Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Scientific errors in Christadelphian attacks on evolution: The Testimony magazine - 6

John Watts, in the January 2005 edition of  The Testimony <1> attempted to rebut the considerable evidence for common descent from molecular biology by arguing that it was simply another form of the argument from comparative anatomy:
Similarities in physical appearance were the earliest evidences used to support the theory of evolution, and those between man and the apes were perhaps the most widely cited. As our knowledge of the microscopic and the molecular has increased, so in turn the argument has been applied at other levels: to embryology, to protein structures, to DNA sequences. How valuable is this class of argument? Sadly, it relies more on ignorance than on knowledge.
Watts was wrong. In fact, it was his rebuttal that relied more on ignorance than knowledge. The evidence for common descent from molecular biology falls into three main areas:

  • Similarity in genes between closely related species
  • Similar gene order on chromosomes between closely related species
  • Shared identical genetic errors between closely related species <3>

Watts cites a paper by the Christian cell biologist Graeme Finlay, but does not address susbtantively any of the arguments made by Finlay. In fact, he did not quote from the paper at all. Watts spent most of his time claiming that similarity in design may well be a function of design constraints. This may be so, but it is not proof of special creation. The renown palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris believes that evolution inevitably converges towards a finite number of solutions, and has written a book outlining what he believes is the evidence for convergence in evolution. <2> As I mentioned earlier, the evidence for common descent from molecular biology cannot be explained away as a molecular variant of the argument from comparative anatomy, and the fact that such an embarrassingly naive article made it into print is sadly yet more evidence of how unreliable the Testimony magazine is on matters of science.

In James 3:1, the apostle reminds those who wish to be teachers that they will be held to a higher standard, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." When any believer argues against the majority position in any scholarly field, they need to show that they have accurately represented that position, and have provided arguments that those in that field regard as substantive. If they fail to do that, then they run the risk of inadvertently misleading their readers. Intellectual honesty is mandated by James 3:1, and this alone should remind us to ensure everything we say on a subject is based on fact, rather than wishful thinking.

Over the next few posts, I will be examining the evidence for common descent from molecular biology in more detail, making reference to Watts' paper.


1. Watts J "Evolution or Creation? The argument from comparative anatomy." The Testimony January 2005 p 31-33
2. Conway Morris, S. Life’s Solution: Inevitable humans in a Lonely Universe. (2003 Cambridge University Press.)
3. Max E.E. "Plagiarized Errors and Molecular Genetics" TalkOrigins Archive