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


Response To McDonald's Fourth Defense
Tedd Hadley

I apologize first for the extremely lengthy delay in this response. I've changed jobs and the new one is quite a bit more time-consuming than the old one at the moment. For those wondering what this is all about, previous exchanges appear on http://www.bible-infonet.org/challenge/Topics/Debates/McDonald_Hadley_Aug1997/

Continuing with our discussion of the existence of God, Jerry asks me to clarify my statement "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."

With this statement I am recognizing that many different interpretations of the God of the Christian Bible exist, perhaps as many as there are Christian denominations. With some of these I do not find as strong disagreement as with others. For example, there are many Christian denominations that believe that much of the Old Testament reflects a primitive and inaccurate understanding of God.

Jerry then asks three questions; what makes me think that there is a God at all? Where do I get information regarding the attributes of this God? Why couldn't it be that the God of the Bible is the one, true and living God?

As I mentioned in my response to Jerry's third defense I have long felt that something like a god might exist, 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). I do not claim with any certainty information regarding the attributes of this God. I would like to think that he or she is personal, benevolent to human beings, and has much to teach us, but this may be nothing more than a reflection of my personal preference.

In response to the last question, I feel that the God of the Bible as interpreted literally within the framework of Christian fundamentalism is mostly a construct of human beings. The Bible seems to present an inconsistent, contradictory and indicative picture of God that is most easily reconciled with the tendency for humans to create gods in their own image.

Evolution

Regarding theistic evolution, Jerry observes that we are misusing the term. Theistic evolution says that there is a God, but God allowed all life to come into existence by purely natural forces; he didn't interfere with it at all.

That's fine. From my reading of creationist literature there are varieties of theistic evolution and some require more interference by God than others, but perhaps a better term to define the concept of God bridging the gaps between extreme morphological changes in the fossil record is "special creation".

Jerry writes:
... the theistic evolutionist agrees with Tedd on evolution so he will defend him regardless of how absurd the position is.

No. In contrast to young-earth creationism, the theistic evolutionist understands and addresses the majority of the body of evidence in favor of evolution. Thus, his position automatically commands more respect from me, regardless of his ultimate conclusions.

Jerry continues:
Tedd's defense of the theistic evolutionist is irrational and illogical. If it is logical that entirely natural forces are responsible for life on this planet, then there is no need of a creator.

No. I am not defending theistic evolution (or more precisely special creation) for approximately the reason you cite here. I am simply comparing it to young-earth creationism and observing that the former is superior because it addresses more evidence. If I were to compare young-earth creationism to "flat-earthism" I would make the same observation: YEC is superior to flat-earthism because it addresses more evidence.

Jerry summarizes:
Since evolution and creation are in total opposition to each other anyone who holds to both of them is inconsistent ...

This is not true for reasons I have already stated. One may hold that a hypothetical God designed the laws of the universe to result in human life, much the way the same god designed the laws of physics to result in something as complex and beautiful as a snowflake. There is nothing inconsistent with this viewpoint, although it contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis.

Continuing with our discussion of the time needed for evolution, I asked Jerry why 4 billion years isn't enough time for evolution to occur. Jerry describes a theory of the origin of the universe and concludes: It took at least 15 billion years for the universe to come into existence as well as the planet earth on which no life existed. Now, sometime during the last 4.5 to 5 billion years life, on this plan et, came into existence from lifelessness. Mr. Hadley seems to think 4 billion years is enough to bring life from lifelessness.

This is not quite accurate. I asked why 4 billion years was not enough time for evolution to occur. I did not assert that 4 billion years was enough time, because obviously no one knows with certainty the mechanisms involved. However, from the evidence we observe today, the best explanation is that life did arise in 4 billion years from natural causes. What I would like to know is exactly what postulated mechanism or method is impossible given the time constraints involved.

Jerry continues with questions regarding abiogenesis scenarios.
According to some evolutionists early life came about as a result of amino acids (proteins) and Nucleic acids getting together with organic phosphorous compounds in some shallow water and starting life. Let me ask a question here? Would it be possible, today, to mix these same contents in a shallow tank of water and have life come into existence?

Once the various steps and mechanisms have been worked out, it might be possible to duplicate them in one long chain of events; however, there's no guarantee that this will be possible. For example, we might know exactly what causes a hurricane or an earthquake or a volcano but not be able to duplicate these events due to obvious constraints.

Jerry writes:
However, did evolution know just how much of these chemicals it would take to start life?

Evolution does not "know" anything, it is a process that results from the workings of natural law. One might as well ask how lightning "knows" to strike the highest point, or how water "knows" to flow downhill.

Jerry continues:
How long would it take evolution to get it right? How long would it take evolution to get all these chemicals in the right puddle of water at just the right time, in just the right environment, in just the right spot, so that they could all get together and form the first life on this earth?

A few billion years, perhaps? Given the proper quantities and conditions, perhaps only a few million years would be required. We can only speculate without knowing more about the earliest life forms.

Jerry concludes:
That's why I say that it would take more than 4 billion years to do it. One has to make a lot of presumptions and assumptions in order to get evolution working right.

These "presumptions and assumptions" are simply an attempt to understand the conditions of the earth 4 billion years ago. Life itself has eradicated all traces of early life precursors and this means scientists must work almost completely from theory rather than hard evidence. However, research continues to demonstrate that the problem is not insurmountable and without a knowledge of the specific probabilities involved, asserting that 4 billion years is not enough time is unconvincing. It would be far more useful if you would present an argument that definitively demonstrates the impossibility of some the thousands of hypothesized steps that must occur if abiogenesis actually took place. *Then and only then*, will scientists look elsewhere for an explanation.

Jerry responds to my definition of life made in passing:
"the only requirement for life is 1) reproduction 2) with errors (mutation)." Thus implying that the virus is alive, it is a living entity. Hmmm...does this mean that it is morally wrong for us to try and kill virus' out?

Moral issues are independent of the definition of life. Some religions teach that is morally wrong to kill animals. Some don't.

Jerry concludes
I don't think you have a very precise definition of life...try again.

But please demonstrate that there is something factually or logically incorrect with my definition. Morality of killing life has nothing to do with the definition of life. I see nothing wrong with my definition of life.

Jerry continues with abiogenesis;
What caused the amino acids and nucleic acids to start life? As I asked earlier, if you put those compounds in just the right environment and in just the right proportions, would it cause life today? If so, then why isn't it being done?

It is unlikely to cause life today given that if life did form spontaneously, it took billions of years to do so. We don't have a billion years to wait so we must attempt shortcuts, which is in fact what is being done. Many of the various steps postulated to lead to life are themselves being duplicated in the lab today. Someday, we hope to put all these steps together and produce life. However, the field of abiogenesis research is still in its infancy.

Jerry summarizes:
[If life can not be demonstrated in the lab], then all he has is theory, no proof.

Of course! There is no definitive proof that life formed spontaneously from non-life. Science does not provide proof, it
provides explanations that best account for the evidence. And there is good evidence that suggests that abiogenesis did occur. There are plausible scenarios for the way it happened. There is no conclusive evidence that abiogenesis could not happen. Therefore, there is no need to invoke an intelligent designer at this point.

Jerry responds to a critique of Michael Denton's book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/denton.html :
The article that he refers to was written by a 3rd year grad student at the University of Illinois named Mark Vuletic, born in 1974. Michael Denton is a molecular biologist who has his Ph.D in this field.

If you'd like, I can locate negative reviews written by leading evolutionists, such as Mark Ridley and Niles Eldredge.

In the following paragraphs, Jerry addresses the evidence for macro-evolution. However, the problem with his approach is that in each case he asserts that God could also be responsible for each line of evidence. This is true. An all-powerful God can do anything at all and making it look to some like evolution occurred is well within his powers. However, I need to remind Jerry again that I am not asserting or arguing that God did not do so, I am arguing that it is not necessary to invoke supernatural action to explain life. Therefore, I will limit my comments specifically to any misunderstandings Jerry has of those lines of evolutionary evidence. What can be concluded from a proper understanding of the evidence, I feel, is that evolution is very likely to have occurred.

Regarding mutation, Jerry writes:
[Tedd] informs us that I am wrong about most mutations being harmful. Well I quoted one of his own people...

You quoted Michael Denton but nowhere did he say that most mutations were harmful. As I said -and all textbooks on evolution agree with me on this point- most mutations are neutral.

Jerry addresses the evidence for macroevolution:
A. The gradation of organisms in systematics. This, I assume, is talking about organisms forming successive stages.

Not quite. This refers to the fact that traits of biological entities fall into a nested pattern. Organisms can be grouped by common characteristics into species, genuses, families and so on. Traits are not mixed and matched, as would be expected from a non-evolutionary explanation. For example, flowers are only seen in plants that carry several other characteristics that distinguish them as angiosperms. That vast majority of creatures that are warm-blooded and have hair share common bone-structures and organs. Evolution says that this is evidence of common descent and this correlates with other lines of evidence including genetic comparison studies and the fossil record.

Jerry continues:
B. The Biogeographical distribution of species... This has to do with natural selection and adaptation. You see evolutionists teach that different species are selected to live and even to live in different parts of the world and that they adapt (purely by chance) to that environment.

Not quite. Closely related organisms are usually found in close geographic proximity. If all organisms descended from a common ancestor, species distribution across the planet would be a function of the site where the species evolved, how easy or difficult it is for that species to spread out (for example, facilitated by land bridges or obstructed by water barriers), how far a suitable habitat for that species extends, and the amount of time that has passed. Thus, for example, we would expect that the fauna of Australia would differ markedly from that anywhere else because of the geographic isolation of Australia, even though Australia's environment is well suited for other types of animals found in other parts of the world. These predictions are amply born out.

Jerry writes:
There are differences between man and animals, but the evolutionist says that these differences don't mean that we had different ancestors, so why say that similar structures mean that we have the same ancestors?

Common ancestry is determined by comparing the number of similar structures compared to the number of differing structures. Comparing an ape and a man, we find much fewer differences and much more similarities than between a man and a horse. However, the similarities between the structures of a horse and man far outnumber the similarities between either horses and man and a turtle. Therefore, we conclude that a horse and man are more closely related that a horse and a turtle or a man and a turtle.

Jerry writes on vestigial organs:
A structure is not vestigial if we have ever used it... Well, if we have evolved that far why haven't these structures evolved out of us. Why is that every human has them, still? The truth is that our organs are important to carry out some function at some time during our life.

Vestigial does not mean that the structure is not used. For indeed, if it wasn't used for something, evolution would predict that it would disappear. Instead, the term refers to features that have clearly lost a prior function. For example, snakes with hind legs and whales with hip bones.

Jerry writes
D. Then there is the presence of transitional forms and gradual sequences in the fossil record. The fossil record really does a lot of damage to macroevolution.

This couldn't be farther from the truth. The fossil record provides powerful evidence for macroevolution. Take for example the transitions between early reptiles to early mammals. Each group is clearly related to both the group that came before, and the group that came after, and yet the sequence is so long that the fossils at the end are astoundingly different from those at the beginning. There is a wealth of transitional series in the fossil record. See
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

Jerry writes:
They are still hunting the missing link between human and non-human.

A considerable number of transitions have been found between an ape-like ancestor and modern man. Some eleven different species have been identified among literally thousands of hominid fossils. More information can be found at
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/fossil-hominids.html

Jerry continues:
O...they say that the changes were so gradual that you can't find the exact being when it stopped being a non-human and started being a human ... but this is just a smoke-screen to hide their inability to find the missing link between human and non-human.

What missing link is that? How would we know it if we found it? Are you certain we haven't already found it? What about _Homo habilis_ who made tools and might have been capable of speech?

Jerry continues:
the fossil record, if it really upholds evolution, should be able to pin point the exact time when the thing that was fully non-human evolved into something that was partially human

This is false. Preservation of any given organism is statistically unlikely to happen. That vast majority of organisms that die leave no trace. How many animals that die today leave fossils?

Jerry returns to mutation:
As was stated earlier Tedd defined "mutation" as "error." Error is not a good thing, or at least I have always been taught such.

In the case of mutation, the majority of errors do not cause a harmful result because DNA sequences can change quite a bit but still code for the same protein.

Jerry continues
Only a small portion of these mutations are beneficial, according to Tedd,

I want to interject that this is not only "according to me", but according to anyone familiar with evolutionary theory and genetics. This is common knowledge. If you reject this bit of common knowledge, I can only ask that you familiarize yourself with the vast amount of information out there, I really don't have the time to spoon-feed it to you.

Jerry continues
So what was my eye supposed to have been? If it was caused by a mutation then that mutation (since Tedd has defined mutations as errors) was a failure to achieve what should have been.

It is obvious to anyone with the most basic understanding of genetics that mutations are errors in the duplication of DNA. Why do I have to defend this point?

Mutation introduces variety that is than culled by natural selection. If by chance a mutation results in increased fitness of an organism, that organism will thrive. Thus, mutation, a random event, can produce an increase in fitness. The evolution of the eye is no exception. Mutations that produce better vision in certain environments will likely be selected for. The complex mammalian eye didn't form from nothing, it formed from simpler precursors, and we have abundant examples of simpler eyes in organisms existing today, all the way to very primitive light sensing spots on single celled organisms.

Jerry continues
Everything that a mutation has ever supposedly done (according to Tedd) was a mistake and what should have taken place did not take place because of an error (a mutation) which departed from the right path. So we are here because of mistakes in nature.

I strongly recommand any introductory textbook on evolution. Nothing that I have said here on mutations is "according to Tedd", it has been well known for decades. A good textbook is "Evolution" by Mark Ridley.

Evolution of the Conscience

Our next topic I believe was the evolution of conscience, but I'm afraid I've lost track of exactly what we were discussing. I've attempted to show that animals appear to possess a conscience, while you are arguing that animals appear to react instinctively through avoidance of pain or what have you. Essentially I am arguing that based on the similarity of behaviors in the animal kingdom to human behavior, it is reasonable to assume that our more complex behavior evolved. You, I believe, are arguing that it might not.

Jerry writes:
This is supposed to convince us that animals have consciences and can make moral decisions.

No, I am pointing out the similarity between animal behavior and human behavior. In response to your assertion that the human conscience could not have evolved, I have demonstrated that animals can show a form of behavior that is remarkably similar to the human conscience. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that our behavior could have evolved from simpler behavioral patterns. I am not certain that you are responding to that argument.

Jerry continues:
The Jew feels guilty about eating meats because he has learned that God taught that those under the law of Moses were forbidden certain meats. The Christian feels guilty about drinking because the Bible forbids it. Some Christians have ignored their conscience for so long that "they have been seared over with a hot iron" (1 Tim. 4:2). However, this does not mean that our consciences are nothing more than learned responses. We know what is wrong and we know why it is wrong. We know why certain actions are wrong, we are not simply responding to training.

Where is the evidence for your last three assertions in this paragraph? Is it only the Bible?

Can a person rationally reject evolution? I wrote:
Long before I would conclude that someone is irrational, I would suspect them of being misled or ignorant of the full scope of evidence.

Jerry responds:
Tedd do you not think that I am misled and ignorant of the full scope of evidence? Do you think that I am irrational?

I believe you are misled and ignorant of the full scope of the evidence, but if you read what I wrote above, you must conclude that I do not think you are irrational.

Evolution of the human respiratory system

Continuing to some of our discussion on the complexities of the human respiratory system, Jerry writes:
Tedd wants to know if I think that the complexity of a system is not itself an argument that rules out natural processes. With the way he is defining natural processes, my answer is "yes."

What other definition of natural processes is there?

I raised the example of weather system as a complex system resulting entirely from natural processes. Jerry responds:
However, the respiratory system is not even a second cousin to the thunderstorm. As I pointed out (and if Tedd had read my objection, he would have known this) the respiratory system is precisely complex system that must operate exactly the same way all the time, and the weather system is not such a system. The weather system does not require such preciseness in order to operate properly while the respiratory system does.

All you're saying is that the respiratory system is more complex than the weather system. So why would you agree that the complexity of a system is not itself an argument that rules out natural processes? How complex must a system be before it must have a supernatural explanation?

Continuing to the description of a possible origin of the human lung, I said:
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.

Jerry's response:
That's convenient isn't it? Let's just show how this could have happened and it will nullify God's existence as being essential.

Not quite. Showing how something could happen with a plausible scenario of natural processes shows that God is not required for that to happen. For example, showing how lightening bolts form makes it unnecessary to invoke God as an explanation for them.

Jerry continues:
So if I can show how the respiratory system could have been created by God this nullifies evolution, right?

Because God can effectively override any law of nature, does that mean that all of science is nullified? Because God can cause an object to fall to the ground does that mean gravity is nullified? Of course not. Please think about the implications of such statements before you make them.

Jerry continues
If you are going to make an assertion here, I have every right to ask you for proof. In a debate such as this it isn't enough to simply say that this could have happened, you have to be able to give proof that it could have happened.

No, I do not have to give proof. I am simply pointing out the logical, plainly obvious point that if natural processes can explain a phenomenon, then a supernatural explanation is not required. When heat is applied to water, the natural result is that the water turns to steam. No one claims that God is actively causing the water to boil. How can we possibly get this far into a debate without this point being obvious?

Jerry continues:
All [Tedd] is obligated to do is to show how it could have been done naturally and this (I suppose) necessarily rules out God. In other words, let me show you how it could have happened and then you jettison your belief in God. Sorry it doesn't work that way. We want to see proof that this could have been done and that it was done before we forget about our devotion to God.

I am astonished that this simple point is being rejected. Why do you believe that earthquakes are caused by faults in the earth's crust and not by God's hand? When the sun rises every morning, why do you assume that it is the result of the earth orbiting and not the hand of God moving the sun around the earth? When you catch a cold, why do you believe it is due to an invisible virus and not due to a supernatural curse? In the same way, as our understanding of the earth and life increases, we discover that it is not necessary to invoke God as an explanation for anything (or so has been the trend).

Jerry asks more questions about the primitive lung:
Where did this bladder come from?

As I've explained already, it was a mutation that likely produced an outpouching from the alimentary wall in some kind of fish. If this is not the answer you want to hear, please phrase your question differently.

Jerry continues:
Was it just a mutation which by chance came into being rather than a fin? I understand that fish have a different system than we do, but you are saying that this bladder was the beginning of our (man's) respiratory system.

Quite likely yes, to both questions.

Jerry continues:
I want to know if mutation was responsible for this bladder like lung. I want to know what happened before this lung came into existence. I want to know how the oxygen-to-blood transfer worked before the lung.

I have answered these questions already. 1) Yes. 2) Please see my explanations of the primitive bladder in previous responses. 3) 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 get obtain some oxygen from the air by gulping it into the stomach.

I am repeating myself, yet you ask the same questions in the same form each time. What exactly are you asking?

Jerry continues:
I asked the question when it became fully functional and his response is: "This bladder was always 'fully functional', it merely improved in efficiency over time." So, in other words this bladder didn't evolve, it was there and fully functional when the fish evolved into a fish, right?

No, I didn't say the bladder didn't evolve, I said there was always some structure that was functioning but in more primitive form. At the beginning there may have been a simple pouch that allowed more surface area for oxygen to diffuse into the blood stream. This pouch was not _required_ for the organism to survive, but allowed it to thrive in oxygen-poor waters. Over time, this structure continued to evolve in complexity and efficiency until it reached the form of the lung we have today.

On natural selection, Jerry writes (Volpe quote included from previous response):
"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). Thus the conclusion that natural selection is purely by chance or random. What in the world are we talking about then? If what Volpe describes is natural selection and if Volpe says it is purely by chance, then natural selection is purely by chance or random.

What is not chance is the fact that ill adapted varieties disappear and adaptive varieties increase. Mutation is entirely chance, but the _result_ of mutation, natural selection, is not chance. A mutation that makes an organism more fit, means that organism will very likely thrive -- there is nothing random about that conclusion.

Jerry gives an analogy:
If I come to an intersection and I have no thoughts as to which way I would like to go; I have no purpose at any destination and I throw a coin up in the air and "heads" I go left and "tails" I go right and the coin lands on "tails" and I go right, wasn't that random chance?

Yes, but suppose going right led to a grove of fruit trees and going left led to a barren desert? Mutation is the flip of the coin but natural selection means that some organisms will die in the desert and others will flourish in the orchard.

I posed a scenario to explain the appearance of thought behind random mutation in populations: 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.

Jerry asks:
but how did those organisms which did expand into a new environment survive until the few advantageous mutations came along?

In my scenario, the environment was warm and these creatures did not require mutations. However, when mutations occurred that gave longer hair, those that have the mutation for longer hair are able to survive in colder climates. Mutations are not required for the original population to survive, they do just fine in warm climates. But *if* a mutation occurs that allows an organism to conserve heat better, that organism could expand to colder climates. Thus the end result is that we see a population with long hair well-adapted to a colder environment resulting entirely from the thoughtless process of mutation and natural selection.

The argument for the Bible being of divine origin

We now move on the to argument for the Bible's divine origin posed initially by Jerry.

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.)

Jerry continues:
Paul didn't just think it, he knew it. And if he says knew it (gnoridzo) then he was lying if he did not know it, and if he did know it then he was telling the truth. The word that Paul used, left no room for "I think." There were words he could use which would give that connotation, but he did not use them. He used the word gnoridzo and if he used that word he was either telling a lie or telling the truth.

As far as I can tell this is a false dichotomy. Between knowingly telling a lie and telling the truth there is obviously delusion.

I don't understand how Jerry can believe that if someone claims that he knows (gnoridzo) something, it must be true! What about delusion? What about insanity? (We ruled out lying initially, by the way, since I believe Paul was mostly sincere.) If we go into the local mental ward we'll find all kinds of people that KNOW (gnoridzo) that the government is out to get them. Does Jerry then agree? If the patient in 3b insists he really is Napoleon, is Jerry immediately convinced this man is the emperor of France? I'm sorry, I can not take this argument seriously as it stands.

The argument fails to cast doubt on the simple conclusion that the Bible was written by sincere, generally truthful men who were deluded.

Further affirmative arguments

This continues with the "primary" focus of the debate, Jerry's proposition that "The Bible is verbally and fully inspired by Jehovah God and is completely inerrant."

Element Number Four: "The Argument For The Canon Of The Bible"

Jerry writes:
Major Premise: If the Old Testament Canon that we have today in versions such as the KJV and the ASV is the same Canon that Jesus used, then we have the correct Old Testament Canon. Minor Premise: The Old Testament Canon that we have today in versions such as the KJV and the ASV is the same Canon that Jesus used. Conclusion: Therefore we have the correct Old Testament Canon

I don't have any strict objections to the conclusion that the the Old Testament we have today is not much different from the OT used by Jesus. However, that conclusion is not that interesting I feel unless the previous point that the Bible is of divine origin can be adequately defended.


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


Challenge
123 Hull Drive
Waynesville, MO 65583

Home Page