Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dawkins' Fatal Flaw

It has been a long time since I have been able to blog. The truth is that things have been really busy around here between completing a Masters Degree, applying for PhD programs, and taking care of a newborn. However, I have a really good reason to start again.

Last night I had the opportunity to go watch a lecture by Richard Dawkins here in Charlotte. It was a short lecture in which he read sections from his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth. However, it was long enough for him to introduce what I think is a fatal error for his whole claim that evolution is a fact beyond a reasonable doubt.

You see, Dawkins admits that the evolution of species (the adaptation of one species to another) is not something that is seen firsthand. Instead, it is the conclusion drawn by means of a forensic investigation. That is, he says that solving the question of descent is much like solving a murder, one need only look at the traces of evidence left behind. Now, I believe that this places him in an interesting dilemma. Let me explain.

Based on the forensic nature of the evolutionary claim, I turned my attention to the evidence itself. The first and primary evidence that he offered was the fossil evidence. His claim was that there are no "missing links" in this evidence. Now, contrary to the typical "Christian response" I have no problem granting that this is true. In fact, I am willing to accept that not only do all the actual fossils exist, but lets hypothesize that every conceivable fossil evidence also exists. This would make Dawkins body of evidence perfectly complete. But what does this get him? I don't think it helps his case one iota. Why? Just think about what can be learned from a fossil. I fossil can give you size, shape, kind, temporal order, and age. However, a fossil cannot give you what evolutionists claim it can. It cannot give you descent. Thus, while the fossil record is a necessary condition for the truth of evolution it is not a sufficient condition for the truth of evolution.

For those of you who are not familiar with this distinction, a necessary condition is a condition that must be true in order for another condition to be true. For example, the existence of oxygen is necessary for the existence of fire.

On the other hand, a sufficient condition is a condition that guarantees the truth of another condition. For example, the existence of fire guarantees the existence of oxygen.

Now lets understand this better. A necessary condition is not enough to prove that the condition that it links to is true. Consider the fire and oxygen examples. It is true that oxygen is necessary for fire. But that says nothing as to whether there actually is any fire. The only way that one can determine if there is fire is to see it. In the same way, if the fossil record is only a necessary condition, its existence does nothing to say whether or not evolution has occurred. The most that one can say is that it is possible. But it is just as possible that the fossil record is the way it is for any other logically sound reason.

The same can be said for other apparent "evidences" such as similarity of DNA, the geological spread of fossil evidence, etc.

Thus, by admitting that evolution is known forensically, Dawkins has cut himself off from being able to prove his case. Now, he could possibly answer this criticism. All he has to do is provide a sufficient condition for evolution to be true. I would love to see this attempt. Any takers?

Oh, one last thing. Lest any of you be tempted to argue that the current evidence provides a cumulative case for evolution, it will not work. Each piece of evidence at best provides a 50/50 probability for evolution. Thus, whatever is held to be contrary to evolution maintains the equal possibility of being the case. For example, similarity of DNA structure does not by itself in any way support common descent more than common creator. One could just as easily make the case that the evidence presents a cumulative case for a design theory.


  1. But if Dawkins had a perfect fossil record showing minute changes that lead up to larger changes, doesn't that mean that the probability of evolution being true would not be "at best 50/50"?
    One could argue that you're stacking the deck against a cumulative case for evolution by saying that the prior probability is 50/50. Someone like Dawkins would not grant this and given his view of fossils would say that a forensic science cannot tell you what necessarily happened, but what most probably happened, and that is what the evidence for evolution shows.

  2. But that the fossil records shows change is the very question at hand. I have argued that it only shows difference. The change has to come from somewhere else (that is not direct observation).

  3. Try writing in English please.