Turning the Warfare Thesis on its Headhere. It is a couple of hours with extremely knowledgeable and well-spoken philosophers advocating opposing views. But as in the greater, on-going origins debate, the crucial points are often unspoken and between the lines. While Nelson and Velasco talked biology, there was a completely different debate taking place.
Velasco led off with an extended barrage of powerful and compelling evidences for evolution. As usual the focus was on patterns of similarities between species that seem to refute design and teleology. To be sure there were weak points in Valasco’s arguments (yes humans have novel genes, no common ancestry does not have a monopoly on chromosomal fusion, biological designs do not fall into a nested hierarchy, the pentadactyl prediction has long since broken down, fossils do not fall into clean, unambiguous, gradual lineages, and so forth). Velasco was at least a little guilty of confirmation bias. Furthermore Velasco continually appeared to affirm the consequent. How could successful predictions, which actually were not so successful, lead to such certainty that evolution is true? Of course, as usual, the answer is that Velasco was not proving evolution but rather disproving the alternative.
From a positivistic perspective Velasco has only a series of predictions (or retrodictions) which offer little hope that the astonishing biological world arose spontaneously via blind, chance events. In fact the problems with most of these predictions lie far outside any sort of evolutionary noise that might be used to explain them. But if design and teleology are unquestionably ruled out, then so what? One way or another evolution must be true. As Velasco repeatedly warned, nothing else can explain these evidences.
Velasco’s arguments came as no surprise. It was all standard evolutionary thinking, though exceptionally well presented. What the audience may not have realized is that, in spite of all the technical language, this reasoning is not scientific. For when evolutionists destroy teleology, they rely on theological and philosophical premises not open to scientific scrutiny. And as we have pointed out many times, the argument that “nothing else can explain these evidences,” or as Theodosius Dobzhansky put it, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” is not from science.
All of this was highlighted in a way that probably was not obvious to most listeners. Nelson followed Velasco with an extremely effective and powerful presentation in which one of his basic points was the reminder that evolution requires change—lots of change. While Velasco’s powerful evidences emphasized similarities, evolution must cross oceans of biological transformations.
This is hardly controversial, but in his rebuttal Velasco had to pushback. He flatly disagreed with Nelson on this basic point, and sought to refocus attention back on those nonsensical similarities that win the day for evolution. Velasco could not allow the spotlight to be shifted from the problems with teleology to the problems with evolution.
It may not have been obvious to the audience, but amidst all the jargon and biological data, it is this fundamental point that rules and defines the origin debate. Is evolution a fact because teleology has been laid to rest by non scientific arguments, or is evolution vulnerable to the failure of its positivistic claims? Is this about metaphysics or is this about science? In this sense Velasco and Nelson, though debating each other on the same stage, were in completely different worlds.