Wednesday 18th July 2018

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Elementary, My Dear Watson

November 22, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JOHN YOUNG

“The theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.”
This famous statement by scientist Dr. D.M.S. Watson appeared in a 1929 article titled “Adaption,” in the journal Nature. Dr. Watson was an eminent scientist, a professor of zoology and comparative anatomy. His statement is often used by Creationists to support the contention that evolution is held to be true not because of the evidence but because God is rejected.
Evolutionists have disputed this claim of the Creationists, pointing out that Watson in fact considered that there is solid scientific evidence for evolution. They also quote his words, “Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or can be proved by logically coherent evidence, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and of geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible.”
It is true that Watson judged that there is strong scientific evidence for the theory of evolution: He didn’t just accept it because he found the alternative, namely creation by God, to be incredible. But his famous statement is extremely relevant.
The term special creation is generally used in a sense that excludes theistic evolution: it means that God brought the various kinds of creatures into existence directly. Had Watson intended his words in that sense he would not have been right in saying that special creation is the only alternative. Theistic evolution would be a further possibility.
I assume, therefore, that he meant that evolution without God is the only alternative to Divine activity in the formation of the world. And that is logical.
If a person rejects Divine activity as incredible, he will logically be left with no alternative except evolution as an explanation of the order we find in the universe. If there is no creative mind behind that order it must have come about by a mindless evolutionary process.
We can illustrate this by reference to another Dr. Watson, a fictional one. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Sign of Four, chapter 6, Sherlock Holmes says to Watson: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
It follows that those who regard creation by God as incredible must logically see evolution without God as the only alternative, whatever difficulties there may be in that position.
That fact is crucial if we are to understand the confidence with which the hypothesis of macro evolution is held. Leave out a Supreme Creator and Orderer, and evolution alone remains.
Even to say that the order we find in nature may be due to the work of intelligent beings on another planet is not to escape the problem, because the question then arises: How are these extraterrestrials to be explained?
We would need to posit evolution in their case also. And if we say that they were formed by an even more intelligent and powerful race of aliens, the same question would have to be asked about this more powerful race, with the answer that they too were produced by even more powerful aliens. So an infinite regression would be involved.
Logically, therefore, to reject the possibility of a Creator is to be left with evolution. That has to be the underlying premise, the basic presupposition of the scientist who rejects the possibility of a Divine cause.
Yet that presupposes something which really is incredible: It supposes order without an orderer. Nothing is more evident than that we live in an ordered universe; and in fact science would be impossible otherwise, because science is based on order.
The assertion that natural selection accounts for the world as we find it, with the fittest surviving and the unfit eliminated, can’t account for the almost inconceivable intricacies in even the most primitive organisms.
Dr. Michael Denton, writing of the simplest of living systems, bacterial cells, says that, “each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the nonliving world” (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, p. 250).
Professor Fred Hoyle, who was not a religious believer, gave a famous illustration. Suppose all the pieces of a Boeing 747 were scattered about a junkyard, then a whirlwind or tornado swept through the junkyard and accidentally assembled the pieces into a complete Boeing 747. The chances against this, Hoyle concluded, are so great that it is not worth considering.
But there is a deeper problem. Suppose I were to argue that a jigsaw puzzle had come about because the pieces were shaken up over a long period of time until they finally reached the point where they formed a harmonious landscape, with sky, trees, houses, and so on.
A deeper problem would remain. Each piece of the jigsaw has its own character, its own place in the whole: a fragment of blue sky, the branch of a tree, part of a chimney, and so on. Even if a random shaking up of the pieces over a long period of time could account for how they got assembled, the characteristics of each piece, with its orientation to its place in the whole, would remain unexplained.
Similarly, but on a vastly larger scale, each thing in nature, and the numerous different parts of each thing, has its own character and contributes uniquely to the totality. It’s like the parts of the Boeing 747, but almost infinitely more complex. Even if a tornado could accidentally assemble the pieces of the plane, it would still need to be explained how the numerous diverse pieces each had a nature oriented toward the whole.
To return to the opening quote from Dr. D.M.S. Watson. If we rule out Divine activity, rejecting it as clearly incredible, we are left with mindless evolution. But mindless evolution is an absurdity. A Divine Architect of the universe is not incredible, but is the only possible answer.
Even the least perceptive of the Baker Street Irregulars should be able to recognize this. It’s elementary!

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