This question really took me off guard; I had never been asked it before and the first thought that ran through my mind was “What do you mean ‘What is life?’ Everybody knows what life is.”
In retrospect, there are two reasons: The most obvious one is that I had just finished demolishing abiogenesis and showed how impossible it was, scientifically. There is no answer to these arguments, so this is a ploy to distract from the facts and discredit the arguments some other way – calling to question the definition of life for instance.
This is a perfectly fair debate tactic, but it is a tactic, not an argument. Nevertheless, it is also a valid and pertinent question: Here I was, arguing against a natural origin of life, but someone not familiar with Creationary thinking would question our definition of life.
I started to state my own, personal assumptions on what would define life: “Life… would be… a … lifeform that can..”….
That was as far as I got. I was immediately called on my circular reasoning: “You can’t define life with life!”
So I took a second stab at it: “Well, I would define it as a living organism which can…” at which point the skeptics pointed out my tautology.
I had responded that I would come back to this question, but at this point, The Distinguished Gentleman (TDG) toward the back pointedly asked me for a definition “Now.” Was I not able to give one? I attempted to think for a while (No, really! I attempted to think!) but I was so exhausted by this point that ye olde cranium just wasn’t working…. at all…. I passed on the question, partly because the badgering just completely blanked out my mind and I wanted to sit down and think about this before I commented.
Now that I have had some sleep (everything’s 20/20 in hindsight) this was a silly sequence of events! The anwsers are quite evident.
First off, it was simply a miscommunication on my part. If I had simply referred to “things” instead of “living things”, I would’ve gotten the silly definition out of my mouth. Furthermore, I should’ve simply put the ball back into the court of the skeptics: “What is the naturalist’s definition of life?” I’m quite sure we would’ve both reached an agreement in a hurry, and I am quite confident that the agreed upon definition would’ve cemented my arguments against abiogensis!
Basically the Creationist definition of life would be essentially the same as a naturalist’s version:
Life can be described as something (now let’s not argue about the definition of “thing”, okay? ) which has ALL of the following, essential functions:
Nutrition, circulation, respiration, excretion, secretion, reproduction, movement and locomotion, and metabolism.
I would include self-repair in metabolism.
For myself, I would probably be satisfied to define a living organism as something that has the functions of nutrition, reproduction, and metabolism.
This less-strict defnition gives far more room for abiogenesis.
From a scriptural standpoint, there is also something different about the human race, as Genesis records that God did something very unique to them: He breathed a soul into them. (Gen 2:7) The bible also seems to dictate a clear difference between plant life and animal life, but this is not pertinent to this particular question.
The arguments were then brought up: Many evolutionists consider viruses to have been the first life forms on planet earth.
Indeed, if you visit the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, in the upper halls you will hear this claim mentioned in the dialogue broadcast over the speakers. However, even if somehow a virus was miraculously produced by natural processes (and indeed that alone would have been a metaphysical event, a miracle), Viruses cannot reproduce! Viruses must hijack the reproductive systems of living cells in order to make copies of themselves, so evolution is dead in the water! As with the codependency within even the simplest of cells, the reproductive system of the first living organism had to have been formed at the same time as the organism, in full functionality! This does not even begin to address the problems associated with the evolution of sexual reproductive systems: two incredibly complicated systems, entirely separate, specifically engineered to interact with each other, and they both had to have evolved at exactly the same time.
A comment was made by a fine young man in black (MIB) about how a computer program could quickly fall into the definition of life.
Let’s extrapolate on that a little: A computer program could be written to reproduce. But obviously it’s lacking in some of the other requirements for the definition of life. Fine; let’s give it a robotic body which can fulfill all the requirements for the definition of life: It seeks out an electrical outlet and has on-board energy storage systems. It charges itself from the sun when there is no electrical outlet. We can build it to produce other robots, just like it, etc… Even if it’s artificial intelligence is really artificial and not very intelligent, at least it does have some semblence of intelligence.
I agree emphatically: We can build something that could fall into the definition of “life”…. thank you for bringing home my point so clearly!
Abiogenesis is impossible without outside, intelligent intervention and design!
A computer program needs a programmer! The program needs a computer to run on, which also requires incredible intelligence and design! The robot itself (remember, I’m a robotics engineer by trade; I know how much intelligence is involved in designing even a simple robot!) requires incredible and precise engineering, design, and intelligence.
While you can feel free to believe that somewhere out there, there is an entire planet of robots which have been formed by natural processes (i.e., landslides and volcanoes spewing out metal into just the right shape, millions and millions of times over, all the parts just happened to fit and fall together in the right order, at the right place, at the right time… copper melted onto some fiberglass to make a circuit board… etc…etc…) you believe this in blind faith. (It’s always some far away place – one should ask why it doesn’t happen here)
Yet this scenario is far, far easier to obtain than even the simplest of biopolymers joining together into even the simplest of cells.
This brings us to the points I made next in my original talk:
Irreducible complexity and intelligent design.
As I pointed out in my opening talk, evolution and a natural origin of life require incredible leaps of blind faith. I freely admitted my own blind faith in what I believe: I was not there, I have no idea how God did it, but I believe that He did.
However, throughout the course of the evening, it appeared that the skeptics did not even realize their own leaps of blind faith. I will be careful not to falsely accuse them, as they may be very quick to acknowledge their own blind faith. I will let them judge themselves and give them the freedom to believe what they want – but no matter what you believe, you believe it in blind faith.
I will address this further in the question on Proof of Creation.
“I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.”
CS Lewis: Surprised by Joy. (1955; p. 115)
“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents (the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms) and this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts (i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy) are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents… It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”
C.S. Lewis, in God in the Dock (p52-53 Answers to Questions on Christianity)
This was in direct response to my quick critique of five specific intermediate fossils. The sources I brought up were Discover, National Geographic, and Time to name a few.
Specifically, TDG’s main criticism was that none of these were peer reviewed journals.
TDG clearly knew his stuff and clearly was good at debating. He did not question any of my detractions, (presumably because he was well aware my detractions were correct and he could not answer them) but instead called question to my sources – redirecting attention away from my arguments.
This is perfectly acceptable to me, and he certainly has every right to question my actions. It’s only fair to suggest that perhaps (deliberately or not) I specifically chose claims that were easy to debunk and poke fun at, so as to make evolution look bad. It is fair to suggest I did this rather than answering the far more serious claims and evidence presented in peer-reviewed journals.
I was going to respond, but got interrupted in the fray of discussion and another question that came up. One point I already made during Q & A:
These magazines paint a powerful picture of evolutionary evidence – whether the evolutionary community accepts these interpretations or not is irrelevant. I deal with the general lay public who is literally overwhelmed and brainwashed with these claims. I am answering these claims; carefully, specifically.
Furthermore, in general, these magazines are also merely popularizing what the peer-reviewed journals are claiming! They are merely “dumbing down” the claims and explaining them in layman’s terms.
I am happy to provide references for any information that I bring up. There were several points throughout the evening where I did cite from specific, peer-reviewed journals, but it is true that none of the information I addressed with regards to intermediates happened to be from peer reviewed journals.
In the middle of addressing the intermediates, TDG shouted a question from the back of the room. Unfortunately, due to the music still being played right behind me, it was very difficult to hear. What I thought I heard was something along the lines of “What about the miniature horse?” However, as I tossed it over in my head the next day, he may have been asking about the recent “Hobbit” discovery. I do not know what he asked, so I will address these two in hopes that it was one of them.
The “miniature horse.”
If this was indeed his question, it was presumably about Hyracotherium, aka Eohippus – the “dawn horse.” Interestingly, I was given a hot tip a couple of years back about possible Hyracotherium running around the Grand Canyon. I tried to mount an expedition there to go check it out, but my transmission blew in Colorado Springs on the way there. I haven’t made it back since.
Sadly, I do not have a drawing I can reproduce on my website, but there’s plenty around like this one. You can quickly see why some would conclude it was related to the horse. This “evidence” falls squarely into the category of homologies which I answered in brief on the proof of Creation webpage.
A number of Creationists have claimed the Hyracotherium is represented by the modern bay Hyrax. Talk Origins has a well done page documenting this, and conveniently provide skull examples of both Hyracotherium and the Hyrax. Interestingly, the CRSQ article they mention actually is simply citing N. Heribert Nilsson – a man who spent his entire life believing and teaching evolution. After forty years of devotion to this theory, guess what he wrote?
“My attempts to demonstrate evolution by an experiment carried on for more than 40 years have completely failed.”…. among other things!
It was Nilsson who debunked the Hyracotherium arguments and the evolution of the horse – in fact, it is not difficult to find evolutionists who don’t buy the supposed “evolution of the horse” sequence. (Quotes run rampant on the internet, I won’t bother reinventing the wheel).
Anyone who was attended my talks has seen the CAT-scan images of a number of dog skeletons, including skulls of the bulldog and borzoi – two different dogs with radically different skulls! Head on over to the Bone Clones website and compare the variations between dog skulls for yourself!
English Bulldog: http://www.boneclones.com/BC-128.htm
Great Dane: http://www.boneclones.com/BC-127.htm
(Man, these are nice – I’m going to have to get some of these!)
These are all dogs and unfortunately one thing you can’t grasp looking at these photos is the size difference as well.
Now take a look at the two skulls presented on the Talkorigins page and quickly realize why creationists and at least one evolutionist have all said Hyracotherium is probably just the Hyrax. The variation with the skeleton is well within the boundaries comparable to that of all the species of dogs.
This is in reference to a recent, intriguing finding in Inodonesia last year of apparently human skeletal remains of humans about 1 meter tall! You can quickly see why it was nicknamed after Tolkein’s race in the “Lord of the Rings” series.
Again, partly because I simply have not had the time to follow this in detail, and to avoid reinventing the wheel, I would merely refer to Answers In Genesis’ three articles on the subject, as they have done an excellent job:
The first preliminary report: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2004/1028dwarf.asp
The second (more interesting) follow up: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2004/1108hobbit.asp
The most recent debate: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/0228hobbit_war.asp
In brief, there appears to be nothing inhuman about these skeletons, other than their size which is still well within the genetic variation of humans and has nothing to do with evolution per se. A human (even a small one) is still a human, which had to have come from a human.
It was like something straight out of the National Inquirer: A grunge metal band called “Ghost stories” playing on a stage shrouded with white curtains, shadow dancing. A thrash metal band called “Stop, die, resuscitate”, the local representative for “The Cannibal Flesh Donor Program”, all in an ultra-classy tavern dedicated to the Rolling Stones with various Stone’s paraphenalia plastering the walls, in the downtown core of Toronto. As if that wasn’t interesting and eclectic enough, they threw a creationist into the mix.
It was March 16, 2005, at “Stone’s place”, I was invited to represent the Creationist position to a bunch of skeptical enquirers, evolutionists and atheists. Though not many people showed up, the crowd was demanding, but respectful and fun.
Unfortuantely, I didn’t sleep well the night before, got up at 6:30 in the morning, worked on my presentation till 11:30, loaded up the van and drove 6 1/2 hours to Toronto. I loaded in my museum displays, got up did my first talk at 10 pm-ish (we were late getting started and I was rushed), “Ghost stories” did their awesome act, then we went to Q & A. I was thoroughly exhausted the entire night and this will definitely go down in the books as not one of my better performances. My good ‘ol A.D.D. was kicking in something fierce with the music constantly playing in the background the whole night, and ye olde synopses just weren’t firing on all cylinders.
My biggest frustration from the whole evening was without question my own exhaustion. If I had managed to get some sleep sometime through the day, it would’ve been a much better evening for all; it becomes a very boring argument when your opponent is asleep! It was bittersweet for me that our 45 minute Q&A session got cut to about 15 or 20 minutes, as I was keenly interested in hearing the questions and arguments, as I’m sure they were in grilling me for a response. But let’s face it; I was in no shape for this.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy myself, and enjoyed the company of the group that was there.
This page is devoted to what went on that night, and more importantly to follow up from Q & A.
The opening talk:
Links lead to responses to these points, and to related Q&A.
My talk was cut short due to various factors.
- I first of all did a quick introduction to the very basics of Creation and Evolution, and what they both believe.
- I then addressed the entire scope of the debate first from a philosophical viewpoint First, quoting Sir Francis Bacon’s observation that “People prefer to believe what they prefer to be true” and that one must be wary of their own biases and preferential beliefs. I made the point that both evolution and creation require blind faith.
- As an example of the blind faith required of naturalistic views, I showed the front cover of Discover magazine, April 2002. While there was a question about my sources, no one contested my still valid point: The cover accurately depicts the current thinking on the origin of the universe, and provides an excellent example of the blind faith required to believe in its supposed naturalistic origin.
- I then quoted the former hard-core atheist turned Christian convert, C.S. Lewis; a brilliant scholar who lived on both sides of the fence and had obviously learned a great deal from it.
His main point I was repeating was that if evolution has occurred as the result of randomness in the universe, then the thoughts of the evolutionist and naturalist are also random and not be trusted. Evolution undercuts evolution. There was no response to this argument.
- Abiogenesis: I then covered, in reasonable detail, the impossibility of abiogenesis (life spontaneously arising from dead matter). I cited several unsolvable problems with abiogenesis (i.e., the necessary and impossible removal of oxygen from the environment, and the lack of evidence of that). I moved on to known natural laws which evolution violated if it has occured. (i.e., the law of biogenesis) This places evolution into the realm of the extra-natural, and metaphysical. In other words, a miracle. Something that cannot be explained within the scientific and natural realm, and thus is believed in blind faith. I covered Stanley Miller’s fascinating 1953 experiment which only showed how difficult it really was to produce life “without outside intelligence.” I also briefly mentioned Louis Pasteur’s experiment which demonstrated that abiogenesis does not occur in nature.
All of this solicited a question on the definition of life, which of course would relate to all of these points.
- I moved on to irreducibility and codependent complexity of even the simplest of cells and organisms, citing Michael Denton’s writings on the cell, and Michael Behe’s arguments relating to the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum. My poor flagellum model needs work, but it was breaking down repeatedly, right on cue! While providing an excellent analogy to the talks, it was also a source of entertainment. 🙂 There was no response to these arguments.At this point, I completely blew it in totally forgetting one of the more important arguments for the night: Evidence for creation. This solicited a question to which I will respond here.
- I covered the supposed argument that chimps and humans are “98/6% genetically identical”, demonstrating that the argument is not even close to being an argument; in fact it actually demonstrates the impossibility of life evolving from other lifeforms. I also covered the vast differences between the two that you never hear of. While this solicited no response to the argument, it did solicit a rather unexpected question from one gentleman there.
- We then briefly touched on paleontology and the incredible variation which can occur within a single species – including completely modern humans. This was in introduction to the difficulties surrounding interpretation of the supposed “intermediates” (i.e., supposed half-human, half ape or half-bird, half reptile fossils) in the fossil record. I then proceeded to demolish the interpretations of several of the more famous “intermediate” fossils: Ardipithecus Ramidus Kadaba, “Boxgrove man”, “Lucy”, and Pakicetus. While noone contended with my arguments, this did solicit a question, and a comment on my sources, both from The Distinguished Gentleman (TDG)
- Upon citing an excellently written, albeit long, paragraph from the science against evolution website on the missing links, I challenged the audience to find ANY of the missing links mentioned.
- I briefly covered giantism in the fossil record, citing the many, many examples, and the problem of prediction for evolution. Prediction is one of the strongest arguments for a theory. The subject of giantism solicited a response. I was going places with the giantism arguments, but we ran out of time.
I must take the time to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and how much I enjoyed the people there. Special thanks to Maria for organizing this event.
There was some follow-up questions after Q & A, but we were screaming at each other over the band. Needless to say, this was difficult, so I’ll attempt to address these arguments here: (if there’s no active link, it’s because I haven’t written it yet; sorry – check back later)
- You argued against evolution, what are your arguments for creation?
- Evolution of species, as demonstrated in fruit flies
- “Are humans superior to other life on earth?”
- “Where is hope in all of this?”
- “Do you think your passion in this blinds you?”
- The Representative of the Cannibal Flesh Donor Program had a couple of questions which cannot be summed up, nor answered, briefly. I will respond to these later as time permits as I think he brought up several excellent questions I would like to respond to.
A friend and colleague had recently challenged me to respond to Nova’s latest documentary on the Coelacanth. He kindly recorded it for me, only to find out later we ran out of tape half way through the show. (Doh!) He wanted to hear what I had to say on the “obvious evolution” of the Coelacanth.
Not knowing what the claims were, I of course refrained from making any comments at all until I could at least see the transcript of the entire show. (BTW, the transcript is now available on line at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3003_fish.html)
So when I finally did get to view the transcripts, it was the same-old, same-old. Rehashed and recycled claims, stated flatly as *fact*. Of course my buddy had questions! I have never had a problem with an honest evolutionist, and I appreciate my friend spurning me on (thanks Dam-O!). He later expressed regret over spurning the fire of Creationism (or was that “Ire”? :-), but really – what’s wrong with asking honest questions? Claims have been made, let’s examine them!
Now don’t get me wrong though – I love the Nova shows. I am merely trying to address the constant bombardment we see every day of evolutionary propaganda filtering down through virtually every facet of the media. Nova is no exception.
It is believed that fish evolved into some land-walking mammal along the great evolutionary lineage. The Coelacanth had been suggested as a possible “intermediate”, a transitional life form mid-way between two stages on the evolutionary tree (as has also been claimed for many other fossil critters found over the years). Known only by its fossils which displayed “limb-like fins” it was thought extinct for at least 50 Million years until the dramatic, 1938 discovery of living Coelacanths.
As stated by J.L.B in the documentary:
“The Coelacanths have lived for probably 350 million years and in that time they have changed but little. ”
How about not at all. A Coelacanth has always been a Coelacanth. If you found the skeleton from a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard in fossil form, would you conclude they were the same species? Heck, let’s throw in a wiener dog and a bull dog for good measure! These are all the same species, yet the variation within the genetic code is quite amazing. I suggest the Coelacanth can express the same amount of diversity well within its genetic code…. and still be a Coelacanth.
However, this comment immediately brings up obvious questions. Why has it not changed in 400 Million years? Why did it evolve to that point so fast that we can’t even find it’s predecessor in the fossil record, but not any further? Has it really survived 50 Million years? (and don’t get me started on where they get those silly dates!)
By the way, what did it evolve into? We don’t find that in the fossil record either. If evolution had been going on for millions of years, I think it safe to say we’d find remnants of it. The best evidences are arguable at best, and are just as likely to be a unique life form as they are an intermediate.
Yes it is! No it isn’t! Yes it is!…
As one meanders through the show’s script in particular, you quickly see the schizophrenic attitudes portrayed by those wanting to figure out its evolutionary ascent. They want to believe it is an (if not *the*) ancestor to land mammals, but scientists cannot agree on whether it is or not.
The reasons quickly become obvious.
Fish have backbones, land animals have backbones, but the Coelacanth had “no real backbone”. It is described by the evolutionists themselves as having a “primitive backbone”, a soft, “gristly tube”. You need a backbone to walk on land. So what did this thing do? Devolve?
But there’s much more to the story.
Later on in the documentary, Daniel Robineau makes a remarkable statement, almost in passing. He mentions the presence of a “vestigial lung.” Now, please pardon my skepticism but this raises two red flags with me. First, if it’s a “vestigial” lung, that means it’s a leftover from its previous evolution. If it is the intermediate between a fish and a land mammal, why does it have the remnants of a lung? Isn’t it supposed to gaining a lung? (i.e. nascent)
Furthermore, this silly notion of vestigial organs has gone on for way too many years. Our former list of well over 100 “vestigial” organs in the human anatomy has dwindled to zero as over the years we have discovered what these organs did. I am quite confident that with further research, it will be found what this apparent “vestigial lung” is, and I’m going to venture a guess that it’ll have nothing to do with breathing air.
As if that wasn’t enough topsy-turvy evolution (I mean, c’mon – which way is it going? To the sea from land? To the land from sea?), Robin Stobbs mentions:
“The entire fish is filled with oil. There is not a single air sinus in the fish. So, like a diver’s depth gauge, it’s incomprehensible, which, in theory anyway, would allow it to swim at depths of 1000 meters or more.”
And one of the biggest reasons it hadn’t been found before was the depth at which it lives! It has NO inkling of heading to the shore! This fish was built for deep water! As was even stated in the documentary, it dies in shallow water due to the lack of oxygen content in the water.
Originally it was thought that these “limb like lobes” were evidence of a fish with the gear to walk. Surprise! These silly “limb-like lobes” are merely extra articulated fins which allow it to “hover” in the water. Gee, how very appropriate for a body which is neutrally buoyant and can move in any position in the water. Gee, what a good design! (Ooops – we’re not allowed to use the “D” word, especially in West Virginia 🙂
Fascinating, yes. Evidence for evolution? Nope.
I mean, puleeze – these people are suggesting that it fits into the evolutionary tree because it puts one fin forward at the same time it puts another backward? C’mon – that’s basic physics in action! The two actions cancel out giving the fish incredible control over which way it goes and how exactly it hovers. Think about it, it’s exactly the same reason you put your right arm forward with your left leg. This isn’t evidence of behavior passed on to us by our “ancient ancestor” the Coelacanth! It’s common sense!
Am I being too skeptical here?
Then there’s talk of it’s mammal-like reproduction. It’s like this fish is a strange patchwork of evolution and devolution combined. Maybe it’s just a unique fish? This fish is starting to sound as mixed up as the duck-billed platypus!
Assumptions as evidence
Unfortunately, I do hear a lot of assumptions promulgated as evidence. I hear it all the time and I honestly don’t think those making the claims really catch on to what they’re doing. For example,
“Their outward appearance has changed little, but internally, they must have adapted to changing environments as the Earth itself was transformed over time.”
Uh huh. Give me ONE good reason to believe that their internal organs have changed.
Is it because they have found fossils that show different internal structures in the fish? Nope.
There is only one reason to believe (or assume) such a statement: Evolutionary presupposition, which is not based at all on fact. If the outside of the fish hasn’t changed, I see absolutely no sane reason to believe the insides have changed. In fact, it appears that after hundreds of millions of years, just like the outside of the fish, the internal organs still haven’t changed.
The undiscovered ocean
I will, however, agree with their statements that the oceans are the most unexplored places on earth. Indeed, what other mysteries await us? If the Coelacanth, supposedly around for some “400 million years” and presumed extinct for the past 50 Million, suddenly turns up alive in entire schools – why not a marine dinosaur?
The skepticism of finding living, marine dinosaurs is justified, but not the cynical and snide remarks I have heard over the years. That is not science.
The Zuiyo Maru catch of a possible Plesiosaur off the coast of New Zealand in 1977 is tantalizing at the least. Now almost thirty years later, evidence is still coming to light and keeping alive the possibility that this was indeed a Plesiosaur. Recently, a second set of flippers on the dead carcass has been pointed out as refuting the possibility of it being a decaying basking shark. An article appeared in the Creation Science Research Quarterly on this.
Yet, the catch is still scoffed at by many. “It can’t be a Plesiosaur”, they say, “They’ve been extinct for millions of years!”