Clash over origins
17 April 2007
An exciting new debate DVD strengthens the creationist cause … once again! Creationist Dr Carl Wieland and evolutionist Dr Mark Farmer face off in this Clash Over Origins.
Notes on the Farmer vs Wieland debate
Topic: That evolution is a better explanation
of the origin, diversity, and history of life
on earth than biblical creation.
Dr Mark Farmer,
Professor of Cellular Biology,
University of Georgia
Dr Carl Wieland,
MD, Creation Ministries International,
1. Openings (15 minutes each)
Mark Farmer (MF) opening (3:25–13:40mins)
Dr Farmer said he does not ‘believe’ in evolution. He defined ‘belief’ as ‘something that no amount of argument can dissuade you from accepting in your heart that it is true’. He seemed to be in this way contrasting religious belief with science. He said, ‘It is because I am a scientist that I do not “believe” in evolution.’
Comment: This is a false contrast, because Christian faith (belief) is not just ‘in your heart’ but is based on evidence. If the evidence were overturned, then Christian faith would be overturned. The apostle Paul makes this point regarding the Resurrection in 1 Cor. 15: if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen then our faith is worthless. Dr Farmer seemed to be advocating fideism, the view that faith is without rational content or support, which is not biblical Christianity. On this topic, see Why use apologetics for evangelism?
MF also tried to argue that evolution is in no way religious, or was religiously neutral, and charged that creationists claiming that evolution was an anti-God religion were doing ‘a disservice to those meant to inform’.
Comment: It is not difficult to show that evolution is indeed a creed for many, and treated as such, not just a scientific theory, and it has profound implications for Christian belief. See Isn’t evolution purely scientific, and religiously neutral? And isn’t creation just a religious belief?
MF cited Wikipedia’s definition of science, including that it is the search for natural explanations. Comment: This is a self-serving (for materialists) definition that excludes supernatural explanations even if they are demanded by the evidence. See The rules of the game.
MF made much of the point that ‘challenging theories on the basis of lack of evidence is a hollow argument’, that currently unexplained phenomena are not evidence against evolutionary theory. He noted failure to understand the origin of life as an example and referred to Dr Wieland as using such an argument in relation to this, claiming that Dr Wieland said that this proves Genesis is true (see Dr Wieland’s response later).
Comment: Creationists do not believe in a ‘God of the gaps’ argument—that if we don’t understand something we revert to ‘God’ to explain it. That approach is akin to superstition, not Christian faith. In contrast, Christian faith counters superstition. See Superstition vs Christianity. Dr Jonathan Sarfati explained about the creationist position:
The ‘God of the gaps’ view is a straw man. As creationists we never seek miraculous intervention in the gaps in normal ‘operation science’. Rather, we use the basic scientific principles of causality (everything that has a beginning has a sufficient cause) and analogy (e.g. we observe that intelligence is needed to generate complex coded information in the present, so we can reasonably assume the same for the past). And because there was no material intelligent designer for life, it is legitimate to invoke a non-material designer for life. Note that this is not based on a lack of knowledge, but squarely on what we do know about complex specified information and the laws of chemistry that refute chemical evolutionary ideas of the origin of life.
Dr Farmer compared current ignorance over the origin of life with the debate in Copernicus’ day over the inability to comprehend elliptical orbits, which was settled much later when Newton discovered calculus. He implied that one day we would understand how life arose by natural processes. Comment: This is a false analogy, because Copernicus was dealing with operational science, whereas the origin of life is a part of origins or historical science. The latter operates by the process of plausible story telling which is not open to experimentation in the same way as are the effects of gravity on elliptical orbits. See It’s not science! There is nothing that is likely to be discovered about how life operates that will explain its origin, any more than studying how an electric motor works will tell you how it came into existence (although it would of course suggest that intelligence was involved!). Indeed, the more we know about how life works, the more ridiculous the notion of its naturalistic origin seems. Note that in arguing for the naturalistic origin of life, Dr Farmer did not even seem to allow that God created life—everything must be explained without reference to God. This reminds one of Lewontin’s amazing admission, but Lewontin is an atheist, so from his worldview everything has to be explained by mere material processes. The Bible says that the reality of God’s existence can be clearly seen in what has been made, so that no one has any excuse (Romans 1:18–23). It seems strange that Dr Farmer, a member of the Episcopal Church, seems to be willing to work hard to eliminate all evidence of God’s creative actions, attributing all ‘creation’ to purely natural processes. This seems to deny the clear testimony of the Bible that the creation speaks clearly of the supernatural.
MF cited Dobzhansky, famous evolutionist of the 19th century (cited here), as saying how meaningful biology was in the light of evolution but that without it the facts provide no meaningful picture as a whole, adding that he himself found biology immensely satisfying because of evolution. Comment: That something is satisfying does not establish that it is true.
MF challenged that a wrong order of fossils would overturn evolution (human fossils found with dinosaurs, etc.).
At the end, Dr Farmer said that gene sequences, gene order and gene anomalies all show that humans are more closely related to the great apes than to other living creatures (without explaining how). Comment: Aside from this ‘elephant hurling’, a common debating tactic recognized as an informal fallacy, where a list of ‘proofs’ are given without explanation with the apparent intention of overwhelming the opponent, these arguments assume what they set out to prove, which Dr Wieland explains later. Dr Farmer went on to challenge that if creationists are serious about chimps not being our closest relatives, then they should demand the halting of all studies that use them for medical research.
Carl Wieland (CW) opening (13:40–28:21mins)
Dr Wieland explained the concept in formal logic of the law of the excluded middle: that either things were created or they were not (evolution); there are no other options, so evidence for or against one is by force of logic evidence respectively against or for the only other possibility. As we explain here:
Evolutionists from Darwin to today have used the same tactic, i.e., ‘God wouldn’t have done it that way, therefore evolution must explain it.’
It’s notable that Darwin often used pseudo-theological arguments against design rather than direct arguments for evolution. But this form of argument presupposes the ‘two-model approach,’ i.e., that creation and evolution are the only alternatives, so evidence against creation is evidence for evolution. Ironically, many evolutionists scream loudly if creationists use this same form of logic to conclude that evidence against evolution is support for creation!
CW pointed out the difference between operational and historical science and how they contrast in the roles of evidence and story telling and how interpretation of evidence is so important in historical science. One’s worldview very much determines how one interprets historical data, but it has much less role in understanding the physics of gravity. For more, see Chapter 1 of Refuting Evolution 2.
CW: the importance of definitions. Biblical creation: that God created everything supernaturally in six days, thousands of years ago and there was a global, year-long flood that created most of the fossils. Evolution: the development from nothing to particles to people, all by themselves, by purely natural processes, with no outside input required: from nothing to nature; particles to people, all by themselves. Evolutionists often equivocate (switch to a different meaning of ‘evolution’) which confuses people. See this trick explained.
CW: the biological changes we observe (real operational science) are heading in the wrong direction to change microbes into magnolias and microbiologists. They are tearing things down, not building them up. It is not that there has not been enough time; it’s that the processes are incapable of doing what is claimed. For more on this, see The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction).
CW: Origin of life: is it reasonable to have faith that one day we will understand how lifeless chemicals could organize themselves into the first living cell? See Paul Davies’ admissions regarding the nature of the problem. Programs come from mind / intelligence, not chemistry or physics. For more on the problem of the origin of the software, the programs of living cells, information, see articles at the Information Theory Q&A. For comment on Davies’ quote about ‘How did stupid atoms write their own software?...Nobody knows’ see Huff and Bluff: Can ‘quantum magic’ save chemical evolution? For details on the origin of life experiment of Stanley Miller, see Why the Miller–Urey research argues against abiogenesis. For other problems with the naturalistic origin of life, see Origin of Life Q&A. Evolutionists posit that the information, the programs, created themselves contrary to the known laws of physics and chemistry (as Davies admits).
CW: protozoan-to-pony evolution requires the addition of lots of new information, or specified complexity. Textbook examples of ‘evolution’ show mutations, natural selection and adaptation but loss of information. Mutations, the only possible source of new information, are on rare occasions beneficial, but even then they still overwhelmingly cause loss of information. See the wingless beetles example. And natural selection causes loss of information—see Muddy waters.
For more on how a creationist, Edward Blyth, developed the idea of natural selection, well before Darwin, see Darwin’s illegitimate brainchild. Research on the degradation of the human genome has been summarized in Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, by geneticist Dr John Sanford (Ivan Press, NY), 2005.
CW summary: we see information transmitted and lost by natural processes today but not created, which is evidence for its origin by creation and not evolution.
CW first planned question to Dr Farmer (2 minutes 28:21–30:12mins)
Modern science is built on Christian presuppositions. Is recognition of the supernatural unscientific? Do you support the exclusion of God from science?
MF answer (5 minutes 30:12–34:07mins)
Rejected the use of supernatural phenomena to explain natural phenomena. He quoted Kenneth Miller on the idea of science and religion being complementary, non-intersecting areas of thought. Comment: For a semi-technical critique of Miller’s book where he promotes this destructive idea, see Mutilating Miller. See also how this compartmentalized thinking undermines Christian faith and witness in Time Magazine Christians.
MF cited Galileo about how God gave us brains to use, implying that to deny evolution is to deny one’s God-given ability to think. Comment: It is not about one’s ability to think, but one’s starting presuppositions that determine how the evidence is interpreted when you think about it. If a scientist assumes that only material forces have ever been at play in the creation of the universe, then supernatural causes are automatically excluded. Indeed, the biblical creationist view that includes the supernatural is a less constrained view of reality: causes can be natural or supernatural, as the evidence demands. See Evolution & creation, science & religion, facts & bias.
MF said that creationists claimed that radioactive decay rates were accelerated in the past, citing the RATE research program. He claimed that the residual helium in the zircons (part of the evidence for accelerated decay) was due to leaking into the zircons from the surrounding rock. MF also mentioned that creationists had promoted speed of light decay to try to explain radioisotope dating that gives long ages. Comment: The relevance of these to the question asked seemed rather dubious, but CW answered them later in his rebuttal and clarification. Dr Farmer claimed that if these ideas were true, then ‘the operation of a cell phone would be impossible’. He did not explain why this would be so, and it seems like a baseless conjecture. Why would, for example, a period of accelerated radioactive decay in the past affect the operation of a cell phone now, or then for that matter? And even decay in the speed of light, as proposed by Barry Setterfield, would not affect the operation of cell phones, because special relativity and radiation frequencies, etc., would be unaffected at a given point in time. Dr Farmer’s assertion is baseless. He also said he knows many evangelical Christians who are scientists and have no problem with evolution, that while evolution might enable some like Richard Dawkins to be ‘intellectually fulfilled atheists’, atheism was not a necessary conclusion or implication of evolutionary theory. He cited Philip Johnson, pioneer of the ID movement, as saying that ‘One can imagine a creator who works through natural selection’.
MF first planned question to Dr Wieland
(2 minutes 34:07–35:02mins)
‘What is the best explanation for pathogenic bacteria that have multiple antibiotic resistance?’
CW answer (5 minutes 35:02–39:05mins)
Antibiotic resistance is mostly acquired by the transfer of plasmids of already-resistant bacteria—that is, it does not involve the ‘creation’ of new genetic information by some natural process. Antibiotic resistance that is due to mutations, in every case studied, does not involve ‘uphill’ increased information, but ‘downhill’ loss of information. E.g.. penicillinase. See Superbugs not super after all. The types of changes seen in the development of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria do not demonstrate ‘goo-to-you’ evolution. CW mentioned Dr Ian Macreadie, molecular biologist and microbiologist, as supporting the creationist view of antibiotic resistance, that it does not represent an increase of biological information, but in reality degeneration. Dr Macreadie is featured in The Genesis Files. For more on the origin of pathogens, see How does biblical Christianity explain the origin of pathogenic viruses and poisons?
Second planned question, CW to MF (2 minutes 39:05–40:50mins)
Challenged MF to give an evolutionary explanation for the vastly superior mental capacities of some humans, such as incredible feats of memory or calculation and the ‘built-in’ compensating mechanisms for disabilities, neither of which can be seen as necessary for survival and therefore accessible to natural selection.
MF answer (5 minutes 40:50–45:47mins)
Dr Farmer said the human brain/mind was still largely a great mystery for science, although some progress had been made with MRI studies, etc. (Comment: It is interesting that the use of MRI for medical use and research was pioneered by creationist scientist Dr Raymond Damadian). MF speculated about chance combinations of genes, or environmental effects on development, or epigenetic effects. He said that fossil evidence showed an increase in brain size of humans (Comment: which is irrelevant to the question), and that chimps are ‘generally recognized as having greater cognitive abilities than their small-brained cousins’. However, parrots (birds), which have very small brains compared to chimps, can greatly exceed them in cognitive abilities. See Petulant parrot proves a point—but atheists can’t (or won’t) see it. One parrot has a 950 word vocabulary. Also, a Torresian crow has shown tool-making abilities that put chimps in the shade.
Second planned question, MF to CW (2 minutes 45:47–46:40mins)
‘If evolutionary theory has no predictive value, then why is it that unbiased analysis of complete genomes from various organisms has shown that human beings are very distantly related to mustard plants, distant relatives of nematode worms, closely related to mice and almost identical to chimpanzees?’
CW answer (5 minutes 46:40–50:56mins)
Carl pointed out that he never said that evolutionary theory had no predictive power whatsoever, but that the question assumes what it is meant to prove: that similarity is evidence of common ancestry (relatedness). Genetic comparison show similarity, not necessarily relatedness. If we were not similar biochemically, what would we eat? And if organisms that were more alike in their biology were not also more alike in their genetics, it would call into question the role of DNA in the biology of organisms. The pattern of similarity has a possible theological purpose: to show that there is one creator of all things (the singular pattern of similarity shows this). Walter ReMine has dubbed this ‘The Biotic Message’. Similarities, or 'homologous structures', also show the mastery of the Creator over His Creation. There are also patterns of similarity that defy an evolutionary explanation, indeed confute such stories. For more on the different developmental processes behind the 5-digit patterns in humans and frogs, see Argument: Common design points to common ancestry. See also Are look-alikes related? CW also pointed out that the common claim that humans and chimps are ‘nearly identical’ (as per MF) is a gross exaggeration. See Chimp/Human DNA—count the differences! The differences are far too great to be explained by any remotely plausible evolutionary scenario of mutations and natural selection. Haldane’s Dilemma alone undoes the idea of human evolution.
In his question, MF referred to Ernst Haeckel, an early disciple of Darwin who ‘clearly predicted that humans were closer to worms than plants’. Comment: It is surprising that Dr Farmer mentioned Haeckel at all, considering that Haeckel was guilty of massive fraud in trying to prove evolutionary relationships using embryo similarities.
Rebuttal and clarification (9 minutes each)
CW (50:56–1:00:42 hrs)
Cr Wieland addressed the claim by Dr Farmer that God could have used evolution and that evolution does not exclude the existence of God. Carl agreed, pointing out that this is the reason he spoke of biblical creation. While it is possible to imagine some sort of ‘god’ that is compatible with evolutionary theory, it is not the Creator revealed in the Bible. Nor is the tangible, real history of the Bible consistent with evolutionary theory’s history. See Creation: Why It Matters.
In answer to Dr Farmer’s challenge about human and dinosaur fossils not being found in the same rocks, Dr Wieland pointed out that coelacanth fossils are found with dinosaur fossils but not whales. Yet, since coelacanths were discovered still living, it means that they lived when whale fossils formed without any coelacanth fossils forming at all (that are known of). In other words, that human fossils are not found with dinosaur fossils does not prove that humans and dinosaurs did not live together, any more than the lack of coelacanth and whale fossils found together proves they did not live at the same time. Lots of other living fossils confound evolutionary notions of time and change. Would even finding a living dinosaur today overturn evolution? No, CW pointed out that the theory would be adjusted to accommodate it; it would not be overturned.
CW pointed out that creation of life in a test-tube would not disprove creation. On the contrary, it would demonstrate the involvement of intelligence, if it ever happened. See Creating life in a test tube?
Use of animals in medical research? MF suggested that if evolution were not true then creationists should campaign against the use of animals, particularly chimps, in medical research. CW pointed out that the patterns again are not consistent with evolution. For example, pigs are more useful for heart valves than are monkeys. See Dealing with the heart of the problem.
Has the evolutionary paradigm been the great benefit to mankind that is claimed? MF quoted Dobzhansky as saying how important it is to biology. However, Dr Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School states: ‘In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself. Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.’ (quoted in the Boston Globe 23 October 2005). For the Philip Skell quote cited by CW, see Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology. See also, Evolution and practical science.
For the research that suggests a period of rapid radioactive decay in the past, thus doing away with billions of years of radiometric ‘time’, see a summary at RATE group reveals exciting breakthroughs! And find papers at Institute for Creation Research, RATE project.
Dr Farmer dismissed the very possibility of light speed slowing down. However, big bang advocates (certainly not biblical creationists) have proposed such an idea to try to solve the horizon problem of big bang cosmology.
MF (1:00:42–1:10:31 hrs)
Dr Farmer claimed that the RATE researchers did not take into account helium leaching into the zircon crystals and that this accounted for the excess helium in the zircons and so the findings did not overturn the long ages given by such methods of dating. Comment: The zircon crystals in question are embedded in biotite and the diffusion rate for helium in biotite is much greater than that in zircons, so the zircon diffusion is the rate limiting issue. This alone overturns Dr Farmer’s contention. But, zircons at different depths, which are at different temperatures, also show that his point is errant, because the amount of helium in the zircons is inversely proportional to the temperature. Since diffusion rates are proportional to the temperature, if the helium in the zircons was due to diffusion in from the surrounding rock matrix, there should be more helium in the zircons at depth, not less, at higher temperatures. Furthermore, the amount of radiogenic helium can be estimated from measuring the amount of radiogenic lead in the zircons and they are consistent, with the amount in the surrounding biotite accounting for the small amount missing from the zircons, which would hardly be the case if helium diffused into the zircons. But, the greatest problem for Dr Farmer’s retort is that the concentration of helium in the zircons is greater than that in the surrounding biotite, and diffusion will never happen from low concentration to high concentration! For a refutation of this and other arguments against the RATE research findings, by Dr Russell D. Humphreys, RATE researcher, see Round 1, Round 2.
MF expressed incredulity that the Creator endowed bacteria with the ability to resist modern antibiotics. Comment: Dr Wieland had not claimed or implied that. MF also claimed that increased complexity would be needed to gain antibiotic resistance. Comment: CW had already shown that degenerative changes can result in antibiotic resistance and that no information-gaining processes were necessary.
MF: ‘Would not transfer of biological information from one bacterium to another be an increase of information (for the receiving bacterium)?’ Comment: The question is where the information came from in the beginning; just copying it to another organism does not invent new functional information. Copying a book on a photocopier does not add new information to it. See Copying confusion, which deals with a slightly more sophisticated version of this argument.
Dr Farmer contrasted science and religion, saying that science is constantly changing, but ‘religion’ does not. Comment: This is a rather philosophically naïve view of evolution vs creation (the debate topic), which both deal with origins science, which is a matter of history. See Bias and faith.
MF postulated three mechanisms whereby genetic complexity can increase to facilitate speciation (which he said Darwin knew happened but did not know how):
- Gene duplication and modification: ‘If the changes or mutations are carried out on copies of essential genes and not on the originals, then the possibility of rare but chance advances becomes a near certainty, not an unlikely event.’ See Copying confusion and Increased amounts of DNA don’t mean increased function which deals with this idea. See also: Bergman, J., Does gene duplication provide the engine for evolution? Journal of Creation 20(1):99–104, 2006 and Liu, Y-g and Moran, D., Do new functions arise by gene duplication? Journal of Creation 20(2):82–89.
- A ‘very well established mechanism is symbiosis.’ Comment: MF probably meant to say endosymbiosis—by this he meant the coming together of two different organisms to make one new one, a melding of the two. He claimed that ‘evidence for this is overwhelming’ and human mitochondria arose by this process. Comment: Even if the claimed examples of this were legitimate, it does not explain the origin of the information because the adding of two genomes together does not explain the origin of those genomes! No new information is created by adding books together into an anthology, for example.
- Epigenesis: ‘differential gene expression in different tissues’. MF said that time did not allow him to explain this. Comment: And it is not at all clear how differently expressing existing genes can add new genes to a genome.
Dr Farmer claimed that Dr Wieland’s statement that there was no known mechanism for increasing genetic information omits much evidence from the literature. Comment: None of Dr Farmer’s three examples above actually create new information, so he has presented nothing that proved his claim that CW had omitted anything from the literature.
MF said that ‘strictly speaking the origin of life has never been a part of evolutionary theory’ and that it remains the ‘great unknown’. He admitted that the Miller-Urey experiment used the wrong gases, but ‘none the less, information did increase in these experiments’. Comment: The formation of more complex chemical structures is not necessarily an increase of information, because complexity does not, of itself, equate with information. A pile of sand is complex, but it contains no information. A block of ice has more structure than liquid water, but it contains no more information than the water that made it—all the information needed to make ice was already present in the water molecules; nothing has been added simply by removing heat energy. See Fridges and Hot Air and What about crystals? Likewise, the chemicals formed in the Miller-Urey experiment contained no more information than the system that formed them.
MF finished by saying that subjecting amino acids to impacts, mimicking perhaps the effects of meteors colliding, produced polypeptides, ‘the precursors of proteins’, thus showing that increases in complexity do occur in nature without the need to invoke a supernatural explanation. Comment: See Origin of Life: The Polymerization Problem and Did life’s building blocks come from outer space? But a random polymer of even the correct, biologically active, left-handed amino acids (which inorganic chemistry cannot make) does not contain any information because it would not specify anything. For a technical analysis of the problem of natural processes making the ubiquitin protein, for example, see The ubiquitin protein: chance or design?
Impromptu questions (2 minutes for the question; 5 minutes response)
MF question to CW (1:10:31–1:11:22 hrs):
Plasmodium causes malaria. There is a remnant chloroplast in Plasmodium, which is essential for its survival. The presence of such a thing did not surprise evolutionists who thought that Plasmodium had descended from a dinoflagellate (marine plankton). How would Carl account for this from a biblical creationist point of view?
CW answer (1:11:22–1:14:21 hrs):
Malaria-causing Plasmodium was not a part of God’s originally good creation. These findings could well form part of the biblical creationist’s explanation for the origin of such a disease. The biblical creation model does not exclude speciation or derivation from a common ancestor, but such processes do not involve the origin of complex new genetic information, but rather loss of information, in the creation model. Comment: Downhill changes, which result in a net loss of information by natural processes, are to be expected and are more and more being implicated in the pathogenicity of many micro-organisms. See for example: Genome decay in the Mycoplasmas (Semi-technical—ICR Impact 340, Pathogenicity may be an indirect consequence of loss of genetic information, e.g. for amino acid synthesis). Parasitic Plasmodium could well have originated in a manner similar to that claimed by MF. More research would be needed to ascertain if there is anything novel in Plasmodium that did not come from elsewhere. The Plasmodium genome has 23 million bases with 5,300 genes but to date no dinoflagellate has been fully sequenced. Although there are a vast number of dinoflagellates, one being sequenced seems to have many more genes than Plasmodium, suggesting that the latter is degenerate by comparison. 1 This would be quite compatible with the biblical creation model. Many evolutionists ignorantly think that creationists deny that mutations and natural selection operate, or deny that ‘speciation’ occurs. But this is not the case. See Variation and natural selection versus evolution.
CW question to MF (1:14:21–1:16:15 hrs):
A wide range of organisms show a consistent pattern in the amino acid sequences of being similarly distant from one another. Such patterns do not fit an evolutionary explanation and the ‘molecular clock’ attempt to explain this pattern is self-refuting. The pattern fits much better the separate creation of distinct kinds of organisms. See the argument in print.
MF answer (1:16:15–1:20:35 hrs):
MF tentatively suggested that such comparisons came about by over-reliance on one protein and that looking at a wide range of proteins might not give the same pattern. Comment: CW had mentioned that it was not just cytochrome c, but it was a widespread pattern. MF admitted that the molecular clock was a flawed model (‘sometimes’). Comment: See Debunking the ‘molecular clock’. MF pleaded ‘ignorance in a good sense’ and said there was much left to be found out. Comment: Which goes to show that evolution, as a theory of history, is not easily overturned by the evidence, since it is driven by philosophy. As Karl Popper, the famous philosopher of science said, ‘Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program’; cited here.
Closing statements (5 minutes each)
Dr Farmer (1:20:35–1:25:32 hrs)
As ‘a scientist of faith’ he said that he feels ‘that science holds the key for achieving a life-long goal of understanding.’ Comment: As Bible-believing Christians we would have said that God’s Word, His infallible revelation to us, is the only thing that deserves to be called ‘the key’ to understanding. Dr Farmer had already indicated that he viewed ‘faith’ as something separate from ‘science’. But see: Is the Bible only relevant to faith and salvation?
MF: ‘I know of no scientist who claims …that science can explain all things.’ And he does ‘not subscribe to a dogmatic worldview’. Comment: Many of Dr Farmer’s evolutionary colleagues take a very different view; see Do Evolutionists really claim their theory isn’t perfect? And A Who’s Who of evolutionists. But even Dr Farmer reveals a certain dogmatism in his vigorous defence of evolutionary theory. He is certainly dogmatic about keeping supernatural explanations out of origins science. But a Christian has a basis for being dogmatic about the basic elements of a Christian worldview, because they come from God Himself, who knows everything. John 14:6 (Jesus: ‘no one comes to the Father but by me’) is either true or false. If it is true, as any Christian should attest, then it is something we need to be dogmatic about. ‘Hanging loose’ about such things destroys Christian faith.
The teaching of evolution in schools and universities is carried out in an incredibly dogmatic manner, with court cases (in the USA) to prevent any deviation from the dogma. Even purely secular (non-Biblical) criticism of evolution is prohibited, let alone talking about alternative views of origins such as biblical creation or intelligent design. Organisations set up (by atheists) to promote evolution in education show incredible dogmatism and intolerance of dissent. See How Religiously Neutral are the Anti-Creationist Organisations? And the scientific establishment brooks no deviation from orthodoxy. See for example: The Smithsonian/Sternberg controversy and Contemporary suppression of the theistic worldview.
Dr Farmer’s statements might suggest that he thinks that creationists claim to know everything, are dogmatic, etc., but see ‘Hanging Loose’: What should we defend? This article shows that within what God has revealed to us (which is the only justifiable dogma) there is much room for debate, science, etc., and plenty of room for humility.
MF asserted that the concept of ‘the image of God’ in man has nothing to do with our biology or biological origins, that our biological origins ‘says nothing about our spiritual origins’. Comment: This sounds like the ancient Gnosticism that divorced the spiritual and the physical. But God created both the physical and the spiritual realms and mankind is both spiritual and physical (God took dust and made a man: Genesis 2:7). Furthermore, God declared the physical creation to be ‘very good’, when he finished creating it.
MF referred to ‘biblical literalists’, clearly implying that CW was one such creature. Comment: Carl is not a ‘biblical literalist’, but rather a ‘biblical inerrantist’ who also takes into account the form of literature, which differs in different parts of the Bible. Apocalyptic literature is different to historical narrative, for example, but Genesis is historical narrative (meant to be understood as real history), as Hebrew scholars universally recognise. See Q&A: Should Genesis be taken literally? And Did Jesus, the early Church leaders and reformers believe the literal creation account given in Genesis?
MF asserted that man was the product of billions of years of evolutionary processes and that ‘astronomical, geological and biological data confirm this.’ Comment: No astronomical or geological data were presented in this debate to establish this bold claim.
But he asserted that man is special / unique (but only spiritually).
Asserted that evolution is a fact, but it is about how, not why. Comment: I once thought this, but it is a false distinction known as the fact-value fallacy, which is quite destructive of biblically consistent Christian faith and witness. See Harvesting real fruit.
MF: There was no need for evolution to challenge one’s faith in God. Comment: see Why is evolution so dangerous for Christians to believe?
Dr Wieland (1:25:32–1:31:14 hrs)
CW clarified that evolution had to provide for a gain of information in the biosphere to account for the diversity of life on earth, not just copy the existing information from one organism to another (MF’s gene duplication, endosymbiosis, etc.). Furthermore, mutations in the remainder of the genome (the vastly larger part), cost an organism so much that the rare mutations in a duplicated gene are not going to go anywhere (because of the bad mutations in the rest of the genome). We observe degradation of information, we don’t see the creation of new information happening. And the problem of deleterious mutations means that the net effect is relentlessly downhill, even if there were a localized temporary, chance increase somewhere. See Variation, information and the created kind for the Ayala quote and more on the sort of variation we see that does not support evolutionary notions, but a biblical model of biology. Dr John Sanford, former Cornell University geneticist and inventor of the gene gun technology, has shown how the human genome is decaying because of this in Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, Elim Publishing, NY, USA, 2005).
CW related several scientific predictions of biblical creation that have been verified by scientific observation:
- A global flood would mean rapid burial of organisms on a massive scale, resulting in much of the fossil record. See Do fossils give evidence of their quick formation during great catastrophe, such as Noah’s Flood? For geological evidence, see: Geology Questions and Answers. When wrongly interpreted by evolutionists as representing long ages of earth history, this gives the appearance of organisms having gone through long periods of ‘stasis’ (no change) with periods of rapid appearance or disappearance (another prediction from the biblical flood model). For information on the evolutionary attempts to accommodate this, mentioned by CW, see: Punctuated equilibrium: come of age?
- Prediction: since creation is finished, changes in living things would be in the direction of conservation or loss of the programmed information. This is the overwhelming observation. This was covered in the article mentioned earlier: The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction).
- Prediction: all people are closely related. Molecular biology confirms this. It is not a prediction of evolution. The ‘out of Africa’ theory of human evolution is an attempt to accommodate this evidence. See: No bones about Eve. For more on the racist views of evolutionists of the past see: Racism Q&A.
Dr Wieland finished by repeating that evolution is not a testable scientific theory, citing Dr Whitten, Professor of Genetics at the University of Melbourne, who was giving the Assembly Week address in 1980:
‘Biologists are simply naïve when they talk about experiments designed to test the theory of evolution. It is not testable. They may happen to stumble across facts which would seem to conflict with its predictions. These facts will invariably be ignored and their discoverers will undoubtedly be deprived of continuing research grants.’
Final comment: It was a good debate, conducted in a very civil manner with both Dr Farmer and Dr Wieland being pleasant and polite throughout. The interchange covered quite a bit of ground (as the above annotations attest) and undoubtedly left the audience with some solid ‘meat’ to chew over. Hopefully the annotations here will aid in that process.
- Insights into a dinoflagellate genome through expressed sequence tag analysis, BMC Genomics 6:80, 2005. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-6-80. Return to Text.