Callen on Evolution: Waiting at the SkyDeck

Do you reject evolution? If so, what are your excuses? What would clearly falsify them?

1 Like

People (not just you, but lots of people) make assumptions about what people from different groups believe… further what they have the capacity to understand. As for me, I do not reject evolution, per se. I see many (and read many) examples of evolution in action here, and I appreciate experts here sharing them. As I said, I do not reject evolution, it is that I struggle to accept evolution. You, I’m sure, accept that there are different kinds of learners, right? So, people process things differently. For different kinds of thinkers with different backgrounds and different approaches, we all have a different threshold to acceptance. To give an example, take the Skydeck in Chicago:


Some will walk right out onto it. Others will do so when someone they trust does it. Still others will know that it’s safe to do so (because they’ve observed it to be true) but none of this convinces them to step out.

For many of us, it’s easy to see how people with your training can accept evolution as having the capability to result in all of the diversity of life we see now and over time. You can focus on several proteins, for instance, observe the mutations, see that they are beneficial, and understand how they (and other mechanisms) can affect changes in species over time. (This is a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea.) The situations with which you are familiar become a proxy for all of evolution. 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 … = 1,073,825 and that works for you. You might run right out onto the Skydeck because you know the capacity of the acrylic floor, and the amount of torque applied at the fulcrum given a certain width of the cantilever, do a quick calculation and step out knowing that the floor will support you. You may have no questions and no regrets.

Others of us can accept that what you observe is so, but we don’t see it in a way that adds up to what we observe. I have said before that it’s not just that a light-sensitive spot has evolved into the eye, but rather that the eye evolved, along with the eye socket, the muscles and ligaments that control it, the flesh that surrounds it, the lids that cover it, the glands that moisturize it and the ducts that drain away the moisture. For many of us, getting from what we can see on a microscopic level does not translate well to a macroscopic level. We know that the fin bones look like the hand bones, but we cannot picture how, slowly over time (or quickly over time for that matter) the fin appeared (because it was beneficial) along with the musculature, ligaments, skin, nerves and blood vessels to support it.

Our inability to go from a mutation to an eye stems from the way that we think. But the fault is not entirely our own. The problem lies with people such as yourself. You have done a terrible job of articulating to the public in a meaningful way how all of this can occur. This is why ID has become so popular. The ID folks have won over the public by making the challenging accessible and providing a narrative that makes sense. Whenever I complain that things don’t make sense here, the response is that science is often counter-intuitive. So be it, but that doesn’t help me see how switching one amino acid for another becomes an eyeball.

The ball is in your court. If this narrative that you support occurred, then make it accessible to the rest of us so that we can comprehend it. Don’t treat us like idiots because we won’t walk out onto the Skydeck. There are lots of good reasons to be afraid of the Skydeck. Therein lies your challenge. Articulate to the masses so that we understand. If the science of ID is wrong, stop saying it is wrong, and explain what is right. Take the exact same approach that they take and make sense out of it.

If you can do it, you win. If not, you have what you have now… an ongoing debate over an issue that cannot be understood.


Really well said @michael_callen. Remember though on this:

We don’t know of God guided evolution, or intervened in some way. We do not know if it was necessary or not. Maybe He did and it was necessary.

1 Like

I wasn’t even talking about ID vs. unguided evolution. I was just talking about the subject at hand, common descent. And I would prefer to consider that in the context of the original thread. See you there?


Clearly and I accept that… I accept that because you say that, not because I can visualize it and accept it though. It still comes back to the threshold of being convincing… I can see that God-guided evolution could certainly be a solution to the issue. But, if this is undetectable, then it leaves us in the same spot. And, I would guess that @John_Harshman rejects this outright, so he must see the process of evolution as the sole cause.

Again, if evolution is sufficient, I need to be able to see it. I wrote you (Joshua) in a private message recently and used Behe’s Edge of Evolution as an example. It is a perfect framework or outline to follow in order to be able to articulate a process of such complexity in a way that resonates with people like me. And I know that there are many, many more of us. If you win the public over, the argument will go away.

1 Like

I’m fine with that and knew that was what you meant.

1 Like

@Michael_Callen, I honestly hope you don’t change your mind, because I like having an OEC moderator. It will be less fun if you are no longer my OEC moderator…

This, however, seems like a non-sequitor. This is what we mean by evolution:

If God is involved, Behe’s Edge is irrelevant. Makes sense too, because he himself affirms common descent. So the reasons you offer, I’m just not sure how they logically connect to your hesitation.

Which, I think, highlights your points. This isn’t really about an intellectual objection. It is an issue of trust. It seems scary to walk out onto the SkyDeck. As a Christian, I can say that there were a lot of repercussions to affirming evolution. So perhaps you are right to be cautious.

1 Like

I reject it, provisionally, both because like Laplace I see no need for that hypothesis and because there seems no evidence of the existence of the entity supposed to be responsible for the process. But generally I don’t devote much effort to evolutionary mechanisms, guided or unguided. I devote my efforts to trying to convince creationists of common descent. I find that a difficult enough, generally impossible, task.


Why does this matter to you? Why do you care what they think?


Good question. Because it offends my view of human reason that anyone could so adamantly ignore the evidence? Because of my selfless desire to enlighten the unenlightened (as Michael Callen requested)? Because XKCD?:


@swamidass @John_Harshman I’m sure that what I said was technically and philosophically incorrect. It’s just what I do… Kind of my gift, let’s say… but that was not the point I was trying to make… The point that I was making is that The Edge of Evolution would be a perfect template in which to tell your story. That Behe, whether or not his science or conclusions were correct, did a masterful job of articulating difficult narrative in a way that made it accessible. That by doing so, many people were able to comprehend what was being said in a way that allowed them (us) to process what was being said and get to the point where an acceptance could be made.

I’m saying, do that with whatever theory you propose and you will make a difference with the public.

1 Like

Could you articulate what “do that” means, beyond “do like The Edge of Evolution did”? What did he do to make it accessible?


Have you read the book?

No. I hope that wasn’t intended as your answer.

1 Like

Thanks for the benefit of the doubt. If you have read the book or were to read the book it would make the explanation much easier for me. But, at least, it gives me context, so thank you for that!

First, he made the science really accessible so that one could follow the narrative. Next he clearly spelled out what is known to have come about through descent by modification. Finally, he explained where he thought the boundary was between what could occur naturalistically on its own, and what he thought could not. The whole package was very good. It left me feeling that I understood the science and his position really well. In fact, I read the book maybe ten years ago and in another thread I realized that someone had misquoted the book. I was able to make a correction regarding what was said because the content was so accessible and clearly articulated.

As I said, if someone who holds your opinion were to use it as an outline and to as clearly articulate their position, it would be a winner.

“Seeing is believing, and believing is seeing.” You liked Behe because he let you see the world clearly through his eyes. You saw his point of view for yourself.

@NLENTS, you should take a look at this thread, especially in light of reviewing Behe.

1 Like

Yes, absolutely… This construct of threshold for belief is hard to articulate. I think that it is especially hard for people who understand (in the context that I was explaining above) to see how others do not… it is because they have crossed the threshold. And it is not like its a hard line. But we all know when we’re convinced or not convinced of something, right?

Given your analogy of the SkyDeck, the relational component of having someone walk out with you,…What are you afraid of exactly?

I was afraid of the rejection of my family and my community. Some of that rejection was realized. I was afraid of being attacked in public for being truthful. This has certainly been realized.

What are you afraid of here?


@Michael_Callen very nice analogy on the skydeck! You are a pretty good communicater!

Since the questions is being discussed. I thought I would add one I have also been wondering about. @swamidass and @John_Harshman

It seems to me that common descent in multicellular organisms is inevitable if we assume naturalism. I.e, the only known natural way for an organism to appear in history is through reproduction and hence common descent. The only scientifically accessible question would be whether LUCA is true.

I get that common descent has a lot of lines of evidence supporting it and that’s something I learned from here. But I don’t see how anyone can rule out special creation at the level of family or order as it would be impossible for science to examine the idea because of self imposed limitations as well as limitations of the scientific method.
So my question to @swamidass and @John_Harshman is whether Science can authoritatively reject Special creation? I doubt it can (because it would require one to take positions on metaphysics). In which case, a lot of criticism of those who believe in Special creation (and thus skeptical of common descent) as “Science deniers” is ill thought out. Very often, they don’t deny science, They deny that naturalistic answers are the only valid ones and believe God could intervene in history at a much larger level.
I don’t see how affirming common descent as something that actually happened in history is a purely a scientific stand.


Great questions Joshua. I suppose that it is different for everyone. Honestly, I’m not afraid at all. The analogy wasn’t literally about fear (for me) but rather that tipping point where you decide it is okay to step out onto the glass. I really am in pursuit of the truth… I just don’t know enough to find it on my own. That’s another reason why this community is so fun… there are so many diverse experts here from so many different theological stances, too.

Here, I’m afraid of gridlock. I’m afraid of pride. I told you day one that I felt that many people are in much closer agreement than they realize in terms of this issue. There’s still a long ways to go, though. But I know that you have a “unification vision” and I do too. For me, it’s not built about evolution or creation, but wherever the truth lies. It’s all about getting away from the argument, because the argument is paralyzing.