At the risk of being boring, here’s yet another article about the argument from ignorance fallacy. It’s inspired by a comment thread on YouTube where I encountered a Christian who thinks he knows best.
What these people don’t realise is there is no intentionality to evolution. If you can give up that preconception there is no barrier to accepting that a structure may start out performing one function and end up performing an entirely different one. This has happened often in evolution – the same limb anatomy has been the basis for paddles, wings and legs that can swim, dig, run, climb or jump.
What evolution does, is modify the existing. What it doesn’t do is design. Designers have the luxury of starting with a blank sheet of paper, they are not given a battle tank and told to make it into a jumbo jet, yet that is how evolution works, over vast periods of time.
This Christian’s latest tactic is to cite the MO-1 bacterium which has a truly wonderful seven flagella array that enables fast swimming. Flagella are whiplike cellular extensions that can be rotated like an electric motor. We have an evolutionary explanation that recognises the similarity of some of their base parts with those of pumps that expel material through cell membranes.
Of course expulsion has an action/reaction side effect, so the suggestion is that mutation resulted in a pump that provided an increased advantage for locomotion, and further mutation caused the development of the mechanism that we see today. Of course, we have no real evidence for this – it’s speculation. However, it is a plausible pathway, the stages of which can be seen in living microorganisms, unlike the claim, “My god magically zapped it into existence” which is completely devoid of any observable process.
The argument from ignorance fallacy allows you to regress down through a chain of knowledge, like, for example, the ‘tree of life’, pointing to the relationship between each stage and the previous one, enabling you to deduce that mammals evolved from reptiles, which evolved from amphibians, which evolved from fish etc, until you come to a gap. A mystery. AND THAT’S WHERE THEY CLAIM MY GOD MUSTA DUNNIT.
Unlike the earlier links in the ‘tree of life’ chain which all have obvious connections, such as pentadactyl limbs, common biochemistry and DNA, the last ‘link’ doesn’t have any connection. It’s not a link! That’s the crucial thing, without a relationship, without an explanatory mechanism, all you have is a mysterious gap… A nothing. No tick in the evidence box.
It doesn’t matter how complex the example you are citing is, what matters is the connection. The absence of a connection doesn’t licence you to shoehorn your favorite god into the gap.
Since every mystery so far solved has turned out to have a natural explanation, “my godunnit” is vanishingly improbable.
What the creationist needs is POSITIVE evidence, in the form of observations, for a creator and for creationism.
Or, they could be honourable and honest, like a scientist, and admit “I DUNNO”.
If you are not prepared to be honest, you must face another difficult question – why does it have to be YOUR god?
Why not Zeus? After all, allegedly, he slept with human virgins too! (Io. Europa, Hera, Danae, Semele)
Or why not Unkulunkulu? (The creator god and great ancestral spirit of the Zulu people.)
Ever since we invented the scientific method, we have been filling in our gaps of ignorance with understanding. We don’t claim to have solved everything yet, this is a work in progress. Be patient…
I wrote about this some time ago, see here: