February 27, 2009

Dawkins on Missing Links

I've seen this mentioned a few times as an evolutionist being stumped by a creationist's question. I think that's ridiculous; just because you can't answer the question right away doesn't mean you're stumped - it just means it's a hard question, and those take longer to answer. In fact, I think the answer he gives later in the video is actually quite well-spoken, though it takes as much a leap of faith to believe what he's saying as any other perspective (it would seem odd that we haven't found any of the failed-intermediate species). Anyway, just thought it was interesting. Thanks to Matt Stone for the heads-up.


Anonymous said...

Paleontologists have found loads of intermediate species. Here's one recent example:
I've never understood why people say that "It takes just as much faith..." Lets see: People made from dust vs. the diversity of life descending from a common ancestor by observable processes. No evidence has ever been found that does not fit the theory of evolution. There are mountains of evidence that contradict creationist theories. -There's no contest in my mind. A. Annie

Chris said...

I stand corrected, we've found what we have decided to call intermediate species.

It DOES take faith to believe it. What you have proven is not that there are intermediate species, or that there were dinosaurs, or whatever - what you have proven is that there are currently bones sitting in a museum that were once in a spot in the earth. Their connections to one another cannot be proven, but can only be inferred - science 101. The theory of evolution is a theory precisely because of that; it can never be proven, only refined to better reflect the other assumptions and inferences we've made. To say that evolutionary theory has never been presented with a fact it can't explain is hilarious to me precisely because that's exactly what happens - it can't explain it, so the whole theory shifts slightly to accommodate the new information. That's not a bad thing, that's just good science, and we're all better off for it.

Please understand, I'm defending Dawkins here from the many people who would criticize him for hesitation in a search for a good, satisfying answer. I actually find evolutionary theory quite compelling, a theory worth pursuing, but I will not succumb to the illusion that it has all the answers or that it has no flaws. There is a reason it must still be called a theory, and not a law. Evolutionary theory has yet to be able to actually explain in a satisfactory way the means by which whole systems of brand-new physiology could develop in an animal, such as an eye. While eyes are obviously hugely beneficial for many changing environments, the probability of them developing all at once by random genetic variation borders on the infinite. The intermediates, the ones that didn't work (say, a lens with no optic nerve, or an optic nerve with no photoreceptors, etc.), would be killed off simply because they didn't provide any benefit to the creature. It's the creation of, not the adaptation of species and organs, that the theory can't yet explain, and that seems to me to be a major flaw.

Anonymous said...

Creationists are the ones who claim that whole systems develop spontaneously. Zoologists have plausible and highly detailed hypotheses for the evolutionary development of human eyes. Incidentally, all the intermediary forms are present in currently living organisms. see:
The human eye is not irreducibly complex. A. Annie

Rob said...

I think the only reason he is picked on in this video is just because he tends to be such an insufferable ass about everything. I would argue it isn't so much a specific point on the genome question as just getting a "ha ha" (though I agree with your larger point, it isn't a "gotcha" moment) at his expense.

I kind of like how one person put it: "I don't believe in Unicorns, but I certainly don't spend my days screaming at those who believe in unicorns and write best-sellers about the 'Unicorn Delusion'".

Reminds me of the Lewis point (maybe Chesterton?) about how arguing about the very existence of God in many ways forces those arguing against God to be cutting off the limb they are sitting on.