Monday, July 07, 2014

A "...allow me to destroy evolution in 3 minutes" response from theScience Community

There has been this video that I have seen circulating through Facebook recently entitled "Dear Mr Atheist allow me to destroy evolution in 3 minutes!". I post the video here, not to give this person credibility, but so that people can understand what I am about to comment upon:

Upon my first viewing of this video I had to turn it off in about 1.5 minutes due to the shear stupidity of the ranter. Normally my response to such things would be "What are you, a moron?" and leave it at that. However I have been called out by one of my Creationist friends (yes I have at least one of those) that I need to discuss the points brought up by Creationists as valid points (not citing this video, just in general). I know I am frequently not patient enough to do this, however I do have a friend who is, Abel G. Peña, who responded to this video of which a mutual friend had posted on Facebook. Abel is a published author and a philosopher of science who is far more eloquent than I ever could be, so I will repost his response, with his permission, to the video:


This gentleman speaks with great passion concerning his faith in God, with which I sympathize. He also asks good questions that many average people have who are not familiar with how science works. It's only unfortunate that he takes those questions as evidence for the "stupidity" of scientists and science only because he hasn't taken the time to research some of these concepts in greater depth. As a result, he is quite confused. Here are some common but important misunderstandings by this gentleman:

1) Evolution is *not* the idea of one man: Charles Darwin is most often credited with the formulation of evolution, but the idea was already circulating in the scientific community at the time of his work. (For instance, Alfred Russel Wallace came up with the idea of evolution by means of natural selection independently from Darwin at around the same time, and the friar Gregor Mendel is famous for discovering the mechanism of genetic inheritance, which is integral to evolution.) More importantly, many, many biologists that have come after Darwin, Wallace and Mendel have corroborated evolution through very careful research over 150 years.

2) Evolution is *not* a “theory” in the popular sense: This is one that people often get confused about. It’s understandable because words have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used and spoken. If the weather is chilly, and I say, “It’s cool out here,” while rubbing my arms for warmth, the meaning of “cool” I am using is in reference to temperature. But if I go to a club with bumping music in Ibiza, and I am sweaty from grooving on the dance floor, and turn to my fellow partier and say, “It’s cool out here!” what I mean by “cool” is now something completely different: that this foreign environment we are visiting is exciting and interesting. But if my fellow partier is a native-Spanish speaker rather than a native-English speaker, he might think I was insane for suggesting the temperature is chilly in a stuffy club.

This variation of meaning applies to the word “theory,” as well. The way the word “theory” is used in everyday speech is that a theory is like a fancy idea—maybe it is interesting or seems to have far-reaching consequences if true, but it is by nature questionable, which is why we aren't calling it a “fact.” But that is not how the word is used in the scientific community. (In fact, the word in science very close to the way we use “theory” in everyday speech is called a “hypothesis.”) In the context of science, the word “theory” instead means an idea that is both well-tested and well-substantiated: that is, it has not proven false in those tests, and is thus considered very likely true, especially when tested over a period of 150 years. It’s very natural to ask, “Why don’t scientists just say it’s true, then?” And that’s because it’s technically very difficult for something to be proven 100% true, and why science gives values of truth in terms of probability. We can ask the question, “Do we actually exist?” and I think most scientists would say we very, very probably do exist, but it’s technically true that our existence is not 100% certain. In Buddhism, for example, the concept of “emptiness” denies the reality of the self—that “I” exist.

This concept of belief expressed in probabilities is also directly relevant in reference to atheism: when an atheist says, “I don’t believe in God,” that person is not necessarily saying, “I 100% don’t believe in God.” Instead, what they are often expressing is shorthand for actually meaning: “I believe that God is highly unlikely to exist,” and they feel comfortable stopping their inquiry at that point until some significant piece of evidence (probably based on physics) is presented.

3) Mr. Feuerstein does not understand the second law of thermodynamics: This law of physics, often referred to as the law of entropy, basically states that all things in a closed system will generally devolve toward chaos. But when you oversimplify the law, as this gentleman has done, it ends up sounding like, “Things always become more chaotic” (an idea which seems to contradict the theory of evolution because, likewise, evolution itself is often oversimplified as meaning, “Everything becomes more orderly”). However, an important component that is left out of the second law of thermodynamics in this oversimplification is that the law applies to a “closed system.” This means an environment in which nothing can get in and nothing can get out, sort of like a box. But the process of evolution through natural selection actually needs to interact with the rest of the world to work: that is, the kind of process described by the theory of evolution does *not* take place in a closed system, and thus, the second law of thermodynamics does not contradict evolution. (And, actually, the second law of thermodynamics doesn't say that all things move toward chaos in a closed system, but only that they *statistically* tend to. This is another common misunderstanding of the law. With enough time—such as infinity—the law also predicts that inevitably all things in that closed system will move toward order.)

 I am not sure which religion Mr. Feuerstein professes faith to but, based on his arguments, I am going to guess it is some form of Christianity. That said, not all forms of Christianity believe the same thing. For instance, Catholicism—generally considered a very conservative form of Christianity—has absolutely no quarrel with evolution. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared (in an encyclical called Humani Generis) that the teachings of the Church and evolution were not in conflict, stating that the only thing the Church insisted on was belief that God was the one responsible for placing souls in human beings, whatever the specific process by which men and women came to exist. Then, almost 50 years later in the mid-1990s, Pope John Paul II went further and praised evolution, saying:

"Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."

This is significant because we see that it's not impossible to be both a Christian and to accept evolutionary evidence from the scientific community.

In this video, Mr. Feuerstein also seems to think that acceptance of the Big Bang theory is incompatible with religious belief or belief in God. But that also is not true. Here, again, John Paul II—generally considered a very conservative pope—actually loved the idea of the Big Bang, because he felt that it not only actually *proved* that God exists but that the theory tells us when the act of universal creation actually took place. He said:

"Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, [science] has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator. Hence, creation took place. We say: therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore, God exists!"


On a side note I would like to point out his mistaking what the word "universe" is derived from. The word universe is from:

"Uni" - meaning one (got that part right)
"versus" - The past tense of vertere, which means to turn. (, Online Etymology Dictionary)

(It drives me nuts when people don't research such simple things as the origin of words before spewing their nonsense.)

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