Groothuis’ "Christian Apologetics" ch. 13: Origins, Design and Darwinism

Chapters 11 thru 14 of Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics are very much related.  I am tempted to write a blog post mentioning all 4 of them together, but I already did chapter 11 (pp. 233-234) and chapter 12, and I just created an index that treats each chapter individually and … maybe I’m a tad o.c.d., but–I’d like to maintain the pattern.  However, I will likely refer to the other two chapters in one or more of my next two posts, as well as drawing upon my previous Facebook notes of “God and Evolution” edited by Jay Richards.

So…to chapter 13!  Origins, Design and Darwinism

I should mention up front that before reading these chapters, I leaned more towards theistic evolution (of the variety–after reading Dr. Francis Collins’ The Language of God), even after reading God and Evolution (likely due to the fact that the things that offended my reason in that latter book outweighed the things that struck a chord in the former book).  However, after reading these chapters in Dr. Groothuis’ book, I now firmly consider Intelligent Design a theory that can be weighed and explored seriously and not merely mocked and discounted as “creationism” in disguise.  I haven’t made up my mind yet, but Dr. Groothuis (or, the arguments he presented) shook up the foundations of my assumptions.  There were still some reason-offending errors similar to the book edited by Richards, but much, much fewer.

Granted–just because some of the arguments in a case are wrong does not mean one should discount all the right arguments–but, in a cumulative case, that’s something that does tend to happen.  That’s why we should be careful which arguments we include in the cumulative cases we make.  I’m not saying Dr. Groothuis wasn’t careful, for the record.

I’m also open to finding out that some of the evidence presented as pointing to design is explained quite well in a scientific or mathematical setting.  I want to index all that I come across and see what secular sources have said about it, Lord-willing, and how it measures up.  What I don’t get to in this life, I will get to in eternity.

Should it be taught in a secular classroom?

I would also like to outline what ‘should’ be taught in the secular classroom (if it is true), and what should not.  Young earth creationism should only be taught as a failed theory, as it offers and has been countered with scientific evidence.  Whatever implications a young-earth creationist or thinks Darwinism has on Biblical interpretation and authority should not be taught in a secular classroom, and if it is taught in a Christian classroom, the Theistic Evolution perspective should be correctly represented in its strongest light–which it unfortunately isn’t, by Dr. Groothuis.  I will take the chapters piece by piece with this question in mind:  “Should this be taught in a secular classroom?”

“This movement consists of a variety of thinkers, of various religions or of none, who claim that nonhuman intelligent causes better explain certain aspects of nature than undirected, merely natural causes.” (p. 268)  Thinkers of no religion?  Whatever convinces these “None”s that “nonhuman intelligent causes” is a viable explanation–needs to be taught in a secular classroom!  

“In recent years a variety of thinkers have argued against Darwinism, yet without appealing to any religious sources.  These include prolific philosopher Mortimer Adler (1902-2001), Harvard-trained lawyer Norman MacBeth, British novelist and science writer Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), social critic and science writer Jeremy Rifkin, British science writers Francis Hitching, Gordon Rattray Taylor (1911-1981), and Richard Milton.  Very significantly because of his scientific standing, Australian geneticist Michael Denton systematically critiques the scientific inadequacy of Darwinism in Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis (1985).”  Add to that Thomas Nagel’s recent Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.  Groothuis alludes to this:

“Signers of the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism hold doctorates in biological sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, computer science, and related disciplines from such institutions as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Dartmouth, Rutgers, University of Chicago, Stanford and University of California at Berkeley.  Many are also professors or researchers at major universities and research institutions such as Cambridge, Princeton, MIT, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, University of Georgia, Tulane, Moscow State University, Chitose Institute of Science & Technology in Japan, and Ben-Gurion University in Israel.” Dissent from Darwinism FAQ #7  This needs to be discussed in a secular classroom!

Dr. Groothuis writes (p. 271) as if being made in the image of God is not possible apart from Intelligent Design, but fails to interact with the Theistic Evolution position on this.  (By the way–when I say that, I always mean the Christian version.)  He also writes as if Theistic Evolutionists necessarily do not consider Adam and Eve to be literal people, again failing to interact with the actual TE view.  These are some of the problems I had with God and Evolution, as well.  Worse, however, is Dr. Groothuis’ unfairly suggesting that “theistic evolution seems closer to deism than Christian theism” (p. 272).  To me, this is similar to John G. West comparing TE to gnosticism in God and Evolution.  It is just like a young-earther calling an old-earther a deist, saying, “It seems inconsistent for evangelicals to believe that God supernaturally intervenes in history and the creation of life after the Big Bang, but that God fails to leave evidence of his design in the young earth itself.”  Dr. Groothuis says (p. 272 again) that Christians should not accept evolution because Darwin’s motives were to eliminate the need for a designer.  Is this not the genetic fallacy?  Is not a theory right or wrong regardless of the motive behind it?  Dr. Groothuis says, that according to TE, “God strangely decided to employ a system in which he would remain invisible,” (272)–again with the deism accusation, with no regard for the TE view that God’s interaction in history is NOT invisible.  He then quotes an atheist to back up his feeling that evolution is catastrophic to the biblical assertion of God being Creator, which is just frustrating.  Later, on page 276-277, Dr. Groothuis quotes Richard Dawkins to support his assertion that “If Darwinism is true, it is much less likely that Christianity is true.”  Of course atheists eat this up.  Never mind that the TE view, though it does not require a designer of life, does accept God as the sustainer of everything in space-time and as Creator of the universe.  And see my questions regarding human freedom and natural freedom in my Facebook notes on God and Evolution.

I wish Dr. Groothuis would have explained why he can say that young-earthers (Creationists) are too literal Biblically (p. 273), but TE’s are not literal enough–without resorting to the “image of God” and Adam and Eve straw men.  I like that he considers important that we should bring together the books of nature (works) and Scripture (words), since God is the author of both and they will therefore not contradict each other.  I’m just not convinced that Dr. Groothuis made the case that the Bible requires a “progressive creationism” or “day-age creationism”–do all I.D.ers accept his view?  And, finally, he does not interact with the TE view of the Fall (1, 2, 3).  Some TEists accept that Adam and Eve were a real couple (though, they did evolve) who experienced the first sin (the Fall) in space-time history–though not necessarily how it is recorded in Genesis.  There is a first time for everything, is there not?  So, anyone who argues against a literal first sin is wrong–it’s just logic.  Even if I completely abandon the TE view, I would love if proponents of I.D. would stop misrepresenting TE and only give the best reasons to reject it.  It makes me doubt how well-represented the science of Darwinism and I.D. can be in these chapters…hence the reason I am not saying I’ve all-out changed my view just yet.  I don’t want to apply the same thinking to the rest of the book, but I can definitely see a skeptic doing just that.  So, this is a crucial point to keep in mind, alongside my earlier comments on being careful what arguments we include in a cumulative case.

What is Darwinism?

Before genetics:  “Nature favors organisms that evolve adaptively and reproduce abundantly; it judges the unfit with sterility and death.  The fittest survive and reproduce.  Given enough time, this process of natural selection leads to the development of entirely new species, which appear through a gradual process of incremental change.  This is called ‘descent with modification’.” (p. 276)

“Later Darwinists, appealing to the genetic discoveries of Gregor Mendel (not a Darwinist), filled out Darwin’s theory by claiming that random genetic mutations supplied the means by which organisms changed into new species.  After random mutations occur, natural selection kicks in to conserve beneficial mutational changes in offspring.  This is called ‘the neo-Darwinian synthesis.'” (p. 276)  Genetic drift is mentioned but not explained, as it apparently isn’t a dominant view.

I mention Dr. Groothuis’ reference to Dawkins above.  He then says “Many textbooks present Darwinism as an alternative to a Christian account of nature.  Skeptics and atheists have employed Darwinism for well over a hundred years as a defeater of Christianity and theism, since they claim that undirected evolution replaces design.” (p. 276)  Which textbooks do this?  Does that mean evolution is wrong?  Again, it is just like a young-earther calling an old-earther a deist and saying, “Many textbooks present the Big Bang as an alternative to a Christian account of the origin of the universe.  Skeptics and atheists have employed the Big Bang as a defeater of Christianity and theism, since they claim that undirected universe origination replaces design.”

I do agree with Dr. Groothuis (p.277) that objections to Darwinism are attacked in the natural sciences, when in actuality, they should be weighed along-side the claims of Darwinism–and not straw men claims of Darwinism (like “Because Darwinism, therefore, no Creator”–no TEist would claim that, just as no old-earther would claim “Because Big Bang, therefore, no Creator”).

Basic Flaws of Darwinism

The only point made in this section that was not just made in the last section, is that Darwinism does not explain biology (as some claim).  Instead, most of biology preceded Darwinism, and several notable pioneers in biology rejected Darwin’s theory.  In 2005, Philip Kell, in The Scientist, calls Darwinism a “narrative gloss” (p. 278).

Philosophical Commitment to Materialism

Metaphysical naturalism:  “the philosophical claim that only material states exist; there is nothing immaterial, spiritual or supernatural.” (p. 278)

Methodological naturalism:  “the means of scientific inquiry given the presupposition of metaphysical naturalism. … A scientist claims that he or she is not ruling out God and the supernatural, but that science qua science should not attempt to study such things.  Therefore, only natural explanations are allowable; only materialistic explanations are christened ‘scientific.’ …It thereby issues a metaphysical veto against any empirical evidence for the immaterial–such as the soul, God or the supernatural–regardless of the evidence that may be available.” (pp. 278-279)

It is interesting that Christians are cool with the universe not being static, as long as the change is not purposeless–but materialists push out every hint that maybe there is intelligence behind what chance and necessity cannot explain (p.280).  It just feels to me like quoting John 1:1 to contrast the Christian’s Logos with the naturalist’s particles is strange…why was this not brought up in chapter 11? …it seems more fitting to be said by a young-earther, replacing particles with Big Bang.  Before that, there was nothing physical–not even particles.  There was no “before”.  So, it would seem particles and the Word are ‘both’ right.  There is matter, and there is God.

Icons of Evolution

The color of moths.  1) This is micro, not macro, evolution (see below), 2) the darker did not replace the lighter in the most densely polluted areas, 3) in less polluted areas, the darker were more frequent that expected, 4) when pollution decreased, the darker increased in the northern part of London, and decreased in the southern part, 5) the moths do not normally rest on tree trunks, but in pics were placed there by hand. (p. 281)

The finch beak variations.  1) This is micro, not macro, evolution, 2) the 200 year projection was unidirectional extrapolation with no setbacks (reversion to the norm), 3) there were setbacks, 4) allowing for longer periods of time also allows for more regression (devolution; setbacks/reversion). (p. 282)  See Luther Burbanks’ “Law of Reversion to the Average” (p. 284)…and, below–Giuseppe Sermonti.

Microevolution:  “small changes within species that produce no major structural change and no new organs.” (p. 283)  Survival.

Macroevolution:  “same as above, except the result is a new species.”  Iwo, speciation.  Arrival.

Haeckel’s fraudulent embryos.  Recapitulation, or the biogenic law:  Embryonic development echoes the evolutionary journey.  This was based on drawings!  “(1) They include only those classes and orders [of embryos] that come close to fitting Haeckel’s [evolutionary] theory; (2) they distort the embryos they purport to show; and (3) most seriously, they entirely omit earlier stages in which vertebrate embryos look very different.” (p. 285)

Darwin’s tree of life.  Darwin hoped the fossil record would eventually turn up an enormous number of intermediate varieties, but this has not been the case.  “While it seems true that single-celled organisms occupy the earliest strata of earth history, many organisms appear in great numbers with no traceable ancestors.  This is particularly true for what is known as ‘the Cambrian explosion’ or, more colloquially, ‘biology’s big bang.’  During this period, dated at between 500 and 600 million years ago, the fossil record shows that the major animal groups appeared abruptly and completely formed. ‘…with the number declining slightly thereafter due to extinctions.'” (p. 286)

Something that confuses me:  1) “…pre-Cambrian ancestors if they existed; yet none are forthcoming” and 2) “even more ancient small, soft-bodied fossils have been preserved in other settings” — these fossils are supposed to be more ancient than “ancestors to the Cambrian period”.  This seems inconsistent.  Are these small, soft-bodied fossils not “ancestors to the ancestors” to the Cambrian period? (p. 286)

What About Transitional Forms?

There aren’t any, so Darwinists have two ways out:

1) They did exist, but failed to fossilize because they were short-lived. (Garret Hardin)

a) How can it be known they were short-lived if there is no evidence of them? (question-beg) [Dr. Groothuis, how do you answer it once you charitably rephrase it so that it isn’t question-begging?]

b) Microevolution takes tens of millions of years and macroevolution takes hundreds of millions of years–that hardly seems short-lived.  [Isn’t the hypothesis here that there were many, many short-lived forms over that span of time?]

2) They appeared suddenly (in geological time) without a long history of incremental change. (Richard Goldschmidt’s saltation theory, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould’s “puncutated equilibrium” — long periods of species stasis, combined with sudden emergence of new species).  (How are those two different?)

I would say the existence of the punctuated equilibrium theory is the clincher for me.  There wouldn’t be scientists who resort to this theory if there wasn’t any evidence supporting sudden emergence, and if the evidence was so overwhelmingly in Darwinism’s favor.

Posing a problem for both gradualists and saltationists:

a) “When genetic mutations are observed, they are almost always deleterious, not adaptive.  …There is no known case where a genetic mutation has resulted in an increase in genetic information for an organism.  But that is precisely what is needed for species to change into other species instead of remaining what they are.” (p. 289)

A co-clincher for me is information theory’s contribution to the whole question!  That comes up in the next chapter.

b) “Mutation results in small changes in the organism; it cannot create major changes in organisms.”  This is because:  “Mutations…modify what preexists, but they do so in disorder. …As soon as some disorder, even slight, appears in an organized being, sickness, then death follows.”

c) “Natural selection…has a stabilizing effect, bringing populations back to the norm needed for survival.” (Giuseppe Sermonti) (Also see above comments regarding the finch beak variations…reverting to the average, and all that–I’m curious why they are mentioned without referring to each other.)

d) Species that lose much through natural selection “are species with no future; they are not pioneers, but prisoners in nature’s penitentiary.”  (Emphasis on “much”.)

Returning to Icons of Evolution

Archaeopteryx.  “Every one of its supposedly reptilian features can be found in various species of undoubted birds.” (Francis Hitching)  1.  bone and feather = swan 2.  hoatzin and ostrich have claws on their wings 3. some ancient birds had teeth and no one argues they are intermediates 4. hoatzin has shallow breastbone and penguins don’t fly 5. it is now known Archaeopteryx’ bones were hollow like a bird’s 6. birds existed in the same fossil period. (p. 290)

Hunched ape-like creature following progressively less hunched creatures all led by an upright human.   Neither incrementalists nor punctuated equilibrium(ists) can explain “the near simultaneous emergence of” 1) bipedalism allowed by modifications in the pelvis and cerebellum, 2) better hand dexterity and fingers with better tactile sense, 3) phonation allowed by a modification of the pharynx, 4) speech allowed by a modification of the temporal lobes.  Such changes would seem to require planning, which is impossible with natural selection. (pp. 291-292)

Homology.  Similarity due to (or evidence of) common descent (“due to” question-begs)–since a Designer would never use similar structures for different purposes.  There are similarities in design across species, like the pattern in a porpoise’s flipper bones compared to that of a bat’s wing, though each functions differently.  Denton points out that homologous structures are arrived at by different routes.  And why shouldn’t God use patterns?  Human designers do–what moral or logical principle prevents it? (p. 293)

Vestigial organs and systems.  Many organs previously considered vestigial have been defrocked as such.  1) human coccyx, or tailbone, is not a remnant of a tail, but “a crucial ‘ point of contact with muscles that attach to the pelvic floor” 2) human appendix is “a ‘functioning component of the immune system, 3) pineal gland is not a degenerate eye but “an endocrine gland”, 4) thymus develops the immune system in early infancy, 5) thyroid is an endocrine gland secreting two important hormones.  (p. 295) Those still on the list may yet come off…and those that do not, like the eyes of some salamanders and fish…”Losing a function is not the same as evolving entirely new functions (or new species from previous species).” (p. 296)  Seems like the words in red should somehow go together.

Junk DNA.  Interestingly, Dr. Groothuis says this has already been debunked, before the ENCODE findings.  Kinda funny how Dawkins has changed his tune since those findings were published.  Dr. Groothuis quotes him saying, “Once again, creationists might spend some time speculating on why the Creator should bother to litter genomes with untranslated pseudogenes and junk tandem repeat DNA.” lol…  But, say there really was Junk DNA and it once had a function–wouldn’t the words in red kick in?  Guess it is a moot question.

Dr. Groothuis sums up the chapter by harkening back to the deism charge (how are TEists alone if they believe in the Trinity?!).  I am curious if Darwinist scientists would agree he sufficiently answers all the categories of evidence for Darwinism–I wonder how they would respond to his answers.  I want to revisit Dr. Collins’ The Language of God.  I have visions of an interview of rubber-meets-the-road questions including answers from Dr. Collins on the TE side and others on the I.D. side (Meyers? Dembski?).

This chapter tore down Darwinism.  The next chapter builds up a case for I.D..

(discussion index)

About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and now coordinates the CAA Catechism. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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