5/31/2005

God as Magician in Evolution

I have now finished Miller's book "Finding Darwin's God" and can say that I recommend this as a starting point for anybody interested in finding, as he calls it, "common ground between God and evolutioin." While I do have some issues with his attempts at reconciliation, some are based on a Mormon application some not, these will be dealt with later on. While I have already considered some of his arguments against the those who hold out for a young earth, I would like to address his points against those who deny the common origin of species.

While he considers that God of the young earthers to be a flat out charlatan, he considers the God of those who deny the common origin of species a magician which really isn't all that bad but certainly isn't that good. While "young-earth creationism requires a full frontal assault on virtually every field of modern science" (p. 81) the Magicianists do not find themselves in a near as uncomfortable conflict with well established fact. Nevertheless, Philip Johnson (the main Magicianist) still finds himself at odds with boat loads of well established scientific reasoning.

Johnson claims that there are no credible evolutionary sequences. Wrong. There are lots of them and more are turning up every year. He claims that there are no credible evolutionary mechanisms. Wrong. The actual rate of morphological change in the biological world can be measured and turns out to be 10-100 times faster than is needed to produce the impossibilities he sees in the world. Obviously he isn't a scientist nor is he familiar with the relavent data.

He is, instead, a defense lawyer who has only one objective: to establish reasonable doubt. This isn't a bad thing, but it's not science. Not by a long shot. He offers no theories of his own, no alternatives, nothing but criticism. Again, not bad, but not science.

Well let's consider two theories which he could put forth, but, of course, doesn't. How do species appear if not by common descent? 1) A puff of smoke which could means either a special creation right then and there or tranplatation in our tradition. 2) A new species is born of another species, for example, a chicken hatches from a triceratops egg.

Number 2 isn't going to be maintained by too many Creationists since it is basically what they think that evolutionists believe, which they don't. Animals multiply according to their own 'kind' and can never transcend those barriers. What's interesting is that that is almost exactly what Darwin himself would have taught. We cannot have 'hopeful monsters' popping up since they would over shoot the selective focus. Instead, mutation from one generation will be very limited giving a relatively gradual course for evolution to follow as it were. Neither the scientists nor the religionists accept number 2.

What about number 1? Mormons will tend to reject the 'puff of smoke' idea (I hope) since we have traditionally felt that God created the world by natural means, nothing being more natural than sexual reproduction. Thus we speak of transplantation. Miller has a little bit of fun with this idea based on is total rejection of a global fall.
The appearance of new species out of thin air doesn't seem to happen anymore, even if it happened on a recurring basis in the geological past. These newly designed organisms continued to appear on a regular basis right up to the present day. Then for some reason, just as we became able to observe it, this remarkable magic stopped. Makes you wonder why, doesn't it? (p. 100)

"I'll tell you why," we can hear the creationist shout back, "because the Lord finished the creation of the sixth day a pronounced it good. There was no need for more once we were here. In fact, isn't it the Darwinians who believe that new species should be cropping up out of nowhere?" (No they don't, since speciation events can only be defined, by very definition, with the hindsight of 1,000's of years.)

In Miller's second critique of the Magician he calls into question the Magician's competence.
To adopt the explanation of design, we are forced to attribute a host of flaws and imperfections to the designer. Our appendix, for example, seems to serve only to make us sick; our feet are poorly constructed to take the full force of walking and running; and even our eyes are prone to optical errors and lose their ability to close focus as we age... Whatever one's views of such a designer's motivation, there is one conclusion that drops cleanly out of the data. He was incompetent... The average length of time a species survives after its first appearance is around 2 million years. Two million years of existence, and then extinction... In simple terms, this designer just can't get it right the first time. Nothing he designs is able to make it over the long term. (p. 101, 102)

He brings in an amusing analogy.
As a visitor walked past one of the cages at the zoo, he marveled at the sight of a lion and a lamb sleeping peacefully nest to each other. Amazed, he sought out the zookeeper. "That's incredible!" the visitor said. "How do you make them get along so well?" The zookeeper smiled. "It's easy. All we have to do is to put in a new lamb every day." (p. 102)

99% of the species which have inhabited the earth have been destroyed. Special creation is starting to look a bit ridiculous. Assuming that all those fossils came from animals which live and died on this earth, why would our Magician create these totally unnecessary species only to have them go extinct before anybody could admire them? This is an especially poignant point when considering the numerous 'links' which are no longer missing. Fish/amphibians, Amphibian/reptiles, Reptile/dinosaurs, Dinosaur/birds, Reptile/mammals and Land-mammal/whales have all been found. Are we really going to think those creatures were special creations, destined to live and die for no apparent reason?
Intelligent design advocates have to account for patterns in the designer's work that clearly give the appearance of evolution. Is the designer being deceptive? Is there a reason why he can't get it right the first time? Is the designer, despite all his powers, a slow learner? He must be clever enough to design an African elephant, but apparently not so clever that he can do it the first time... Intelligent design does a terrible disservice to God by casting him as a magician who periodically creates and creates and then creates again throughout the geologic ages. Those who believe that the sole purpose of the Creator was the production of the human species must answer a simple question... Why did this magician, in order to produce the contemporary world, find it necessary to create and destroy creatures, habitats, and ecosystems millions of times over? (p. 127,128)

This question applies to those who believe the fossil record to have been supplied by other planets full of animals, transition forms and even hominids indistinguishable from modern man. Why was their planet which seems to have been almost EXACTLY (even IDENTICAL) like ours destroyed? We don't think this planet will be destroyed, why would this other hypothetical world complete with its ecosystems be dismantled? These criticisms coming from a strong Christian scientist should not be dismissed as easily as they have been. God is not a magician who only appears powerful as long as we don't look very close.

Summary: Having considered the false idea of a young earth, Miller continues his attack on the creationists who dismiss the notion of common descent. Such an idea is alos bad science and terrible theology since it depicts the Magician Designer as being utterly wasteful, incompetent and deceptive.

2 Comments:

Good post, Jeffrey. Sounds like an interesting book.

Are there really many out there who accept an ancient earth, death before the fall, and extinction of species---and yet insist on special and separate creation of all species? My guess would be not. (Though Carl Cox may be one such rare bird, of your #2 variety.)

If there are people who think this way, perhaps one thing such serial-special-creationists might say is that the various stages and temporarily existing species were part of "bootstrapping" up from no life at all to a sufficiently complex biosphere capable of supporting man. They served their purpose and then were no longer necessary, in the view that man was the only important outcome. 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

6/01/2005 05:44:00 AM  

I think we might actually be surprised by how many people there ared that are magicianists, especially in the church. We say the earth could be really, really old and yet people hold out for the immutability of species all the time. If fact this is probably the option that the institute manual who probably have us endorse.

While the preparing the biosphere option is not a bad, it only works in we accept evolution. What is to stop God from creating all species which He needs today all at once? Or at least in a relatively short period of time anyways. To say that billions of years and the extinction of 99% of species was necessary to prepare the biosphere for us is a real whopper to say the least. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/01/2005 08:30:00 AM  

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