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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dr. Karl Giberson Does Not Want You To Think For Yourself!

Posted by jlwile on May 18, 2011

There is a very interesting discussion going on at Patheos. Dr. William Dembski posted part 1 of a four-part discussion with Dr. Karl Giberson. Essentially, it is Dr. Dembski’s review of The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions, a book co-written by Dr. Giberson and Dr. Francis Collins. The book’s goal is to promote theistic evolution. It claims to show that real science supports evolution and that evolution is not contrary to Christianity.

I actually agree with the second part of that statement. While there are those who think that the concept of evolution is inherently anti-Christian, I most certainly do not. Jesus tells us that we are to judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), and there are many theistic evolutionists (Dr. C.S. Lewis, Dr. Alister McGrath. Dr. John Polkinghorne, and Dr. Alvin Plantinga, for example) who have produced amazing fruit for the kingdom of God. To assume that these people hold to an inherently anti-Christian idea borders on the absurd.

Where I disagree with this book is in its first statement – that evolution is supported by real science. Dr. Dembski apparently disagrees as well, judging by his review of the book. While his comments are useful, they are not what I find really interesting about this discussion. The interesting stuff comes in Dr. Giberson’s response, which is part two of the discussion.

In Dembki’s review, he says the book’s constant drumbeat that evolution is the scientific consensus is utterly irrelevant. Science isn’t done by consensus; it is done by following the data, and there are a lot of data that simply do not fit well into the hypothesis of evolution. Given that so much data oppose evolution, real science should be challenging it rather than simply accepting it.

In his reply, Dr. Giberson tries to downplay the data that contradict the evolutionary hypothesis. He calls them “anomalies,” and he says:

Most scientific theories have anomalies. But it requires a rather dramatic leap to argue, as I believe Bill does in the passage quoted above, that anomalies suggest that the prevailing explanation is no longer the best one available.

I would disagree with Dr. Giberson that the problems evolution faces when compared to the data are mere anomalies. Instead, the predictions of evolution have been falsified time and time again by the data. This, in my mind, makes those problems rise far above the level of “anomalies.”

For the sake of argument, however, let me grant Dr. Giberson his statement. Let’s suppose that these problems are nothing more than anomalies. Does this really mean that they don’t suggest a need to rethink the theory? If Giberson would look at the history of his own field (he holds a Ph.D. in physics from Rice University), he would see that anomalies are, indeed, enough to warrant rethinking a theory.

After all, at the turn of the century, physicists really thought that the Newtonian framework along with the wave view of light formed a complete and comprehensive description of the physical world. In fact, one of the most famous physicists at the turn of the century, Nobel laureate Dr. Albert. A. Michelson, said this:1

The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.

Why did he say that? Because there was so much evidence that existed for Newtonian mechanics and the wave nature of light, that they were both firmly entrenched in science. They were, indeed, the height of scientific consensus. Sure, there were a couple of “anomalies” to work out, like the photoelectric effect and the emission spectra of elements, but clearly there was no new physics to learn, right?

Wrong! These “anomalies” led to the discovery of quantum mechanics, which changed the face of physics forever. It showed us that Newtonian mechanics was simply an approximation that applies only to the macroscopic world, and that unlike the scientific consensus claimed, light is not a continuous wave. Thus, unlike Giberson claims, anomalies do, indeed, give us strong reason to question the prevailing dogma of the day. Had visionaries like Einstein, Bohr, Fermi, etc., not challenged the prevailing consensus because of mere anomalies, modern physics would not have been born! So even if there are just “anomalies” associated with evolution (and I think the problems go way beyond that description), the proper scientific response is to question its validity. The history of physics has clearly shown us that.

However, Giberson’s lack of understanding when it comes to the history of physics isn’t the only thing wrong with his response to Dembski. The worst thing about his response is that he continues the drumbeat of scientific consensus. He says we must rely on the scientific consensus, because we cannot evaluate the data for ourselves:

“Of course we cannot confront the data ‘on our own’.” Dealing with scientific data requires training and experience in whatever narrow area we are considering…To suggest that this [sic] “data” can be handed over to non-specialists so they can make up their own minds is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of science.

In other words, he says that science is just too hard and too detailed for most people to understand. Thus, instead of thinking for themselves, they need to rely on “experts” to do the thinking for them. As far as I am concerned, that’s probably the most anti-science thing that anyone can possibly say!

If we want to continue to progress in science, we must follow the data, regardless of what the scientific consensus says. Dr. Michael Crichton put it best when he described scientific consensus as:2

…an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Science will progress significantly better under Crichton’s philosophy than it will under Giberson’s philosophy, and it is amazing that someone as well-trained and experienced as Dr. Giberson doesn’t understand this!

REFERENCES

1. Michio Kaku, Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, (Doubleday, 2008), p. 285.
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2. Tom Bethell, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, (Regnery, 2005), pp. 13,14.
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Comments

20 Responses to “Dr. Karl Giberson Does Not Want You To Think For Yourself!”
  1. josiah says:

    I’m not surprised that he doesn’t want people thinking for themselves if he wants to suggest that the fact that the moon is not a quarter of a mile up demonstrates the fact that the earth is 4.54 billion years old!

    The former suggestion is easily disproven even by the scientific laity and has no real evidence to back it up, as can the number of people in a stadium or any of his other examples. The latter is a completely different matter, and there is no relationship between them whatsoever.

  2. jlwile says:

    Excellent point, Josiah.

  3. josiah says:

    I came across this quote, purportedly from Isaac Asimov, which I think sums up the anomalies point quite nicely.

    “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “that’s funny…”

  4. jlwile says:

    Great quote, Josiah, and there are a lot of “that’s funny” statements when it comes to evolution. Also, if Asimov didn’t say it, lots of people think he did. There are books that range from Research Methods in Community Medicine to Big Bang: The origin of the Universe that attribute the quote to him. As is typical with such a universally-attributed phrase, however, I can’t find anything by Asimov that actually contains it.

    Of course, I always thought the most exciting phrase to hear in science is, “Your grant has been approved.”

  5. Yuzem says:

    I wanted to comment on Christianity and Evolution, it seems to me, that they hold opposite ideas.

    Evolution says that we are the result of random mutations and natural selection while in the other hand, Christianity or almost any other Religion says that we are the creation of an intelligence (God).

    Theistic Evolution is different from Evolution as understood in science. In Theistic Evolution, all the process of evolution take place, but it is guided by intelligence, this is quite different than being produced by random mutations and natural selection.

    In other words Theistic Evolution is compatible with Christianity, but it is very different from Evolution.

  6. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, I completely agree with you. Theistic evolution is quite compatible with Christianity. My problem is that it is not compatible with science. As Dr. Michael Behe once said, “You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism…Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.” I would expand that to say, “You can be a good Christian and believe in Darwinism…Scientific progress has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.”

  7. Yuzem says:

    “You can be a good Christian and believe in Darwinism”

    Yes, you can be a good Christian in practice, but regarding the believe of Christianity, you can actually believe that we are the creation of God and at the same time believe that we are the result of random mutations and natural selection, since it is completely possible to hold contradictory ideas, but it isn’t possible to be the creation of God and at the same time the result of random mutations and natural selection.
    If one is true, the other must be false.

    Now, I understand that you can’t say that Evolution is false because Religion is true, at least not in the scientific arena.
    But if you can say in the scientific arena that Evolution is true: isn’t that the same as saying in the scientific arena that Religion is false?

    Anyways… I agree with you that science doesn’t favor Evolution, I don’t think that common sense favors Evolution.
    It may be the scientific consensus but that’s not a scientific argument.

  8. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, I most certainly agree that evolution “may be the scientific consensus but that’s not a scientific argument.” Very well put!

    I agree that you cannot believe in unguided evolution and the creation of God at the same time. Those two views are, indeed, mutually exclusive. However, most Christians who believe in evolution think that God guided it along. Thus, it wasn’t truly random. At that point, then, the two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

    “But if you can say in the scientific arena that Evolution is true: isn’t that the same as saying in the scientific arena that Religion is false?” No, not at all. Even if evolution is true (which I seriously doubt), that doesn’t preclude religion. First, we know that lots of serious Christians like C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, etc. also believe in evolution. They clearly see no reason to say that if evolution is true Christianity is false. Second, evolution might have been the means God used to create. I don’t think science indicates this, but it is at least plausible.

  9. Yuzem says:

    “we know that lots of serious Christians like C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, etc. also believe in evolution. They clearly see no reason to say that if evolution is true Christianity is false.”

    They believe in Guided or Theistic Evolution, Evolution as understood in science is an unguided process. If unguided evolution is true, I think that then, Religion must be wrong about God creating us all.

    There is a letter from Platinga about this here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga#Position_on_evolution_and_Christianity

    From that letter: “But the scientific theory of evolution, sensibly enough, says nothing one way or the other about divine guidance.”

    I have to say with great respect, that I don’t share his view.
    Evolution does say something about guidance, it says: random mutations and natural selection.
    Can a mutation be random and at the same time be guided?

  10. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, you and I agree that theistic evolution is guided and is therefore different from naturalistic evolution, which is unguided. However, I agree with Dr. Plantinga that evolution itself says nothing about guidance. Some evolutionists insist that it cannot be guided, while other evolutionists insist that it must be guided. Evolution itself, however, doesn’t care whether or not it is guided.

    I think you misunderstand the use of the term “random” when it comes to evolution. “Random mutations” are simply mutations that are not predictable. Most evolutionists (but not all) think that mutations are random, but to them, that just means you can’t predict what mutations will happen when. Their unpredictability may stem from the fact that they are truly random, or it may stem from the fact that we cannot anticipate God’s direction. After all, God has often answered my prayers in a way that I could not predict. Thus, it stands to reason that he could manipulate evolution in a way that I could not predict.

  11. Yuzem says:

    Yes indeed we agree on theistic evolution been guided and different from naturalistic evolution I think we disagree about the scientific theory of evolution been impartial about this.

    As you have pointed it out it seems that the source of our disagreement lies on the definition of the term “random”

    You are right, something random is not predictable, but something that we can’t predict is not necessarily random.

    In any context, I believe that the term “random” means quite the opposite of “intended”.
    A random mutation means, if I am not mistaken, a mutation that can take place anywhere.
    If evolution is guided, mutations don’t take place anywhere, but there where the guider guides.

    Moreover, in this very same blog, for example here: http://blog.drwile.com/?p=3879
    …the problems that are presented as problems for evolution are not problems for guided evolution and so, if evolution is impartial regarding guidance, those objections would be invalid.

    The same happens with the age of the Earth, it is widely know that a young Earth is a problem for evolution, but if evolution is impartial about guidance: Why then a young Earth would be a problem for evolution?

    Here: http://blog.drwile.com/?p=3786
    …you speak about Junk DNA. The theory of evolution predicts a lot of Junk DNA but if the theory is indifferent about guidance: Why does it predicts a lot of Junk DNA?

    In this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B-quakWthY
    … William Lane Craig talks about how improbable evolution is.
    Now, if evolution is not necessarily unguided: Why would it be improbable?

    In this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luJg-amDjWE
    …Craig is defending Intelligent Design and attacking the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection.
    Why would it be necessary to attack random mutations and natural selection in order to defend intelligent design if the ideas are not antagonistic?

    Take for example the title of Dawkins book: The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design
    If evolution is not necessarily unguided why would it reveal a Universe without design?

    There are a lot of examples like those, one more from your blog: http://blog.drwile.com/?p=3490
    From the article:
    Of course the cell seems “gratuitously complex” to an evolutionist, since an evolutionist is forced to believe that everything found in cells (as well as the cells themselves) developed as a result of random processes acted on by natural selection.

    I think that all those examples make reference not to a special kind of evolution that is unguided and naturalistic, but to the scientific theory of evolution which is as I see it: unguided and naturalistic.

  12. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, I would first disagree with your statement, “If evolution is guided, mutations don’t take place anywhere, but there where the guider guides.” That is not necessarily true. The guider might be using random mutations as the driving force for evolution. His guidance would then be based on what mutations are preserved. Since natural selection can only preserve a genetic change that increases fitness immediately, the guider of evolution could make sure a random mutation is preserved even if it hasn’t yet produced increased fitness. The guider would presumably do this because he sees that with a few more mutations, increased fitness will result. This is what I meant in my post you quoted. Hamilton’s rule assumes that preserved mutations must increase fitness at least a bit. Guided evolution need not assume that.

    A young earth is a problem even for guided evolution because the only way the geological column makes sense in evolutionary terms is for each layer to represent eons of time. If the earth is young, the geological column obviously is not the result of evolution. Instead, it must be the result of global catastrophe. That destroys any kind of evolution.

    Guided evolution predicts little junk DNA not because it necessarily assumes mutations aren’t random. Once again, if mutations are random but only the good ones are preserved regardless of their immediate effect on fitness, there would be almost no junk DNA.

    In your Craig videos, he is attacking naturalistic evolution. Since his job is to attack atheists, he is attacking their version of evolution. This is the same for my article on the faith of evolutionists. I am referring to an article that assumes unguided evolution. The same can be said of Dawkins’s book. He believes that evolution is unguided. Thus, he is presenting his view of evolution.

    Plantinga is quite correct. Evolution itself doesn’t require guidance or no guidance. Only certain views of it require one or the other.

  13. Yuzem says:

    Hi again, I don’t wanna be too pushy but I would like to discuss this a little more.

    You said:
    “That is not necessarily true [...] His guidance would then be based on what mutations are preserved.”

    I agree, that is possible, I was responding to your previous objection, that random mutations “are simply mutations that are not predictable” and therefore their unpredictability “may stem from the fact that we cannot anticipate God’s direction”

    The problem I see in this last argument, about his guidance been based on what mutations are preserved, is that then, it wouldn’t be natural selection, it would be intelligent selection, and the theory says clearly: natural selection.

    Regarding the young Earth, if the geologic column is proven wrong that doesn’t imply that evolution is wrong but that there would be less evidence for it.
    The main problem with a young Earth is that in a short period of time, evolution is inviable. And this is only if evolution, as understood in science, is an unguided process, because a short period of time is not a problem for guided evolution, unless the guidance is only applied to the selection part as you said.

    Regarding junk DNA, I wasn’t talking about guided evolution predicting little junk but about the scientific theory of evolution predicting a lot of junk. If the scientific theory of evolution is not an unguided process why would it predict a lot of junk?

    In one of the videos Craig is debating Francisco José Ayala, he is not an atheist.
    You say that he is attacking naturalistic evolution but in the video he speaks of random mutations and natural selection which is part of the scientific theory of evolution, if this is science, then science has something to say about guidance.

  14. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, you are not being pushy. I disagree with what you are saying, but I enjoy the dialogue! I understand that your comments were directed at the randomness of mutations. I just wanted to give you an idea of how purely random mutations could still be used in directed evolution.

    The term “natural selection” simply means that species are selected based on fitness. If the guider of evolution is preserving individual mutations, that’s his guidance. Once enough mutations occur so that a true fitness gain takes hold, then natural selection occurs. This, then, is simply a mechanism for how mutations accumulated towards a fitness gain. It doesn’t get rid of natural selection in any way.

    I don’t think you understand the importance of the geological column when it come to evolution. It is not simply evidence for evolution, it gives the entire “story” of evolution. It is, in fact, the context in which evolution is interpreted. Evolutionists think that fish evolved into amphibians, for example, not because it makes sense biologically, but because fish appear in the geological column before amphibians do. Without the geological column, there is no way to know what evolved into what.

    You are right that unguided evolution predicts a lot of junk DNA, but many theistic evolutionists have specifically predicted that there would be little or no junk DNA. This is how it is easy to see that evolution doesn’t say anything about whether it is guided or unguided. Some evolutionists predicted junk DNA, some didn’t. What distinguished them? It was whether or not they thought evolution was guided or unguided.

    I agree that Dr. Ayala is not an atheist, but he specifically believes in unguided evolution. Thus, Dr. Craig was just arguing against Dr. Ayala’s view of evolution. Since Dr. Craig describes himself as “somewhere between a progressive creationist and a theistic evolutionist himself,” it is clear he doesn’t necessarily reject evolution. He just rejects Dr. Alaya’s version.

  15. Yuzem says:

    I’m also enjoying the dialogue!

    I figured you would argue about the selection process being in part natural and in part guided. That’s possible but doesn’t that harm theistic evolution a little?

    For instance, one of the responses about evolution being too improvable is that evolution does not have a target. Guided evolution, specially if God is the guider, does have a target. God would have to wait until He gets the mutations He needs while unguided Evolution goes with anything that provides an increase in fitness. I don’t think that this is the best postulate for Intelligent Design or Guided Evolution.

    Anyway… that’s a different matter. It seems, according to this, that evolution does leave a little room in the corner for guidance, but what about my other contentions?

    About a young Earth you said “Without the geological column, there is no way to know what evolved into what” that’s true, and it would be a big problem for evolution but not a refutation, it doesn’t disprove evolution. I think that Craig once said something like this: even if all the arguments for a postulate are refuted, the postulate itself is not refuted.

    Now, this argument, about a young Earth, is no longer valid. If the guider is limited to the selective process, then guided evolution is also affected by improbability.

    What about junk DNA? You said that “unguided evolution predicts a lot of junk DNA” A scientific prediction must be based on science. If the prediction of a lot of junk DNA is scientific, and it is based on unguided evolution, then unguided evolution must be science, and then science has something to say about guidance.

    If you argue that the “junk DNA” prediction is not scientific then I have no objection.

    Regards!

  16. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, I don’t think you got what I meant about selection. If God did preserve mutations until there were enough to produce an actual fitness gain, that would be “partly guided selection.” After all, God was selecting individual mutations, guiding the evolution until there would be enough to produce an actual fitness gain. Then, He allowed natural selection to take over. The first part was guided, the second part was not.

    In philosophy, it might be true that “if all the arguments for a postulate are refuted, the postulate itself is not refuted.” However, it is most certainly not true for science! Without evidence, there is no reason to believe something in science. Without the geological column’s traditional interpretation, then, evolution doesn’t exist. Not only is there no way to know what evolved from what, there is no indication that it even happened!

    Junk DNA is, indeed, a prediction of science. However, no junk DNA is ALSO a prediction of science. Thus, BOTH guided and unguided evolution are science. They each make different predictions, and we can test those predictions against the data.

  17. Yuzem says:

    Yes, that’s what I understood. Doesn’t that implies that God has to wait for the mutations he wants?

    I agree that “Without evidence, there is no reason to believe something in science” Good point, but even without the geologic column there are other claimed evidences for evolution, for example: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ the article is contrasted here: http://www.trueorigin.org/theobald1a.asp

    I really thought you would argue that junk DNA is not a scientific prediction. I think I now see what is your view about this. I thought that guided evolution wasn’t considered science since it implies ID and in Plantinga’s words: “The hallmark of intelligent design, however, is the claim that this can be shown scientifically; I’m dubious about that” I believe then that it is the scientific consensus that guided evolution is not science or am I mistaken about this?

  18. jlwile says:

    Yuzem, I think you misunderstand what I mean by “Without evidence, there is no reason to believe something in science” in reference to the geological column. It’s not that the geological column’s evidence for evolution is necessary. Instead, its framework is necessary. Most of Theobald’s (oft-revised) arguments in the piece you linked depend on knowing what evolved into what. Notice all the times the general story of evolution is used to set up each piece of evidence. If the geological column does not represent time anymore, all those arguments break down, because now there is no way of knowing what was around first, what came next, etc. Since DNA, RNA, and morphology cannot agree with each other (and DNA can’t even agree with itself) when determining evolutionary relationships, the geological column is the main arbiter. Without there, there is simply nothing left upon which to base evolution.

    I don’t think there is any consensus on guided evolution. There are many evolutionists who believe that God created by evolution. That means there is some sort of guidance at some level. Thus, while there are evolutionists who do not want to consider the fact that evolution might have been guided, there are others who assume it was.

  19. Yuzem says:

    Ok Dr Wile, I think I understand now what you meant about the geologic column. I didn’t know that all those arguments depend on the geologic column.

    Thank you very much for your patience, I have learned some new things from this dialogue.

    Regards!

  20. jlwile says:

    Thanks for the dialogue, Yuzem!

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