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15 Answers to John Rennie and Scientific American’s Nonsense--Argument #04

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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Conclusion & References

4. [Creationists suggest that] increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.

Yes, there is an increasing number of scientists who “doubt the truth of evolution.” As best we can tell, they appear to fall into two main groups. The first consists of what might be called “agnostic evolutionists.” While still willing to profess belief in evolution, they nevertheless find themselves “bothered” by its multitudinous failings. And their number is growing—for good reason.

The fact is, the Universe is “fine-tuned” in such a way that it is impossible to suggest logically that it simply “popped into existence out of nothing” (as the chaotic inflationary theory suggests) and then went from the chaos associated with the inflationary Big Bang model (as if the Universe were a giant firecracker!) to the sublime order that it presently exhibits. In their book, On the Moral Nature of the Universe, Nancey Murphy and George F.R. Ellis noted:

The symmetries and delicate balances we observe in the universe require an extraordinary coherence of conditions and cooperation of laws and effects, suggesting that in some sense they have been purposely designed. That is, they give evidence of intention, realized both in the setting of the laws of physics and in the choice of boundary conditions for the universe (1996, p. 57, emp. added).

The idea that the Universe and its laws “have been purposely designed” has surfaced much more frequently in the past several years. In his book, Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature, Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies made this amazing statement:

If nature is so “clever” as to exploit mechanisms that amaze us with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design behind the universe? If the world’s finest minds can unravel only with difficulty the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance? (1984, pp. 235-236, emp. added).

Four years later, in his text, The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature’s Creative Ability to Order the Universe, Davies went even further when he wrote:

There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all.... It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe.... The impression of design is overwhelming (1988, p. 203, emp. added).

Another four years later, in 1992, Davies authored The Mind of God, in which he remarked:

I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama.… Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor by-product of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here (1992a, p. 232, emp. added).

That statement, “We are truly meant to be here,” was the type of sentiment expressed by two scientists, John Barrow and Frank Tipler, in their 1986 book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, which discussed the possibility that the Universe seems to have been “tailor-made” for man.

In 1995, NASA astronomer John O’Keefe stated in an interview: “We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.... If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in” (as quoted in Heeren, 1995, p. 200).

In his discussion of the Big Bang inflationary model, Michael J. Murray discussed the idea of the origin of the Universe and the complexity that would be required to pull off such an event.

...[I]n all current worked-out proposals for what this “universe generator” could be—such as the oscillating big bang and the vacuum fluctuation models explained above—the “generator” itself is governed by a complex set of physical laws that allow it to produce the universes. It stands to reason, therefore, that if these laws were slightly different the generator probably would not be able to produce any universes that could sustain life. After all, even my bread machine has to be made just right to work properly, and it only produces loaves of bread, not universes!

...[T]he universe generator must not only select the parameters of physics at random, but must actually randomly create or select the very laws of physics themselves. This makes this hypothesis seem even more far-fetched since it is difficult to see what possible physical mechanism could select or create such laws. The reason the “many-universes generator” must randomly select the laws of physics is that, just as the right values for the parameters of physics are needed for life to occur, the right set of laws is also needed. If, for instance, certain laws of physics were missing, life would be impossible. For example, without the law of inertia, which guarantees that particles do not shoot off at high speeds, life would probably not be possible. Another example is the law of gravity; if masses did not attract each other, there would be no planets or stars, and once again it seems that life would be impossible (1999, pp. 61-62).

As early as 1959 (in his book, Religion and the Scientists), Sir Fred Hoyle addressed the fine-tuning of the nuclear resonances responsible for the oxygen and carbon synthesis in stars when he observed:

I do not believe that any scientists who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside stars. If this is so, then my apparently random quirks have become part of a deep-laid scheme. If not, then we are back again at a monstrous sequence of accidents (as quoted in Barrow and Tipler, 1986, p. 22, emp. added).

When we (to use Hoyle’s words) “examine the evidence,” what do we find? Murray answered:

Almost everything about the basic structure of the universe—for example, the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial distribution of matter and energy—is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur.... Scientists call this extraordinary balancing of the parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe the “fine-tuning of the cosmos” (p. 48, emp. added).

Little wonder there is a group of “agnostic evolutionists” worried about the future of evolutionary thought. If we were them, we would be worried, too!

The second group of scientists consists of those who believe that there is ample evidence of an “Intelligent Designer.” In fact, this new breed of scientists has many of the evolutionary kingpins so worried that these “evolutionary heavyweights” are doing everything possible to discredit any and all efforts at documenting such design. For instance, in reporting on the growth of the Discovery Institute (a Seattle-based organization staffed with reputable scientists who believe there is ample evidence of design throughout the Universe), Steve Benen wrote:

Legitimate scientists reject the validity of intelligent design concepts, however, and are unimpressed with Institute activists’ credentials. “They’re trying to make it appear like they’re scientists who just disagree with other scientists,” said Lawrence Krauss, professor at Case Western Reserve University. “A number of them have scientific credentials, which helps, but in no sense are they proceeding as scientists” (2002).

Rennie employed the argument that if more scientists doubted evolution, it would be revealed in scientific journals. He then commented that “few antievolution manuscripts are even submitted” (2002, 287[1]:80). Mr. Rennie is right. But why is he right?

We know why, and would like to draw Mr. Rennie’s attention to a document from an editor on the staff of Science (one of the professional journals that Mr. Rennie himself mentioned). In July 1985, D. Russell Humphreys, a respected physicist from the prestigious Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is involved with the laboratory’s particle beam fusion project concerning thermonuclear fusion energy research (and who also happens to be a creationist), wrote to inquire why creationists couldn’t even seem to get a letter published in Science, much less an article. On August 30, 1985, Christine Gilbert, the Letters Editor at Science, wrote Dr. Humphreys a letter on the journal’s official stationery. “Dear Dr. Humphreys: Thank you for your letter of 30 July. It is true that we are not likely to publish letters supporting creationism. This is because we decide what to publish on the basis of scientific content.” [To examine the complete context of all of Dr. Humphreys’ correspondence with Science, including Christine Gilbert’s response, see Robert Gentry’s book, Creation’s Tiny Mystery (1988, pp. 192-194).]

If scientific journals will not even publish a letter from creationists, what makes Mr. Rennie think they would give any thought whatsoever to an actual research manuscript from creationists? Sharon Begley commented on this “dirty little secret” in a September 14, 1992 Newsweek article titled “Is Science Censored?” In that article, she wrote:

Despite its objective face, science is as shot through with ideology as any political campaign, and now that dirty secret is coming out. The party line is that papers submitted to journals are rejected only for reasons of substance—the methodology is suspect, the data don’t support the conclusions, the journal has better papers to use. But lately scientists have been privately fuming over rejections they blame on censorship (p. 63, emp. added).

“Censorship?” No kidding! But why?

The idea of strict objectivity in intellectual circles is a myth. While most scholars like to think of themselves as broad-minded, unprejudiced paragons of virtue, the fact is that they, too, on occasion, suffer from bouts of bias, bigotry, and presuppositionalism. Nobel laureate James Watson remarked rather bluntly: “In contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid” (1968, p. 14, emp. added). And Dr. Watson wasn’t talking about creationists! Phillip Abelson, one-time editor of Science, wrote: “One of the most astonishing characteristics of scientists is that some of them are plain, old-fashioned bigots. Their zeal has a fanatical, egocentric quality characterized by disdain and intolerance for anyone or any value not associated with a special area of intellectual activity” (1964, 144:373).

In a stern letter to creationist Robert Gentry of the Oak Ridge National Laboratories (who is arguably the world expert on pleochroic polonium haloes), Frank Press, president of the National Academy of Sciences, stated: “...There is a quote from Albert Einstein inscribed on his statue on the grounds of the Academy building as follows: ‘The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.’ I would urge you to consider all the evidence. That too is the way science works.” [A copy of Dr. Press’ letter was published in Gentry, 1988, p. 324.] We urge you, Mr. Rennie, as editor in chief of a popular-science magazine, to consider all the evidence, and not to let these crucial words regarding the search for truth fall on deaf ears. [Those interested in documentation of the fact that creation scientists do publish in reputable, refereed, scientific journals are urged to see Buckna, 2002.]

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