Breaking News

The theory of evolution and its creationist enemies(2)

And although I do not have the magazine in question, I am almost certain that  it will also include the views of dissenting scientists who insist that evolution is a well corroborated fact. Creationists do not realise that creationism has never been, and can never be, a scientific hypothesis, despite desperate attempts  by late Henry Morris and his disciples to make it respectable  by founding the charmingly obscurantist Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in San Diego, California. 

Ironically, inspite of the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States, creationists there have been losing legal battles to force public schools to devote equal time to the teaching of evolution and creationism.  Furthermore,  several antiquated laws of various states in America banning the teaching of evolution have been systematically dismantled. In the 1968 case of Epperson v. Arkansas, for example, it was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

Also, in the cases of Crowley v. Smithsonian (1978), Segraves v. California (1981) and McLean v. Arkansas (1982), various judges not only passed judgements favourable to the theory of evolution, they reached the conclusion that “creation science” was indeed sectarian religion.

Therefore, if Ms. Wallace has been teaching creation science instead of evolution in school, as her article implies, that is a terrible disservice to the noble profession of teaching. Wallace reasoned fallaciously that if there is no God, one is bound to argue that rationality grew out of irrationality:  she thinks that  atheists believe in everything. To her, the world seems to be divided into creationists and atheists.

She then falls back on the teleological argument by quoting the British astronomer, Fred Hoyle, and Charles Darwin himself. Leaving aside the vexed question concerning the definition of rationality and whether the belief in God is both rational and the hallmark of rationality, research findings in anthropology, psychology, sociology, history and philosophy etc.

Prove convincingly that the so-called higher faculties of humans, including rationality, cognition and spirituality, are products of thousands of years of evolutionary progression from primitive stages to what they are today, with hereditary material as the fundamental biological substrate in the process. Human beings certainly did not acquire these mental attributes already made or perfected from God.

Indeed, the biblical description of Adam and Eve portrays them as sub-human creatures who neither knew they were naked nor had any knowledge of good and evil. The way I see it, if Adam and Eve were the best an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent being can offer as the culmination  of special creation, then that very being does not deserve to be worshipped. Ms Wallace, in quoting Darwin, conveniently left out his masterful explanation of how the seemingly implausible is well explained by the elegant mechanisms of natural selection.

Indeed, Darwin occasionally employs the sort of free confession that Wallace quoted as a rhetorical device to draw his creationist opponents towards him so that his arguments for evolution would hit harder.  Moreover, as a sound scientist, he specified conditions for the falsification of his theory: the existence of a complex organ which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications.

No creationist has ever articulated a sensible criterion  for the falsification of creationism. For Wallace’s education on how humans developed their unique physical and mental features, I recommend the following: Gordon R.  Taylor, The Natural History of the Mind, William Howells, Getting Here: The Story of Human Evolution, and Steve Olson, mapping human history.

Contrary to her  simplistic categorisation of people into theists and atheists, there are polytheists, agnostics, and theological evolutionists also. To cite one renowned example of the last group, the late Jesuit palaeontologist-priest, Teilhard de Chardin, was a firm believer in evolutionary theory.  She is definitely wrong in suggesting that atheism entails irrationality.

Atheism encourages rationality by insisting that our beliefs must conform to the fundamental principles of logic and evidence, and that we should rely on our efforts, not on the erratic grace of a jealous, vindictive, bloodthirsty and parochial deity, to solve our existential problems. Belief in God, and religion in general, is based on faith; and faith, as it manifests in religion, is the very anti-thesis of rationality.

Religious faith, like what we see these days in the new-fangled Pentecostal churches,  glorifies irrationality, swims in irrationality and deifies irrationality. Moreover, it is the ultimate height of irrationality to accept as true all the phantasmagoria recorded in The Holy Bible and other “holy books.” Countries and historical epochs in which religious consciousness is (was) dominant also manifest(ed) the grossest levels of irrationality (Europe during the Middle Ages, for example).

The teleological argument implicit in Ms. Wallace’s essay, much beloved by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been fully demolished by David Hume and Immanuel Kant, so I will not argue the matter in details here. Suffice it to say that the apparent design observed in the universe logically does not imply the existence of an omnipotent undesigned designer.

The best one can infer is a consortium of designers whose works were constrained by the materials available to them. The theory of evolution offers a superior explanation of biological complexity  by spelling out in verifiable details how the mechanism of natural selection functions to eliminate organisms that could not adapt to the changing environment. What creationists see as products of design, therefore, are really the end results of evolutionary processes that have been occurring on earth relentlessly for about 3.5 billion years.

To be continued.

As  a matter of fact, the noted Oxford zoologist, Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, debunked the logic behind the creationist argument, which in effect demonstrates that any reference to Hoyle’s Boeing 474 argument is premised on ignorance of the mechanism of natural selection as a cumulative process. Creationists always make the mistake of supposing that the alternative to design is pure chance. That is false, because natural selection is the real alternative.  Of course, it is highly improbable that the complexity we observe in organisms is the product of chance. But the design argument is  logically flawed too, because it raises the question which creationists are afraid to ask: who designed the designer? Creationists dogmatically believe in the existence of an undesigned designer who just started decreeing things into being. But invariably, they fail to recognise that the truth of their belief is as improbable as, or more improbable than,  the notion that complex organisms arose from chance. TO BE CONTINUED.

April 22, 2010


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.