In this post I want to examine the debate of creation vs evolution from a different angle. I am neither in favor of one or the other, but before you dismiss me as an ignoramus, hear me out. Indeed, I am somewhat Christian by “faith”, though I do have several qualms with philosophical aspects of Christianity. Nevertheless, in the realm of science vs religion, I believe that there is a very important aspect that has been left out of the public debates, most likely because the average listener/debater is not an expert in probability theory. However, I will try to present this argument in a simplified manner using a numbered outline..
1) The theory of evolution is often viewed at a very macroscopic model with too many unknown variables and is thus difficult to verify, even if the probabilistic principles driving various aspects of the theory are sound.
At the top level, you have natural selection determining which animals “tend” to survive and which “tend” to die. This is largely based on the existing environment and the survival and propagation of a particular species, which is correlated with certain “favorable” traits obtained through either mutation or sexual reproduction. Note that the number of factors (e.g. environment, interactions and behavior, genetic traits) are huge and therefore very difficult to analyze jointly. Experiments can only verify that certain aspects hold statistically in isolation (or using only a small subset of factors). Complete, joint experimentation is too complex and takes too long to conduct.
2) There exists a truly probabilistic element in the universe, namely, that particles exhibit probabilistic wave functions.
I’m not a physicist, but from what I know that according to quantum mechanics, before observing any particle, the particle exists only as a probabilistic wave function which collapses upon observation. It is entirely possible (though not probable) for a baseball to be thrown horizontally and yet curve upward into space. In any case, to analyze sexual reproduction or gene mutations at the quantum scale is intractible. Hence evolution is still modeled based on statistical experiments at a higher level. Hence, while some mistaken quantum physics to support the theory of evolution, this is not true, though it is philosophically “consistent” with evolution.
3) What is often measured is the “average case” or “high probability” behavior, not the “ground truth”.
This is hopefully self-explanatory and is related to the above argument (intractibility). A simple illustration is brownian motion (the precise behavior of molecules) for an object at rest (a macroscopic, average behavior). One might perform kinematic experiments based on modeling the object as a whole, instead of accurately measuring the precise locations and trajectories of its individual particles.
4) The laws guiding the universe are assumed to be stationary.
Stationarity is a concept derived from the theory of random processes which states that what has happened, is happening, and will happen in the future (as time goes to infinity) will always follow the same distribution. Stationarity is an extremely important assumption required for the scientific method to hold, since, given that a result is validated, then it has always held in the past, holds in the present, and will always hold in the future. Otherwise all experimental results are meaningless.
5) 3-4 makes a strong case against young earth creationism, but only “with high probability”.
Stationarity can make a strong case against young earth creationism for two reasons: it supports the big bang with high probability. If the physical laws have always held as they do now, based on astronomical data there should be a singularity (with very high probability) around 13-14 billion years back in history. It also makes a case for the accuracy of radioactive carbon dating.
6) Interestingly, young earth creationism is also consistent with scientific theory based on 3 and 4.
Why? If the world indeed operates based on nondeterminism, then however negligible the probability of young earth creationism, there is still a non-zero probability that universe arranged itself accordingly in 7 days, just as there is a negligible (but non-zero) probability that the universe exists in its current state at the present time! To understand this, one needs to remove the paradigm of thinking in terms of “wholes”. We are not discussing the average behavior of macroscopic objects, but rather each individual quark, boson, muon, etc. in the observable universe. The reason why our observed universe has near zero chance of existing is a simple consequence of the sheer number of particles in the known universe, and the fact that they each exhibit probabilistic wave functions.
Hence, even if observable evidence points to the big bang “on average”, the universe need not always behave “on average”. Christians believe that with God all things are possible (though not necessarily probable)–and in this case God needs only operate within His own designed physical rules! Hence young earth creationism is consistent with scientific theory under the “guidance” of a non-quantum Cause.
7) Young earth creationism can not be experimentally verified. (i.e. it is philosophically valid, but can not be considered science.)
Unfortunately, due to its extremely low probability of occurence, it is nearly impossible to experimentally validate the 7 days of creation theory. The only tools that can be used to support young earth creationism is suggestive evidence (e.g. almost every nation had a “dragon” in its mythology/folklore, suggesting that humans might have lived among dinosaurs). Otherwise, it must be accepted by “blind faith”.
Another way to think about it is the following: If you saw a “miracle”, could you repeat it?
Conclusion: I am not the most eloquent writer, but hopefully this post has helped you to think “outside the box” regarding the debate that has been all over the news since… 1844. And hopefully those of you who are on different sides of the spectrum can develop an appreciation for one another’s viewpoints.