Monday, 1 June 2015

A Christadelphian special creationist comments on John Morris' article - and destroys my irony meter

I've been active in combatting Christadelphian special creationist attacks on evolutionary biology for many years, so nothing really surprises me anymore. Occasionally however, the chutzpah of such attacks can be amazing. A classic example comes from a post by Andrew Perry, a Christadelphian old earth creationist with a background in philosophy who offers his assessment on the June 2015 article by John Morris which has been recently refuted at ECACP. Perry writes:
The June issue of the Christadelphian Magazine has an article by John Morris entitled 'The Way God Works'. It puts some basic points against theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism and quotes Francis Collins' definition of theistic evolution as a representative evolutionary creationist. It doesn't therefore fall into the trap of setting up a straw man as it doesn't (wisely) quote Christadelphian evolutionary creationists. It's simple but reasonably accurate.
Given the numerous errors and outright blunders that have characterised this article by Morris, not to mention his 2009 article Darwin and the Gospel, to call it reasonably accurate not only is a mistake, but confirms that Perry is simply out of his depth on the science.

One of the problems with Perry's comment is his remark that Francis Collins' definition of theistic evolution is representative of what evolutionary creationists believe. This is misleading on a number of levels. For example, it fails to recognise that evolution refers to fact (common descent) and theory (the modern evolutionary synthesis). As there are evolutionary creationists who:
  • accept common descent but do not think the modern evolutionary synthesis is a valid explanation (similar to Michael Behe), 
  • evolutionary creationists who accept the modern evolutionary synthesis but argue that human altruism is a problem for evolution (Collins)  
  • evolutionary creationists who accept evolution and regard the evolution of the human mind as providing no fundamental problems for the modern synthesis (myself and many others). 
those who believe that the natural history of life is evolutionary, irrespective of what was the evolutionary mechanism God used form a very broad church, making it highly misleading to advance one person as representative of that viewpoint.

However, the comment which is truly amazing his his claim that Morris' article "doesn't therefore fall into the trap of setting up a straw man as it doesn't (wisely) quote Christadelphian evolutionary creationists." This remark is ludicrous, as by failing to quote what Christadelphian evolutionary creationists believe, Morris has very much set up a straw man. If he'd bothered quoting what Christadelphian evolutionary creationists believe, then he would have made an attempt to honestly represent what Christadelphian evolutionary creationists say.

This point is critical because mainstream Christian evolutionary creationists face a massive problem in reconciling the immortality of the soul (and given Collins' problems are based on human altruism, this problem is highly significant). Tyler Francke, who runs the excellent God of Evolution blog echoes comments which have troubled many mainstream Christians who accept evolution but are puzzled about how to reconcile their theology with it:
However, unlike the mutated goo argument — which is a shameless, shoddily constructed straw man at best — questioning how we can understand the soul in light of evolution is actually a very important exercise. I believe the existence of the soul should be affirmed; without it, fundamental aspects of the Christian faith (the dire effects of sin, the need for atonement, the opportunity to spend eternity worshiping God, etc.) fall apart pretty quickly. 
It also must be said that nowhere in the Bible will you find the words, “And then, the LORD said, ‘Let man be given an incorporeal, immortal essence, and let it be called a soul, and in the future, let the word also come to represent the funky sounds of Motown,’ and it was so.” Ergo, exactly what the soul is, and where it came from, requires some conjecture regardless of whether you believe the universe is as old as the scientific evidence indicates or younger than the Great Barrier Reef.
Christadelphian evolutionary creationists don't have this problem at all because we do not believe that humans have an immortal soul. The question of how the immortal soul fits into evolution (not to mention the problem of reconciling original sin and the theories of atonement contingent on it) are simply not an issue for us. Morris' failure to mention this point, along with his failure to directly quote Christadelphian evolutionary creationists on what they believe badly undermines the credibility of his argument, which is frankly one huge straw man. Given Perry's background in philosophy, his failure to spot an informal fallacy of this magnitude is not a little embarrassing.