Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saladin's Stumbling Start

I am reading a debate between Young-Earth Creationist Duane Gish and Evolutionist Ken Saladin. Gish has a Ph.D. in biochemestry from UC Berkeley and Saladin has a Ph.D. in parasitology from Flordia State.

Early in Saladin's opening comments he states:

" is empirical. That means it's based entirely on things that can be observed. Science is not based on revealed truth or idle speculation."

The first link in his chain of evidence for Evolution is the well-know story of the peppered moth:

"In any college biology textbook you can read the story of the peppered moth, which made a visible evolutionary change in a few decades under the influence of pollution and predators. That's what evolution is: the ability of a population to adjust genetically to environmental changes."

I assume Saladin relates the peppered moth story simply because it is well-known. However, I was surprised that he gives the peppered moth such a high profile (Exhibit #1, one minute into a 45 minute introduction). Why?

1) Because the peppered moth experiments Bernard Kettlewell conducted in the 1950s have been shown (by devout Darwinists) to have serious methodological flaws.

2) The experiments have no relevance to the controversial Darwinian claim of explaining how species originate.

3) In order to extrapolate proof of Darwinism from what valid evidence we can gather from the peppered moth (if there is any) requires a truckload of the very speculation Saladin labels anti-empirical and anti-scientific.

Now Saladin gets a pass on the first point. The peppered moth story was not widely debunked until the late 1990s; the debate in question occurred in 1988. However, I highlight the debunking since the peppered moth story is still widely purported to be clear evidence for—if not proof of—Darwinian macroevolution.

This brings me to my second point. Even if we overlook the problems with Kettlewell's experiment, what does it teach us about evolution? As the moth's environment changed from lighter lichen-covered trees to darker soot covered, lichen-free trees, the darker moths became a greater percentage of the general peppered moth population, probably because the lighter moths fell prey more easily to birds. From this we are supposed to be convinced that all the diversity of life on earth could spring forth from one primitive form. But this story sheds no light on the origin of either the light or the dark moths. From the industrial revolution to the mid-20th century the darker moths survived in greater numbers, but the members of the species experienced no evolutionary change whatsoever. Genetically, they exited the period of evolution exactly as they had entered it. After Clean Air laws passed, the environment reverted back to favor the lighter moths, and, as a result, their percentages increased. The peppered moth story may serve as an example of how a species may go extinct, but what does it tell us about how species arise, which is what Darwinism is purported to do?

So how did the fabled Peppered Moth become Exhibit #1 in the case for Darwinism? By way of that noxious mixture of revealed truth and idle speculation. In this case the "revealed truth" is that God does not exist, therefore, life must have evolved from non-living matter by purely naturalistic means. The idle speculation is that any variation within a population brought on by environmental conditions is evidence that large scale genetic changes are also possible in the same way—despite the fact that the empirical evidence gathered throughout human history shows that such variation has narrowly defined limits even when guided by intelligent minds under ideal conditions.

So why does Ken Saladin give such prominence to such flimsy evidence? Could it be that's all he has? I have little expectation that better evidence is forthcoming.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dick says, "Enjoy your life"

I recently saw this picture online. After reading the ad on the double-decker I started to wonder about a few things. Is this the first ever ad campaign for a philosophical position? Who's paying for these ads and how widespread are they? How successful can they possibly be? What couldn't that brunette sell me? Is she cold? Is Dawkins' left hand as far down the older woman's backside as his right hand is on hers? This lead naturally to the most obvious question—as believer in God, what worries inhibit my enjoyment of life? The answer was just as obvious. I was worried that I displeased God with my fleeting desire to be Richard's right-hand man. I felt ashamed that I had never confessed and sought forgiveness for my infatuation with thin chicks of Mediterranean heritage. All became clear. God was interfering in my sex life. If I would only lay aside my belief in God and His meddling ways, that brunette—or another like her, or not like her at all, anybody who struck my fancy—would be mine for the taking. Of course she (or he, for who knows where this freedom would lead?) would have to be like-minded and willing; at least initially, until I adjusted to moral autonomy.

Then I tried to think of other ways God hindered my enjoyment of life. None came readily to mind, but then Miss Atheist UK was still floating around my cortex. Could it be that a primary impetus to discard belief in God was sexual freedom? Could famed author Aldous Huxley have hit the nail on the head when he said, "For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom..." Does famed drunk Christopher Hitchens speak soberly in saying, "Clearly, the human species is designed to experiment with sex."

The sponsors of this advertisement think that belief in God stands in the way of one's enjoyment of life. That raises three questions for my atheist friends:
1. If not unrestricted sexual pleasure, what enjoyment do they mean?
2. Does atheism offer any "benefit" besides sexual freedom?
3. Is sexual freedom the real reason you chose atheism?