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Evolution requires as much faith as creationism (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Evolution requires as much faith as creationism (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CA612:

Because evolution has never been observed, the theory of evolution requires as much faith as creationism does.

Source: Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, p. 4

CreationWiki responds:

When one reads Talk Origins' depiction of creationist claims, they must make sure that they understand the true intent of such a claim. Because the word "evolution" is so ambiguous, it is easy to get a false understanding of what the actual claim is. Let me summarize here the true intent of the claim.

Because evolution has never been observed,... What is meant by evolution here? This means the main tenets of the theory of common descent proposed by evolutionists. The theory of common descent or common ancestry of all living organisms is what is meant by the phrase the theory of evolution. The main tenet of the theory of common descent is that all living creatures have descended from one or a few common ancestors, those ancestors being organisms made up of one or a small number of cells, namely uni-cellular or multi-cellular life forms. The logical follow-on from this is that these life forms, we can call them bacteria, over numerous generations, can change into worms and soft bodied sea creatures, some of which, through more generations, can change into fish, some of which, through time, change into amphibians, some of which change into reptiles, some of which change into birds or mammals, some of which change into us, humans. The main mechanisms given by evolutionists for this great change are random mutation and natural selection. None of this has been observed by any human because, according to this record of history, humans didn't come on the scene until the very last stages of a multibillion-year process.

Another logical follow-on from this is that at the beginning, the bacteria had no genetic code for fins, lungs, a heart, legs, arms, scales, and the vast number of functions, organs, and limbs that the biological world has now. Yet over that long period of time, the genetic force of random mutation shaped by natural selection caused such a vast increase in novel, never-seen-or-known-before, meaningful genetic information that bacteria could go beyond any genetic limitation of its specific gene pool and become something radically different. We are not just talking about bacteria becoming immune to some antibiotic here, or some small form of speciation where we get two kinds of similar-functioning bacteria that cannot interbreed. We are talking about a vast increase in genetic complexity to create such complex organs as the eye/optical receptor, the highly complex brain, the liver, and other biological machines that have a complexity way beyond our own technology.

None of this has been observed. It is all outside human experience in the evolutionary worldview. And such changes will be forever outside our observational capabilities according to that same worldview. Why? Because gradualistic evolution, the one that speaks of small-step changes from bacteria to humans, says that evolution occurs much too slowly for humans to see the big changes in our lifetime. And those who accept punctuated equilibrium, the theory that talks of big spurts of evolutionary change in a relatively short time, say it happens too quickly in places outside of human observation and in a time too short and a location where fossilization cannot easily take place to be recorded in the so-called fossil record.

So basically the major parts of the theory of common descent, that is the theory of evolution, cannot be observed. It must be appreciated that these claims of this theory go way beyond the point of the minor speciation we see today, where living organisms which are fundamentally the same and belong to the same major group cannot interbreed.

So if it cannot be observed, then why is it accepted? It is not because the evidence demands we go in that direction, but because of a religious adherence to a philosophy called naturalism. People who hold to this philosophy believe that nature is all there is and the only objective source of knowledge we have. It is a philosophy that manifests as extreme methodological naturalism which has been incorporated into mainstream scientific research. Under the philosophical constraints of this philosophy, a person cannot state that Deity had anything to do with natural history and any scientific study of natural history beyond human experience (which makes such a study inherently unscientific and more philosophical, because science is supposed to be based on human experience, observation and testability). So a person cannot acknowledge Deity, a supernatural entity/creator.

This philosophy then forces a person to make certain conclusions about evidences that are experienced in the world, such as the fossils in the ground. Some fossils show creatures that don't seem to be living today, such as dinosaurs, and genetic similarities between different living creatures. This shows one point where a preconceived assumption, or a point of faith, a statement of belief, plays a powerful role in the theory of evolution.

Another way in which preconceived assumptions, conclusions based more on untestable assumptions rather than evidence, thus become statements of belief, play a role in the theory of common descent is seen in the work of a scientist called Kerkut.

"Kerkut lists seven basic assumptions that are seldom regarded as such in discussions of evolution (p. 6). These assumptions are:

(1) Non-living things gave rise to living (i.e. spontaneous generation occurred). (2) Spontaneous generation occurred only once. (3) Viruses, bacteria, plants, and animals are all interrelated. (4) The Protozoa gave rise to the Metazoa. (5) The various invertebrate phyla are interrelated. (6) The invertebrates gave rise to the vertebrates. (7) Within the vertebrates, the fish gave rise to the amphibia, the amphibia to the reptiles, and the reptiles to the birds and mammals.

These assumptions form the “General Theory of Evolution” and are by their nature “not capable of experimental verification.” Even though some of these processes may be simulated today, this shows only that such processes are possible; it does not prove that they did occur." [1]

"Kerkut, as an evolutionist, stated:

... I believe that the theory of Evolution as presented by orthodox evolutionists is in many ways a satisfying explanation of some of the evidence. At the same time I think that the attempt to explain all living forms in terms of evolution from a unique source ... is premature and not satisfactorily supported by present-day evidence... [T]he supporting evidence remains to be discovered ... We can, if we like, believe that such an evolutionary system has taken place, but I for one do not think that “it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.” ... It is very depressing to find that many subjects are being encased in scientific dogmatism (1960, pp. vii, viii, emp. added).

After listing and discussing the seven non-provable assumptions upon which evolution is based, Dr. Kerkut then observed: “The first point that I should like to make is that these seven assumptions by their nature are not capable of experimental verification” (p. 7, emp. added)." [2] (emphasis comes from source document)

So we see here that the theory of common descent does have points that are non-provable and beyond experimental verification, thus are more akin to points of faith and belief than facts. Let me give a simple fact to emphasize the point before we deal with the meat of Talk Origins' points of response.

In all of human experience, it has never been historically recorded or scientifically observed that one kind of living creature can bring forth another kind. A canine produces canines. A plant produces only plants. The possibility of such things occurring otherwise is beyond observation. That means we don't know if there is any possibility of such a thing happening because we have never seen it and it hasn't been recorded. So when we look at the hypothetical fossil record or geologic column with a progression of fossils in it, based on what we have observed and experience, we cannot say that a bacteria can become anything more than a bacteria, or a fish anything more than a fish. In the evolutionary scenario, it has to be assumed that this can happen, and that assumption is not provable and beyond experimental verification.

This is why creationists can say that evolution requires faith. By faith we mean that evolution requires a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of an untestable assumption, and a belief that doesn't rest on logical proof or material evidence (see for this definition).

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The theory of evolution is based on evidence that has been observed. There is a great amount of this evidence. When evidence is found to contradict previous conclusions, those conclusions are abandoned, and new beliefs based on the new evidence take their place. This "seeing is believing" basis for the theory is exactly the opposite of the sort of faith implied by the claim.

It has already been shown above why this response is faulty. It can be said that evolution is based on the evidence as much as creation science is, since both use material evidence to back up what they say. It is more accurate to say that evolution is based on the interpretation of physical evidence, that interpretation being based on an adherence to the philosophy of naturalism. Thus when Talk.Origins talks about there being a huge amount of evidence, the fact is that they already have a religio-philosophical framework of naturalism and they can explain of lot of physical phenomena in that framework. The same can be said, and more so, for creation science.

Now you will see that Talk.Origins, on their website, speak of evolution as a fact, and admits that within that fact there are differences of opinion about different aspects of that fact. So there is some truth to what they say about conclusions being abandoned in light of some evidence. But overall, when it comes to the whole edifice of evolution, it has been observed that no amount of evidence will cause that conclusion to be abandoned because it is more closely linked to the reigning philosophy of naturalism. Since the theory of common descent is the only strong expression of the naturalistic faith in science, then it cannot be abandoned unless another stronger naturalistic theory of origins and development comes about.

What has been said previously refutes the claim that the theory of common descent, i.e. the theory of evolution, has a "seeing is believing" basis, since it more a case that believing in the philosophy causes one to see the evidence in a certain way. The philosophy itself is self-refuting and inadequate in a lot of ways that are beyond the scope of this response.

2. The claim implicitly equates faith with believing things without any basis for the belief. Such faith is better known as gullibility. Equating this sort of belief with faith places faith in God on exactly the same level as belief in UFOs, Bigfoot, and modern Elvis sightings.

Now this may be a case of the logical fallacy of equivocation, since it takes one definition of faith and spreads it unjustifiably to another use of the word which has a slightly different meaning. In this example, we see Talk.Origins defining the faith in question as believing things without any basis for the belief. Faith in God has the same sort of meaning as faith in a friend, e.g. faith in Tony Blair. It has little to do with his existence, but rather it is based on experience, or logic, and causes you to believe in that person's character. So we have Talk.Origins talking of faith as a belief with no basis, and we have faith in Deity that relies on the basis of human experience. So we are talking apples and oranges here.

If Talk.Origins is talking about the very existence of "God", for example faith in the Supreme Being meaning belief that he exists, then even that faith is not on par with the belief in UFOs, Bigfoot, etc., because each of these is based on the sighting of individuals or small groups which makes the claims questionable. But the Deity of the Torah, the books of Moses, manifested His power in front of and spoke to a whole nation of millions of people. And the tradition of that event was passed down by that whole nation as the only record of their literal history. This puts strain on any claims of lying or lack of understanding among a pre-scientific people. So there is a whole lot more reason to believe in the Creator featured in the Torah than in the examples given by Talk.Origins. So there is still a basis for the faith/belief and puts it on par with conviction and acknowledgement of a truth.

A truly meaningful faith is not simply about belief. Belief alone does not mean anything. A true faith implies acceptance and trust; it is the feeling that whatever happens, things will somehow be okay. Such faith is not compatible with most creationism. Creationism usually demands that God acts according to peoples' set beliefs, and anything else is simply wrong (e.g., ICR 2000). It cannot accept that whatever God has done is okay.

The problem with separating faith from belief is that the two words are almost synonymous. Let's assume that when Talk.Origins talks of belief, they mean a baseless belief. But then when they try to describe a true faith, they depict it as simply a feeling that everything will be OK. If this is true then such a faith is not compatible with the "faith" of the Torah and of Genesis. That Deity exists is taken to be axiomatic, taken for granted and is reinforced by His acts and prophecies, as well as philosophical arguments. The faith of the Torah speaks more of trust in the character he has already exhibited, that of righteousness, trustworthiness, mercy, and his attributes of awesome power and knowledge. This is evidenced by the word normally translated as faith in the Hebrew Scriptures, "emunah", which doesn't necessarily speak of a belief, but of a steadfastness and reliability, speaking more concretely than abstractly. It is not just that everything will be OK, although it will be in the end.

Also, creation science, or a biblical perspective of reality, does not demand that Deity act according to peoples' set beliefs. This is shown in the book of Job, where Deity tests Job in a way that neither he, nor most of his friends, understood, and not according to their preconceptions about Him. He states in Isaiah that His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways above our ways. It is more the case that people's beliefs should be set according to what He says rather than personal whims or the forces of nature.

Also, it is the case that if one thing is right, then anything diametrically opposed to it must be wrong. There is no getting around that. If creation science is right, then evolution is wrong, and vice versa. What Talk.Origins says about creationism can be thrown back at evolutionists: Evolutionism usually demands that nature, their objective truth, acts according to people's [i.e. their, the evolutionists'] set beliefs, that being naturalism, and anything else is wrong. This point has little to do with faith and is a simple statement of logic: You choose one and reject the other. If one is right, the other is wrong. Our responsibility is to sift through these beliefs and biases and find out which is the true one, which is possible.

Talk.Origins' very last point is nonsensical. It says creationism cannot accept that whatever God has done is okay. The question is what authority has Talk.Origins to say what God has done, if their own worldview excludes him? Which god do they speak of? At least creationists have a written historical document that is said to be the word from the Creator which requires less interpretation than mute nature.

In the end, dealing with the initial claim about faith, Talk.Origins does little to refute the true claim from the creationists, and evidence does show that the theory of evolution, namely the theory of common descent, requires faith in untestable unprovable assumptions.

Related References

  1. Implications of Evolution
  2. Is Evolution a “Fact“ of Science?

See Also