Rate of Change

It's been a while since I have blogged about evolution or faith and science. But this article in New Scientist has provoked me again.

The debate between evolutionists and creationists often goes nowhere, in my opinion. The Darwinists' understanding of the science is often much better and the creationists' arguments are often embarrassingly poorly constructed and as such are easily torn to pieces. However it would be a logical fallacy to assume that the more educated opinion is always correct. History has proved this to be wrong within the scientific community countless times. Copernicus's theory of a helio-centric solar system was considered poorly constructed and logically flawed by his scientific peers, and many dismissed his ideas as a result - but he was right.

Rather than get drawn into the details, that both sides are expert at shouting down, lets take a step back, and examine the big picture in simple terms.

The world is full of a diversity of life. The question is how did this diversity arise. Let's take the analogy of a bathtub full of water representing all the biodiversity on the planet. The creationist says, "God filled the tub." The evolutionist says, "The tap is running."

There then ensues an argument about the nature of the tap (which the Darwinist understands far better) and whether any water (biodiversity) is really flowing into the tub (through the process of evolution).

But there is one other important fact, which is beyond dispute by either side. The plug is out on this tub. Extinctions are irreversibly reducing the biodiversity of the planet all the time. A recent newspaper article I read suggested that as many as 11 species disappear each year. With many thousands more on the critically endangered list. (Indeed evolutionary theory relies on extinction to provide the steering hand of evolution - Natural Selection).

So let's side-step all the arguments about whether the tap is running or not, and ask a more fundamental question. Even if the tap is running; is it running sufficiently fast to explain a full tub with the plug out?

This is just a matter of empirical data. If the initial state of the bath-tub was empty, as the Darwinists propose, then the average rate of "speciation" must exceed the average rate of extinction. Or the bath tub would stay empty. The mind-bending periods of time (8.3 billion years) don't help here either, because if the car is not going forwards it doesn't matter how long it drives for, it is never going to get anywhere!

The plain and simple fact is that even taking what scientists propose to be recent speciation events (usually at least several thousand years ago) they don't add up to anywhere near 11 a year. The tub is getting more empty, not more full. Not great news for the initially-empty-bath-tub-theory.

Perhaps the rate of extinction was not so high in the past? Well here the evidence is to the contrary too, with several well documented periods of mass-extinction or elevated extinction rates. According to Berkley's information, of all the life that has ever existed on this planet, over 99% has become extinct.

The only option left for the empty-tubbers is that the tap must have been running faster in the past than it is now. In other words it relies on conditions and processes that cannot be tested and verified in the laboratory today. Hardly the irrefutable proof, that no-one could seriously disbelieve.

People often criticise creation(ism) as being unscientific. Yes, it is. It doesn't (or shouldn't) pretend to be otherwise. But unless you are an atheist, and disbelieve that anything miraculous can happen, this doesn't automatically make it untrue.

Equally, hard evidence for mutations, genetic drift, microevolutionary changes within a species, and the process of natural selection do not mean that Darwin's theory on the origin of the species is correct.

The tub is full, yet it is draining faster than it is filling (if it is filling at all). Does this suggest that the tub was initially full or empty?