Four days ago the BBC “Religion and Ethics” site posted a written debate on evolution between a Muslim and a Christian. Unexpectedly, the evolution side was argued by the Muslim, Inayat Bunglawala (media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain), while the wrong side was represented by the Christian: young-earth creationist Greg Haslam, senior pastor of the Westminster Chapel in London. The BBC describes Bunlawala as “a strong believer in the evolution of man in line with accepted scientific theory”; Haslam as “an avowed creationist who believes the world was created by God in six days between six to 10,000 years ago.” (I didn’t think there were any YECs left in England!)
The debate is predictable—if anything, even lamer than the average of the genre. The sides don’t engage, and of course none of these debates ever arrive at any common ground. Nor do they change minds. There are just a few bits to highlight:
Greg: Creationists are not enemies of true science and should never be afraid of the true facts, for “all truth is God’s truth”. Checking false claims, however, is mandatory.
Often, fictional stories are told about origins by scientists similar to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, like “How the Elephant Got its Trunk”. But no one was there to see these events or God’s creation as they unfolded – let alone the alleged 14.5 billion years old “Big Bang” and 4.5 billion years ago earth formation.
Humility is therefore required, not hubris. Long ages are assumed because with evolutionists time is the hero of the plot. Anything can happen given enough time. But can it produce complex order and information if the universe is blind, purposeless – the result of an explosion, random, chaotic and undirected?
Creationists are not enemies of true science? Doesn’t it give them pause that their doctrines are rejected by 99% of real working scientists?
The trope that “we weren’t there to see it” is, of course, completely dumb. How does Greg know that Henry VIII or Julius Caesar existed? Was he there to see them? We know evolution is true in the same way we know Henry VIII lived: we have a checkable historical record of their existence.
Finally, when you see a call for “humility,” it’s either by a religious person or an accommodationist like Paul Davies (more 0n him later). Scientists don’t need to remind themselves to be humble because it’s built into our discipline. There’s always a little voice whispering in our ear, “But remember, you might be wrong.”
The call for humility is really a cry of desperation by the faithful to scientists, and it means, “Hey, you’ve accomplished so much more than we have. Can’t you tone it down a bit?”
Greg: But, Inayat, evolutionary science asserts that things made themselves!
The first great problem then, is where did the universe itself come from? Where did all the “raw material” for evolution originate? It is a proven axiom of science that “nothing comes from nothing”. For every effect you require an efficient cause. The materialist’s explanation is no explanation at all. It is simply an assumption, and a wild one at that.
Well, Greg, where did God come from? He is something, too, so did he come from nothing? It is very strange that theologians think that the question of God’s origin is a stupid one: they say he was always there! But what did he do before he made the universe, then—sit around twiddling his apophatic thumbs for eternity? And if God could always exist, so could some form of a universe or multiverse.
Inayat’s response, however, leaves something to be desired. He not only doesn’t raise the criticisms I just mentioned, but talks about steam engines and agency, muddling the whole debate. He also sucks up to religion:
Inayat: We need to distinguish between an agent and a cause. Let’s take Robert Asher’s example of a steam engine. Science helps explain how a steam engine works i.e. the process by which its action is caused: heated water boils into steam which rises and powers the rotation of a turbine which then spins the wheels of the steam train etc.
Note that it is also valid to say that Thomas Savery designed the steam engine (and James Watt later improved upon it). However, this is a different kind of explanation: it is one of agency, not cause. Just because science helps to reveal the naturalistic cause behind the function of the steam engine, it does not mean it denies the agency of Savery and Watt.
Similarly, Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection is an immensely compelling explanation for the mechanism of how different species have come about. It does not deny an agent.
Of course it denies an agent, if by “denying” you mean “such an agent is not part of the process, and is explicitly posited to have no effect on it.” Evolution is a materialistic, naturalistic, and unguided process, regardless of what the National Center for Science Education wants to tell the faithful. It does not need the agency of Savery and Watt. Of course science can’t tell us absolutely where or not there’s some kind of god (particularly a do-nothing deistic one) but what it does posit is that there’s no evidence such a God affected evolution. (Let me add quickly here that science has given us evidence against a theistic god, in the form of the existence of gratuitious evil and the absence of evidence for the Abrahamic God, which is evidence of absence.)
Here Inayat is playing to the crowd, trying to have his Darwin and Allah, too.
Greg then goes on to blame Hitler, Stalin, Atheism, Naturalism, and all the bad “isms” on Darwin. Inayat replies, among other things, that “Blaming Darwin’s theory for all sorts of evil is like blaming the printing press for Hitler’s Mein Kampf.” Well, not exactly: the printing press was the means by which Mein Kampf was made into palpable books. Evolution was not the vehicle for promulgating Communism or Nazism.
Finally, Greg make a Big Fail with respect to physics:
Greg: Let’s talk about one abused idea – the Big Bang, a concept which seeks to explain the origin of the universe, claiming that billions of years ago all the matter and energy in the universe was condensed into a particle no bigger than a pin-head.
No one knows where it came from, but its heat and density were unimaginably great. Then for some unknown reason it exploded, then expanded and cooled so that helium and hydrogen gas could be formed. Our solar system appeared and the rest is palaeontology.
Dead things don’t re-create and re-order themselves to become living entities again.
Every explosion we’ve ever observed results in chaos, never order. Why would physical laws break down for the formation of the universe in the “Big Bang” and its aftermath? No scientist can yet tell us.
The man needs to read up on the Big Bang and abiogenesis.
I’m curious why the BBC even decided to present this “debate”. It gives, by virtue of publication alone, unwarranted credibility to creationism and to Haslam. There is no real debate in the scientific community over evolution, and putting this “debate” on the BBC site isn’t going to change the minds of creationists. If the BBC wants to show people the truth of evolution, I’ll be glad to write them a summary of the evidence. And that doesn’t need a rebuttal, any more than does the assertion that the earth is round. Further, I won’t claim that “agency” could be involved in evolution.
Oh, and there’s a typo that wasn’t corrected:
Michael Denton wrote that book [Evolution: A Theory in Crisis] back in 1985. It’s arguments have not found wide support amongst scientists.
“It’s”? Come on, BBC.