Film Review: “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial”


PBS has an interesting video on creationism versus evolutionary theory. The film is surprisingly well-made and entertaining. But somehow it seems as if a much stronger case could be made for creationism.

BO: What’s your view on evolution in a nutshell?

FH: The world is a simulation created by the bogeyman, but this simulation tries very hard to make it appear as if evolutionary theory and for that matter, the whole scientific worldview is true. Since my thinking is decision-based, the fact-based question of whether evolution or creationism is in fact true is of little interest. Since I know I can rely on the simulation pretending that science is true, my decisions will be based on the scientific worldview anyway.

BO: What is the strongest argument against evolution?

FH: That’s a good question because in the film, the creationists try to come up with examples of things for which evolutionary theory has no explanation. The flagellum and the immune system are brought up as examples. These examples are easy to counter.

The question that I never hear adequately addressed is how and why beneficial mutations occur at a high enough ratio relative to disadvantageous mutations to make evolution possible. You would think that beneficial mutations are rare and if they do occur, the harmful mutations that occurred alongside would outweigh them. This problem could be overcome if mutations are rare enough, but then you need a lot of time. Given the vast literature in evolution and my relative ignorance, it’s quite possible that this gets addressed in many places, but I think it should be part of any introductory treatment on the subject. I haven’t seen this discussed in the numerous works I’ve read that were geared towards laymen.

Evolution makes more intuitive sense for, say, bacteria because they have such short life spans and are so great in number. But our species evolved from monkeys over a period of around 6 million years and our population size has been rather small during most of that time. Given that our peak reproductive age is around 15-20 years, that’s not a whole lot of time. There are something like 3 million places in our DNA that are different from individual to individual. A recurring theme in evolutionary history is that evolution tends to occur in brief spurts rather than in a slow, gradual process. Intuitively, it just doesn’t make sense.

Let’s do a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation. Say, there’s a tribe with 50 people in it. They make 25 children over a couple of years, but because of the high infant mortality, only 10 survive. These 10 children differ in millions of places in their genetic code. You would think that a random mutation is more likely to be harmful. It is, after all, a mistake in replication, not a change that an intelligent planner came up with. So if one of these children has the ability to digest cow’s milk (the ability to digest cow’s milk is a favorite example given by evolutionists to show how quickly beneficial traits spread through a population), it’s hard to see how this trait makes much of a difference.

It’s hard enough to believe that a single genetic mutation has a good chance of spreading. For us to develop the ability to speak, it presumably took a number of coordinated changes to give us a useful result. Well, maybe over billions of years, it’ll eventually happen, but when you’re dealing with a time frame on the order of a million years it seems like a leap of faith to believe it happened randomly.

Today, we have millions of software engineers who try to use their intelligence to produce complex instructions for our computers. Getting them to work in a beneficial way is painstaking work and requires horrendous amounts of time to remove the flaws. How evolution manages to create working systems vastly more complex with relative ease seems like the single greatest question begging for an explanation.

BO: But if the bogeyman controls the simulation, why doesn’t he simply adjust the numbers (such as the amount of time we’ve been evolving) so they’re more plausible?

FH: Maybe our evolution is so unlikely that it’s like winning the lottery a billion times in a row. Maybe it takes a googol universes each with 100 billion galaxies containing 100 billion stars to make it happen without divine intervention.

BO: What are the most important thoughts that went through your mind watching the movie, whether or not they’re related to evolution?

FH: The educational system (which, of course, includes parents, the mass media, churches, the economy, etc, that is to say, all of society) doesn’t produce enough interesting variations among our youth. All you get is a bunch of clones who differ from each other in the most irrelevant ways possible and then they celebrate that as diversity and individuality.

BO: There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ambition on the part of people. So many dream of being the next revolutionaries.

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