Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Evolution is True

"Why Evolution is True" (Jerry Coyne) - I was somewhat disappointed by this book. I didn't expect to be convinced, and it certainly wasn't convincing.

Of course, I am interested in the theology. I know of Coyne only by reputation - that is, he has a reputation for being an angry atheist who hates Creationists (and probably most Christians).

His disrespect of Creationists certainly comes through, but let's go in order...

Coyne seems to understand that evolution really is about replacing our creation story:
"Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years." (page xv)
Frustratingly, he constantly talks about how teaching Creationism is illegal. It is not.

The argument against design is, fundamentally, theological (although Coyne doesn't seem to realize it):
  1. If there was a Designer, He would do things this way
  2. Things are not done this way
  3. Therefore there is no Designer
But how do we know what a Designer would do or not do? Of course, there is an underlying idolatry here:
  1. If I were like God, I would do things this way
  2. Things are not done this way (this is the fact, the truth in the whole argument, which everyone agrees on)
  3. Therefore there is no God
Basically, the old, "I am most like God (or would like to be God), I am not God, therefore there is no God".
Good examples of this are on pages: 54 and 81.

An interesting tidbit:
"the average rates of evolution seen in colonization studies are large enough to turn a mouse into the size of an elephant in just ten thousand years!" (page 141)
Remember, most creationist models require more evolutionary change than evolutionists. Which is exactly what experiments show.

Some good data for my friends at Biologos: on pages 158 and 159, Coyne tells us that only 2% of mammals are monogamous. Further, 90% of birds are "socially monogamous" (outwardly monogamous) - yet, in 75% of those species, individuals are adulterous.

More data on rapid speciation, page 180 - showing speciation taking place in tens of generations.

Most frustrating is Coyne's double standard.

Every creationist statement is examined, and if anyone is ever wrong, it is damning to all. If creationists disagree, it is a sign of the weakness of the thinking.

But when the evolutionary story changes, that is progress! Science marching forward. When evolutionists disagree, that is the sign of healthy science. This is highly visible on pages 208 (where Coyne mocks creationist disagreement) and 209 (where he praises biologists disagreeing).

Of course, you have to wade through the whole thing to get to some conclusions:
"Pearcey argues (and many American creationists agree) that all the percieved evils of evolution come from two worldviews that are part of science: naturalism and materialism" (p 224, Coyne seems to believe nat-mat is the only viable worldview)
And then he undoes himself:
"Now, science cannot completely exclude the possibility of supernatural explanation."
What argument can he offer against supernaturalism?
  1. Supernaturalism is not needed (p 225)
  2. Supernaturalism is the end of inquiry
To the first, all I can say is "So?" Where do our needs enter the picture? Are not God's needs highest priority?

To the second, all I can say is "So?" Why is pursuit of inquiry the highest good?

You must offer some standard of goodness.

Here is where Coyne fails the most. He proposes goodness for goodness sake. On page 231, he blandly promotes "cultural evolution" - that things are slowly getting better.

Perhaps the most ironic is his reference to the end of human sacrifice.

About 25% of pregnancies end in abortion, so have we really done away with human sacrifice? Or have we just made it neat and clean, and gotten it out of sight? At least the ancients performed their sacrifices in public, for the atonement of sin and the good of the community. Now we make our sacrifices in secret, for our own pleasure.

No comments: