My Response to Part 1 of Braveheart’s commentary of 9/2/08.

(Numbers refer to footnotes in Braveheart's commentary)

 

[Comments regarding the theory of evolution (TOE)]

 

1.  It is not the function of science to provide uncontestable “proof” for anything, nor does it claim to do so.  (Proofs are restricted to such disciplines as mathematics and logic, disciplines in which all logical parameters or constraints can be rigorously defined, something that is not achievable in the natural world.)  What science does is establish the most coherent explanations for natural phenomena that are compatible with the existing evidence.   Even the best-corroborated scientific explanations, i.e., theories, are provisional and subject to modification or complete rejection if they are found to seriously conflict with the evidence.  (Contrast this approach with that of creationism where the conclusions remain etched in stone no matter how egregiously they may contradict the physical evidence.)  Scientific theories are never “proven” in the mathematical/logical sense.  Therefore, your argument that the “TOE cannot scientifically be proven” is not an indication of the failure of the theory, but is, rather, a reflection of your failure to comprehend how the scientific method operates and your apparent unfamiliarity with supporting evidence.  

The TOE does not encompass the origin of life.  That subject belongs to a separate line of inquiry into what is commonly referred to as abiogenesis.   The TOE pertains to the emergence of diverse life forms after the appearance of the first primitive replicators.  It is, therefore, inappropriate to criticize the TOE for failing to explain something that does not fall within the purview of the theory.  

Regarding the evolution of humans from lesser life forms, I provided you with a couple of sources which delineate some of the evidence which supports such a transition.  Unfortunately, as you have indicated later in this response to me, the links were not reproduced in the copy I sent you.  I apologize profusely for this oversight on my part.  Let me try another approach.  On the Internet, search for “29+ Evidences for Macroevolution” and search for “Evolution/Creation Dialogues” and click on “Take the Creationist Challenge” about half-way down the page.  This should direct you to the sites I included in my previous response.  (I did not bring my “Challenge” to your attention in order to “cleverly” trick you into disproving the TOE, as you insinuate below.   I presented it as a means for you to defend creationism by showing how it conforms to the evidence.)

Only someone incapable of distinguishing between the uncompromising commitment to religious dogma and the objectivity of critical thought could propose, as you do, that a faith-based “belief” in creationism equates to an evidence-based “acceptance” of the TOE.   Creationism is religious ideology grounded in the musings of pre-scientific, Bronze Age, desert nomads.  The TOE is one of the most thoroughly-validated scientific theories in all of science.  Faith demands no tangible evidence whatsoever; all it entails is hope and/or wishful thinking.  On the other hand, valid scientific theories must be based on solid, verifiable evidence.  This effort to equate acceptance of an established scientific theory with a belief in religious dogma ignores the salient differences that exist between scientific and religious epistemologies.

·         Science is based on the systematic analysis of tangible, empirically verifiable evidence.  Religion is faith-based.  (Faith – Belief that does not rest on critical thought and/or material evidence.  Or, in the case of creationism, belief in spite of abundant evidence to the contrary.)  There is a profound difference between the objective, hands-on, testable evidence that serves as the nexus of scientific investigation and the often inconsistent, questionably authentic, self-serving narratives of ancient story tellers on which religious faith depends.  

·         Science permits explanations that invoke only natural causes and effects, with no exceptions.  Religion embraces supernatural causation.  This is one of the fundamental tenets of the scientific method that sets it apart from religious beliefs about causation.  (In this regard, it should be noted that science does not deny or confirm the existence of God.  It simply maintains a position of neutrality on the subject.)

·         Science offers explanations that are modified or rejected in the light of contradictory evidence.  Religion is customarily resistant to change when confronted with conflicting evidence.  

·         Science is universal in application.  For example, Newton’s laws of motion are generally applicable in the entire universe at normal velocities.  Religious “Truths” differ (often to the point of fomenting violence) from one religious faction to another.

·         Science develops theories that make accurate, testable predictions about how things in the natural world will be expected to behave under a variety of conditions.  The closest religion comes to prediction is so-called “prophecy” which, as “Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled” on the Internet shows, leaves a great deal to be desired in its predictive abilities.

·         Science offers explanations that are falsifiable.  In other words, there must be some way of testing to determine if a scientific hypothesis is valid or not.  Religion makes claims that involve supernatural elements that often preclude empirical falsification.  (For example, how could one positively falsify the claim, made by some biblical fundamentalists, that the earth is really less than 10,000 years old, but that God planted fake evidence that makes it look like it is several billion years old?) 

·         Science incorporates an egalitarian system of checks and balances known as peer review.  Religion is authoritarian and generally discourages critical analysis of established doctrine.

·         Science examines the evidence and formulates a theory that best explains that evidence. Religion-based creationists do it backwards.  They start with the hypothesis (that the biblical creation story is true) and attempt to force fit the evidence to accommodate it.

Science is a remarkably successful system for acquiring knowledge about the behavior of the natural world and for using this knowledge to improve the human condition.  It involves making observations, proposing predictive hypotheses to explain those observations, objectively examining the relevant evidence, and then testing the validity of the hypotheses in the light of that evidence.   If, as in the case of the TOE, a hypothesis is firmly corroborated by a large body of evidence, it advances to the status of a theory.  

You say that before you can discuss the evidence supporting the TOE, you must be convinced it is not a theory.  What a telling testimonial to your misunderstanding of the scientific process!  Do you hold the same position regarding other scientific theories such as gravitational theory, atomic theory, electromagnetic theory, the germ theory of disease, etc.  Would you likewise have to be convinced that they were not theories before you would be willing to examine and discuss the evidence that supports them?  If not, why do you single out the TOE in this regard?  You talk as if you think a scientific theory is nothing but unverified guesswork and has no practical applications - just like so-called “creationary theory.”

 

2.  The definition you give for “theory” is a generic one that is not applicable to a “scientific theory.”  The word “theory” in the scientific context has a much more specific meaning.  One of the more concise, yet inclusive, definitions is as follows:

A theory in science is not a guess, speculation, or suggestion, which is the popular definition of the word "theory." A scientific theory is a unifying and self-consistent explanation of fundamental natural processes or phenomena that is totally constructed of corroborated hypotheses. A theory, therefore, is built of reliable knowledge--built of scientific facts--and its purpose is to explain major natural processes or phenomena. Scientific theories explain nature by unifying many once-unrelated facts or corroborated hypotheses; they are the strongest and most truthful explanations of how the universe, nature, and life came to be, how they work, what they are made of, and what will become of them.

From:  An Introduction to Science   Scientific Thinking and the Scientific Method” (available on the Internet)   By Steven D. Schafersman

Another precise definition of a scientific theory is as follows:

In science, a theory is an explanation; a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, (or facts) capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experimentation or otherwise falsified through empirical observation of the pertinent evidence.

A scientific theory is not some wild ass guess arrived at through mental gymnastics, meditation, or navel gazing (or consulting one’s favorite religious text).  A scientific theory is an explanation of a natural phenomenon that has been developed through repeated examination of numerous lines of verifiable evidence.  In terms of scientific explanations, a well-established theory is about as good as it gets.  Scientific theories are not just important for their academic value.  They have practical applications as well.  Through the application of such theories, science has become the best system for promoting invention and discovery ever devised by man.  Now you can pooh pooh the importance of mainstream scientific theories all you want.  But if you are going to do so, to be consistent, you would have to turn off your computer and start communicating with me on a mechanical typewriter (or better yet, writing with charcoal).  Incidentally, can you identify a single technological breakthrough that has occurred in the last hundred years as a result of the implementation of so-called “creationary theory?”

 

3.  Only if you use the common generic definition, and not the one that pertains specifically to scientific investigation.  A scientific theory is an explanation that is formulated by critically examining and thinking about the evidence.  To use a common definition of a “theory” (i.e., an unproven conjecture) to define a scientific theory is analogous to using the common definition of a “car” (i.e., a road vehicle) to define a high-performance racing car.

 

4.  No.  A scientific theory is a description of factors that influence a natural phenomenon, not a method of verification.   If you had asked me if an established theory, such as the TOE, has met the requirements of scientific verification, I would have answered in the affirmative.

 

5.  As a matter of clarification, the animals you name are separate species within the cat family, Felidae, and the dog family, Canidae.

Actually, what the TOE “claims” is that, over time, living things have slowly evolved into new forms that have been better able to survive and reproduce in changing environments.  What they have changed into are forms that are more efficient at out-producing their competitors.  Sometimes, this even involves a reversal in complexity, such as in the case of certain parasites.

You seem to be arguing that, because you have not personally observed one species evolving into another species and are not aware of any fossils that support such transitions, such transitions do not occur.  If you are, you are sadly mistaken.  (Search for “Observed Instances of Speciation” and “Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ” on the Internet.)  Just because you do not have personal experience with, or knowledge of, speciation does not mean that all others are similarly benighted in this regard.  It may come as a shock to you, but, thankfully, mainstream science does not restrict its knowledge base to any one (or a few) individual’s personal observations and life experiences.   

The good news is that ignorance is curable if one is willing to take the cure.  I readily admit that I am ignorant of more things than I am knowledgeable about.  Nonetheless, I have attempted to remove some of my initial ignorance of the evolutionary process by studying the subject in some detail.  At the experimental level it can often be frustratingly complex and difficult to fathom, and I do not pretend to know all the answers.  I have, however, gained enough knowledge to get a reasonable overview of how the process works.  With all due respect, before you take on the scientific establishment and attempt to criticize a widely-recognized theory like the TOE, it would behoove you to reduce your ignorance quotient as well.  I recommend “Essay 5: Evolution for Christians” on the Internet as an excellent place to start.  At the very least, familiarize yourself with the pace of evolution, the time scales involved, and the roles that genetic mutation and selection (natural and sexual) play in the process.         

The formation of fossils is very problematic.  For a fossil to be formed, the organism must be buried very soon after death (to avoid decay and predation) in the proper type of sediments and must be protected from erosion for a minimum of many thousands of years.  Then a collector must find the fossilized remains relatively soon after it erodes to the surface before it is destroyed by weathering.  It is a testament to the perseverance and good luck of the various collectors that so many fossils have now been (and continue to be) discovered and analyzed.  (Think of all the squirrels that have ever lived and died in Bonner County alone.  Yet, discovery of the fossilized remains of one of these critters has never been documented in the entire history of the county.)  

Because of the nature of fossilization, the vast majority of organisms will never fossilize and the vast majority of those that do will never be found and examined.   Nonetheless, enough critical pieces of the puzzle have been assembled to enable scientists to develop a reasonable facsimile of what the big picture actually looks like.  It is impossible to satisfy the demands of creationists in this regard.  Every time a transitional fossil (B) is discovered between fossils A and C, the creationists yell, aha, now you have two new gaps in the fossil record, one between A and B and one between B and C.

In reference to the example I gave on the top of page 2 in my previous response to you, I did not say that the TOE could be disproven by demonstrating that (given enough time) one species could give rise to another.  What I said was it could be disproven if a cat gave birth to a dog or some other animal.  Such an occurrence would have been completely at odds with the theory.  In the case of animals like dogs and cats, the process of evolution involves gradual incremental changes in the traits of populations of organisms that normally occur over many tens of thousands of years (at minimum).  It most assuredly does not involve major changes, like cats giving birth to dogs, in one generation. 

The evolutionary process can be compared to watching a movie.  If one looks at a single frame of film and compares it with the frames preceding and following it, very little, if any, difference will be evident between them.  This is analogous to what one sees of the evolutionary process in a lifetime.  Significant evolutionary changes unfold over geological time scales, just as the progression of the movie plot becomes evident when the entire film is run through a projector.  Evolution involves the sequential progression of small biological changes, while movies involve the sequential progression of individual frames.  A lot can happen in a two hour movie as some 172,800 frames pass by.  Similarly, major changes can occur in life forms as small biological changes accumulate and build on one another over millions of years. 

While you are perfectly within your rights to quote scripture to support your views, please be aware that, in the realm of science, the folktales of scientifically illiterate goat herders do not qualify as scientifically verifiable evidence.  Miraculous claims derived from religious holy books are not admissible as evidence in the court of science.

 

6.  I am sure that, within the limited time span that you made your observations on the farm, animals did appear to reproduce “after their kind” so to speak.  That is exactly what the TOE predicts would happen.  Thank you for providing evidence that helps verify the theory.  You may not have noticed, however, if hybridization was occurring among some of the plant species on the farm.  Hybridization has been demonstrated to play a nontrivial role in plant evolution.  (See again “Observed Instances of Speciation” on the Internet.)

Of course compost piles eventually produce “more simple elements” as a result of the digestive processes that are occurring.  But this does not represent a good analogy to the evolutionary process.  A compost pile is an example of a digestive process that is designed to degrade carbonaceous materials.   Evolution entails an iterative reproductive process.  Nonetheless, the composition of microbial populations in your compost pile most likely did increase in complexity during its operation. 

The so-called Big Bang was not an explosion in the common sense of the world.  Explosions, as we know them, take place in existing space.   The Big Bang created the space into which matter/energy expanded and later condensed into the entities that make up the universe.  If you search the Internet for the term “abiogenesis” you will find a number of scientific hypotheses that deal with the formation of life from the basic elements that were initially produced by the Big Bang.  At this point it is largely conjecture.  No one knows for sure how life originated on Earth, despite the fact that creationists adamantly claim that they do.  Nevertheless, in my opinion, the gradual orderly evolution of humans from the chemical building blocks supplied by the Big Bang has a higher probability of being true than the magical poofing into existence of a mud-man and rib-woman by an invisible sky spirit as depicted in the Bible.

You talk as if you are unaware of any natural processes that proceed from the simple to the complex.  What about the development of a single fertilized human cell into a complete adult?  The growth of an acorn into an oak tree?  The generation of complex organic structures (Buckyballs and nanotubes) from the disorganized state of carbon vapor?  (Search for “Buckyballs – a new sphere of science” on the Internet.)  The emergence of complex social behavior in ant and bee colonies.  The spontaneous development of intricate flocking behaviors in fish and birds.  The formation of complex biochemicals in reactors supplied with simple starting materials?  (Search for “Miller-Urey experiment – Wikipedia” on the Internet.)  All that is required in most of these cases to go from a relatively simple configuration to one that is more complex are natural interactions and the application of an external energy source.  On Earth, the sun is the primary energy source that drives such processes.  Then, of course, there are also the formation of intricate snow crystals from cooled water vapor and the growth of elaborate mineral crystals from diffuse ionic solutions to consider in this context.  These are examples of things that can proceed from simple to complex forms naturally.  The evolution of more complex species is one of many such processes in nature.

No, the chicken did not have to be in the henhouse before we got the simple egg.  Simple eggs have been part of the reproductive process of primitive organisms for millions of years.  The chicken egg is quite complex when compared to the eggs of its early evolutionary ancestors and many currently existing egg-laying organisms.  The chicken egg evolved in complexity in concert with the organisms that eventually lead to the chicken.  The chicken and egg did not materialize separately.  They are both the products of a long evolutionary history that has been ongoing since the first germ cells (reproductive cells) differentiated from their neighbors. 

Recently discovered genetic evidence suggests that the modern domestic chicken is a hybrid descendant of both the red junglefowl and the grey junglefowl .  If this evidence is substantiated, it not only exemplifies the role hybridization can play in evolution, it also indicates that the egg arrived in the henhouse before the chicken.  (Search for “Identification of the Yellow Skin Gene Reveals a Hybrid Origin of the Domestic Chicken” on the Internet.)

You are not giving me “demonstrable truths for evidence.”  You are giving me your spin on a very thin slice of the evidence after it has been squeezed through a biblical filter and visualized darkly through a biblical lens.

Since you brought up the subject of biblical “kinds,” may I ask a couple of questions relevant to that subject?

I assume you believe the Noachian flood was a worldwide event that occurred as described in the Bible.  If so, do you believe it occurred around 2350 BCE as commonly estimated from an assessment of biblical chronologies?

How do you define “kind” in this context?  Does it correspond to the biological classification level of species, families, orders,…?

 

7.  Rereading my first response to you, I cannot see where I specifically asked you to disprove the TOE.  Perhaps you can identify the statement for me.

In order to establish its validity as a scientific theory, the TOE is obligated to conform to the evidence and make predictions that can, in principle, be falsified.  It has fulfilled and continues to fulfill that obligation.  The evidence for evolution (descent with modification) is so overwhelming that it is recognized by virtually the entire scientific community (and much of the lay public) as an undeniable fact.  The TOE is endorsed by every mainstream scientific organization in the world.  More than 99.8% of earth and life scientist (the most relevant scientists as far as evolution is concerned) in this country acknowledge that it is a fact. (Search for “CA111” on the Internet.)  The TOE is the scientific theory that explains the fact of evolution.  As far as the scientific community is concerned, the TOE has “proved” itself to the satisfaction of all but a piddling minority of religion-obsessed naysayers.  Furthermore, scientific theories do not cease to be theories when the evidence for them gets stronger.  Instead, they become stronger theories.

Yes, we are all free to believe what we want.  It is just that some of us have more-stringent standards than others for determining which hypotheses come closest to the truth.

Indeed our actions do stem predominantly from our beliefs.  Constructive moral behavior is an outgrowth of the evolutionary process.  Societies in which individuals primarily act on their own self interests and do not conform to the rules that have evolved through human experience to ensure group harmony and productivity simply do not persist long enough for their members to pass on their genes in sufficient numbers to ensure survival.  In other words, they go extinct.  As a result, it is primarily those societies that have and pass on practical, experientially-derived, ethical values that survive.   In view of this relationship, there is every reason for proponents of evolution to abide by the laws, regulations, and ethical practices that govern their societies.      

I agree, people are (within the constraints imposed by certain genetic and sociological factors) responsible for their actions.  On the other hand, many religionists seem to be content to blame their transgressions on the excuse that the Devil made them do it.  It is not clear to me how this convenient cop out fosters individual responsibility.

 

8.  The only time the proponents of the TOE feel the necessity to “attack” the Darwin bashers  is when the latter try to prevent the proper teaching of evolution in public school science classes or attempt to weasel in their thinly-veiled religious dogma into the classroom under the pretence that it is legitimate science.  A good example of such an attack, which was a highly successful one, is the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania that took place in 2005.  There it became abundantly clear (and legally substantiated) that so-called intelligent design creationism was religious doctrine in disguise and had no place in the public school science classroom because it had no scientific merit whatsoever.  (Search for “Kitzmiller v. Dover area school district” on the Internet.)  Creationism is detrimental to science education in general because it contradicts fundamental principles developed and taught by nearly every branch of science, from anthropology to zoology.  Science education in this country is in bad enough shape without further undermining the process by corrupting the curriculum with the pseudo-science of creationism.

So you think my description of nonsense propagated by the creationist think tanks is a little harsh?  Well, unfortunately, sometimes the truth hurts.  Believe me, the attack is well deserved.

Since creationism is not valid science, educators have a duty to exclude it from the public school science classroom.  It is not a matter of fairness.  Science is not a democratic process.  In science, only those theories that meet the strict criteria imposed by the scientific method are considered worthy of recognition.  Just because some self-proclaimed expert has an interesting idea does not mean that the scientific community will embrace it with open arms.  It must survive the rigors of scientific scrutiny before it gains acceptance.  The TOE has passed that scrutiny with flying colors.  Creationism has flunked every science exam it has taken, in spite of its habit of cheating.  The only outcome the educational system is trying to guarantee is a quality science education for the students that will render them competitive with students from other countries.

So you want fairness, do you?  During the Dover trial, one of the star witnesses for the intelligent design creationists admitted that, if science were modified to accommodate creationism, then astrology would also qualify as bona fide science.   In fairness then, should we teach astrology in science class?  What about spoon bending, tarot card reading, the demon theory of disease, the phlogiston theory, perpetual motion mechanics, etc.?  You mention the flat world theory.  There is a website that supports this theory using the same kind of biblical rationalizations and highfalutin scientific jargon that creation websites use to promote creationism.  (Search for “The Flat Earth Society” on the Internet.)  Should we teach flat Earth theory as well to maintain your standards of fairness?  What about the theory that the sun revolves around the Earth? There is a Bible-based website that promotes that worldview as well.  (Search for “Geocentricity Association for Biblical Astronomy” on the Internet.)  Should our children be taught geocentric theory to comply with the fairness doctrine?  These theories have just as much scientific credibility as creationism.  How many harebrained “theories” do you think should be included in the science curriculum in order for it to represent a “fair & balanced” education?

At the undergraduate level, most students (not to mention most adults) do not have the scientific expertise to properly evaluate the merits of one theory versus another.  That is why only the principal scientific theories are taught (if any are taught at all) in such classes.  In most cases, the student does not have the scientific wherewithal to make well-informed decisions regarding such matters.  The bottom line is that creationism cannot be taught in public school science class because it is a religious ideology and it is illegal to teach religion in such classes.  The subject may be appropriate for a class such as one dealing with the history of religion where religious indoctrination does not occur and other religious creation stories are given equal billing.  Be that as it may, creationism belongs in science class to the same extent that a promotional talk on aphrodisiacs belongs in a class on sexual abstinence.

 

9.  Best in this context refers to a theory that has been thoroughly examined by knowledgeable experts in the field and has been determined to most accurately account for the available evidence and to have had none of its predictions invalidated.  By the way, what novel predictions does creationist “theory” make that distinguishes it from the TOE?  How do those predictions match up with the hard evidence?

And I find it incredible that anyone would consider themselves qualified to discuss this subject when they have not bothered to familiarize themselves with such basics as the proper definition of a scientific theory beforehand.  You are formulating your baseless arguments on an improper definition.  (See above.)  Pardon my candor, but you are living proof of the observation that some people do not know enough about a subject to realize how little they know.   Ignorance is excusable if a person admits to it and is making an effort to correct the situation.  However, it is reprehensible for a person to argue cocksuredly from a position of limited knowledge and contend that their opinions are better informed than the input from highly-skilled experts who have intimate knowledge of multiple aspects the subject under discussion.

No scientific theory is claimed to represent the absolute truth.  In contrast to the religious certitude inherent in creationism, all scientific theories are tentative and subject to revision or rejection in the light of new evidence.   While they do not represent the final answer, scientific theories often do approach closer and closer to that goal as they are sequentially refined to take into account new evidence. But none of this means that they are just one form of speculation that is no better validated than any other.  If you or some member of your family needed a heart transplant, would you seek the advice of a cardiovascular surgeon or a plumber?

I do like your definition of science though.  It fits the TOE perfectly.  However, communicating knowledge about the theory to other people is often the most difficult and frustrating aspect of the entire endeavor.  It's easy to convince people of a lie if they want to believe it, but hard to convince people of a truth if they don't.

 

10.  Unfortunately, the sources I provided to answer these types of questions were unavailable to you.  Most of the sources I provided have references which specify the type of tests conducted, dates, and names of the investigators.  Please see my restatement of the sources above.

You ask, “Is TOE science or theory?”  This pretty much sums up your lack of scientific understanding in a nutshell.  If you knew what a scientific theory actually is, you would know that your question is completely nonsensical.  It is like asking if the Bible is religion or a book.  The Bible is a religious book.  Likewise, the TOE is a scientific theory.  Contrary to your assertion, they can be both at the same time.  The TOE can be both scientific and a theory, just as the Bible can be both religious and a book.

When a scientific explanation is based on observable and verifiable evidence, it does not cease to be a theory.   The more such evidence accumulates to support it, the more firmly established the theory becomes.  Frankly, I am surprised that you do not comprehend this fundamental aspect of the scientific process.       

Your assertion that the TOE is not based on observable and verifiable evidence is incorrect.  See the sources I have provided above and take some time to educate yourself on the subject.

 

11.  While we may quibble about the exact meaning of the word “believe” and whether or not it applies to the proponents of evolution, it is undeniable that the reasons for being a creationist are diametrically opposed to the reasons for being and adherent of evolutionary theory.  Creationists are creationists because they trust, on faith, in the reliability and the literal truth of the Bible and the biblical story of creation.  Evidence is something to be ignored or manipulated if it conflicts with that story because it raises questions about the veracity of the Bible.  And anything that questions the veracity of the Bible also threatens to unravel their religious security blanket.   As a consequence, there is a strong emotional component to their beliefs.   (For the record, there are, of course, many professing Christians who have figured out how to incorporate biological evolution into their worldview.  While I doubt if they qualify as True Christians ™ according to your definition, they seem to think they are.  For a list of several thousand clergy who support evolution, search for “The Clergy Letter Project” on the Internet.)

Broadly speaking, the proponents of evolution place their trust in critical thinking and the explanatory power of the scientific method.  For them, straightforward analysis of the evidence is the key to gaining a meaningful understanding of whatever phenomenon they are investigating.  Evidence is not to be ignored or twisted to fit some preconceived worldview.  It is to be objectively examined to arrive at whatever theory describes it most effectively.  Although sometimes passionate in their defense of the TOE, the adherents of the theory are not burdened with anywhere near the amount of emotional baggage as are the creationists.

Science has been designed to minimize the faith factor by eliminating supernatural explanations.  Attributing causation to the action of some preternatural entity or other form of miraculous intervention does not cut it in the realm of science.   Gods and spirits are just too aloof and capricious to rely on and to pin down for analysis.   Only natural forces and effects that can be objectively detected, measured, quantified, and otherwise inter-subjectively evaluated by all interested investigators are permitted as causative factors in science.  This enables scientific theories to be comparatively applied and tested on a worldwide basis.  “God did it,” as creationists are fond of arguing, does not qualify as a scientific explanation.      

Creationism relies on faith and an unflinching commitment to a biblical creation story.  In the mind of a creationist, if the creation story is shown to be in error, the biblical foundation is weakened and, like a house of cards, the entire edifice of belief is in danger of collapsing.  Acceptance of the TOE is based on hard, verifiable, and falsifiable evidence and a reliance on critical thinking.  If the TOE is refuted, scientists will move on to a new theory that better fits the data. To claim, as you do, that they are identical forms of belief completely ignores the profound distinctions that exist between these two ways of thinking.   

 

A postscript in my previous response to you read as follows:

P.S. - If I understand correctly, you have proposed a solution to the evolution/creation dilemma by hypothesizing that the earth could indeed be billions of years old, but that living things were created by divine fiat only several thousand years ago in keeping with biblical chronologies.  A serious objection to this hypothesis arises from the fact that an abundance of fossils of once-living organisms have been found encased in rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old.  How did they get there if life has only been present for the past several thousands of years?  The ages of the rocks in question have been determined, in most cases, using radiometric dating techniques.  To learn more about these techniques, I suggest you Google “Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective” and “A Radiometric Dating Resource List.”  If I have misunderstood your hypothesis, perhaps you could clarify it for me.

I wonder, have you resolved this discrepancy in your hypothesis?

 

12.  I concur with you that some well-intentioned governmental policies (monetary policies, farm subsidies, energy policies, corporate welfare, educational policies, labor relations, etc.)  can have unintended adverse consequences – including decreasing the economic status of some segments of the population.  A recent example:  Savings account and CD rates of return have decreased due to the Fed’s lowering of the prime lending rate to bailout the financial industry.  Retired individuals who depend on these sources of income are adversely impacted.

On the other hand, too little government oversight can also lead to problems.  It is largely because of government deregulation of the financial institutions (and the ever-present factor of human greed) that the problems in the mortgage industry, with their far-reaching repercussions, developed in the first place.

 

13.  The TOE is not an “opinion” as the word is generally defined, I,e, “An opinion is a person's ideas and thoughts towards something.  It is an assessment, judgment or evaluation of something.  An opinion is not a fact, because opinions are either not falsifiable, or the opinion has not been proven or verified. ..  The TOE is a verified, falsifiable, scientific theory that is endorsed by every mainstream science organization in the world.  It is as certain as anything gets in science.  The occurrence of biological evolution is not just an opinion any more than it is just an opinion that the Earth revolves around the sun.  You may have a personal opinion about whether you think it is correct, or not, but that is another matter.

If you were speaking in general terms, then you should not make blanket statements.  If you intended for your statements to taken as generalities, you should have qualified them with modifiers such as: generally speaking, for the most past, by in large, in most cases, etc.  You made a number of blanket statements about liberals do/believe this and conservatives do/belief that.  This black/white, either/or, good/evil, no-middle-ground mentality is typical of most religious absolutists I have encountered.  There was nothing in your discussion that indicated you were talking in generalities.

 

14.  Again, you are incorrectly equating the common definition of an “opinion” with a verified, falsifiable, scientific theory.  In the final analysis, you are revealing your scientific naivete.

In my previous response, I pointed out examples of people who do not fit the mold presented in your blanket statements regarding liberals and conservatives.  Now you appear to be resorting to the much abused “No True Scotsman Fallacy” to back your way out of the corner.  Indeed, people often mix liberal and conservative ideologies in various proportions to construct their Weltanschauung.   Those who predominantly follow the conservative path are normally designated as conservatives, and those the predominantly follow the liberal path are normally designated as liberals or progressives.  But those who are 100% one or the other are relatively rare in my experience – although Ann Coulter does come to mind in this regard.

 

15.  Here you launch into a diatribe against abortion which is a subject that is peripheral to my central area of interest –evolution.  Therefore, I will not address this aspect of your discussion word for word.  Suffice it to say that I am also opposed to abortion.  (By the way, just to strengthen the point I made above, this is a position that is held by many liberals.  Search for “The Liberal Case Against Abortion” on the Internet.)  However, I do think that an exception should be made in the case where preserving the fetus would jeopardize the life of the mother.  The situation involving rape gets a bit murkier.  In my opinion, it would be inappropriate to demand that a woman endure a pregnancy, give birth to a child, and raise it, if the child had been fathered by someone who had forced sex on her.  If the government took care of all the financial and health obligations and adoption laws were streamlined so that there was a reasonable assurance that the child could be adopted, perhaps some argument could be made for discouraging abortion in the case of rape.  But even then, requiring a woman to go through such an ordeal seems rather draconian to me. 

That said, although I am personally opposed to abortion, I do not think the procedure (at early term) should be denied to those women who want it.  Certainly, a concerted effort should be made to discourage the practice, but, in my opinion, it should not be legally prohibited.

Twenty five to 33% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (or what the medical profession often refers to as “spontaneous abortion”).  If “God ultimately controls everything” as you claim, doesn’t this make Him the most prolific abortion provider in history?

 

16.  Consider your device successful.  It provoked some thought.   And I agree.  Your treatment of the subject falls far short of qualifying as a scientific paper.

 

17.  Surely you are not going to pretend that you do not have an emotional commitment to your religious beliefs, are you?  Being emotional about something means having strong feelings about it.  If you do not have an emotional commitment to your religious beliefs, you are certainly giving a good impersonation of someone who does.

I am not bound emotionally to the TOE any more than I am to any other scientific theory.  If it is shown sometime in the future to be invalid, so be it.  It would be a huge surprise to me if that happened, but I would willingly accept whatever new scientifically-documented theory takes its place.  (Can you say the same thing regarding your beliefs about the biblical creation story, which, incidentally, has been scientifically invalidated for some time now?)  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have strong feelings regarding this subject.  Rather than being directed at a particular theory, my “emotional commitment,” if such a phrase is warranted in this case, is to promoting and defending the scientific method as a means of obtaining the best evidentially supported understanding of how the diversity of life occurred on the Earth, whatever it is.  This applies to the investigation of all other natural phenomena as well.

Critical thinking is the process of evaluating what other people say or write to determine whether to believe their statements.  It is, in essence, the scientific method applied to everyday life, and includes all the elements of the scientific method: making observations, proposing predictive hypotheses to explain those observations, objectively examining the relevant (falsifiable) evidence, and then testing the validity of the hypotheses in the light of that evidence.  Shining the light of critical thought on creationism has the same effect that shining the light of the sun had on the mythical Count Dracula.  That’s why creationists do all they can to shield themselves from its illuminating rays.

I say that your conviction (i.e., unshakable belief in something without need for proof or evidence) regarding belief in the creation story is blind because it appears from your comments that you are oblivious to the basic evolutionary processes, the evidence that supports the theory that describes them, and even the guiding principles of the scientific method.   You are flailing away at the TOE while shrouded in a veil of religion-imposed ignorance.  The bottom line is that your arguments in defense of creationism are an outgrowth of your ignorance concerning the scientific method and evolutionary theory.  And ignorance is not a particularly robust parameter on which to build one’s defense of anything.  (Before you accuse me of hypocrisy, I reiterate that I am ignorant about a good many things as well (knitting, string theory, Laplace transforms, transmission repair, etc).  The difference is that I don’t portray myself as being well-informed about such matters.)

 

18.  Indeed, life experiences do serve as a component of the critical thought process.  Life experiences during my college educational period involved exposure to numerous lines of evidence that support the TOE.  So, contrary to your supposition, they have contributed significantly to my acceptance of the theory.

No.  Accepting someone else’s thought-based speculation is not a proper application of the scientific method (unless such speculation is well-reasoned and based on adequate evidence).  And that is not an activity in which I am engaging.  It may come as a surprise to you, but documenting one’s statements by citing relevant sources is not an indication of poor communication skills.  It may be a foreign concept to creationists, but it is considered an asset by those who value substantiated facts over comforting opinions.

What I have done, in the case of the evidence for evolution, is cite a source that has gathered together pertinent experimental data (not though-based speculation) that has been accumulated over many decades from numerous scientists who work in the field.  As stated above, the research related to the evolutionary sciences can be complex and difficult for the layman and uninitiated scientist to comprehend at times.  The science libraries of the world are full of such information.  Therefore, I provided (or thought I did) a source which summarizes some of the data in a convenient form for your review and consideration.  Unfortunately, as you have indicated, my links were not reproduced in your copy.   That being the case, and at the risk of incurring further rebuke, let me once again give the name of one of the websites under discussion:  29+ Evidences for Macroevolution.”

Evidence has accumulated sufficiently for me to reach the conclusion that you consider your “life experiences” to trump the accumulated knowledge of all the mainstream scientific experts on the TOE in the world.  I get the distinct impression that, if an idea is not your own or if it does not conform to your presuppositions, you do not think it is worthy of serious consideration.  This doctrinaire attitude is characteristic of most creationists I have encountered.       

Critical thought involves the objective analysis of evidence from diverse and, even more importantly, unfriendly sources before reaching a conclusion about the veracity of a particular hypothesis.  The objective evaluation of unfriendly evidence is integral to the critical thinking process.   Think how important it is in a situation such as buying a new car.  How wise would it be to rely on only the promotional material from a car dealer, while ignoring any adverse reports from owners of the car and other knowledgeable sources, when making a decision on which car to buy?  The same reasoning also applies to the decision regarding which explanation for diversity of life on Earth is the most reliable.  

You seem to operate under the assumption that your limited barnyard observations and your biblical exegesis are sufficient for you to draw a well-informed conclusion about this complex issue – a conclusion that contradicts that of many thousands of scientists who have, over the last 150 years, devoted much of their lives to examining the intricacies of the subject.   As stated above, the world’s knowledge base is not limited to one or a few individual’s personal life experiences.  It is a big world out there, and it contains a tremendous amount of evidence that relates to the TOE.  Science seeks to judiciously examine all of that evidence it can get its hands on.  You should take advantage of the ground work it has done for you.   

In my previous response, I stated that a reasonable case has been made that all conservatives should embrace the TOE because it explains, and is compatible with, such things as family values, free-market economics, conservative morality, etc.  Since the URL for the supporting link did not copy properly, search for “Darwin on the Right: Scientific American” on the Internet to access this article.

Stay tuned for a continuation of my comments on your last response to me.

Freethoughtfully,

 

P.S. -  Do you think the acceptance or rejection of the TOE is a salvation issue?  In other words, do you think the failure to believe that the biblical creation story is factual precludes salvation as it is described in the Bible?  I am just curious.