Night Owl Mk. II

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prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

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(R) You stated "Evolution occurs and is observed all the time in the laboratory." Evolution of one kind of living thing into another has never been observed in the laboratory and I find it astonishing that you could state something so ridiculous.
(MB) I can see that you need to spend more time reading the scientific journals and more general works on biology. Experiments concerning evolution are conducted constantly in the laboratory using the most basic living organisms. This is done because the combination of a high rate of reproduction and the relatively few genetic changes required for them to evolve makes direct observation much easier and faster. It is pointless to demand laboratory observation of evolution for organisms that would normally take thousands or millions of years to evolve noticeably. In any case, that is not necessary. If evolution occurs in lower forms of eukaryotic or prokaryotic life -- which has been observed -- then it must also occur in higher forms. It just takes longer for more complex organisms. Despite Creationist claims to the contrary, the fossil record and the sciences of comparative immunology, morphology, comparative embryology and biogeography all provide strong evidence (if not outright proof) in favor of evolution. Creationists have yet to provide one single legitimate example of contradiction or error to the findings of those sciences. They may correctly point out that the records and findings are not yet complete, but that, in and of itself, is no evidence of error.

(R) For evolution (and here I mean macro-evolution, as in cats over time evolving into dogs; rather than micro-evolution, which is cats over time developing different characteristics but still remaining cats) to have been observed in the laboratory would simply take too long. It supposedly takes millions of years for these kinds of changes (macro-evolution ones) to occur: how can that possibly have been observed in a laboratory?!?
(MB) First, let's correctly define a couple of terms whose meanings are normally mangled in Creationist arguments. Microevolution involves small changes in gene frequencies within a population over a few or many generations, up to the formation of new species. Macroevolution involves the collective major trends by which one or more lineages evolve through geologic time. The amount of time it takes for each to occur is completely dependent upon the complexity of the organism involved.
    An important (and often overlooked or misunderstood) point here is that evolution is not synonymous with "speciation". However, the process of speciation must be preceded by sufficient evolutionary change within a particular population. Macroevolution resulting in speciation is directly observed in the laboratory only with the simplest forms of life. If one could run a 10-million-year laboratory experiment on cats, we would see macroevolution in them, too. Microevolution can be observed in any organism - including Homo sapiens.

(R) Even if it has been observed (and it has not) then that does not prove evolution occurred in the past. It proves that under carefully controlled laboratory conditions evolution can occur. That is something completely different.
(MB) Oh? Living organisms do not behave differently under laboratory conditions. The processes of reproduction and mutation are identical. It's just easier for us to see and track it in the laboratory than it is in the wild. If it occurs in the lab, then it *must* occur in the wild.

(R) Such a scientific achievement (and it would be a great achievement because it would be very difficult to do) would surely have been publicized enough for anyone to hear about it: I never have.
(MB) It *is* publicized and anyone can read about it. Just go down to the library or to any college biology department and find out for yourself.

(R) Now perhaps one day, if evolutionists are correct, humans will have evolved into some new kind of life. That has not happened since recorded history: no-one has observed such changes. To say that such changes are being observed all the time is preposterous.
(MB) Homo sapiens is an immensely complex living thing and changes occur over a period of time much longer than what is covered in our recorded history - less than 10,000 years. Even at that, Homo sapiens contains vestigial structures that harken back to our pre-Homo ancestors. Homo sapiens is not likely to speciate again during our stay on this planet because our population has become so intermixed that mutations are "smoothed out". However, should we manage to colonize another planet, it is possible that the small, isolated population of that colony would evolve much more rapidly. This would be similar to many examples here on Earth where species of animals have been introduced to an isolated location that is not native to them and which separates them from the rest of their population and gene pool. The rate of mutation and the evolutionary process speeds up dramatically in those isolated populations.

(R) Even if it is occurring now, that does not unavoidably lead to the conclusion that it occurred in the past. To know that we refer to the fossil record, in which we find gaping holes. I suppose that you think these "missing links" have been found and all of the gaps have been closed. You would have to think this to make the unwarranted claims you've made.
(MB) Not at all. No one will claim that there are no holes or gaps in the fossil record. However, a "gap" does not mean an "error" -- as Creationists would have us believe. Remember that the science of paleontology is less than two centuries old and only a fraction of the Earth has been examined for fossil remains. New findings are made constantly and, to date, not a single one has contradicted evolution theory.
    Duane T. Gish, vice-president of the ICR, has focused upon the fossil record to make his attacks against evolution. His one major work was published in 1979 and has been thoroughly refuted. Yet, he continues to tour the country making speeches to whoever wishes to listen to him keep putting out the same tired trash. But, he has a "higher calling" and will not be deterred. He relies on people who find it easier to listen to him than to examine the available evidence in order to keep his message alive. This is why so many old Creationist garbage myths are still being bandied about.

(R) If evolution occurred like it has been taught in the schools for decades (micro-evolutionary changes leading to macro ones) then we would never have any need to look for missing links: museums would be full of them, and we will be able to observe such creatures in nature all around us today. This is clearly not the case.
(MB) By definition, a "missing link" cannot currently exist. What you are speaking of (I assume) is a transitional form - an example of an intermediate species in the evolutionary lineage between two other, more widely separated, species. Here is an area where Creationists engage in a deceitful bit of wordplay to attempt to make their point. The most famous example is one of the transitional forms between reptiles and birds - Archaeopteryx. First, they will claim that there are no such transitional forms. Then, when shown Archaeopteryx, they will either flatly label it as either a "bird" (because it has feathers) or as a "reptile" (because it has a long, bony tail). This, they say, "proves" that it is not a transitional form. Now, logic would tell us that they can't define the same creature two different ways and be correct in both instances, but that doesn't stop them. Even the ones that do accept it then go on to say, "OK, but that's just one and there must be more than that. Until you show me more, I won't believe it." Go on to show them a second or third example and they'll demand a fourth and fifth, and so on. The bottom line is that they just will not believe it - even if it's proven to them.
    Let's consider the modern horse, Equus. We have a complete fossil record of the evolution of the horse spanning some 54 million years beginning with Hyracotherium and progressing through over 20 different species to today's Equus. All of the intermediate species are transitional forms, yet, to the Creationist, they "don't exist". Clearly, they are wrong.

(R) "Missing links" are always being found, or at least I should say forms of life that evolutionists try to characterize as missing links are found, but they inevitably turn out to be fully formed life kinds of their own that have gone extinct.
(MB) Here's another bit of Gish's linguistic gymnastics. What exactly would a "not fully formed" living organism look like? *All* living organisms are fully formed. Also, Gish loves to play with the word "kind" as it suits his arguments. Sometimes, a "kind" means "species" to him. Sometimes, it means "genus", "family", "class" or even "phylum".
    To science, a "missing link" is an intermediate species that is postulated to exist because two known species differ too greatly for the earlier to have likely evolved directly into the latter. Sometimes, a newly-discovered fossil fills a hole neatly. Other times it only partially fills it. Still other times it shows us where a species may have diverged into another, previously unknown lineage that did not survive. None of this disputes evolution theory.

(R) The scientific community is starving for finds that can close these holes: recall Piltdown man, and (I think) Nebraska man.
(MB) Piltdown man is one of many deliberate hoaxes that have been perpetrated for various reasons throughout history. To try to use a hoax to dispute evolution is fruitless.

(R) You state that Creationists have not refuted any part of evolution. The fossil record refutes it. Evolutionists are unwilling to accept this and are in denial.
(MB) Why accept something that is patently untrue? If someone had, indeed, refuted evolution -- especially in a major way -- the whole thing would have come down long ago. Of course, it hasn't and has only gotten stronger. If you're looking for people who are in denial, look no further than the ones with the Bibles in their hands.

(R) You have criticized that scientists in ICR are outside their fields of expertise when they address questions of evolution.
(MB) Only when they position themselves as subject matter experts and carefully avoid revealing where their true education lies. When the ICR uses the "many scientists oppose evolution" argument, it is justifiable to ask what field of science they are actually trained in. When you have people such as hydraulicists arguing biology, engineers arguing cosmology, and MIS weenies arguing geology and all trying to impress the audiences with the "argument by authority" fallacy, there is ample grounds for criticism.

(R) I explained that science departments are not interested in training creationist scientists...
(MB) Creationism is not a graduate degree program, it is a view espoused by those who subscribe to a version of American Fundamentalist Christianity. That's not something that any science department is going to get involved with.

(R) well as mentioned our two friends in Iowa who would like to retroactively revoke Ph.D.s of creationists. With an environment like that, how likely is it that any creationist could manage to make it through a science doctoral program full of evolutionist professors?
(MB) Besides the fact that Creationist religion is not science, how does the example of two people in Iowa refute evolution? Also, would revokation of those Ph.D.s change any of their beliefs? Would it prevent them from speaking or writing about them? Arguments are judged on their own merit and not on the college degree (or lack of) of the person who is making them.

(R) It isn't quite a closed shop, because it doesn't take a paleontologist to understand paleontology, but there are evolutionists who have endeavored to make it one.
(MB) Whether that is or is not true makes no difference whatsoever to any arguments either for or against evolution (or Creationism, for that matter). Those side issues are about as valid as the argument of the drug advocate who thinks his favorite substance should be legalized because "the US is becoming a police state".

(R) Experiments can not prove that Christ rose from the dead: it is an historical event.
Experiments cannot prove evolution occurred: it is an historical event.

(MB) Correct, in the first case, but dead wrong in the second. In the first case, the best that could be done would be to prove that resurrection itself is possible. There would, however, be no way to prove that Jesus himself was resurrected. There is simply no hard evidence.
    Evolution, on the other hand, is not only historical -- it is also ongoing. Because of this, its existence can be proven by experimentation.

(R) You claimed (if I recall correctly) that the scientific method is used to prove evolution. The scientific method involves reproducible experiments which cannot occur in such a way as to prove evolution occurred. Evolutionists, it seems to me, like to drape what they have done with the "scientific method" but they do so falsely, giving their work a credence that it does not deserve.
(MB) This only shows a lack of understanding of the scientific method and/or of experimentation. Any scientific theory also has predictive power. In other words, it should be able to predict results of later experiments or observations. When evolution predicts which types of fossils will be found in which layers of sediment and that simpler forms will evolve into more complex ones, and every subsequent experiment or observation produces results consistent with those predictions, the theory gains strength.
    How about a simple example? I go outside and see a hammer laying on the ground. Since that is not normally where I would expect to find a hammer, I try to figure out how it got there. I arrive at two possibilities. One is that somebody deliberately laid it there and the other is that it fell from the nearby roof where a worker is putting up shingles. Each theory should have predictive power. In the first case, the hammer should show no signs of damage from the impact and there should be no evidence of an impact on the ground. In the second case, I should expect to find either a dent in the hammer or an impact mark on the ground (or both). My experiment will be to examine the hammer and the ground for evidence. I find an indentation in the ground under the hammer's head and a nick in the hammer head that corresponds to a small rock. I can now conclude that it was dropped. I test my conclusion by asking the worker if this is his hammer.
    Now, the Biblical literalist might come along, see the same hammer and immediately conclude that God created it and placed it in that spot for us to find. Why and how this might have been done are "not for us to know". He may even go so far as to claim that if this was a natural event, we should expect to find all different sorts of hammers and other assorted tools laying about. Any evidence to the contrary is either summarily dismissed, incorrectly explained away, or blamed on some "anti-religion conspiracy". There is, of course, no way to prove his argument either right or wrong by any application of the scientific method. He goes on to tell anyone within earshot about the "Miracle of the Hammer". Some believe him and help spread the story. Come to think of it, isn't this quite similar to what happens with such things as "Virgin Mary sightings", "faith healing", and, yes, Creationism?

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