We nonbelievers grew weary a long time ago from the efforts of proselytizing Christians to “explain” Christianity to us and “share the good news” with us. Sorry, guys. We've heard the so-called good news, but it's like watching a news report on Fox: We simply don't believe it. The recruiters for the cult of Christianity assume we don't know what the Bible says, but a lot of us do know. We just reject it.
We find it insulting to be assumed ignorant.
Creationists are trying to borrow this page from the nonbeliever's book. You see, they understand evolution and natural selection. They just reject it.
We probably need to make some allowances for the conscious liars who use discredited arguments because they're effective rhetorical devices for advancing their holy cause. (Does anyone really think that Duane Gish doesn't know that his argument about the second law of thermodynamics is invalid? He was refuted in detail time and time again, but he never abandoned it in his public presentations because people continued to fall for it.) They know their arguments are bogus, but the “noble lie” is a pragmatically mendacious approach to redeeming souls for Christ. (Apparently the ends justify the means.) But many of the anti-evolution polemicists are likely to be entirely sincere. Their arguments reveal their profound ignorance rather than their willful dishonesty.
A case in point is this month's issue of Acts & Facts from the Institute for Creation Research. The December 2008 edition contains an essay titled More Than Just “Complex.” The author is Brian Thomas, who is described as a “science writer.” Thomas cites a remark by PZ Myers that criticizes creationists:
The lesson of Darwin is that unguided natural processes have the ability to generate complex functionality, so it takes more than just showing complexity and function to demonstrate purpose. Creationists don't understand that at all, so they keep whining “it's complex!” as if they have brought up an irrefutable argument for design, when they've done no such thing.In typical creationist fashion, Thomas goofs up the quotation a bit. He truncates PZ's final sentence by deleting his conclusion and moves the exclamation point outside the quotes (“it's complex”!), as if PZ were not imputing the exclamation to the creationists. Sloppy, but not surprising.
After the Myers quote, Thomas rolls out the we-know-but-reject argument:
The reason that “the lesson of Darwin” is rejected by creationists is not because they don't understand it. Rather, it is because they rightly observe that “unguided natural processes” cannot generate both complexity and functionality...(By the way, I truncated the final sentence in my quote from Thomas's article. Go check out the original to see if I did violence to it.) Thomas goes on to complain that natural selection is incapable of generating “specified complexity,” but then falls promptly into a creationist's classic post-hoc misconstruction of the problem. He does this by rhapsodizing about the protein complexes known as chaperonins:
Chaperonins have a precisely-placed enzymatic active site, detachable caps, flexible gated entryways, a timed sequence of chemical events, and precise expansion and flexion capacities. Each of the parameters—size, shape, strength, hydrophobicity distribution, timing, and sequence—represents a specification. With each additional specification, the likelihood of a chance-based assembly of these parts diminishes…to miracle status.A miracle! God is obviously required.
Let's try a simple explanation of this inane interpretation of complexity. If I draw a hearts royal flush from a standard deck of cards, that's pretty close to a miracle. (No, this has never happened to me.) There's only 1 chance out of 2,598,960 of drawing the ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of hearts in a random selection from a standard deck. (That big number is 52C5, the number of ways of choosing 5 items from a set of 52 distinct things.) We could choose even less likely things for our illustration, but this will do as an example.
We understand, of course, that any hand of five cards has one chance in 2,598,960 of being drawn, but most of those hands are nondescript and insufficiently interesting to catch our attention. A hearts royal flush, however, is a killer winning hand. If you were to predict (specify) in advance of a deal that you were going to get a hearts royal flush, it would be a pretty miraculous example of meeting your specification if the dealer were then to deal out those cards to you. (People might call for an investigation.)
But a hearts royal flush is not the only “killer winning hand” that the dealer could have given you. There are two royal flushes made up of red cards. Would you be unhappier with a diamonds royal flush? I think not. It would serve your purposes quite as adequately. It would look a little odd if you had “specified” hearts and then drew diamonds, but you're still a winner. And your chances of a red royal flush are twice that of a hearts royal flush alone. You know what you did? You over-specified.
Did you grasp the lesson? Even if we don't go on to talk about equally satisfactory outcomes with black royal flushes and results that are nearly as good with other straight flushes and four of a kind?
While Thomas waxes eloquently over all the details of chaperonins (I wonder how much he really knows about them?), listing all the specific features they have as they exist today, he completely misses the possibility (likelihood, actually) that there are millions (billions?) of other formulations that would have created alternate-universe chaperonins of equal functionality.
Try this little experiment the next time you're playing poker: When you pick up your five cards, recoil in amazement at the hand you're holding (no matter what it is, strong or weak), throw the cards down on the table face up so that your companions can see them, and scream, “Oh, my God! It's a miracle! This hand occurred in the face of odds greater than one in two million! Surely an Intelligent Dealer was involved in specifying this hand!”
Depending on the intelligence of the dealer in question, he may lean over and punch you on the shoulder.