• Review: The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism

    Jason Rosenhouse has produced an excellent book that vividly explains the problems with mathematical anti evolutionary arguments.

    Rosenhouse theorizes that creationists are fond of deploying mathematical proofs against evolution because they believe would exonerate them from a responsibility of dealing with the copious and multiple evidences for evolution. While this is possible, I wonder if they attracted to them because of their black-and-white, absolutist thinking and tendencies. It doesn’t get any surer than mathematical proof, or so the creationist thinks.

    What they do not realize but Rosenhouse points out, is that real world applications of mathematics are far from absolute: it was once “proved” impossible for anyone to run a four minute mile, but when it happened the mathematics had to be re-examined, and of course, turned out to be premised on false assumptions about human physiology. In like manner, mathematical disproofs of evolution (of which all known attempts have unsalvagablw problems) are poor disproofs anyway, since it is more likely that back of the envelope calculations are wrong than it is that sturdy evidence from biogeography, fossils, comparative anatomy and genomics, etc. is wrong.

    I especially appreciated his clear and cover-all-angles take on the argument from the law of increasing entropy. The law simple states that unusable energy tends to increase over time, which has nothing to do with evolution. However, sometimes the law is communicated with analogies to organization and structure, which causes people to wrongly believe that organization cannot increase (clearly it can, otherwise the growth of a baby would disprove any law that said organization cannot increase).

    I also appreciated the discussion of the Wistar conference. It is commonly quoted on creationist websites and writings, though difficult to find information about. Nonetheless, I was always suspicious of these citations, as the conference took place in the 60’s but creationist writings from 30-50 years later still reference it (why wouldn’t more recent and up to date professional literature speak of the problems raised?).

    Perhaps one other proof of a related note that Rosenhouse does not cover (in detail) but readers might be interested in is all the calculations that purport to show that a natural origin of life is impossible. I have a colloquial summary of problems with these type arguments in my book “Atheism and Naturalism” where I dissect Michael Denton’s argument to this effect, and it is representative of the types of problems that plague all calculations of this sort. A more realistic calculation of the odds of abiogenesis (which demonstrates it would occur in a universe as old and large as ours) can be found in the article “Emergence of life in an inflationary universe” by Tomonori Totani (just google, it is available free). I’d add that I think there is a strong argument demonstrating a natural origin of life is effectively 100% probable: Given that life is simply a material structure (Biology has firmly demonstrated this, there is no “elan vitale,” living matter is just matter arranged in such a way that it has the properties of metabolism and reproduction, much as a computer is simply matter arranged in such a form that it has the ability to compute); that all material structures are simply rearrangements of previous matter (a simple restatement of the law of conservation of matter and energy, the most well tested law in science); and that once life did not exist but at a later point it did (a premise also accepted by creationists but also confirmed because our universe is of finite age and the heat and elementary composition of the early Big Bang were inhabitable) it follows that first living material structure was a rearrangement of matter that could not reproduce.

    All in all, a good read and welcome addition to the library on the creation-evolution debate.

    Category: Uncategorized

    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, Politics and what I call "Optimal Lifestyle Habits."