Over at ScienceBlogs, the topic of “framing” has come up again (and again). I generally agree with Rosenhouse: for science to make peace with irrational superstition so that the two can live side by side in the same society is like the sheep making peace with the wolves so the pack and the flock can mingle. It may cut down on the running around in the short term, but it’s unlikely to be beneficial in the long run (i.e. in however long it takes the wolves to get hungry again). The task of understanding how the world really is, and denial that the world can differ in any way from the dogmatic pronouncements of the Bronze Age, are two fundamentally incompatible things.
However, in the spirit of a good challenge, I’d like to propose a new “frame” for presenting evolution to the creationism-minded. It goes like this: Who is smarter, God or Darwin? If Charles Darwin is smart enough to think up a biological system that would allow life to adapt to changing environments, and to recover from extinctions and other catastrophes, and to flourish in many creative and diverse ways most wonderful, then do you think a divine Creator would be clever enough to come up with a system that was as well-thought-out as Darwin’s?
Most creationists, in practice, have a fairly low opinion of God’s intellectual capacity. Sure, in theory they’ll refer to God as being infinitely wise and omniscient. But in practice they’re pretty sure that if they can’t understand how evolution could produce something like a flagellum, then God couldn’t figure it out either. God is smart enough to create the laws of nature, but He’s only smart enough to produce a fairly unsophisticated set of laws whose workings are so trivial that anyone can easily deduce, using only common sense and intuition, exactly what nature can and cannot accomplish.
The evolutionist, however, has a much higher opinion of the level of elegance and sophistication we find in the natural world, which would imply a much higher level of sophistication and intelligence in its Creator (assuming it had a Creator). Evolution accomplishes an amazing amount of conservation and creation, and does it using relatively simple basic mechanisms that have unexpectedly subtle and intricate interactions. To give God credit for such an ingenious piece of engineering would be to praise Him highly. Too highly, it seems, for the comfort of creationists.
Creationists don’t want to give God any of the credit for evolution. God didn’t invent it. God didn’t think it up. And He certainly didn’t inspire Darwin, and Darwin’s successors, to discover it. Which means that Darwin and company came up with this demonstrably superior system on their own, without God’s help! So again I put it to you: who is smarter, God or Darwin? Darwin described a system that was self-adapting, self-extending, and self-maintaining, that needs no external tweaking or repair, and no fuel source (other than readily available energy from the sun). The creationist’s system, by contrast, is designed to be unable to adapt beyond certain fixed limits, and to require extensive manual intervention to produce each new kind of organism. Contrary to Genesis 1, it’s just not very good, at least compared to Darwin’s system.
And remember: creationism, with its painfully low opinion of God’s design skills, is a human interpretation of the Bible, with a tradition less than 200 years old. The Bible does not say that the characteristics of a “kind” are fixed and cannot change over time. It says that creatures reproduce “according to their kind,” but then evolution says the same thing.
Uninspired men (creationists) have taken a verse about organisms producing offspring of the same kind (which is a process that evolution also teaches), and have claimed, without justification, that this means the characteristics of a kind are limited in some way, and cannot change over time. In other words, based on a verse that says nothing at all about whether kinds can change to adapt to changing conditions, uninspired creationists have claimed that God designed life on earth to be less sophisticated and less intelligently designed than what you would have in the system Darwin and other scientists have come up with.
So who is right? Does the evidence support the scientists’ conclusion that nature is remarkably sophisticated and capable of amazing and even baffling feats? Or does it support the creationists’ implication that God isn’t as clever as Darwin and Dawkins and company?
We report, you decide.