Recent epigenetics findings highlight a problematic trend. Evolution faces ever increasing scientific challenges as its predictions continue to go wrong. All the while evolutionists, for the most part, continue to issue non responsive responses. Most of what I have heard from evolutionists regarding epigenetics falls into the usual categories of denialism, but one evolutionist told me that epigenetics poses no problems for evolution because the mechanisms are, well, just that—mechanisms.
This argument is very simple: The epigenetics mechanisms are natural, and therefore they fit well within evolutionary theory. This argument draws a (false) dichotomy between vitalism and evolution. In this banal view of nature, vitalism is evolution’s foil—if a mechanism isn’t violating natural law, then it evolved.
In his 2005 book Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature, Keith Thomson uses this argument (see Science’s Blind Spot for discussion). Could this be an emerging argument for evolution? If so, it demonstrates how desperate the defense has become.
Desparate may not be the right word for the defense and promotion of evolution. Bizarre might be more accurate. Consider this latest use the vitalism strawman by Ard Louis:
Here Louis first explains that complex molecular machines, such as the bacterial flagellum, are able to assemble and operate successfully everyday inspite of a tremendous entropy barrier. And these machines assemble and operate according to natural law—there is no vitalism here, no divine finger adjusting the cogs and turning the crank.
This of course is the story of biology. Against all odds, it works. And this is a fundamental problem for evolution. The tremendous entropy barrier that life defeats is a continual demonstration before our very eyes of the extreme difficulty that it just happened to fall together.
It is the height of absurdity to use this as an argument for evolutionary solutions. When I turn the key, my car starts up. What are the odds all that could just happen? Very low indeed, which means it probably didn’t just happen to happen. It is exceedingly unlikely that natural laws could produce such an arrangement.
None of this is to say that evolution is impossible—it just means that evolution is not where the science is pointing.
Louis’s argument is an echo of seventeenth century philosopher Rene Descartes who urged evolutionary ideas because of the evident power of natural law. Yes god created humanity, but individuals are born and grow according to law. From people to plants, we observe incredible development brought about by nature. So too, the continental rationalist argued, we should understand the origin of the world as strictly naturalistic as well.
Decades later the influential Thomas Burnet showed how the Cartesian view is theologically mandated. Rather than creating a clock that doesn’t work and needs constant adjustment, the greater clockmaker makes a clock that works by itself. Likewise, the Anglican cleric argued, the greater god makes a world that operates on its own.
It is the ultimate example of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, yet in this case the victory is only in the minds of evolutionists. The routine defeat of astonishing levels of entropy is easily converted into evidence for evolution. The level of denial is staggering. Religion drives science, and it matters.