CRI--Creation Research Institute

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Listening to the local Christian Music Radio station on my way home I just heard a gentleman who was introduced as a "geologist" from the Creation Research Institute utter what I most despise coming from these people.

After a long and elaborate description of a certain kind of pollinating symbiosis in one breed of orchids, the scientist reached his scientific climax, the coup de grace of evolution--the grand and oracular scientific utterance, "Natural selection could not bring this about, only God's design."

Now, I have no real problem with the sentiment--everyone is entitled to an opinion, and when faced with certain things like this, I am often stunned by the complexity of the relationship and the morphologies involved. But to claim that such a declamation was in any way scientific or evidence of anything other than a profoundly held opinion is, in fact, fraud. Opinions do not make science. My opinion that evolution is (or is not) the cause of every morphotype in adaptive space is not proof that it is so. When people attack the supposed proofs with solid reasoning (Michael Behe, and his ilk) I'm inclined to give an attentive ear. I find many of the defenses against Behe's argument, shall we say, defensive--each a case of special pleading.

But do not present an opinion, by a scientist or anyone else, and then call it documentary evidence. It is misleading and it makes the people who then quote this kind of thing look like absolute idiots. Worse, it makes the case presented by those with strong scientific credentials less plausible, because everyone can point to the opinionaters and group them together.

Science tries to be objective, but scientists are every bit the political animal every human being is--and so if you can show someone belonging to a fringe outlier, you don't need to pay attention.

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"Natural selection could not bring this about ..." That sounds like an opinion plausibly based on scientific data. The proposed mechanisms of "natural selection" are observable, right? The contention is that such processes, thus far, have not been observed to be creative. I don't see a problem here.

What if natural selection *is* God's design for the world? Some people run from natural selection because if they accept that, then that causes problems for their belief in creationsim. So whatever evidence they see to support natural selection exists only because God designed it.

Dear Jeff,

I didn't expect you would. There is a serious misunderstanding about science that suggests bald, unsupported contentions are evidence. That statement is a conclusion, the evidence sited is an observation regarding the flower and the insect. The missing bridge is any evidence connecting the two.

In order for one to make the statement above, one must show HOW natural selection cannot produce the variations described. To say that it cannot is insufficient--just, as on the other hand, to say that it can is insufficient--it is merely supported by the fact that natural selection can produce variation--we don't know how much, how quickly, or limits on what it may produce. However, to state that it cannot means that someone must know some limits to natural selection that have not been identified by anyone else. This is the fallacy of the statement and this is why such bad science undermines the efforts of legitimate thinkers and theorists who have much more solid fact-based challenges that I have yet to see addressed in anything more than denigrating side-blows, "Michael Behe believes in intelligent design, therefore any mechanism he posits is immediately suspect."

The statement I just sited has as much scientific validity as the one that started this conversation--exactly zero. Science is not the aimless flinging of random assertions--it is the dedicated collection, observation, interpretation and attempted recreation of a set of linked variables. In this arena evidence is required for an assertion. I would say that in this case the preponderance of the evidence really allows no conclusion. Most evolutionists make the mistake of saying that if natural selection is a causitive mechanism it must always be THE causitive mechanism. I like that because it does not require random miracles to produce the end result--but it is simply a preference, not a matter of proof. So, while I simply accept the possibility of natural selection as a causitive mechanism, I am ready to consider evidence as to how it may not work, what its limits are, etc. What must be rejected, from the point of view of one who works in the sciences is the assertion that it cannot happen through natural selection with no evidence to the contrary. As we know that natural selection DOES work to produce change (and yes, this much can be shown quite readily in any number of case studies) we do not need to posit other causes until someone presents us with a good reason as to why this cannot happen. Michael Behe and others have begun to produce such evidences (if I understand them correctly). I don't know how solid these are, but I'm certainly more willing to listen to him than I am to someone who makes assertions without substantive evidence.



I agree with your CRI comments. I think there is a general failure to recognize the strength and weakness of science. Science at its best involves testing any hypothesis by an experiment. The result of the experiment should either prove or disprove the hypothesis. The best scietists hold all opinions "provisionally" subject to disproof by a better and more elegant experiment.

If the hypothesis cannot be either proved or disproved, then it's not science. To date, nobody has been able to propose an experiment that will either prove or disprove the existence of God. That question is currently outside the competency of science. Evidence of natural selection is pretty solid, but as you note there are limits as to what is fairly addressed by science. Nobody has yet conducted an experiment that "falsifies" natural selection, as that term is understood by scientists.

Michael Behe also has not yet done that. His work is in a new area of science with a substantial amount of reasearch to be done and we can await the results.

Steven, I think we have the cart before the horse. The burden of proof is on those who believe in the creative powers of natural selection. Since they haven't made their case by a long shot, the empirical evidence (which shows that observed natural selection is not creative) and the biblical record (which, I insist, must also be counted as evidence from a Catholic perspective) lead to the CRI commentator's conclusion.


Once again, the facts you site are incorrect. We know of the "creative" powers of natural selection through observation of ring clines and through the production of new subspecies. Tell me how much a pomeranian resembles an Irish Wolf Hound. In addition the Rana pipiens cline in the U.S. and the Thrush populations of the Galapagos both belie your underlying assumption. The "creative" potential of natural selection has been shown without any doubt.

Now, to be fair, the upper level creative potential has not necessarily been shown. However, when talking about adaptive morphospace and the convergence of a symbiotic relationship, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that such a thing can happen.

I'm afraid that if you know the science, there is irrefutable evidence to the contrary of your statement. One might question whether natural selection is creative ex nihilo and one might have a very good point. But in shaping the contours of what already exists we have study after study after study that shows the adpative response and morphotype changes.

The proof of this negative is incumbent upon those who claim the negative.

One may not accept the proof of modern science for what has been observed and indeed caused in a variety of ways; however, then one is outside the realm of science and has no footing on which to make any pronouncement regarding scientifice causes or methods.

This is the point we keep coming back to. I have no objection to the opinion you hold, but that opinion is insufficient to challenge empirical evidence to the contrary. The literal interpretation of Genesis I leave to the fundamentalists, it is neither required nor even particularly logical.

We obviously won't agree on this, but I will continue to oppose the wanton imposition of dubious theological proposals onto the study of science. I will continue to support those who systematically analyze and consider evidence (unlike the CRI, which dismisses whatever does not fit the agenda, and which uses anecdotal data from spurious claims) to get at the truth.





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