18th December 2005
I feel a need to be seasonal. I was handed a copy Decembers issue of Evangelical Times (ET) the other day. It tackles deep philosophical questions such as, Does God exist the general view being in the affirmative. It should come as no great surprise that Christmas gets the thumbs up too.
However it was the comments about evolution that really caught my eye. It received a brief mention by research zoologist Sheena Tyler and over a full page by her hubby David J. Tyler who has a degree in physics and a PhD in Management Science.
Here in the UK many of us watch with stunned incomprehension at the collective stupidity of those in America who still cling to the creation myth. They constantly find new ways to pass off fable as science and Intelligent Design is their latest stab at weaselling their way into the science class. In order for this to succeed they must appear to distance themselves from religion and they carefully avoid any mention of the G word preferring to use words like creator or designer.
However the Evangelical Times doesnt waste time pussyfooting around with such niceties and Mrs Tyler boldly states that as a zoologist she finds the scientific data supports the biblical account of life on earth. Really Maybe she is referring to Genesis 20 21,
And God said, Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky. So God created great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
This is supported by the scientific data eh
Mrs Tyler tells us there is, a profound absence of transitional forms between the basic types of living things. She accepts there is much hybridisation between the basic types but baulks at the idea of speciation. In other words she thinks microevolution is fine but macroevolution is just not acceptable. Such distinctions are entirely artificial. Small changes in the short term are difficult to deny, even for readers of Evangelical Times, but given enough time lots of small changes eventually add up to great big changes. For anyone interested I suggest a visit to Talk Origins and in particular this FAQ. I marvel at the fact someone can work as a research zoologist and be so incredibly ignorant of the fossil record.
Then, in an article Life in Focus, husband David takes us for a paddle in the murky waters of Intelligent Design (ID).
By way of a brief diversion its worth asking why exactly evangelicals dont like neo-Darwinian evolution. After all, the Roman Catholic Church doesnt seem to have a problem with it. One reason is that it pretty much does away with the need for a creator at all. Second it means the Bible is wrong and by extension if its wrong about this then it might well be wrong about everything else. Thirdly, even it we regard evolution as some how being Gods unfolding plan, it means that God developed an unbelievably cruel system that is entirely based on the death of the weak and helpless. Infant mortality is evolutions prime mover because only by killing off creatures (including us) before they are old enough to breed can natural selection work. For the religious God has got to represent supreme niceness whereas if evolution is true (and it is) it means he is a pretty nasty piece of work. Obviously evolution must be suppressed no matter what.
The basic idea of Intelligent Design is that some things are so irreducibly complex that they cannot have evolved. If one piece of the machine is removed then it is useless and for evolution to work it must confer a competitive advantage at every stage of development. The eye used to be an oft cited example but now convincing explanations exist showing how it could evolve and provide benefit at each stage. See here for an excellent explanation.
So people like Michael Behe forget about eyes and move on to bacteria, specifically flagellum that can swim. Another favourite is the human system of blood clotting. You would think that the mere fact we have haemophiliacs might count against this but seemingly not. These two are popular because its difficult to demonstrate exactly how they evolved. But attempts are being made, noticeably by Russell Doolittle. See here.
Pro-evolutionists point out that nature can only work with what its got. For example bones in our jaws have been co-opted by evolution to provide parts of the human ear but take one away now and you won't hear very much. So looking at what something does now and trying to reverse engineer it by removing parts one at a time simply doesnt work.
Meanwhile back to D.J. Tyler. He talks about codes and, using the analogy of man-made computer codes (i.e. software), suggests that DNA is also a code and therefore must have come about through purposeful design. So you cant have a really complicated thing like a human being without an Intelligent Designer, but you can have a really complicated thing like an Intelligent Designer without another Intelligent Designer. This is commonly referred to as having your cake and eating it.
But it seems Management guru Dr. Tyler is not alone. He writes,
Darwinism has always claimed to explain the origin of complexity. However the more scientists look at the data the less it appears that evolutionary theory has anything helpful to say on the subject.
Apart from being untrue it begs the question as to what light Intelligent Design throws on the origin of complexity. Even the briefest assessment of the human body shows that it is not without faults. The human eye could be vastly improved we have blood vessels on the inside of our eyes which means if they rupture we go blind. Why not put them on the outside instead Teeth rot, backs ache and children are born with defects some of which are fatal. We also get a thousand and one other problems including cancer, not to mention piles of junk DNA. We might expect this in nature but not if we are the blueprint of an omnipotent designer.
Throwing caution to the wind Tyler goes further than his American counterparts, he writes,
Believing in the Bible does not mean that we become irrational.
So when Mr Tyler is talking about ID we can be pretty sure who he thinks is the designer in question. I accept it doesnt mean you are clinically insane or that every decision you make is irrational but in my own humble opinion believing the Bible has anything scientific to say on the origin of lifes rich diversity is, well irrational.
By the end of the article scientist David J. Tyler is freely discussing God, Jesus and quoting scripture. None of which has the remotest connection with science.
All life on Earth is related and evolved from a common ancestor: a fact that is no less wonderful for having come about by a natural, as opposed to a supernatural, process.
Afterthought: You would think that mediums would be able to clear this one up once and for all. I mean surely dead people can ask someone higher up Ancient spirit guides must know something about this surely
Britains Psychic Challenge
Already discussed in Randis own Commentary but I have another couple of observations. The first test with the "psychics" trying to find a body in the boot of the car had many faults but one not mentioned so far was the possibility of cheating. The first person to try had to hand over her mobile phone. Why was that exactly Obviously to stop her communicating anything to the other contestants. By the time the last woman arrived it was already dark, are we supposed to believe that none of them had their phones handed back until after the test Personally I doubt it.
What should have happened was that all six psychic claimants should have handed in their phones and been kept separated from each other until the whole series of tests were completed. As has been pointed out it would have helped if a different car had been randomly chosen each time.
Now I have no way of knowing if any cheating actually went on but the mere fact that it could have is indication enough that the test design was poorly constructed. Presumably as I write auditions are taking place for the seven shows planned for next year. How well are these tests constructed and who designed them Bear in mind that in all the years the JREF $1 Million Challenge has been running no one has ever passed the preliminary stage. If similar high standards were applied to the auditioning process then there would probably not be any future programmes at all. So my own assumption is that the tests in the auditions will be as hopeless as the ones we saw on the pilot show.
Jerry Springer the Opera
It seems Woolworths and Sainsburys have stopped selling the DVD of Jerry Springer the Opera following complaints (A fact I first discovered at No. 80). I wrote to Woolworths and told them just what I thought of their spineless stance and assured them I would forever boycott their store. Similarly I have ceased to shop at our local Sainsburys. On a more positive note I have purchased tickets to see the show live.