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Letters to the Editor
It appears that Peter Hutcheson agrees with the creationists on their claim that a circular definition of natural selection renders evolution untestable ("Evolution and Testability," Creation/Evolution XVIII). I am not at all sure he is correct in this argument, but, if he is, he has failed to rescue evolution from its foes.
. . . Perhaps Hutcheson is not an engineer. Ask an engineer what makes good design and he will probably begin with various formulae and design rules . . . [the] result of standard engineering practice: if you don't use the rules, the bridge collapses or the airplane crashes. In other words, they are an expression of what mechanisms survive.
Consider, for example, Hutcheson's example of the peppered moth. Suppose an engineer were to design a moth that was required to survive on the gray bark of Manchester trees in the face of predatory birds. He might reason that . . . a black moth would soak up the sun better and thus be better prepared to . . . escape if a bird should come into view. So he designs such a moth and . . . although the moths do take off quickly, the birds approach unseen from behind and quickly gobble up the fruits of his labor before he is paid, so he goes back to the drawing board. This time he applies bird psychology and designs a moth to resemble the foul-tasting, gray-green tree frog, hoping that the birds will mistake it and leave the moths alone. The prototype survives much longer due to the good design principles employed in the choice of it color. The engineer is paid handsomely and goes home. Gray-green moths go into production under the careless supervision of the production engineer, who bungles the dye mix in the next batch (he left out the green). The moths survive as well or better, so the mistake is never noticed. Why is gray a good design and black a poor design? The gray moths survived and the black moths did not. After twenty years in an engineering profession, I can assure you that . . . if the product does not survive in the marketplace, the engineers don't get paid.
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. . . So what if natural selection has a circular definition? So does I.Q.: "I.Q. is what intelligence tests measure." Hardly a more circular definition can be formulated. Yet, if I want to hire a junior engineer to work for me, I will certainly look for a high I.Q. (among other qualifications), because I have discovered that a high I.Q. score is positively correlated with good work in an engineering environment. In other words, the relationship between I.Q. (as measured) and work performance (measured in company profits) is testable and proven. Now that I am an assistant professor of computer science, I seek out grad students with high I.Q. scores to be research assistants, because I spend less effort explaining to them what I want done. I care not a whit that an I.Q. score is defined circularly, only that I want to work with high scores and not with low scores. I think that could be aptly called "survival of the fittest."
Thomas Pittman, Ph.D.
Since the subject matter of Creation/ Evolution is so profound—it is inevitably susceptible to mind-boggling esoteric complexity. What a delight, then, to find articles so lucid and accessible as those of Harold I. Brown ("Creationism and the Nature of Science") and Leon H. Albert ("'Scientific' Creationism as a Pseudoscience") in issue XVIII.
One remark of Albert's rang a bell for me. He noted that, in his debates with creationist Duane Gish, he was often subjected to Gish's wry remark that "whenever he came to debate scientists, he [Gish] wanted to talk about scientific facts while they wanted to talk philosophy." This is remarkably parallel to the findings of research into effective listening. When material is presented orally (as in a classroom lecture), some people understand it and retain it better than others. In attempting to explain why this is the case, researchers asked various test groups what they considered most important—what was it specifically that they were listening for. Over and over they got the same results. Those who responded "nothing in particular" scored about average in comprehension and retention; those who paid most attention to "ideas" scored above average. And those who scored below average prided themselves—this term appears in the research literature often enough to be remarkable—on their ability to listen for "facts."
It seems that Gish, in his insistence on dealing primarily with "facts" . . . has gauged his audience well. Evolutionists, on the other hand, would be well advised to avoid his trap and concentrate on the ideas involved.
Richard S. Russell
Editor's note: We have received many excellent letters discussing further Norman Geisler's design argument. Unfortunately, some were too lengthy to include here. Hopefully, space will permit publication in the next issue of Creation/Evolution.
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.