The Case for a Creator: Paging Dr. Provine

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 1

At the close of the first chapter, Lee Strobel scales to an incredible height of lunacy:

I knew intuitively what prominent evolutionary biologist and historian William Provine of Cornell University would spell out explicitly in a debate years later. If Darwinism is true, he said, then there are five inescapable conclusions:

  • there’s no evidence for God
  • there’s no life after death
  • there’s no absolute foundation for right and wrong
  • there’s no ultimate meaning for life
  • people don’t really have free will [p.16]

These incredible assertions are presented without any hint of supporting evidence or argument, other than to call them “inescapable” and to say that he “knew [them] intuitively”.

Something worth noting here is that, despite the book’s title – The Case for a Creator – which would imply that the book’s contents contain a set of factual arguments and supporting evidence worthy of the description “case”, Strobel here does nothing of the kind. In fact, what he’s doing is exactly the same thing that his West Virginian interviewees were doing: trying to warn people away from accepting evolution by painting a frightening picture of its imagined consequences. Looked at in this light, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t attempt to cite supporting arguments for this staggering set of claims. Their sole purpose in being here is to evoke a gasp of horror from Strobel’s Christian readers, and for that purpose, it’s sufficient to cite just one scary-sounding atheist.

The obvious thing to do would be to e-mail Dr. Provine to find out if this quote really represents what he believes. I tried contacting him, but didn’t get an answer. Instead, I’ll respond to these five points myself, pointing out atheists who dissent from Strobel’s “inescapable” conclusions along the way.

Evidence for God: Why on earth would the truth of evolution imply the nonexistence of God? The whole point of faith in God, as atheists often complain, is that it is unfalsifiable – consistent with any possible evidence, disproved by none. You may look and fail to confirm the existence of God, but no matter how closely you investigate, you can never rule out a sufficiently subtle deity. This is as true for evolutionary biology as it is for any other branch of science.

Of course, some versions of God have more empirical contact with the world than others. I grant that, if your religion requires belief in two human beings created 6,000 years ago from mud by a local deity in a garden somewhere in Mesopotamia, then evolution probably does contradict it. (In much the same way, people who believe that thunder and lightning emanate from Thor’s almighty hammer have their beliefs contradicted by modern meteorology.) But that’s a far cry from claiming, as Strobel does, that the truth of evolution logically implies that no evidence whatsoever for the existence of any god has ever been or ever will be discovered. As I said last time, as an atheist, I’d be greatly pleased if that were true. But it simply isn’t the case.

Life after death: Although I don’t believe in life after death, I see no reason why that belief would be incompatible with evolution. The obvious reconciliation would be to believe that God created life on Earth through evolutionary processes, but at some point instilled the ancestors of human beings with a soul that survives bodily death. Indeed, that is exactly the position of the Roman Catholic church, as well as many mainstream Christian denominations. That’s over a billion Christian believers worldwide who hold to this theology – a rather large number for Strobel to sweep under the carpet!

Absolute right and wrong: The existence of right and wrong is a philosophical question that does not depend on any particular set of facts about the world. As atheists have noted ad nauseam, science deals only in questions of fact, what did or did not happen, while the job of moral philosophy is to evaluate whether those things should happen, and that is a separate question entirely. Therefore, the truth or falsehood of evolution has no bearing on whether there is such a thing as a universal moral standard.

Ultimate meaning for life: Assuming these are accurate quotes from Dr. Provine, I suspect that this point exploits a common apologist confusion of terms. Atheists do not believe in “ultimate” meaning for life, in the sense of a transcendent purpose handed down from above. But we do believe that there is meaning in life, which we choose to create for ourselves by participating in fulfilling actions. This point is made forcefully in atheist books like The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality or The Atheist’s Way. The difference is largely one of semantics, and again, what this has to do with evolution is left unexplained.

Free will: Again, semantics are important. If you’re referring to the libertarian, theistic version of free will – the one where people are possessed by a supernatural soul that has the magical power to make decisions that are completely without prior cause – then I agree that we don’t have that, and I also agree that science disproves that. But the science in question isn’t evolution, but rather neurology, which shows in increasingly greater detail how human decision-making originates from the structure of our neurons. Unless Strobel intends to devote his next book to arguing that human beings don’t really have brains, he seems to have chosen the wrong target here.

On the other hand, if you’re referring to compatibilist free will – that freedom means the ability to choose in accordance with our desires – then evolution not only allows for that view, it arguably requires it. That’s the thesis of prominent atheist Daniel Dennett, whose book on the topic is titled – what else? – Freedom Evolves. Needless to say, this isn’t a view explored by Strobel, who would evidently rather emphasize the one atheist view calculated to cause his audience the most shock and fright, as opposed to letting them know the true range of atheist thought on these topics.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com chanson

    Why on earth would the truth of evolution imply the nonexistence of God?

    It sounds like his reasoning is more of the “God of the gaps” variety. If evolution can be proven false, then there’s a huge gap (“Where did all these amazing living things come from?”) that needs to be filled (by God!). But if evolution is sitting there filling that gap, then there goes your favorite bit of “evidence for God.” Darnit.

  • Pi Guy

    I was totally with you until, once again, you decided to throw libertarians under bus with those who espouse theistic thinking. Liberty = freedom and does not require theism in any way.

    Are there libertarians who are also believe in god? Undoubtedly. However, most of those who I’ve known who identify themselves as libertarian tend to tip the scale toward atheism/agnosticism because they recognize that religious dogma and free-thinking are actually antithetical. Employing the phrase “libertarian, theistic version of free will” strikes me, an atheist libertarian, as a statement that indicates that you don’t really know too many libertarians. If you think that Glenn Beck is somehow representative of libertarian thinking – despite his claims to the contrary – you would be wrong. Beck is most decidedly not a libertarian. He is, however, a theist.

    Other than that, you have destroyed Strobel’s arguments so thoroughly that I can’t even imagine how he gets through writing the rest of his book. He has not even come close to making a case.

  • AC

    @Pi Guy,

    I believe Ebon is referring to libertarian free will, as opposed to determinism or compatabilist free will, rather than libertarian political positions.

  • prase

    Well, I think that what Strobel says makes good sense. The existence, diversity and complexity of life was historically considered the greatest proof of God’s existence. If you can explain it naturalistically, for many people there is (almost) nothing left. If evolution really happens, there is no sharp boundary between people and animals or plants, many of which clearly aren’t sentient in any resonable meaning. Moreover, there were long periods of history when no sentient beings existed. This makes the idea of soul and afterlife very improbable. Without regard to sheer number of people who officially believe that, the Catholic explanation of soul/evolution compatibility seems to me much more absurd than hard-core creationism. And since evolutionary psychology can explain much of human moral intuition, the need of supernatural explanation vanishes in this area too.

    I think Strobel has perfectly understood the implications of evolution theory – that it has made theism intelectually indefensible. He was only unable to do the last step – accept the (for him) inconvenient implications of evidence, and he has rejected the evidence instead.

    Although I personally much prefer theistic evolutionists to creationists, the creationists are in some sense more honest, as they don’t hide behind the curtain of unfalsifiability (in different senses they are less honest however). The fallacy
    of Strobels arguments are, in my opinion, that these are arguments from consequences. Rather than that they are non sequiturs, as suggested by the post.

  • Polly

    I don’t understand why Xians claim free-will as their exclusive domain when many passages in the Bible quite clearly preach against it. The very question of whether you’re saved or not – ultimately the only real decision of consequence – is not in your hands.

    “God will have mercy on whom he will…”
    “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”
    “Even salvation is not of yourselves”
    “God chose you” ”
    Many are called but few are chosen” ”
    If it is god’s selection, then it’s not by human will, so there’s no reason for pride.”

    I can’t cite all these right now but they’re in there and there are plenty more. And there are certainly preachers who subscribe to the idea that god is the only “decider” in salvation because humans are incapable of making the decision due to depravity.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    On point 1, you seem to be over-arguing. Provine’s statement is not that evolution disproves God, but that there is no evidence for God. If you want to throw in a couple adjectives, such as there is no convincing and credible evidence for the existence of any God, perhaps it would be clearer. Recall that in philosophical circles, the argument from design was considered the most convincing theistic argument (although certainly not conclusive). See for example Hume for a good summary of the state of philosophy pre-Darwin. Darwin blew the argument from design out of the water with his theory of evolution by means of natural selection; because now not only is the AFD not conclusive, but there is a credible and evidentially supported alternative. Thus, Darwin’s theory of evolution had impact on serious philosophical debate on this point.

    On a less formal level, evolution strikes at human origins in a way that most other scientific theories don’t. While the round earth and heliocentricity might differ from biblical literalist doctrine, evolution addresses human origins. No creation, no talking snake story. No talking snake story, no original sin. without original sin, what would the Christian messiah be sacrificing himself for?

    While it is possible (and common) to claim that our biologicial bodies might have evolved, but our souls were bestowed on us by God, this argument lacks intellectual force and smacks deeply of human exceptionalism. There’s also the question of exactly when during the course of evolution this soul-endowment took place. Did Homo habilis have souls? How about afarensis? Etc. The ridiculousness of proposing such an abrupt event on a gradualistic timeline is apparent.

    You are also correct that Strobel’s use of Provine’s views is purely an argument from consequences.

  • Polly

    I don’t think evolution disproves any but the most bible-literalist god.

    Whether the arguments seem TO ME post-hoc or contrived, the fact remains that many many believers, as pointed out in the OP, hold to theistic evolution. It doesn’t need to convince an atheist, it just has to be reasonable to someone who already believes. From that angle, it is reasonable to conclude that your all-powerful god could use evolution to accomplish his ends.

    Belief in a personal god who’s deeply concerned about YOU is entirely based on wishful thinking, anyway.

  • http://www.reformingreprobate.blogspot.com/ Pine

    Does anyone here feel that the Bible was written as a book to teach us science? As was stated… “As atheists have noted ad nauseam, science deals only in questions of fact, what did or did not happen, while the job of moral philosophy is to evaluate whether those things should happen, and that is a separate question entirely.”

    Since science and religion deal with the world from two very different perspectives, where there appear to be contradictions are these two establishments really at odds with one another or is there simply a problem with our ability to reconcile the two? Sure, we’d love to pick apart one another’s beliefs, but do we really have grounds to do so?

    But I suppose some will hold that either their science or their religion is infallible. Too bad we didn’t learn anything from the reformation or Einstein. It seems to be a very small minority in history who challenge the establishment’s view and actually are successful in convincing others that there is a new way of viewing things which expands upon current thought at the expense of dismantling false conclusions arrived at prematurely by those holding high positions in the establishments of religion and science who over-reach the limits of any actual evidence they have. But I suppose most people here are so committed to their pet beliefs that they will only see this as the ‘theists’ flaw, ignoring the planks.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    To second Polly above, Darwinian evolution refutes a particular conception of God, namely, a personal god who takes an active interest in our affairs and intervenes at select points, and who requires that you submit yourself to it.

    Whether or not our universe is the creation of one or more beings of higher intelligence that are totally beyond our ability to comprehend is a question that science cannot answer at this time.

  • Mustapha

    I actually had the good fortune to have dinner with William Provine last year. He came to my university to give two lectures, one on evolutionary biology, and the other on free will. So I can confirm Ebon’s speculations about his ideas.

    As you say, he argued against ultimate meaning in life but not against proximal meaning. (Those are his own words, if I remember correctly). Similarly, he argued that people are free to make choices (i.e. compatibilist free will) but do not have the Cartesian duality version of free will.

    His lectures are extremely different — one might say almost eccentric. Each slide contains a dense amount of text, which he expects the audience to read while he stands silently by. Moreover, during each such slide, a burst of classical music plays. Then, when the music stops, he begins talking about the ideas on that slide.

    It actually worked really well. I liked his talks.

  • jo

    What’s bizarre to me is that the last 3 claims could just as easily be made about religion. Religion by no means excludes existential crises, and would definitely encourage them in some. Religion just seems to allow you to push tough questions back a step so you don’t have to think about them if you don’t want to.
    And there are many non-religious dogmas that claim absolute foundations for right and wrong…

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Ebon,

    I must say, I’m generally unimpressed with Strobel’s arguments, and as far as your rebuttals to the five points conclusions he attributes to Provine,

    1) Agree.

    2) Agree.

    3) Mostly agree, but have a quibble with, “The existence of right and wrong is a philosophical question that does not depend on any particular set of facts about the world.”

    4) Agree. Very cogent response that respects the nuances of language.

    5) Disagree strongly. I’ve already stated how I feel about A Ghost In The Machine and you denounced most of it. I’m down to debate it with you anyday.

    I also had some concerns about prase’s arguments as well, in particular I disagree that evolutionary theory makes theism intellectually indefensible. Although I tend to disagree with the oft-repeated mantra that an Omni^3 God precludes the possibility of free will, Polly‘s opening question is a good one. And TommyKey, a lot of the time I agree with you, but when you say, “Darwinian evolution refutes a particular conception of God, namely, a personal god who takes an active interest in our affairs and intervenes at select points, and who requires that you submit yourself to it,” I disagree. How so?

  • http://wilybadger.wordpress.com Chris Swanson

    I’ve always assumed that if you have an onmiscient deity, as God is supposed to be, then free will cannot exist. If God is all-knowning, he knows exactly what you’ll do from the moment you are born until the moment you die. You have no real choice or say in the matter and cannot do other than what God knows you are going to do. Otherwise he would not be all-knowing.

  • matt foley

    …..”I’ve always assumed that if you have an onmiscient deity, as God is supposed to be, then free will cannot exist. If God is all-knowning, he knows exactly what you’ll do from the moment you are born until the moment you die. You have no real choice or say in the matter and cannot do other than what God knows you are going to do. Otherwise he would not be all-knowing. Comment by: Chris Swanson…”

    Assumptions are based on a set of previously established beliefs. Knowing what one will do does not necessarily mean directing what one will do.

  • Polly

    Assumptions are based on a set of previously established beliefs. Knowing what one will do does not necessarily mean directing what one will do. You didn’t answer the argument. The claim isn’t that god controls what the person will do but that the very fact that what the person will do is KNOWABLE at all (regardless of god’s willingness to do anything about it) is the problem.

    It seems that the ability to make absolutely certain predictions about beings’ choices and actions is not compatible with free-will.

  • Polly

    For some reason the blockquotes didn’t comethrough in my post above. The first 2 sentences are from matt foley.
    I’d like to hear a real response, matt or anyone else, because this is the same response I get every time the subject of god’s omniscience comes up. There’s an inability to distinguish between “control”, which is NOT the issue, and “100% predictability”, which is the issue and the source of the contradiction – or at least it’s a contradiction as far as I can see. But, maybe I’m wrong. But so far no one is able to explain how it’s not a contradiction.

  • matt foley

    Response to Polly:

    Actually, it is not a matter of the ability to predict. That would allow for some uncertainty. God knows. The trouble is that it is hard to grasp when finite men try to grasp an infinite God.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Thanks for that comment, Mustapha. Knowing what I know about how creationists distort words to serve their purposes, that’s pretty much what I assumed Provine’s views were; I just wasn’t able to get him to write back and confirm that. It’s good to have confirmation.

  • Peter N.

    Pine wrote:

    Since science and religion deal with the world from two very different perspectives, where there appear to be contradictions are these two establishments really at odds with one another or is there simply a problem with our ability to reconcile the two?

    It’s a pretty glaring contradiction, when science strives to learn more and more about the way the universe works, while religion depends on “revealed truths” and actively, sometimes violently, discourages the critical examination of its claims. Atheists do, of course “reconcile the two” by going ahead and scrutinizing religion anyway.

    But I suppose some will hold that either their science or their religion is infallible.

    Religion claims to be infallible, science does not. Science readily, gleefully incorporates new information, and every scientific explanation, no matter how well-established or fundamental, may be modified or even overturned if sufficient evidence is brought to bear on it. The obvious result is that thousands of religions each claim to be the sole possessor of the truth, whereas science simply works.

    Too bad we didn’t learn anything from the reformation or Einstein. It seems to be a very small minority in history who challenge the establishment’s view and actually are successful in convincing others that there is a new way of viewing things which expands upon current thought at the expense of dismantling false conclusions arrived at prematurely by those holding high positions in the establishments of religion and science who over-reach the limits of any actual evidence they have. But I suppose most people here are so committed to their pet beliefs that they will only see this as the ‘theists’ flaw, ignoring the planks.

    Discovering new information, formulating new theories, and (rarely) disproving old ones, is what scientists do. The best ones might be rewarded with a Nobel Prize, or have a disease named after them. Of course, new ideas face a gauntlet of critical, sometimes hostile scrutiny, and it should go without saying that although science is a beautiful and elegant system for increasing knowledge, scientists can be fallible: stubborn, jealous, territorial, and plain stupid, just like the rest of us. Nevertheless, the truth will emerge sooner or later.

    You mention the Reformation. How much new knowledge has religion given us since the 16th century? How does that compare to science?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Matt Foley and Polly,
    If god has 100% knowability, then the universe is determined. This makes for a very difficult situation for free will. If you couple this with omnipotence, then free will goes out the door. When the universe was created, all things were set in stone by the very act of god creating. He created a universe where it was determined from the time of creation that I would be sitting here writing this comment. What choice did I have in the matter?

    I always like to pull out my book example (which I got from a pretty smart guy elsewhere). god can write a book that details every single thing that you will ever do, say, think, etc. If god can’t do this, then god is not omnimax. If god gives you this book, do you think you can read it and then do something different from what is listed? If you can, then god will have been shown to be wrong and is not omnimax. If you can’t, then no free will can exist.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Of course, new ideas face a gauntlet of critical, sometimes hostile scrutiny, and it should go without saying that although science is a beautiful and elegant system for increasing knowledge, scientists can be fallible: stubborn, jealous, territorial, and plain stupid, just like the rest of us. Nevertheless, the truth will emerge sooner or later.

    Precisely. In fact, the process of science lends itself well to self-correction and overcoming the fallibility of its adherents.

    You mention the Reformation. How much new knowledge has religion given us since the 16th century? How does that compare to science?

    I’d like to know what knowledge religion has ever given us.

  • mike

    Actually, it is not a matter of the ability to predict. That would allow for some uncertainty. God knows. The trouble is that it is hard to grasp when finite men try to grasp an infinite God.

    Well, you sure seem to be speaking with quite a lot of certainty for just a finite human with finite understanding. Chalking it up to a divine mystery is just a euphemistic way of saying “I believe something nonsensical, but I make myself feel smart about it by calling it a deep transcendent mystery.”

  • Leum

    I’d like to know what knowledge religion has ever given us.

    To be fair, a lot of theologians, like a lot of other philosophers and storytellers, are very interested in human nature and can be insightful into why we act, think, and believe as we do. Many others, of course, are too bound up in their dogma to understand that humans act differently from how their theology says they do.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    To be fair, a lot of theologians, like a lot of other philosophers and storytellers, are very interested in human nature and can be insightful into why we act, think, and believe as we do.

    But, it wasn’t religion or revelation that gave them insights. It was a process of observation, experimentation, revision, etc…Where have I heard that before?

    Now, I’m not saying that religious people haven’t expanded the base of human knowledge. It’s just that they didn’t do so using religion, theology, or revelation.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Too bad we didn’t learn anything from the reformation or Einstein.

    I don’t know where this comes from. We learned some good science from Einstein, about relativity, the photoelectric effect, etc. About some other science stuff he was wrong (e.g. quantum indeterminacy). On the topic of religion, Einstein said some rather stupid things.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Provine has an unusual speaking style; after a bout with brain cancer and the resulting surgery, Provine had to learn anew to talk.

    I found this article> Prof Denies Human Free Will. It’s only about a page long, so there’s not much detail, and it is filtered through a journalist.

    “We’re kind of lost,” Bair said to The Sun, “He can’t define what free will is … although it was an entertaining presentation.”

    There’s the rub; before paying too much into a discussion of free will, I would want to hear it defined. Already above there are several incompatible definitions. If we’re all using different definitions, then we are talking past each other.

    For materialists, I think free will is just the last remnant of the dualism they think they have discarded.

  • matt foley

    Response to Mike:
    “…..Well, you sure seem to be speaking with quite a lot of certainty for just a finite human with finite understanding. Chalking it up to a divine mystery is just a euphemistic way of saying “I believe something nonsensical, but I make myself feel smart about it by calling it a deep transcendent mystery.” Comment by: mike….”

    I am not only finite but also fallable. That does not preclude me from understanding some things. Those who deny the existence of God base their understanding of science on a different set of beliefs or assumptions. Why do you feel it necessary to insult and demean because my beliefs are different from yours? Is it possible that we could exchange thoughts or ideas without such negativity?

  • John Nernoff

    “God” is said by some, if not most, religions as being omnibenevolent, and love and all the rest of whatever goodness theists can attribute to their deity. Evolution contradicts this royally; the natural winnowing process involves eat or be eaten, “nature red in tooth and claw,” the hunting down and maiming and killing of untold trillions of sentient creatures in an unforgiving process of terroristic day to day existence. As Darwin correctly observed, nature produces many more lives than can possibly survive. How “God” can represent love and simultaneously be in charge of this situation is beyond any understanding I can conjure. The Catholic Church has carelessly reconciled evolution with “God’s” ways as if to come to terms with modern science, but it just shows a lack of understanding and a foolish cavalier view. All in all evolution destroys two main concepts of “God” — the creation aspect and the omnibenevolence claim.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Peter N. said, “Religion claims to be infallible,” but I think that statement is a hasty generalization at best. The Bible may claim to be completely authoritative, but those who interpret it are surely not always so. Both individual believers and organized bodies of believers do recognize this distinction. Albeit begrudgingly, the Catholic Church did recant their mistreatment of Galileo, for example. The Catholic Church at least tries to be corrected by science, and to respect science, of course not necessarily on every issue and why they cherry-pick is another discussion entirely, but they do try. A large part of what the Bible actually calls for is individual humility and amenability to correction, not being an rigid and unteachable ass.

    As far as whether “religion” contributes to the body of knowledge, Leum posted a very good response that I feel got sidestepped. OMGF says, “But, it wasn’t religion or revelation that gave them insights. It was a process of observation, experimentation, revision, etc…” On what grounds do we get to simply discredit religion or revelation as the sources of the insights in question? How might we reliably look into history and sift the genuinely revealed advances from the secularly gained advances? Does this not open up the same epistemological can of worms as miracle claims? Whether we agree with him or not, Plantinga contributes to the body of knowledge, for example – and I’m not suggesting anyone else disagrees with that fact. Problem is, if we accept the contributions of personal scientists as advances in knowledge on behalf of “science,” why don’t we accept the contributions of personal believers qualify as advances in knowledge on behalf of “religion”?

    We could attempt to pull the same semantic flip with science, perhaps. Is it anything other than rhetoric if I say, “Einstein’s insights weren’t from science. They were from observation, experimentation, revision, etc?” You might say, “That is science!” And you’d be right. OMGF’s comment entails a noteworthy conclusion, which is that the religious philosophers and theologians also engage in “a process of observation, experimentation, revision,” that is legitimate and leads to real-world advances in their respective fields of knowledge. So, is the scientific method exclusively scientific? I’d say not. And, let’s say Lister gave God the credit for revealing the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic. Simply denying his claim isn’t the same as refuting his argument, and I don’t expect certain people to ever accept that knowledge can come from religion.

    In short, if we’re going to demand examples of advances in knowledge on behalf of “religion,” then by all means, let us know exactly what you will and will not accept as coming from “religion.”

    Lastly, as far as the free will thing goes, I’m with Reginald on the importance of definitions, and that free will “is just the last remnant of the dualism they think they have discarded.” Although that “book” example was rhetorically persuasive, I have not yet heard a convincing argument here or elsewhere that explains why knowing what somebody will do precludes their genuine freedom in doing it.

  • rennis

    “…..All in all evolution destroys two main concepts of “God” — the creation aspect and the omnibenevolence claim…..”

    Actually, the concept of evolution (except for adaptions within a species)leave many questions unanswered and unexplained such as: the origin of life and why are there no fossils of transitional species or links. What Darwin said so long ago is still true today, “Not one change of species into another is on record…we cannot prove that a single species has been changed.” (The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol 1 p.210) Evolutionists and others have also long since shortened the title of his book from “Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” to just Origin of the Species obvious reasons.

  • Leum

    Actually, the concept of evolution (except for adaptions within a species)leave many questions unanswered and unexplained such as: the origin of life…

    Please do your research. Abiogenesis research has already revealed that cell components can form under Hadean-like conditions, including self-replicating RNA strands. Phil Hellenes posted a long vlog on Fred Boyle’s objections to abiogenesis that bears watching, if you have the time.

    …and why are there no fossils of transitional species or links.

    Can’t you guys come up with better arguments? There are plenty of transitional forms. Unless you’re going to argue that we must provide a perfect fossil record to satisfy this argument you’ll have to give it up. Therapsids are my personal favorites, but Archaeopteryx gets most of the limelight.

    What Darwin said so long ago is still true today, “Not one change of species into another is on record…we cannot prove that a single species has been changed.” (The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol 1 p.210)

    Um, why are you citing what Darwin wrote about rugby and carbuncles?

    Evolutionists and others have also long since shortened the title of his book from “Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” to just Origin of the Species obvious reasons.

    Yeah, it takes less time to say. If it were to cover up racism as you’re implying we’d still be saying “Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection“. In general, people consider the title of the book to be important, not the subtitle. And, to be perfectly honest, even if Darwin had been a flagrant racist, this would in no way change the value of evolutionary theory. In fact, physical anthropology has increasingly been revealing how meaningless the construct of race is.

  • rennis

    Leum,

    I apologize for the misinformation in the reference to Darwin. I cannot locate the page with the quote I’m referring to. That did look silly!! I appreciate your intelect and thoroughness.

    Your link to the article on abiogenesis is not definitive and contained many weak qualifiers such as “no truly standard model of the origin of life”, “some theorists suggest”, “RNA molecules might”, and “synthesized proteins might” within a 2-3 paragraph section. I don’t have a problem with discussing or advancing theories as long as they are advanced as such. Until truly definitive or reproducible under laboratory conditions it needs to remain “theory.” Since you do not accept the existence of God you replace God with other assumptions and beliefs that you accept without proof. You accept an incomplete fossil record and fill in the blanks, with the assumption that it is true since you have eliminated other possiblities, also without proof.

  • Peter N.

    The “obvious” reason that the title of Darwin’s book is commonly shortened to “The Origin of the Species” is that the full title is unwieldy. Do you think the term “favoured races” in the full title implies racism? Then you would be wrong. “Race” simply means “variety” — I think I read that he goes on at length on “races of cabbage”, for instance. Remember, it was written in 1859, English has evolved since then. You’re like people who make jokes about Matthew 19:14 “suffer the children”

    – Peter N.

  • Peter N.

    Since you do not accept the existence of God you replace God with other assumptions and beliefs that you accept without proof. You accept an incomplete fossil record and fill in the blanks, with the assumption that it is true since you have eliminated other possiblities, also without proof.

    We do not “replace god” because there never was a god to begin with. We don’t (and can’t) “prove” theories — we posit them and attempt to disprove them. Until they are disproven, we use them and see what we can learn. We’ve learned a lot of very useful stuff that way already, as you may have noticed. We will certainly not throw up our hands, cry “Hallelujah! It is a divine mystery!”, and stop looking for answers.

    – Peter N.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I don’t have a problem with discussing or advancing theories as long as they are advanced as such. Until truly definitive or reproducible under laboratory conditions it needs to remain “theory.”

    Theories always remain theories in science. The scientific method always allows for new data to modify the prevailing model. However some theories have stood the test of time and attempts at falsification such that they can be accepted a “fact” (this is a colloqial, not a scientific “fact”)for all practical purposes. Evolution by natural selection is one of these. Abiogenesis is a different concept entirely, although once replicating molecules exist they would be suject to natural selection. Current theories may not be as robust as we would like but history tells us that a nauturalistic explanation will be found eventually.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Rennis,
    What others have said…abiogenesis is not the same as evolution, we do have transitionals (also see Tiktallik), etc.

    Since you do not accept the existence of God you replace God with other assumptions and beliefs that you accept without proof. You accept an incomplete fossil record and fill in the blanks, with the assumption that it is true since you have eliminated other possiblities, also without proof.

    Are you claiming that all evolutionary scientists, geologists, cosmologists, etc. are atheists? This is flatly preposterous. There is no assumption of “no god.” Science is the process of getting rid of assumptions, which leads us to actual knowledge. Religion is the process of adding assumptions to assumptions to guess at knowledge. That’s why science teaches us about the world and religion has taught us nothing.

    Further, we have plenty of fossils to infer lineages. Horses, whales, humans, etc. – we’ve got them. Sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling, “I can’t hear you,” doesn’t make the evidence go away.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    rennis: Your link to the article on abiogenesis is not definitive and contained many weak qualifiers such as “no truly standard model of the origin of life”, “some theorists suggest”, “RNA molecules might”, and “synthesized proteins might” within a 2-3 paragraph section. I don’t have a problem with discussing or advancing theories as long as they are advanced as such. Until truly definitive or reproducible under laboratory conditions it needs to remain “theory.”

    You apparently do not understand scientific usage of the word “theory,” and cannot distinguish it from “hypothesis” or “wild-hair guess.” In short, you are ignorant about the topics on which you post. Here is a list of transitional fossils. Note that it is rather old, and only covers vertebrates. For a modern treatment of the fossil record I recommend the book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald R. Prothero (Columbia University Press, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0231139625).

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    There is a scene from the movie Ice Age wherein Sid, Manny and Diego are going through some ice cave. Sid is looking at creatures frozen in one of the icy walls and sees a succession of creatures leading up to the same kind of sloth that Sid is.

    I get the impression that this is what creationists think that the fossil record is supposed to provide, transitional forms lined up side by side showing evolution from earlier forms to later forms.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    To be fair, although I think rennis dropped the ball in the science discussion, in general I admire it when a person pays attention to scope and qualifiers. It’s also nice when someone can admit they’ve made an error or oversight. Also, I’ve noticed some comments on racism and evolution. To be accurate, evolution has most certainly been bastardized to justify racism and white supremacy in the past, right here in our own schools, by our very own schoolteachers:

    At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the others in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan and the eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America. (George Hunter, Civic Biology, p. 196)

    What’s more directly harmful to society: creationism in all its glory? Or that sort of racist, bigoted nonsense?

  • Peter N.

    cl wrote:

    To be accurate, evolution has most certainly been bastardized to justify racism and white supremacy in the past, right here in our own schools, by our very own schoolteachers.

    “Has been” is right. You might have pointed out that the textbook you quote dates from 1914. As offensive as it seems today, given what we have learned about physical and cultural anthropology since then, it still contained progressive ideas for its day — the book taught that humans were subject to the forces of evolution, and was the centerpiece of the 1926 “monkey trial” in Tennessee.

    What’s more directly harmful to society: creationism in all its glory? Or that sort of racist, bigoted nonsense?

    Do we have to choose which is more harmful? I choose both.

    – Peter N.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    You accept an incomplete fossil record and fill in the blanks

    Of course the more transitional forms we find the more “blanks” there are to fill. This is a favorite I.D supporters tactic, but of course based on a gross misrepresentation of what we can legitimately expect to find in the fossil record.

  • John Nernoff

    A quick remark on the origin of life. Studies are proceeding exactly on evolutionary lines. The longer survival of particular chains or groups of molecules (RNA, DNA LIPID walls, AMINO ACIDS or any combination) is going to result in the formation of “life.” Eventual replication will follow. I am reading a 2006 book by Ruse which summarizes these efforts.

  • ivy privy

    Notebook “M” of Charles Darwin, 1838
    21 years before Darwin published his theory of evolution by means of natural selection, he is already thinking about the implications for free will.

  • Robert

    >>>I knew intuitively what prominent evolutionary biologist and historian William Provine of Cornell University would spell out explicitly in a debate years later. If Darwinism is true, he said, then there are five inescapable conclusions:

    * there’s no evidence for God
    * there’s no life after death
    * there’s no absolute foundation for right and wrong
    * there’s no ultimate meaning for life
    * people don’t really have free will [p.16]

    Even if the above were true, it would be far, far, far better than billions of humans (one is too many!) writhing in flames for eternity. If Christians had any sense of empathy or compassion they would wish their religion to be false.

  • http://www.bethelburnett.blogspot.com Pastor Burnett

    Strobel Said that Provine teaches:
    “there’s no evidence for God
    there’s no life after death
    there’s no absolute foundation for right and wrong
    there’s no ultimate meaning for life
    people don’t really have free will [p.16]

    You said: “The obvious thing to do would be to e-mail Dr. Provine to find out if this quote really represents what he believes.”

    Ahhh, YEA, that’s exactly what Provine believes and it’s traggic. I heard him in his debate against Philip Johnson at Stanford Universtity lay it out just like Strobel said.

    Look, atheism as a world view is serious garbage! The people such as your self are probably smart and many good people but the world view is horrible. Evolution and naturalism does not account ofr immaterial reality of our current world, and I haven’t seen anybody make a good argument that our morals are only culturally commensurate…that’s ridiculous for a number of reasons.

    Christianity may not be what you want it to be, but I tell you it’s MUCH better than anything I’ve seen including atheism with all of it’s wishful and hopeful premises and thinking…now that the TRUTH RUTH!

  • Alex Weaver

    …now who can argue with that? ;P

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Look, atheism as a world view is serious garbage!

    Ah, then you have evidence of your god, or are you simply making an is/ought fallacy and/or argument from consequences?

    Evolution and naturalism does not account ofr immaterial reality of our current world…

    What “immaterial reality.” If you can show that it exists, then I’ll be impressed. And, it’s no wonder that science and naturalism don’t account for non-natural things. It’s pretty much tautological.

    …and I haven’t seen anybody make a good argument that our morals are only culturally commensurate…that’s ridiculous for a number of reasons.

    Slavery is immoral now. That was easy.

    Christianity may not be what you want it to be, but I tell you it’s MUCH better than anything I’ve seen including atheism with all of it’s wishful and hopeful premises and thinking…

    Ah, so hopeful premises and thinking related to some sky daddy is better than living in reality? Sure it is.

  • undecided

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pvRv3mwkV0

    I saw this and was disappointed. The atheist never addresses the argument being made.

    Any thoughts?

  • Darren T. Kinleyside

    Here is a link to a youtube clip of a debate between William B. Provine and Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.

    Dr. Provine states precisely what Stroble ascribes to his beliefs at 2:30.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9W1Y_PmhSI&feature=related

  • 5htcommjarhead

    Christian theology is basically composed of two camps. Natural theology, Thomas Aquinas, believes that one can only come to faith by thinking. Revelatory theology, Augustine, believes one comes to faith by revelation. Most fundamentalist Christians are of the second camp. A natural theologist might believe that one could and should present rational arguments for the existance of God and related beliefs thereto and might be inclined to argue with an atheist. A revelatory theologist understands faith as the acceptance and knowledge of a supernatural revelation and that argumentation cannot create faith. A revelatory theologist understands that there is no amount of scientific data or argument that can convince another of the reality of God, because God, by definition, stands outside nature. The only thing a revelatory believer can offer is hope that the other will at some point receive or accept revelation and if the other is not willing to consider that, they are left with what they have, physical data from the material world and if they are satisfied with that, they are satisfied.

    Regarding religion’s contributions to science, most of the early scientists, and many today were and are religious and consider that their religions drive them to better understand the source of their beliefs through scientific research. A religious person should never be opposed to science as that faith should be based on what they consider truth and further discovery should should only validate that truth. However, the major contribution to science that Biblical, especially Christianity has provided is the belief that God has created an orderly world that can be observed and understood by man’s endeavors as opposed to a material/chance world governed by a capricious nature. That belief has convinced many that scientific observation and discovery is a worthwhile effort as it is a way to better understand God.

  • http://peternothnagle.com Peter N

    5htcommjarhead,

    I was with you right up until the end:

    However, the major contribution to science that Biblical, especially Christianity has provided is the belief that God has created an orderly world that can be observed and understood by man’s endeavors as opposed to a material/chance world governed by a capricious nature. That belief has convinced many that scientific observation and discovery is a worthwhile effort as it is a way to better understand God.

    No, an “orderly world”, like ours, implies naturalism. As far as we can tell, the same physical laws apply everywhere, and have done for all time. A “capricious” world would imply some kind of intelligence pulling the strings — some kind of being with a “will” and a “mind”, that could change its mind, and had the power to intervene to overrule the natural order. And this we do not see, except in myth, legend, and fiction.

    The observation that the world is governed by natural laws is certainly not a contribution by religion, but by science.

  • lpetrich

    It took nearly 1500 years before anyone concluded that God wants people to do scientific research. Why did it take so long to figure that out?

    In any case, most present-day scientists are either (1) nonreligious or else (2) regard their religion has having little or no relevance to their scientific endeavors.

  • Tim

    I have enjoyed reading this debate after having read this book.
    However, I think the main point of the book was missed throughout this strand.

    I see Provine’s statements as ideas the author was examining while searching for a personal answer:

    ARE WE ON THE PLANET EARTH BY ACCIDENT?
    or
    ARE WE HERE BECAUSE SOMEONE/SOMETHING PUT US HERE, EVEN IF THROUGH AN EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS?
    and most importantly,
    WAS THERE A BEGINNING?
    and if so,
    HOW DID THIS BEGINNING COME ABOUT?

    I am not a scientist. I am just a normal guy that lives in the suburbs that has a family and a cool neighbor who has challenged my thinking.

  • Jamie

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7_vRoFCoso

    From 59:00-1:02:10, Provine states nearly word-for-word what Stroebel quoted.