My friend, a fellow Christian, was told by her biology professor that if there was anyone in the class that believed in intelligent design he “had no idea what they were doing in the class” because evolution is the basis for all things biology. In response to the “irreducible complexity” problem for darwinians, her professor stated that even if something was missing in an organism, the problem would most likely not prevent it from working. He also stated that the reason there were no transitions in the fossil record is that the changes were so small, we wouldn’t be able to find any transitional fossils. Please inform me of the truths of these statements. I know they are false becuase I believe that God’s word is flawless and true, but I would just like to know the credibility of these statements. God Bless!
—A. C., US
As a matter of fact, some aspects of what this professor said are true. However, he was certainly selective in framing the issue—something that is made more unfortunate because he is an authority with a captive audience (and control of the grades). I would be interested to know what brought on this tirade-of-sorts. Did someone bring up intelligent design, or is he simply insecure about the beliefs of the class?
First, it’s important to point out that intelligent design and creation are not the same thing. While some anticreationists like to lump them together, the groups are only related in the belief that life shows evidence of being designed. Some in the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) are creationists, to be sure, but the majority favor an evidentialist approach to the origins issue (seeking evidence to prove their theory that life is the product of intelligence), whereas creationists believe that the Bible is the infallible starting point of objective truth, which tells us that life is created. While those in the IDM and creationists may agree on certain topics, lumping the two groups together is like saying that all non-Christians are atheists. Some are, of course, but certainly not all. In any case, we will respond to your question from a creation perspective. Let’s examine the issues one at a time, starting with biology.
Biology, put succinctly, is simply the study of living things. However, this involves two completely different realms or magesteria, if you will: life in the present and life in the past. Biology of the present means performing concrete observations of the life around us, such as migration patterns, habitats, internal structures, interactions, white blood cell counts, and measurements. These are repeatable experiments and verifiable by other scientists. Scientists speculate about living things (the hypothesis), and then they perform tests to determine if these speculations are correct. These tests are possible because the organism is living in the present.
Biology that focuses on the past, however, is much different. While we do have DNA, fossils, and “paleo-environments” to examine for clues, we do not have a way to repeat the past. Thus, we must 1) speculate about what we think happened, 2) rely on an authority, and/or 3) rely on an objective account. Secular biologists depend on both 1 and 2 to piece together the so-called naturalistic history of earth. They propose connections and historical accounts based on the best evidence they have, and they look to the history that Darwin and others have pieced together. Creation scientists, on the other hand, start with the Bible as an objective account of history (3), speculate how living things fit within this paradigm (1), and look to scientific papers written by other scientists for ideas (2).
Obviously, creationists and evolutionists find some common ground on the biology of the present, but the biology of the past is the problem. Your friend’s professor is essentially saying that evolution is the basis for the way he interprets the history of life. We disagree with his point of view, of course, but he is right in saying this is the worldview by which he will teach the class. As Christians, taking such a biology class, if we are properly equipped, can certainly improve our understanding of how Darwinists view the world.
However, evolution is only the basis for evolutionary biology. Scientists have no need for evolution in their research, as evolutionary stories are simply extraneous additions to what is otherwise excellent observational science. Our own News to Note points this out on current science news, and we would encourage the reader to dissect out the real science/observations of a report, leaving the evolution out, then interpret it in any framework (naturalism, creationism, panspermia, etc.) as an exercise in understanding how this works. Most likely, if this class is like the majority of biology classes in secular colleges (and even many Christian ones), there will be a great deal of information that has absolutely nothing to do with evolution, but Darwinian just-so stories will be thrown in for good measure (homology, e.g.).
A colleague of mine used to work in a pathology laboratory at a medical college. She said that while she (a creationist) looked at slides through the microscope with graduate/medical students and professors, that they would often marvel at the beauty and complexity of the structures on the stained slide. One even commented that it was amazing what “evolution/time/chance” had done, while she commented that she felt God did it, to which they also agreed. There was no disagreement on the structures seen through the microscope, nor their understanding of their function or any disease present, nor their appreciation of both the art and function of the tissues being examined. My creationist colleague got along fine doing medical research for years and was even listed as coauthor on several papers, even with some knowing of her creationist leanings (few, if any, of the papers even mentioned evolution). And she is only one tangible example of many. In her opinion, anyone that thinks one can’t be a creationist and do science is being bigoted and may or may not know the reality that there are many “out there” doing science in both Christian and totally secular institutions—and, when surrounded by “open-minded” coworkers, are able to peacefully work together with evolutionists in a complementary fashion. Sadly, however, her positive situation (the way it should be) is not experienced by many, as movies like Expelled would suggest. When pursuing a degree or tenure, being unnecessarily open about one’s beliefs can be detrimental, so creationists are advised to be cautious.
Next, this professor’s discussion of irreducible complexity (IC) is woefully inaccurate, and such a straw-man argument is easy to knock down. IC refers to “a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”1 Notice that this is a single system and not a collection of systems, and that it refers to the basic function (i.e., what the system does fundamentally). That is, humans can lose a kidney and still live, but to say this is an argument against IC is to misrepresent the argument.
Essentially, IC means that a given system could not have come about by chance processes because all the parts are necessary for the system to function. This is not “giving up” because the origin seems too complicated (as some naturalists claim). Instead, it is acknowledging that certain systems require all the components to be present and interacting in a specified manner. Examples of IC are the blood clotting system, the biochemistry of vision, the reproductive system between males and females, the ribosome, photosynthesis, and many others.
With all that said, however, very few evolutionists are worried about IC. They can always invent stories about how a given system arose (e.g., parts being “co-opted” or borrowed from other systems). Since those stories concern the unrepeatable past and cannot be tested, their faith in evolution is certainly not shaken. So, in that sense, IC is not a problem for them because their worldview demands only naturalistic explanations. No evidence is sufficient to disprove evolution, since they interpret all evidence through the lens of Darwin’s conjecture.
There is quite a double standard concerning transitional fossils. On one hand, evolutionists, such as this professor, say that we should not expect to find them because changes are small over such vast amounts of time. This is usually in response to creationists pointing out the dearth of such examples. However, the moment that a fossil is interpreted as being “transitional,” news stories proliferate around the world. Thus, what we shouldn’t expect to find is now the big science story of the day.
Essentially, this highlights the problem with fossils. They don’t have tags telling us what they are, and scientists are forced to interpret them based on the information they have. This can, in fact, lead to misidentification. Evolutionary scientists, for all their claims about not expecting to find them, are ever aware of the hope for transitional fossils. Thus, they often claim that some new find (e.g., Tiktaalik) is transitional. They believe in evolution, and they apply their beliefs to whatever they dig up.
Many evolutionists downplay transitional fossils because there are precious few disputed examples to choose from. If they are to maintain the dignity of their worldview, they have no choice but to acknowledge the gaps and then promptly fill them with imagination. So, even though we do not find clear transitional fossils between kinds, which goes against Darwinian history, evolutionists still assume that macro-evolution must be true. Evolution is, after all, unfalsifiable to many.
This professor has demonstrated the power of a worldview on interpreting evidence. Evolutionists have a prior commitment to a naturalistic history of the earth (i.e., no miraculous interaction), and, thus, all data pass through this filter. To them, there is not even a question of what is “truth,” as this has already been established. So, arguments against Darwin’s idea are not intelligible to them because they assimilate all information into the paradigm they already believe in. That is, no interpretation is valid if it doesn’t fit the naturalistic paradigm. Biology means evolution to them; irreducible complexity is ignored or somehow worked around by eons of evolution’s mysterious tinkering; and transitional fossils are now considered unnecessary (although for some reason, this was an embarrassment to Darwin). Evolutionary beliefs are their foundation, and nothing makes sense to them except in light of Darwinism.
This is the reason why we say that evidence is not the issue. People like this professor believe that the evidence either proves or fits with naturalism. Nothing is a problem for them because they can simply incorporate any problem areas through mental exercises about the past. That is, when a creationist points out something as being problematic, the evolutionist can simply invent a story about the past to make the problem disappear into the sands of time. The process works like this:
- Joe Creationist points out Problem A with evolution.
- Evo Eve reads Problem A, perhaps mocks Joe, and digs through the literature or proposes a research project.
- Evo Eve filters all evidence through her prior commitment to naturalism and invents Story B to explain how Problem A is not really a problem.
- Story B cannot be tested because it involves a one-time event that supposedly happened in the mysterious past.
- Websites “rebut” Joe Creationist’s problem with this new aspect of the evolution myth (Story B).
- Evolutionists claim that Problem A is no longer a problem for evolution.
Let’s plug in one of the examples above:
- If evolution happened, there should be millions of transitional fossils all over the world. We do not find them, however.
- People such as this professor mock those who think this and point to the possibility of punctuated equilibrium (rapid evolution) or such subtle changes that we cannot detect them.
- Neither of these are testable because they are not repeatable through experimentation.
- Anticreationist websites have often suggested that one should not expect to find transitional fossils—and have lampooned creationists for taking such things “out of context.”
- “Modern” evolutionists see no issue with the dearth of transitional forms (except only when a fossil could possibly be transitional—if you squint really hard—and the headlines trumpet that a missing link has been finally found).
So, this professor is certainly being consistent with the evolutionary worldview in the arguments presented, though his thinking betrays a plasticity that has no place in a scientific classroom or laboratory.
AiG stresses the importance of presuppositions in witnessing because those who accept evolution often do not consider their underlying beliefs and how those beliefs impact their thoughts, actions, and lives. Throwing evidence at them, while potentially useful, is likely only to be passed through their worldview filter. Helping them to see the basis for their presuppositions, however, can have a much deeper impact. Creation and naturalism are both narratives about the unrepeatable past—what we have to do is to show people that what we see in nature makes sense because the Bible is true, and, since it is, it makes much better sense of the facts and the science.
I pray that this professor does not discourage you or your friend from sharing the hope that you have. Keep pressing forward toward the mark and the prize.