If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve been discussing problems with Creationism. In part one we looked at the Second Law of Thermodynamics and why it doesn’t invalidate evolution (or biology in general). Despite what some wealthy political figures with delusions of persecution might tell you, we still haven’t found any empirical evidence or falsifiable claims in favor of creationism, but we’re going to look at the arguments provided in favor.
Our gracious commenter mentioned another perceived problem with evolution, the lack of direct observation of it. Of course, we have plenty of direct observations of physical and genetic changes due to natural selection. The adjusted claim was :
What I’m saying about evolution however is that since we have not observed the transition of one species to another, the fossils, rock strata and any other observations about the world as it is today, don’t make the case for the conjecture of transition from non-life to life and simple lifeforms to complex lifeforms. That transition is still an opinion which could only be confirmed by the scientific method through observation of the actual transition itself.
This is an interesting twist on what’s normally called the God of the Gaps argument against evolution. Normally the argument is formulated this way: Okay, sure we have all these fossils which scientists like to fit into a big family tree, but where are all the missing links? You don’t have them, and that’s because God created the individual species. Any time we don’t have a scientific explanation for something, God did it.
The biggest problem with the God of the Gaps argument is the tendency of the gaps to shrink over time. Scientists are constantly discovering new fossils as well as better ways to examine relationships between species such as cladistics and genetics. Some gaps in knowledge, like the exact method by which RNA or DNA originally formed from non-living molecules, might seem comfortable enough for God to fit in right now, but every day really interesting work is being done.
Now for the interesting twist: our commenter is not just pointing out the gaps in the fossil evidence, genetic evidence, and explanatory models. In addition, supposedly all this evidence must be thrown out – anything not based on direct observation of the actual transitions between species is just “an opinion.” This causes a number of problems.
First, this causes serious problems if we ever want to study speciation, let alone evolution. Based on what we know from radiometric dating the earth has been around for billions of years. It’s quite possible that it takes tens of thousands of years before an ancestor and it’s descendant are different enough to be considered separate species, especially for large vertabrates with long gaps between generations. Unfortunately we humans only live 100 years or so at most – not much time for direct observation of very gradual change.
This might look like a good argument from the creationist side until you realize that this poses a problem for anyone trying to observe some sort of “creationist speciation” as well. We can cross our fingers and hope God turns a turnip into some kind of super turnip during our lifetimes, but given the geological scale the Lord works on, don’t hold your breath.
Second, this is an extremely high bar to set for evidence – so high that if applied consistently it invalidates entire fields of study. Forensics, for example, would be completely thrown out the window. No more collecting fingerprints and DNA in episodes of CSI. We can’t even take the presence of a dead body too seriously anymore. That murder is still an opinion which could only be confirmed by the scientific method through observation of the actual murder itself.
Archaeologists all over the world need to hang up their Indiana Jones hats and get real jobs, because all of their work is based on indirect observation. Since we’re not accepting genetic evidence either we need to throw fields like Linguistics, which use similar methods. What about all the apparatus used by quantum physicists? No one has ever really seen a quark. Don’t even mention geology.
Luckily for us, we don’t have to contemplate this bizarre notion any further, because we actually do have plenty of observations of speciation through selection, otherwise known as evolution. Two organisms are considered different species if they don’t interbreed, and we’ve actually seen that happen through selection.
I can hear the objections already – “but those are all small changes, show me a monkey turning into a man!” Now we come to the evidence that creationism is not science. Let’s recap:
- First the argument is that there are missing links. But more transitional fossils are found every day.
- Next the argument is that no one has ever actually observed evolution. But it has been observed plenty of times.
- Next the argument is that microevolution is possible, but no one has ever observed macroevolution or speciation. But it has been observed as well.
- Next the argument is that evolution might create different species, but what about different genera? Or different families? Or orders? Or…
Once again we are trying to stick God into an ever-shrinking series of gaps. We’ve already seen that creationists are willing to throw out perfectly valid observational evidence like fossils and genetics. Do you get the impression that no amount of evidence will ever be enough to disprove creationism? That smells fishy.
Part 3 will continue following this thread toward the notion of falsifiability. In the mean time, we have seen some sophistic arguments, but no actual evidence to support creationism or divine intervention. Please feel free to comment below.