Matt Walker of BBC Nature has written an interesting article on his Wonder Monkey blog Can religious teachings prove evolution to be true? He reports on how a mainstream scientist has used a technique from “creation science” to show that different types of dinosaurs evolved from one another, rather than being created separately.
Much of so-called “creation science” is bad science. This is not only because of the ways its advocates have often selected evidence and given improbable explanations of it, while ignoring good alternative explanations from reputable scientists. The fundamental philosophy of “creation science” is also unscientific, because its intention is to support a pre-existent theory rather than to determine the truth in a theory-neutral way. Now it is not just “creation science” which is guilty here, but others being guilty does not make one innocent.
Walker, however, reports on how one particular “creation science” technique, called “baraminology”, does seem to be a valid method, and has been used by biologist Phil Senter to examine variations among dinosaurs.
Walker explains (otherwise I know little about this subject) that creationists have used baraminology to conclude that all cats, including lions, tigers and domestic cats, have a common ancestor and so form one “kind” in the biblical sense (Genesis 1:11-12,21,24-25, 6:20 etc). However, this technique shows that there is insufficient evidence, in the form of “missing link” type fossils, of a common ancestor of dogs and cats, suggesting that dogs form a separate “kind”.
Dr Senter has applied this technique to fossil dinosaurs and concluded that, even by the strict standards accepted by “creation scientists”, there is sufficient evidence that several apparently very different groups of dinosaurs have a common ancestor and form one “kind”.
The problem for creationists is the great diversity of dinosaurs within this “kind”. Their own technique has been used to provide evidence not just of the kind of micro-evolution or selective breeding which could have caused the observed diversity among cats, but also of large scale evolutionary changes from one species of dinosaur to another. A further difficulty for young earth creationists is that they would have to conclude that
in just a few thousand years, each “kind” of dinosaur begat the huge variation in fossils we see today.
It is reminiscent of evolution, just even faster paced.
Dr Senter points out that creationists’ room for manoeuvre, when citing the evidence, continues to diminish.
[Dr Senter’s] work, and my reporting of it, will hopefully take the discussion forward about what evidence is gathered and how, and what that evidence tells us.
So let the discussion evolve.
Will any creationists consider the idea that even some of their own evidence-gathering techniques may point to the veracity of evolution?
Indeed. Let the discussion evolve, or be created, here.
But it is sad that Walker also presents the issue, at the start of his article, as
Did God or evolution drive the emergence of life in all its resplendent variety?
That is the wrong question. Biologists may be able to prove that different species have evolved from common ancestors. But they cannot hope to decide by scientific arguments whether this evolutionary process was a product of blind chance or was designed by God to carry out his purposes.