Randy Guliuzza: Four Facts

Your Origins Matter – i.e. the ICR’s touring group – is in Tennessee this week, and as part of that Dr Randy Guliuzza (MD) gave a lecture to Crown College which has since been posted to Youtube. The YOM twitter feed said that “You will want to catch this,” so we will:

The main point of the 45 minute lecture is that Guliuzza has “four biological facts” that evolutionist have wrong but the Bible is correct on. But there is plenty more in here as well. I’ll give specific times in this video so you can follow along, in the format “(12:34)” – which would in that case correspond to twelve minutes and thirty-four seconds as you might expect.

Simple enough. What does he talk about then?

Masochistic dating

After a brief ‘thanks for having me’ (00:00) Guliuzza warms his audience with a personal story to tell them “where [he’s] coming from” (00:45). This is a conversion story, as you might expect, with Guliuzza explaining that he “was not raised in a Christian home” (00:49), although he “kinda believed in God” (00:55) and was thus a nominal Christian. All this changed as the eventual result of dating a girl named June in late highschool, who demanded that he go to church with her on Sunday in return for each date (02:13). After a few earlier failed attempts Guliuzza finally gets his first laugh out of his audience when he comments that it was a “guaranteed second date” (02:20).

It would seem that June was not just religious but rather fundamentalist as well, telling Guliuzza that “you’re going to hell” (03:43) – Guliuzza believed at the time that good deeds were enough, but June disagreed. Guliuzza describes later dates as “flogging” (04:10). The obvious conclusion to the story is that at some point “the light went on” (05:02) and he “got down on [his] knees and asked the lord Jesus Christ to forgive” his sins (05:19) etc.

Church dropouts

That story has little relevance to the rest of the lecture, and isn’t even effectively used as a bridge to the next topic. In order to justify the importance of his topic Guliuzza talks about a George Barna poll of “22,000 adults and 2,000 teens” (06:28) about religious activity. Apparently only a fraction of people who go to church in highschool continue to do so beyond that, but the reasons behind this are not caused by the change. Guliuzza blames this on a perception that school teaches facts, but Sunday school teaches “interesting stories” (10:27).

Guliuzza goes off on a minor rant (10:47) over an inaccurate picture of Noah’s ark, in a similar manner to this old article by Brian Thomas. It’s amusing that he would think that that kind of thing is the problem, but creationists are known for their paranoia.

Four biological facts

As Guliuzza’s slide (11:34) says, his topic for the lecture is in full: “Four Biological Facts Creationists Got Absolutely Right and Evolutionists Got Absolutely Wrong.” These ‘facts’ are actually all from Genesis chapter one (11:43). You might be wondering about Genesis 2, the bible’s other creation story, but aside from a brief mention (13:50) it is largely ignored by Guliuzza.

The definition of life

Before we get to these facts, however, there is another topic that needs to be addressed: what is life? This is important here because… I don’t actually know. He says: (12:10)

So since they’re biology they’re talking about living organisms. Now you look up there at that guy and he’s kinda dressed a little bit funny and you may wonder if he is living. He is living, of course, and he can be distinguished from an inanimate object, and from dead things. This is because living organisms carry out four important functions:

They metabolise things, they eat food, they turn it into energy; they grow; they reproduce; and they adapt.

This is a pretty poor definition of life, covering only some of the standard bases. The adaptation aspect is particularly suspect, because populations adapt and not individuals. Guliuzza did not ‘adapt’ while he stood up on stage during this lecture, and the logical consequence of using this definition would be to conclude that the last living member of a species is already dead.

Something you may be interested in knowing is how this ties into the ICR’s famous “plants are not alive” stance. Guliuzza continues: (12:40)

Now you can look around this church, you can look up on this stage here, you see these plants: they are not living. They don’t do any of those functions that we would talk about as living organisms there.

This is the point where the audience should have stopped him and called him an idiot. Plants do all of those things:

  • They turn food into energy just the same as animals do – but they also have the ability to make their own from raw materials and light.
  • They grow – of course plants grow.
  • They reproduce (everyone knows what a seed is, I should think).
  • And they do indeed adapt. The Hebe genus appears extensively in the evolution topic for level three biology in this country, with something like a hundred closely related species adapted to different environments making for some fairly useful discussion questions.

So Guliuzza is wrong, very wrong.

#1: The origin of life

For his first fact (phrased as a question) he says: (13:16)

Here’s the most fundamental question of all: What is the origin of life? How did all of this get started? How did everything get going? What is this origin of life?

The argument being put forward here is that “life only comes from previous life.” This is CB000 in the talk origins database, where they answer:

The spontaneous generation that Pasteur and others disproved was the idea that life forms such as mice, maggots, and bacteria can appear fully formed. They disproved a form of creationism. There is no law of biogenesis saying that very primitive life cannot form from increasingly complex molecules.

The angle that Guliuzza goes with, however, is not so much that abiogenesis is impossible because of that principle but that it had never been observed – that nothing has ever been found in Pasteur’s flask since (20:44). Aside from the “evolution is not the same thing as abiogenesis” aspect, Guliuzza runs afoul of the old line that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” And should we really expect to be observing it today? It was undoubtedly a slow process, involving conditions that need not be present today. And who’s actually looking in the flask with a swab and waiting agar dish?

Of course, to show that evolution is wrong and the bible is right then he also has to show that the bible holds the contrary – and correct – opinion: (13:28)

The Bible says pretty explicitly, from cover to cover, that life only comes from pre-existing life. It doesn’t come from anything else, it only comes from one source of life.

Now while Guliuzza has plenty of verses showing how God created life, and plenty more irrelevant mentions of life elsewhere. For several minutes he goes off talking about how Jesus is life and thoughts are immaterial etc. But he doesn’t actually have an “explicit” statement that “life only comes from pre-existing life” – this is telling.

Emergent properties

Wilson A. Bentley snowflake, 1890Once he finally gets around to the evolution side of things, misrepresenting and obfuscating as much as you would expect, Guliuzza says this little gem: (19:29)

Though you will read that many of them assert that nature has “emergent properties.” Emergent properties? When someone says that to you, please, just say to them “what are emergent properties?” Do you know what you’ll hear? Silence.

The reason why you’ll hear silence is because the person you’re asking is too busy pulling up the Wikipedia page on emergence, which Guliuzza clearly has not read. Snowflakes are a good example of high level complex order emerging from simple rules at a lower levels, and there are many others. But Guliuzza goes on: (19:45)

Because nobody really knows what an emergent property is or a creative dynamic. It’s just a mystical, magical way to substitute something in in the place of God.

From his clumsy use of terminology here it’s clear that not only does Guliuzza not know what they are, but he just read them somewhere and is parroting it.

Going back to the question, Guliuzza says that the conclusion from science is that “life only comes from life. Period. There are no exceptions. This has never been violated.” (20:20) But doesn’t the bible say that God created life? We haven’t observed that, just as much as we haven’t observed natural abiogenesis. So by his own criteria the Bible is just as wrong as the evolutionists.

Before we get to the next question Guliuzza takes a moment to, among other things, explicitly call bacteria alive (23:09). So how are they alive but plants aren’t?

#2: Reproduction

Next question: (23:53)

Ok, question number two, very important: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We all have heard that, which is just a fancy way of saying this: What is the origin of reproduction?

Actually, no – those are two different questions.

Guliuzza interprets Genesis 1:11 and 1:12, which off-handedly mention in relation to fruit that their “seed is in itself,” as meaning that “Creatures Have Always had an Innate Ability to Reproduce,” to quote one of his slides (24:26). This is a bit of a stretch, and this ‘fact’ is a little muddied. He seems to mean that the information has to be present within the original organism for it to work, as there are certainly animals that can’t reproduce only their own – take parasitic wasps, for example.

His contrary take from evolution involves some abiogenesis story involving lipid bubbles that can split into two (26:55) – though he gets confused and talks about selection for a bit for reasons unknown. This is a bit weak, and is really a slight modification of the previous question. It’s clear that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or at least can’t get a coherent message across here.

#3: Lamarckism

I’ve commented before about how the creationist conception of adaptation is eerily reminiscent of the long disproved concept of Lamarckism. Guliuzza really hitches his cart to the wrong horse here (36:20), and yet he still manages to claim victory (38:20). He just does not know what natural selection means, and even goes into (34:57) the ‘natural selection is a tautology’ line (CA500). Also, natural selection is our “substitute God” (34:47). Predictable, really.

#4: Limits to Change

For the final fact, he claims that there are “limits to change” (38:25). This is the baraminology/”kinds” segment – he claims that the bible says that there are limits, but that evolution says that there aren’t. “Kind is probably at the level of the family,” he says (40:15). Given the arbitrary nature of higher categories this is certainly too much of an over generalisation.

So what does “science say” here? Apparently (42:41), that there has never been an observed change from one “fundamentally” different kind of organism to another.

Summary

So, forty-five minutes of some of the most common PRATTs. If you didn’t click the play button (I doubt you did), you didn’t miss a lot.

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