In defense of Bob Thiel's takedown of evolutionary theory, anonymous commenter on May 7, 2013 at 11:22 AM wrote, "It is easy to make scientific theories that can seem to prove evolution as near-fact based on our research. OK, take that a step further, and explain the chances of these evolved species working for, and complimenting, each other for each other's existence, as well as being the proper size, material, and with the proper tools. To me, the chances of that happening so perfectly is what needs to be looked at, not the theory of individual evolutionary theory on individual species.That's easy to accept. However, accepting the fact that they all developed perfectly to serve each other is a different avenue."
I recently wrote, just for the hell of it, a piece that satirizes the creationist idea that god built the universe specifically to house human beings. Thus it bears on the problem Thiel discusses and addresses the problem of interdependence this writer calls attention to.
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The Retired Professor On: "Creation Science and the Theodicy Problem "
Creation Science and the Theodicy Problem
Philosophers and theologians who argue about the question of theodicy—“How could a loving god allow evil to exist in the universe?”—often cite malaria as a self-evident example of evil. It sickens millions of people per year and kills hundreds of thousands, many of them innocent children. Atheists put forth this awful toll as evidence there is no god. Believers counter that their God works in mysterious ways and only the limitations of our pitiful human minds prevent us from seeing the full glory of the Divine Plan, in which we must trust that malaria plays an integral role.
Evidence suggests that the believers are right. However, the limitations of their pitiful human minds have in fact kept them from perceiving the full glory of God’s plan for Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite. Even the most faithful disciples of creation theory fail to grasp the special place it occupies in the design and construction of the universe.
Some background is in order. To many human minds the universe appears fine-tuned for human existence. If certain fundamental physical constants such as gravity and electromagnetism were only slightly different from what they are, chemistry (and thus life) would be impossible. But life obviously does exist—in fact on our planet it thrives. The earth occupies the perfect orbit in the solar system for liquid water to abound, and therefore it can support a rich supply of living things from which we human beings derive food, clothing, and shelter. Believers in special creation maintain that all these benefits showered on our kind could only have been arranged intentionally. The faithful have named this idea the Anthropic Principle: everything in the universe tends toward the promotion of human life.
Close examination of Plasmodium and its relation to humanity, however, calls the Anthropic Principle seriously into question. It is not so much the harm the organism does to human beings that tips the Creator’s hand. It is the details of Plasmodium’s convoluted life cycle. In order to persist in the world, the parasite morphs through several stages of existence that require it to alternate between two hosts: the Anopheles gambiae mosquito and Homo sapiens. Inside the mosquito, Plasmodium gametocytes and microgametocytes join in the manner of ova and sperm and merge to form sporozoites. Next, the mosquito must inject that form of the microbe into a living human body, a warm, moist environment that supplies a hospitable liver and nourishing red blood cells. Inside us the sporozoites migrate to the liver, where they reproduce prolifically by cell division and change into merozoites, which stream out of the liver into the bloodstream. Thousands of them at a time burrow into corresponding thousands of red cells, where each reproduces till the teeming offspring enlarge into trophozoites and cram their host cell to bursting. Members of that stage bud off new merozoites, which spill back out into the vein to burrow into still more red cells. Repeated episodes of such assaults cause the human host to suffer waves of chills and fever, followed by respiratory distress and impaired liver function. Some of the Plasmodium cells transform to gametocytes and microgametocytes, to be drawn into the gut of a feeding Anopheles so they can unite and start the cycle all over again.
Consider how miraculous this arrangement is. Such Byzantine intricacy could never have arisen by chance through the random operation of natural processes. The cycle of interdependence is directed by codes programmed into the three separate genomes of the mosquito, the one-celled parasite, and the human being. Not only does each genome contain the millions of letters of DNA code required to shape its own organism’s bodily growth and behavior, but also all three conspire toward the purpose of sustaining one of them. The mosquito’s genes shape its bowels as a surrogate womb for Plasmodium sexual reproduction. Human genes program our bodies to produce liver cells and red blood cells with just the right shapes and just the right nutrients for Plasmodium cells to grow and divide. In creation science, these genomes fit the definition of specified information. Such a vast quantity of it, intertwined with such irreducible complexity, can lead to no conclusion other than this: the Creator composed the codes and meticulously spelled them out by placing each DNA letter at the exact point in the sequence where it contributes to the end result.
That is the how. As for why the Creator intertwined the lives of these three species in just the way He did, consider these facts. Anopheles can live perfectly well without Plasmodium, but the reverse is not so. The parasite cannot persist without the mosquito as its brood site and vector. Likewise, Plasmodium requires its secondary host, Homo sapiens, for the asexual reproduction stage of its life cycle, yet the human does not require the parasite at all. Clearly the creator charged both hosts, the arthropod and the vertebrate, with the mission to sacrifice their comfort and safety to the protist.
The conclusion is clear: the Anthropic Principle is wrong. The laws of the universe were not fine-tuned to suit human beings, except insofar as our existence contributes to a greater good. The earth’s ecology was not delicately balanced to make a home for you and me. No, the universe with its untold numbers of galaxies, including our own Milky Way containing the solar system hosting our wet rocky planet orbiting smack in the habitable zone around its central star, was all carefully arranged to form a comfortable and scenic habitat for the creator’s most beloved creature, Plasmodium falciparum. He dedicated the richly nutritious host Homo sapiens and the airborne vector Anopheles gambiae to the propagation and spread of that ultimate jewel of His creation. That is to say, in all He did the Creator was guided by the Plasmodic Principle.
The Plasmodic Principle completely overturns all previous speculation about the relation of malaria to the theodicy problem. Malaria cannot be evil, since the organism that causes it is the focus of creation. The mosquito that transmits it cannot be evil, since its existence is necessary for the parasite to reproduce and spread. At first human beings were not evil either. For nearly six thousand years after the week of creation our existence was as benign as that of mosquitoes. Near the middle of what we count as the 19th century, however, we started dosing malaria sufferers with quinine to sicken and kill the parasite, and in the 20th we sprayed massive quantities of DDT to try to wipe out the mosquito. Hostilities continue to this day, with updated strategies and materiel. In our depravity we keep devising new means to thwart the will of the Creator by attacking His most cherished creature and the vector required to perpetuate it. We have fallen as low as Judas. We introduced suffering and death into the life of the very being we were placed on earth to support. So the theodicy question now becomes, “Why does an omnipotent and beneficent Creator allow humankind to exist?”