Let me ask you a question – is evolution a theory of similarity, or one of transformation? This is a big question because it affects the nature and adequacy of evidence presented to support it. What’s really surprising is the answer that evolutionists give to this question.
One would think that a theory which tells us that we have all evolved from a common ancestor, and that the design we see in living organisms is apparent and not real, would have to be a theory that purports to explain how those features came to be. However, this is not how evolutionists today view their theory.
In the Nelson/Velasco debate this came out quite clearly. Nelson (from the ID camp) claimed that evolution was primarily a theory of transformation, and should be judged on that basis. In a move that surprised me, Velasco came back and said that evolution was not primarily a theory of transformation, but one of similarity! Evolution, according to Velasco, does not have to show, in any way, shape, or form, how X could have come from Y. It only has to show that X is similar to Y in some deep way.
This floored me when I first saw it, but then I started looking at other things, and realized that this is, indeed, the standard way that evolutionists look at their theory. For instance, if you look at the famous 29 evidences for Macroevolution, it has this claim:
Therefore, the evidence for common descent discussed here is independent of specific gradualistic explanatory mechanisms. None of the dozens of predictions directly address how macroevolution has occurred, how fins were able to develop into limbs, how the leopard got its spots, or how the vertebrate eye evolved. None of the evidence recounted here assumes that natural selection is valid. None of the evidence assumes that natural selection is sufficient for generating adaptations or the differences between species and other taxa. Because of this evidentiary independence, the validity of the macroevolutionary conclusion does not depend on whether natural selection, or the inheritance of acquired characaters, or a force vitale, or something else is the true mechanism of adaptive evolutionary change. The scientific case for common descent stands, regardless. (emphasis added)
This seemed truly bizarre. How can you possibly say that X came from Y unless you have a theory of transformation? This actually puts evolution apart from nearly every other materialist branch of science, because in those you must look at material similarity with known mechanisms. However, for evolution, the rules change. Apparently we can know the source of X and Y without knowing any mechanism at all to convert one to the other!
This also recently came up in the Meyer/Giberson debate. At about the 2 hour mark, Giberson, almost immediately after criticizing ID for lacking a good theoretical model of information flow, after being asked if he knew of any mutations which conferred benefit to the organism without simultaneously harming it, said this:
that’s a question with a high degree of specificity to it, and there’s a lot of question about how this process works, and a lot of biologists feel there are missing pieces. Not about whether evolution is true, but about how this process works. (roughly transcribed by me)
This matches his presentation as well, which was entirely based on similarity. But, he concludes the evening by saying that the real problem is that if you assert design that you are attributing a lot of evil in the world to God.
So, let me get this straight. Evolution, by some of its strongest proponents, has nothing to do with a theory of transformation, but only about similarity. And, if pushed, the other reason is that they don’t want to attribute some of the designs to God. But their theory is really, really science-y I promise, and the other guys don’t shouldn’t be taken seriously because we already have it figured out except we don’t.
I do appreciate the issues that people like Giberson have with design. I appreciate the very interesting problems that the design argument bring, especially with biological similarity and “evil design” (interestingly, the Creation Biology Society did a conference on that specific question a few years ago – though I doubt Giberson paid much attention). I also appreciate the pattern that the theory of common descent has regarding the nature of life. However, given the fact that everyone in macroevolutionary theory has no idea how it happens, nor has anyone ever seen it occur, I have trouble seeing how any reasonable suggestion should be thrown out. If there is any suggestion that should be thrown out it would be neo-Darwinism, which lacks causal efficacy to produce the effect. Since we are keeping that on the table despite the repeatable evidence against it, I don’t see why anyone would even think to remove another.