Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Eye as an argument for Intelligent Design

The eye is often used by religious people and particularly creationists as an example of how something so intricate and complex can't possibly have come about by accident. Kirk Cameron used this example as his best argument when given 60 seconds to convince Atheists of a deity in this video:



For me it's clear that the reason Kirk thinks this is a compelling argument, comes from two major misunderstandings:

1: The misunderstanding of the evolutionary process
2: The misunderstanding of "Proof"

The misunderstanding of the evolutionary process is probably the most overarching cause of the inability to accept an Atheist viewpoint. I don't claim to be an expert; far from it; but I feel that I understand enough to be able to explain it to other people and to know that it is a viable scientific explanation of the origin of life and has been effectively proved by countless scientists and scientific data. This all makes it virtually impossible NOT to believe in it, and equally has impossible TO be able to believe in god!

Evolution is actually an unimaginably slow process stemming billions of years. The eye in fact evolved relatively quickly, just a matter of millions of years, compared to other biological systems. It began as a mutation of a similar receptor cell which gave that cell light-sensitive properties. Later, more cells of the same type clustered together to create a larger receptive field. After a few more hundreds of thousands of years the cells lined a small pit in the surface of an animal's body, allowing light to be detected from a wider angle and direction of the source of light to be determined. Then later again something resembling a crude lens grew over the pit to allow the eye to focus on near or far objects... You can see how these kinds of processes are cumulative and develop over their course. Kirk and Bill O'Reilly apparently can't, which is a major reason for why they are NOT Atheists.

Kirk's picture of a "Crocoduck" was possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen used as an argument against evolution. Hopefully I don't need to tell you that ducks and crocodiles would have split apart in their evolutionary paths millions of years before either of them was called a "duck" or a "crocodile". There was however something that could have been called an "Apehuman" as some point millions of years ago. I think we called them Homoerectus.

The use of the word "Accident" is also a horrible example of just how little knowledge they both have of evolution. It's true that the evolutionary process contains "accidents" in the form of genetic mutation which create a characteristic (phenotype) that may be beneficial or harmful to the individual. Natural selection then sorts these out by killing off the ones with the harmful mutation and allowing the ones with the beneficial mutation to survive. The survivors go on to reproduce and pass on their genes to their offspring. Later down the generations, the same characteristic might mutate again into something more useful, and then we might call the end product... oh I don't know... an eye!

The misunderstanding of the word "Proof" has always been a problem when debating these kind of topics. Proof to a scientists means that the evidence FOR a theory has got to a point when it outweighs the evidence against by such a large amount, that it has become almost impossible to believe the evidence against. It is a matter of probability, and "Proof" would technically be a 0.999andafewmore9s chance of something being true, but to save time and simplify things, we simply say it is "Proven" or "True".

Many religious people say "Well god is true FOR ME" but it would be a misuse of the word "True" to say that. One can say "God seems more likely to me, given the evidence I have been presented" which would be a valid statement, although highly unlikely given that there is virtually NO evidence for a deity. Or one could say "I BELIEVE in God" which requires no evidence, but is unscientific and therefore, not particularly useful.

13 comments:

www.tobyvacher.info said...

*******
The post that this is in response to was deleted by the author as I wrote the response. Hopefully this makes enough sense without the original to act as a clarification of the original blog post.
********


Thank you for your comment, Jon. I'm afraid I think you misunderstood some of the original post though.

The first point you made is that to say evolution is a proven fact is incorrect. I agree. You'll notice that my post actually says "it is a viable scientific explanation" and "effectively proved by countless scientists and scientific data". Emphasis on 'viable' and 'effectively'. The last section of the post deals with the misunderstanding of the word 'proof', so hopefully you can see that I understand nothing in science is ever a fact, and I deliberately didn't use the word 'fact' for that reason exactly.
Evolution however IS the most viable and in fact the ONLY workable model to explain how life came to be as complex as it is today, if you discount religious explanations, which I do!

"To assume that everyone with a mind of science is on your side is incredibly dense, to the point of being offensive."
-I'm sorry to see that you think I claim that. I certainly didn't write it, so I guess you've made an ass out of u and me, so to speak :D (forgive the rubbish joke).

Your third point is about belief being mindless. Once again, that's not actually what I wrote. the quote from my post is: "one could say 'I BELIEVE in God' which requires no evidence, but is unscientific and therefore, not particularly useful."
Emphasis on 'requires' there. It's not to say that belif doesn't come about by studying the evidence. Technically I 'believe' in evolution, but i was making the point that religious people often claim they don't NEED to look at evidence simply because they "believe it, and that's enough for me". I say that people shouldn't be happy with mere faith/belief and should look into all options before making up their minds.

So I hope I have made myself a bit clearer, and also shown you that the post was in no way intended to be condescending. I don't think the way it was written actually comes across as such, but I can understand that it could be misinterpreted.
Please feel free to respond to anything else if you'd like!, and thanks for reading!

Jon said...

I'm sorry I deleted my post in that case. I did so only because I felt I was being unfair on you, because as you've unfortunately realised, I'd misunderstood what you were saying, and made a slight 'ass of myself'. I also felt it used an overly negative tone which I put down to it being 3am.

I still do not agree with you though. my problem comes from your certainty of 'evolutions truth'. Even if you avoided using the word 'fact' direclty (sorry for insinuating you did) it is still very clear from your language that you still hold evolution in that regard. By it's very nature a theory will remain just that until someone proves it a fact. Because of this you have to see that until the evidence that is offered can be considered 'undeniable'. Evolution can not be the be all and end all.

Going to what Dan's or whatever his name was in another thread I have to say that I agree with him. I don't want to present you with my own personal theory of evolution but it would be a wise move for you to broaden the material you see regarding these "religious explanations". Right now you seem a little narrow minded, it would do you good to better understand these explanations before dismissing them so easily.

Forgive me for doubting you such a great deal, but it is clear to me that you have favoured evolution in the amount of attention you've given it. I don't expect to change your mind here, but these live debate shows DO NOT accurately reflect the opinion of the sides they represent. You hold different views to the atheists and yet still consider yourself an athiest so to speak. Try watching material that is biased towards one side, rather than looped arguments between the two that lets face it, go nowhere.

No offense meant

Jon said...

Just to add something on the subject of faith/belief. I think again I'm at fault for not reading what you'd written properly.

The idea that religious people say they don't NEED to look at the evidence because they BELIEVE it is unfortunately very true for a minority. So I still think you'll find though that 'most' religious people (or at least, most free thinking) choose to believe based on the evidence they have seen, it's the insinuation that the desiscion is made without prior extensive thought that I object too.


Going back to my recent post you've said yourself people "should look into all options before making up their minds.". Please don;t go down the route or Dawkins and end up being a hypocrite.

www.tobyvacher.info said...

Jon,

I'd certainly like to take some suggestions from you as the what to read/watch to find out more about the views you hold, or indeed any other views that attempt to explain what evolution explains in different terms.

It's an all-too-easy argument to make that someone discussing these topics hasn't done enough research, but truthfully very few people have done enough to be considered an expert. I present my views based on what I have read and learnt, and although my views are very strongly in favour of the Atheist side, I have actually spent a lot of time over the past three years since I became interested in this debate trying to find as many viewpoints as I can, and this is the conclusion I have come to.
Don't assume that wide research leads to a balanced viewpoint. It had the opposite effect for me. The more alternative viewpoints I read, the more I was convinced that God didn't exist and evolution was the best explanation for the existence of intelligent life. And just to be sure I'm understood, that's not because I was biased from the start, but because after careful consideration of all the evidence I have found, I came to that conclusion independently.

Once again, don't assume that looking at both sides of the argument will make you equally believe in both. We all favour the one that presents us with the best evidence of makes most sense to us. I personally chose whichever has the most scientific evidence in favour of it and for me that leads me to conclude that evolution and atheism are the correct choice.

Many thanks for all your comments!

Billi said...

When I was at university I had endless very similar conversation with a very sensible scientific Christian. We were both very passionate, vociferous and sure we were right.

Over the years though I've come to realise that you just can't argue science vs religion. It's just frustrating and eventually futile for both sides of the argument who will never understand each other.

Not to detract from your blog, but the scientific arguments really have been done to death pretty thoroughly by the likes of Richard Dawkins (especially the arguments about the eye in the Blind Watchmaker and (I think) Climbing Mount Improbable. To me, his books (and your blog) are preaching to the choir (to use an inappropriate expression), but others just cannot see it. As much as it inflames my passions, I just can't be bothered to argue it any more.

When I was young I was told the following joke:

A man is standing in Hyde Park waving his arms around frantically and blowing on a trumpet.
"What are you doing?" he is asked.
"I'm keeping away the flying elephants."
"But there are no flying elephant in Hyde Park."
"You see how effective it is then."

At the time I just thought it was funny and silly, but I later realised that that's what religion is all about. You can't argue with it, just as you can't convince someone who believes in healing crystals, homeopathy, UFOs, fairies. And who knows, maybe he is keeping away the elephants!

Jon said...

You said:
"it's an all-too-easy argument to make that someone discussing these topics hasn't done enough research, but truthfully very few people have done enough to be considered an expert."

Thats not what I was saying either, I don't for one second feel that I know anything even close to being an expert on this subject, and neither I think, do you. It would probably be arrogant to assume that either of us does.

What I was trying to say is that like yourself I have spent a long time, nearly 8 years for me, looking at and researching these arguments when the feeling takes me. But I have clearly come to a different conclusion.

You could put this down to us simply responding to the information different ways. This could be attributed to many things, social stauts, upbringing ect (a whole new kettle of fish) but what it means practically is that even if we were subjected to the same information we'd probably STILL reach different conclusions. What a Christian believes is that you can't discover God through evidence at all, but instead that it requires belief and conviction. Conviction in this case being a tangible and undeniable personal experience with something/someone science is unable to explain. This clearly sounds crazy, but in a way that's the point I'm trying to make, you can't understand it unless you experience it.

In short this means I agree with Bill. You can't possibly reach a point where one side can 'out-prove' the other. What you can do is try at least to understand where the other person is coming from, and in short that has always been my aim. Christians believe that you will not find god unless you seek him. So before dismissing the idea of God entirely have you yourself ever attempted to 'experience'? Some people call this a "leap of faith", a term I'm sure you're familiar with.

Part of my aim then is not so much to find a viewpoint that is true and then adamantly defend it in every situation, but rather to try and understand all veiwpoints. I don't mean to say "be liberal and believe everything" but rather, "listen, and learn". I'll say this now, I do Believe I am right, in that I believe God exists, and believe in God. No evidence presented to me has 'proved' this to be otherwise. In short never underestimate the power of conviction, the experiences are too real, to a Christian this would be like trying to prove to them that their best friend doesn't exist because you've never met them.

Don't get me wrong, it's an impossible task to understand everything (if you did you'd be God), but I love nothing more than listening to people's stories and opinions, and by knowing as much as I can in as great a detail as possible I can interact better with people.

Being someone who works and had worked with young people, this is something of great importance. It might help you understand why I too can be very passionate about stubbornness, ignorance and reluctance to even consider other peoples explanations and experiences. This is what I was trying to say in my previous comment.

For the record, I do not think you are either stubborn or ignorant :D, as you've said you did at least look into the alternatives. I'll be interested to know what you thik, and will be actively reading your blog.

www.tobyvacher.info said...

I'm not sure there's much more I can say, other than I DO think it's possible to present a person with enough evidence to lose all belief in God. That's what happened to me. Whether the person takes that evidence and accepts that their previous belief was wrong, or chooses to ignore or discount the evidence based on personal experience, conviction or faith, is something that can't be controlled. My argument however would be that there is only one correct way to react to the overwhelming amount of evidence we now have AGAINST the existence of god, and that is disbelief.

You ask if I have tried to experience god? Well no, not in terms of prayer, divine revelation or an out of body experience, but how can I? I know as well as anyone knows anything that he doesn't exist, so if I tried to pray, I would feel I was wasting my time and a Christian would agree, because they would say that I have to believe in him for him to hear me, so I suppose it is a lost cause. I'd need to find another way to discover if god exists of not, and for me that is scientific evidence, and I certainly have tried my hardest, not just when the mood takes me, but almost daily for many years, to try to find that evidence. So far... nothing!

Dan said...

Toby, you strike me as a bloke who really wants to believe God is out there and is real.

Tell me, what made you change your mind on his existance or lack thereof? What was your previous belief system?

Cheers,

Dan

www.tobyvacher.info said...

Hi Dan,

As this comments section was getting quite long and off topic, I've used your question to write a new main post, so feel free to respond to that one if you like.

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Strikezone93@yahoo.com said...

To the Author
Im sorry i dont usally do this but your video just made me angry. I mean you think that your an educated person i bet. but how as an educated person such as yourself, can you believe an ounce of the theory of evolution? Just look at your body for God's sake man think of how intricate and and unique your eye, brain, circulatory system is, if you believe that all this happen through trillions of years of try and fail evolution sao that we came to be like this i would call you an idiotic moron. But you know what i dont think your a moron, i believe deep down that you look at this theory and say "how can i believe this nonsence?" No. I believe you are self and God Hating Athiest who will go to any lengths to try to shut out God from your life, and justify your sinful lifestyle. You can run away from your creator all you want but hes there. and the thing is he loves you. I think it very cruel to shut out the person who bore a cross for you. So you can take the easy way out and be an athiest and believe in evolution because you are addicted to your life of sin and changing would be too hard. it people like you who are running this country into the ground because they wanna make life as easy on themselves as possible and let the government spoon feed us whatever poison they want just as long as i dont have to work. You make me Sick you shold be ashamed. I Suggest you make a Change and Start doing things Right. i didnt say easy. i said Right. Ill pray for you

Anonymous said...

Okay your video doesnt insult me but insults you as a believer in evolution. It makes you out to be an ignorant uneducated retard who believe whatever the government public school system will spoon feed you

Im just gonna rattle you with a quick FACT yah a FACT. Every Year the Oceans Salt Level increases. this is a fact. we can SCIENTIFICALLY judge that if the earth is as you believe millions of years old that we could walk across the atlantic to europe on a giant desert of hard salt.

Its funny how you believe what you believe and how uneducated our country is now.

I mean i laugh at the thought that the EARTH the whole EARTH was originated by random particles in space that came together and exploded which in short ended up creating all life as we know it. Ha. You Athiest Liberals Make ME WANT TO PUKE. Just because you Hate yourself doesnt mean you have to put propaganda SHIT on the internet that will make people feel as unspecial and sad as you. You people are like a disease and you wont stop til everyone is infected and dying inside. Man i wanna see your face when the trumpets sound and your Left Behind. Because if you keep on thinking the way you do and trying to make others think the way you do The Devil will have a special seat reserved for you can he will say "Thank you Jon, for bringing me all these extra souls" i hope you feel happy that your ole Lu's missionary. Is that the mark you wanna leave on earth when you die -I Jon Kept myself and 100s of other souls out of heaven- man i couldnt live with myself if i knew i was the reason i caused someone to burn in an eternal fire.

But thats the way you athiests left wing tyrrannicals think. you do things without thinking who it may effect. but you dont care. man i hope you change.

www.tobyvacher.info said...

Dear Strikezone and Anonymous,

Thanks for taking the time to comment on this post. This website is no longer in use but the content has moved to www.zeitgeistoxford.com. If you'd like to re-post our comments over there i'm sure it would spark off some interesting replies.

I for one, don't agree with your posts, so would be happy to explain why over at www.zeitgeistoxford.com

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