"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)


Response to McDonald's Third Defense

For the first issue, we have been discussing God's existence. I initially stated that while I would argue that natural forces and laws are responsible for life on earth and that life is not a proof of the existence of a God, doing so is also not a disproof of God. However, I neglected to explicitly state that I feel that it is not possible to disprove God with certainty. I believe science is limited in its functions to what can be observed and if God is beyond the observable reality than science can not prove or disprove his existence.

I have long felt that something like a god might exist, personal or impersonal I do not know, but this is based not on sound objective principles but on subjective experience (in fact, I'm afraid I cannot conclusively rule out wishful thinking on my part). However, I believe it is possible to demonstrate that the God of the Bible as interpreted literally within the framework of Christian fundamentalism is not likely to exist.

Concerning theistic evolution, or God-directed evolution, I reject this for the same reasons I reject creationism. I find it fully plausible and logical that entirely natural forces are responsible for life on this planet and therefore there is no need to invoke any kind of supernatural interference.

I agree for the most part with Jerry's criticism of theistic evolution. He writes:

At least my position teaches that God is all powerful in that he did it all by himself in 6 literal 24 hour days? The theistic evolutionist teaches that God is not quite that powerful. He had to rely on natural processes to create all things, and then had to intervene whenever it was necessary to keep the species alive in order to carry out his will.

Theistic evolution does paint a rather inconsistent portrait of an omnipotent creator, I agree. However, I will defend the theistic evolutionist on one point: his philosophy is willing to address the majority of the body of evidence in favor of evolution. In this respect, theistic evolution is superior to creationism because the latter typically dismisses the evidence outright.

Jerry McDonald writes:

You still don't have enough time for evolution to work whether you are a theist or an atheist. Taking the respiratory system once again, evolution (whether theistic or atheistic) teaches that all life started out with just a simple one celled amoebae. The problem that exists is, where did the one celled amoebae come from? If there was no life then how did life spring from lifelessness?

I'm not sure why you state there is not enough time for evolution to work. Why isn't 4 billion years enough? Is there some formula for life that has determined that life must require 5 billion or 10 billion years or more?

Life from lifelessness requires a precise definition of what life is. For example, is a virus alive? By some definitions it is, by others it isn't. For the question of origins and evolution, the only requirement for life is 1) reproduction 2) with errors (mutation). This means that an entity must be able to duplicate itself, and that occasionally the duplicate will be slightly different from the original. It is theorized that the simplest "life" precursors were self-replicating molecules. Once a molecule had the ability to duplicate and those reproductions were occasionally different from the "parent" molecule, those "offspring" that were better suited to a particular environment would thrive. As time goes on and environments change, such molecules would continue to adapt and change and it is logical that a continued increase in complexity would occur.

Regarding mutation, Jerry says:

Most mutations are harmful aren't they? And if this is true, then how could mutation be the mechanism that was used in evolution to bring man from his earliest form to what we have today?

Most mutations are neutral, actually. However, it is true that harmful mutations probably out number beneficial mutations. Harmful mutations, though, typically result in the death of an organism outright, thus culling that mutation from the population. Beneficial mutations, on the other hand, result in increased fitness of an organism and that organism will likely reproduce better than its neighbors, increasing the number of organisms with that mutation in the next generation. Thus, an occasional beneficial mutation over time is sufficient to result in the evolution of new characteristics.

Regarding the evolution of conscience, I first attempted to point out that humans experience degrees of conscience. Jerry disagrees, arguing that a conscience is always fully present in humans, but that some merely chose to ignore it.

I think what this discussion is lacking is a definition of conscience. The conscience seems to be the ability to distinguish correct behavior in one's self from incorrect behavior. The behavior itself need not be part of the definition of conscience. For example, a Jew may feel guilty eating pork, while others would not have a problem with it. For some Christians, drinking alcoholic beverages is incorrect behavior, while for others, an occasional imbibing is well within accepted standards of behavior. Thus, a conscience is solely the ability to learn that a behavior is "good" and the converse of it is "bad".

Under this definition, it is not hard to see that many animals exhibit a form of conscience. For example, the following sign-language dialog is recorded in "Lucy: Growing up Human" between Lucy, the chimpanzee, and her trainer Roger Fauts after Roger observes an "accident" in the middle of the living room floor.

Roger: "What's that?"
Lucy: "Lucy not know."
Roger: "You do know. What's that?"
Lucy: "Dirty, dirty."
Roger: "Whose dirty, dirty?"
Lucy: "Sue's."
Roger: "It's not Sue's. Whose is it?"
Lucy: "Roger's!"
Roger: "No! It's not Roger's. Whose is it?"
Lucy: "Lucy dirty, dirty. Sorry Lucy."

Defecating on the floor is incorrect behavior and Lucy knows it. But like a human, she first pretends to be ignorant, then she lies and blames someone else, and finally in contrition admits to the deed.

Conscience emerges with intelligence because recognition of behavior and association between it and favorable or non-favorable outcomes are required. As increased intelligence evolved in primate ancestors, the ability to distinguish behavior gradually emerged, and with it the conscience.

Jerry writes:

"Evolutionist Michael Denton wrote concerning Darwin: 'His general theory that all life on earth had originated and evolved by a gradual successive accumulation of fortuitous mutations, is still, as it was in Darwin's time, a highly speculative hypothesis entirely without direct factual support and very far from that self-evident axiom some of its more aggressive advocates would have us believe' (1985, p.77)"
(Creation Compromises, pp. 31,32).

I can only respond that the vast majority of evolutionists disagree with Michael Denton. A critique of some of the problems in Denton's book can be found at

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/denton.html

Jerry writes:

You said: "Both of these species are also recognized as ancestral to modern man...". I was informing you that you were bordering on the idea that if one does not recognize them as forerunners of man, then that person is not a rational person. I can be a rational person and still not recognize erectus or habilis as being ancestral to modern man, can't I?

Long before I would conclude that someone is irrational, I would suspect them of being misled or ignorant of the full scope of evidence.

In response to Jerry's listing of the complexity of the human respiratory system, I wrote:

"The complexity of a system is not itself an argument that rules out natural processes."

I raised the example of the weather system as a complex system that is the result of natural processes. Jerry seems to object because the weather system isn't like the respiratory system. I agree with that, but what I'd really like to know is whether or not he agrees with the statement I made above. Is complexity of a system enough to conclude that it was designed by God? If so, how complex? How does one define or measure complexity such that one degree most be the result of intelligent design and another, lesser degree, is the result of natural processes?

Continuing with our discussion of the respiratory system, Jerry writes:

He tells us that the first lung "probably resulted from a mutation that produced an outpouching from the alimentary (food tube) wall in some kind of fish." Probably resulted from this? Is there any proof for it?

I need to remind Jerry that proof is not required in this argument. I am trying to show that God is not necessary to explain the respiratory system and to do that I need only show how the respiratory system *could* originate through natural means. The outpouching theory is quite reasonable without evidence that it could not occur.

Jerry continues:

Would you please show us how mutation could be responsible for this lung? Was this lung just an accident that might very well have been some sort of fin that would not have helped this fish at all? What happened before this lung came into existence? How did the oxygen-to-blood transfer work before the lung? When did it become fully operational?

I believe I answered these questions in my first rebuttal. The earliest lung was likely nothing more than a simple bladder-like structure. It did not need to function anywhere near as well as modern lungs function because the fish could rely on its gills for most of its oxygen needs.

No special mechanism is needed to allow oxygen to diffuse into blood. It happens whenever it is in close proximity to blood vessels within the walls of any body cavity. In fact, modern fish can obtain some oxygen from the air by gulping it into the stomach.

This bladder was always "fully operational", it merely improved in efficiency over time.

Jerry writes:

He says that "(i)f increased dependency on air-breathing was advantageous, it is expected that primitive lungs would increase in efficiency." Why? You are trying to put thought in evolution which cannot be, because evolution is simply pure chance.

I am describing natural selection which is not a random process. It works this way. A mutation that increases the efficiency of the primitive lung would allow an organism to survive in an air environment. Surviving in an air environment likely gave the organism access to new food sources (there were no other air-breathing vertebrates on land to compete with). It opened a niche. As mutations continued to occur, those that increased the efficiency of the lung would allow the organism to stray further from the water with even more possibility of food sources.

Jerry writes:

"Purely by chance, some varieties prove to be ill adapted to their current environment and thus disappear, whereas others prove to be adaptive, and their numbers increase" (Evolution by Peter Volpe, Grolier Electronic Publishers, 1992).

This is natural selection in action. Those organisms better adapted to air-breathing environments through random mutations would increase and proliferate.

Jerry writes:

If you are going to say that primitive lungs increased because it was advantageous you are going to have to show that there was some thought behind it. Otherwise there would have been no way for the correction to have been made.

There is no thought behind it, only the fact that organisms better suited to an environment will thrive. Suppose in a cold environment you observe creatures with long hair. You could postulate an intelligent designer that gave these creatures long hair so they could keep warm. However, another more likely scenario is that these creatures originated from a warm climate, and those that had mutations that resulted in longer hair were able to migrate to and survive in colder climates. The latter requires only random mutation and natural selection. No thought.

Jerry writes:

Your thoughts about mutations producing folds and wrinkles for use in the respiratory system is false. Most mutations are harmful. If most are harmful then how did the species survive until the, few, advantageous mutations (which were necessary for the survival of the species) came along?

As I explained in previous rebuttals, the organism had no problem surviving because it had gills. Mutations are not necessary for survival. They are, however, needed if organisms are going to expand into a new environment. If a mutation that allows a fish to survive in oxygen poor waters occurs, suddenly a whole new area of feeding grounds opens up. If a mutation increases that efficiency to the point of allowing the fish to leave the water for short periods of time (like the lung fish), even more food sources become available. Food sources means the fish will thrive and reproduce many more of itself having the same mutation.

Response to The Argument for the Bible being of Divine Origin

Jerry's argument seems to be that because Paul stated that he was absolutely certain (_gnoridzo_) that the gospel was from God, we must also accept that the gospel is from God. In other words, any time someone expresses certainty on a topic, we must believe them. (Jerry, is this a fair summary? Reading it again, I feel I must be missing something.)

I quoted a Heaven's Gate member who said:

Why I Want To Leave at This Time

...
The main reason is that I know who Ti & Do are. They are members of the Kingdom of Heaven and I know it

http://levelabovehuman.org/exitchk.htm [emphasis mine]

Jerry responds:

Tedd should know, if he doesn't already, that the English word "know" can be used in a variety of ways and that one of the synonyms of the English word know is "think" (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, p.633). This dictionary says of the words "KNOW, BELIEVE, THINK shared meaning element: to hold something in one's mind as true or as being what it purports to be. These words are often used interchangeably with little thought of their basic signification..." (Ibid).

...
There are different words for "know" in the Greek and some even mean "to think," but Paul did not use those words, he used a word which would show that he was telling the truth; there could be no doubt.

Jerry, did you know that this Heaven's Gate member made the above statement just before comitting suicide? Why would he be willing to die for something he wasn't sure of? Clearly, he used the word "know" with connotations of absolute certainty!

"The Bible is Authoritative" argument

I asked for clarification of this argument. Is it that (a) the Bible is the authority on how man should live, or that (b) the Bible states that it is the authority on how man should live?

Jerry responds:

It is the authority by which man should live and it states that it is the authority by which man should live.

...
If it is of divine authorship, it will be true.

In other words, if the Bible is of divine authorship, then the Bible is authoritative. I'm willing to agree to that.

"The Bible Is All Sufficient" argument

If the Bible is of divine authorship, then the Bible is all-sufficient. I'm also willing to agree to that. I want to stress again though that I do not agree that the Bible is of divine authorship. I consider both of these arguments akin to "if pigs could fly, we'd all wear umbrellas", no disrespect intended.


CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.


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