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June 22, 2005

Who Will Watch How the Watchmaker Works?

Alex Tabarrok writes that it would be irrational for the Prophet Isaiah to believe in evolution. For Isaiah writes:

In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the Burning Ones: each one had six wings; with two each covered his face, and with two each covered his feet, and with two each did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"

Then said I, "Here am I; send me."

And Alex writes:

Suppose that you find a watch in the forest. If you know there is no watchmaker then the theory of evolution is a brilliant and compelling explanation for the presence of complexity without design. But suppose that you know a watchmaker exists: then surely the simplest and most compelling explanation is that the watchmaker made the watch. Any other explanation, particularly one so improbable (see extension) as evolution would seem to be preposterous and beside the point. Thus for someone who knows, really knows, that god(s) exists... creationism (see the extension) follows as a rational deduction from the premises.... If god(s) exists then evolution is almost certainly false, if not in every particular then surely in the grand claims of a undesigned nature...

But who is Alex to say how the Watchmaker makes the watch? Was he present when the foundations of the earth were laid, when the morning stars sang together? If a whole bunch of paleontological and biochemical evidence very strongly suggests that the Watchmaker uses the genetic algorithm in Her work, who are we to quibble and say that the paleontological and biochemical evidence of how the Watchmaker does business is false?

To disbelieve in evolution you need much more than to believe in a Watchmaker--much more than to have had the Vision of Isaiah (whose Seated One doesn't seem terribly concerned with issues of biological science). You need not only to believe in a Watchmaker, but also to believe in the inerrancy of Genesis and its account of creation. And there you run into big problems immediately. For example, the "where are the dinosaurs?" Ark problem.

Genesis tells us:

"And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.

"And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he...

Genesis thus tells us--explicitly--that Noah did what God commanded: that he took two of each kind of animal into the ark with him! Including dinosaurs. (Let's not inquire how you fit even a single apatosaurus onto an ark that's only 300 cubits long.) Where are they now? This is an insuperable obstacle for a believer in biology-according-to-Genesis.

No rational and reasonable being can look upon the hipbones of a whale and the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurid, contrast them with a 2500-year-old text in which the redactor did not care enough about plausibility to notice that two of each animal could not physically fit into an Ark 300 cubits long, and conclude that there is any reason to not believe in evolution.

Posted by DeLong at June 22, 2005 03:32 PM