Response To Your Critique
Thank you for writing so that there is a chance for
dialogue. Otherwise, you might have continued to think that your
Let me make a few preliminary
remarks. First of all, I firmly believe that it is possible to be a
Therefore people can have a
wide variety of ideas about the Bible and
You did not define what you
meant by “I am a
In making your conclusions
about my own position and
I was a theistic evolutionist
after coming out of my medical training. I think I fell in the camp of
those who now talk about the “totally competent
My brother, who is a science
teacher, sent me a book by biochemist A. E. Wilder-Smith called The
Creation of Life, in which the author showed clearly that information
does not arise spontaneously and long periods of time do not help – information
degrades over time. It took me a year to even open the book because it
sort of revolted me – being so far out of the mainstream. After finishing
it, I re-examined the things I had been taught in college and medical school as
I returned to the
You say you studied the question and came to the opposite answer. Let us look at your conclusions and see if you might have missed something.
First of all you question my
broad definition of evolution. I am well aware of the move by
evolutionists to eliminate abiogenesis from the
theory. For an atheistic world view, however, it is essential, and that
is what I was targeting in my talk. Since you seem to have misunderstood
this point, let me explain. Either things are here because of natural
processes alone, or because – in part or in whole – of supernatural causes. Either
life came about altogether by chance and the laws of nature or there was
intelligent intervention. These are the only two logical
possibilities. For the atheist, it has to be the former. They will
tolerate no “divine foot in the door.” Of course there are theists, even
If you look at presentations
of the whole story of evolution in texts and teaching intended for children, abiogenesis is part and parcel of the package. When
Stanley Miller's reducing atmosphere electric spark experiments are discussed,
it is implied that life flows naturally from this sort of reaction, even though
it only produced a few amino acids and would have destroyed them as fast as
they were produced were they not trapped and thus removed from further
reaction. I visited our local
So in popular presentations, abiogenesis is included or glossed over, but in debates, a sharp distinction is made. I find this practice disingenuous and deceptive. The reason for the arms-length treatment is that the thoughtful evolutionist realizes that spontaneous abiogenesis is indefensible. See my debate with Edward Max, an MD PhD who many quote as an authority. (http://tccsa.tc/debate.html#max ) He admits that there is no explanation for the origin of life and none anywhere on the horizon. There is NOT any progress (as you claim) taking place in this area. In fact as more is known about the degree of complexity and inter-relatedness of living systems, the more clearly impossible it becomes.
To claim life came from aliens is a cop-out. Unless you believe that the aliens are eternal supernatural beings (in which case, you have chosen your god), they must have arisen somewhere sometime. If you postulate that the laws of physics were different somewhere else in the universe, that is a completely ad hoc leap of faith with no reasonable basis.
On another level, the odds against abiogenesis taking place apply equally to the new features being added to a living organism, even though at that point there is the possibility of natural selection favoring a more adaptive variation. The problem is not selecting the variation, the problem is getting one that is helpful.
But the immediate application of that principle is to your quote of Douglas Futuyama that “evolution is merely change.” This is a trivial definition and not helpful for your cause, but it illustrates the fallacy so commonly employed by evolutionists, that of equivocation, or “bait and switch.” Of course change takes place. Everyone agrees with that but it does not mean that the change taking place is going to make fish into amphibians or dinosaurs into birds, much less bacteria into biologists. For that you need NEW INFORMATION. You need lungs instead of gills to live on land. You need wings and guidance systems in order to fly. It is either naïve or downright deceptive to say as some evolutionists do, “ability to fly gave the protobirds a selective advantage.”
Also, unless you believe in the “hopeful monster” theory, even Gould's punctuated equilibrium requires small changes in successive generations. A small wing would be a hindrance, not a help, and would be eliminated by natural selection. Evolution cannot say, “this will be helpful later so keep it.” The ideas that small wings could be useful for catching insects is pretty far fetched and coming up with uses for intermediate characteristics really runs out of credibility pretty quickly when you have to account for the plethora of life with all its variations.
Your treatment of the probability issue indicates that you
did not do the math. Yes, indeed, there are several possible
configurations for a given active protein. In other words not all
positions in the linear sequence are critical. This improves the odds for
spontaneous formation of an active protein. The problem is that the odds
are so monstrous that it does not help. It is like the difference between
an Olympic class jumper and a couch potato attempting to leap the
Let me illustrate. You mention Cytochrome C which has 208 amino acids and is found to have 80 active variations. In my article, I did the math for a 100 amino acid protein and found the odds of putting it together correctly to be 1 in 10130. For simplicity, let's consider Cytochrome C to be 200 amino acids long, in which case the odds of assembling in the correct order would be 1 in 10260. Let's say there are 100 active variations or 102. Therefore if there are 100 possible correct answers, the odds now improve to 10260-2 which is 10258. Does it help? Hey! I'll even give you a trillion possible correct answers. Then the odds improve to one in 10248. It doesn't help you! There are only 1080 atoms in the universe. But you say there are other proteins that we also might make by chance. OK, there are perhaps 60,000 genes coding for 100,000 proteins (105 ) in the human body and there are many that other organisms have that may not be found in humans. How many proteins should we say, a billion? A trillion? A trillion-trillion, which is 1024?
For simplicity, we can consider all the proteins to be 200 amino acids long. We can start with the primordial soup and try to put the 200 amino acids together knowing that we could be trying for 1024 possible proteins and each one has 1012 possible “correct” variations so the chances of getting one of them right is one in 10260 - 24 - 12 or one in 10224. And suppose you got one right, do you have life? No, you have to get a minimum of at least 230 for the simplest theoretical living cell, all put together in the proper configuration for the machinery of life to operate correctly. And we haven't even talked about protein folding. Once the linear structure is complete, the protein is folded into the active form. This is also controlled by complex mechanisms and if it is not done correctly you get a prion, as in “mad cow disease.”
This is not a “straw man” although in a brief relating of the argument all these details were not given. A person familiar with math concepts or willing to actually crunch the numbers will quickly realize that multiple right answers is not enough help to make a difference. And to say that maybe there are many more possibilities for different metabolic pathways leading to life on a completely different basis is whistling in the dark. Any system, like any computer operating system, must meet minimal requirements to function and will run into similar odds.
Your example of people standing in line betrays a very poor understanding of biologic reality. In this you are in the company of many others who seem to think that if water is found on Mar, life is a virtual certainty (instant life – just add water). You say that the odds of life occurring is like the odds of “SOME sequence of people standing in line for dinner.” But not all sequences have biologic activity. We just went through all that. And life is not just one molecule. Also, arriving at the active sequence by steps only works if each step has some “selective advantage.” See my response to Dawkins “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” computerized evolution in my debate with Edward Max. (http://tccsa.tc/articles/olson_to_max_1.html#dawkins )
To my comment on persecution
Allow me to cite a few examples of discrimination. Please read them with an open mind and consider the evolutionists' rationalizations.
There is the case of Dean
Kenyon a tenured biology professor at
There is then the case of
Forrest Mims, a science writer who was scheduled to do a column "The
Amateur Scientist," in
Scientific American, when it was discovered that he was a
Jerry Bergman literally wrote
the book (The Criterion:Religious
invented the MRI but was surprised to find that the Nobel prize
for the MRI went to someone who had taken his work and further developed it,
not the usual way the Nobel Committee deals with new inventions and
discoveries. The Nobel proceedings are cloaked in secrecy but Damadian was not in the least secret about his young earth
John Patterson, engineering
Robert Gentry was Former
Guest Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratories and the world's top expert
on polonium halos in granite. After he presented scientific evidence for
As to whether science welcomes new information, your view of the scientist as a man in a white coat “wearing the white hat” betrays to me that you are not a professional scientist. Are you familiar with Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions? (See http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/Kuhnsnap.html ) Science does not easily accept a new paradigm, especially if the prominent figures in the field have made their life work and reputation based on the old one, even more if it touches on moral and spiritual issues. To succeed in a scientific field, you first have to get a degree and if you challenge the professor, you are unlikely to get an advanced degree. If you get a faculty position but disprove the work of your department head, you are not likely to get tenure or secure grants.
Science is a very human enterprise and when a person has an ulterior motive to favor one view, for example if he does not want to be accountable to a Higher Power, he is capable of very elaborate rationalizations. The brighter the person, the more clever the smokescreen. This is not to say that all scientists are con men, because many areas are not emotionally or spiritually sensitive. But, for example, it was very hard for me to believe that aspirin could trigger Reyes syndrome (a swelling of the brain that is often fatal) in susceptible children when they are infected with chicken pox or influenza. Why was it hard? Because I had used it and at least one child that I know of died as a result.
You idolize Albert Einstein as an innovator and point out that his radical theories were eventually accepted. Do you realize that there is a group of physicists who have come up with a new model for the atom as well as explanations for all the things that relativity and quantum theory were supposedly needed to explain, using only classical physics? They have shown the mistakes in Maxwell's equations that were based on the notion that elementary particles were points – which is impossible to start with. Their model of elementary particles as spinning rings of charge explains the nuclear forces as electromagnetic and predicts not only the possible stable configurations that make up the periodic table, but the spectral emissions of each element (including some not seen before their prediction) and the half lives of radioactive elements. And do you think they have been welcomed to the table to discuss these things? Not at all! See www.commonsensescience.org and click on “Foundations of Science Newsletters.”
As to whether there is merit
in the case for
Your statements about whether
there are only two possibilities,
As I said before, claiming life came from outer space is no help for the naturalist. How did it start there? You, by the way, seem to be willing to allow God to have created the first life, which you then think improved itself by natural selection. This has implications for how we see the nature of God and whether it is compatible with the picture we see in the Bible, something I hope you will seriously consider.
Then you get all tangled up
in the story of Stephen Jay Gould saying “Evolution must be true because we are
here,” and the children I told this statement responding, “He thinks there is
no God.” This is logical despite your convoluted attempts to discredit
it. If he believed that there might be a God, he would have said,
Talking about assumptions, the critical point is that the person who does not believe in the supernatural (the “naturalist”) runs into trouble coming up with a reason to trust his mind, which he sincerely believes is an organ “designed” and built by random processes, selected for their survival value. What goes on in the brain is thus basically molecules bouncing around in response to the input of stimuli, occasionally producing a response. There is no room for free will in this mechanism. One molecule cannot tell another to go the other way. Free will is only an illusion. When B. F. Skinner wrote his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity, he really had no choice. The previous configuration of his brain influenced by past experience combined with the stimuli of the time period involved produced a sequence of letters, words and thoughts that became his book. Is this the way we live? And if it were, our words and actions would have no necessary resemblance to truth.
You claim that
This is analogous to the present universities allowing no discussion of alternatives to naturalism and evolution. There are other groups looking into these things and slowly winning over the public.
Yet all of this arises in a
As I get to the latter part of your letter, I get the distinct impression that you did not re-read what you wrote. Perhaps you are accustomed to rapid fire exchanges, but you need to really think about what you are saying. I did not say I believed that the brain is essentially a random number generator, only that the naturalist has no mechanism to believe anything else. I believe we have free will. To be sure we are conditioned by our experience. For example, if a young man views pornography repeatedly, it begins to get a grip on his thinking and behavior. (See http://rossolson.org/pornography/ ) . He still has the freedom to stop, but it begins to get difficult. I believe that there must be a mechanism for that free will because the Bible tells us we were made with free will and because nothing really makes sense otherwise.
When you talk about God's
foreknowledge and man's free will, I suppose it is not surprising that you get
tangled up because many people do. But when you really think about it,
God, who sees the future, can see what I will do even if it is entirely my
choice to do so. He can view it without having to influence it. Now
there is a legitimate question about what happens if I become aware of that prediction
and it alters my behavior. But I recall when I was talking many years ago
to some Jewish friends about the prophecies that
Claiming that evolutionists believe in free will, take another look at what you wrote. Gould says that if you ran evolution again it might be smart insects at the top of the food chain. What does that have to do with free will? Evolution does not have free will! There are no creatures along that randomly generated path exercising free will! It is all just a series of random events.
If you believe in souls, then you believe that there was supernatural intervention, at least in the development of human life.
You state categorically that there is no rational case for a young earth. Apparently you are omniscient since otherwise there might be a case outside of your knowledge. As a start, I recommend that you start by looking at some of the articles on age. (See http://tccsa.tc/articles.html#age )
You accept the Big Bang, probably not aware of all the debate going on regarding it's validity. See (http://tccsa.tc/articles.html#big_bang ).
Finally, although you claim
to have been listening to your pastor's sermons, you seem to have missed the
Biblical teaching about the Fall. Or perhaps you
rejected it because the doctrine starts with the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis.
It permeates the whole scripture, however. Because of man's sin, the
You claim that God is
dishonest, cruel and uncaring if the
I believe that God created a perfect world but allowed free moral agents to be
free. Yes, I do believe that He knew we would fall – that did not cause
the Fall but makes us wonder if He could have made us
free and able to remain good. But that is a much more sophisticated
argument than you have come up with. There seems to be a logical
necessity for freedom to allow the possibility of failure. Yet even in
the face of this tragedy, God has taken the results of evil and turned them
into something beautiful. In our suffering we recognize our need for Him.
And in redeeming us, He shows how deep and wide is His love. I sincerely
hope that you know that love – I hope that this is what you mean by being a
Ross S. Olson MD
After sending my response to your January 22 e-mail, I found your e-mail of the 23rd with my notes on it. For completeness, I will add those few comments.
You question my use of the
phrase, “… the case against evolution removes the illusion that atheism is
intellectually respectable…” You then go on to claim that
To begin with, you either misunderstand or ignore the context of my remark. The point is that if there is no credible explanation for life in all its diversity other than an intelligent Creator, then the person who says, “but I don't believe in a creator” is just whistling in the wind, like the child who says, “I can't HEAR you!”
You quote Augustine on
science and his advice is fine.
You recall the case of a
friend who was turned off on the gospel by a
On the other hand, I have seen many people come to Christ when they realize that the world could not have come about by chance. I do not hear about many whose lives are changed by a belief in evolution.
You berate Henry Morris for his firm belief in the flood, on the basis of the Biblical record, even if there are “geologic difficulties.” First of all, may I remind you that the origin of a hypothesis does not disqualify it if it fits the data. The ring structure of benzene was first proposed by a man who got it from a drug-induced dream.
believe that the flood hypothesis much better fits the data than the uniformitarian hypothesis. You see huge areas covered by a
particular kind of sediment, then abrupt change to another type. Some of
the sediments, like sand, require rapidly moving water and are said by uniformitarians to be river deltas, yet they often cover
hundreds or thousands of square miles. There is also pollen in PreCambrian rocks in the
As to whether a person is
intellectually dishonest to hold to the Biblical record when science seems to
be going the other way, there was a time when archaeology claimed that there
was no city of
I wonder if you would reject your own faith if science claimed that you carried the “religiosity gene?” (Such a genetic mechanism has been proposed as a reason why people believe irrational things.) In my days at the University there was the psychological explanation that weak people need an all-powerful cosmic parent figure to lean on, a point of view also recently espoused by that famous philosopher, Jesse Ventura.
I look forward to the next round. Ding. There goes the bell!
Ross S. Olson MD
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