Sunday, February 24, 2002

THE CAMPUS DEBATE ON CREATION AND EVOLUTION: "Where's the beef?"
I came to the debate today armed with a pen, notebook, and a slight preference for Creationism. Part of this was probably from a dislike of the campus Freethinkers, who recently distributed lollipops that said "Smile, there is no god" on the stick. Both of the debaters were very good speakers, though they kept pronouncing each other's name differently seemingly every time they said it (completely understandable, by the way). However, at times they seemed to be on completely different pages, only answering questions posed to them in a very indirect manner. Nonetheless, it was very educational and enjoyable.

Dr. Guliuzza, speaking for Creationism, started by pointing out that evolutionary arguments aren't scientific, since they claim to be able to incorporate any data into their overall theory. He went on to say that no one has ever bred a creature through natural selection, and that evolutionists focus attention on their theories and provide scant details. He quoted from the National Academy of Science the definition that all science must be verifiable, and that evolutionary biology was not verifiable. He also pointed to evolutionary biologists' claims that some very similar animal features were of common origin, but that other, more complex features such as eyes of squid and humans are of completely separate origin.

Dr. Pigliucci, speaking for Evolutionism, began by giving two definitions of evolution. The first was that evolution is the change in gene frequencies, and the second being that it was descent with modification. He said that it is not a theory on the origin of life or the universe. He said that evolution was derived from population genetics, and has examples in molecular biology, organism morphology, physiology, development, and the fossil record. Evolution requires hereditable variation for selection to act according to Dr. Pigliucci, which lines up with his definition. Finally, he said that evolutionary biology was a scientific field that was not required to use the scientific method, and said that one reason most evolution papers don't provide much proof is that it would be too difficult for an ordinary person to understand.

In point-counterpoint, Dr. G asked for hard science and to be shown a mechanism for change. He stated that natural selection is random and provides an overall stabilizing effect on the population, citing a study on Galapagos finches (Darwin' finches) where beak size varied somewhat over time, but always remained roughly the same. Dr. P responded by stating that natural selection has nothing to do with complexity and asserted that fossils are exactly where science would expect them to be. He then provided the example of how whales are theorized to be descended from a hyena-like mammal, based on the similarity of certain structures, such as ankle bones. Dr. G said that the molecular and fossil evidence for the origin of whales disagreed, and went on to ask where Dr. P got whale ankle bones to compare. He stated that Darwin's theory of a "ladder of complexity" was wrong, and that there was survival of the luckiest, not the fittest, since there is no obvious reason why some lineages survived and others didn't. Dr. P said that selections are not predictive, and that selection increases the fitness of an organism, with variations occurring over time. Dr. G then pointed out that to assume an intelligent designer merely requires an absence of proof for evolution, while evolution requires proof, since it is more likely that order arose by conscious design than through chance. Dr. P then pointed out that no one knows anything for sure, to which Dr. G stated that his criticism of evolution wasn't that it had been proven false, but that it claimed to be unquestionable without proof.

Before the final question and answer period, closing remarks were made. Dr. Guliuzza mentioned that there were no details in the evolution literature. He went on to say that the fossil record doesn't show any evidence of evolution, with creatures appearing with no warning, remaining virtually unchanged for a long amount of time, and often disappearing abruptly. Mutations are damaging, he said, and that while a fox that chews off a leg caught in a trap is 25% less likely to be caught again in a similar trap, it could not be argued to be superior to a normal fox. In closing, he said that evolution has no scientific value. Dr. Pigliucci responded by stating that evolutionists naturally couldn't explain everything, that creationists exploit the intellectual honesty of evolutionists, and that creationism isn't real science.

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