Where Are the Alternatives?

Now let me explain what I mean by a lack of alternative models to evolution. Let’s say scientists are trying to solve a very difficult problem. After several failures, they come up with a hypothesis that seems to work, so they continue their research using that hypothesis. As time passes, other hypotheses are introduced as well, but they are all eventually dismissed, while this hypothesis continues to remain viable. Even though scientists are still a long way from knowing for certain that the hypothesis is correct, the persistent lack of viable competing models becomes itself additional support for the hypothesis. (Keep in mind that creation is never considered as an alternative model because creation is not a naturalistic hypothesis.)

In essence the reasoning goes like this:

  1. We have a hypothesis that seems to work.
  2. We have tried numerous other hypotheses and they have all failed.
  3. The other possibility, Creation, is not a naturalistic hypothesis (not testable) so it is disqualified as a possibility.
  4. Therefore, since there are no options left, the likelihood that the evolutionary hypothesis is correct is very high.

The best way I can illustrate this point is using Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity. I am not here endorsing the intelligent design (ID) movement and consider irreducible complexity a poorly framed argument. However, during the commotion started by Behe’s book, something very interesting came to the surface in the way scientists argued in favor of the evolution of complex biological machines. Their argument was never in the form of “Here is concrete evidence that these structures could evolve.” Rather, they placed the burden of proof back on the ID proponents and argued that they had failed to provide sufficient evidence that such structures couldn’t evolve. (See this video and the video comments for more details.)

The question we need to ask, then, is whether scientists would be as certain of the evolution of complex structures if they had other mechanisms besides evolution to explain them. In other words, let’s say there was a second theory besides evolution. If scientists knew for sure that this second theory could explain these structures, would they still be as confident that the structures could have developed entirely through evolutionary processes as well?

It is important to ask this question since it tells us whether scientists really know these structures could evolve or whether they just assume they can. Judging by the response given to Behe’s challenge, they don’t actually have concrete, definitive evidence.

There are important aspects of the theory of evolution that have not yet been scientifically verified but are still assumed true for lack of a better explanation. As theists, however, we believe that Creation is another plausible explanation. The only recourse for us, then, is to find a way to study out this possibility scientifically. We need a scientifically valid alternative model.

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