Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Wood on Biological Similarity
One of the things that I enjoy most about the baraminologists is that they are willing to (a) admit tough questions, and not poo-poo them away, (b) they are uncompromising in their adherence to Biblical revelation, and, most importantly, (c) they are willing to acknowledge when they don't have answers to all the questions.
The basic theme of the paper is that (a) humans and chimpanzees have a much larger phenotypic difference than is expected from their genomic differences, and (b) Creationists need to work on a theory for why biological features are similar. He mentions the "common Creator" argument, and, while he agrees with it, he thinks it is too trivial. It is the role of the baraminologist to at least attempt to discover the reason for the specific similarities, and to try to find out for what purpose God created the similarities. He mentions ReMine's "message theory" as the only current systematic attempt at this, but criticizes it primarily on the basis that message theory is based on life being a strict hierarchy, while in fact modern results are showing that life is more of a network than a hierarchy.
One thing that Wood mentioned, but I don't think he emphasized enough, was the differences in gene expression. I think any good systematic approach to the subject will have to look at why the expressions of genes are so different in each baramin.
Anyway, Wood does a good job of critiquing many creationist claims, including parts of claims made by me (Doppleganger -- you would probably be interested in these yourself). While he does not refute these per se, he minimizes to a great amount their importance.
Finally, he points out that genetic similarity may not be baraminically important. He mentions the idea that, at creation, humans and chimps could possibly have even had the same genome, and that the great differences between the creatures aren't genomically based at all. In referencing this, I was quite surprised that he did not reference Sternberg's excellent paper on this subject of the primacy or non-primacy of genes.
Wood finishes not by answering the questions of biological similarity, but by outlining the form that such an answer must have.
Anyway, this paper, like most at the BSG, is a must read for everyone.
Doesn't that sort of remove what they are doing from the realm of honest science?
What I've found is that what separates Creationists apart from Darwinists is not the degree of their ideological commitments, but the fact that Creationists admit their ideological commitments, while Darwinists pretend not to have any. More honest Darwinists admit to theirs. Like Lewontin (quoted from here because I don't have access):
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
All in all, I've found that it is far more dangerous to think that you have no commitments, than to know what they are and acknowledge them. The idea that science can be persued without presuppositions is patently false, in fact no human endeavor is even possible without ideological commitments.
You might not be aware of this, but Stephen Hawking and George Ellis both admit that the Big Bang model is the result of ideological commitments rather than it being the only possibility from the empirical data. As Hawking said, "we are not able to make cosmological models without some admixture of ideology".
The question is, why is there only one philosophical outlook allowed in biology? Especially since the "favored philosophy" is one that is so contrary to the philosophical outlook of those who laid the groundwork of science?
Are Darwinists so worried about having their presuppositions critically analyzed that they are unable to let other views be discussed and debated in the same forums, for fear that they may be shown lacking?