cells. If you get one copy of this gene your health is impaired, if you get 2 copies it will be fatal without medical attention. However where the incidence of malaria is high people with a single copy of the gene get protection from malaria and there is nett benefit, but even so the frequency of the faulty gene never rises above 20% in the population because of the associated adverse affects.

The sickle cell example shows that you should not confuse benefit with information gain. Another example of this is where a defect in regulation of lactase production allows adults to digest lactose in milk. It’s a loss of genetic information that produces a nett benefit.

It sounds like you’re claiming that DNA really is just an alphabet, and that different organisms can “mean” different things by that alphabet – the way English speakers mean one thing by the letter sequence p-a-i-n and French speakers mean something different. Is that the claim??

Can we get @glipsnort to evaluate this?

Which would lead some to wonder what was the genesis of the supernatural. Seemingly there either was or was not a preexisting true “nothing” or there wasn’t
.

There is abundant evidence that mutation can generate significant, functional information at a rate far higher than required by evolution. One form of evidence can be found in your own body. You possess DNA that codes for hundreds (at least) of antibodies, each precisely tuned to match a protein on a specific pathogen that you have encountered in your lifetime. You were not born with any of those antibodies or with the DNA that codes for them. The DNA – and the information needed to produce those specific antibodies – was generated from a simple template by a process of random mutation and selection; part of the process is known as ‘somatic hypermutation’.

So yeah, this is a really bad argument against evolution.

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I don’t understand what you are saying here. Chemical coupling through RNA is obvious. Perhaps you left out the word “direct” since RNA is the intermediary? In any case, it is all very explainable by chemistry and physics as to the mechanism. You are of course correct that there is a little variation, though not common. See attached link for discussion. This does not make it a symbolic code like language, as it is still governed by basic chemical attraction.

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There is a chemical coupling between codon and amino acid, in the form of the aminacyl tRNA synthetases, which are the enzymes that attach particular amino acids to tRNA molecules for constructing peptides. The mapping between codon and amino acid is arbitrary (more or less – there may be historical biochemical reasons for the mapping), in the sense that a different set of synthetases would translate a gene into a completely different string of amino acids. That makes the genetic code a code in a restricted sense: it is a mapping from input to output.

That does not make it a code in a broad sense, since there is no abstraction. You can print the word ‘pain’, you can write it in script, you can make it out of Legos, you can say it out loud – it still means the same thing. A codon, on the other, functions strictly as chemistry: only the actual molecule carries the ‘meaning’, that is, causes a particular amino acid to be added. So the genetic code is analogous to a human code, but it differs from one in important respects. And it’s nothing like a language.

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I regret to inform you, my friend Chris, that this is a completely irrelevant analogy.

The reason it is completely irrelevant is that your proposed mechanism does not apply a selection function to the randomizations. By contrast, selection is a very important part of life as described by biology.

To come up with some sort of analogy equivalent to the Gettysburg Address, you would apply a selection filter at each iteration, based on a search algorithm informed by a statistically-informed language model. If you did this, you could get to a Walt Whitman poem from the Gettysburg Address, although it might take millions of iterations.

Today, neural networks can use search + language models to generate all sorts of interesting texts. Here is an interesting prompt supplied to the GPT2 neural network:

In a shocking finding, a scientist discovered a herd of unicorns living in a remote, previously unexplored valley, in the Andes Mountains. Even more surprising to the researchers was the fact that the unicorns spoke perfect English.

And here are the first paragraphs of the neural network’s response to the prompt:

The scientist named the population, after their distinctive horn, Ovid’s Unicorn. These four-horned, silver-white unicorns were previously unknown to science.

Now, after almost two centuries, the mystery of what sparked this odd phenomenon is finally solved.

Dr. Jorge Pérez, an evolutionary biologist from the University of La Paz, and several companions, were exploring the Andes Mountains when they found a small valley, with no other animals or humans. Pérez noticed that the valley had what appeared to be a natural fountain, surrounded by two peaks of rock and silver snow.

Those 3 paragraphs (plus a few more) were produced entirely by non-human computation.

Best,
Chris

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“we’d have millions of in-between creatures running around…”

I agree that this claim is wrong and not in keeping with evolutionary theory.

All of the in-between fossils could fit in the back of my Prius…”

It is true that there is a paucity of transitional fossils, what SJ Gould called the “trade secret of paleontology”.

I’m not sure whether ALL the supposed transitional fossils could fit in the back of a Prius, but that is probably true for the supposed transitional fossils between ape and man. While it might be claimed there are fossils from more than 6,000 individuals that does not mean more than 6000 complete skeletons. In many case an individual might be represented by a single tooth. The total of all putative intermediate fossils between ape and man probably would fit in the back of a Prius; although you might have to lay the back seat down.

Not every fossil we find is “in-between” two different species. Many species persist over millions of years in the fossil record with little change and none of the fossils between first and last can be considered transitional. The transitional fossils are the ones before the first and after the last showing transition to another species and these are the ones that are generally missing.

You going to trot out that tired old Gould quote mine?

A little later he says

Doesn’t look like he is really disagreeing with evolution.

And from your own link

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Little change does not mean no change, and if those changes align with the forms that came before and after, I see no reason at all they are not transitional.

You assume a lot when you call evolution “a purely natural explanation for life on earth” on this forum. It does not follow in the least from your assumption that, if abiogenesis cannot (yet) be proven, that common descent and the mechanisms by which gene pools change over time are therefore shaky, too.

Many knowledgeable people do find the current thinking quite plausible, they just don’t insist that everyone accepts it as beyond reasonable doubt (like common descent is beyond reasonable doubt now). Are you very familiar with, say, the RNA world hypothesis?