PROBLEMS and puzzles are solved only when you hold on to the solution. (Don’t I know — I’ve known the solution to being out-of-shape for a long time, but I just haven’t held on to it.) What follows are three examples from the human origins debate that perfectly illustrate:
Sudden Appearance and Stasis
If you solve the problem — of the fossil record’s consistent pattern of sudden appearance and stasis — with a scenario of peripheral isolates (i.e. Gould and Eldredge’s “Punctuated Equilibrium” hypothesis), then you have to hold on to peripheral isolates: It has to be the scenario you’re talking about, and advancing, and trying to reconcile with all the other evidence in other areas that touch on the subject of evolution.
Today, when we teach freshman biology students about Darwinian evolution, and teach them that it is the correct, scientifically verified explanation of life’s adaptations, are we teaching them that evolution occurs almost exclusively within small groups of peripheral isolates?
And, what do we teach our students about evolution’s future? Do we teach them that, thanks to modern travel technologies, human evolution has effectively come to an end, since there are no peripheral isolates who we can reasonably expect to remain isolated for tens of thousands of years at a time?
Or — are we just teaching them doctrinaire Darwinian evolution, unmodified by any inconvenient patterns in the fossil record, nor any purported explanation of those patterns. The second you let go of describing evolution as occurring via peripheral isolates, you’re letting go of your solution to sudden appearance and stasis, and so the problem is back.
To the charge that evolution depends on wildly improbable mutations, the commonly proposed solution is that we don’t really know how many Earth-like planets there are in this universe, or even how many universes there are. A large enough set of Earth-like planets could render apparently improbable mutations reasonably probable.
So — are we teaching beginning bio majors that evolution depends on extremely unlikely mutations that happened to occur on this planet by extreme good luck, while not occurring on a host of other life-friendly planets?
And are we teaching our students that, in all likelihood, there will be no more evolution in our biosphere, because it is extremely unlikely that our lucky streak will continue?
For example, let’s say you picked up an apparently normal pair of dice, shook them well and rolled them, five times. And suppose they came up snake-eyes all five times, and you said, “I think these result are being manipulated.”
Then I retorted, “No, think of all the millions of dice that have existed throughout human history, and how many times they have been rolled. It’s actually not that unlikely that someone, somewhere, would get five twos in a row. And, of course, whoever that person was, they would be the person thinking their dice were being controlled.”
OK. Sounds plausible. But — if I’m serious that these dice are really ordinary, fair dice — then I’m implying that they won’t continue to roll twos. I’m implying that future rolls will come up two about once every thirty-six rolls.
Likewise, any suggestion that evolution occurred naturally despite mutational odds that go way beyond anything we would expect to occur in four billion years on an Earth-like planet — whether based on many-Earths, many-universes, or just plain, “however unlikely, it happened to happen” — is a direct implication that evolution on this planet is over. It was extremely unlikely to produce any of the complex adaptations we see on Earth (but it just happens that it did), and it’s extremely unlikely that it will produce any more.
So. Once again. Are biology students being taught this? Are any leading advocates of evolution advocating that this be taught? No? Then it hasn’t solved anything. It’s just a distraction, intended to get the problem off the stage, then go right back to teaching the subject as if the problem (and its purported solution) simply didn’t exist.
The same thing is going on in the ID movement: Is your answer — to the Darwinist claim that life couldn’t have been designed because of its myriad imperfections and even intentional malice — to point out that many things we all agree are designed, from Corvettes to concentration camps, have varying degrees of flaws and malice? Great! That, I do believe, is the correct answer.
But are you going to incorporate that into your position? Are you promoting the idea that life on Earth was designed by multiple designers, sometimes cooperating with each other, sometimes grossly disrespecting each other’s creations, sometimes creating stunning works of beauty, sometimes creating horrendously ugly kludges, sometimes creating peaceful symbiosis, and other times creating deadly predators, poisons, and parasites?
Or are you simply going to declare Darwinism defeated, then forget about the evidence and arguments that defeated it, and instead start speculating: Now who could “the designer” be? Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s the God of Christianity! Maybe He gave us moral codes and will send us to hell if we disobey them. Etc.
No. You don’t get to do anything of the kind. If you don’t hold on to the solution to dysteleology, then you didn’t solve dysteleology. And ID is defeated by dysteleology. The End.
Why is the obvious conclusion of amoral designers so universally shunned? Probably because most people feel that if we were made by such amoral creators, then all our moral codes are for naught, and civilization must crumble into mass hysteria and total destruction. Guess what? That won’t happen. We were created by amoral creators and we have moral codes that protect us from mass destructon (most of the time).
If you’re really worried about it, here’s an idea: Join the police and become a detective. Or get a degree in biochemistry and join the search for behaviorally dangerous mutations and their respective cures. In other words — do something about it. But don’t tell us we’re going to burn in hell or miss out on heaven if we engage in destructive acts. For centuries, to be sure, that crude solution was a lot better than no solution. But today it just doesn’t work.
Update 2013.04.08 — The same applies to homology-vs.-convergency: If “convergent evolution” is really the solution to the problem of striking similarities that don’t fit the evolutionary tree, then students should be taught from the get-go that similarities are not evidence of evolutionary branching, whether they fit the tree or not. (Of course, they’re being taught no such thing.)