Mr. Holding and Evolution***

While touring the Internet I came across the following essay (at http://www.tektonics.org/af/evologic2.html) by one James Patrick Holding. I found it particularly interesting because it deals with a subject I am most fascinated by: the evolution vs. creation debate. I have dealt with a fair number of creationist arguments but I must admit that Mr. Holding’s take on the issue was most unusual. I was curious about this Mr. Holding and so I did a brief tour of his website and dug around a bit to find out a little more regarding him. It turned out that Mr. Holding is a Christian apologist who writes essays mainly in defense of biblical inerrancy (Holding is not his real name but he prefers this one to the one his mom and dad gave him. I will refer to him as Mr. Holding throughout my article partly because I wrote it before I discovered his true name and partly because “Holding” is how he is best known). In the following article I would like to focus on this particular essay because it deals with evolution, but I will make references back to other articles written by Mr. Holding to “flesh out” my review, so to speak. In the original article as found on Mr. Holding’s website, his article was responded to by Kyle Gerkin, whom Holding says is from the Secular Web (a quick check confirmed this). To make reading easier as you read my review below, I will preface each section with the name of the author of the quoted material. Mr. Holding’s work will be prefaced by “HOLDING”; Kyle Gerkin’s by “GERKIN” and my own with “ME”. 

 

HOLDING

"Why don't you write about evolution?" Every once in a while I get a smug letter from some skeptic or another asking me this question.

 

ME

I want to pause a moment to draw your attention to something that infuses much of Mr. Holding’s writing as I found it presented on his site. Notice how he introduces his article with an immediate smear on those who are skeptical of biblical inerrancy claims? I don’t doubt for a moment that the question Mr. Holding uses here is a generic one and not one lifted directly from any correspondence he has actually received. However, how does one construe that the request, “Why don’t you write about evolution?” is a “smug” one? Since intonation cannot be derived from a written source unless it is studied in context, the question, as far as I can tell from what is given, sounds like a very valid request. This is especially reinforced when one realizes that Mr. Holding’s site attempts to defend the Bible as an inerrant document, its writing inspired by God. Many, if not most, people who believe this way hold that the Bible is not only internally consistent, but also consistent with the facts of history and science. To believe that the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing God and that it is completely inerrant is by extension to believe that the Bible lines up perfectly with the known facts of history and science. For what perfect, all-knowing God would inspire a book to be written that was scientifically primitive and historically incorrect?

 

Therefore, given the nature of Mr. Holding’s site, and his penchant for snickering at skeptics behind it, it seems perfectly reasonable that some critic “or another” would come along and ask for his opinion on the subject of evolution. Evolution is, of course, completely at odds with a literal reading of the Bible. Now, it may turn out that Mr. Holding does not subscribe to a literal reading of the Bible. But the fact that most Christians who hold that the Bible is inerrant are also Evangelicals and other assorted fundamentalists who do, in fact, staunchly maintain that the Bible is the Word of God and should be read literally from beginning to end.

 

Therefore, by extension, some (or most) skeptics of biblical inerrancy are going to assume that Mr. Holding also agrees that the Bible is to be read literally, that Genesis is a factual and historical record of the early days of the earth and that this belief is wholly incompatible with the theory of evolution. For Mr. Holding to immediately paint his opponents as “smug” for asking a legitimate question speaks volumes of Mr. Holding’s position and his paranoia over those that would criticize his work.

 

HOLDING

I'd like to at least give them a point for consistency: Those who believe that it is possible to become an expert commentator on Hebrew exegetical and literary methods merely by reading Thomas Paine would no doubt think it likewise possible for me to become an instant expert on creation/evolution issues by merely picking up Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker and From Goo to You by Way of the Zoo. Unlike these skeptics, I respect the knowledge of those more informed than I am (as in the hard sciences) and do not presume to know their stuff better than they do.

 

ME

See what I mean? How did these pot-shots further his case at all? If Mr. Holding was serious about his “scholarship” and respected his reader’s own ability to make up their minds about a subject, this entire introductory paragraph could have read:

 

“’Why don’t you write more about evolution?’ Every once in a while I get a letter like this from some visitor to my site asking me this question. The answer is quite simple, really: I respect the knowledge of those more informed than I am (as in the hard sciences) and do not presume to know their stuff better than they do.”

 

But, as you can already tell, Mr. Holding doesn’t respect those who disagree with him. Mr. Holding taunts them and hurls insults in their direction. This is the substance of Mr. Holding’s material. However, I want you to note what Mr. Holding said in this opening paragraph: that he “respect[s] the knowledge of those more informed than I am…and do not presume to know their stuff better than they do.” I want you to keep in mind that Mr. Holding has a degree in the Library Sciences. While I know that Mr. Holding received his degree from the Florida State University, I could not secure an online description of the degree requirements Mr. Holding needed to meet to graduate. However, I trust that the requirements are pretty much the same nationwide. Thus, I found the following at the Indiana University School of Library and Information website regarding the “Goals and Objectives” of those pursuing a Master’s in Library Science:

 

Students in the program are introduced to the roles and functions of libraries in contemporary society. They become familiar with key policy issues and technological trends, and with how these issues and trends affect libraries and information centers of all kinds. Students learn to manage and evaluate collections, respond to the information needs of patrons, and to use technology to improve access to information. Students who complete the program are prepared for careers in library administration, public services, technical services, reference services, and collection development at public, school, academic, and special libraries.

 

“Upon completion of the MLS program, graduates will be prepared to assist and educate users of libraries and information centers; analyze and identify information needs which represent a variety of age, academic, economic, and social groups; and apply appropriate search strategies for effective and efficient information retrieval in each situation. Graduates will also be able to educate users and potential users of information systems to locate and evaluate information resources, and to analyze and evaluate the provision of information systems and services in a variety of library and information settings.”

 

There is nothing wrong with a degree in Library Science. It is worthwhile and something to be proud of. But it does not immediately qualify one as a commentator on biological science, astronomy, physics or even on Christian apologetics. Remember, Mr. Holding states that he “respects” those who have knowledge in fields where he is lacking. It won’t be long into Mr. Holding’s article regarding evolution to find out what kind of hypocrite Mr. Holding really is.

 

HOLDING

That said, we are certain that

 

ME

Pardon me for another brief pause. I want you to note another of Mr. Holding’s tendencies. In his writing he frequently refers to himself in the first-person plural, “we.” No one, to my knowledge, assists Mr. Holding with his writing or his website (at least he doesn’t credit anyone with such assistance if indeed he is receiving help). Therefore, his use of “we” is somewhat odd when you realize that the word is in reference to himself. I’m not sure what he is trying to do or say when he does this but it makes reading his articles a bit awkward. It is as if you are listening to a person speak who has multiple personalities and that a “dominate” one is doing the speaking for the rest…

 

HOLDING

skeptics have speculated a certain cognitive dissonance on my part where evolution is concerned. Not a bit of it. The reason I do not buy or sell the evolution story is that while I cannot comment upon the "hard science" issues, when it comes to things I do know, it is all to [sic] clear that the strongest promoters of evolutionary theory could simply not reason their way out of a paper bag, even one with arrows painted inside in bright neon and a tour guide pointing to the exit.

 

ME

Presently, it is important to recall what Mr. Holding said about those who are “more informed than I am (as in the hard sciences) and” that he “do[es] not presume to know their stuff better than they do.” Clearly, those “strongest promoters of evolutionary theory” are those biologists who study it and have been offering scientifically defensible explanations for its mechanisms. Mr. Holding is clearly being hypocritical when he claims that he respects such person’s knowledge as being on a higher plateau on the subject than his own when he turns around in his article and describes such people as being incapable of “reason[ing] their way out of a paper bag, even one with arrows painted inside in bright neon and a tour guide pointing to the exit.” However, this is just part and parcel for the writing style of Mr. Holding. If he can’t demolish his opponent’s arguments, create ad hominems and hope no one notices his lack of argumentation.

 

HOLDING

Evolutionists often explain evolution by analogy. One of these illustrates evolution via the development of the automobile. Excuse me? How can evolutionists not see that this is all wrong for what they want to prove? Each of these devices was put together by an intelligent designer, separately. The analogy only proves a theory of special creation, not naturalistic evolution! While it would no doubt be protested that this is not the point, it is a point that to blindly use such an analogy in the first place demonstrates a clear lack of critical/analytical thinking.

 

ME

The clear lack of critical/analytical thinking is evidenced by Mr. Holding’s characterization of an analogy that explains evolution. First of all, as Mr. Gerkin notes below, what is the source of Mr. Holding’s analogy? What “evolutionist” illustrates the theory “via the development of the automobile”? Secondly, what is meant by “design”? Although Mr. Holding doesn’t state this, my familiarity with creationist arguments leads me to assume that at least one important aspect of design is “complexity” and that is why Mr. Holding cabbaged onto the “automobile” analogy. However, the theory of evolution does in fact allow very complex systems to arise via gradual variation and selection, not of necessity by an intelligent designer. For complexity to be a problem for evolution, creationists must show some property that rules out gradual development and leaves only intelligent design.

 

Following is the response Mr. Gerkin gave to Mr. Holding’s paragraph above:

 

GERKIN

Can you please provide a reference for the automobile analogy? I will refrain from commenting on it until I can read the actual text, however, I will say that it is possible for an analogy to be accurate in some respects, without the comparison being valid across the board. In fact, this is almost certainly the case, as the two things being compared are not going to have a one to one correspondence. For instance, I might say that "Mark Spitz swims like a fish", and this is intended to convey the idea that he is a superlative swimmer, not that he propels himself through the water with fins and a tail. Am I then demonstrating a lack of critical thinking by using the Spitz/fish analogy? Such a charge would be unfair because one could almost always twist the analogy to where the two aspects being compared are no longer valid.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

The auto analogy was sometimes used in the 1980s and I have not seen it used in quite some time -- perhaps the evolutionists have caught on that it does not work. :-) As for Mr. Spitz and fishes, as an analogy to evolution analogies, that does not wash -- no one uses such a comparison in a critical context; no one is actually trying to make a case that Spitz is a fish as, say, Barney Fife is a poodle. However, the response as much as admits that the auto analogy is not valid.

 

ME

Notice that Mr. Holding could not produce a contemporary source that employed his automobile analogy. He admitted that this was “sometimes used in the 1980’s and I have not seen it used in quite some time…” He then offers a lame excuse as to why it is not found today. I find it humorous that he concludes his response by saying that Mr. Gerkin “as much as admits that the auto analogy is not valid.” Well, for someone who cannot produce a contemporary source that uses such an analogy it would appear that Mr. Holding’s “victory” is only against his own strawman!

 

However, even though Mr. Holding could not produce a source for his automobile analogy, his point does not rest on the analogy’s specifics. What Mr. Holding is trying to say is that he believes evolution proponents use faulty reasoning when describing evolution theory. Yet, with the lack of evidence to support his position, his argument –at least thus far—fails, and the above paragraph needs to be rejected from his “case”. But I am compelled to pick up what Mr. Holding failed to do. It is not evolution proponents that use faulty analogies when trying to describe their theory; it is the Christian creationists who do. And I am prepared to back up my assertion with solid evidence.

 

Later in his reply to Mr. Gerkin in this article, Mr. Holding states that he “refer[s] all [his] readers to my friends at Answers in Genesis on science issues”. Is that so? Then perhaps Mr. Holding is unaware of AiG’s promotion of Hoyle’s faulty analogy of a 747 coming together by random chance with the “random chance” associated with the theory of evolution. Russel Grigg, in an article entitled “Could Monkeys Type the 23rd Psalm”, writes,

 

Another of Professor Hoyle's very expressive analogies is that the chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way (i.e. by evolutionary processes) is comparable with the chance that 'a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein'

 

I wonder, because Mr. Holding endorses the “science” at AiG, if Mr. Holding also endorses the 747 analogy? If he does, this shows a “clear lack of critical/analytical thinking.” The flaw in the argument is that it assumes evolution occurs solely by random chance (i.e., “a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard”). If evolution were nothing but chance, then it would indeed be an absurd theory. However, evolution by natural selection is not a theory of chance. The theory of evolution rests upon non-random selection of reproductively fitter variants. It’s really that simple. So, not only did Mr. Holding fail to support his contention in the above paragraph that evolution proponents display a “clear lack of critical/analytical thinking” with his automobile analogy, he also provided evidence that his own thinking is not clear because he endorses a movement that can be shown to use the kind of faulty analogies that Mr. Holding claims is used by evolutionists! With one pitch, Mr. Holding has already struck-out twice!

 

HOLDING [back in his original essay]

In order to illustrate my own dissatisfaction with evolutionary arguments, I would like to offer two more examples of just such illogic in action, both from the work of one of the leading drum-pounders of evolutionary theory, Richard Dawkins.

 

ME

Just another pause to draw attention to the way Mr. Holding attacks his opponents in his articles by using emotionally laden words to describe them. “Drum-pounder” indeed! If it isn’t clear by now which side of the fence Mr. Holding sits on (since the title to his article leads one to believe that he has an objective opinion about the issue), words such as these reveal his true feelings.

 

HOLDING

The first example comes from pages 51-2 of the paperback edition of The Selfish Gene. Dawkins pulls in an analogy of a chess-playing computer working, and of the relation is has to a human programmer:

...[The programmer] is definitely not manipulating the computer from moment to moment, like a pupeteer pulling strings...He writes the program, puts it in the computer, and then the computer is on its own...Does the programmer perhaps anticipate all possible chess positions, and provide the computer with a long list of good moves, one for each possible contingency? Most certainly not, because the number of possible positions in chess is so great that the world would come to an end before the list had been completed. For the same reason, the computer cannot possibly be programmed to try out 'in its head' all possible moves, and possible follow-ups, until it finds a winning strategy. There are more possible chess games than there are atoms in the galaxy...

The programmer's actual role is rather more like that of a father teaching his son to play chess. He tells the computer the basic moves of the game, not separately from every possible starting position, but in terms of more economically expressed rules...When it is actually playing, the computer is on its own, and can expect no help from its master.

This, Dawkins uses to illustrate his thesis of genes controlling the behavior of their hosts, but the analogy has passed by rather too quickly here. He is quite right about the programming methods, but far too simplistic: as with the automobile analogy, it proves exactly the opposite of what he wants. The chess computer (gene!) had an intelligent programmer.

 

GERKIN [responding to Holding]

First off, analogies don't "prove" anything. They are explanatory tools, often useful for illustrating a point, but they are not evidence. Thus, Dawkins is not trying to "prove" something here. He is trying to communicate an idea to the reader. As you acknowledged, the comparison Dawkins draws involves similarities between the way genes and chess programs affect the behavior of their respective hosts. This analogy is no less effective just because Dawkins could have used a different aspect of the same two things (such as initial programming) to illustrate an Intelligent Design thesis. In fact, even if Dawkins were wrong about the behavior of genes, this would not dilute the effectiveness of the analogy in making his point. He would simply be making a point which was in error. Paley's Watchmaker provides a nice counter example. It is a wonderful analogy in that it very clearly expresses Paley's idea. The fact that Paley's thesis was ultimately wrong, does not mean it was communicated poorly. Indeed, its enduring power as argument that has spring boarded itself into the modern day ID movement, is a testament to its compelling nature.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

Whether he was trying to "prove" something himself or not, the analogy nevertheless proves exactly the opposite of what he wants. As such it is entirely ineffective and inappropriate for his case. Perhaps you may reply that Dawkins had no appropos [sic] analogy available and that this is the best he could offer. Perhaps so indeed, but if no analogy is available that is suitable, then how does this reflect on the possibility of actual naturalistic evolution?

 

ME

Why not look at the scientific evidence of naturalistic evolution, Mr. Holding, and quit quibbling over the analogies? I find it amazing that Mr. Holding can pass judgment on a scientific topic by criticizing its literary merits. Basically what Mr. Holding is arguing is that he doesn’t like the analogy that Dawkins offered in the above paragraph. Most people really couldn’t care less about Mr. Holding’s opinion. The substance of what Dawkins was trying to explain nonetheless remains, as Mr. Gerkin points out. Besides, if Mr. Holding doesn’t like the analogies, maybe he should try cracking open a science book and actually looking at the physical evidence that confirms evolution instead of relying on literary analogies that he doesn’t like.

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

And for what it is worth, this was passed to me: Eastman at www.marshill.org/origin_of_life.htm where he quotes evolutionist Michael Denton as saying(writing) in 1985, "It has only been over the last twenty years with the molecular biological revolution ...... that Hume's criticism has been finally invalidated and the analogy between organisms and machines has at last become convincing.. Paley was not only right in asserting the existence of an analogy between life and machines, but was also remarkably prophetic in guessing that the technological ingenuity realized in living systems is vastly in excess of anything yet accomplished by man." And later Mr. Denton states that "the conclusion may have religious implication." And this statement by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe: ".... It is ironic that the scientific facts throw Darwin out, but leave William Paley, a figure of fun to the scientific world for more then a century, still in the tournament with a chance of being the ultimate winner." Not all have dumped Paley so quickly, perhaps.

 

ME

I’m not too sure what Mr. Holding is advancing here. A return to Paley-like thinking? As in the case of the automobile and 747 analogies, I wonder if Mr. Holding is aware of what made Paley so darned famous in the whole creation/evolution debate in the first place? In case the reader is unaware, Paley was a 19th Century pastor who offered his own flawed analogy about “design” in nature. It really wasn’t that much different than Hoyle’s 747 analogy, and equally as inappropriate. In his book Natural Theology (1802) William Paley presented an argument for the existence of God based upon perceived “design” in nature. He began by stating that if one walks across a field and sees a stone it would be absurd to ask how the stone got there. First, one does not usually ask such questions about stones. Second, it could be that the stone had been there for all time and so no conclusive answer could be sought. However, if during your walk in the field you came across a watch it would be reasonable to ask how it got there. “The inference,” Paley wrote, “we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker; that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.” Now the reason why the assumptions made about the stone do not apply to the watch is because the watch exhibits the “appearance of design” insofar as it has a variety of different parts all working together to produce motion whereby the time can be read. 

 

However, this analogy is seriously flawed. First of all, such an analogy relies heavily upon personal, subjective interpretation. When looking at aspects of nature, some people reach the conclusion that they could only have come about through the designs and purposes of some kind of intelligence (typically supernatural). But this conclusion is not logically necessary. And recall, Mr. Holding’s whole gripe is that evolutionists are so poor in their thinking skills that they “could not reason their way out of a paper bag, even one with arrows painted inside in bright neon and a tour guide pointing to the exit.” The irony here is thick enough to cut with a knife. It is equally as likely that the apparent “design” one sees in nature arose by natural means and that the only reason this “design” is perceived is because we have subjectively decided that this is what it must be! In other words, since our brains our “wired” to search for patterns, it is natural for us to find “patterns” in things and objects which inherently have none. Simply because we perceive what we call “design” doesn’t immediately mean that an intelligence was responsible for its existence.

 

This weakness seriously undermines the ability for such “design” arguments to achieve much. It cannot be merely asserted that design exists. Pointing to order or patterns isn't enough because neither order nor patterns logically imply design - although that is just what so many theists using this argument seem to assume. And argument from analogy - like Paley's watch analogy - don't go very far unless you are already inclined to believe that the universe and nature are deliberately designed. Besides, a watch has no DNA that can be altered over time, no method of self-replication, and there are no survival pressures to act upon the watch in the form of natural selection.

 

So, if Mr. Holding’s gripe is that poor analogies display a “lack of clear analytical/critical thinking” skills, and that is one of the reasons he rejects evolutionary theory, he need look no further than those used by the supporters of creationism/Intelligent Design. I doth think the lady protests too much!

 

HOLDING [in his original essay]

This site offers a description of just what it is that such programs do. What Dawkins sums up as "basic moves of the game" and "economically expressed rules" actually amounts to giving the computer these tools: Opening library, Ply search depth, Alphabeta minimax maethod, Database of opening moves, Database of midgame positions (limited), Database of endgame positions, Evaluative functions (an understanding of the importance of) relating to: Pawn structure; Material Capture; Piece Mobility; King Safety; Domination of centre of the board. "Basic moves of the game"? This is like saying giving someone, somehow, the skills of a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. amounts to giving them "basic rules about driving."

 

GERKIN [responding to Holding]

To be fair, Dawkins wrote The Selfish Gene in 1976 when chess programs were considerably less advanced than today. Dawkins notes that "best programs today can defeat a good amateur". Since the best programs today can defeat a Grand Master, the level of sophistication has obviously increased. However, even if Dawkins was too cavalier in his description of the program's tools, his general point of comparison still holds. That is: genes cannot have instructions for every possible environmental situation that the body in which they reside will be subjected to, just as chess programs cannot have instructions for every possible move on the board. Rather, both operate with sets of rules and strategies that are effective across a broad enough spectrum of possibilities to meet with regular success.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

I'll take from some of that fairness. :-) The edition of SG I used was from the 1980s.

But as above, the analogy -- and the necessary advancement of the programs so that they can defeat Grand Masters -- still only illustrates exactly the opposite of what he wants to prove and as such does not assist him in his case, but only serves to refute it in favor of an ID paradigm at the very least.

 

ME

And again, if Mr. Holding’s gripe is with poor analogies, he’s throwing stones in a glass house.

 

But what I find most revealing is Mr. Holding tacit admission here that he supports “an ID paradigm”. I would suggest that he read “Tower of Babel” and “Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics”, both by Robert T. Pennock before he comments further about this “paradigm”.

 

HOLDING [in his original article]

Our second and last example,

 

ME

Notice Mr. Holding’s use of “our” in reference to himself.

 

HOLDING

I draw from The Blind Watchmaker [80]. The work as a whole runs upon a premise of an immensely begged question (evolution must have taken place, because here we are),

 

GERKIN

Indeed, here we are. So we must have come from somewhere. The question is: why should we think organisms evolved over the course of history rather than having been created "as is" to begin with? Dawkins work, as a whole, is dedicated to answering this question.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

To answer this would require delving into matters of science beyond my scope.

 

ME

So why did Mr. Holding pick this book and level his criticisms against one lifted quote from it if, indeed, such matters are “beyond” his “scope”? What an idiot.

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

Nevertheless, in those areas where science is not at issue, I found Dawkins' work to be filled with fabulous "just so" stories that conveniently verified his thesis.

 

ME

I find this particularly humorous. Is Mr. Holding not familiar with the many “just so” stories advocated by creationists? Indeed, his site is overflowing with “just so” stories that try and defend biblical inerrancy!

 

Additionally, the analogies used are those Dawkins, the writer, felt best to express scientific principles, theories and processes. Mr. Holding’s gripe isn’t with evolution, it’s with a particular writing style and choice of analogies. If Mr. Holding claims that he doesn’t understand the “hard science” of evolution theory, how can he then pretend to criticize the analogies that attempt to explain it? The irony here is incredible! Mr. Holding, in effect, is saying: “I don’t understand what the analogy is trying to tell me but I DO know that it is a bad analogy!” How can he be sure it is a bad analogy when he admitted that he doesn’t understand what the analogy is trying to explain? What misguided arrogance!

 

HOLDING [in his original essay]

but one example in particular has always struck me as the disconnected lynchpin of evolutionary thinking.

 

ME

“Evolutionary thinking”? What is that? The gradual change in a person’s thinking over time given fluctuating environmental patterns? Mr. Holding really needs to take his own advice and not comment on subjects he knows nothing about. It will save him unnecessary embarrassment.

 

HOLDING

In answering charges that the slightest error in the evolution of an eye would cause problems and lead to a failure in natural selection, Dawkins writes:

The odds cannot be far from 50/50 that you are reading these words through glass lenses. Take them off and look around. Would you agree that 'a recognizable image is not formed'? If you are male the odds are about 1 in 12 that you are colorblind. You may well be astigmatic. It is not unlikely that, without glasses, your vision is a misty blur. One of today's most distinguished...evolutionary theorists so seldom cleans his glasses that his vision is probably a misty blur anyway, but he seems to get along pretty well and, by his own account, he used to play a mean game of monocular squash.

Anecdotal squash games aside, what is wrong with this picture? Every person Dawkins writes to here has been living for years -- in most cases with previously perfect or sufficient vision -- and has developed other mechanisms, and gained familiarity with the world and circumstances in the meantime, that the loss or corruption of eyesight merely makes less convenient to whatever degree. His friend has been playing squash for years and had finely honed reflexes, a fit enough body, a fully developed mind, and knowledge of the game and its strategies. A creature in the wild who managed to evolve vision for the first time (and never mind that it would be far, far from being as useful as the weakened vision of most of Dawkins' readers, to say nothing of other biological matters beyond my ken) won't be selected unless its vision is accompanied by other traits already in place, and where did those come from, since they too can't be selected without accompanying traits?

 

GERKIN

Who says vision cannot be selected without accompanying traits? Vision is no less useful for the deaf. In fact, it is probably more vital for survival.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

That's really rather simplistic and doesn't answer the main point, which is that any "newly evolved" vision is not going to be of help. Dawkins' friend only burns up the squash court because he has other "traits" that, if we wish to press Dawkins' analogy, help to select his inferior vision. If his friend had all that taken from him, what good would the vision do on a squash court in terms of winning the game? You go on to say:

A creature with a new gift of vision also needs the ability to process what it sees and react accordingly. What if we were to take Dawkins' friend off the squash court and place him, naked and defenseless, deprived of all his other senses, on another planet filled with beasts and conditions he had never seen before?

 

GERKIN

Those would certainly be rough circumstances. Yet, Dawkins' friend would still have a better chance of surviving with limited vision than none at all. A better comparison would be to place thousands of clones of Dawkins' friend on the planet, but randomly blind some of them, and leave others with limited vision. Which group do you think would survive longer? And still, the analogy is not quite fair. After all, animals that evolved proto-eyes were not in completely alien environments. They lived in environments for which they were already genetically adapted for survival, and the proto-eye was an additional advantage, not a primary survival tool.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

You think he'd have a better chance of surviving? I don't. In such a rough environment he's as likely to run into danger as out of it, if not more likely.

 

ME

What is Mr. Holding saying here? I get the impression that he did not fully comprehend Mr. Gerkin’s point. Mr. Gerkin said, “Dawkins’ friend would still have a BETTER chance of surviving with LIMITED vision than NONE at all.” How does Mr. Holding reason that someone with limited vision would be more likely to run into danger than out of it up against a person with NO vision? I challenge Mr. Holding to be placed in a room full of pitfalls, blindfolded, along with a man wearing goggles that mist his vision. Who, I wonder, would fare better in this room?

 

HOLDING [still in response to Mr. Gerkin]

As for adding clones, doesn't that beg the question of how any of them got the vision in the first place? Doesn't this analogy propose an unlikely scenario of many subjects evolving vision of varying degrees all at the same time? You say the analogy is not fair -- nor would be a world of raw survival, for that matter, but I am compensating as well for the fact that Dawkins' bud would still have some degree of intelligence to work with. In effect I am trying to make it fairly comparable to some supposed animal who evolves vision for the first time. And I daresay in whatever environment, a new sense is just as likely, if not more likely, to confuse and mislead into danger than to assist in survival.

 

ME

As Mr. Gerkin points out below, Mr. Holding’s quibble isn’t so much caused by Dawkins’ analogy, as by Mr. Holding’s ignorance about a subject he is willing to reject on “logical” reasons alone.

 

HOLDING [in his original article]

I could say more, including commenting on the absurdity of pointing to lack of function as evidence for evolution (as in the example of cave organisms "devolving" and losing their eyes -- how do steps backwards prove steps forwards?!?), but the point is, Dawkins has it backwards for what he is trying to prove.

 

GERKIN

This is one of the classic misunderstandings of evolutionary theory. Part of it probably stems from the use of the word "devolve", which ought to be eliminated from the evolutionary vocabulary. It is anthropomorphic to speak of steps forward and step backward. In evolution, there is really no "direction" because there is no overarching goal. Organisms simply evolve based on which adaptations are advantageous for propagating their genes in their current environmental circumstances. They are not progressing towards some sort of Platonic ideal organism. This is why cave organisms lose their eyes. Such organisms once lived under the open sun, but have since settled in an underground ecological niche. Of course, eyes are only useful in the light, and serve no purpose for creatures which live in utter darkness. But constructing an eye has a real cost in energy expenditure borne by the developing embryo. That energy could have been spent in productive capacities, such as building a finer sensitivity to vibrations. Thus, those cave organisms whose embryos, by random variation, spend a little less on visual acuity and a little more on useful qualities will tend to be more successful at surviving and propagating those "lesser visual quality" genes. Over millions of years, this process will select descendants lacking eyes.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

I realize that this is the standard line, but goal or no goal, loss of a function does not suggest that there can be gain of a function. The above is a creative "just so" story that begs the question. The benefit of lesser energy expenditure does not manifest unless the creation of the new trait happens at the same time to use up the saved energy.

 

ME

Is Mr. Holding really this ignorant of how biology works? Perhaps a trip back to a high school science class would do him good. If Mr. Holding thinks Mr. Gerkin’s explanation is a “just so” story that “begs the question,” I challenge Mr. Holding to scientifically explain why cave salamanders have virtually useless eyes and a sensitivity to vibrations.

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

If the energy is left unused and undirected, then what benefit is it? This seems terribly convenient and if anything suggests intelligent direction to the process.

 

ME

Mr. Holding needs to stop writing while he’s ahead. His quibble has already been answered and the more he protests, the more he reveals his ignorance of evolution theory. When someone asks the question, “how do steps backwards prove steps forwards” in regard to evolution theory, they reveal just how little they know about the subject.

 

HOLDING [in his original essay]

Therefore, skeptics, I say unto you: Don't ask me to write about evolution.

 

ME

Indeed! Mr. Holding needs to stay off subjects he is stupendously ignorant about!

 

HOLDING

If this is the best sort of thinking your side has to offer, I don't want to hear about it.

 

ME

And, of course, this is not of necessity “the best sort of thinking” evolutionary theory “has to offer” more than it is the selective quoting that Mr. Holding has used to buttress his reason for remaining ignorant about the science of evolution.

 

GERKIN [responding to Holding]

Within the context of Dawkins' books, I think the analogies he draws are illustrative of the points he is actually trying to make. But even if you disagree, you are only casting aspersions on Dawkins ability as a communicator of evolutionary concepts. This has nothing to do with whether such concepts are actually true or false. Dawkins does not hold evolution to be true because of arguments by analogy. In short, if you are making a decision on whether or not to buy (or sell) evolution, you ought to look at the actual evidence. A good source on the web can be found here. And of course, there are more books than you can shake a crucifix at, from "On the Origin of the Species" to works by modern scientists such as Dawkins, whose books are far more than collections of analogies. If you don't have time to bother with the evidence, you could always take the path you endorsed in your opening paragraph and "respect the knowledge of those more informed" than you, granting the benefit of the doubt to the years (and lifetimes!) of study made by members of the scientific community.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

I respect their knowledge in science (and as a matter of course, refer all readers to my friends at Answers in Genesis on science issues),

 

ME

I’m curious as to why Mr. Holding defaults his readers to the “scientists” at AiG and insinuates that this is an example of his “respect” for scientific knowledge? Is he unaware that the “scientists” at AiG are sworn to protect the literal and inerrant reading of the Bible, over against anything that objective scientific inquiry has to offer? Perhaps he needs to be made aware of AiG’s “Statement of Faith” found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/about/faith.asp

 

In part, the “scientists” at AiG assert, “The scientific aspects of Creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.” So what is their priority over there? Objective scientific fact or making sure as many people hear the “good news” as possible?

 

In addition, AiG states, “The Bible is the written Word of God. It is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. It is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs.” Notwithstanding that this claim is made in the absence of such “original autographs” and so is worthless, the fact that AiG is committed to a belief in an inerrant and divinely inspired book in which the assertions contained therein are “factually true” gives them a bias against ANY scientific evidence which would be contrary to these faith-based assertions! Yes, indeed, Mr. Holding’s admiration for the “scientists” over at AiG speaks volumes about his own credulity.

 

HOLDING [responding to Mr. Gerkin]

but their ability to think is clearly impaired.

 

ME

This statement would be funny if it wasn’t so tragically ironic.

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

If Dawkins uses these analogies and is therefore a bad communicator, why then should I think he has communicated his science ideas properly? How do I know, if he does not recognize that these analogies are invalid, that he also does not recognize that other ideas of his are invalid? Or how can I know that perhaps he does know they are invalid, but uses them anyway as a crooked way of promoting his theories? (A worst case scenario of course.) The entire point of the article was that I have found such fundamental deficiencies in thinking of evolutionists (including members of the place you suggest -- Dawkins was merely a popular example), which leads me to not give them the benefit of the doubt when they present other evidence. Clear, logical thinking is essential in any consideration of hard data.

 

ME

Which, again, is tragically ironic. I don’t disagree with Mr. Holding’s point here, but since this criterion should be applied across the board, it rules out Mr. Holding himself as a source worthy of consideration!

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

If they show unclear, illogical thinking here, then why should they be trusted as a whole?

 

ME

Again, the same could (and should) be said of Mr. Holding. Since he has exhibited such unclear, illogical thinking here, why should anyone trust what else he has to offer on Tekton?

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

Is it safe to assume that illogic only affects them in this area? I would not trust someone in another field if they manifested such poor thinking practices.

 

ME

Of course he does! Mr. Holding does not want to afford the time and effort it would take to actually study the scientific data himself so he sets up this strawman of “illogical thinking” and then dismisses the entire scientific field of evolutionary theory with one fail swoop! This is simply a non sequitur and if Holding doesn’t see this, it is his mind which is seriously flawed.

 

HOLDING [still responding to Mr. Gerkin]

I reject the work of certain writers in the apologetics field for the same reason.

 

ME

Of course, this is a standard that Mr. Holding is incapable of applying to himself, but those that read him need to keep Mr. Holding’s measuring stick in mind and “reject” his work “in the apologetics field for the same reason.”

 

Now the question becomes, if Mr. Holding rejects evolution for his stated reasons, what does he have to offer in its stead? What logically clear and scientifically sound alternative does he support against evolution? Can he present that material on his website? Or does he simply like the versions of the “just so” stories set up on AiG enough to accept them while remaining woefully ignorant about biological science?

 

***formatting and some grammatical errors edited by The Exposure Crew