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Ross Olson's Fifth Critique

For Dr. Max's Original Article, click HERE.

For A Paper Distributed at Dr. Max 2/22/01 Debate with Duane Gish, click HERE.

For An Introduction To Answering Dr. Edward Max's Challenge, click HERE.

For Ross Olson's First Critique, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Rebuttal, click HERE.

For Ross Olson's Second Critique, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Second Rebuttal to the Second Critique, click HERE.

For Ross Olson's Third Critique, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Third Rebuttal to the Third Critique, click HERE.

For Olson's Critique Number Four, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Fourth Rebuttal to the Fourth Critique, click HERE.

For Olson's Critique Number Five, click HERE.

For Dr. Max's Fifth Rebuttal to the Fifth Critique (and the summary linked below), click HERE.

For a summary of these interactions, click HERE.

May 14, 2002 (amended per Dr. Max's request for clarification)

Dear Dr. Max,

Thank you for your response. Thank you also for being brief. Although the web page containing our debate does get visits, I am not sure many are willing to slog through a long and tedious repetition of familiar arguments. I too will try to be brief and to emphasize the central points.

1. The system in which gene shuffling and mutation take place "SURE LOOKS DESIGNED"

You countered that your only point was to disprove the creationist contention "that random mutation is a uniformly deleterious process." But don't you see it? Your example does not work because it is beneficial only because it is operating within this complex system?!

Undoubtedly, you are so sure that the complex system also came about by mutations that you cannot see the circularity in your reasoning. I call this an example of selective blindness in an intelligent and otherwise astute scientist.

2. Thermodynamics

You insist that I need to answer these questions.

(1) Do you agree that "Localized regions of increased order can occur in spontaneous processes without violating the Second Law"?
(2) Do you think that a valid thermodynamics analysis of the biosphere can neglect the sun's energy and the dissipation of solar energy into space?

I agree with (1) for simple processes like crystallization and agree with your implication in (2), but maintain that these contentions are not relevant. My main point in dealing with the thermodynamic arguments is that it is possible - and perhaps even appropriate - to narrowly define thermodynamics in ways that conclude, for example, that the manufacture of a car from raw materials does not violate the second law. Yet those calculations do not deal with the fact that highly directed energy, skill and intelligence are needed at many steps along the way in order to end up with a functional product instead of a pile of rubble. Raw energy, even as massive as the output of the sun, will not do it, and increasing disorganization of the surrounding environment does not help.

You may not agree to call it the second law, but I insist that to be honest you must admit to the presence of a parallel principle of decay, easily generalized from that data of nature. Complex systems do not build themselves up by natural processes over time, but rather are degraded by natural processes over time. (And don't give evolution as an example because that is what is being contested!)

Why do I ask for this admission / concession from those who say, "the second law allows evolution?" Because people looking at the arguments from a distance can far-too-quickly draw conclusions that are not warranted and are not even claimed by the authors. For example, you do not claim that your antibody mutation data prove - or even "help" - evolution. Rather, you claim that you only refuted a creationist contention regarding whether mutations can be beneficial. (Of course, I contend that even that limited goal is not attained.) But outsiders, looking in, see your arguments as a pillar of the case for evolution.

You need to be explicit about the conclusions and shoot down over-interpretations. So does Dr. Harvey, who, in defending the compatibility of evolution and the second law, admits that there may be something to the information argument.

3. Apes to graduate students.

You had claimed that evolution of human intelligence was rapid because humans and apes have such genetic similarity. I suggested that then we should have seen more intelligence and maybe opposable thumbs in dogs.

You respond with the reminder that dogs walk on all fours and thus do not have the opportunity to use their paws for anything else. I'm sorry I brought up thumbs. It was supposed to be vaguely humorous.

But as to intelligence in dogs, you say they are not selected for abstract reasoning. (I might counter that neither are graduate students. Both are selected for loyalty.) I also beg to differ on your point. Talking dogs, or unusually smart pets can now be real cash cows on the talk show circuit, and before that in the circuses. Even in the world of make-believe, a whole series revolved around Lassie knowing when Timmy had fallen down the well and figuring a way to convince the rather dull-witted two legged costars of that fact.

Kidding aside, I really think that if mutations endowed a dog with unusual ability, it would be noticed and all attempts made to breed for the characteristic. And, anyway, you place your faith in NATURAL selection, which could have worked on the wild relatives of the domestic dog. In fact, if intelligence is so easy to evolve, why don't all groups have it?

You respond that it has something to do with those prehensile thumbs. Do notice, however, that this would not be a prediction based on evolution but an ad hoc response to the data. If it is true, then Pandas should be "smarter than the average bear." In fact, T. Rex and the other bipedal dinosaurs, over the millions of years they were supposedly around, should have gotten enough intelligence to leave clear evidence.

And in using the wide range of phenotypes selectively bred from primordial dogs as an example of how rapid phenotypic change could take place in nature, you fail to acknowledge the limits to change. The dogs are all indeed still dogs and that is important. Almost all the variation can be accounted for by shuffling of original genes and the mutations can hardly be called improvements. Albinism or hair that grows continuously would be preferentially ELIMINATED by natural selection. In fact, most of our special breeds would not have survived in the wild.

4. Behe's work and "faith" in evolution.

You claimed that there is now a scientific literature "dealing with" Behe's questions. As I referred to above, "dealing with" a question - as you "dealt with" beneficial mutations - may not answer it. Your own scenario for flagellum evolution fell far short of adequate, yet casual observers - including the majority of the scientific community - will be satisfied that the experts have spoken.

To say that you have faith in the continued progress of science to answer these questions is a good mindset for a research scientist, and must be particularly useful in applying for grants. But Behe does not just say the questions have not been addressed. He says that they are insoluble!

If you really looked at the recent progress of science in detail, you would also notice that although many questions have indeed been answered, questions about the complexity of life have gotten even more complicated! The molecular interactions are incredibly more intricate than we could have even imagined before. From the human genome project data we even find that the complexity of human beings is produced by about a third of the number of genes that expected. Thus that the micro-miniaturization is even more astounding!

If you have faith in the power of science to answer all questions, then you may be philosophically cutting yourself off from any evidence to the contrary. My friend, Tom Lawson, whose discussions also fill many pages on the TCCSA web site, says that if he saw a person come back alive, long after being certifiably dead, he would still not believe in miracles, but would be happy to die waiting for science to solve it at some undefined time in the future.

I did not think you were as extreme as Tom until you wrote this:

"However, I have no 'faith' that future science will explain a naturalistic mechanism for the origin of life or for the detailed molecular evolution underlying specific adaptations; these may remain unknown for the foreseeable future. But 'unknown' does not mean we must postulate a non-naturalistic Designer."

In other words, without even the faintest theoretical hope, you will continue to wait for a naturalistic solution and reject the very possibility of a supernatural solution. The functional result of your presuppositions is to let large piles of unexplained data accumulate without causing you to doubt your primary hypothesis.

We have discussed this before, but if you WERE indeed wrong, how in the world would you know? What would it take to convince you? Have you made the philosophical error of eliminating part of the playing field by assuming that only natural answers exist? It is like saying, "The number 4 is off limits. What is 2 + 2?" If you have no natural solution and claim that you need not postulate a supernatural one, what are the other alternatives? Or do you reject logic completely?

5. The Intelligent Design hypothesis.

You never specifically said that you do not accept Intelligent Design as a hypothesis. That's right. The point is that, if you DID accept it as a hypothesis, you would have two competing hypotheses and would have to say, "At the moment, Intelligent Design seems to be on top." Although you would certainly add, "But I have faith that Evolution will rally to win in the end." Instead, you act as if there is only one option and you just don't have all the gaps filled in just yet.

But then you go on to say that Intelligent Design is not a scientific hypothesis because it does not make predictions. But it does! It predicts irreducibly complex systems suitable for specific tasks. That is what is seen. And you seem to admit it when you say that there are no explanations on the horizon. What more are you waiting for, a bolt of lightening or a burning bush?

Evolution would predict evidence of changing molecular functions. What is needed in the evolutionary scenario is for solidly established molecules to begin taking on new functions while still being selected for their original function. They would then need to slowly improve that new function and also wait for the other steps in the new pathway to be perfected before the new function could become active and thus be selected as superior. Since you do not propose that evolution has stopped, then there ought to be all sorts of these hybrid molecules floating around. And indeed, there ought to be "fossilized" evidence of multiple functions and overlapping systems in most bio-molecules, revealing their origin and history. After all, there are a lot more functions in the biosphere now than in the hypothesized most primitive life so a few primordial functions must have "morphed" themselves into all that now exists.

6. Young Earth arguments.

It is ironic that you bring up your recurring charge of poor scholarship by creationists to introduce this section. As you will soon see, you walked right into a buzz saw with that one. Your errors here cannot just be explained as unwarranted faith in evolution. In this case, you could not possibly have read and comprehended the article I linked (/articles/ocean_sodium.html), because your fallacious interpretations are answered both in the text and again in the discussion at the end. The basic argument is that with the constant net increase (input greater than output) of sodium chloride (and other solutes) in the ocean, if it is a very old ocean, it ought to have long ago passed the Dead Sea in mineral content and be completely saturated.

Let's look at your objections:

1. There is no reason to assume that either the salt influx or salt loss rates are constant. Indeed the varying sodium content of sediments of different ages attest to varying rates of sodium deposition in different geological periods and places. Spectacular examples are the thick salt deposits due to evaporation of inland seas. River erosion of rocks of variable salt content will necessarily lead to varying salt content of rivers. You can't measure rates with a clock that doesn't tick steadily.

The authors carefully looked at all known and potential mechanism for sodium input and output. They proceeded to give the benefit of the doubt to every factor favoring long age, estimating low on the input and high on the output for every factor. Some, like salt deposits, are getting a real free ride, because, as you mentioned, they are at best the result of inland sea evaporation - which helps the oceans NOT AT ALL. Some are so pure that it appears they could not have been the result of evaporation but must have resulted from the mixing of hot supersaturated brine solutions - something uniformitarianism shuns but the Biblical creation model nicely accommodates.

The second comment is inexcusable, even for a non-expert.

2. Seawater contains many solutes besides sodium, and creationists have gotten wildly varying estimates for the age of the earth by applying the same arguments about seawater content to other solutes. A method that gives wildly discrepant results depending on the selection of solutes cannot be valid.

The authors carefully state that the ages they get are MAXIMUM POSSIBLE ages that would be arrived at assuming that the seas were fresh originally and gained net solute only by the processes discussed. The creation model DOES NOT PROPOSE THIS! These ages are calculated in order to show how far short they fall of the billions of years evolutionists claim the oceans to be in existence.

The creation model proposes that the oceans were created with sodium chloride as well as all the other salts already present, so as to be suitable for the created marine life. It also proposes that large amounts of solutes would have been added during the worldwide flood and by the volcanic activity that took place above and below seas level at that time.

Long Age Creationist / Theistic Evolutionist, Clarence Menninga, Ph.D, made the same mistake you did, despite the clarity of the text. And to top it off, his objections, and thus yours, were specifically addressed in the discussion section of the article.

What is the explanation for your failure? Did you not see it? (It follows the endnotes.) Did you not comprehend it? Perhaps you disagreed with it but failed to mention your data or reference their data? Even if you just missed it, the questions are so clearly answered in the text that Dr. Menninga actually embarrassed himself and the response to his arguments are redundant.)

I'm sorry, but I have to say, especially to one who takes such pride in meticulous attention to detail, that this was very poor scholarship.

And remember that one young age proof, if airtight, invalidates all the old age evidences. And as we have discussed before, the radiometric dates are reached with a lot of selection and fudging. Rocks of known ages are often wildly misdated when submitted as unknowns, and that IS significant, because the method is touted as giving absolute age. By the way, I recall you saying something like, "A method that gives wildly discrepant results depending on the selection of solutes cannot be valid."

I am not trying to put you down to just win an argument, but rather to show you that humility, not pride, is necessary to learn a whole new paradigm when the old one is broken. I get the feeling that you would rather die than admit that creationists are right about anything. For that reason, you do not give any credit to Dr. Gish for his successful arguments against natural abiogenesis, despite the fact that you and most other evolutionists now admit that you have no clue as to how life began. You even stated that you see no explanation for complex systems on the horizon, yet claim that Behe's arguments have been dealt with satisfactorily

I agree that our discussion is at an end. And you are fully free to walk away feeling that you have won the very limited objectives to which you have pulled back. For by the end, you said that you are not attempting to prove or even support evolution. All you wanted to do was demolish creationist arguments and expose their fallacious reasoning and poor scholarship. And, yes, you also want to preserve the quality of science education. Does that mean you will fight against those who imply that abiogenesis is explained by existing data? Will you oppose those who claim that Dawkins computer evolution is a proper model to show the plausibility of biological evolution?

I am most concerned about you. You criticize me for bringing up psychology. The psychological of belief is not just an interest of mine, it is crucial to the discussion because science is a human enterprise. Human fallibility is central to the pursuit of truth, for there are many factors besides data and logic that affect the progress of knowledge. And when a reasonable and intelligent person with an advanced education and dedication to a lifelong pursuit of verifiable principles of nature makes elementary errors in logic, there MUST be something else going on.

Biblical Creationism has an explanation for that as well, and from the data of Scripture even predicts it. There is a spiritual blindness that occurs because of human rebellion against the Creator. Yet acknowledgement of the Creator and submission to His will, which is for our good, not for our harm, is the cornerstone of fulfilled human life.

This argument is ultimately spiritual, as it says in Romans 1:18-22

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...."

Well, there goes my credibility, down the drain of political incorrectness! But what if it is true?

"Wicked" is not used here only to label terrorists and child molesters. It describes those who suppress the truth. It does not refer to persons with honest doubts, but those who really know - but do not want to acknowledge - that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and are not our own. Yet for those who repent - turn around and start going the other way - there is hope and forgiveness available, because we are also "bought with a price."

Sincerely and with affection,