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Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Creationism, Evolution, featured, Religion, Science, Skepticism | 11 comments

Lutheran Church – Creation and Evolution

I found out that the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church has created a document called “What About… Creation and Evolution” (PDF).

It is, without a doubt, one of the most complete listing of intelligent design and creationist memes I’ve ever seen. It seems to cover everything and contain every logical fallacy associated with the ID movement. Honestly, I’m impressed that they fit the whole thing into two PDF pages. It’s got everything from transitional fossils to irreducible complexity. And just about every scientific mistake and misunderstanding ever promoted by creationists.

I’d like to take some time to dissect this, because it such a rich trove of misinformation. This is going to be a long one, so hang on.

The document opens with the classic Fact or Theory meme.

Evolution: fact or theory? Many people assume it is simply a fact.Christians who by faith accept the truth of God’s Word about Creation, as it is recorded for us in Genesis and elsewhere in the Scriptures, sometimes wonder how they can help others consider the possibility that there is a Creator.The purpose of this pamphlet is to provide a starting point from which to evaluate the claims made by advocates of Evolution.

The answer to the question, of course, is “both”. Evolution is an observed fact. This is trivial to show. Organisms are not the same as their parents. That’s evolution. Now, there is often a bit of a fuss between so-called microevolution and so-called macroevolution. These fusses are caused by people who don’t understand that evolution only occurs at the population/speciation level.

Scientists often use the two terms when talking about population level events (like in a lab) and the large scale events we see in the fossil record. Of course, the fossil record is recording one or two individuals every few million years. I consider this to be a bad practice as evolution only happens at the population/speciation level. All others are artifacts of having a miniscule selection of fossils over millions of years.

Evolution is also a theory. Which is (for the thousandth time) a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. It’s not a guess. It’s used to predict how living things change over time. And has passed every prediction made using it. It describes what we can expect when dealing with evolution. It isn’t perfect, but it’s very, very good.

So, the purpose is to evaluate the claims made by advocates of evolution. Well, let’s see what strawman claims about evolution are to be evaluated.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF EVOLUTION?

This is an interesting title. There is no point to evolution. It’s the natural outcome of competition, selection, sexual reproduction, and mutation. There’s no point to a waterfall. It’s just what happens when water reaches the edge of a path and falls via gravity to the next lowest point.

The document quotes from Carl Wieland about Charles Darwin. Wieland is a Young Earth Creationist. He split with Ken Ham’s AIG and kept the Australian and other non-US parts Answer’s In Genesis renaming them to Creation Ministries International.

With all of the non-creationist biographers of Charles Darwin, I’m curious[1] why they would choose someone like Wieland instead of another biographer.

The discussion of Darwin is meaningless. It does not involve evidence of evolution. It only touches on the “assault on religion” aspect of Darwin’s work. So let me make this blanket statement about science and religion.

If observed events, carefully conducted experiments, the data from these, and the conclusions drawn from these disagree with your religious beliefs… it’s not science that you should be complaining about.

What challenge to Darwin is found in the details of life?

If you want to see a truly epic level bait and switch, just read this text from the document.

Evolutionary theory proposes that life forms start out at a very simple level and then, by natural selection, eventually become more and more complex as changes occur. However, biochemical and molecular biological research continues to gather convincing evidence that the living cell is totally useless unless, and until, it reaches its final form, and then, having reached that form, any change at all actually destroys, not enhances, its function.

What this is saying is that modern cells evolved over a period of over a billion years. But the living cells today are so complex that any change at all breaks them.

See the switch? Yes, modern cells are exceedingly complex (though it is not true that any change destroys its function).

My car is exceedingly complex. It’s so complex that if you take out the CPU, then it won’t run at all. In fact, if you take the CPU out of all cars, they won’t run… except for the millions of cars that were built long before cars began to have CPUs. My 67 Mustang runs just fine without a CPU, fuel injectors, anti-lock breaks, traction control, or any of a thousand other systems that my modern car has.

But let’s talk for a second about that lie about “any change at all actually destroys, not enhances, its function.” That’s simply not true and any first year biology student should know this.

First of all, most mutations are actually neutral and there are some detailed biochemical reasons why. Second mutations do create new abilities. Even some massive mutations aren’t dangerous to the cell or the organism.

I will agree that one of science (not Darwin, he’s dead) greatest challenges is how did the first cell come about. I’ll tell you right now (as I and every legitimate evolutionary biologist will tell you) that we will never know exactly how the first cell came to be. We can’t know. That was well over 1.3 billion years ago. It was too small and the wrong material to fossilize.

Maybe we’ll have a good idea of how it happened some day. Maybe not. But science’s inability to answer the question does not mean “a designer God did it”. To say that, one must have actual evidence that the designer exists and is capable and then actually did create the first cell. There isn’t any.

We continue with this lovely lie

More and more scientists are reaching the conclusion that living organisms,even the most “simple,”show clear evidence of a creator because of their incredible complexity at even the most fundamental levels.The scientific literature is strangely silent when it comes to the question of how these molecular structures, the basis of life,developed.How could all this have evolved?

Sorry guys, more and more scientists are not reaching that conclusion. That is text straight out of the Intelligent Design handbook. I’m willing to bet that the people who wrote this document cannot name 6 biologists who support this idea. And I know that they cannot name 6 biologists none 0f whom are employed by the Discovery Institute or the Biologic Institute (a subsidiary of the DI).

I’m confident that they could name hundreds of scientists. I can name an even dozen. Of course, they are either DI employees, paid by the DI, or not biologists. I’m sure a civil engineer who specializes in energy systems is very smart, but he doesn’t know anything about biology or evolution.

The scientific literature is NOT ‘strangely silent’ or silent at all on origins of life research. It’s a huge field with several hundred papers published each year. Click on the Origins of Life category on the right and you’ll see just a small sample of the work going on.

Just checking one of my texts on the subject, Pier Luisi’s The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology, contains 29 pages of single spaced references (in very small type) dealing with the origins of life research. Including this gem, Achilles, Thomas, and Günter von Kiedrowski. “A self‐replicating system from three starting materials.” Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English32.8 (1993): 1198-1201.  Not really germane to the discussion, but it’s very cool.

The literature is only silent to those who ignore it.

Has science accepted Intelligent Design?

No.

Why? Because intelligent design is not science. There are no experiments that support ID. There are no observations that support ID. The thinking of ID proponents is to take new discoveries and fit them in to ID ideas somehow… anyhow. That may work in engineering, but it doesn’t work in science.

Science must be discriminatory. The rule is, if not evolution, then design. Instead it is, if not evolution, then not evolution. Only positive supporting evidence of intelligent design can be used to support intelligent design and there is none. Besides which, they are so far away from showing evolution (except their strawman version) to be wrong, that they aren’t even looking.

Proponents of Intelligent Design have made great headway in recent years. Their findings have added muscle to the
long-held Creationist arguments on the Second Law of Thermodynamics,which, simply put, says that the way of all
things, both living and non-living, is to go from a state of order to various states of increasing disorder, not the other way around.

No, ID proponents have made zero headway in recent years. Zero papers supporting ID have been published. Several books have, but theses have been universally trashed by scientists. Several lawsuits have been brought about and ID proponents have lost each and every one, totally and completely.

And then we get to the Second Law arguments. I don’t know who wrote this, but even Answers in Genesis suggests to not use this false argument any more.

The second law of thermodynamics is a principle which puts limits upon the direction of heat transfer and the efficiency of heat engines. It is expressed with the equation:

SLoT

where deltaS is the increase in entropy, sigmaQ is the transfer of heat, and T is the temperature of the surrounding system. Entropy is defined as the number of ways in which a thermodynamic system can be arranged.

The second law of thermodynamics is about heat. It about the flow of heat that is available to do work in a closed system. That ability to do work also limits the efficiency of heat engines.

Entropy is casually considered to be a measure of order/disorder, this is not really useful thing. Because the entropy of a system always decreases in a closed system. However, life is not a closed system. The Earth is not a closed system.

Therefore, none of this applies to evolution or life anyway. One final note, if, somehow, the second law of thermodynamics prevented evolution, then it would also prevent reproduction, growth and development, and the consumption of food energy.  Meaning that life wouldn’t exist anyway and we wouldn’t be having this argument.

Other arguments being put forward are based on dubious dating-methods used by evolutionists, and on the fossil record—the latter still showing no conclusive transitional stages in types or kinds (one would think every fossil would show a transitional stage).Together, these evidences, along with many others, form a convincing case for the idea of Creation and Intelligent Design.

I’ve talked a great deal about radiometric dating methods and transitional fossils. Radiometric dating methods are sound. We know (and have known for decades) what the problems are and how to correct for them.

One funny thing, the author thinks he’s making a joke, but he’s actually right. Every single fossil is a transitional fossil. We just don’t know what it’s parents and offspring were like. Just like every parent of every child is transitional between their parents and their children.

Let’s look at that last sentence. “Together, these evidences, along with many others, form a convincing case for the idea of Creation and Intelligent Design.”

This person has no idea how science words. Let me replace three words and you will see how it makes no sense.

Together, these evidences, along with many others, form a convincing case for the idea of Yggdrasil and Odin Allfather.

Do you think that the Lutheran’s would agree with that statement? Of course not. Because the statement is flawed. Negative evidence for one thing cannot support something else. Now, occasionally positive evidence for one thing is negative evidence for something else, but it’s always positive evidence that’s important. There is none for ID.

Even if you guys prove evolution completely and totally wrong (you haven’t and you won’t with mistakes like these), then it still doesn’t show creationism and intelligent design to be correct.

What stands in the way of Intelligent Design?

Too many things to list. There’s not even a single coherent notion of ID. I’ve heard, in the same thread, one ID proponent say that it’s really Young Earth Creationism with god doing everything. One said that ID applied to the universe and everything in it, but only as frontloading[2]. Another said that god only made the big changes once Earth formed.

So what is ID? No one knows? Least of all the people who started it.

There’s an even bigger problem than that though. ID is religion. As this document clearly indicates. Science and religion don’t mix well. Even the leaders of the movement have admitted that the purpose of ID is to replace science with Christianity.

Evolutionists appear unwilling to address the findings of biochemistry and other related fields.They are quick to say they are defending science, yet when confronted by an Intelligent Design paradigm that explains the data better than their own (such as on the human eye, a bird’s wing or the processes of blood-clotting),they offer no scientific defense at all.Instead,they lash out,ridiculing the Intelligent Design paradigm as nothing more than “religious.”

First of all, “Evolutionist” is a charged word and used here to specifically cast doubt upon scientists. But there is no unwillingness to address the findings of biochemistry. I know of only two people that are doing biochem research that are creationists. Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger. Of course, their work was disrupted by an evolutionary change. Further, the work is regularly examined by non-creationist scientists and shown to be useless for the intended goal (supporting ID).

What is happening in the scientific community

Honestly? Those who bother to pay attention are laughing at the machinations of the ID proponents.

Those who prefer the Creation and Intelligent Design explanation for life cannot be conveniently stereotyped as backward,ignorant,flat-earth fanatics.To the contrary,believers in special Creation and Intelligent Design are discerning, rational people—tens of millions of them—who, upon weighing the evidence,have dismissed evolutionary theory as untenable.

Of course, tens of millions of people also think that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Tens of millions of people don’t believe that humans have landed on the moon. Tens of millions of people believe that there is a conspiracy about JFKs death.

So? Another logical fallacy.

If tens of millions of people jumped off a bridge? Would you?

Again, the author says that there are ‘growing numbers’ of biologists, geologists, etc that find problems with evolution. I’ve heard this exact phrase for decades. By this point, every scientists should be in the growing list.

I’m willing to bet large sums of money that the authors can’t name a single scientist that thinks this. I’m further willing to bet that any quotes that they use to support this claim are actually quotemines, another fallacy.

Let’s be clear, there aren’t any. Medical doctors? Who cares, they are just engineers who work on squishy things instead of hard things. Mathematicians? Again, who cares. Find someone who actually does work in evolution and you will not find someone who disagrees with it.

Of course, the authors of the paper refer to Michael Denton, a creationist biochemist, and Michael Behe, also a creationist biochemist. Behe is not exactly the best person to refer to however. He made such a mess of things at the Kitzmiller trial that he was a leading reason why the judge ruled against ID.

Again, neither of these two have published a single article that supports any claim of ID. And the majority of their work has been soundly criticized by… well… all other biochemists.

Is there room for Intelligent Design?

No.

 As much compelling evidence as there is for a young earth and a worldwide hydraulic cataclysm (the Noahic Flood, which explains much about our planet’s geology and paleontology), Intelligent Design,on its own merits, can be argued effectively without a single reference to the Scriptures. This natural knowledge of a Creator is not the same as advancing a set of specific theological and doctrinal beliefs about that Creator.

I have to snicker at that statement. That’s about the funniest thing in existence. There is zero supporting evidence for a global flood and tons of evidence against it. Everything from geology to biology to simple physics shows that the Noahic Flood cannot have happened without completely destroying everything on the planet.

The flood explains nothing about Earth’s geology and paleontology. I’ve talked about it briefly in my chapter of 13 Reasons To Doubt (now in paperback).

The advancing a specific set of theological and doctrinal beliefs is also hilarious.

“The world is a mirror representing the divine life…Intelligent design readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality. Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” – William A. Dembski, Touchstone Magazine, July/August 1999.

or

“Theistic evolution is exactly the same thing as atheistic evolution only with some meaningless, vacuous God-talk spread around. It’s not really an intellectually honest position at all; it’s a kind of political compromise.”
– Phillip Johnson quoted, “Designer genes: Phillip E. Johnson talks to Peter Hastie,” Australian Presbyterian, No.
531, October 2001, pp.4-8.

or

“The job of apologetics is to clear the ground, to clear obstacles that prevent people from coming to the knowledge of Christ,” Dembski said. “And if there’s anything that I think has blocked the growth of Christ [and] the free reign of the Spirit and people accepting the Scripture and Jesus Christ, it is the Darwinian naturalistic view…. It’s important that we understand the world. God has created it; Jesus is incarnate in the world.”
William Dembski quoted, Benen, Steve, “The Discovery Institute”, Church and State Magazine, May 2002.

Nope, no doctrinal messages there. Though, I suppose that since ID proponent specifically reject any search for the designer[3], so theoretically, any intelligent designer would do. Though I would think that the Lutheran church would reject Odin, aliens, Cthulhu, or any non-Christian god as the designer.

If evolutionists persist in saying that creation cannot be divorced from religion,then they themselves must be prepared to admit that their orthodoxy—that life in all its beauty,organization and complexity arose from random mutations and other Darwinian speculations—is just as dogmatic, just as much a religion,really,as what they scorn

And here’s the evolution is religion meme. Like i said, it’s all here.

Here’s the difference. Evolution is based on evidence. Whether the author of this documents knows about the evidence or doesn’t is immaterial. They ought to know that science is based on evidence. Anything else is misrepresenting science.

The other difference is that, with evidence, scientists’ minds can be changed. Religious minds will not be changed with any amount of evidence.

If Creation is theistic, calling for an intelligent,purposeful Author of Life, then naturalistic Evolution is atheistic,denying the existence of that Author and any supernatural acts wrought by His hand.

Uh, no. And now the attempt to tie evolution to atheism. Again, science is based on evidence. Those that reject scientific evidence are most commonly the religious. Science is not atheistic. Science is not theistic. Science is not Democrat. Science is not Republican. Science is nothing but observation, evidence, and logical conclusions.

Any claim of anything else is wrong and fundamentally misrepresenting science.

For generations, Evolution,with all its weaknesses and unexplained gaps, has reigned unchallenged in American public life in our zoos, science centers,museums and mass media, and yes, perhaps most clearly in our schools. The theory of Evolution is simply handed down as fact. Only now, finally, is Evolution being contested on its own terms: objective science.

First of all, so far the ‘weaknesses” and “unexplained gaps” have not been explained. Those that have been explained are simply wrong. The author appears to be very familiar with creationist tracts that make these claims, but hasn’t actually considered that those creationists tracts are wrong and have been known to be wrong for so long that the continued use of them is effectively lying.

And no, evolution is not being contested by anyone in objective science.

On the blackboards of America’s public-school science classrooms,and in the pages and on the screens of the  media, the time has come for the words “Evolution,”“naturalism”and “neo-Darwinism” to make room for “Intelligent Design.” Anything less,based on the evidence,would be intellectually dishonest.

Actually, anything more would be illegal. In every single court case, intelligent design has shown to be a religious proposition. The leaders are all Christians who promote ID as a religious response to evolution and science.

Intelligent design is not science. There is not a valid hypothesis. There are no experiments that support it. There are no observations of the designer in action. There is nothing. I would invite the author of the paper to provide evidence that the designer exists.

Can we “baptize” evolutionary theory?

Hey look at this statement, which directly refutes the claims above. This is a classic creationist problem and, true to form, appears here.

It would be a mistake on our part to think that simply by presenting the evidence for Intelligent Design, a person  will become a Christian.

Wait, I thought Intelligent Design wasn’t about religion?

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod believes,teaches and confesses that Adam and Eve were real historic individuals  and that the Genesis account of Creation is true and factual, not merely a “myth”or a “story”made up to explain the origin of all things.

Of course, you do. You have to believe those things, because without them, the entire concept of “original sin” is gone and then, the church is useless.

I just have one question. Which was created first, man or animals?

The problem is that the Bible simply cannot be a historical document. It is so filled with errors and internal contradictions that no perfect thing could have created it and only god could have since humans didn’t even exist until the after the universe, Earth, and seas had been created. And that’s just one problem, there are hundreds.

Taking the Bible as a “true and factual” account is doomed to failure. The only possible way to choose between two contradictory things is to just pick one. And that picking process has no basis in fact, Biblical history, or the Bible itself. It’s based on random choice or some made up convoluted logic.

This is the entire argument right here. For the church to retain power and control, humans must have been created. If not, then fears of hell will not hold people under their sway. This is about control. That’s all.

We would also be making a very serious error simply to accept the theories of science without question.Many aspects of evolutionary theory are directly contradictory to God’s Word.Evolution cannot be “baptized”to make it compatible with the Christian faith.Those who attempt inevitably wind up watering down the teachings of the Bible.Christians have no need to fear the findings of science,nor do they have any reason to give “science”more credence than they give the Word of God.

The only people that I know that accept things without question are the religious. No scientist would accept anything without question. No skeptic would either.

Science encourages you to question. But at least have the courtesy to question what we actually think and have evidence for. Not some fake version of “evolution” that no actual scientist holds.

They are right though. Evolution cannot be made compatible with Chritianity. Because of Adam and Eve and the control the church has because of them.

Adam and Eve either existed or they didn’t. The church has a single book that is filled with contradictions, incorrect history, and other major problems.

On the other hand, we have dozens of fossil humans from well over 150,000 years ago. We have dozens of other fossil Homo species that go back almost two million years ago. Plus we have another obviously closely related species that go back to over four million years ago. We have evidence of our evolutionary relationship with chimpanzees (chromosome 2) and gorillas. We have evidence of an evolutionary relationship with an entire suborder of primates, Haplorrhini (which cannot make vitamin C). We have evolutionary relationships that connect us to every living thing on the planet (Homeobox genes, for example). 

This and millions of other pieces of evidence support evolution. They are all pieces of positive evidence for the theory of evolution.

To the authors of this document. I hope that you have read to this point. This document is a collection of the greatest hits of creationist thinking. And they are all wrong.

Some of them have been known to be wrong for decades. Your continued use of these mistakes, misunderstandings, lies, shows that you are not interested in truth or even reality. You have chosen to reject evidence. You have chosen to promote the lies of those who want nothing less to discredit science and replace it with Christianity.

You have also rejected your own beliefs. You follow the Bible and it’s commandments. But you choose to lie to your own congregation. You choose this either through malicious intent or through ignorance. Both are troubling.

I would encourage you to read all of the links I’ve provided. I would suggest that you also read The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins. Don’t let fear of his atheism prevent you from learning. Perhaps, then you will understand. Science is science. You want to promote your religion and I don’t care. But you should not be allowed to lie about science to promote your religion. What kind of faith do you have if it’s based on the lies of others?

UPDATE 8/19/14
The Missouri Synod has contacted and their information center is forwarding this to the “theology staff for review”. Which is the entire problem. You don’t go to a plumber when you’re having a heart attack. The church is sticking its nose into things for which it is not trained. I’m confident that they have no evolutionary biologists, general biologists, or even scientists on staff, especially in the theology section. But they are trying to make scientific pronouncements for which they are very unsuited and ending up making themselves look very silly.

_________________________________

[1] Not really. It’s called cherry-picking.

[2] a notion with zero evidence that all features in all modern organisms were preloaded, genetically, into early organisms.

[3] They already know who it is…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

    The Missouri Synod has contacted and their information center is forwarding this to the “theology staff for review”.

    … where I’m sure it will get a full and thorough review … before it goes in the circular file.

  • Void Walker

    Nice article, Smilodon. A quick question: what is the most compelling, up to date research going on wrt the origin of life? It’s a topic of great interest to me of late.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      I would suggest that you start with “The Emergence of Life” it’s pretty technical, but reasonably up-to-date.

      I’ll see what I can find more current for you. I need to catch up myself.

      • Void Walker

        Thanks, gonna give Emergence of Life a thorough read.

    • Ratabago

      Hi Void,

      you might find these interesting.

      Non-enzymatic glycolysis and pentose phosphate pathway-like reactions in a plausible Archean ocean
      http://msb.embopress.org/content/10/4/725

      Archaea and bacteria with surprising microdiversity show shifts in dominance over 1,000-year time scales in hydrothermal chimneys
      http://www.pnas.org/content/107/4/1612.full.pdf+html

      A Bioenergetic Basis for Membrane Divergence in Archaea and Bacteria
      http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001926

      The Non-enzymatic glycolysis article includes a stack of references, most of which I haven’t worked through yet.

      The hydrothermal chimneys paper is not strictly concerned with abiogenesis, instead it looks at existing communities living in an environment that may be the closest existing representation of the one in which life first arose on earth.

      • Void Walker

        Wow, thank you so much! These will keep me busy for some time. :-)

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Yes thank you. I grabbed them myself.

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    What is odd is that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is very liberal and has no problem with evolution. It turns then Wisconsin and Missouri synods are equally conservative. It is the divide within supposedly the same denomination that baffles me the most.

  • Biologist

    Of all the LUTHERAN denominations the MO synod is the most conservative. 6 day creation, young earth, great flood, and you’d better believe Jonah spent time in a belly. When I was a kid some 5 decades ago my MO synod church library had numerous anti evolution books, including those by Henry Morris. Opposite of their intention they Convinced me that science provides a far better explanation for the cosmos than Genesis. It’s curious however that when young earners and great flood advocates are talked about, the MO synod usually isn’t mentioned. Also curious that other Lutheran groups are not usually literalist like the MO synod. Indeed they accept theistic evolution.

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    I make no claim to understand the Lutherans, their organization, or the MO Synod in particular. I just explain why their claims are wrong.

  • Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    “Again, the author says that there are ‘growing numbers’ of biologists,
    geologists, etc that find problems with evolution. I’ve heard this exact
    phrase for decades. By this point, every scientists should be in the
    growing list.”

    Diogenes has an excellent smack down on the “more and more scientists” canard. I do wish he’d blog a little more.

    “A Growing Number”: More and More Scientists are Abandoning Evolution