This is the second time we’ve written about a Discovery Institute post by Walter Myers. The first was Discoveroids Reveal Their Mystical Roots, when the Discoveroids introduced him a month ago. He teaches philosophy at Biola University, a bible college. His new post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog is Is There a Limit to the Number of a Designer’s Creative Acts? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
The first quarter of Walter’s essay discusses the musical accomplishments of Bach, and how much influence he had on later composers. Then he says:
Thinking about this led me to reflect on creativity and creative acts.
Obviously, we’re in the presence of an extraordinary mind. Walter leaps from that to quoting something Darwin wrote in the introduction to Origin of Species:
[I]t is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and coadaptation which most justly excites our admiration.
Aha! Darwin said that denying special creation was an unsatisfactory conclusion. But did he really say that? Suspecting that this is yet another example of creationist quote-mining, we looked at the introduction for ourselves. You can see it here. As we all suspected, Walter took that quote out of context. Darwin frequently stated a proposition which many people believed, and then refuted it. Quote-miners use only the former, and omit the latter. That’s what’s going on here. Shortly after Walter’s quote, in that same Introduction, Darwin said:
Naturalists continually refer to external conditions, such as climate, food, etc., as the only possible cause of variation. … It is, therefore, of the highest importance to gain a clear insight into the means of modification and coadaptation. At the commencement of my observations it seemed to me probable that a careful study of domesticated animals and of cultivated plants would offer the best chance of making out this obscure problem. Nor have I been disappointed …
From these considerations, I shall devote the first chapter of this abstract to variation under domestication. We shall thus see that a large amount of hereditary modification is at least possible; and, what is equally or more important, we shall see how great is the power of man in accumulating by his selection successive slight variations. I will then pass on to the variability of species in a state of nature … In the next chapter the struggle for existence among all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from the high geometrical ratio of their increase, will be considered.
Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgment of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists until recently entertained, and which I formerly entertained — namely, that each species has been independently created — is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that natural selection has been the most important, but not the exclusive, means of modification.
In other words, as Darwin clearly explained at length in the Introduction, his entire book is devoted to disproving the snippet Walter so cleverly mined. Isn’t creationism fun? Okay, back to Walter.
Inexplicably, he focuses on the first part of that quote from Darwin’s Introduction, and tells us:
Darwin criticized naturalists who believed each species could have been “independently created,” or rather, designed. He felt that such thinking must be mistaken due to the sheer number of species, and considering the work it would take to modify them all to fit perfectly into their respective environments.
That’s not quite what Darwin said — but it doesn’t matter. Walter tells us:
But let’s think again. It is estimated that at present, there are approximately 8.7 million species on Earth. Yet when we consider the human brilliance of Bach, whose work was voluminous, and only limited by his untimely death of a stroke at 65, why would Darwin, or anyone else, conclude that the complexity, beauty, and artistry of extant species could not possibly come about through the creative act of a designer?
Walter uses his splendid philosophy skills to examine what he claims is Darwin’s belief:
Let’s look at the syllogism that Darwin uses in this passage:
1. There are an innumerable number of species
2. It cannot be shown how an innumerable species could have been modified to adapt so well to their environments
3. Therefore, species could not have been independently created
On inspection, we see this syllogism fails, since the conclusion, (3), does not necessarily follow from premises (1) and (2).
Sickening, isn’t it? Walter continues:
Indeed, we know a lot about independent creative acts. For one thing, we know that not all acts are necessarily new but may be built on previous such acts, as we see with [some tune] that built on the previous work of Bach, while adding new and novel arrangements (or rather, information). So when we consider the creativity of the human mind, and what it is able to accomplish, why would we conclude that any given extant species could not have been the product of a continually working designer over the course of time?
Brilliant. Let’s read on:
When we look at the depth, complexity, and beauty that comes forth from the minds of humans such as Bach, … we reasonably conclude that a mind far greater than the human mind could over time have created the almost 9 million catalogued species we see on Earth. My argument is not that all species were created independently, as the ability to speciate could well have been built into the DNA of a number of aboriginal forms. However, when you look at an almost 600-million-year period of complex life forms, an average of about 70 creative acts per year does not seem outside the domain of possibility.
Yeah, it would have been no problem for the intelligent designer — blessed be he! This is way too long. Let’s skip to the end:
What’s material is that we know from our everyday experience that minds can produce creative acts. And thus, Darwin’s insistence that only evolution can account for the modification of innumerable species is more an argument from personal incredulity than an argument from science.
[*Curmudgeon ends abruptly, because he needs to purge himself from the experience of dealing with this Discoveroid mess*]
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