Elephants from Dimension X

An Urban Elephantphoto © 2009 Peter | more info (via: Wylio)


If you are a thinking person who gives credence to science (there are thinking people who really do not), the empirical evidence for things is all-important. Evidence should always trump pet theories, and theories which are falsifiable are the very warp and woof of credible science. Many theories, such as the Ptolemaic cosmology (the earth is the center of the universe, everything else spins around it) have much evidence and tremendous explanatory power, yet are false. Small pieces of contrary evidence start to crop up, and although it may take many years for general culture to come around, we hope and expect that the truth will win out.

Given my ideas about the freedom we have under orthodoxy to interpret Genesis 1 (Parable of the Young Son & Thoughts to my Mystified Friends), I am under no real compunction to force science to fit a narrow young earth creationist stance. I would be perfectly comfortable as a theistic evolutionist, if I could be convinced that the evidence truly pointed that way. In other words, I am a religious person, but my views allow freedom to think openly about this. Perhaps ironically, because of my religious views, I am not compelled to form my opinions about these things based on religion. In my mind, God is perfectly capable of fine tuning the universe so that life would evolve, it is no problem. So, instead of letting strong presuppositional stances dictate our interpretations of empirical phenomena, I would say we should press in to interpret empirical phenomena truthfully and dispassionately.

One of the hallmark ideas of Intelligent Design pioneer Michael Behe is the notion of irreducible complexity. There are enormously complex systems in living things that have to be set in place all at once; incomplete systems would be useless or detrimental. As we know, a car will not run without all the pieces of the engine in place. Similarly, for example, our blood clotting systems needed to have all the innumerable pieces in place perfectly all at once; if pieces are slightly wrong or missing, then organisms with vascular systems either tend to bleed to death easily, or have all of their blood clot at once. It is a delicate balance. So, any reasonable interpretation of the empirical evidence would have to say that there is no gradual path for these systems to have appeared. To see more about this system, see the excellent Johns Hopkins University flash tutorial about blood clotting After the intro, be sure and click some of the other animations to get a sense of the incredible complexity of this one system.

To further compound the problem, most vascular creatures reproduce sexually, so the complex system has to be set in place in perfect reproducible harmony twice, all at once. It does not seem to make reasonable sense that a random beneficial mutation could have reproduced such systems.

Now, the debate usually drops directly into a discussion of the exact engine of change. Some still insist darwinistic gradualism could have produced this, others insist on the intervention of a mysterious intelligence at this point. These debates are entirely premature and unhelpful. In fact, we are not looking at evidence which proves design, as much as we are looking at evidence which falsifies darwinism. Look at it like this.

Let’s say we have a building, and one morning we wake up and suddenly there is a huge new sculpture of an elephant inside the inner indoor atrium. One person says, live elephants brought it in, another says, the sculpture just popped in from another dimension. They get into quite a debate eager to prove one or the other theory. The one says, it is ridiculous to say it popped in from another dimension, therefore the elephant theory is true. At least the elephant theory is physically possible, without requiring belief in other dimensions! In fact, there are some scratches on this column that are at the same height as an elephant harness. See, we have certain evidence! He manages to drum up others to say they also are convinced that elephants brought in the sculpture. Belief in elephant sculptors is all the rage, the conventional wisdom. The other says, elephants can’t do this! Come on! It may be weird and fantastic to believe in other dimensions, but it is the only way to explain what happened!

Suppose that I came along and said, “look, the entrance doors to the building are too small for elephants, and there is no damage to the doors. It really is a provable fact that elephants did not bring in this sculpture!” Then the other side might begin to say – “Hey! you’re one of those crazy dimension poppers! You even believe in other dimensions!” I would say, no, I am not saying that at all. My beliefs about other dimensions is not what is at issue. I’m saying that unless the elephants popped in from another dimension, elephants were not involved. Even though we have a very strange occurrence here, I do not believe that elephants OR dimension popping was involved. I don’t care how many people claim to be convinced; I am not convinced. It is still a mystery, but neither of these ideas hold credence. We are better off to keep looking for a better explanation, than to continue clinging to either of these rather crazy notions. I am allowed to be skeptical about both viewpoints regardless of my beliefs about other dimensions or elephants or how many people believe either thing.

Regardless of my beliefs, I can assert that empirical evidence falsifies an idea without asserting that a whacky application of my own beliefs caused the observable unexplained phenomena. This is the spirit in which I look at intelligent design. If you are going to dispute with me, dispute the right thing. If you dispute based on the fact that I am a whacky creationist and therefore must a priori be wrong, you are boxing the air. You have to answer the idea that biomolecular evidence points distinctly to a non-gradual process of change. You can’t say, ‘Most scientists say evolution is true.’ Truth is not democratic. Most scientists used to believe that the universe revolved around the earth. Evolution is a falsifiable idea, and we are seeing evidence here which falsifies it. I primarily see that regardless of the sometimes insane debate which rages around the issue of the origin of life, I think we need to acknowledge that we have quite an elephant in the room. ‘Intelligent Design’ does not say God did it, it is really a euphemism for ‘something other than chance’ did it. We are not saying ‘Theistic Design’, nor are we saying ‘non-Theistic design.’ We are saying, ‘not gradual, not aleatoric.’

The fact is, life does exist, we can examine it carefully, and upon examination, it is entirely reasonable to say that it is easily open to skepticism that it was produced by time and chance alone. To me, this is the simplest and most truthful interpretation of the evidence at hand.

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  1. Well done. It does a good job of clarifying falsifiability of Darwinism. It also makes the attack on Instantaneous Young Age of Earth position a straw man.

    Many young earthers (such as myself) will not like the tension it creates in their world view. Personally, I think that tension is a good thing. It drives people to search deeper, to try to discover the undiscovered truths of God and his creation.

    Scott McDonald

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