Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Evolution is the Only Game in Town

Sent to The Star, Johannesburg Wed 23/11/2011 10:28. Published in part (less parts in blue)
 as “Who would create a body like this one?” in The Star, November 29, 2011

Siegfried Berger ("Science also expects us to blindly follow" in Star Letters, November 22) in reply to my viciously-trimmed letter published on 17 November, tells us that science is also a dogma.  Not true: Science works on the evidence.  The evidence shows that there is no comforting, "intellectual guiding hand" steering evolution.

Would an intelligent creator have designed the human body like this?  Humans suffer from back problems: Understandable when you consider that we are using, vertically, a spine that developed horizontally.  The discs suffer because they are not "made" to carry compressive loads.

Or, looking at the body from a town-planning point of view, what intelligent planner would put the fun-fair next to the sewage farm?

There are many other examples: Our difficulty in giving birth, the appendix, nerves that follow strange paths.

Evolution indeed proceeds without an end product in mind, but the results are not "accidental".  Mutations arise occasionally by chance. Survival of the fittest then ruthlessly eliminates changes that are not advantageous.  Some have likened it to a Lotto where you can keep your correct numbers for the next round.  After a few rounds you would have all winning numbers!  Thus evolution builds continually on the useful characteristics, constantly improving all the fiercely competing species.

However, many mutations that an intelligent designer would want, haven't happened or did not survive at the time.  So we have short lives, poor eyesight, only two hands, no wings, thin skins, can't digest cellulose, to name a few.

The irrepressible Bob Holcombe weighs in in the same edition, with "Many researchers believe that science need not exclude a creator".

He says that evolution can not be proved because we can not run it as an experiment.  Poor reasoning.  Science works on evidence and logic too.  The results of evolution are there to study, and we have a record in fossils and matching geological strata, along with several dating methods that agree.

Mr Holcombe defends the biblical story of creation as symbolic, with the days representing ages.  What then does the bible mean with the oft-repeated "and it was evening, and it was morning"?  The bible means literal days.  It just happens to be wrong.

Mr Holcombe's "loving god" is obviously not the jealous god of the bible, who delights in genocide and misogyny, approves of slavery and human sacrifice, imposes "original sin", and murders people for collecting firewood on a Saturday.

Finally, Mr Holcombe says that societies that deny god are declining rapidly.  In fact, objective measures of human well-being –longevity, mental health, lower crime, reduced HIV transmission, etc.– are highest in secular societies (western and northern Europe), and lower in those with a strong religious component such as the US and Muslim countries.

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