I recently had the opportunity to engage someone on Twitter over the issue of macroevolution (the theory that one species can evolve into another). As is popular with philosophical naturalists, this person was arguing from the position that it is a fact of science.My contention was that this “fact” still has yet to be definitively proved and, therefore, explicit pronouncements of its legitimacy would not be prudent at this time. As Michael Behe writes, “In order to say that some function is understood, every relevant step in the process must be elucidated.” Likewise, simply asserting that macroevolution takes place isn’t enough to prove that it actually does. Some kind of fundamental understanding of the process must exist in order for one to hold that macroevolution is true. Ironically, all of the fuss began over an article showcasing evolutionists who are beginning to break away from the ranks and openly admit that they don’t understand how macroevolution works.
Of course, all of these sentiments cannot so easily be communicated on Twitter. And as I began to type away on my phone, I immediately realized that the 140-character limit would serve to be too great of a hindrance for my initial thoughts on the subject. Therefore I was forced to ask leading questions in order to navigate the conversation as productively as possible. Full disclosure: I have been able to hone the skill of asking pointed questions under the tutelage of my mentor-from-afar Greg Koukl, President of Stand to Reason, and author of the book Tactics. This particular technique of asking questions in order to reverse the burden of proof is otherwise known as the Columbo Tactic:
“The burden of proof is the responsibility someone has to defend or give evidence for his view. Generally, the rule can be summed up this way: ‘Whoever makes the claim bears the burden…’ It’s not your duty to prove him wrong. It’s his duty to prove his view.”
For this post, I would simply like to share a little bit of the interchange in order to showcase the Columbo Tactic in action. Notice, when pressed for some kind of justification or evidence that macroevolution is true, my interlocutor not only could not provide one but either made another assertion or appealed to scientific consensus.
As I mentioned the conversation began when @ThePoachedEgg posted an article referencing Professor James M. Tour who honestly admitted that he didn’t fully understand how macroevolution works. In reply an individual named @grenangle posted this:
To which I responded:
Here’s the rest of the exchange:
@grenangle: “It’s understood to a point. That it happens and happened and will keep happening. There is always more to learn.”
@nathansala: “If macroevolution is not truly understood, on what basis can we suppose that it happened and keeps happening?”
@grenangle: “Miles are made lots of inches macro evolution is made of lots of micro evolution. It’s not a separate thing.”
@nathansala: “Lots of micro=macro? Respectfully, how can this be taken as anything other than an evolution-of-the-gaps?”
@grenangle: “That should be obvious. Lots of little bits together = big bits.”
@nathansala: “Another assertion. What I’m looking for is evidence. I’m open to the evidence, now is the time to show it.”
@grenangle: “It’s the currently held view of science. You disprove it and be famous.”
@nathansala: “And as @thepoachedegg pointed out by its post, more scientists are acknowledging that they can’t explain what you can’t either.”
@grenangle: “What % of scientists do think deny evolution?”
@nathansala: “How many scientists introduced Relativity? When does science need consensus in order for a hypothesis to be true?”
@grenangle: “Do you think it would be accepted it if they hadn’t worked out [it] was right? Peer review is a corner stone.”
@grenangle: “How many introduced anything. That’s a very silly argument.”
@grenangle: “It’s not peer review that makes [it] right.”
@grenangle: “Testing of [the] theory by scientists. Just like evolution.”
@nathansala: “Hist. of science has shown challenges to consensus by individuals w-good ideas. Appealing to % isn’t an argument.”
@nathansala: “Just for clarification, you still haven’t explained how lots of micro=macro.”
@grenangle: “Ok. There is no macro there is only micro. Macro is a term for describing change over huge periods of time.”
@nathansala: “No, macro is whole-scale change from one species into another. I’m down w-micro but how does that b-come macro?”
@grenangle: “Tigers and lions are from ancestor species. They can still produce offspring but its infertile.”
@nathansala: “Ok, tigers and lions. Can u explain how ancestor evolved without appealing to homology (which is tautologous)?
@grenangle: “Why is that my problem? Your saying it didn’t and micro and time say it can. What would stop it?
@nathansala: “You brought it up. So let’s discuss it.
@grenangle: “We know genes change ? Agreed ?
@nathansala: “Thats ambiguous but I’m with you so far. Now tell me how morphology changes.
@grenangle: “We know of the difference between species and how long it would take to affect that change. This fits the theory.”
Unfortunately, @grenangle was never able to answer my questions except by simply appealing to the original theory, which is circular, and at some point I realized that he/she never would. So I graciously thanked @grenangle for the discussion and bade him/her a good night. How would you have responded to @grenangle in this discussion?