Here’s one of the emails I get from creationists, telling me why I’m wrong in saying “Evolution is true.” (Happily, they’re becoming fewer.)
This letter, however, is polite, and about as thoughtful as is possible for a Biblical creationist to be. But it’s also riddled with flaws and misconceptions. I’ve put the email up though I’ve redacted the name of the student. The misspellings and other errors are as they appeared in the email.
I could write REAMS of responses to this email, giving evidence for common ancestry that could not be due to a designer (e.g., similar “dead” genes in similar positions, or genealogies made from neutral DNA sites that match genealogies made from visible characters). I could talk about predicted transitional forms that have later been found, radiometric dating, and so on. But I don’t have time.
So once again I’m crowdsourcing. By now most of the readers should be able to point out many of the flaws in the reasoning below. I suggest you pick one assertion and answer it rather than take on the whole email. Or address the student directly (I will send him the link and the comments within a day or two). But above all please be polite. This student, though mired in muddled argument, was polite and thoughtful, and we should be as well. There are of course answers to all of this (including the “moon dust” and “salty sea” arguments), and you could supply the person with some links.
Have at it:
My name is REDACTED. I am a current college student majoring in zoology. I hope you are well and healthy in this interesting time.
This year I read your book Why Evolution is True despite being a Christian for all my life and a young-earth creationist for as long as I have thought about the issue. This was the first full book I have read on the topic from an atheistic/evolutionist stance (though I have read chapters of Dawkin’s The God Delusion and Dawin’s Origin of Species). I am glad I picked up your book. Before I can say anything else I must acknowledge that the book is a well-written explanation of evolution and the evidence used to support it. I admit I was fairly confident in my faith before picking up your book but I’d like to say I did not have a “closed mind” necessarily. If you are willing to give me a bit of your time I would love to offer a few reasons I still do not accept atheistic humanism as an alternative to my faith in God. I will start with a couple objections to evolution and then explain why Creationism might explain some of the evidence you present. Obviously I cannot cover everything you address in your book.
First, my problem with evolution. I cannot see how natural selection and mutations are enough to explain the evolution of life. Natural selection, as I understand it, is a process of selecting the fittest of a species. I would be a fool to deny that natural selection exists or that it can significantly change/improve a species by allowing the fittest to survive and reproduce while killing off the unfit (I am ashamed that there are creationists who do). But in order to change one kind of animal into another there needs to be, as I understand it, the development of new traits. How does this happen? I do not think it can. To illustrate this problem, let’s say there is a sandcastle building competition. The judge of the competition decides that only purple sandcastles can win the contest. Of course, if the competitors can only use sand, water, and a bucket, none of the sandcastles will be purple. The selection process, then, can’t proceed because the trait being selected doesn’t exist yet. Now to apply this idea to evolution: I understand how reptiles can evolve into birds if some reptiles have feathers and wings. But at some point no reptiles had feathers or wings. How did those desirable traits develop in order to be selected? Every example of natural selection that is observed in nature involves a trait that already exists in a population. Take the famous speckled moths. They didn’t change, they simply died out while the dark moths reproduced. No new traits developed. To me, natural selection makes perfect sense. It is a brilliant theory I give Darwin and Wallace all the credit in the world for discovering. But in order for evolution to occur, the traits that are selected need to develop. How does this occur? I anticipate that the go-to response is mutations. But beneficial mutations that add a new trait are so rare in nature I am skeptical that they could explain the diversity of life even if given millions of years. Are there even mutations that we know of that give new traits to an organism that did not exist in the population in any form at all? Sometimes I feel like “mutations” has become the evolutionist’s version of the “god of the gaps” argument; they explain away evolution’s problems without offering concrete evidence. Where are the beneficial mutations? In summary, it takes too much faith for me to accept that the diversity of life can be explained by natural selection, despite the evidence (which I accept!) that natural selection is a very efficient process. Natural selection is, however, merely a sorting/selection process, not a designer.
Now, here is my explanation of some of the evidence you presented. I would happily discuss each chapter of your book, but here I will just address the evidence for convergent evolution, homology, and the fossil record. I think I can explain a lot of the evidence for evolution with this one idea. Feal free to correct me if I did not do so.
Now, people are designers. We build and create and produce. And our creations often have similar designs. Consider transportation. People have invented ways to travel across land, sea, and sky. Our vehicles of transportation vary, but they all have similar elements to them. Whether it is a plane, car, truck, boat, submarine, or helicopter, it has an engine, a steering wheel, and a way of burning fuel to produce energy. They all are made of metal and function in a way that allows humans to use them (they have seats, levers, buttons, and other controls). In other words, they share certain universal features. This does not mean all these vehicles have a common ancestor. In this case, it means that they were designed according to the conditions they are meant to exist in. They vary depending on their “habitat” but they also share similarities because they exist in the same world and perform the same function: transportation. Knowing this, one could predict that should there be a Creator behind nature, then there would similarly be a variation but also a similarity in design among creation. Like vehicles, animals inhabit the same planet and so share similar structures like a common bone design in the wing/arm/leg/flipper. But they inhabit different parts of the world and are thus designed differently (birds have wings, humans arms, horses legs, and whales flippers). I hope you can see how this could indicate that life was designed by a Creator who had both their universal biosphere and their individual, specific niches in mind.
I find that this is a consistent area in which evolutionists and creationists part was when it comes to interpreting the fossil record. Evolutionists interpret the evidence with common ancestry in mind, so if you find an extinct species with similarities of two different animal groups, you infer common ancestry, while creationists (having intelligent design in mind) infer a common habitat, or niche, that a Creator specifically designed the creature to inhabit. Both interpretations require a little faith (since we didn’t see the creature evolve/get created). Archaeopteryx, for example, was indisputably a reptile with wings. What if, instead of an extinct evolutionary branch as you proposed in your book (not an ancestor of birds but a relative), “ancient wing” is a creature designed to live on the ground but given the ability to glide to escape enemies? We see a lot of this in nature (colugos, flying squirrels, etc.). Instead of convergent evolution, could it be that like our vehicles of locomotion these creatures were designed with intentional similarities because this helps them navigate the world and to thrive better? I would love to hear your thoughts on why the evidence exclusively supports evolution and leaves no room for a designer. Thank you.
I’d like to end with a brief challenge. Every year, the moon collects slightly more dust and moves slightly farther away from earth. Every year, the oceans get slightly saltier. If the earth and moon are millions of years old, shouldn’t the moon be much larger than it is today and also way farther from the earth? And wouldn’t the oceans be more salt than water by now? Millions of years is an insanely long amount of time. How is it that we still have a moon and an ocean the way they are? I hope you don’t see this as an attack but as a genuine question about your interpretation of the evidence we see in the universe. Thanks for reading!
Once again, your book was very enlightening and left me with a lot to think about, so for that I thank you. You are a very captivating writer and speaker. Thanks for your time, and if you do not mind me saying, God bless😊