Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Douglas Futuyma's Review of Jerry Coyne's Theology

Is there anyone out there who still thinks evolution is merely a scientific theory? If so they can read Douglas Futuyma's review of Jerry Coyne's new book, Why Evolution is True, where Futuyma highlights a few of Coyne's theological proclamations, to add to the many Futuyma himself has made in past years. Of course, all of this theology sits squarely within the evolution genre.

In his book Science on Trial, Futuyma added his own creative touch to the long history of theological mandates for naturalism. Nature, explained Futuyma as though reporting a scientific measurement, is full of useless features, inadequate design, shoddy workmanship, and harshness or cruelty.

And, Futuyma explained, we find similarities and differences between the species where we should least expect a Creator to have supplied them. Is it not strange that a Creator should have endowed bats, birds, and pterodactyls with wings made out of the same bony elements that moles use for digging and penguins use for swimming?

Birds and mammals are warm-blooded and for better blood transport from the heart they have only one aortic arch instead of two as in amphibians and reptiles. But birds retain the right aortic arch while mammals retain the left one. Why the difference? Bacteria have "silent" genes that are never expressed and appear to have no function. The Panda's "thumb" is a clumsy design, and no caterpillars have compound eyes. Photosynthesis is immensely useful, yet no higher animals have this mechanism.

Futuyma argued strenuously that these and many other examples of shoddy design prove the species arose from natural causes. From our wisdom teeth to our need for vitamin C, biology reveals a lack of design. Take any major group of animals, explained Futuyma, and the poverty of imagination that must be ascribed to a Creator becomes evident. Why should there be more than a million species of animals and more than half a million of plants, and "what could have possessed the Creator," asks Futuyma, "to bestow two horns on the African rhinoceroses and only one on the Indian species?" Darwin's long sermon was getting longer.

Even worse than all this were the many evils in nature. Male elephant seals battle furiously for females and many die of bloody wounds. The peacock carries such long feathers that it can hardly fly. Sickle-cell anemia afflicts those who have inherited a disastrous gene. Species overproduce causing overpopulation. The lung worms infest snakes and schistosome worms kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. And more than 90 percent of the species in history became extinct. It was abundantly obvious to Futuyma that this world was not designed by anything but natural causes. How could a wise Creator allow for such evils?

Coyne's new book is now the next addition to Darwin's long sermon, and not surprisingly Futuyma is delighted. He writes in his review of Coyne's book:

Vestiges, embryos and bad design include the multitude of morphological and molecular features that are inconsistent with any concept of ID but fully explicable from, and predicted by, evolution. And "the biogeographical evidence for evolution is now so powerful that I have never seen a creationist book, article, or lecture that has tried to refute it. Creationists simply pretend that the evidence doesn’t exist."

Of course successful predictions made by evolution do not make it true. That would be a fallacy. Evolution is true, not because it has made successful predictions (particularly in light of its many false predictions), but because it must be true. For the evolutionists, the species must have arisen naturally. God never would have created this world. Religion drives science, and it matters.