The Delusional Dawkins – a review of The Greatest Show on Earth

What would you say if I showed you a Tupperware container with nothing inside, and then argued the nothing inside would, given millions of years, create the universe and biological life? You most likely would suggest I was crazy. Yet, this type of claim about the unlimited powers of “nothing” is exactly what Richard Dawkins makes. In a discussion with Cardinal George Pell, published in a video by Living Waters,[1] Dawkins admits that thinking something can come from nothing defies common sense but yet claims nothing has to be interesting and mysterious in order to give rise to the universe – a comment that brings laughter from the audience. Pell responds that it is funny Dawkins tries to define nothing, and the audience applauds. Their reaction is for obviously good reasons. Dawkins’ intellectual blindness keeps him from acknowledging a simple truth everyone understands even to the extent that Dawkins cannot understand the reason for the audience’s laughter.

the atheist delusion

With that in mind, it’s time to turn our attention to one of Dawkins’ recent books to see how a man who can make such a claim can argue for the rest of his beliefs.

 In The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins thinks the inability to see the obvious truth of evolution is due to the philosophy of essentialism – the tendency to believe that things only fall into discrete categories and nothing falls between them.

Biology . . . is plagued by its own version of essentialism. Biological essentialism treats tapirs and rabbits, pangolins and dromedaries, as though they were triangles, rhombuses, parabolas or dodecahedrons. The rabbits that we see are wan shadows of the perfect ‘idea’ of rabbit, the ideal, essential, Platonic rabbit, hanging somewhere out in conceptual space along with all the perfect forms of geometry. Flesh-and-blood rabbits may vary, but their variations are always to be seen as flawed deviations from the idea essence of rabbit.[2]

Dawkins greatest show

 So that’s it? Isn’t it possible that people look at life and see divisions and not obvious intermediates and therefore don’t make the automatic conclusion that evolution is true? Dawkins apparently doesn’t see that people are capable of assessing the truth or untruth of evolution without being blinded by some intellectual handicap like this.

This is really no surprise as Dawkins is a convinced religious evolutionist, and one of the hallmarks, I have seen, of people who are convinced of something by their own desire to believe it see examples that confirm their beliefs everywhere where none exist. I do see this occasionally in Christians, but this tendency is present in Dawkins as well. Dawkins has clearly admitted he thinks this way. Dawkins admitted that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,[3] and Dawkins is exactly that – an atheist that is intellectually fulfilled. In his book The God Delusion, Dawkins says belief in evolution is “consciousness raising” – terminology he borrows from feminism.[4] I believe this is further evidence for his biased belief in evolution because any belief that raises one’s consciousness – makes one more intellectually enlightened than before – is a belief that one will not want to give up easily especially if it is an intellectual position one wants to hold.

Dawkins goes on to list the evidence for evolution we can observe. What is striking is that all of it can be explained via a hypothesis that animals are capable of change but only within limits (often called microevolution). I have written an essay on this evidence of only minor changes in animals in my critique of fellow evolutionist Stephen Gould (published in the Lutheran Science journal) and I’ll reproduce a portion here.

LSI article found at

http://www.lutheranscience.org/home/180015283/180015283/180153808/2017%20Journal%20Propaganda%20of%20Gould.pdf

Jonathan Wells calls peppered moths one of many “icons of evolution” that don’t demonstrate the truth of evolution at all. In the early 1950s, British physician and biologist Bernard Kettlewell performed experiments on moths to demonstrate predatory birds ate light-colored moths that rested on dark-colored polluted tree trunks. Because the dark-colored ones could not be seen as well, they would be less likely to be eaten and, supposedly, this demonstrated the power of natural selection to bring about new species. This was the best evidence available for evolution at that time, but problems with the evidence came later. Population distribution of moths suggested factors other than color and presence of birds were responsible for the survival of dark-colored moths, and evidence has accumulated that peppered moths do not normally rest on tree trunks. Following the passage of anti-pollution legislation in the 1950s, the percentage of dark-colored moths declined, and the change in the moths never went beyond a change in color.[5]

In 1973, Pete and Rosemary Grant came to the Daphne Major, one of the islands in the Galapagos that Darwin visited, to study beak size changes in Darwin’s finches and returned every year for four decades since. In 1977 a drought hit the island, and many finches died because they could not crack open large seeds. Within a few years, the finch population recovered but the average beak depth had increased from 9.2 mm to 9.7 mm. In 1982, heavy rains came to the island, and the finches with smaller beaks had the advantage because of the increase in availability of smaller seeds. In just a few generations the beak size decreased by 2.5 percent. The depth of beaks changed from 1975 to 2000, fluctuating between larger and smaller beaks, but never showing unlimited change of size.[6]

Although there have been tremendous breeding successes, a textbook on animal breeding also shows breeding limits even though there have been tremendous successes. Milk production in the Netherlands from 1945 to 2000 has continued to increase. Selective breeding of broiler hens has tripled the body weight. Laying hens, after selective breeding, lay more eggs, lay them sooner, and lay larger eggs. Because of selective breeding, racehorses have become faster before reaching a limit. A limit on the production of lighter chickens has been reached as well.[7]

However, this textbook also notes that not all breeding is good: “There are also examples where selective breeding has not only improved certain performances, but simultaneously and unintendedly also deteriorated other performances that were not under selection: the so-called negative correlated responses.” It’s noted that the problems are “structural” – meaning that increasing one part of an animal may cause failure of another part. The authors of this article give examples of this in dog breeding such as eyes that pop out of eye sockets because the skull is too small or dogs that can’t eat properly because of malformed jaws. Some dogs have been bred for larger ears with an increase in ear infections.[8] This demonstrates a fundamental flaw in any search for further evolution. A change in one part of the animal may have unforeseen negative consequences that do not provide the animal any benefit to survival.

Norman Macbeth quotes Ernst Mayr as saying animals have a resistance to change Mayr calls “genetic homeostasis.” Mayr provides an example of this. Researchers were able to decrease the bristles in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to 25 bristles, but then the line became sterile and died out. Bristle count was raised to 56 with sterility once again occurring. Macbeth suggests Mayr believes these results are normal and quotes Mayr as saying “Obviously any drastic improvement under selection must seriously deplete the store of     genetic variability. . .  The most frequent correlated response of one-sided selection is a drop in general fitness. This plagues virtually every breeding experiment.”[9]

Evolutionist Jeremy Rifkin quotes two evolutionists, Loren Eiseley and Douglas Scott Falconer, who also say there are limits to the evolutionist change nature can achieve.[10]

It would appear that careful domestic breeding, whatever it may do to improve the quality of race horses or cabbages, is not actually in itself the road to the endless biological deviation which is evolution. [Eiseley]

The improvements that have been made by selection in these [domesticated breeds] have clearly been accompanied by a reduction of fitness for life under natural conditions, and only the fact that domesticated animals and plants do not live under natural conditions has allowed these improvements to be made. [Falconer]

Michael Denton says that Darwin’s special theory is largely correct, and it is possible to explain the sequence of events that lead to new species.[11] However, not all biologists have shared Darwin’s confidence that these limited changes are unlimited. German zoologist Bernhard Rensch has provided a long list of authorities who maintain that macroevolution cannot be explained by microevolution. Denton quotes evolution Ernst Mayr as saying that “The proponents of the synthetic theory maintain that all evolution is due to the accumulation of small genetic changes, guided by natural selection, and that transpacific evolution is nothing but an extrapolation and magnification of the events that take place within populations and species.” Despite that, Mayr says, there are some evolutionists that have claimed that the origin of new “types” could not be explained by known facts.[12]

Gould seems to understand these limits. He says that “few systems are more resistant to basic change than the strongly differentiated, highly specified, complex adults of ‘higher’ animal groups.” How could you ever, for instance, convert an adult rhinoceros or a mosquito into something different, he asks. Yet, he says, transitions between major groups of animals have happened.[13] To show the vanity of such a search for transitions, Gould quotes classical scholar D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson as saying

An algebraic curve has its fundamental formula, which defines the family to which it belongs. . . . We never think of “transforming” a helicoid into an ellipsoid, or a circle into a frequency curve. So it is with the forms of animals. We cannot transform an invertebrate into a vertebrate, nor a coelenterate into a worm, by any simple and legitimate deformation. . . . Nature proceeds from one type to another. . . . To seek for steppingstones across the gaps between is to seek in vain, forever.[14]

If these comments were not enough, three years later James Gleick, writing for the New York Times, quoted Gould as saying “We’re not just evolving slowly . . . for all practical purposes we’re not evolving. There’s no reason to think we’re going to get bigger brains or smaller toes or whatever – we are what we are.”[15] Gould often departs with his Darwinist allies because of the evidence against evolution although he would never say he has falsified it.

So, notice that while Dawkins insists that people do not believe in evolution because of essentialism, Gould, a fellow evolutionist, quotes a scholar as saying that it’s obvious animals do fall into groups with no changes between them. While Gould cites facts, Dawkins cites dogma.

Dawkins seems to understand the limited change in animals when noting that rats can be bred for resistance to tooth decay, but that calcium has to come from somewhere (bones perhaps). This might lead to weaker bones. An antelope might generate longer legs which make it easier to avoid a leopard. Yet, the material used to make the longer legs might make the animal susceptible to dying for reasons other than predation. The lesson with natural selection, Dawkins says, is trade-offs: “Nothing is free, everything comes with a price tag.”[16] In these cases, there are impediments to evolution that keep animals from evolving beyond a particular barrier. Yet, what leads Dawkins to suppose that evolution is true is extrapolation of the evidence, not actual evidence one can witness.

What lessons do we learn from the domestication of the dog? First, the great variety among the breeds of dogs . . . demonstrates how easily it is for the non-random selection of genes – the ‘carving and whittling’ of gene pools – to produce truly dramatic changes in anatomy and behaviour, [sic] and so fast – the difference between breeds so dramatic – that you might expect their evolution to take millions of years instead of just a matter of centuries. If so much evolutionary change can be achieved in just a few centuries or even decades, just think what might be achieved in ten or a hundred million years.[17]

Dawkins’ book continues to a chapter that explains examples of evolution in action – as observable as the Earth going around the sun. His first example is Lenski’s experiments with bacteria. Beginning in 1988, bacteriologist Richard Lenski and his colleagues took a population of E. coli bacteria and infected twelve flasks filled with a nutrient broth creating twelve “tribes.” From then on, every day Lenski and his colleagues took a portion of each tribe and injected them into a new flask. As of Dawkins’ writing, they have continued the same task for twenty years. At one point one tribe learned how to use citrate as a food source instead of the glucose included in the broth – both of which were already there. Dawkins hailed this as one more example of evolution in action.

I tend to take more stock in criticisms of Dawkins, and I, therefore, sought critical reviews of Lenski’s work. Michael Behe says that Scott Minnich, professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho and a colleague of Behe’s at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, knew that decades ago microbiologist Barry Hall had isolated an E. coli mutant that could also use citrate – a creation brought about as easily as “falling off a log” in Behe’s words. Under the right conditions, Behe says, this is nothing but a “humdrum repeatable result.”[18] In other words, what happened isn’t anything novel or, to put it differently, these bacteria are using an ability that they had already and nothing they gained from evolution.

Dawkins, here also, promotes the same argument as before. If evolution can learn to use citrate, then in millions of years it can achieve so much more. Given enough time, supposedly, one-celled organisms can become multicellular and eventually evolve into animals with backbones and then humans. Yet that is a theory about the kind of evolution that is not observed. Maybe after millions of years bacteria would still only be bacteria.

I think it’s a good time to reflect on the futility of his central argument – that given enough time whatever evolutionist developments we desire are possible. What about

unicorn

Can evolution produce a unicorn? If you believe Dawkins, why not?

Picture from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QZ4RboU6_E

unicorns? What about monkeys who can play the oboe? What about a reptile that can catch footballs? I imagine a person reading my suggestions might laugh. But why? If evolution can achieve so much in such limited time then…… I’m doing here what Rush Limbaugh has suggested about demonstrating absurdity by being absurd. Clearly, if we follow Dawkins’ reasoning anything is possible. However, a theory that can explain everything actually explains nothing and hence is unscientific. What this means is that Dawkins’ explanation of how evolution can happen is unscientific and should be laughed out of court. As Thomas Sowell says, “Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument.”[19] Extrapolations are all Dawkins apparently has.

Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument. – Thomas Sowell

The Missing Evidence

Creationists often complain that evolution demands intermediate fossils that are missing in action. Dawkins questions whether the fossils are missing despite the evidence I presented from Gould that shows gaps in the fossil record were known for a long time and despite the idea of punctuated equilibrium which is meant to explain those gaps. Nevertheless, Dawkins says, we don’t need intermediate fossils and evolution would be true without them. Dawkins wins either way: if there are transitional fossils, Dawkins can use them as evidence, but if they aren’t there then we can consider that evidence we don’t need anyway.

Dawkins takes aim at the Cambrian explosion which is the explosion of the existence of fossils in the Cambrian strata with few if any transitional fossils appearing in the Precambrian before it. He suggests that most animals before the Cambrian were soft-bodied and therefore incapable of being fossilized, and something happened later during the Cambrian that allowed animals to be fossilized (the existence of skeletons, for instance).

Charles Walcott, a fossil explorer who mapped rapid origins of fossils in the Cambrian, argued that the Precambrian era was marked by a recession of the seas from land. Animals evolved during this time but were not covered by sediment and hence not preserved. Fossil ancestors were, however, fossilized in offshore deep-sea sediments. As Stephen Meyer explains it, “the abrupt appearance of the Cambrian body plans in the geological column was merely an ‘artifact’ of incomplete sampling of the fossil record and, indeed, the inability to access the undersea sedimentary layers where the ancestors of the Cambrian fauna presumably lay encased.”[20]

A problem soon arose, though. According to Meyer, with the development of offshore drilling, oil companies began to drill through thousands of feet of marine sedimentary rock. As geologists evaluated these drill cores, they did not find the predicted Precambrian fossils.[21]

Some evolutionists claimed that the fossils were too small or too soft to be fossilized. As far as the first claim, Meyer says that the cells of filament-shaped microorganisms have been preserved in Precambrian rocks as well as stromatolite mats (an organic accretionary growth structure usually indicating the presence of bacteria). As far as the second, Meyer questions whether soft-bodied versions of hard-bodied organism are even viable and therefore incapable of even existing to be fossilized. This would mean that the animals first arose in the Cambrian as hard-bodied organisms.[22]

It seems what Meyer says brings important counterpunch to Dawkins’ claim about the absence of fossils. Could it be that there simply weren’t any fossils to be discovered in the Precambrian because evolution didn’t happen back then?

Dawkins the Physicist

Dawkins, like other evolutionists, disagrees with creationist assessments of how the second law of thermodynamics presents an obstacle to evolution. According to that law, entropy always increases. However, Dawkins claims that evolution doesn’t violate it because of incoming energy from the sun making the Earth an open system. Dawkins then says creationists misunderstand the second law.

However, Duane Gish’s book Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics provides a chapter on this topic indicating that the second law of thermodynamics applies equally to closed and open systems, and more is needed than just a supply of energy, like the sun, for increasing complexity to occur. What is needed is a method of harnessing that energy and putting it to work. The mere presence of the sun does not create increased complexity. (All I have to do is look at the cover of my map book that has lain in the back of my car for several years to see the damage the sun can do to information!)

I was looking for some additional quotations to back up my conclusions regarding these matters and decided to simply state my opinion on the matter instead of echoing numerous authors. I agree with Gish’s assessments because they make sense to me and match reality. Humans, and animals in general, violate the second law to a certain degree by maintaining animal systems far from equilibrium, but, in the end, succumb to the second law when they die. This is because the design of their bodies contains systems that harness energy and put it to work. Nature would not, by itself, create these systems because nature, via the second law, would favor disorder. I will at least echo Dean Overman whose words summarize much of what I’m thinking on this matter.

Systems near equilibrium are simply not capable of producing the complexity required for life. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in any spontaneous process in such a system there is an increase in disorder or entropy. Systems near equilibrium will always move toward disorder or entropy. The Second Law is time’s arrow which points in the direction of equilibrium so that in any spontaneous change, the amount of energy available (free energy) decreases and the randomness increases, i.e., the more time available, the greater the entropy or disorder. Life in these systems could not have developed by chance processes. . . . Energy flow from a source, like the sun, can keep a system far from equilibrium. However, the energy flow which maintains a system far from equilibrium does not contribute towards the origin of life if the energy flow is not directed in some manner into generating information content into inorganic matter.[23]

Dawkins, to get around the limits of the second law, casts natural selection as a type of designer.

Natural selection is an improbability pump; a process that generates the statistically improbable. It systematically seizes the minority of random changes that have what it takes to survive, and accumulates them, step by tiny step over unimaginable timescales, until evolution eventually climbs mountains of improbability and diversity . . . Life evolves greater complexity only because natural selection drives it locally away from the statistically probable towards the improbable. And this is possible only because of the ceaseless supply of energy from the sun.[24]

When I first read that I felt like I was being fooled, but I could not find exactly the right words to express what was wrong. The feeling I had was similar to hanging out with obnoxious friends. I can’t possibly explain why they are obnoxious, but I just know they are. Perhaps using Dawkins’ ideas on other things will illuminate what bothers me.

Each random mutation can be thought of as a biological event, and the survival of the fittest animals can be thought of as separate events in the history of life. You could say the mouse not getting eaten by the cat, the fish not getting caught by the fisherman, and the best soldier surviving a battle are examples of natural selection in action. However, it would be a mistake to attribute some type of planning capabilities to a personified natural selection that builds adaptations in each of these examples. Yet, Dawkins appears to be doing just that and, as I’ll show later, Dawkins has done this before. He takes a process which is no more than a description of what normally happens and then personifies it so that it appears this process is cleverly crafting animals, like a potter crafting a clay pot, until it crafts an exquisite complex beautiful one (or maybe one that looks like it is created by an intelligent designer).

Let me put it another way, a way that just occurred to me on Thanksgiving 2017 as I was editing this essay. It’s true that the best musical performers, like Taylor Swift, will be the ones “selected” for a musical show because of their talent. You could call it “musical selection” if you wanted to sound scientific. Now suppose I argued that throughout the musical history of the United States, “musical selection” drives musical talent away from the improbable to the probable to produce ongoing higher levels of musical talent. Would you, upon hearing that, suspect that I was trying to convince you that “musical selection” was some type of personified creative agent that crafts musical talent like a sculptor? If that’s true, you should think the same of Dawkins.

Dawkins also says that “Darwin’s special genius realized that nature could play the role of selecting agent. . . . But it was Darwin who first spotted that you don’t have to have a choosing agent. The choice can be made automatically by survival – or failure to survive.”[25] This is strange language for someone who claims natural selection doesn’t plan like a conscious agent. We normally attribute selection to a conscious or semi-conscious intelligent agent. A rainstorm does not select what lands it will drench, and neither does an earthquake select what cities to destroy. However, a bird selects what branch to sit on, ants select where to build ant hills, and humans select where to build a house or what car to buy. If you follow Dawkins’ writing, it appears he is trying to convince us that natural selection is only metaphorically “selecting” while at the same time trying to argue that natural selection actually does the kind of selecting humans do.

This way of arguing now could be an anomaly if it wasn’t true that Dawkins commonly argues this way. Back in 1986, he produced a computer program that reproduced the output of a monkey typing random phrases on a computer trying to produce the phrase “Methinks it is like a weasel.” The chance of producing this phrase, Dawkins tells us, is 1/27 to the 28th power. This effort is what he calls “single-step selection of random variation.” How could this phrase ever be produced? Dawkins has an answer though; he changes the program a bit. This time the program begins with a random phrase and copies it with some errors but preserves the new phrase that most closely resembles the target phrase. After 43 generations of a phrase the computer was able to recreate the target phrase. This is what Dawkins calls “cumulative selection,” and is supposed to replicate the type of selection Darwinian evolution builds upon.[26]

dawkins weasel logic.pngWhat Dawkins must believe when using this as an example is that natural selection knows what type of animal it needs to produce and then selects genetic sequences that most resemble where evolution is going. However, having this type of knowledge and selecting what is needed in the future are not those traits of an unintelligent process. They are traits of an intelligent being because only the being that knows what is going to happen will select what is needed. A quarterback will select what receiver he wants to throw the ball to and a coach will preserve those receivers most capable of catching the ball. However, natural processes don’t do this. Dawkins is smuggling in intelligent causation into arguments about what an unintelligent process can or can’t do.

Baby Steps

Human_Fetus2

I checked out Dawkins’ section entitled “You Did It Yourself In Nine Months” expecting that it linked embryology to evolution and was amazingly verified. Embryology was at one time used as evidence for evolution when zoologist Ernst Haeckel argued that the developmental stages embryos go through replicate the path animals went during evolution during the history of the Earth (from one-celled organisms to fish to mammals and then humans). Now Dawkins once again returns to embryology.

Dawkins, first of all, tries to disprove the creationist argument that DNA is information and this information is involved in the development of the embryo. Dawkins begins with a word-of-mouth exchange between evolutionist J.B.S. Haldane and a skeptic of evolution with the skeptic reportedly saying:

Professor Haldane, even given the billions of years that you say were available for evolution, I simply cannot believe it is possible to go from a single cell to a complicated human body, with its trillions of cells organized into bones and muscles and nerves, a heart that pumps without ceasing for decades, miles and miles of blood vessels and kidney tubules, and a brain capable of thinking and talking and feeling.[27]

Haldane retorts that it is possible and says, to the skeptic, “But madam, you did it yourself. And it only took you nine months.”

I don’t deny that creationists at times argue from incredulity like this skeptic although that does not reflect the bulk of creationist arguments against evolution. Notice that Dawkins does not comment on this debate to correct a possible assumption one might make that creationists commonly argue sloppily like this. Perhaps Dawkins thinks they do! Dawkins says the questioner was thrown off balance and had the wind taken out of her sails which would suggest the retort by Haldane was overpowering when it actually was not. Dawkins doesn’t correct that either. In every human pregnancy, the embryo develops into a human being and nothing else. So how is this evidence for evolution?

This isn’t the first time Dawkins has mentioned embryology. Back in 1986, Dawkins once again quoted Haldane.

Incidentally, it is worth quoting J.B.S. Haldane’s characteristic piece of lateral thinking . . . Something like the transition from Amoeba to man, he pointed out, goes on in every mother’s womb in a mere nine months. Development is admittedly a very different process from evolution but, nevertheless, anyone sceptical [sic] of the very possibility of a transition from single cell to man has only to contemplate his own foetal [sic] beginnings to have his doubts allayed.[emphasis in original][28]

On this topic, Duane Gish is worth quoting while he refutes the claim that the development of a fertilized egg violates the second law of thermodynamics.

[N]o creation scientist believes that the conversion of a fertilized egg into an adult creature in any way violates the Second Law. The conversion of a fertilized egg into an adult has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. A fertilized egg contains all the information in its genetic apparatus to produce the adult creature – no new information is added during the developmental process. Furthermore, it is fully equipped with the metabolic machinery required for life. All that is required is a steady supply of nutrients and energy. On the other hand, the origin of life, the origin of each basic type of creature which produces a fertilized egg, and the origin of its reproductive process has everything to do with evolution. It is incredible, by the way to note that Futuyma, a biologist, refers to what he calls the “relative formlessness of a fertilized egg.” A biologist simply cannot be that ignorant concerning the true nature of a fertilized egg. A fertilized egg is so complex that if scientists could study it forever, there would probably still be much about it that they would not understand.[29]

Dawkins argues that DNA, used in the embryo as a set of instructions, is not a blueprint for human development. We are wonderfully developed, he says, not wonderfully made. The embryo, he says, develops from local rules obeyed at the embryo-level and not some master plan in much the same way paper is folded, in origami, to produce an interesting shape. Apparently, something that develops is not designed; only something that is created from a blueprint replica is designed as in a home builder that builds from a blueprint of a house. How Dawkins came about this assumption I don’t know, but it is yet another philosophical assumption about what God would or would not do from a man who claims that knowing anything about God is impossible and delusional. It’s also illogical. Following Dawkins’ logic, I, nor anyone else, could never create anything that self-assembles. In fact, if I created a plastic house that, when you blow air into it, it inflates (effectively self-assembling) most people would say I was pretty clever and an ingenious designer. Apparently not Dawkins though! Dawkins would say I would have to build that plastic house from a blueprint of that same house for it to be intelligently designed. How silly is that though?

I did some searching on how an embryo begins and develops into a human being and found an article online from Discover Magazine. The homeobox, a bit of DNA that plays a part in homeotic genes which specify the kind of body parts formed in an organism, is described as part of a switch that turns on other genes in a cascade of events that help various cells become what they need to be.[30] The idea of a genetic switch certainly makes me think embryonic development is far more complicated than Dawkins origami analogy making what Dawkins is suggesting scientifically illiterate by comparison. The article goes even further in suggesting complexity, not simplicity.

In fact, the awe-inspiring cellular changes needed to turn you from microscopic blob to prepossessing bipedal adult are controlled by the orchestration of a whole slew of genes. Once you realize how much complexity there is in a single cell, Lewis observes, the complicated body structure you see in higher organisms isn’t that surprising. Each cell in a higher organism tends to be only a specialization of the basic cell that could originally do everything, he says.

What Dawkins is doing is taking a common everyday process in which an embryo develops into – what? – a human and nothing else and claims, in roundabout fashion, that it is evidence for an unintelligent process like evolution. Yet, Dawkins denies the information in the DNA is driving the whole thing. What splendid denial he engages in!

What is interesting in reading Dawkins is that, while he tries to simplify the genetic makeup of the embryo, he teeters on the edge of suggesting design himself once again invoking Haldane.

Haldane spoke simple truth to his sceptical [sic] questioner, but he would not have denied that there is mystery, verging on the miraculous (but never quite getting there) in the very fact that a single cell gives rise to a human body in all its complexity. And the mystery is only somewhat mitigated by the feat’s being achieved with the aid of DNA instructions. The reason the mystery remains is that we find it hard to imagine, even in principle, how we might set about writing the instructions for building a body in the way that the body is in fact built, namely by what I have just called ‘self-assembly’, which is related to what computer programmers sometimes call a ‘bottom-up’, as opposed to ‘top-down’, procedure.[31]

Verging on the miraculous? If Dawkins really believes that DNA contains instructions, then instructions are information, and information is something that comes from an intelligent source and not an unintelligent one.

Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Near the end of the book, Dawkins has a chapter on what he calls “arms races” and “evolutionary theodicy.” Here he indulges in a habit he has become legendary for (at least in my mind): the art of contradiction. Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, clearly suggests that scholarly thoughts about religious claims of any sort are pointless. In fact, at one point he says he suspects that theologians do not have a province of knowledge to themselves to even consider ultimate questions that lie beyond science. We shouldn’t, therefore, even be talking about what kind of creation any divine being would engage in except when Dawkins thinks it’s appropriate to talk about them. Certainly, then a theologian should respond to what Dawkins has to say on this topic even though he thinks they should have nothing to say at all. This shows Dawkins to be an inconsistent biased scientific philosopher who wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to be free to criticize God without having to cope with any good theological arguments against him.

Dawkins this time around begins by contrasting a designed economy with an evolutionary economy. A designed one, he says, would have no trees that are overly large that dwarf smaller ones. Trees that are too large waste resources, he says, and everything we see about trees validates belief in evolution:

We are talking individual costs and benefits throughout this argument. The forest would look very different if its economy had been designed for the benefit of the forest as a whole. In fact, what we actually see is a forest in which each tree species evolved through natural selection favouring [sic] individual trees that out-competed rival individual trees, whether of their own or another species. Everything about trees is compatible with the view that they were not designed – unless, of course, they were designed to supply us with timber, or to delight our eyes and flatter our cameras in the New England Fall.[32]

When I read that last sentence, I felt that Dawkins is being sarcastic as if to mock believers who think they know what God would do. Of course, Dawkins has no problem talking about what he thinks God would do, and he thinks God would create a forest where all trees are equal. This is almost a liberal socialist version of an evolutionist belief. Just as liberals often don’t like human inequality, Dawkins sure doesn’t like it with trees. He does, however, hint at the answer to his question. If God did create trees to give us lumber – useful in building an ark to survive a flood no less – than it would be wise to have trees grow so the fittest survive and crowd out the less fit. If you want trees around, it would be better for the best to grow so that the most wood is produced. Obviously, God created humans and competition has fostered better things in our lives. Why would God not do the same with trees?

However, Dawkins has other fish to fry. He later ruminates on why an intelligent designer would create cheetahs to be superb killers of gazelles and also design the gazelle to outrun a cheetah. Is God a sadist to enjoy this type of blood sport, Dawkins asks.

I’ve enjoyed Glenn Miller’s Christian apologetic Christian thinktank web site so I thought I would take a look at what it says on this topic.[33] Among other things, Miller mentions, in particular, Genesis chapter nine as showing that the relationship between humans and animals changed markedly after the flood.  Man became a carnivore or at least more of a carnivore at this time, and animals became adapted to avoid humans and also predatory toward them. In this case, the predator-prey relationship would be a harmful side effect of sin and not in the original design of God.

Dawkins continues by ruminating on the problem of pain and suffering. Evolutionary biologists, he says, see no problem with pain and suffering. Theologians though, he says, worry about these problems and invented the term “theodicy” for the study of how to reconcile God’s will with these problems. Dawkins even later says that “there is grandeur in this view of life, and even a kind of grandeur in nature’s serene indifference to the suffering that inexorably follows in the wake of its guiding principle, survival of the fittest.”[34]

Of course, the Christian answer to Dawkins’ problem with the predator-prey relationship fits here too. Yet, more needs to be said also. As far as suffering due to human ill, I recommend Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy’s book The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw. The problem of moral evil, they say, quite eloquently, “is alleged to be God’s fault in the first place, God’s problem to fix in the meantime, and God’s loss as exbelievers bear no blame for their exodus in light of the problem of moral evil.[35] However, they show that in the very place where God should intervene to stop moral evil atheists insist that God stay out of the way. This is because atheists (and probably all unbelievers) value autonomy over any divine control of their lives. What atheists really want is for God to let people do what they want and protect them from the hazards of what they do.

Here also Dawkins is inconsistent. Human disorder, chaos, and misery are understandable via evolution as is animal death, and Dawkins finds the existence of such things disproves belief in a divine being. However, when Dawkins finds there to be innate moral ideas that cause people to put aside their own wants and needs for the common good and avoid doing evil, Dawkins doesn’t believe these falsify his evolutionist beliefs. He finds these fit in an evolutionist worldview also. Dawkins discusses Marc Hauser’s book Moral Minds that talks about internet questionnaires that survey people’s responses to moral dilemmas. Most often people give the same responses indicating there is a type of “moral sense,” as Dawkins says, built into our brains.

From the present point of view, the interesting thing is that most people come to the same decisions when faced with these dilemmas, and their agreement over the decisions themselves is stronger than their ability to articulate their reasons. This is what we should expect if we have a moral sense which is built into our brains, like our sexual instinct or our fear of heights or, as Hauser himself prefers to say, like our capacity for language. . . As we shall see, the way people respond to these moral tests, and their ability to articulate their reasons, seems largely independent of their religious beliefs or lack of them. The message of Hauser’s book, to anticipate it in his own words, is this: ‘Driving our moral judgments is a universal moral grammar, a faculty of the mind that evolved over millions of years to include a set of principles for building a range of possible moral systems. As with language, the principles that make up our moral grammar fly beneath the radar of our awareness.’[36]

However, a common-sense study of the moral judgments, especially those shown in Hauser’s book, people make shows these judgments to be more a confirmation of the theistic moral argument for God’s existence then for them to be evidence for evolution. The moral argument is defined as so:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.[37]

Kreeft and Tacelli argue it somewhat differently. They suggest that real moral obligations are a fact. Either the religious view of them is correct or the atheistic one is. Since the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligations, the religious one is correct.[38] No matter which way you rephrase the argument, the idea is the same. Moral obligations are a better fit in a worldview with a divine creator because they make more sense there and less in a world dominated by chaos.

Evolutionists need to explain why people have a need to be moral and kind to others. Of course, evolutionists explain the progression of animals from one “kind” to another by a survival of better-adapted species. Individuals compete with others, and they are the units of selection, and there is a degree of selfishness in this. Each animal is supposed to worry more about its own survival than another’s survival. However, humans are kind, normally, and hence evolutionists must explain why people help others when they are supposed to compete with them. A possible contradiction between evolution and reality appears – one that must be rebuffed if evolution is to survive.

Along comes reciprocal altruism which explains altruism as a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours reaction. People are, after all, selfish but they are just using others to further their own ends. Evolutionists explain yet another layer of altruism as being kind to kin (sons, daughters, cousins) to further one’s own gene pool. It seems, to some extent, that evolution has covered all the bases. But has it?

However, not all moral judgments involve sacrifice for the individual or the group the individual belongs to or in the expectation of getting something in return. In fact, I would say most moral judgments involve none of these concerns. For instance, I, and others, have given food or other charity to a coworker who is somewhat destitute but not penniless and don’t expect reimbursement of any kind. We act partly because we feel a moral duty to help those less fortunate. I would say most people think that way. In fact, this type of thinking is what drives the modern liberal socialist agenda of taking from one group of people to give to others. This type of moral sense is nonsensical in Dawkins’ evolutionist beliefs because it does not have anything to do with getting any benefit that aids reproductive success. If Dawkins thinks evolution demands disorder and chaos, then he should find this type of charitable moral sense does not fit in his worldview. But he doesn’t make this logical connection.

I avoided some chapters, of course. The chapter on the evolution of mankind and fossil dating I leave for another time. I feel as if I’ve critiqued enough of this book to judge that Dawkins’ arguments often are illogical, false, or leave out important details that render his arguments worthless. We certainly could expect more of a man who has entrusted himself with the task of piecing together all of Darwinism into a coherent puzzle.

Jeffrey Stueber

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[1] Living Waters, “The Atheist Delusion,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChWiZ3iXWwM&t=1472s

[2] Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth (New York: Free Press, 2009), 22.

[3] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: Norton, 1986), 6.

[4] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 140-141.

[5] Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?:  Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong (Washington DC, Regnery, 2000), Chapter 7.

[6] Roberts and Company, Natural Selection: Empirical Studies in the Wild, Chapter Eight, https://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/excerpt–evolution.pdf.

[7] https://wiki.groenkennisnet.nl/display/TAB/Chapter+1.12+Results+of+animal+breeding. https://wiki.groenkennisnet.nl/display/TAB/Chapter+13.4%3A+Selection+limits

[8] https://wiki.groenkennisnet.nl/display/TAB/Chapter+1.13+Negative+effects+of+animal+breeding

[9] Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried: an appeal to reason (Boston, MA:The Harvard Common Press, 1971), 34-35.

[10] Jeremy Rifkin, Algeny (New York: Viking, 1983), 130, 133.

[11] By “species” here I refer, per the way Denton uses this terminology, to groups of animals that are similar morphologically but divergent in size and shape of some bodily characteristics – beak size in finches, for instance.  The divergence of animals into groups with different size organs would be an instance of speciation.

[12] Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, Maryland: Adler&Adler, 1986), 86-87.

[13] Stephen Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York: Norton, 1980), 192-193.

[14] Ibid, 193.

[15] James Gleick, “Breaking Tradition With Darwin,” The New York Times (November 20, 1983), http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/11/09/home/gould-magazine.html.

[16] Dawkins, Greatest Show, 69-70.

[17] Ibid, 37

[18] Michael Behe, “Richard Lenski and Citrate Hype — Now Deflated,” https://evolutionnews.org/2016/05/richard_lenski/

[19] Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (New York; BasicBooks, 1995), 68.

 

[20] Stephen Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life And The Case for Intelligent Design (New York: HarperCollins, 2013), 46-47.

[21] Ibid, 55.

[22] Ibid, 59.

[23] Dean Overman, A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 69-70.

[24] Dawkins, 416

[25] Ibid, 62-63.

[26] Dawkins, Blind Watchmaker, 46-49.

[27] Dawkins, Greatest Show, 211.

[28] Dawkins, Blind Watchmaker, 249-250.

[29] Duane Gish, Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics (El Cajon: Institute for Creation Research, 1993), 169.

[30] http://discovermagazine.com/1992/nov/howdoesasinglece146

[31] Dawkins, Greatest Show, 217.

[32] Ibid.

[33] http://christianthinktank.com/predator.html; http://christianthinktank.com/pred1.html

[34] Dawkins, Greatest Show, 401.

[35] Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy, The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 2014), 12.

[36] Dawkins, God Delusion, 255.

[37] http://crossexamined.org/312/#

[38] Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1994), 72.

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