Rebuttal #1 for Evolution
- Budikka, 2/27/2000

The Creation Fallacy - Part 2

Note: to save space, the following key is used:

MO = My Opponent
ToE = The Theory of Evolution
TBC = The Big Creation

Muhammad Ali was a formidable boxer, but you know something? He never beat an opponent by dancing around the ring, shadow boxing and ranting. MO could use a page out of Ali's book. He says, "a theory that explains everything explains nothing." I invite him to tell this to physicists searching for a Grand Unified Theory! He fails to see that it is TBC which claims to explain everything, not ToE.

The test of good science is not whether it answers everything, but whether it answers more now than it did 10, 50, 100 years ago. By this measure, TBC fails. It offers nothing new, whereas ToE has bloomed, seeing many predictions come true and finding evolutionary links in genetics and paleoanthropology unknown in Darwin's time.

I thank MO for proving my charges of creationist smoke and mirrors. He has the nerve to issue two challenges to me yet he has properly answered none of mine. I will deal with his, but first, I challenge MO to produce documented evidence that valid scientific papers submitted by creationists are deliberately kept out of scientific literature, or admit this claim is a shameful invention. I would be willing to bet that far more non-creationists are refused publication in peer-reviewed journals than ever are creationists. How would MO explain this?

I ask MO to prove his claim that 39 out of 40 births have deleterious mutations. If this were truly the case, there would be no species left but bacteria. Humanity could not have survived even if created in 4,000BC. MO references material concerning Haldane's so-called dilemma in talk.origins (after chiding me for referencing them), yet fails to refer you to rebuttal material there.

I challenge MO to explain how a perfect creator can make human 95% of DNA junk. If Ford offered a car, 95% of which was worthless junk, would you consider it the work of a superlative engineer, or an incompetent blunderer? On the other hand, if you bought a used car, and found all kinds of ad hoc gizmos aimed at hotrodding it, is it more likely that this was created at the factory, or that it evolved to its present form by means of additions here and there by previous owners? Our DNA is no different.

It is sad that MO has a web site attacking ToE when he quite clearly has not grasped what it is. Evolution is nothing more than a change in allele frequency in a population. This, coupled with environmental conditions lead to all the manifestations that we see, from minor variation to macro-evolution. If MO disagrees, it is incumbent upon him to supply evidence supportive of his disagreement, not just chant tired creationist mantras.

Creationists know that ToE is a fact. That's why they have to carve it into sections, defining each section differently in order to be able to deny those parts that they do not like. Thus they can allow that evolution happens (small scale variation), but they cannot allow that evolution happens (large scale variation). Can you say, "Hypocrisy"?

For two years on the internet I have challenged creationists to answer only two questions, but they remain unanswered. I now challenge MO:

1. What is the scientific definition of "kind" quoted in Genesis?

2. What is the biological or genetic mechanism which can permit huge "variation" within a "kind" yet stop dead magically at the "kind" barrier, preventing one "kind" from evolving into another "kind"?

If he cannot answer these, he needs to admit that he has no arguument against macro-evolution.

If you see a change in allele frequency, you observe evolution. If you get a new strain of flu, you observe evolution. If you find a steadily changing fossil population, with transitional forms, you observe evolution. If you sample the genes of various organisms and find a pattern of relatedness, you observe evolution.

There can be no relatedness if every "kind" is "magicked" out of nothing. The fossil record ought to provide far more specimens than it does and in much better condition if they were buried in a flood only 4,000 years ago, and the organisms ought to be completely mixed. None of this is the case. This alone disproves the creationist case.

I challenge MO to explain how it is that there is not a single flowering plant in the fossil record below the Cretaceous period.

I challenge MO to explain how it is that not one single hominid managed to get mixed in with the dinosaurs.

I challenge MO to show me where his creationist scenario accounts for five separate, major extinctions which the fossil record shows in aquatic life, and nine separate land plant extinctions which do not match up with the other five. (See "The Evolutionary Biology of Plants" by Karl J. Niklas, University of Chicago Press, 1997).

Creationists accuse others of ad hominem attacks, but all creationists do is ad hominem ad neauseam. Look at MO's virulent attacks on me and on the talk.origins web site. I quote: "Its ironic that Buddika immediately resorts to this in the beginning of his post, since his very opening argument is laced with misquotes"

I challenge MO to highlight every single misquote in my opening statement. I lined up three quotes. As an afterthought, I added one from Wickramasinghe. Unfortunately I didn't address this in that subsequent paragraph. Mea culpa. I admit it - Wickramasinghe is not a committed creationist. Slap my wrist.

Anyone of reason and restraint would have brought this to my attention and then moved on, but MO cannot afford to do this! You know why? Because he is desperately putting up mirrors and wafting smoke in your face to distract you from the undeniable fact that the other 3 quotes, exactly as I stated, are committed creationists who admit that creation is not science. A vice president of the Creation Research Society: "There is no scientific evidence for special creation"

I challenge him to show precisely where "Budikka twists the words of the creationists he quotes." The issue here is not what creationists think about ToE (duh!). The issue is that they testified under an oath to god himself that creation is not science.

Unlike TBC, ToE has only one basic theory. It is logically organised and scientifically valid, based not on a mythical book, but on direct observation of the real world. Scientists are actively trying to prove or disprove aspects of it. TBC offers no parallel. I challenge MO, if he disagrees, to outline exactly what TBC theory is.

Darwin predicted that there should be a fossil record showing simple organisms changing over time, related by common threads. This is precisely what has been found. Darwin suggested that a primitive chemical soup was the birthplace of life. Lab experiments have confirmed this possibility.

Cosmology predicted that evidence of the Big Bang should show in the form of quite uniform background radiation across all of space. Lo and behold, there it is, confirmed by the COBE satellite.

ToE predicted intermediate species between humans and ape-like ancestors. In 1859, there was precisely one hominid fossil. Now there are scores of them of all shapes and sizes. Creationists could argue, back in the 1860's, that there were no transitional forms. They cannot honestly argue this today.

MO chides me for attacking creationists, yet all I did was refer to a URL that examines their credentials. Does he champion those who are dishonest about their qualifications? Does he advocate the word of someone who literally bought their PhD from a house in Colorado over that of someone who spent 8 or 10 years working for one in an accredited university? He can be gullible if he wishes, but the truth is much more important to me. It is not enough to read the message. One must also evaluate the messenger.

Talking of the message, imagine this conversation:

E: I have a book that proves evolution beyond all doubt.

C: Where is the book?

E: Well actually it isn't so much a book as a collection of essays written by a bunch of people over a period of years.

C: Who wrote it?

E: I don't really know who the authors were.

C: Can I look at the original manuscripts to see if we can verify their authenticity?

E: Sorry, I don't have any of the original manuscripts.

C: You only have a copy?

E: Yep.

C: How can you trust that it reflects the original?

E: Oh, I just know it does!

C: How are the authors qualified to assert these things?

E: I have no idea, but they swear they are telling the truth!

C: So we go on nothing but the say-so of anonymous people and don't even have the original work?

E: Do you have a problem with that?

C: Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!

Now imagine that the book under discussion is the Bible and the one holding it is a creationist and read that conversation again.

MO chides me for attacking the Bible, yet if I suddenly insisted that all ToE text books were above criticism, because they were divine, would he accept that? Of course not. If MO thinks the Bible is sacred, it is up to him to prove it. If he thinks there is a god, it is up to him to prove it. I am not obliged to accept it without proof.

I engaged all MO's material, but now he claims the bulk of it (the 50K of Bible evidences directly accessible on his site) is actually a different site and cannot be a part of TBC-ToE debate! No matter. I have demonstrated what a flawed work the Bible is and MO has failed to rebut my arguments, so I shall take this as a concession and move on.

MO accuses me of "hand-waving" to distract you, yet it is he who utterly avoids dealing with damning indictments of Biblical reliability by waving his hands in the direction of other scriptures! If and when MO uses stories from other faiths, let him be assured I shall attack those, too.

More smoke and mirrors: MO accuses me of leaving a word out in my mention of The Jesus Seminar. I left nothing out. The word "liberal" which he adds is not an omission of mine, but a sad indictment of his appalling bias. His vitriol makes me wonder what happened to the Biblical injunctions to love they neighbor and turn the other cheek. Obviously that seed fell on stoney ground.

Unlike the creationists, I give URLs so you can conveniently judge for yourself. MO does not trust you to do this. He wants to make your mind up for you, which is why his site offers no opposing URLs (unlike the talk-origins site which offers many). Who, I ask, is the more open-minded here? Clearly MO is interested only in material which supports his preconceived notions. "The Jesus Seminar and Its Critics" by Robert J. Miller (Polebridge Press, 1999) which will adequately refute MO's bizarre and vindictive charges.

If a scientific search for the truth led us to god, what could be a greater testimony to his glory? TBC would deny that opportunity by walling us in with their obsolete dogma. I guess they never read the Bible text that urges scientific endeavor: "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." Remember what happened to Gallileo? It was not science which arrested his search for the truth, but the church.

Creationists chant tired arguments like Nebraska and Piltdown. These were scientific errors, discovered by science, admitted by science, and corrected by science. If scientists were an elite club, shoring up a faith as creationists claim, such errors would never be exposed, rest assured. Let's face it - if creationists had truly found real flaws in ToE, would they be relentlessly harping on the same ancient nonsense from which science has long ago moved on?

Creationists forget that their dogma had its day and ended up in the doghouse because it was all bark and no bite. There was a time when they did rule, when their beliefs were what was taught in school. If it were the truth, what happened to it? Why did their god let it be thrown out in favor of science?

If MO came up with a list of 300 talk-origins lies, as I did a list of 300 TBC lies, then I could understand his vitriol, but he has not. In his response, he consistently fails to engage the points I make in favor of character assassination, sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors. I challenge him (or any creationist) to answer the 300 lies here.

I further challenge him to document the lies he pretends are in the talk-origins archive. If he cannot do so, then you can judge his behavior for yourselves. MO made two specific challenges. Let's look at the one I didn't cover yet:

"...Invertebrate fossils constitute 95% of the entire fossil record...These complex life forms appear in the fossil record, WITHOUT A SINGLE TRACE OF ANCESTORS!"

This is as far from the truth as it gets. The so-called explosion of life in the Cambrian was 500-600 million years ago. The Precambrian occupies 90% of Earth's history, and traces of life (including fossils) are found in it back to 3.8 billion years ago. Thus there is no sudden appearance and no lack of ancestors.

Since he quite obviously cannot answer the detailed FAQs at the talk origins web site, which list a multitude of examples of transitional forms in the vertebrate record, MO dismisses this evidence with a vitriolic attack, then basically turns around and says, "Okay, so you can prove vertebrate evolution, but I'll bet you can't prove it for invertebrates!" (see what I mean about asking for every step?)

I invite MO to post his question about supposed missing invertebrate transitionals in the talk.origins news group, where the regulars will be happy to supply him with the answers he seeks.

Next I list these books:

"Understanding Evolution" by E. Peter Volpe (Wm. C. Brown, 1984) which, in Chapter 17, details snail evolution, supporting both Darwinian descent with modification and Eldredge and Gould's punctuated equilibrium within the same fossil bed!

"Evolution and escalation" by G. J. Vermeij (Princeton University Press, 1987) which not only addresses invertebrate transitions, but the even bigger gaps in MO's knowledge base.

"Evolution" by Mark Ridley (Blackwell Science, 1996)

"The Fossil Book : A Record of Prehistoric Life" by Rich, Rich, Fenton, & Fenton (Dover Publications, 1997)

"Wonderful Life" by Stephen Gould (WW Norton, 1989)

"History of Life" by Richard Cowen (Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1995)

"Vital Dust" by Nobel Laureate Christian de Duve (Basic Books, 1995) outlines pathways from what creationists love to call "inanimate matter" to cellular life.

"Eight Little Piggies" by Stephen Gould (WW Norton, 1993). An article called "Wheels and Wedges" recounts direct evidence of snail evolution in response to more predatory crabs in the fossil record, which Darwin himself drew our attention to.

Finally there is a university course called "The Evolution of invertebrate phyla"! What does MO suppose they fill this course with if there is no evidence?

Note that if there is even one transitional form in the fossil record, regardless of where it appears, this disproves the creationist claim that there are no transitional forms, but I can do better than this: I can show documented speciation in modern invertebrates:

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/creation.htm

"In 1964, Dr. D.J. Reish removed 5 or 6 polychaetes (Nereis acuminata) from Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor, and grew his sample to a size of thousands. In 1986, four pairs from this group were brought to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; the population at Woods Hole thus had gone through two bottlenecks, which are supposed to help drive ToE through genetic drift. In 1977-1978, two new cultures of N. acuminata were gathered from nearby Long Beach and Newport Beach, and grown under the same conditions as the Woods Hole sample. The three populations were later crossed, and it was found that the only crosses that would not produce viable offspring were the crosses involving Woods Hole and the two new cultures. This signifies nothing less than speciation, and all in the laboratory - all observed directly."

I challenge MO to demonstrate how it is possible, in a perfect genetic code designed by a supreme being, for there to be any room for mutation at all.

Now let's look at some more of his shadow boxing:

"Life boils down to two possibilities"

Not true. It boils down to what the evidence demonstrates. You can add magic if you want, but it isn't science. Once you include magic, anything is possible: perhaps a god other than the one of the Bible created us. Perhaps we were created by a magic gnome. How is MO going to argue against these? Perhaps we were created, but by alien space travelers. Precisely the same creationist "evidence" supports all these alternatives.

"The Greatest Evidence for Creation is that the universe is suited to us"

Wrong. MO seeks to draw overwhelming conclusions from a sample of one! We have no wide experience of solar systems, nor of other universes. Given this lack of evidence, we could be commonplace or a freakish exception. All creationist claims that the universe was designed for us are purely wishful thinking and nothing else.

Have you noticed how all the information creationists incompetently use to buttress their case has been discovered not by creationists, but by scientists? This science would be completely banned if the creationists ever came into positions of power.

"It looks designed, therefore it was designed"

How can creationists make such a lousy, tautologus argument? And they have the nerve to claim ToE has paradoxes?!

They claim, for example, that if we see a pillar holding up a roof, this proves intelligent design. The fact is that the only reason we know a pillar was designed to hold up a roof is because we have experience with such pillars. We have no like experience with universes.

There are pillars that appear to hold up roofs which most certainly have not been designed, such as joined stalactites and stalagmites in caves, pillared arches in wind-swept rock formations, and sea-carved arches on coast lines. No one in their right mind would argue that these were designed by an intelligence, because we know they formed naturally. Yet this is precisely what the creationists are arguing! They have a sample of one, and no means by which to determine how a naturally occurring universe would look as compared with an intelligently designed universe, yet they arrogantly and confidently claim this universe has to be designed - why? Because it makes logical sense? No! Because they have proof? No!

The reason is because they want it to be that way, and there is no other reason they can offer. The fact is that we could never have evolved to our present level and begun to wonder about the universe if this had been a universe which would not support us. This does not prove that a creator designed this universe. All it proves is that we could never have evolved to our present level and begun to wonder about the universe if this had been a universe which would not support us! I'll take down design in my final essay.

"The Fossil Record shows sudden appearance of fully formed organisms, followed by stasis."

Wrong! It shows the most primitive organisms at the start, becoming more and more complex and diverse over time. It shows five major extinction events and many minor ones. It shows distinctive organisms living at different periods in our history - so distinctive that geologic eras are distinguished by them. Certain types of fossils are routinely found together, others are never found together. I challenge MO to explain this in a flood scenario.

"Unifying Biological Patterns indicate a sole Designer."

Wrong! They indicate descent from a common ancestor. Special creation of individual kinds ought to show no unifying patterns whatsoever. To claim otherwise is to claim an unimaginative, inept, and incompetent designer.

" Budikka invokes argument from authority when he states that most scientists believe in evolution"

If MO could grasp my points it would help. What I said was that creationists are a tiny minority out of 2 billion Christians worldwide. This was not to make any argument from authority, but to establish that the publicity the creationists receive is entirely out of proportion to their numbers. If they are right, why isn't the whole Christian community backing them? Does my opponent accuse two billion Christians of being atheists and communists?

It is MO who lines up lists of scientists, arguing from authority! I checked his list. The historical scientists are irrelevant because they did not have the facts to make an informed judgement. MO offers no information about who the others are or where they obtained their credentials, but if I add together everyone in MO's very own list whose name is followed by "bio" or "paleo" I get less than 30%. I rest my case.

"The sheer complexity of every living organism cries out designą"

Wrong. Design is refuted by Robert Pennock ("Tower of Babel" MIT Press, 1999). Pennock is not an atheist but a theist!

"Amino acids are all left-handed, nucleotides are all right-handed. Yet when synthesized outside the body or found in nonliving matter, they are mixed in equal proportions"

A creationist admitting that the building blocks of life are found commonly?! He needs to read Discover Magazine Vol. 20 No. 5 - May 1999, and Scientific American for July 1999, or visit:

http://www.sciam.com/1999/0799issue/0799bernsteinmike.html

I quote: "Since his first report in 1993, John R. Cronin of Arizona State University has demonstrated a slight surplus of left-handedness in several amino acids extracted from two different meteorites." Left-handed building blocks of life are coming in on meteorites!

The fact that there are so few chemicals in the basic makeup of all living things (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur), the fact that we all share the same basic 20 (nearly all) left-handed amino acids, and the fact that our DNA is made from precisely the same few nucleotides is not evidence of special creation (unless the creator was very dull witted). It is clear evidence of common descent.

From: http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/creation.htm

"One remarkable consequence of [the violation of mirror symmetry by the weak force] is the fact that the energy levels of molecules and that of their mirror images are not exactly equal. The effect is extremely small: the difference in energy levels between one particular amino acid and its mirror image is roughly one part in 1 times 10 to the 17th power. This may seem very tiny, but...symmetry breaking requires only a very tiny disturbance. In general, lower-energy forms of molecules should be favored in nature. For this amino acid, it can be calculated that with 98% probability the lower energy form will become dominant within a period of about a hundred thousand years. And indeed, the version of this amino acid which is found in living organisms is the lower-energy one."

"Information requires an information giver. No one has ever been able to demonstrate how complex information can come about by natural processes."

I invite everyone to visit:

http://www.infidels.org/~meta/getalife/

to learn how the principles of ToE are overwhelmingly demonstrated in a computer environment called "Tierra." Evolution, mutation and speciation occurred entirely outside the control of either humans or the computer. In other words, undirected processes can lead to new information.

"Evolutionists say that the...eye evolved...40 separate times!"

How does this demonstrate the competence of a creator if he could not make one all-purpose eye? How does it demonstrate that we are special when our eyes are not as sharp as those of birds of prey, cannot see in the dark as well as those of a dog, cannot see parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that an insect can see, and are less well designed than those of a squid?

"Webster's lists one definition of religion as..."

So what? Did MO look up the definition of science? Of course not! All he wants to do is preserve his blind beliefs.

"Budikka then attempts to bolster his claim that evolution is not faith by immediately redefining evolution to include observable changes!"

Does MO read what he writes? Are we to define empirical sciences so as to exclude empiricism just to make him happy? MO is so far from understanding ToE that it is fraudulent to pretend he can debate it.

"Atheistic evolutionists..."

And the two billion Christians who are not raving fundamentalists? Are they atheists, too? I challenge my opponent to demonstrate precisely how science is atheistic.

"...that something came from nothing, and that is a logical impossibility."

If MO understood anything at all about quantum mechanics, he would know that it happens literally all the time.

"It also defies the laws of thermodynamics."

I challenge you to prove your argument or withdraw it.

"...evolution has not maintained a consistent age of 4.5 billion years. Seems like ever 20 years or so another couple million or billion get added on"

I challenge MO to document his claim or admit it is an invention. I also challenge him to reconcile the three creationist timelines addressed previously. Is it 6K, 10K, or 4.5 billion years that TBC claims?

"...cleaner fish feeds upon leftovers and parasites"

"and parasites" Thank you. You conveniently leave out that crucial fact in your story. Now I challenge you again to answer my question: Why did god create parasites that prey overwhelmingly on innocent animals, and humans resident in countries least able to fight them off?

"Budikka then gives his just-so story: An evolutionary scenario for shark-wrasse interaction is simple: those sharks which allowed the cleaner fish to rid them of parasites were not plagued by infection. They remained healthier for longer, and reproduced more of their kind, who were similarly disposed to allow the wrasse to clean them. Now how hard was that?"

MO's claim was that ToE is stumped to explain wrasse behavior. I just explained it. Answer this: are animals without parasites more healthy or less healthy than those with them? Do healthy animals pass on their genes more ably or less ably than unhealthy animals?

"Budikka's story also failed to address how the cleaner fish's bravery evolved."

Here he is asking for one more step after he has flat-out denied that creationists want every single step demonstrated. Let me demonstrate this step. Maybe he'll feel guilty and actually answer one or two of my challenges in return.

First of all, you cannot isolate one organism and expect the whole ToE to hinge around it as creationists repeatedly do. Please try to follow every single step: ToE is mutation and...adaptation. The environment keeps...changing. Organisms...change in step with it.

It has obviously never occurred to MO that the wrasse-shark relationship did not begin out of the blue with his own just-so story of "The Brave Little Wrasse and the Mean, Mean Ol' Shark." To pretend that fish have a concept of bravery is dumb.

Let me spell it out: there will be no meat particles in a shark's mouth unless it has just eaten. If an animal has just eaten - no matter how great a predator it is, it will not kill again until it is hungry. Only humans and gods kill wantonly - as the Old Testament demonstrates.

"The point is, there are many, many other examples of symbiosis in nature."

The point is that you have utterly failed to explain why god created parasites such that he had to invent symbiosis to take care of them. Explain it now, please.

While you are at it, also explain why he created viruses, harmful bacteria, predators that have terrorised humankind even within Biblical times, poisonous plants, and animals that are envenomed outrageously beyond their need to survive. I'm waiting.

"What about the Nile crocodile that allows a certain type of bird (the Egyptian plover) to walk right in and clean its mouth?

Does my opponent understand the term: 'extrapolate'?

"Budikka also enlightens us on why there are not many shark chomping incidents on humans - because we don't taste very good!"

That's about the size of it. See: Discover Magazine Vol. 20 No. 6 - June 1999 for documentation. Unlike MO, I do not make wild claims which I cannot substantiate. Here is a direct quote from this article, (locatable at www.discover.com): "That's probably why most humans who are bitten are seldom killed," says Klimley. "A human has too much muscle and not enough fat for a great white."

MO does not need to apologize, but he does need to realize that it does not do his case any good when he shows himself to be so arrogant and narrow-minded that he will not listen to opposing arguments and dismisses documented evidence out of hand.

This FAQ refutes the design argument (I will make a more substantial attack in my next essay):

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/cosmo.html

While I await my opponent's answers to my challenges, here is some further reading:

"Creationism's Upside-Down Pyramid" by Lee Tiffin (Prometheus Books, 1994)

"Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism" by Philip Kitcher (MIT Press, 1982)

"The Emergence of Whales" Edited by J. G. M. Thewissen (Plenum Press, 1998)

(MO has failed to explain why it is that whales and snakes have hips if they were specially created).

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