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Another Christian Apologist Uses Fallacious Objections to Evolution

Another Christian Apologist Uses Fallacious Objections to Evolution November 12, 2014

Real shocker, right?

My Twitter feed included a link to an article which I want to comment on:

Bill Nye’s Naturalistic Evolution is Absurd: Contesting ‘Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation’: Bill Nye’s Atheistic Evolution Is Preposterous

Evolution is one of the most powerful and important ideas ever developed in the history of science. Every question it raises leads to new answers, new discoveries, and new smarter questions. The science of evolution is as expansive as nature itself. It is also the most meaningful creation story that humans have ever found (Bill Nye).

I agree with everything in Nye’s paragraph above except for the last sentence.

Richard Dawkins stated: ‘”What is so special about life? It never violates the laws of physics.” Let’s grant him that for the moment. But the fact of physics is that however you section physical concrete reality, you end up with a state that does not explain its own existence. Moreover, since the universe does have a beginning and nothing physical can explain its own existence, is it that irrational a position to think that the first cause would have to be something non-physical? (Ravi Zacharias).

Zacharias asks a question about the rationality or irrationality of theistic belief (the belief that “the first cause would have to be something non-physical”), but that question is of little philosophical interest. What is of philosophical interest is whether that belief is true, not whether theistic believers are rational.

Zacharias combines facets of two different kinds of cosmological arguments–known as the kalam and Leibnizian cosmological arguments–in support of a supernatural explanation. It seems rather one-sided, however, to defend theism by appealing to facts which (allegedly) support theism without also considering facts which (allegedly) support naturalism. For example, suppose the fact–if it is a fact–that the universe has a beginning is more probable on theism than on naturalism. But we know more about cosmology than just that the universe has a beginning. We also know that time itself began with the Big Bang. In other words, the universe has existed for all of time. That is more probable on naturalism than on theism.

Or, again, consider the fact the universe (or, more broadly, physical reality) exists at all. When one reflects upon that fact, one might think it is more likely on theism than on naturalism, and so evidence for theism and against naturalism. Let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that is so. We know more than just that physical reality exists. We also know that there is no physical object or process capable of knocking physical reality out of existence. Once we take that into account, it’s no longer obvious that the existence of anything physical at all favors theism over naturalism.

Strident evolutionist Bill Nye has sworn an oath on The Origin of Species as he’s prepared for duty in the battle concerning atheistic evolution.

There’s nothing like a good ‘ol poisoning the well fallacy to kick off an article!

First, why does the author describe Bill Nye as a “strident evolutionist?” Why, in general, do so many Christian apologists refer to atheists, evolutionists and so forth with adjectives like “strident,” “militant,” and “avowed”? If Bill Nye is a ‘strident evolutionist,’ is Ken Ham a ‘strident creationist’? If Richard Dawkins is a ‘militant atheist,’ is William Lane Craig a ‘militant theist’? If Michael Martin is an “avowed atheist,” is Norm Geisler an “avowed theist”?

Second, the author describes Bill Nye swearing “an oath on The Origin of Species,” as if that book were the atheist equivalent of the Bible for Christians. This is a straw man of the author’s own creation. No atheist thinks of Darwin’s writings as their ‘Bible.’

Third, notice the end of the sentence: “… prepared for duty in the battle concerning atheistic evolution.” Puh-lease! Evolution is not atheistic, but let that pass. This over-the-top rhetoric (“prepared for duty in the battle”) is wholly unnecessary.

A much more sober and objective introduction would have been: “Bill Nye has written a book-length defense of evolution and critique of creationism [or intelligent design].”

… He considers it downright wicked not to indoctrinate one’s children into a strict Darwinian worldview.

Yeah, I’m sure that’s what Bill Nye believes. Wait. What?

“Indoctrinate” is a pretty strong word. Where’s the evidence that Bill Nye believes that he wants to “indoctrinate” children? Or that he wants to promote “a strict Darwinian worldview” as opposed to the mere fact of common ancestry (which isn’t even a worldview)?

Nye employs rigid naturalism in order to ignore important blocks of evidence that appear to confute atheistic evolution.

This is a textbook example of the “‘Naturalistic Fallacy’ Fallacy,” i.e., falsely accusing one’s opponent of presupposing naturalism.

Nothing so infuriates the atheists about biological complexity …

Here our author implies that he has the ability to read not just Bill Nye’s mind, but the minds of “atheists.” That’s how he knows that nothing else “so infuriates” atheists. Or… he’s pretending to know something he doesn’t actually know.

… as when Christians offer evidence that falsifies their treasured theory.

First, it isn’t just naturalists who believe that common ancestry is true. There are many theists who believe it also. So the author’s portrayal of the controversy as one between naturalists and Christians is both false and misleading. Second, whether the total evidence favors evolution over creationism is one of the points at issue.

Biological information, they assert, sighing deeply, doesn’t come from intelligence—you idiots!

Again, notice how the author tries to poison the well by portraying evolutionists as condescending and rude. But let that pass. The (implied) central point of this sentence is that the existence of biological information, like information in general, requires an explanation. Against evolution, the author suggests that the best explanation for biological information is a (pre-existing) intelligence. But the fact that the creation of information is usually associated with the creative abilities of a pre-existing intelligence hardly exhausts what we know about the creation of information. We also know that the creation of information is usually associated with the creatives abilities of an embodied mind, i.e., a mind which is dependent upon a physical brain. So once the evidence about the creation of information is fully stated, it’s far from obvious that it favors creationism (or intelligent design) over evolution.

I could continue, but I’ve lost interest in refuting the article. I’ll leave the rest of the article as an exercise for the reader.

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