As I watched the two-part lesson, I noticed a number of things:
(1) “Evolution,” Tackett claims, is “one of the greatest lies ever foisted upon man.” What Tackett doesn’t tell his audience is that TTP uses material promoted by the Discovery Institute extensively. It is, essentially, a mere mouthpiece for the Seattle-based Intelligent Design (ID) “think tank.” Much to my chagrin, Tackett finds himself in bed with a body of “scientists” of whom some profess belief in evolutionary theory (albeit directly guided by the hand of God) and common descent. For example, Michael Behe, whom Tackett treats like a rock star, recently wrote an article mentioning his belief in the descent of humans and apes from a common ancestor, “which I have always said I think is correct.” Either Tackett hasn’t really read either of Behe’s books, or he chooses not to reveal that fact to his audience for fear that it would ruin the integrity of his argument. The former would be sloppy research; the latter would be pure and simple deception.
(2) Tackett quotes selectively from atheistic scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, to persuade his audience that belief in evolution in any form (with the possible exception of so-called “micro-evolution” within species) is a necessary and logical component of a godless paradigm. He also quotes exclusively from literature written by proponents of Intelligent Design in order to back his claims. Nary a quotation from Christian scientists who have embraced evolution, such as Francis Collins, Kenneth R. Miller, Denis O. Lamoureux, or Stephen Matheson. Not a peep either from Christian theologians who accept theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism, such as Bruce Waltke, Scot McKnight, or Mark A. Noll. As I mentioned in my critique of Lesson 4, if Tackett were to mention the mere existence of those listed above, Tackett’s argument would explode like just another supernova.
(3) Tackett misuses terms such as hypothesis, theory, fact, and law extensively in order to discredit the fact of evolution and dismiss it as a “just a theory.” Thus, it is no surprise to watch Tackett warn his audience how frequent those terms are misused and misunderstood and, at the same time, butcher the very meanings of those terms he purports to understand.
By this point in TTP, I’m no longer surprised at the “sleight of hand” Tackett uses to make his personal “biblical worldview,” as narrow as it actually is, appear to be the broad umbrella within Evangelical Christianity that he wishes it to be.
Common Ground and Not-So-Common Ground
To be fair, I find some common ground with Tackett at the beginning of his presentation. Whereas the mere contemplation of the cosmos stirs Carl Sagan’s heart because of his chemical connection to the stuff of stars, “another reason” stirs our hearts. When we look at our marvelous universe, both Tackett and I are compelled to contemplate the nature of the Creator of the cosmos in addition to the nature of the cosmos itself. We both believe that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above [lit. firmament] proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 ESV), and that the Creator’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20 ESV).
Unfortunately, beyond this is where the ground upon which I stand lacks commonality with Tackett’s. Whereas my recognition of an “intelligent designer” is a byproduct of my theistic paradigm and is, admittedly, a subjective conclusion (much like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”), Tackett actually has faith that the results of an objective pursuit of scientific truth should be persuasively sufficient to result in one’s adoption of the theistic philosophy of ID. Tackett looks to science to validate what Scripture taught millennia before we even had the power to look beyond what the naked eye could see. In doing so, however, he inadvertently makes the Bible and the doctrine of creation “subservient to scientific discussion” and places them “at the beck and call of the latest empirical evidence and interpretation” (Conrad Hyers, The Meaning of Creation, p. 88). What would happen, Mr. Tackett, if it were ever proven that “irreducible complexity” was actually “reducibly complex”? Remember my supernova analogy?
Speaking of “irreducible complexity,” Tackett resurrects ID’s poster argument from the grave, despite the fact that a voluminous amount of research over the last 15 years has demolished the ID movement’s extravagant claims first popularized in Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. As if Behe’s 14-year-old book had just hit Borders (gotta love that new book smell!), Tackett quotes Darwin, who wrote that his new theory would absolutely break down if it could be demonstrated that a complex system could not have evolved via a slow, gradual process. Taking up Darwin’s humble challenge, Tackett proffers the complexity of the human blood clotting system as evidence of intelligent design. Actually, after extensive research, we’ve found it’s not that complicated after all: each successive “cascade” of the blood clotting system is built upon nearly identical proteins, the existence of which resulted from gene duplication. In what appears on the surface to be a watertight argument, Tackett smirks and asks, “How long did it take before we got the clotting system right?” By this question, he implies that if we human beings didn’t have a complex, operable blood clotting system from the get-go, our species would have literally bled ourselves into extinction. What Tackett does not mention is that our primordial ancestors didn’t require a complex blood clotting system since their circulatory systems didn’t require the high-pressure system that we do. I doubt it ever occurred to Tackett that that blood clotting systems (and their more complex iterations) developed first, allowing for the later (or parallel) development of higher-pressure circulatory systems.
The next “irreducible complexity” argument Tackett trots out is Behe’s “biological mousetrap,” the bacterial flagellum. It is, according to proponents of ID, one of many examples of an intelligently designed, irreducible complex machine. Take away one piece of the mousetrap, so the argument goes, it is useless. Evolutionary biologists are quick to point out that the various structures of the flagellum likely performed different functions before coming together in its current form and purpose, while other structures derived from convenient gene duplication upon which mutation could work its magic without harm to the organism. However, ID theorists are just as quick to argue that, while evolutionary biologists may be correct regarding some structures of the flagellum, there is “no explanation via Darwinian mechanism” for the entire structure, and that evolutionary theory requires the “borrowing [of] parts from nothing.” I wonder what will be made of that statement another 15 years from now.
The Insufficiency of the Fossil Record
Tackett asks whether Darwin’s theory “stacks up against reality.” Tackett’s answer is that it does not. He claims that Darwin “has a problem with the fossil record,” which, allegedly, possesses a total lack of evidence for so-called “macro-evolution.” The first nail in evolution’s coffin is Discovery Institute fellow Jonathon Wells’ Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth—Why Most of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong, which highlights ten evolutionary “hoaxes” and “myths.” Seriously, if this is all Wells has to go on in order to discredit evolution, he is going to have to write a lot more, and it would have to be factual as well.
Tackett also ridicules Stephen Jay Gould’s fossil-record-explaining theory of “punctuated equilibrium.” Again, it isn’t surprising to hear Tackett not only misstate Gould’s theory but also twist it beyond recognition, making it fit his anti-evolutionary purposes.
It is to evolution critic David Berlinski that Tackett appeals next. In an interview clip with Berlinski, he highlights the so-called “problem” of whale evolution. We have two fossil forms on either end of the alleged spectrum, Berlinksi notes, but where are the other 49,998 versions in between the two fossil forms which complete the 50,000+ molecular changes (determined by “back of the hand” calculations!) to account for the Point A to Point B evolutionary journey? “There ought to be some evidence!” Tackett cries! And so there is.
There are other “fossils” of which Tackett is either completely unaware or, because of the strength of the DNA evidence, chooses not to bring up out of fear. Can you say, “Human chromosome 2”? Good! I knew you could.
Randomness in Creation = God’s Lack of Sovereignty
Tackett also dredges up the tired argument that evolution’s allegedly “random” nature somehow forces evolution proponents to deny God’s sovereignty over creation, making evolutionists deists at best, and atheists at worst. Sadly, evolution critics blunder when describing evolution as a “random” process. The mechanisms of evolution, as random as they might seem because of our limited perception and knowledge, are still subject to the laws of nature that govern the universe; cause and effect are still at work within the evolutionary process. Even Tackett should recognize that even the results of a “random” roll of the dice are known by an omniscient God (cf. Proverbs 16:33). (For readers who are familiar with quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle,” please do not view my statement above as a challenge to those concepts. My invocation of Proverbs 16:33 is more of an affirmation of God’s sovereignty, not His measure of direct control.)
In another example of Tackett’s penchant for false dichotomies, he claims that abiogenesis (which he mislabels “spontaneous generation”) requires that such an occurrence come about by godless forces. But why should something that occurs via natural means be considered something that was never intended by God to happen? Why should the natural laws God designed be insufficient to create life from non-life? One individual in my small group stated that she thought a God who used evolution to create was a failure, for He had to try and try again in order to “get it right.” What a narrow view of nature and the amazing process by which it diversified! Personally, I find a God who would create natural laws to produce everything without the need for His direct intervention to be much more amazing than a God who resorts to pulling a cud-chewing rabbit out of his hat just to make science comport with His own Scriptures. In the end, it is Intelligent Design, not evolution, that actually limits God’s power and creativity.
I Guess I’m an Atheist Now
In addition to ignoring the objective results of scientific endeavor, Tackett fears the alleged philosophical results of methodological naturalism, namely atheism. “The result,” Tackett claims, “is the propagation of a worldview that ‘scientifically’ excludes the Creator, thus ‘freeing’ mankind from accountability to a higher authority.” Tackett claims further that “evolution effectively rules out the existence of God.” Gee, if I had known beforehand that accepting the evidence for evolution would automatically make me a functional atheist, I probably wouldn’t have fallen for the “pernicious truth” in the first place and instead found solace in cognitive dissonance. Of course, Tackett wouldn’t recognize evolutionary theory if it bit him with 6-inch T. rex teeth, as he states time and time again (as evidenced throughout TTP) that the theory of evolution is intimately related to questions dealing with the origin of the universe and the origin of life. The pernicious truth is that evolutionary theory does not speak to those events; rather, evolutionary theory speaks to how the diverse forms of life on earth, both extant and extinct, came to be; likewise, evolutionary theory speaks neither to the existence of a Creator nor to the non-existence of a Creator. As Tackett rightly says, it only does so when “science has moved into philosophical mode” and attempts to encroach upon a domain in which it has valid claim. Mr. Tackett, do you not recognize that you engage in the very same behavior of which you accuse Richard Dawkins? Your own philosophy has “moved into scientific mode” and is encroaching upon a domain in which it has no valid claim. “Why does evolution shut out any scientific evidence against it?” you ask. “Don’t let the philosophical side of science affect the scientific evidence,” you warn. Hello! Science shouldn’t have a philosophical side, Mr. Tackett! As much as you want there to be, there shouldn’t.
But atheism is the least of our worries, Tackett argues. Moral evil will abound as well if we Christians fall for the pernicious truth. Darwinism is, after all, one of the “primary theories that has been used to persuade people there is no God.” That may be true for some, but it is not true for everyone. It certainly wasn’t true for Darwin, whose agnosticism had more to do with his inability to form a personally satisfying theodicy after the death of his daughter Annie than his scientific research did. As a counterpoint to Tackett’s logic, I could highlight the use of the Bible to justify slavery by many Southern clergy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Since biblical authority implies the existence of God, then one could just as easily argue that theism is one of the “primary theories that has been used to enslave African-Americans.” Just as Christianity has been used to justify all sorts of moral horrors throughout the last two millennia, so has Darwinism suffered by the hands of those whose concern was more about power than the truth.
Not only does evolution destroy the need for God, it destroys the need for a Savior. Tackett quotes with delight G. Richard Bozarth, who, in a 1978 article in American Atheist, wrote, “Evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of God . . . and if Jesus was not the redeemer who dies for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.” Evolution means nothing of the sort. As an evolutionary creationist, I still believe that humanity possesses a sinful nature and that we are still in need of a Savior. Tell me again, Mr. Tackett, the part about where I become an atheist?
[NOTE: This post has been modified to correct any inaccuracies regarding the views of Richard Dawkins. For a “history” of my error, see the comments below.]