This book by the late Carl Sagan has come back into vogue recently due to the reprisal of the Cosmos t.v. series, so I broke down and bought it to see what Sagan had to say about the universe. I have only gotten to chapter 2 so far and I have more information about evolution than astronomy. As you know it is difficult to respond to comments made in a book because there are so many comments which take about 1000 words to rebut. So this post probably will only deal with one quote from this book.
The fossil evidence could be consistent with the idea of a Great Designer; perhaps some species are destroyed when the Designer becomes dissatisfied with them, and new experiments are attempted on an improved design. But this notion is a little disconcerting. Each plant and animal is exquisitely made; should not a supreme competent Designer have been able to make the intended variety from the start? The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer… (pg. 25)
There is, of course, several things wrong with those few words. First, the fossil evidence is not even close to showing what God did at creation. It is filled with too rare of examples to see the reality of life on earth. There were just far too many creatures running around to draw any real conclusion from the remains of fossils, animals frozen in one short moment of time because fossilization is rare thus the remains represent only a very narrow section of the animal and plant kingdoms.
Second, to draw conclusions like, ‘the Designer was dissatisfied with them’ or ‘new experiments are attempted on an improved design’ is to infer an evolutionary process and an inferior designer who was incapable of making perfection at the start. This inference shows a bias on the part of the speaker and assumes that a supernatural act by a wholly capable Designer out of the question. The supernatural act of a supernatural being are totally dismissed without a chance to present a case for such a creation.
The fossil evidence does not show any dissatisfaction by a Designer nor does it show new experiments by the same person. Fossils do not capture animals or plants at their best. Usually there is some flaw in the specimen, or they animals/plants are captured with some disease that alters their features, though that disease is never acknowledged and on it goes. We do not get a fossil that captures the life form in a way that shows perfection thus conclusions drawn above by Sagan, are misleading and faulty.
They are drawn from bad and incomplete information which puts the designer in a bad light. In other words, the fossil record does not show his real work but his work after a lifetime of trials, disease, fights or some other physical encounter that wears species down and makes them world-weary. Any conclusions made about a Designer and his capabilities is not represented by the few life forms that are lucky enough to be fossilized.
Third, we see the evidence for the above point in the statement beginning with the words ‘Each animal and plant…’ The assumption made about a Designer is being made off of inferior evidence and the questions are really a product of that bad assumption. How can we know the abilities and capabilities of a Designer when all the evidence we have is of imperfect examples?
Fourth, the question Sagan asks adds to his misunderstanding of scripture, history, creation and fossils. He asks, ‘should not a supreme competent Designer have been able to make the intended variety from the start?’ We know he did but the fossil evidence is going to represent the same type of breeding that has taken place since Noah and his family got off from the ark. How do we know that what was fossilized was an original animal from God’s creative act? How can we demonstrate that it was not a product of the corruption and sin that entered into the world at Adam’s sin?
With all the thousands of years that transpired from God’s creative act, how can we judge God’s work when we know that the remnants we uncover bear the brunt of the deeds inflicted upon it by both humans and other aspects of life? Fossils do not preserve the original animals found in the garden of Eden, as far as we know. They preserve creatures in all stages of life and vulnerable to all imperfections that came at the Fall of Man. None of those examples reflect upon the Designer or his abilities.
Fifth, Sagan says ‘the fossil record implies trial and error…’ How can he say that when he has no complete record to compare his observations? You will notice that the Fall of Man is not part of that analysis nor is sinful acts of early humans who have contributed to the state of the animal preserved for all time. Sagan’s observations are based upon an assumption that nothing happened to the animal at any time throughout its life. An assumption that cannot even come close to being verified since we know that the animal world is not a realm of perfection and harmony.
The fossil record only captures a life form in one moment of its life and speaks nothing of its development or life encounters. Everything supposedly known about the species is read into it by those who study fossils.
Sixth, I will complete that statement in the last line of the quote above– ‘an inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer.’ Those words actually describe the processes of evolution and natural selection. Those processes are described by evolutionists as unknowing, lacking any intelligence or foresight and so on. They do not describe a Great Designer who would have to possess intelligence, foresight and so on, if he was going to create.
The conclusions about lack of foresight and anticipation of the future are drawn on arguments based in silence and omitting the fact that we know nothing of the animal, its possible birth defects and other injuries that would have contributed to its final resting pose. That lack is read into the fossils we discover, it is not taken out of them. It is the basis for the false accusations evolutionists hurl at creationists and God.
The fossil record is not complete and has no credibility in determining what God or in Sagan’s words, a Great Designer, can do or did do when he created all things. In other words, those who accuse God of failing or creating an inferior product are basing their accusations upon scant evidence that fails to present the whole story of what took place in the beginning. This evidence used by Sagan and evolutionists is not even the original product but one that is full of specimens influenced by real life and its troubles.
To make real conclusions the evolutionists would have to discover and dig up those original animals God created but then we cannot be sure what corruptions were inflicted on those creatures after the fall so we cannot be sure if we have those perfect animals or plants that actually demonstrate God’s abilities.