Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Does God Exist? Friel-Barker Debate - Friel Questions

The third segment of the Friel-Barker debate "Does God exist" consisted of each participant asking the other free-form questions. Friel began by asking Barker a series of questions and accepting the answers without comment:

Friel: Do you really believe Something came from Nothing?

Barker: Yes.

Friel: Do you really believe Jesus Christ didn't exist and walk the planet?

Barker: Yes.

Friel: Do you have all knowledge?

Barker: No.

Friel: Do you care if you live or die?

Barker: Yes, most of the time I love life except when sometimes I'm so sick I think I'd rather die.

This was a puzzling exchange, and I don't understand why Friel took up precious time to ask what seemed to be basic information questions. Later in the segment his questions took on more of a "Stump the Atheist" tone, which is to be expected, but these initial questions weren't like that at all. I can only speculate, but I wonder if Friel was attempting to poison the well, to get an unsympathetic audience to hear Barker admit out loud such traditionally blasphemous statements such as that he doesn't believe in an historical Jesus.

Next, Friel launched a series of multiple questions regarding evolution, all of them following the same "Which came first" format.

Friel: Which evolved first, the digestive system, the food, the appetite, the ability to find food, digestive juices, or the body's ability to resist its own digestive juices? Which evolved first, the drive to reproduce or the ability? The male or the female? The bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, or the muscles to move the bones?

Barker answered all these questions adequately given our current understanding of natural selection. Essentially, Friel is arguing again for Irreducible Complexity, which I responded to earlier. No matter how Barker could have answered these questions, Friel would have declared the answer to be wrong, because his worldview demands that interworking body parts have to pop into existence fully formed by a creative designer, even though the fossil record clearly indicates that the interworking body parts co-evolved together. Friel wants us to imagine that the Theory of Evolution declares that a human head was rolling around on the ground, not able to find food very well, when suddenly it "evolved" a body which lumbered off into the distance, so let's all laugh at that comic piece of absurdity! But again, that's a caricature of natural selection that no evolutionary scientist has ever posited, so pointing and laughing at it is a waste of time. It's like thinking that the theory of gravity must be false because everyone knows that Wile E. Coyote can't hover in the air after walking off a cliff.

It's curious to me that Friel is attempting to use the concept of Irreducible Complexity to question the entire Theory of Evolution when Michael Behe, the Christian biochemist who first posited IC in his book Darwin's Black Box has said that he accepts the basic concept of Natural Selection and believes that humans descended from more primitive primates. In other words, Friel would disagree with Michael Behe while using his arguments. But that's just one of the corners into which young-earth creationists have painted themselves.

Friel continues demonstrating his lack of understanding of evolution with his next question.

Friel: Suppose we take a car factory and we remove all the kinks and bad parts out of the assembly line, how many runs would they have to run to produce an airplane? You can't turn a car into an airplane; you can't turn one thing into another.

Barker: Yes you can, through natural selection.

Barker has received a lot of criticism for his answer, both at the debate via derisive laughter from the audience, and later on the web after the debate was made public, and I agree his answer doesn't make sense at first appearance. I suppose, however, we could put this one under the category of Ask-a-silly-question-get-a-silly-answer. Friel sets up a scenario of an optimized factory and wonders if the products of the factory will change without human intervention. I missed this crucial difference the first time I listened to this debate. When Barker answered "Yes you can," I believe he was answering a different question, namely, "Can a car be changed into an airplane?" and of course the answer is yes. First, add a pair of wings, install a more powerful engine, remove unnecessary weight, etc. It may not be an ideal airplane, but it would be more like an airplane than a car.

But that wasn't what Friel was asking. He wasn't asking if one thing can be designed into another by intelligent designers. He was asking can a single organism "change" into another. He picked a spectacularly bad example to illustrate his point, because cars are not living organisms and thus cannot reproduce. But again, the theory of evolution has never claimed that a single living organism changes into another during its lifetime. Evolution only happens via reproduction, when the following generations are genetically different from their parents and from each other.  

Friel is is no position to question evolution if he hasn't taken the time to understand it. Barker correctly ended the exchange by pointing out that millions of Bible-believing Christians accept the facts of evolution despite Friel's cartoon caricatures.


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Previous: Friel's Rebuttal

Next: Barker Questions

3 comments:

Rhology said...

Howdy,

Glad you got to this part. This was the most interesting part of the debate for me.

1st, I'm disappointed that you didn't deal with Barker's patently absurd statement that something comes from nothing.
That is the very essence of faith, sthg that naturalists have in buckets but criticise Christians for all the time.
I'd like to know your answer to that question, and follow it up - what is your position on the universe's origin?

2nd, Barker is a fool to say that Jesus Christ never even walked the planet. Please. Not even the Jesus Seminar believes that. He's full of holes, this guy.
Why didn't you comment on that? This statement is yet more egregiously wrong than the previous one, but you seem to be a cheerleader against Friel only, whereas I thought you were doing a review of the debate. A debate is two sides, you know.


Barker answered all these questions adequately given our current understanding of natural selection

As Dembski says, these are all just-so stories. How could one possibly know this?
Does the "scientific community" have access to a time machine or something? How could you observe this repeatedly?


even though the fossil record clearly indicates that the interworking body parts co-evolved together

1) There are numerous examples in the fossil record indicating the sudden appearance of animals.
2) Henry Gee has famously argued against our ability to make statements like that about the fossil record. You're out of step with your own side's scholarship.

Friel wants us to imagine that the Theory of Evolution declares that a human head was rolling around on the ground, not able to find food very well,

Not at all; rather, that ToE declares that lizards turned into birds, that life began from a rock, that non-moral matter evolved into moral beings, that non-thinking matter evolved into non-thinking animals evolved into thinking humans.
Friel just chose a particular way of illustrating the absurdity. How is it possible that ALL of those functions and features he mentioned evolved AT THE SAME TIME? Talk about faith!


Peace,
Rhology

Tommy Holland. said...

I'm disappointed that you didn't deal with Barker's patently absurd statement that something comes from nothing.

It's not my position, that is true. Had Friel asked me that question I would have answered Yes, in that as far back as we can detect, there has been Something. Beyond that, everything is unknown.

Barker is a fool to say that Jesus Christ never even walked the planet. Please. Not even the Jesus Seminar believes that.

While the historicity of Jesus is certainly the majority postion, Barker is by no means alone nor a fool for concluding there was no historical Jesus based on the paucity of evidence. He makes a good case in his latest book, Godless.

Speaking of the Jesus Seminar, Robert M. Price, a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, has argued that we should reach a point of agnosticism regarding Jesus' existence and that supporters of Jesus historicity has the burden of proof.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_hypothesis

My own view is that there probably was an historical Jesus, but I'm not so convinced to call anyone who doesn't believe so a 'fool.' Nor would I call someone who does believe so a fool, either. There's far too little evidence either way to make a clear choice. That an omniscient God would then use our acceptance of a historical event as difficult as this one in order to judge the fate of our eternal souls is one more example of the problems with Christianity.

Does the "scientific community" have access to a time machine or something? How could you observe this repeatedly?

Yes, it's called a laboratory. Take a species with a short lifespan, say, bacteria, subject them to pressure over several life cycles, and observe the changes in their genetic makeup. This has been done repeatedly.

For species that are extinct, the process is similar. Find an extinct species and date it. Find another more complex species and date that one. Hypothesize that an intermediate species will be found with dates between the two, and find it. This has also been done repeatedly.

On the other hand, what time machine did the author of Genesis use to observe the creation of the universe? How did he know that God created the entire cosmos in six days? Why not one instant? Why not three days, or forty days, or one year? How did the author know that the earth was formed before the sun, moon, and stars were? Where is his carefully documented observations that we can study for ourselves and even duplicate? Why must evolution be held to an impossible standard but Creation is accepted so easily?

that ToE declares that lizards turned into birds,

Organisms do not "turn into" other organisms. Species evolve into other species due to natural selection as a response to environmental pressures and genetic drift.

that life began from a rock

No evolutionary scientist has argued that; the origins of life are abiogenesis, a different field of study.

On the other hand, Young-Earth Creationists argue that man was made from mud. I find that even more unlikely than the simplest of living organisms evolved out of complex chemicals.

How is it possible that ALL of those functions and features he mentioned evolved AT THE SAME TIME?

If 'at the same time' you mean one generation, then no one has argued such. If you mean, 'over the same period of time' then the answer is by natural selection. Mutations that give advantages are retained by later generations; those that don't, aren't.

To use Friel's automobile example, my car has a gas tank and a fuel pump. Remove either one, and my car won't run. But they didn't appear in the automobile at the same time. Sure, Friel could sarcastically ask, "What did the fuel pump actually pump if there was no gas tank to pump from?" This is as misleading a question as "Which evolved first, the eyelid or the eyeball?"
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB301.html

Rhology said...

Howdy,

Uh oh, you're in trouble already...

Take a species with a short lifespan, say, bacteria, subject them to pressure over several life cycles, and observe the changes in their genetic makeup. This has been done repeatedly.

That sounds like it involves, um, intelligence. Got any examples of experiments that are supposed to attack MY position, rather than your own?


Find an extinct species and date it.

Which involves more question-begging assumptions about dating, dating methods, circular dating, and the unavailability of time machines. Deep Time, as Henry Gee argues, does not allow us these kinds of opportunities for analysis.


Hypothesize that an intermediate species will be found with dates between the two, and find it. This has also been done repeatedly.

And then they have been rebuffed and disclaimed repeatedly as well.
And this doesn't say anything about the frequent sudden occurrences of new animals, fully-formed, in the fossil record.
You also don't know anything about the circumstances in which these fossils lived, died, and had (or didn't have) offspring.


what time machine did the author of Genesis use to observe the creation of the universe?

My position doesn't include naturalistic assumptions in tension with the insistence on repeated observation. You are confusing my worldview with yours.
My worldview is not testable on your worldview's yardstick in many ways.
God is outside time, He was there, He was the one who told the author how it all went down.


Why not one instant?

B/c that's how God wanted to do it, principally.
And b/c God digs the number 7 and bases various redemptive types and symbologies off of said number.
And b/c God wanted to foreshadow the coming of Christ, the final Sabbath, by resting on the Sabbath, the 7th day.
Among various other things.


How did the author know that the earth was formed before the sun, moon, and stars were?

God was there and He told the author.


Where is his carefully documented observations that we can study for ourselves and even duplicate?

Again confusing worldviews.
How can a creation event be duplicated? Why not just trust the word of the trustworthy eyewitness?


Why must evolution be held to an impossible standard but Creation is accepted so easily?

I am merely holding ToE to the standard of science. Either fulfill it or admit that ToE is unable to meet the challenge.
Not my problem.


Species evolve into other species due to natural selection as a response to environmental pressures and genetic drift.

1) That's why I said "lizard***S***, not "a lizard turns into a bird". Don't smokescreen, please.
2) Prove it, w/o injecting ANY intelligence into the mix. You can't.


No evolutionary scientist has argued that; the origins of life are abiogenesis, a different field of study.

I suppose, then, you think the elements and compounds of which life consists magically appeared out of thin air, then, like Barker thinks the universe did.
Magic - I wouldn't have taken a naturalist to be a believer in magic. To each his own, I guess.
You repudiate Barker's "magical appearing" hypothesis, why do so now with the origin of life? Those compounds came from, you guessed it, rocks. You know what we HAVE observed in this world, over and over again? Rocks + time = rocks.


Young-Earth Creationists argue that man was made from mud.

Dust, actually. With the essential ingredient of God's creative power.
**IF** an omnipotent God exists, is it impossible for Him to form life?


I find that even more unlikely than the simplest of living organisms evolved out of complex chemicals.

Even though you've never observed rocks + time = life. You've observed the exact opposite literally thousands of times in your life.
You've never observed the YEC hypothesis, however, so how could you know? Why not just ask God to reveal Himself to you? Honestly, though, you have to do it honestly. It's not like He's a circus monkey.
You simply prove your bias here, against God. I thought you were supposed to be a truth-seeker.


If 'at the same time' you mean one generation, then no one has argued such.

So somehow hundreds and thousands of generations of organism survived with one or a few half-formed systems like this until eventually they all meshed together? Suuuuuuurrrrreeeee they did.


The increments between these steps are slight and may be broken down into even smaller increments. (from the talkorigins article)

Oh, I should believe it b/c a wiki like talkorigins says it, eh?
1) Why is that not a just-so story? I'm not all that interested in "how it might maybe have gone", but more like "how it went".
2) This is unlikely in the extreme, yet somehow dozens and hundreds of bodily systems with hundreds of parts in millions of organisms were able to make it happen over the course of a relatively short period of time. That is nothing less than blind faith.

As for...

but I'm not so convinced to call anyone who doesn't believe so a 'fool.'

Then you haven't studied it enough. To say He never even existed is dozens of steps too far. If you've studied the source docs with even a little bit of honesty, that's not an honest conclusion available to be drawn.