On the Origin of Articles

You might think that someone wrote this article.  But of course, you would be mistaken.  Articles are not written by people.  They are the result of chance.  Every intelligent person knows it.  There might be some people who want you to think that articles are written by people.  But this view is totally unscientific.  After all, we cannot see the person who allegedly wrote the article.  We cannot detect him or her in any way.  The claim that this article has an author cannot be empirically verified, and therefore it must be rejected.  All we have is the article itself, and we must find a scientific explanation for its origin.

Since no intelligent source can be empirically detected within this article, empirical science must look to the chance processes of nature for its formation.  In other words, we must not allow ourselves to think that this article came about from a mind; for this would be unscientific.  Since it is not the result of a mind, it follows logically that this article is the result of chance.  The article has not been designed – it is not the result of some unseen conscious forethought.

Naysayers might suggest that this article bears evidence of design.  They might point out that it has a logical flow, that its sentences are coherent, and that it contains creative information.  True enough.  But this is only evidence of apparent design at best.  We must certainly grant that many articles appear designed, as if they had been planned by a mind and written with creative forethought.  But to assume that the design came from some unseen, undetectable author would be unscientific.

What then is the true origin of articles?  We know that articles can be copied.  Articles on paper can be duplicated using a Xerox machine, and electronic articles can be copied from one computer to another.  We also know that errors can occur in this duplication process.  A simple glitch in the computer can result in a letter being changed, or a sentence or paragraph being duplicated or removed.  Most of these random changes would make the article less readable than the original.  But such variations would not be copied.  (Who would bother to Xerox a bad article?)  And so eventually they would be lost.

We must assume that occasionally, very rarely, a mistake in the copy would actually improve the quality of the article – making it more readable and more interesting.  In such cases, the improved article would be much more likely to be copied than the original.  In this fashion, articles gradually improve, often growing in length, complexity, and interest.  It stands to reason, therefore, that all articles started out as a simple word, or perhaps even a single letter, which was gradually changed as it was duplicated due to errors in the duplication process and selection of the more readable variations.

It is also sensible to conclude that all articles have diverged from a common original article which itself consisted of nothing more than a single word.  This is obvious by virtue of the fact that all articles have certain things in common.  For example, all articles use words.  And in all cases these words are organized into sentences.  Many of the words used in many articles are exactly the same!  For example, the word “the” appears very commonly in almost all articles.  Are we to believe that this is just a coincidence?  Clearly not.  It is evidence that these articles share a common source.  They have each diverged from a common article in the distant past.

Naysayers argue that articles are written by people.  But would people use the very same words in different articles?  The common words, common grammar, and common sentence structure clearly point to a common origin for articles.  It is reasonable to conclude that articles which share more common words and sentences are more closely related than those that have fewer common words and sentences.  Clearly this extends to larger works of literature – books for example.  Books are the most advanced form of literary diversification, and so they must also be the most recent.

Critics of our position (“authorists”) might object that we have never seen one article transform into a completely different article.  In other words, all observed changes have been only minor transformations.  But is this really surprising?  After all, it would take a very long time for an article to have accumulated enough changes to be classified as a completely different article.  And people simply don’t live long enough for this to happen within our lifetime.  But the fact that all articles share common words is positive evidence that it has happened, even though the process is too slow to see it in its entirety today.  We do see minor transformations today.  And it is reasonable to conclude that these minor changes will add up to major changes over long periods of time.

Some readers might be bothered by the fact that we do not have a complete record of how the simpler articles diversified into the wide variety of complex articles in our present world.  But this does not in any way disqualify our basic thesis that articles do share a common original source.  After all, considering the trillions of variations that must have existed and been destroyed in the vast time necessary for this process, we would expect that the record of links in the chain would be fragmentary at best.  And we do know of some links.  For example, there are several minor variations of the book “the Hobbit.”  These are known to exist, and it is obvious they stem from a common original.  So it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that all works of literature share a common source.

Given the slowness of the diversification of articles, it is reasonable to conclude that articles are far older than “authorists” assume.  The process of an article becoming longer and more interesting likely takes millions of years – perhaps even hundreds of millions of years.  It may even happen in spurts, rapid diversification followed by long periods of relative stasis.  This may account for the fact that we find so few intermediate forms in ancient libraries.

One objection to our position is the idea that some sentences in some articles contain a degree of “irreducible complexity.”  This is to say that even a minor change of any kind would make the sentence unclear or unreadable.  However, this notion fails to consider that multiple simultaneous changes – though rare – can occur in the process of time.  The fact that we cannot conceptualize an intermediate sentence does not actually prove that no such intermediate is possible.  The process by which articles diversify from a common source is still being studied, and so we do not have the answers to every detail yet.  But this does not mean that such answers will not be forthcoming in the process of time.  The formation and diversification of articles from a common source is a scientific fact and well supported by the evidence even though some of the details are not yet understood.

To assume that articles have an author is a faith position.  It is a belief in something that cannot be perceived with the senses.  As such, it is unscientific and should be rejected.  If some people feel that they must believe in an author, that’s okay, but please remember that your view is religious and not scientific.  Please don’t force it on others or teach it in school.

Just think about it.  This very article which you are now reading is the result of countless copying errors which gradually increased its length and complexity over time.  How amazing that such a process of nature has resulted in so many wonderful works of literature!  Such literature is not the result of some mysterious, unseen, undetectable “author.”  It is simply the inevitable result of the mindless duplication process working over unimaginable periods of time.

About Dr. Lisle

Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who writes and speaks on various topics relating to science and the defense of the Christian faith. He graduated summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University where he double-majored in physics and astronomy and minored in mathematics. He then earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dr. Lisle specialized in solar astrophysics and has made a number of scientific discoveries regarding the solar photosphere, including the detection of giant cell boundaries using the SOHO spacecraft. He also does theoretical research and has contributed to the field of general relativity. Since completion of his research at the University of Colorado, Dr. Lisle began working in full-time apologetics ministry, specializing in the defense of Genesis. He has written a number of articles and books on the topic. His most well-known book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, demonstrates that biblical creation is the only logical possibility for origins. Dr. Lisle wrote and directed the popular planetarium shows at the Creation Museum, including “The Created Cosmos.” He now works as director of research at the Institute for Creation Research.
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163 Responses to On the Origin of Articles

  1. Doug Taylor says:

    Great Scott! First you move to ICR. Now you’re combining apologetics with unbridled sarcasm. The mind reels with what may be coming next from the new Dr. Lisle!
    Oh…and that really is a wonderful expose naturalism’s absurdity.
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Stephen Peterson says:

    Very interesting perspective.

  3. Jesse Erickson says:

    That’s awesome. I just need to wait for the share button to evolve.

  4. Carmela Werner says:

    Wow, thank you for the very interesting perspective! A short pithy version of this article would be great on a billboard.

  5. David Dunkerton says:

    That covers everything I have heard naturalists say, and I think some people might actually miss the point. Is it okay if I use this in my apologetics class? I suppose if there are no authors we do not need to worry about copyright, though :)

  6. Pingback: The Origin of Articles « Little Sparrow

  7. dave hatton says:

    Logically perfect article – very well thought out – must be by Dr. Lisle!

  8. What a clever, straightforward way to answer someone according to their own claims. I do have to thank you for your great explanation of the “don’t answer, answer” strategy given in Proverbs 26:4-5. Before reading such explanation, I never “got” what that seemingly contradictory pair of verses meant. But, this is perfectly lucid sense. Thank you for sharing—will link to this.

  9. Kellee Halford says:

    This is an exceptionally creative application of this debate.

  10. Ron Samec says:

    Articles, like all things, evolve in deep time.Thank you for pointing this out to us. I am sure Richard Dawkins is overjoyed.

  11. Larry Darr says:

    Very Good.

    Sadly though, over millions of years, this article may evolve into something very different.

  12. Robert says:

    Except the fact that this article is not reproducing. The article by the Dr. Lisle is riddled with fallacies. It’s a bad analogy, because we exist. You can prove the existence of humans. The fact that we can create articles does not mean that the processes that birthed us were created by a designer.

    [In Pi, if related each number to a character in our alphabet in a way that allowed all 26 letters to form, you would find a complete copy of the bible, word for word. As well as all other written books in history, and those unwritten. It’s the nature of infinity. The fact that you can find some order in Pi would imply that it had a creator, but that’s not true is it? You’d also find an infinite amount of jarbled nonsense. It’s the same with the universe. There is some order, but it is very chaotic. We are inscribed words in Pi. The fact that we exist does not mean that infinite was created.]

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      > “Except the fact that this article is not reproducing.”

      Actually, it is has been copied a number of times.

      > “You can prove the existence of humans.”

      but not the author of the article. Why would you assume that a human wrote this particular article? That’s an assumption on your part.

      > “In Pi… you would find a complete copy of the bible, word for word”

      That’s a huge unproven assumption. Currently, mathematicians do not even know if there is a series of seven seven’s in pi, much less anything more complex. And why would you assume that pi is uncreated?

    • > “In Pi… you would find a complete copy of the bible, word for word… It’s the nature of infinity.”

      It’s worth noting that infinite time is not a luxury that natural selection has, if the universe has an age.

    • Jim the forensic science guy says:

      “Except the fact that this article is not reproducing.”
      WRONG: many are reproducing this article electronically–due to the sheer fun of reproducing and sharing an unauthored (i.e., evolved) article, displaying no empirical evidence of having been written by a human. “The article by the Dr. Lisle is riddled with fallacies.” DUH: isn’t that Dr. Lisle’s ultimate point? “It’s a bad analogy, because we exist.” SO? Dr. Lisle never denied that “we” exist, he merely sponsored a self-written article that has no human author. “You can prove the existence of humans.” SO? The fact that humans exist does not prove that a human wrote the article. Carrots exist too, and so do aardvarks, and baby-strollers; yet none of those were observed writing an article (so far as I know). “The fact that we can create articles does not mean that the processes that birthed us were created by a designer.” WRONG AGAIN: apart from a superhuman design we don’t exist and thus we could not author anything! “In Pi, if related each number to a character in our alphabet in a way that allowed all 26 letters to form, you would find a complete copy of the bible [sic], word for word.” UNSCIENTIFIC: this ridiculous claim has no empirical evidence supporting it — name one publication (excluding National Enquirer or its ilk) that has reported the production of the text of the Bible from anything like that fanciful notion; try to at least sound scientific, please! “You’d also find an infinite amount of garbled nonsense. It’s the same with the universe. There is some order, but it is very chaotic.” TRY AGAIN! The real answer is found in Genesis chapters 1-3 & Romans chapter 8, with the “very good” creation, followed by the Fall (due to Adam’s sin in Eden, as described in Genesis 3), which triggered a transition in creation, to a “good-yet-groaning” condition. Just wait: you will agree with me sooner or later, in less than 80 years to be sure. By the way, Dr. Lisle, thanks for allowing your website to host the unwritten true-as-evolution-ever-gets “authorless article”. > JJSJ

  13. Jared says:

    What a childish and superior way to defend your beliefs. Horrible analogy

    • Jim the forensic science guy says:

      “childish” and “horrible”, NO. “superior”, YES. (So you are batting .333!)

  14. Alex Mechev says:

    All I’m getting from this article is the timeless Futurama quote:
    “I don’t understand evolution and I want to protect my children from understanding it”

    • Jim the forensic science guy says:

      Kind of harsh criticism against an authorless (“evolved”) article, don’t you think? Shouldn’t you be a bit more respectful of “natural selection”, whatever kind of “process” that is? Since the article has no author, one wonders who the “selector” is that folks are supposed to be “understanding”. FYI, the authorless article has no “children” — and the blog-site’s host (Dr. Jason Lisle) has none either. And, by the way, why should you “get” anything from an authorless article anyway? Aren’t you just imposing your authorial biases onto an article that “appears” to have a design that proves a designer, as if you should “get” something meaningful from a random explosion (read that: “little bang” on a blog-site)? Isn’t your criticism an illustration of circular reasoning?

  15. George From Canada says:

    You can detect the writer of an article in the style of writing, choice of words and grammar. In this manner you can tell which autor has written specific articles. If you take two articles you can tell that they were created either by the same writer or by two different writers. Also writers can be observed in many cases and in this specific case we can tell that you have written this article and that you in fact are a tangible and very real individual who has written articles in the past. Also this is a completely rediculous analogy.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      > “You can detect the writer of an article in the style of writing, choice of words and grammar. In this manner you can tell which autor [sic] has written specific articles.”

      I totally agree. But couldn’t the same be said of the writer of the information in DNA?

      > “If you take two articles you can tell that they were created either by the same writer or by two different writers.”

      Again, I agree. Likewise, the similarities in the DNA of all living organisms makes sense in light of the fact that their DNA has the same author. But that’s not how evolutionists interpret this, is it?

      > “…we can tell that you have written this article…”

      How? Did you observe me writing it? Have you observed me writing other ones in the past? Or are you assuming the article has an author because it has creative information in it?

  16. Daneel says:

    What a terrible analogy… Since your article was written by someone who is known to exist, then something else completely unrelated to literature must have a designer? What?

    On the up side, you did convince me that you exist. Well done!

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      > “Since your article was written by someone who is known to exist…”

      How do you know this? Did you observe the article being written? How do you know it didn’t come about exactly as the article itself states?

      • Alex W says:

        You’re right, we don’t. However the odds are slim, as you haven’t provided the reasonable, logical method to an end that Darwinian Natural Selection provides, nor is there any clear evidence of a random mechanism at play. So, on that grounds, I accept that the article most likely must have a writer, or that there may be some other mechanism is at work.

        Your fallacy, sir, is the fallacy of the intelligent designer, in assuming that evolution is some kind of dice game. It’s not; a rather better metaphor is a dice game where dice that roll 1-4 die out, and eventually, we’re left with only 5’s and 6’s. Repeat a million times.

        Were there some method that added words to an article, then had a selection process to cull the least intelligible ones, then it would be much easier to believe that this article was generated via said process. If we had a clear paper trail leading back to the original article, then it would be much easier to believe that it was created by said process.

        Until then, creationists are still wasting everyone else’s time with this rhetorical game.

        • Nick L. says:

          Well, I suppose the conversation really comes down to what you qualify as a “reasonable, logical method.” There are those (including Dr. Lisle, myself, and other YEC’s) who would consider the idea of a copy machine’s typos producing an article just as illogical as the ideas proposed by evolutionists involving millions of random mutations. You assume the validity of your own belief system when comparing its logic to that of other belief systems.

          I’d say you’re correct that it would be easier to believe that this article reproduced itself “if we had a clear paper trail leading back to the original article.” But where is this clear ‘paper trail’ in the biological sphere? Time and again, scientists have shown the impossibility of evolution on the level promoted by naturalists.

          You’re certainly correct when you point out the idiocy of believing this article created itself, but when you simply stop there, you miss the point. Of course this article did not create itself. In like manner, something untold millions of times more complex than an article (the human body, and life itself) could not have created itself. The application depends on the rejectability of the premise that the article evolved.

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Hi Alex,

          > “you haven’t provided the reasonable, logical method to an end that Darwinian Natural Selection provides, nor is there any clear evidence of a random mechanism at play.”

          Actually, both were mentioned in the article. The random mechanism is computer errors – which do happen. The selection method is the fact that better articles are more likely to be copied than worse articles.

          > “So, on that grounds, I accept that the article most likely must have a writer, or that there may be some other mechanism is at work.”

          You mean, just because you don’t understand the mechanism by which the article evolved, you are willing to take (on faith!) the existence of some unseen, unproven, “author”?

          > “Your fallacy, sir, is the fallacy of the intelligent designer…”

          You are the one arguing that the article has an intelligent designer.

          > “in assuming that evolution is some kind of dice game. It’s not; a rather better metaphor is a dice game where dice that roll 1-4 die out”

          So, it’s not a dice game, but rather a dice game? Hmm. There is a selection mechanism, if that’s what you mean.

          > “Were there some method that added words to an article…”

          There is! Computer errors can do this. I once saw an entire paragraph mistakenly duplicated.

          > “then had a selection process to cull the least intelligible ones,…”

          There is! Poorly written articles are far less likely to be copied and passed on.

          > “…then it would be much easier to believe that this article was generated via said process.”

          If you’re not happy with the described process, then find some other naturalistic, chance explanation. But please don’t invoke some unseen, unproved “author.”

          > “If we had a clear paper trail leading back to the original article, then it would be much easier to believe that it was created by said process.”

          Given the millions of years it took the article to evolve, it’s not surprising that most of the paper trail has been lost. Just because we don’t have all the transitional forms for this particular article doesn’t mean that there never were any. Perhaps some will be found in the process of time. After all, we do know of some transitional forms for other articles and books. There are a number of ancient variations of the works ascribed to Plato, showing that they have indeed descended from a common ancestor.

          Although we do not have intermediate forms between any of the major works of literature (such as between “The Odyssey” and Webster’s dictionary), we find plenty of variations within a particular group of literature, such as “the Iliad.” And besides, all works of literature use words, and sentences. Clearly they have a common ancestor, even if we don’t have a complete paper trail.

  17. It looks like Christians are the only people practicing presupp today. It seems many of the detractors have their own presuppositions. Oh if more Christians had the faith of evolutionists we’d shake the world. :)

  18. Summer Hurst says:

    Well, too bad I cannot address this response to anyone :) Just kidding Obviously written by Dr. Lisle. Excellent. Shared on FB. Did you have fun writing this?

  19. erika says:

    great work doc most big bang theorists should agree with your logic lol

  20. Collin Brooks says:

    The chemicals inside my brain which randomly evolved over time are firing forcing me to write this comment about how wonderful and hilarious this post was. If there were to be an author of this creative information (which is so clearly absurd for any logical thinker to believe) he should be very proud. Except he should not be flattered, since a “wil”l or freedom of a will cannot evolve nor be examined and tested, meaning there is no way it can exist. Therefore, I am not choosing to compliment this theoretical blog designer. I am forced by the random firing of evolved chemicals to like it. And if you were to somehow attempt to prove there were to be an author of this, I can’t believe it unless I recieved those chemicals from natural selection to do so, because all my beliefs cannot be choices from a personhood, mind, soul, or free will. The metaphysical is just nonsense.

    On a serious note, im going to repost this. This is too good not to.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Love it! :-)

    • Eric says:

      Well, however, this whole article can be extrapolated into replies to articles, since, in and of themselves, replies to articles are, in fact, “mini-articles’, akin to the breeds of dogs. So, we also have to assume that all replies to this article, including this, have their root in the common ancestor. Oh, the sad situation of the “authorists”, which, as far as we can tell, do not exist, since their replies are simply descendants of the article…

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