November 18, 2005

The Evolution of the Pot

I shall begin at the beginning, or rather, at the end: it was the year 5023, and scientists were sorting through the grime of the past ages when they uncovered a unique find: a small piece of hard clay. After analysis it was concluded that the clay was a remnant of a larger creature that they deemed “pottus firmus.”

Around the world, paleontologists continued to discover fragments and sometimes complete skeletons of various devices that appeared to be related to the first fragment. Other full skeletons of newer creatures were discovered buried in various strata of rock, dirt, and sometimes, in fields of ice. Genus and Species were assigned. One bold paleontologist posited that not only were these pots related, they were links in a chain, one creature leading to the next.

Pottus Firmus, he said, was in fact the original, a creature formed from the dust of the earth itself. Firmus evolved, over time, into Pottus Bulbus, with its larger bottom and smaller top that better contained water. As evolution progressed, Bulbus’ outer shell became more ornamented, and, unable to mate with like creatures, became Pottus Decorum. Over time, it gave way to Pottus Amphorai, a larger and better adapted creature to the harsh Mediterranean environment where it was found.

It is here that his theory lost some credibility, because he could find no link between Amphorai and the next most recent skeleton in the ground, Pottus Tremendum, a smaller but fearsomely sturdier creature suited to the harsher environment of a warring world. Finally, Pottus Moderna was the final link in the chain, but after which the race went extinct after the large thermonuclear disaster of 2158.

Eventually it was discovered that they were not creatures at all, but kitchen pots. The study was abandoned, and the paleontologist gave up his study of population biology in favor of basket weaving.

I know I should leave well enough alone, but for those of you who know me, you know that I can’t resist talking about two things, both of them former thesis projects: postmodernism and the evolution/intelligent design debate.

First we must separate a problem: evolution isn’t a single unified theory, rather it is a conglomeration of a lot of different ideas, and like creationism, no two scientists hold the exact same view of it (though I will admit that lots more scientists come much closer to holding identical beliefs than religious proponents of Intelligent design). The most easily distinguished categories are micro- and macro-evolution. The two do not depend on one another to exist, or rather, macroevolution depends upon microevolution, but not vice-versa. Microevolution, then, can be an independent theory in and of itself (sui generis, you might say), the driving force to the more controversial theory of macroevolution.

No matter how hard scientists try, they can’t seem to get away with the one major problem with their theory of macroevolution: probability. It seems to keep throwing a wrench in the works, because while they can often show that evolution is technically possible, it’s never been shown that it’s any more probable than any other theory of origins (partly because evolution makes no claim to know how it all started, just that it did at some point). Simply because a bunch of things look the same doesn’t mean that they evolved of … what force? What is the driving force of evolution? It’s not the laws of thermodynamics, they prove that evolution shouldn’t happen, but they also show that life shouldn’t happen either. Yet it does.

For example, the probabilities involved with the evolution of the first protein are astronomical. To get from a random batch of primordial chemicals to one protein, fully formed, are so high it’s not really worth talking about. The number of chemical reactions required, the forces working against those reactions happening, and then for the protein to not denature within moments of its formation in a hostile environment makes its un-guided evolution next to impossible. The cell (of any organism) has so many chemical stabilizers (mRNA and rRNA, transcription proteins, etc.) for creating proteins because proteins, especially the complicated proteins required for complex life, do not naturally form – they are created. It is against the laws of nature (especially thermodynamics) for proteins to form (for example, the shape of a protein is dependent upon the interaction of various parts of the protein, which are easily disrupted by the presence of other chemicals, ions, etc, and the chances of this happening in a primordial environment are slim).

Another example: let’s grant that nature defied the odds (for what other driving force can we give evolution but the sort of ethereal “nature”?), and somehow a little critter evolved from the primordial goo. It’s single-celled, and eventually multiplies into a plethora of different single-celled organisms, and eventually into multi-cellular yet mitotically-replicating organisms (organisms that divide themselves into two identical pieces). Yet as soon as an organism evolves that requires mitosis to divide (sexual reproduction, meaning it needs two of that organism), the species would have died immediately. First, there’s only one of this thing (let’s say it’s a fish or something) around because it’s so improbable in the first place that it evolved. Second, even if another did evolve, the odds of it being at the same time and the same place as the first one are huge!

Ok. So if macroevolution doesn’t work, yet microevolution does, it still doesn’t explain where it started. This is, in fact, what distinguishes intelligent design theorists from creationists: microevolution is acknowledged (as well as all scientific evidence) as a valid source of data. And alternately, what distinguishes ID theorists from Evolutionists is twofold: denial of macroevolution and acceptance of a higher power / deity / god as the source and explanation of a created universe. In most instances, this is really just political cover for a Christian who would rather not mention the title “God” in scientific circles, for fear of retribution by his or her unbelieving colleagues.

As it turns out, most scientists would rather shoot themselves than commit the scientific heresy of admitting the existence of a God who might have things figured out better than they do, and they’d rather get angry and upset and violent than admit that they might – might – be wrong. I guess my point in writing this post was not to say that I hate all evolutionists, but to say that I think it’s time that evolutionists gave up their self-righteousness and listened with an unbiased mind for a change. After all, I bought their evidence. I’m a proponent of Intelligent Design; I used to be a scientist, and can’t deny the evidence for microevolution, and frankly I can easily buy the insubstantial evidence for macroevolution – but only the evidence. I can, like many, offer an alternative explanation for it that is really just as probable and just as valid. It does require that I admit the existence of an all-powerful God, but that’s ok with me. I’m a Christian too, so it works as a worldview. I mean, evolutionists are going on a lot of faith too, why is God so hard to admit?

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