Saturday, 14 January 2017

Fumbling Apologetics

Is it possible to be an honest apologist?

Recently on twitter an apologist (S J Thomason) has been arguing with atheists.  An odd tactic is to post a blog (see link), claim it defends Christianity, then claim victory on dissenters on twitter.  As it's difficult to deal with this within 140 characters, I'm posting a response to one of her arguments here.  It is on the topic of evolution, which I can at least claim to be familiar with.

SJ Thomason writes:

Atheist challenge: Christians don’t believe in evolution, which is proven by science.

 This is false and disappointingly dishonest. Atheists don't claim that.  Many Christians accept that evolution occurs.  Many of the scientists who have contributed to the theory are Christian. Dobzhansky for instance, was one of the founders of the modern synthesis, provided the first gene-based definition of evolution, and was Christian.  The problem occurs when evolution conflicts with the doctrinal beliefs of some Christians.  Thus some Christians won't accept that species are mutable, or that humans evolved from a species that was the common ancestor to all other ape species. .

Christian rebuttal: Many theists support the idea of evolution, yet we must distinguish precisely what “evolution” means. We have witnessed and have archeological data indicating the evolution of humans, yet we don’t have any data bridging the gap between the primordial soup that ignited life on this planet and the earliest forms of life that contained consciousness.

 Evolution means a change in the allele frequency (heritable) traits in populations over generations.  This can manifest as both the increases in antibiotic resistance in bacteria up to the changes that caused a small terrestrial artiodactyl to become a whale. 

We have plenty of data linking the earliest life-forms to extant amniotes like us.  All cellular life shares a basic tool-kit of genes, it uses the same genetic code, cell walls are bilayer lipids, we all use ATP as the currency of energy.  Many molecular phylogenies show convergence to a single, universal ancestor. Not multiple ancestors that arose at different times. A single one. To claim we don't have any data linking us to the earliest life is brazenly ignorant and dishonest.

The evolution of the unconscious to the conscious is unexplained by science, suggesting the presence of a guiding force – an intelligent design.(11)

There are many things we have yet to explain in biology.  That's not evidence of an intelligent designer, or specifically a Judaean bloodgod with a penchant for mating with virgins.  Intelligent design has produced no research, nor even proposed testable hypotheses on consciousness.  There is nothing rational about inventing a deity to explain what you don't understand.

Given consciousness does seem affected by biochemical pathways, and emerges gradually as embryos develop, your alternative explanation is neither evidenced nor reasonable.

“Because of the way earth was and now is, it affords habitats for three radically different kinds, or categories, of life: (1) physical; (2) physical and mind-possessing; and (3) physical, mind-possessing, and spiritual.”(12)

 These arbitrary categories aren't statements of fact, but religious claims. Humans, birds, plants and fungi are not radically different kinds of life.  They occupy the same domain. A spiritual dimension cannot be invoked without evidence.

Until atheists can bridge the gap between the physical and the physical, mind-possessing and spiritual, Christians will disclaim the form of evolution that they propose, which is the form that claims that everything evolved from a pond of primordial soup.

 Molecular evidence already provides strong support that all life is related to a common ancestor (LUCA).  That it conflicts with your religious beliefs isn't a valid rebuttal of the evidence.  Please note that the phrase 'primordial soup' is eschewed by most researchers who work on the origin of life.  It is rather, a creationist shibboleth