March 19, 2005

Logical Fallacies in the Origin of Life

Russ Nelson works to take apart a logical fallacy that creationists are using "Borel's law" to argue that evolution cannot be true. Thus far, all well and good, sloppy argument has no place on either side and should be thoroughly put down. Unfortunately, he slips in his own logical fallacy in his otherwise fine refutation.

The creationists are trying to argue that something which manifestly happened -- abiogenesis -- could not have happened because it was too improbable.
cut for space and cogency [read the original to check for fairness]
The creationist would say "No, no, that's not our argument at all. Only one particular combination of coins will result in life." So what? Obviously, we are having this discussion; we are alive; the past event, however improbable, occurred.

Did you catch it? He misstates the nature of creationism to claim that abiogenesis is not part of creationism. This is manifestly untrue, at least for biblical creationists, the usual suspects in these debates. A quick reading of Genesis 2:7 shows that abiogenesis is part and parcel of the creation story. The dispute between creationists and those evolutionists who deny God is whether it is guided or unguided abiogenesis, in essence, the cause of abiogenesis instead of the fact of it.

Science is about evidence, not word games. Until we find an awful lot more evidence about the origin of life and how evolution works, its extremely premature to make any scientific conclusions about whether abiogenesis is guided or unguided.

Scripture, on the other hand, is revelatory, not scientific. Revelation is evidence but not scientific evidence. It is akin to eyewitness testimony or confession by someone in the witness box. It's God saying "I did this" and his words being taken down by a stenographer of some sort.

Evidence obtained scientifically can impeach revelation or confirm it and there is a cottage industry of scientists trying to debunk christianity this way and theologians on the other side working to leave enough play so that their theology is not debunked. So far, the theologians are winning but it's a hard game for them as they play exclusively on defense.

The origin of the universe in a Big Bang sounds an awful lot like religious creation stories to a great many people and some scientists have resisted the Big Bang because it sounded too much like Genesis, most famously the astronomer Fred Hoyle. When they do so, they become pseudo-scientific practitioners, trading on their real scientific reputations to advance their philosophical preferences without actual scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, Russ Nelson does his own version here of pseudo-science. His closing statement "Don't try to rewrite history with some entity capable of violating the physical laws of the universe" ignores the fact that long before there was any science worth speaking of there was revelatory evidence about the creation of the universe, the world. Like all testimony, it can be impeached by scientific evidence but it's a gross misread of history to try to portray science as coming first. It is scientific cosmology that is the new kid on the block that is rewriting history. Sometimes revisionists get closer to the truth than the early historians and sometimes not but let's keep things on the basis of facts, shall we?

Posted by TMLutas at March 19, 2005 09:12 AM