Sunday, May 08, 2005
Differences and Similarities between Evolutionists and Creationists
- Speciation occurs (I know that many uneducated creationists disagree with this, but this point is agreed upon by AiG, ICR, CRS, and ARN).
- Many species can be traced back to a common ancestor.
- The frequency of alleles within a population varies over time.
- Mutations occur.
- It is possible for a beneficial mutation to occur.
- Most aspects of genetics (in fact, genetics was discovered by a creationists and used as a rebuke against evolutionary ideas).
So, with all of the agreement, where is the disagreement? The disagreement lies, primarily with three issues:
- The origin of life (which is, technically, not part of evolutionary theory anymore).
- Universal Common Ancestry vs Multi-Rooted Ancestries.
- Emergence of New Biological Systems by Undirected Processes.
The idea of "millions of years" is somewhat in conflict with some theories of creation, but technically, I think it belongs in the categories of geology and perhaps astrophysics, not biology.
Now, you see that there is actually very little that is disagreed upon. In fact, if you look on the list of agreements, #3 is used by some to be the very definition of evolution. Therefore, it is hard to say that creation is anti-science or even completely anti-evolution. The main differences are simply how many roots we perceive to be at the basis of ancestries, and whether or not complex systems can arise on their own by mutation and natural selection.
I've already dealt with most of the arguments about Universal Common Ancestry being way oversold.
I also think that the de novo creation of biological systems is quite disputable, but I don't have the time to mention it here. However, this is really a secondary point for creationists. I know for certain that Creationists would not be as livid, active, or vocal if Universal Common Ancestry and Origin of Life were removed, and only the creation of biological systems were left in. However, I think that biologists would have little reason for advocating the de novo creation of biological systems if multiple tree roots were allowable.
Really, creationists and evolutionists are nearly identical, with the primary difference being the number of roots of our proposed biological trees.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Lessons to Creationists from Another Alternative Movement
First of all, don't be just an opposition movement. That will get you nowhere. This might seem strange coming from a blog where the majority of the posts are about opposition to evolution. Opposition and Debunking of myths is an important function, but no movement will survive simply by stating opposition, no matter how valid. Ultimately, to be established, you have to not only point out the faults, but establish something useful.
For example, in the Linux movement, it is wildly popular to criticize Windows. By now, everyone knows the faults of Windows, and they have been argued to no end that most people involved should be able to recite them from memory. And yet people still want to post a new essay rehashing what has been hashed thousands of times. While this has a small amount of merit to keep it in front of people and on their minds, it's mostly just noise pollution. People have made up their minds philosophically, and one more post re-stating the same reasons isn't going to convince anyone.
So what does push you ahead? Linux gained ground initially by being REALLY CHEAP. It would be nice if creationism gave a model of biology that was intrinsically cheap to study. Sadly, this is not the case. However, another way to look at it was that Linux gained ground by serving a niche very well. Very quickly, it became _the_ webserver platform. It especially became the webserver platform for new webmasters and for mass-hosting webmasters.
The rest of the infrastructure for Linux was there, and indeed some people were using Linux for everything, but it got a full-fledged niche doing webserving. MySQL then plunged it into the low-range DB space, where all other systems were either overpriced or underpowered (sadly, this should have been PostgreSQL, but oh well). It started taking over other backend IT niches (fileserving, LDAP serving, mail serving, clustering, etc.) -- it was a low-cost utility platform that you could use for pretty much any boring purpose. Recently it has started taking the telephony industry by storm with Asterisk, the VOIP server.
But notice that while Linux started out good for most backend tasks, and is becoming better for many frontend tasks, it proceeded taking over one niche at a time. In each of these areas, it proved to be the best method of processing for the price.
Now ideological differences mean very little. If someone wants a low-cost telephony server, there really is only one choice -- Linux. If someone wants to do a large-scale cluster, it's Linux. A gateway mail server -- Linux. A web farm -- usually Linux.
Likewise, I can see creationists finding niches in which creation offers the best explanation. This is a little harder for creationists than it is for Linux users, since creationism is a theory of origins, and we cannot reproduce origins. However, here are some areas of research where I think a creationist theory would be able to easily trump evolutionary ideas:
- Show genetic recombination to be a planned, well-defined process. This would mean that before asserting "random mutations" someone would first have to rule out "pre-defined recombination". I can imagine some sort of mechanism where certain transposons are programmed to recombine in certain places based on environmental conditions. This sort of process, if studied, could easily explain such things as the nylon bug.
- Examine the relationship between the marsupials and the placentals more closely.
- Examine the precise locations of the continuities and discontinuities among animal groups.
In geology, the answer is fairly simple (at least to do from an armchair quaterback standpoint). If you can come up with a model of the flood that better predicts the location of oil deposits than standard methods, the entire field of geology will change faster than you can even get a paper published on the subject. Of course, this will also have the instantaneous effect of evolutionists all around the world pointing out that science equations are not directly tied to epistemology or a true understanding of the universe, but are merely a working theory capable of prediction.
The real problem with creationist biology is funding. Government does a whole lot of science funding, and I wish they'd stop -- it's really not their business. Some people have pointed out that individuals would not know which projects to contribute to in order to make all of science work together well. I say that's bunk -- forming an organization like the United Way would be rather easy, and would allow people with different worldviews to be able to have the same opportunities at securing funding, and keep the rest of us from having to fund science that we believe to be in error. I find it amusing that evolutionists refer to creationists as being well-funded when most of them are milking off the government super-sugar-daddy.
However, most of the ideas above can be framed using evolutionary terms, although this might not help your funding if the results and conclusions are anti-evolutionary. Pretty much any study of convergent evolution can be used to show evolution to not be the best explanation, since showing convergent evolution denies the tenet that such similarities are proof of evolution.
Anyway, this isn't meant to be a slam on creationists, but a push. Sometimes I think that the reason that we don't hear about creationists in biology is that they are busy doing other, more productive things than arguing about origins. That's certainly what reading In Six Days led me to believe. I have a lot of respect for that. However, we also need more Christians to work toward a Christian understanding of origins. People like the RATE group, the Baraminology Study Group, the Geoscience Research Institute, and others are doing well, but there needs to be more. No amount of anti-evolution books are going to change anyone's mind. But what will change people's minds are when creationist assumptions are used to find fascinating facts about the world around us.
It will start out being just a small area, especially because of the few scientists and small amounts of money. People will claim, "well it's good for that, but it's just a matter of time before we find the true evolutionary explanation". But then, one niche at a time, people will start to see the results of investigation based on God's word. It will be great to see. I imagine that there will be a turning point in the next 15 years, after which creation research will regain legitimacy. It takes time.
However, creationists will have to learn to hold their tongue more. For those engaged in constructive research, the pot shots on evolution will have to be put on hold, at least for the scientific investigation. In my own writings on Linux programming, I have simply left out references to Microsoft altogether. The fact is that Linux makes sense even without a Microsoft, and Creation makes sense even without something like evolution to compare it to. And if people don't feel like they are being threatened when you speak about creation, they will probably be more likely to listen.
So why do I continue to post criticisms of evolution? Because the comparison is a valid, ongoing topic. Not everything has been said which needs to be said, and for the people coming up through the ranks we must be able to give them responses to the evolutionary mindset. Usually in debates, the people debating are not going to change their minds. Sometimes they will over time. However, by the nature of the fact that they have studied the issue well enough to debate it shows that they are fairly firm in their stance. Therefore, they are not the ones who are convinced by the debates, usually. It is those watching the debates from outside.
Anyway, I'm sorry for the rambling essay. I try to stay away from that in here, but this is a topic I really wanted to touch on. I haven't given it justice either. I encourage people to post in the comments other ways that creationists can pursue positive research using Creation assumptions.
One other thing you might want to check out is the book Understanding the Pattern of Life. It's not superb, but it is a step in the right direction. It is a book on Creationist biosystematics. The first third is truly boring, but the rest of it is pretty good. It makes many, many references to Following Form and Function which I will have to read next. It has some decent insights. What I liked about it most was that it was not confrontational with evolutionists. In fact, it showed many of the places where evolutionists were right and how creationists can learn from it. It shows that being a creationist is not at all about attacking evolution. Honestly, I would love to not focus on evolution at all, except evolutionists nearly unanimously claim that all evidence points to them, and that anyone who thinks differently is stupid. This brings up two of m favorite verses, and choosing which one is applicable is always one of life's toughest decisions -- Proverbs 26:4 and Proverbs 26:5 (what's really amusing is that these wound up in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible as being a contradiction, while I find it obvious that the juxtaposition is one of the most inspired thoughts of the Bible).
Anyway, I'm done rambling for right now.