Know thy enemy
Published: 31 January 2015 (GMT+10)
In ideological debate, as with many areas of life, it is important to, in the words of Sun Tzu, ‘know thy enemy’, i.e. understand what one’s ideological opponents say. However, many skeptics of biblical creation fail to do this—they often rehearse the same fallacious arguments we have dealt with many times before. Today’s correspondent raises the old canard that abiogenesis and microbes-to-man evolution are separate issues. However, these instances can give us the opportunity to rehearse the strength of our responses, as well as introduce newer readers to the arguments and where to go to get fuller treatments of them. CMI’s Shaun Doyle carries us through these ‘old arguments’.
J.O. from the United States writes:
I admire what you have done with this website. It is rather remarkable how much research you’ve done. However, I must say (and I speak for many Christians) that your beliefs are archaic and above all else, silly. I believe in God as much as you do, but the idea that the Earth is 6000 years old is, quite frankly, asinine. Also, I read through your “15 Questions to Evolutionists” and noticed that at least 4-6 of them had to do with abiogenesis, not evolution. See, this is where the fundamental problem with your “debate” arises. We argue two different things: how life was created (abiogenesis vs. creation) and how life changed (evolution vs. whatever). I realize that creation says that life was created as is, but if that were the case, we would be going extinct rather soon because 99% of all life has done that. Lastly, your 15 questions weren’t hard enough. I could answer them with ease. It’s merely a matter of perspective.
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
If you can answer our 15 questions with ease, then by all means enlighten us! And we agree that there is an element of perspectival bias in the origins debate, but since the assumptions evolution rests on shoot themselves in the foot and do nothing but spin unverifiable fairytales, pardon us for having a degree of incredulity towards them. But first, please address yourself to previous attempts at rebutting our 15 questions before rehashing the same arguments we’ve already dealt with: Responses to our 15 Questions: part 1, part 2, and part 3. Second, please also make sure that we haven’t addressed your concerns elsewhere on the website; a quick perusal of our Q and A hub or use of our search function will help you to find any relevant information.
I have to say though, that your response doesn’t engender confidence in your ability to refute us. You offer only two actual attempts at argument, both of which you would have been quickly disabused of if you had taken the time to read any of the research you remark upon. First, we have addressed the notion that abiogenesis can be neatly separated from evolution on the website, and even in the articles I cite above. In fact, the first response and rebuttal to the first question of our ‘15 questions’ is this:
Answer 1: Abiogenesis is not relevant to the discussion of evolution—it is a separate topic (this has been a very common claim).
Rebuttal: No one claimed that abiogenesis was irrelevant to the evolution debate until evolutionists realized they were losing the debate on it. Indeed, abiogenesis is also often called ‘chemical evolution’ (see Natural selection cannot explain the origin of life, and here is just one example of a paper by evolutionists proving the point, titled, “On the applicability of Darwinian principles to chemical evolution that led to life”, International Journal of Astrobiology 3:45–53, 2004). It doesn’t matter how well one can or can’t explain how the first life could evolve, if you can’t explain how it got there in the first place, the theory is literally dead in the water (or the (non-existent) primordial soup, as the case may be). Notice also that, as we stated clearly above, creationists believe in changing allele frequencies over time. Therefore, since both sides claim this as part of their model, the debate must lie outside this area. Hence, the origin of life is fair game for discussions on whether or not evolution is true.
Evolution can’t get started without some sort of abiogenesis event, so any argument for evolution must address itself to the origin of life as well. [The article Evolution: not just about biology confirms that Harvard University’s own website supports our position on this issue.]
Your second attempt at argumentation is worse: if you had actually read anything we’ve written on speciation and created kinds or baramins, then you might be aware that we do not believe God created everything exactly as we now see it. We believe in biological change, even radical and fast biological change. We just don’t believe in the sort of undirected change required to derive biologists from bacteria. Two articles to get you started are Basics of biblical biology and Can mutations create new information?
Now, concerning your estimation of our beliefs: “silly”, “archaic”, and “asinine”—you have offered no reason for such derisive language. “Archaic” is only a problem if one thinks that ‘archaic = false’. After all, belief that Jesus was really raised from the dead is ‘archaic’, just like belief in special creation. As for “silly” and “asinine”—where is your proof? It’s certainly not our intent to embrace “silly” and “asinine” ideas. And is it really “silly” or “asinine” to read the Scriptures in support of our position, as Jesus, the biblical writers, and Christians and Jews for the vast majority of church history have done? Is it really “silly” or “asinine” to take Jesus’ word as the arbiter of truth on this matter? Or is the science of deep time so obviously right that even Jesus and the Father must have been wrong on basic history? Does that mean God is “silly” and “asinine”? I would encourage you to rethink deriding us so, especially since you have demonstrated ignorance of what we actually believe.
I will end on a more positive note. You mentioned that you think the amount of research we have done is remarkable. Thank you for that compliment. But now let me challenge you on it. Since we have done all that research, might that not behove you to read and carefully consider the arguments found in that research before so quickly pronouncing our position to be silly and asinine? We are here to help, and we are open to reasonable dialogue on such matters. We even have reasonable dialogues with atheists every once in a while. Surely someone who claims the name of Christ for his own could be more courteous toward his fellow brothers than an atheist, even if he seriously disagrees with us.
Thanks for all your hard work. Your thoughtful answers have been very helpful in my discussions.
Both on your website and in my conversations, many argue that abiogenisis is not part of evolution.
I agree with you that they only started making this distinction when they realized they didn't have an answer.
Nevertheless, I grant the point. When you restrict evolution to mutation and selection, how it got to the starting point is a separate question.
This helps avoid pointless arguments.
But then I come back with, it's still a valid question for evolutionists that I'd like to hear an answer to.
It doesn't matter to me whether they consider it part of evolution or not.
Creating life from inorganic molecules in a puddle of water by random chemical reactions is "silly"
A cow evolving from a sea sponge is "laughable"
Random polymerisation of nucleotides creating volumes of information is chemically, philosophically, mathematically ridiculous. I am looking hard for scientific evidence and rational thought but don't see it! I must be missing something, I love evolution, you can sort of make up anything?
Such anger in your answer, such effrontery that a Christian (one of many) questions you. As I am a layman your talk of Abiogenisis and technical terms leaves me and the vast bulk of Christendom disenfranchised..you have gone after the acedemics in evolution with your own academia. We cannot enter in, we cannot use our own judgement any more , the more technical you become the less we understand ,we have you saying you are correct and other scientists and even Christian scientists saying you are wrong! Where do we go from here? I believe you are being tricked into following the rabbit down the rabbit hole which has separated you from the bulk of us, yes , God created life, but what it is and how it arrived are irrelevant, it still carries on whether we literally accept Genesis or follow other reasonable explanations how it began..how about asking those who received Genesis from God in the first place..the Jews... they have an interesting take on it..different to yours , are they wrong as well? . So you cant get upset if we don't agree wholeheartedly with you when we do not have an academic background and cannot judge for ourselves which side is right. Yes , God created life , but what it is and how it arrived are irrelevant to most of us. But to you that is tantamount to saying the bible is wrong ! Genesis did not save me....my possible differences with your take on Genesis have not unsaved me and never will , even if I carry on with them. Yet because you take such a narrow and specialist view it is almost as if you have to find pressure points on us to support you to keep yourselves relevant as you chase evolutionary acedemics down. You do a good job , and knowledge has its place, but it is only revelation that saves us. Lets pray that evolutionary scientists get it too
With all due respect, it does not seem that you have paid attention to what the correspondent said. If all they had done was say 'I think you're on the wrong track', and offered some reasons why they thought that way, I would simply have responded to their reasons for rejecting our view. But the correspondent didn't simply question us; they declared our beliefs silly, asinine, and archaic without bothering to refute us, though they claimed our views were easy to refute.
Regarding the use of 'abiogenesis', the commenter used it first, not us; and they showed a clear understanding of what it means. I was well within my rights in the context of this exchange to use the term without needing to define it, and most people who would read this exchange should be able to discern the basic meaning of 'abiogenesis' when the commenter contrasts it with 'creation'; it means that life was not created, but arose naturally. It's the contrary of 'creation', and there is no third option for the origin of life.
Finally, I agree that Genesis by itself doesn't save; Jesus does. But then it's very easy to show that Jesus agrees with us on this issue. Jesus said: "From the beginning of creation He made them male and female" (Mark 10:6). He puts humans right at the beginning of creation, based squarely on Genesis 1 and 2. The billions-of-years history of the universe puts humans near the end of that history. Who is right, Jesus or the billions-of-years history? If you don't trust us, trust Jesus.
I recall when I did not know about the bible as I do today. It was a difficult process of conversion. I did not make God first. I even had my own interpretation of God while making all the same arguments I read by others who deny the bible. I realized that people either want to know the truth or they do not care.
When I come across a person who does not care, I then do not care if they know. Atheists are the not caring category. I tell everyone the simple version. Here are the facts... if you choose to follow them great, if you do not, you have the free will to go to hell. I leave it at that.
I just wanted to say that J.O. was not speaking for me. While I agree with his assessment of CMI's website, that is the only thing I agree with. I don't understand why people don't read all of the relevant articles concerning the subjects they disagree with. Then either their questions would be answered or they would be able to posed a more insightful question/comment. I really do like they way all the writers at CMI respond to questions/comments from people like J.O. A firm and respectful explanation.
Keep up the good job.
My question for "Old Earthers" is How big is your God? If you believe that Jesus died on the cross for our (your) sins and literally rose 3 days later, then you must believe in miracles. I know I do. It wouldn't be any harder for God to do it they way he said he did it in the Bible, then for him to use evolution. I just can't figure out what the objection is to a Biblical creation other than all we have learned in our schooling is that evolution is true. I understand Biblical creation requires a thought process or faith outside what we have been taught for 12-20 years of our life, (depending on the amount of schooling) but if you believe of a risen Christ which is what is necessary for salvation, then believing in a Biblical creation should be easy. God is big enough to do it any way he would like.
Incorporating fallacious statements in an argument such as an appeal to emotion (“silly”, “archaic”, and “asinine”) keeps any discussion on the side of irrationality, confusion and muddled thinking --- Knowing people can be convinced by fallacious arguments.
If the origin of life is ignored the other aspects of evolution still fails because natural selection only works on the phenotype or existing living organism and knows nothing about potential function of an accidental nucleotide sequence change in the cell. This only leaves random unguided mutation to drive evolution and here it fails because of the near-impossibility of mutations adding information to DNA, given the discovery that DNA encodes two layers of coding in the same space. Changing one letter affects both codes. The (evolution vs. whatever) has been delivered a technical Knockout (TKO) on just this alone! A simple search for “duons”, “Dual Gene Code” would reveal the nature of the TKO.
The creation/evolution controversy is not a scientific debate, but a spiritual issue. Do you believe God who was there or do you believe your own ideas?
1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions”
The idea that God "front loaded" the universe with physical (natural) laws to eventually produce life is a common idea with theistic evolutionists. However, this is not what is taught in the holy scriptures. God never just started the ball rolling and then stepped back to watch as his cosmic "evolutionary" plan unfolded. Whether we like it or not, we are in a personal and corporate relationship with God.
This relationship is either a good or bad experience for us: "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God."(2 Cor 2:15-17 NASB).
But, if anyone doubts this, let him consider our Lord Jesus Christ - God in the flesh who lived among us circa 2000 years ago. The incarnation is not the act of a cold, dispassionate and distant God! Instead, it is the supreme act of our creator God who is completely committed to his creation.
Another way theistic evolutionists will conceive of God's interaction with creation is 'sacramental'; that God is 'in, with, and under' the natural processes 'freeing' them to self-complexify in an evolutionary manner. In this case they so closely identify God with creation that they end up panentheistic (i.e. that the world is a part of God), i.e. God is viewed as the soul of the world and the world is viewed as his body.
However, there is no difference in historical consequence between a 'deistic' or 'panentheistic' conception of divine action in the world on theistic evolution; evolutionary history plays out the exact same way in both systems. The difference is in the theological error they fall into; deism makes God too transcendent to be immanent, and panentheism makes God too immanent to be transcendent. Deism presents us with an uncaring deity, and panentheism presents us with a weak and sentimental deity; neither is the biblical God of sovereign love revealed supremely in Jesus.
I think you make a mistake that many do - both pro- and anti- evolutionists - in merging the philosophical concept of evolution with the scientific.
Shaun Doyle responds: This sounds like another way to avoid the historical question of the origin of life. Life either arose naturalistically, or it was at least in part designed. There is no third option, whether philosophically, scientifically, historically, or theologically. We can try and cordon the origin and history of life from each other all we want, but it doesn't change the fact that they stand in a historical cause-effect relationship to each other; the history of life necessarily presupposes the chronologically and causally prior origin of life.
JM:Science, to put it very simply, is about providing effective explanations of observed phenomena.
SD: Is that all science is? Great! That would mean 'God raised Jesus from the dead' is science, since it's the most effective explanation of the observed phenomena we have relevant to what happened to Jesus' body on the first Easter Sunday. Moreover, we can describe the boiling of a kettle In terms of energy transfer, but we can also explain it in terms of a person's wish to have a cup of coffee. On your definition of 'science' both are equally scientific, since both provide effective explanations of observed phenomena.
JM: In terms of evolution the observations are the diversity of life on Earth, the fossil record and more recently the genetic structure underlying life.
SD: As you know, we do not think evolution is an effective explanation of the observed phenomena you list. We certainly think biological change happens, even radical and fast biological change. However, we don't think that such biological change can generate people, plants, and protists from prokaryotes, and thus think the patterns of diversity observed in genetics, fossils, and living organisms are better explained in a design framework. Does that mean that intelligent design is 'science', after all?
JM: Whether you accept it or not, the science of evolution tries to explain these observations, primarily with data going back only to the Cambrian explosion. Evolutionists believe they have a theory that fits these data.
SD: And we believe they're wrong. We really do get what you're trying to say, but our point is that the evolution as a scientific and historical hypothesis on the history of life is a dramatic failure.
JM: It may be both philosophically and scientifically interesting to search for an explanation of the origin of life, such an answer cannot change the observed data and therefore cannot alter the validity of any theory that tries to explain those data.
SD: For life to start evolving it had to start, period. And it's no good to say that since the evidence (supposedly) points to evolution, and we exist, that abiogenesis must be true. There's a hidden premise; that methodological naturalism always holds true. But methodological naturalism isn't a metaphysical claim, and it's only if you transform it into a metaphysical claim that it becomes a viable premise. In other words, if you want to do away with intelligent design as a possible origins explanation, you're going to have to engage in some philosophy to do so. Simply put, even if life evolved from a first cell, that first cell might still have been designed, thus abiogenesis is not a given even if evolution subsequently happened.
And yet, intelligent design is only ever ridiculed by mainstream academia as an explanation for the origin of life, despite the fact they have absolutely no clue where to even start to construct a narrative of abiogenesis, and we see technology arise from intelligent agents all the time, and never from any other source. Frankly, it sounds like evolutionists want to decouple evolution from abiogenesis because abiogenesis is such an embarrassing farce!
JM:To use an analogy, creationists and mainstream scientists differ as to the origins of the moon, but there is no dispute as to the current physics of the moon. Its origins do not change its observed behaviour.
SD: Without its origin it would have no behaviour to observe! And that we observe it does of course mean it had an origin, but it doesn't tell us what that origin is. Must we explain its origin by the same physics that govern its present behaviour? If you think not, then you have admitted that methodological naturalism is not an all-conquering rule of science.
JM: The same is true for evolution and this is why evolutionists are being reasonable to say that the question of abiogenesis does not effect the correctness or falsehood of the theory of evolution.
SD: So 'we don't know how life originated, but evolution is true'? That's not the standard academic line. The standard academic line is: 'we know evolution is true, and we know that since evolution is true, abiogenesis must be true, but we don't yet understand how abiogenesis happened … though we're working on it.' Like I said above, if you're willing to question abiogenesis, you have our full support! But I would suggest that you've got ample reason not to be agnostic on the question of abiogenesis; there is plenty of reason to reject it outright. See The origin of life for more details.
I do remember back when you guys first started the 15 questions for evolutionist, they kept stating on youtube videos that these questions have answers but none of them really gave answers,they just stated there were answers.I do wonder,will you guys be making article about evolutionists new answers to the 15 questions and your response to their answers?
Links to the responses we received to the 15 questions campaign can be found in the 'related articles' section on this article.
A great article. I was speaking to a friend recently (Christian) who said that Christianity had 'moved on' from a belief in a literal Adam and Eve. As with the writer in your article here he was convinced that the 'science' of deep time trumped all plain readings of the bible. Further discussion showed that he had read nothing on your website and was happy to 'cherry pick' what he would or would not accept as literal truth. What a shaky foundation to base one's faith on!. Thanks for the research. Keep up the good work.