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Warren Allmon on the Argument from Homology

Warren Allmon

I once debated two evolutionists on the campus of Cornell University. In that debate I raised several fundamental problems with evolutionary theory. The problems that I pointed out fell into two broad categories: process and pattern.

In the latter category, I noted that the keystone argument for evolution from homology had badly failed. Unfortunately, that failure was waved off and went unaddressed by the evolution professors. That may not have been the case had Warren Allmon been able to participate. Allmon, Director of the Cornell University-affiliated Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), has thought more deeply about the homology argument than most evolutionists. Now in 2018, he has published, along with adjunct professor Robert Ross, a new paper, “Evolutionary remnants as widely accessible evidence for evolution: the structure of the argument for application to evolution education.” The paper, in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, contains a very important concession.

As is typical, the new Allmon/Ross paper makes several serious scientific errors, either through ignorance, denial, confirmation bias, or whatever. The paper also relies on heavily religious claims and arguments, which again is typical.

In future posts I will address the specifics in the Allmon/Ross paper. But most importantly, the paper does accomplish something new. It takes several turns, but in the end Allmon and Ross do recognize, at least somewhat, the presence of religion in evolutionary thought. To remedy this, they downsize the argument from homology.

In its canonical form, this keystone argument proves evolution by the process of elimination. That is, it refutes design and independent creation, leaving naturalistic evolution, in one form or another, as the only solution. God wouldn’t have created these lousy designs, according to evolutionists, so the designs must have arisen naturalistically. As usual, it is the religion that provides the certainty. This isn’t science.

Rather than deny this obvious fact (see here for examples of such denial), Allmon and Ross ultimately admit to it (after appealing to it repeatedly), and seek to reformulate the argument from homology without the religion. They do this as follows.

Rather than claiming God would not have created non-optimal homologies (such as vestigial structures), Allmon and Ross walk back the claim to say merely that God did not have to create such homologies. God could have done it differently. Allmon and Ross then contrast this with descent with modification which, they say, necessarily would have resulted in such homologies.

So you have Theory A (design) which can accommodate Observation X or ~X (not X). And you have Theory B (evolution) which requires Observation X, and cannot accommodate ~X. Our observation of X, therefore, makes Theory B more probable.

Readers will know there are enormous problems with this argument. It fails right out of the gate. And I will discuss these failures in the future. But before we get to that, it is important to understand the implications of the argument, even without its problems.

In their attempt to save the theory, what Allmon and Ross have done is to provide an enormous concession. What traditionally has been an iron-clad, unquestionable, textbook proof of evolution, now becomes a minor Bayesian term, slightly improving the probability of evolution.

This is a major concession, neutering the keystone argument for evolution. Why should anyone believe in the heroic claim that the biological world arose by itself if the strongest argument merely increases its probability by some unspecified amount?

Photo: Blue whale skeleton at London’s Natural History Museum, by Steveoc 86 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Cross-posted at Darwin’s God.