“The World of Chance” and crocoducks

Years ago I read a piece of fiction called “The World of Chance”; apparently what I read was just a part of a longer novel, and I don’t remember all the details of the part I did read, but the basic concept was that a man starts to wish there was no God after some tragedy that he blames God for, and he gets his wish. But the “world without god” described makes no sense…and I mean that literally. It is “the world of chance”, meaning it is a world where impossible things are just as likely to happen as anything else. (And the impossible things are, by chance, all bad in order to promote the author’s view that a world without God would be horrible. Though, also by chance, the world was not completely uninhabitable for humans despite the fact that the vast majority of potential worlds would be, so it actually, unintentionally demonstrated something completely different.) In other words, it is a world defined not by the lack of a deity, but by the lack of physical laws.

And that association is completely baseless. In fact, isn’t it exactly the opposite? If there was an omnipotent deity that interacts with our world, then we might expect to see things that are “impossible” happen once in a while. While if there is nothing “supernatural”, then natural laws should be completely consistent. People who believe in miracles understand this, which just makes it even stranger that anyone would consider a lack of miracles to be evidence of God.

That brings me to the common creationist claim that there are no transitional fossils. The people who make this claim can be divided into two categories: people who are just unaware of actual transitional fossils, and people who have ridiculous ideas of what a “real” transitional form should look like. They imagine truly chimeric things; Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron specifically named and drew pictures of the crocoduck and the birddog, and claimed this was “exactly what evolutionists believe”.

Of course, the exact opposite is true. Not only does evolution not require any such creatures, but in fact it says anything like a crocoduck would be incredibly unlikely, and a birddog would be something that evolution couldn’t explain at all. (And again, I think creationists realize this on some level since they also like to claim the platypus is an actual chimera and evidence against evolution. The difference between this and the other case is that here, it is sometimes the exact same people who are making the completely contradictory arguments.) By contrast, creationism can explain anything (which is exactly why it’s useless); God could have created anything he wanted to. Meanwhile, creationism does not have any explanation for why creatures that evolution couldn’t explain don’t exist.

5 thoughts on ““The World of Chance” and crocoducks”

  1. Hey there –

    Interesting blog! Some thoughts as I read thru it…

    “[strange] that anyone would consider a lack of miracles to be evidence of God.”
    I agree with you.

    I cannot understand why a lack of miracles would prove to be evidence for God. Because by definition – anything unexpected and contrary to the scientific laws we have begun to understand…looks like a miracle to us.

    I would include the miracle claims of the New Testament in this – Jesus Resurrection, for example. I include these because of their historical basis.

    I would also include the fact that we are here talking about these things at all – as miraculous.

    In other words – it would seem to me that – divine INTERVENTION (or miracle) counts as evidence for God. He’s got to do something to show that he’s there. And this is actually a line of argument from the New Testament itself…the creation of the universe shows us a taste of God’s power and divine nature. So man is without excuse…he’s done something whether we like it or not…us.

    “divided into two categories: people who are just unaware of actual transitional fossils, and people who have ridiculous ideas of what a “real” transitional form should look like.”
    I am very much in your category of – unaware of actual transitional fossils.

    Micro-evolution – or adaption of life forms – is well documented. Like streamlines itself to fit its environment. It doesn’t add information or complexity tho…it sometimes loses it.

    The real question is around Macro-evolution. Or gradual development of complexity thru mutation and natural selection.

    Personally I feel there’s a general polemic that goes on in our culture…bullying people into staying on board with evolutionary thinking…yet the evidence of true Macro Evolution is absent. The fossil record shows us sudden appearance of forms of increasing complexity as vast time periods pass. It is sometimes called the Cambrian Explosion. I’m quite happy to point out that the Emperor has no Clothes here when it comes to the Theory of Biological Evolution. 🙂

    Evolutionary Biologist Michael Denton said it this way:
    “It is still, as it was in Darwin’s day, overwhelmingly true that the first representatives of all the major classes of organisms known to biology are already highly characteristic of their class when they make their initial appearance in the fossil record. This phenomenon is particularly obvious in the case of the invertebrate fossil record. At its first appearance in the ancient paleozoic seas, invertebrate life was already divided into practically all the major groups with which we are familiar today.” — Micael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis

    Biological complexity APPEARS in the fossil record…it does not seem to develop. This is one of the challenges facing evolutionary Biologists. Yet to my mind, this just seems to get glossed over when we look at the fossil record thru an Evolutionary pair of glasses…oh i’m sure the transitional forms will turn up one day!

    I’m keen to know what you are referring to when you are pointing to the actual transitional fossils, mate?

    “creationism can explain anything (which is exactly why it’s useless)”
    Interesting. So because we point to the Ford Corporation as an explanation of their latest motor car…our observation is useless? Not at all. If I was training to be a car mechanic…I’d recognize Ford designed the car…and then I’d roll up my sleeves and open my toolbox to find out how they designed it. Biology works the same way, imho. We are confusing mechanism and agency – two philosophical categories – if we reject the notion of God as the source of nature. Hey – many people do it these days! But imho…that doesn’t make it right.

    Just some thoughts! What do you think…?

    Stu

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    1. I’ll probably post a more complete reply when I have more time, but for now, I’ll just say that not every refutation of a bad argument FOR something claims to actually be an argument AGAINST it. Disproving the existence of gods or miracles is not required for the purpose of arguing that natural laws are not some kind of divine micromanagement and that famous creationists are completely wrong about what evolution predicts.

      Also, Archaeopteryx is one of the most obvious and well-known transitional forms.

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    2. “I would include the miracle claims of the New Testament in this – Jesus Resurrection, for example. I include these because of their historical basis.”

      There is historical evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus, but not for the resurrection or any of his other alleged miracles.

      “I would also include the fact that we are here talking about these things at all – as miraculous.”

      Seeing the everyday as ‘miraculous’ is the exact error that I was criticizing in the story that I referred to.

      The idea that repeated ‘micro-evolution’ over time can’t become ‘macro-evolution’ doesn’t make sense without a mechanism to specifically prevent ‘macro-evolution’.

      The fossil record of the time before the Cambrian explosion is not complete enough to be sure exactly how sudden it was, but there’s certainly no cause to think it was so fast it can’t be explained or that any new life arose independently at that time.

      “Ford made it” is not an explanation that “can explain anything”; it can only explain things that say “Ford” on them or show similarities to other products made by Ford.
      Creationism is useless as a scientific theory because it makes no predictions about what kinds of creatures should and shouldn’t be found, unlike evolution.

      And for some examples of transitional fossils:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeopteryx – transitional between non-avian dinosaurs and birds

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambulocetus – transitional between land mammals and whales

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_horse – here’s a well-known sequence

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      1. Hi mate –

        “There is historical evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus, but not for the resurrection or any of his other alleged miracles.”
        So you are discounting the historical evidence. Up to you…but that’s a pity because
        #1 it exists and
        #2 its really worth investigating!

        “The idea that repeated ‘micro-evolution’ over time can’t become ‘macro-evolution’ doesn’t make sense without a mechanism to specifically prevent ‘macro-evolution’.”
        Half a minute – you misunderstand. Micro-evolution is an observation that life is built with an inherent ability to adapt to its environment. Its got nothing to do with one species becoming another. Its got everything to do with Finch beak lengths varying depending on the environment, coloured moth populations being affected by the quality of the environment, etc. These are well observed phenomena. Macro-evolution – on the other hand – is based not on empirical evidence. It is a theory which is overlayed on very ancient fossilized remains. We are talking two completely different things here.

        “there’s certainly no cause to think it was so fast it can’t be explained”
        Right – supreme confidence, there. You are sounding like you believe Nature has “Godlike creative powers”.
        The origins of the species is the crucial question. Yes the theory of evolution is fascinating…but for the system to boot up and get going…to start with you need biological lifeforms of staggering complexity that can evolve thru biological mutation and natural selection. The theory does not give us an origin theory at all. Yet – of course – the typical approach taken is to avoid that bit as its tricky. But without the origin of life…you don’t get the process. Its crucial. And if you read the latest observations on the Cambrian…the point that is made is how quickly these life forms appear (quickly in geological terms)
        If you line up these observations with mathematical probability theory…you quickly discover that the Universe isn’t old enough for one protein to evolve by natural processes…never mind a complex life form with digestive system, reproductive capabilities, etc appearing in a few million years.

        >“Ford made it” is not an explanation that “can explain anything”; it can
        >only explain things that say “Ford” on them or show similarities to other >products made by Ford.
        “Ford made it” tells you a lot. For starters…It tells you that the car mechanism was designed and constructed by intelligent individuals who had a purpose in doing so. Purpose is an incredibly important theme in everyone’s lives. People search for purpose…I would suggest that is because they have indeed been built FOR a purpose.

        >Creationism is useless as a scientific theory because it makes no
        >predictions about what kinds of creatures should and shouldn’t be
        >found, unlike evolution.
        So what is your definition of Creationism?
        BTW – the traditional definition of Creationism makes no claim to being a Scientific Theory at all. It is primarily a Theological perspective. There’s much confusion around this by Christian believers and folks with a naturalistic outlook.
        Yet there are other Scientific theories that recognize design in Biology for what it is. Theories that recognise design in Biology and make some very valid predictions and discoveries. For example…design proponents have proposed that just because elements of the genome are not yet understood … this does not qualify them as Junk DNA. An assorted rubbish tip that occurs as a result of generations of mutation…The rejection of the “Junk DNA” hypothesis and the prediction of purpose in this apparent non-coding area of DNA…is indeed being found to have been a correct one…
        You seem to be saying that we need to be able to predict what kinds of creatures should and shouldn’t be found on our planet. Why? Can’t you enjoy the amazing variety and creativity for what it is? Maybe you mean…you can only accept a view of the world where life is solely the result of natural processes? You are not alone…but its not a very hope filled direction to take, imho

        thanks for the links on the transitional fossils, btw mate…very interesting!

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      2. If I HADN’T researched the evidence for the historical Jesus I would have assumed there was no evidence for the crucifixion either.

        Changes within a species and changing so much as to not be the same species are NOT different processes. And speciation has actually been observed, but you are discounting the scientific evidence.

        Evolution is how life changes, not how it started.
        And actually, even if some creator created a world full of already-complex life, it would still then, given that mutations exist, take a specific effort on the creator’s part to prevent evolution by natural selection from occurring after that.

        ““Ford made it” tells you a lot. For starters…It tells you that the car mechanism was designed and constructed by intelligent individuals who had a purpose in doing so.”
        And that already is a lot more specific than “God did it” (an explanation used to explain literally everything), but it’s actually nowhere near as specific as what “Ford made it” means. You can easily find evidence that a car was NOT made by Ford; what is the hypothetical evidence that would prove that something was NOT made by God, and thus make God an actual explanation that means something instead of a handwave?

        “So what is your definition of Creationism?”
        The anti-scientific belief that science is ‘wrong’ about many things because it has incidentally contradicted an ancient religious text that, you are right, should not be used as a science text. But to creationists, it is.

        “BTW – the traditional definition of Creationism makes no claim to being a Scientific Theory at all. It is primarily a Theological perspective.”
        No, if you make claims about what is or is not true about the real world, you are talking about scientific matters.
        And if there was any evidence that any god existed, theology would BE a science.

        ” Can’t you enjoy the amazing variety and creativity for what it is?”
        Can’t you? You’re the one who’s insisting that nature has to have an origin outside of itself.

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