Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Apologetics Study Bible: Strike One

Recently I acquired the Apologetics Study Bible. Based on the editorial board and contributors I knew I wouldn’t agree with many of the essays. That’s OK; I love my Scofield Reference Bible while agreeing with almost none of the exceedingly cool footnotes. I’m one of those that, from a purely pedagogical standpoint, would rather engage with people I disagree with. That sounds lofty—but it can be ugly when you cross the threshold from an honest attempt to understand the point of view of others to outright sinful contentiousness (Titus 3:9). Been there, done that, got the unholy T-shirt.

I am confident that, sooner or later, I will get something out of reading the essays and commentaries. But it hasn’t gotten off to a good start. Because at the very least I reasonably expected the essays and commentaries to be scholarly. But right there, almost at the very beginning—an essay on the claim that macroevolution is a fantasy. (We’ll let the macro qualifier in front of evolution slide, even though scientifically it is fairly meaningless.) And it’s an essay from the non-scientific, young earth creationist, anti-theistic-evolution, lawyer, and  chief propagandist  Phillip E. Johnson.

Even in the genre of anti-evolution essays and arguments, Johnson’s contribution is poor. It comes complete, as expected, with an overdose of “scare quotes.” But its main flaw is that it is self-refuting. It allows that microevolution (grr) occurs, and gives the example of DDT resistance developing in insects, only to disappear when DDT is removed from the environment. This is true.

He then segues into his coup de grâce (with no grace) and states as fact that evolution cannot explain the creation of new information. This is demonstrably false, both experimentally and theoretically where information is explained in entropic terms. No need to go there, his own microevolution example refutes his claim.

Let’s take Johnson's proverbial bug. Before DDT was introduced the bug species had genome G0. After DDT was introduced, the bugs had genome G1, acquiring a mutation that made them resistant to DDT. By Johnson’s own argument the bugs reverted when DDT was removed. Thus we have two evolutionary transitions: 

G0 → G1
G1 → G0

Mathematically, one of those transitions, both caused by evolution, had to result in an increase in information, and the other a decrease. It doesn't matter which--whichever one increased information refutes Johnson's claim. Unless you want to make a rather self-evidently incorrect (in fact absurd) claim that any mutation results in a Genome with exactly the same amount of information.

Even if you were to make that claim, you’d still have to explain (good luck) how a duplication mutation followed by a second mutation has not increased information. Suppose part of a genome is represented by AABBCC. This produces some needed protein. Now suppose we have (what has been observed many times) a duplication mutation where the genome grows and now contains: 


This is generally harmless, because it is just duplicate instructions for the same protein. Kind of like having two square root methods in your computer program. No harm no foul. Now suppose one of the duplicates mutates and you have


Whether the second mutation is harmful or beneficial, it is obvious that the new genome has more information (more instructions) than the original. If we are lucky, our square root method has mutated into a cube root method. If we are unlucky it crashed the program. But in either case, information has been created, piece O' cake.

When will a certain type of Christian learn that Christianity is not advanced by bashing science using really, really, really dumb arguments? Guys, don't do that. If you can bash science with good arguments, then go for it.

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