Like Watching a Hummingbird Fly

As previously mentioned, here is my second installment on chapter two of Coyne’s book. As this chapter makes apparent, long stretches of time are essential to the project of evolutionary hand-waving, a process whereby impossible things are made more plausible to us by having them happen very, very slowly. Don’t think I can walk across that swimming pool? Watch this as I inch my way out there. Bet I can do it if a spend three months at it. Time fixes all implausibilities.

Going with Coyne’s figure of 600 million years of evolution in 4th gear, after leaving out those halcyon days of one-celled organisms just bobbing about, not to mention the subsequent time of the eukaryotes (p. 28), and not messing with leap years, we come up with, using a simple arithmetical process, 219,000,000,000 days available for evolution. Roll that around in your mind for a moment. All the marvels that evolution has wrought were accomplished in a matter of countable days. This has ramifications.

I said earlier that I was going to be offering a variation on Haldane’s Dilemma, but before getting to my version, let my brother Gordon (the scientist) explain Haldane.

“That said, we know the entire genomes of both humans and chimps. There are 40-45 million nucleotide bases present in humans that are missing from chimps, as well as about the same number present in chimps that are absent from humans. This amounts to ~40 million separate mutation events that would need to occur to separate these two kinds. These two creatures are supposedly separated by 300,000 generations. This means that about 133 mutations need to be fixed in a population’s genome every generation. This is a huge problem and is called “Haldane’s Dilemma” because it is empirically untenable to assume that that staggering number of mutations could be fixed in comparatively few number of generations. ‘Fixed in a population’ means that it can’t just happen to one individual. A beneficial mutation needs to spread to most members of the population and that has to happen by passing it down to your descendants with the help of natural selection promoting the mutation’s success. This of course requires several generations to let it spread.”

In this form, evolutionists think they have enough of an answer to dismiss creationists as chumps for advancing it, and for those interested, you can always pursue it further. In my view, this kind of response is just more hand-waving, but allow me to restate the problem in a variant form. Here the problem is more statistical and mathematical, while Haldane’s problem was more strictly biological. The common factor in these arguments is the amount of time available for what needed to have happened.

Coyne tells us that the estimated number of species that have lived could be as high as 4 billion (p. 22). Let’s take that number to illustrate the point, knowing that the same point can still be made with a different number.

With four billion species out there, let us surmise a crazy low number of genetic changes in one species to turn it into another one — ten changes, let’s say. But ten changes per species with four billion species means that we need forty billion beneficial mutations in order to account for all these different species that showed up at one time or another. So let’s divide this 40 billion into how many days we are working with. That means that in the history of evolution, a beneficial mutation would need to be happening, on average, somewhere on earth to some critter every 5 or 6 days or so.

But wait. In order to “register” as a beneficial change, making room for the next change to also register, it has to confer a survival advantage — because the central mechanism that makes evolution go is natural selection. But it has to confer this survival advantage in less than a week.

Now I am not assuming that all species are lined up in a series, with a direct line from our most distant ancestor straight down to us. In short, I am not assuming “no cousins.” I am not lining all these species up in a straight line, as though there were no cousins or distant cousins. I am just saying that something marvelous has to be happening in evolutionary history constantly, somewhere on the planet. A number of these lines can be running in parallel, but the ones that successfully make it to the next species have to be running in series for their ten changes at some point. The bridge has to make it all the way across the river.

In order to register in the fossil record, in most instances it has to make it all the way across the bridge to the next species, since we have very few transitional forms in hand. But this means that the statistical average time span for the transition from one species to another would be just over a couple of months. It needn’t be this quick for all of them, of course. I am just talking about the averages.

If evolution happened in a matter of countable days, and if we have had as many species as we have, we can calculate what the average pace of beneficial evolutionary events would have to have been. And remember, if you stretch out the time for one transition to happen with any ancestor, you are shortening the time available for any descendants.

One other thing. The odds of flipping a coin to heads ten times in a row is 1 in 1024. Those are the odds for our ten changes from species to species if each change presented itself as a simple heads/tails possibility. But of course, mutations present many more options than just two. I will leave the rest of that to our statistician friends out there. Suppose at each genetic fork in the road there were just ten options instead of two. The coins have 9 sides other than heads. What would the odds be of flipping the right choice ten times in a row then? And remember, when you have flipped, you don’t just look at it and say heads. You have to wait 6 days (on average) to see if any survival advantage was conferred.

Now make the final adjustment. Ten changes from species to species is absurdly low. A one in ten chance for the mutation to be beneficial is absurdly low. The chances that we will get identifiable survival advantage in less than a week is absurdly low. Get yourself a real calculator, one that goes up to the decillions, and enter the real numbers. The one thing you will not be able to do after that point is dismiss as an idiot someone who has trouble believing in this high speed miracle of yours with no God around. For mark my words, once the real numbers are entered, observing the process of evolution would be like watching a hummingbird fly.

The trouble for evolutionists is that they set the evolutionary chronology back when we had no idea of the staggering complexities that go into even one-celled organisms. The chronological framework was set for them, and poured into concrete, back when we thought 600 million years was plenty of time. It reminds me of the time when I had a computer that had 10 megabytes of memory, which I thought cavernous. And the more complexity we find, which we are doing all the time, the more we have to fit into our 219,000,000,000 days. That’s days, people.

It is starting to look as though we won’t have to even speed that time lapse camera up, and what I really want to do is go watch it in an IMax theater.

Share on Facebook143Tweet about this on Twitter36Share on Google+1Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or semi-Pelagian.

112 thoughts on “Like Watching a Hummingbird Fly

  1. “… a beneficial mutation would need to be happening, on average, somewhere on earth to some critter every 5 or 6 days or so.”

    That’s pretty consistent with the other data we’ve seen. A “Ben Mute” every 4 to 8 days seems well within the bounds of possible mutation rates for the present bio-complexity to evolve via Darwinism.

    Again,
    “Human DNA contains the equivalent of about 1.5 gigabytes (One and a half billion bytes) of information. http://bitesizebio.com/articles/how-much-information-is-stored-in-the-human-genome/
    That means that, given the estimated 3 billion years of life on earth, we’ve had to go from a minimum of about 400,000 base pairs* for the simplest possible cell to approximately 3 billion bases for Homo Sapiens.
    That’s about 2,999,600,000 base pairs, or the equivalent of about 750,000,000 bytes of additional information!
    So, 3,000,000,000 years / 750,000,000 = 4 years per byte.
    So the overall average rate of addition informational mutation is around 1 byte equivalent every four years!”

  2. Thank you for the review of this book. Having read it and a few other books on Evolution, as well as books on ID (or variants), one thing I have come to believe is that most average people (including myself) don’t determine where we stand on this issue based on evidence. This isn’t because the average person is in any sense unreasoning or unreasonable or because they don’t believe in following evidence where it leads. It is merely because the issues being discussed are incredibly detailed, incredibly complex, and requires a synthesis of multiple strands of information (statistics, biology, geology, physics, astronomy, etc.). On a scale of 1 to 10, if building a case to show someone the Earth is round is a 1, demonstrating Evolution (or arguing against) is a 1000. As such, the average person simply doesn’t have time to perform the detailed analysis and investigation required. Therefore, they determine which authority figures they are going to trust. This is and continues to be part of the issue and rarely is mentioned in the debates. Instead, people on all sides are just dismissed as idiots.

    As such, I grow immensely frustrated by Evolutionists who become huffy and say, “It’s obvious, it’s so simple, you flat-Earthers!” No, it’s not. At the same time, the average family working 40-60 hours (80-120 once both parents are figured in) a week to meet bills, raise children, and run a home often doesn’t have the time or desire to perform a rigorous investigation of everyone’s claims on the issue. When I hear someone say, “Just look at the fossil record, just follow the evidence,” my first thought is, “Do you have any idea of the scope of the fossil record? Do you understand what you have just asked me to do?” And so I’m back to looking to authority figures, or reading brief surveys on the issue, many of whom will interpret the same piece of evidence in different ways, even if they are on the same ‘side’. Or, they update the theory every 50 years to be in line with ‘recent discoveries’.

    Truly going through all of the evidence (statistical, biological, geological, astronomical, chemical, laws of physics, etc.) in order to make an informed decision not based on the judgments of outside authorities but on one’s own investigation would take so long the OJ trial would seem like a short afternoon.

    Mainly, I think there are a lot of people on all sides of this who act as though they ‘know’ things they absolutely don’t know because most people have no expertise in any of these fields and the experts usually only have expertise in one of them. The vast majority certainly don’t know any of this in the ense that they ‘know’ the Earth is round. Instead, there are a vast number on all sides of this who have simply listened to various authorities and chosen who they will believe.

    When am I ever going to have time to truly investigate ‘the fossil record’? Are you kidding me? When am I ever going to have time to study the genome of various species? Are you kidding me? When am I ever going to have time to study geology in any detail? How many people are even capable of becoming learned in Physics and Astronomy and Chemistry? Are you kidding me? I read a lot, all the time, and I love this issue. But no one has time to truly study all of these details and associate them in a way that forms unquestionable knowledge of the past. So we choose an authority to trust. This is not unreasonable. It just gets ignored by too many people who venture into these discussions….

    I really love your blog, I’m enjoying these posts, especially since I read the book and had similar questions (and no, I have no answers, other than saying I don’t believe anyone who ventures into this discussion ‘knows’ nearly as much as they think they know). I’m only left in awe of the world, the galaxy, the universe I find myself living in and capable of comprehending to a reasonable degree. God bless.

  3. Jay: I think your numbers help prove Doug’s point. First off, you don’t get to claim that the full 3 billion years are available to go from 400 thousand to 3 billion base pairs. Coyne himself gives 600 million years to go from simple, single-celled organisms to humans under Darwinsm. So, that’s 0.8 years per new byte of information.

    Furthermore, a new byte of information does not simply mean that some combinations of mutations has occurred in one organism; it means that this information has been encoded within a population. If we buy the current Darwinian lineages, many of the human precursors had generation times of more a year or more.

    So somehow, a byte of new information conferring a survival advantage has to emerge and become fixed in the population in less than a single generation (on average), for every generation of critters, for the last 0.6 billion years, for Darwinism to be plausible.

    ~JG

  4. Mutation rates vary widely – between species, even between sexes etc: http://www.genetics.org/content/148/4/1667.long – it is not as if scientists are hiding from reality, as Doug seems to imply here. Mutation rates even differ between different chromosomes – see here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-05/cshl-nri052110.php

    Furthermore, Haldane’s original work assumed a constant population – any look at population growth, say through the (very simplified) logistic equation shows that the picture is very, very complicated.

    In short, on cannot make some simplistic assumptions and then come to an earth-shattering conclusion. This is a subject for game theorists.

    The other way to look at this would be to simply address the hard evidence – fossil record, geological column etc etc. And here I do know something. The geological evidence is firmly against any YEC perspective. But that is not the subject of this post, as Coyne is talking biology. But it does relate, in so much as evolution was built on the evidence supplied by the fossil record, within a specified geological context. It is not complete, obviously, so it is not perfect. But a simple Bayesian analysis would show that it is likely, since it is constantly being refined by new evidence – something which Creationists are not able to do, as there theories fall down at a very simple analysis of the data.

  5. Jay,

    I’m not a scientist, and so I ask this question with genuine ignorance: how is it that Doug is using 600,000 years and you are using 3,000,000,000?

    It seems to me, at first glance, that you’re somehow suggesting that the changes occurred at an even rate across the whole span of time, while Doug is suggesting that the bulk of the time available only account for the leap from single-celled organisms to double and multi-celled organisms. If he’s correct, wouldn’t that significantly change your math?

    Also (and again, there could be a simple answer here, I genuinely don’t know), doesn’t the model you suggested fail to account for all the other species? It seems like your model is only accounting for the fact of humanity, and not the infinitely complex series of mutations needed to account for every other form of life. Could you please help me understand how and if that’s not the case?

    Humbly and Sincerely.

  6. John – your point is well taken. So tell me then are you going to trust the experts, or the amateurs on this one? Are you going to trust the people who have had years of experience, have looked at the evidence, have been extensively peer-reviewed?

    Remember – science can be pretty cut-throat. If you can conclusively show that previous ideas/theories are wrong, and provide a better explanation for the data, it will translate into fame, grant money etc etc. Thus conspiracies do not survive in science. It is a bit like “cut-throat” capitalism – do it better or go under.

    The narratives supplied by many YEC-types are simply way-off. It reminds one of the criticisms leveled against medicine etc by homeopaths and Steiner-devotees. Shrill, loud, convincing on the surface, but actually way-off base.

  7. Josh, the problem to which you are referring is that evidence alone in this debate proves nothing. Everyone has the exactsame facts. Both sides are interpreting with their respective presuppositions. Evidence cannot speak for itself (fallacy of reification). It requires interpretation with respect to the argument. Many people incorrectly assume there is neutral ground to argue the evidence. Debating evidence amidst a worldview clash is ultimately a lost cause. The argument needing to be had is a collision of worldviews.

  8. Klasie Kraalogieson Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 8:56 am said:

    “John – your point is well taken. So tell me then are you going to trust the experts, or the amateurs on this one? Are you going to trust the people who have had years of experience, have looked at the evidence, have been extensively peer-reviewed? ”

    It seems to me that the ones to trust are the ones who can answer simple questions about the basic logic employed in the argument they give,

  9. Arwen, I have tried to show you the evidence. I left another comment on the previous thread with a helpful link. Would you care to examine it before making any further insinuations, please?

  10. Well Klasie, philosophically, evolution doesn’t really work with how we actually experience life unless you add in a creator deity who drives and directs it, but evolutionary science isn’t about discovering how a god did it, rather how it all occurred naturally without the need of a god.

    And this is what I mean by it not working philosophically: we chide “irresponsible” people for doing silly things that hurt society, such as having sex outside of committed relationships so that the resulting child is either aborted or left in a less-than-ideal situation. We can say, very negatively of course, that they’re acting like animals when they do so–but isn’t that what evolution tells us, that we’re JUST animals? So little Johnny flings excrement across the room? Well, he’s just like his distant cousin the chimp…what can you do? Monkeys will be monkeys….

    That’s simplifying it a bit, I admit, but that’s the gist of my big problem(s) with the theory of evolution, which I would argue common sense supports (I hope so for my own sake, at least).

    But we get these “experts” that come along and tell us that things are not as they seem: we are mere animals and have no dignity above a dog. We didn’t evolve MORE than a dog, only differently. And somehow I’m supposed to be able to respect myself when I abide by some other animal’s arbitrary rules that they dictated I follow, knowing good and well that there is no ultimate reason for or value in doing so.

    So, I stand on the presupposition that common sense is good and ought to be sought (a wonderfully Christian doctrine contained within the Scriptures), and judge which authorities I listen to according to whose philosophies jive with common sense, though that too is a simplification.

  11. Klasie,

    As with my question to Jay, this one is asked with genuine interest and general ignorance.

    Assuming for the time-being that the narratives supplied by the YECs are insufficient and ultimately untenable, it seems that the basic gist of Doug’s posts is that similarly, the narratives supplied by the proponents of evolution are perhaps equally (or, at least, damnably) insufficient and untenable.

    So, is there some critical flaw in Doug’s critique that you could explain to me in layman’s terms, or are we ultimately dealing with a whole range of insufficient explanations from which we’re supposed to choose the least bad?

    Thanks, in advance.

  12. Moor, from my vantage point as a geologist, an old earth (to distinguish it from biological evolution) is a more than sufficient theory / explanation of the data – but it is not complete, which is perfectly fine.

    As to biological evolution – from the bits that I know and read, I have strong suspicion that Doug’s argument is completely off, but as I don’t know enough about the subject, I’m not saying much more than what I said at my comment above (the fourth comment in this thread).

    Wesley – you should rather say that it doesn’t work within the narrative framework which you hold to. I used to think the same as you do – but then I considered that I should at least attempt to think about this from an outside (ie, not a member of the humans species” point of view – insofar as it is possible. One could say that behaviour is encouraged or discouraged based on it’s impact on the well-being of society. The fact that we are not only a sentient, but also a species that are self-aware raises all kinds of interesting questions. One COULD say that morality is a mechanism, albeit one that is not only hardware but also software based (if you follow the analogy), that enables the survival of a self-aware species. What I’m trying to say is that morality, even altruism could be accounted for from an evolutionary vantage point. After all, recent studies have shown altruism, which could be described as proto-morality I guess, in Bonobos.

  13. Klasie,

    What do you mean you have a “strong suspicion that Doug’s argument is completely off”?

    His reasoning is really straightforward and simple to follow. You might (for your own sake) try to identify where it is “off.” That would help reveal the integrity of your “suspicion.”

    As for your comment that “mutation rates vary,” Doug (and practically everyone) has no qualms with that. Doug’s mathematical approach is working with an “average rate,” which he even takes the time to explain. Here’s an analogy to help you follow: If I know I have 20 liters of water (analogy: mutations), and that water is distributed among 5 large buckets (analogy: time), I can calculate that the buckets have an average of 4 liters of water (mutations/time = mutation rate).
    You can tell me that the amount of water per bucket (mutation rate) varies, and that’s fine, but I know that if one of them has more than 4 liters, then the at least one of the others will have less. And if we expand this to much more water, and many more buckets, I might reasonably assume a natural distribution wherein most of the buckets have near the average amount of water.
    So, it is reasonable to assume that if the average mutation rate has been on the order of days/weeks, then within recorded human history (and even within one lifetime), we should have observed an indisputable number of fixed mutations and even new species.
    What “scientists” have done to account for this is say there were probably explosions of super high rates of mutations at different points in time, which is why the average rate has been significantly higher than what human history has ever observed. Now that sounds “suspicious” to me.

  14. Wesley – the process does. Certain behaviours are damaging to a society, others not. So, if a person indulges in said behaviour, they are either marginilised or eliminated (either by direct action by others, or by the results of their own actions). Also, the society learns to reject such behaviours, especially in a species that is self-aware, and embrace positive behaviours that increase survival. Given the iteration of this process, a “morality” appears over time. Of course, slight differences can occur in different populations isolated from each other – and cultural differences arise that may lead to conflict.

    Of course, in a species that is self-aware, the ability to absorb data multiplies, and the different mental processes that influence behaviour multiply (I want better spear. So I’m taking it – and lying to others about it, to protect me – thus theft and lying originate – and consequently, negative selection for those traits). The complex interplay between individual and society, both in terms of survival and procreation (ensuring ones own genes’ survival) etc etc would of course lead to a fairly complex body of behaviours, and thoughts about behvaiours (morality).

    The above is an example of how morality COULD arise – a thought experiment if you will.

  15. Charles, You (and Doug) assume that it is a linear system. I doubt – I think we have a dynamical system here, hence my reference to game theory.

  16. As someone who has studied evolution and ID and YEC in a decent amount of depth (although Josh McGee’s comments are very true), I am at the point where I think the following things are pretty hard to deny:

    1) The earth is old (billions of years). Why? The clocks. There is not one clock that YEC are forced to explain away…. there are many. And they all match despite all moving at different speeds and with different mechanisms. Whether is radiometric, cosmological dating, layers, continental drift, sodium in the ocean, rings on trees or etc, there is amazing uniformity and consistency in the clocks. YEC often point out this or that individual wrong reading but anyone who spends time in a science lab (as I have) knows that one bad reading from a scale doesn’t mean you throw the scale out. Scientists would not use the clocks if they didn’t produce consistent results. They do produce consistent results. I think this is pretty unanswerable from the YEC crowd.

    http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/age_of_the_earth.html

    2) Evolution (full blown) doesn’t deny Christianity. CS Lewis was open to evolution and many of the people blazing the trail in evolutionary studies have been devout Christians (e.g. Francis Collins). Christian theology (particularly Reformed theology) says that God guides all things. Finding a natural cause is not denying the divine cause. I came to Christ because a friend witnessed to me (the natural cause) but as a Reformed Christian I think that that was a God ordained conversion. Most things we interpret as miracles or the clear hand of God have natural causes (e.g. the train stopped just prior to hitting the boy on the tracks because the brakes malfunctioned). The statement “evolution is true” does not equal “atheism is true” in any sense.

    3) The Bible does not mandate a young earth. In fact, it could be argued that the bible paints an old earth (generation gaps in the genealogies, indications of the flood being local and etc). Here is a helpful link to show this:

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/localflood.html

    4) With these things being noted, all Christians should at least be open to Intelligent Design. We don’t have to rest our faith on it (since we believe even natural things are intelligently ordained) but if you believe in a God that does things in the world, it at least must be possible for him to miraculously act in creation. The best arguments for this are the fine tuning, the creation of the first cell, and several other points along the way that the ID folks like to point to. Any Christian (such as Francis Collins) that rejects this possibility upfront and without looking at specific cases is being silly and giving into pressure from materialists.

    5) Christians need to believe in a literal Adam and Eve. At some point God must have taken his creation and set clay aside (even if that clay was in the form of a primate) and breathed a soul and likeness into him. The bible is clear that Adam was a real person. There are genealogies, references to him as a person and theologies based on that. He must have been a real person.

    I am open to correction on any of these 5 points. But that is where I am so far in my reading.

  17. don’t forget that error is the very nature of mutation – the corruption of ordered information – and that concerning ESSENTIALLY EVERY OTHER OBSERVABLE SYSTEM, increasing the time-life of a system increases the entropy of that system. it is disorder over time, not order, that defines our reality.

    surely there is a robust survival fail-safe written into the code. all species exhibit a myriad of genotypes within their respective populations. we observe adaptation (micro-evolution) when a population is colored or culled by the genetic haves and have-nots in environmentally stressful conditions. the phenotypically strong survive, the population’s genetic expression is filtered, some is lost, some is masked in recession, etc.

    but this hardly has anything to do with NEW information – the entropy-defying accumulation of countless happy accidents to provide the statistically-rare holy grail of a beneficial mutation, coordinated in time to prepare a species for survival. good luck. if we depended on mutation for survival, we’d be dead. millions of years ago.

    i mean, let’s look at the first life – whatever it is… mRNA? some protein by-product of a chemical law? fine. now what? this is the burden of alpha life: 1) metabolism. i mean, a guy’s gotta eat, right? is he eating other accidental by-products or is he eating cold hard organic chemicals? whatever it is, it’s gotta be added to his current set-up in a way that he is sustained long enough for 2) reproduction. the only way he’s gonna pass anything down to his eventual human descendants is through the replication of himself which, of course, is going to require a pretty sophisticated metabolism. i mean, even the simplest form of asexual budding is fairly complicated without a way to replenish your own entity. sure would be nice to have an information system to interface with. sure would be nice to have some information with which to interface. but that all comes later. accidentally. right now, let’s eat. you know, before winking out of existence. cause entropy is a bear-beast.

    yet in face of the entropic bear-beast, we find ORDERED INFORMATION in unfathomably complex array. read-only ordered information coded by an ordered system devoted to protecting and proliferating said information controlled by nothing less than a hands-free code that says to protect and proliferate the code. code coding code without outside input. it blows my mind. but it blows my mind a little bit less that there happens to be a Mind involved.

    the end.

  18. Thanks for the response Klasie.

    If I’m reading you correctly, you would essentially articulate an Old Earth Creation model, with some flexibility built in to account for a superintended process of evolution (that is, for a guided random process).

    Is that the case, or am I reading too much into my synthesis of your statements?

  19. Klasie Kraalogies said, “Remember – science can be pretty cut-throat. If you can conclusively show that previous ideas/theories are wrong, and provide a better explanation for the data, it will translate into fame, grant money etc etc. Thus conspiracies do not survive in science. It is a bit like ‘cut-throat’ capitalism – do it better or go under.”

    My mother worked as a librarian. The library subscribed to National Geographic. One day, she was looking at an article when someone mentioned they had worked on the dig site (it was a site in Central America). They said, “We found evidence that contradicted what the people who gave us the grant wanted, so we lied. It was the only way to keep funded.”

    But you go on thinking that science doesn’t bow down to the dollar.

  20. “Remember – science can be pretty cut-throat. If you can conclusively show that previous ideas/theories are wrong, and provide a better explanation for the data, it will translate into fame, grant money etc etc. Thus conspiracies do not survive in science. It is a bit like “cut-throat” capitalism – do it better or go under. ”

    I get the point of the analogy, but I don’t think the two are quite analogous. Do I trust the peer-reviewed system? In a limited way, yes. (I think too much emphasis is on research and not enough on teaching / educating, but I do see the point and value in the peer-reviewed approach). However, I don’t trust it in the broad sense you intend.

    If it is fame, grant money, or tenure that one is after, all can be obtained through paths of lesser resistance than attempting to turn over a reigning paradigm. In fact, if those are things I was after, the last thing I would do is challenge the paradigm. This would be akin to a lobbyist going to D.C. to rail against crony-capitalism. The only reason someone would seriously challenge a reigning paradigm would be out of a love and pursuit of unvarnished truth and a willingness to accept much public and professional ridicule. And let’s face it, overturning / replacing the paradigm of Evolution would be somewhat comparable to overturning the Aristotelian paradigm held by virtually all men of science for just a few years all those centuries ago. There are always all sorts of people (and in this situation that means academia) that have a vested interest in retaining the current paradigm: pride, ego, and feeding the Grant machine being the chief motivators. It’s not the same thing as business / capitalism. On TV tonight I will see a commercial telling me the new Windows tablet is better than the iPad. But there is not an entire societal institution whose worker bees have a vested interest in seeing the iPad win. And that’s the other thing. A capitalist with a good product has a good chance of reaping profits in the near-term. A scientist challenging a paradigm is perhaps more likely than not to die before the fruits of his labor are ready for harvest and the people say, “Oh, I get it!”.

    It can be demonstrated in various fields that pursuing certain questions or lines of thought is simply very damaging to one’s chances of tenure, etc. How many young whipper-snappers are going to be itching to get into Harvard so they can continue the research Jason Richwine pursued? (“You know, Dad, I think I may choose a slightly different research area after all.” “Son, I think that’s a commendable choice.”) How many 18 yr old or 25 yr old boys and girls are going to say, “You know, maybe Larry Summers was on to something. I think I’ll make that my research area at Harvard. And hey, wherever the evidence leads…” Some topics are only pursued at immense risk and cost to the person asking the question. Secularism has its cultural enforcers and things it polices, just like everyone else. It is not the same thing as developing a better iPad.

    So, yes, I accept peer-reviewed literature in a limited sense. But I would be shocked if a paradigm (any paradigm, really) as significant as Evolution would be seriously challenged or overturned by going down that path. Peer-reviewed literature will eventually reflect paradigm shifts, but I wouldn’t expect them to be a catalyst because too much ego exists in academia to let stuff like that slip through. That arena will resist as long as it can. People may not resist paradigm shifts because they hate the truth but because they don’t want to admit – while they are still living and working – that they may have been wildly wrong. (“Oh, yeah, yeah, I knew the Aristotelian model was weak all along…..just go look at my research….oh, wait, it looks like my hard drive crashed.”)

  21. Klasie has a lot of thoughts about evolution. Given his worldview, all his thoughts are coming from a mind made of material matter that has evolved over millions and millions of years. Why is so certain the thoughts he is having about evolution are true? Why are the chemical reactions in his brain producing truth? Before we listen to him about the “facts” of evolution, we need to hear his epistemology. We need to know what he knows, and how he knows it for certain. We need to know why we should listen to his “reasoning, logic and argument” if all we have is physical matter acting on chance. Why does he trust his thoughts about the evidence?

  22. If Gordon’s numbers are right, then shouldn’t thnere be a significant number of mutations between the living elderly and the young of both species that can be genetically ovserved and documented?

  23. 1) “the process does.”

    –As a genuine question, are you suggesting that the process has an agenda, or rather that the way we do things now is just what floated to the top through the passage of time?

    2) “Certain behaviours are damaging to a society, others not. So, if a person indulges in said behaviour, they are either marginilised or eliminated (either by direct action by others, or by the results of their own actions).”

    –That’s partially fair, but I do have a caveat: What do you mean “damaging to a society”? If the process, I’m speaking to atheistic evolution, is impersonal then there is no “damaging to a society,” but merely what has lasted the passage of time.

    3) “Also, the society learns to reject such behaviours, especially in a species that is self-aware, and embrace positive behaviours that increase survival”

    –How do we know that survival is the point? What if everything is about cats, and our “positives” that promote survival are actually negatives because we’re stealing the show from cats? And does abortion promote survival? If it is as I see it and it is only the passage of time, us living in the year 2013 A.D., that makes us better than the caveman, who lived 100,000 B.C. (that’s just a random shot in the dark, maybe partly because they didn’t have fire yet), then abortion as the killing of our offspring is the promotion of survival and is a moral positive MERELY because we do it now much more aggressively than in the past.

    3) This all sounds like the non-philosophy of pragmatism, without ever explaining what it means for something “to work” or to be a “positive”.

  24. Klasie, the assertions continue. . .backed up by web links. Would you like us to provide other links, or continue to assert that YEC (which isn’t even the majority Christian position these days) is “simply way off”? And, that we should consult the “hard evidence”, as if the YEC, and OEC (non theistic evolutionist. . i.e. Hugh Ross) folks don’t consider themselves to have any “hard evidence”. You continue to use prejorative terms here.

  25. Doug, a Christian faith that depends upon invalidating well-established science is a shaky faith indeed. Our faith must transcend heliocentrism, evolution, or whatever the perceived scientific “threat” of the age might be.

  26. Klasie, don’t take my humor for flippancy. My question about cats, thought silly on its surface, actually speaks to the arbitrary assertion that evolution is all about survival. The only reason we say that evolution, as far as I can tell, is merely because, well, we’ve survived and we’re here now…

    I made this clarification so you know that I’m not trying to be disrespectful towards you by just saying something completely off the wall that offers nothing to the conversation.

  27. Klasie, That mutation rates differ widely among species does not approach an effective rebuttal. Again, we could be off by magnitudes and omni-Darwinism would still be untenable.
    Bacteria evolves at a much greater rate than any mammal, correct? Well, how much new mutagenic information has been added during Lenski’s 25 year study? (Again, the lab is providing artificial environmental pressures to expedite natural selection. We therefore have many thousands of generations subjected to extreme “Punk Eek” environments. What have we got?)

  28. A question: how exactly did the superfast “micro”evolution in the post-Noahic flood world happen? By what mechanism, if not lots of mutations occurring within seconds (not days) of each other?

    Take the horse. Two of them on the ark, according to YECs, turn into all species of the horse “kind” today. Zebras, donkeys, onagers, kiangs, etc. There wouldn’t be much time for all the genetic variation within the horse kind, except supernatural intervention or really really fast genetic mutations. (So how did the zebra get its stripes?) You can do this thought-experiment for any “kind” on the ark.

    Since this is a hypothesis–any reading of Genesis is–its prediction can be verified by genomic studies.

  29. All the attention! Makes one feel so special! :)

    So, brief answers:

    Will – I disagree on point 5 – a literal Adam is not needed for “the theology to work”. See Enns on this. Also, I view ID as a philosophy, not science.

    r_smo: Please look at the links I provided earlier. Also, maybe read through James Gleick’s excellent “The Information: A History, a theory, a flood” for a nice overview on information theory (it is not my field).

    Moor: I am not a fan of labels. And, currently I’m going through a bit of a re-think on some of these. I used to think of myself as a TE, if that helps. But I find that I like some of what Spinoza writes, so now I do not know.

    Josh – yes and no. Basically though, science is a pretty difficult place for grand conspiracies. Pretty significant ideas have been overthrown in the past. I’m always open to better explanations of the data. Ideology in science is stupid.

    Matthias: Plausible theories are different from stopgaps.

    Brian: So you want to interrogate me, eh? One could call me a Spinozan-Bayesian rationalist. But I’m not a fan of pigeonholes. And I’m not an expert on all the philosophical schools either. What is your epistemology?

    Wesley – no, the process doesn’t have an agenda. It floated to the top :) (I actually enjoyed the humour in your reply, no worries!). Survival is the result of the “blind process”. It is not designed as such – that would be a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

    Aaron: I’m not an expert in everything, therefore I reference. When it comes to geology, I do know however that YEC is out to lunch. And then some. But a short blog reply is quite insufficient for that. So, although you dislike to be referred, I’d refer you to the blog of a friend of mine, as well as one other: The first is a blog called the Geochristian – and he has a page with his “Best of” articles – which you can find here: http://geochristian.wordpress.com/best-of/ The other blog has not been updated since 2012, but has some real gems:
    http://questioninganswersingenesis.blogspot.ca/

    Mark: Not addressed to me, but I have been saying that for a long time.

    Jay: I do not know about newer results. All that I can say is based on my very limited knowledge of genetics, population growth etc (of the latter I learnt most in an Applied Math class, btw), I suspect that we are dealing with a Dynamical System here, and therefore basic stats is not applicable, and thus the argument could very well be invalid. But, as I said, I do not know much more than that, so I can’t comment further. Sorry.

  30. Moor,

    “I’m not a scientist, and so I ask this question with genuine ignorance: how is it that Doug is using 600,000 years and you are using 3,000,000,000?”

    I was giving Omni-Darwinists the most leeway possible. So I began with their supposed timeframe for the very beginning of Life itself ( which would be quite “simple” compared to modern organisms) up to perhaps the most complex organism we know of: namely us.
    Even given the maximum allotted time of three billion years, Omni-Darwinism utterly fails to explain the breathtaking additional genomic complexity between the first cell and modern humans.

    “It seems to me, at first glance, that you’re somehow suggesting that the changes occurred at an even rate across the whole span of time,”

    That’s not the intent, really. I’m just figuring (like Doug) an average rate. If there are huge mutagenic information leaps, then natural selection itself thus mutates into rather fishy phenomena. (If you know what I mean.)

    “Also (and again, there could be a simple answer here, I genuinely don’t know), doesn’t the model you suggested fail to account for all the other species? It seems like your model is only accounting for the fact of humanity, and not the infinitely complex series of mutations needed to account for every other form of life.”

    Yes, I think it does fail on several counts. I presume that humans are among the most complex creatures – which is why I used them/us in the argument; but it is simply fun trying to grant as much as we can – and still find Omni-Darwinism ridiculous.

    Regards,
    J

  31. @ David R – why? Why is it impossible that God breathed a soul (a supernatural thing) into natural things at a specific point in history?

  32. @Will – if you believe that Adam and Eve were real, then you must believe that sin entered the world through Adam, and death through sin (Romans 5:12). You can’t have evolution without death.

  33. “Josh – yes and no. Basically though, science is a pretty difficult place for grand conspiracies. Pretty significant ideas have been overthrown in the past. I’m always open to better explanations of the data. Ideology in science is stupid.”

    It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy, nor am I proclaiming one. The point is that the average person doesn’t have the time to personally study in detail (and provide synthesis to) the wide array of data points, across multiple fields, to make a personal judgment about these questions. The average person is left choosing an authority to trust. Secondly, it seems to be common, at times, for certain paradigms to dominate, seemingly providing all sorts of explanatory power for why and how things are the way they are. Under the Aristotelian paradigm, some brilliant people developed some brilliant stuff, with a certain amount of explanatory power. It just happened to be wildly wrong. Yet, for centuries, this is the paradigm that most everyone operated under. It was difficult for some to think in any way outside of that realm. And challengers to a paradigm are doing something very different than what happens in business (developing a product / service.)

    The question is, and always will be, why should I trust this paradigm, even if it stands for 800 years? What if in year 801 someone comes along and shatters it? After all, we’re talking about things that happened that no one observed, no one documented, etc. And we can’t even agree on who burned down the Library of Alexandria when there were people there watching, and warming their hands by the fire. I can easily imagine two peasant farmers and two brilliant, learned scientists having a conversation 800-1000 years ago about the idiocy of questioning the Aristotelian model. I mean, look how long it had held. Well, guess who is laughing now, suckers!

    And so, 800 years from now, people might, just might, be laughing at all of us. But no one, not even Jerry Coyne, has enough expertise to know, with certainty, how it all went down. And that is why serious doubts, even if somewhat wrong are misguided, are absolutely perfectly reasonable. I have respect for someone like John Lennox. I have respect for someone like Doug Wilson. I don’t claim to know how it all went down. But I will stand on the side of those who doubt the certainty of the Jerry Coyne’s of the world.

    It’s not a conspiracy….it’s just the way people think about things.

  34. Klasie is LOVING all the attention he is getting in these comments. You guys shouldn’t be arguing over evidence for evolution with. That will never work. Instead, we need to point out to him that if his Atheistic-evolutionist worldview can not account for truth, logic, proving, reasoning etc etc. These are all things he is appealing to in his comments, but they can’t exist if his worldview is correct. He is borrowing from the Christian worldview to argue for evolution. And he loves attention. More than Justin Bieber

  35. @David R, I agree that that has been a challenge in my thinking as well but what if we said (as Augustine did) said that human death entered the world through Adam. Animal and plant death were present before. I mean, what was Adam supposed to eat if not plants and animals. Further, Jesus ate fish in his resurrected body (which should tell us that animal death is not opposed to heaven).

    In other words, I don’t think we have to abandon a literal Adam (Augustine did not) to believe that animal death preceded him. Here is a post on that:

    http://blog.drwile.com/?p=259

    Is there a reason why that approach is unbiblical? I think we all accept plant death before the fall. Why not animal death?

  36. Will – I know that. But have you actually looked at what he is saying, and his reasons for saying so?

    Brian – did someone steal your sandwiches today? I’m interested in the subject matter, and I like to test my understanding/views by interacting with those I differ from. One never learns anything by interacting with dittoheads.

  37. @Will – I have no problem with plant death before the fall, since plants do not have blood. Animals do have blood and the Bible tells us that a) the life is in the blood and b) without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

  38. @David R, I have never heard that interpretation of death before (that it is about the blood). It was certainly lost on Augustine who wrote, “One might ask why brute beasts inflict injury on one another, for there is no sin in them for which they could be a punishment, and they cannot acquire any virtue by such a trial. The answer, of course, is that one animal is the nourishment of another. To wish that it were otherwise would not be reason- able. For all creatures, as long as they exist, have their own measure, number, and order.”

    Augustine did not think that animal death was the result of the fall.

  39. Klasie, I think that communions are important and that especially on matters of doctrine, we should not be quick to cast aside the wisdom of our elders. Enns went against his brethren and did not listen to correction. Protestants suck at unity because everyone does his own thing.

  40. Klasie, the Panda’s Thumb article provides us with an interesting buttress to the ID argument.
    He says,
    ” no more than 238 fixed beneficial mutations is what separates us from the last common ancestor of chimps and humans.”
    Immediately following this, we read,
    “You are probably sitting there astonished that we are around 240 genes away from our last common ancestor with the chimp and saying “this can’t be right”.
    Only 240? Gasp!
    Waitaminnit! Each individual gene – with 200,000 base pairs of DNA – appeared via a single mutation?
    So 240 total mutations added 48 million additional base pairs from proto chimp/man to homo sapiens?
    That is an awful lot of additional complex information in a single mutation.
    And these are just the protein coding genes. How many more changes had to occur for gene expression differences? How many actual morphological changes between species?

    And we still haven’t seen far more malleable genotypes over thousands of generations gain any new selectively advantageous base pairs – let alone entire genes!

    960 fixed beneficial mutations

  41. Jay, you (seem to) assume that each gene mutation implies a change in every single base pair. How certain are you of that assumption?

  42. The latter number in my last post (A missed copy/paste typo) of “960 fixed beneficial mutations” is the Panda’s Thumb author’s estimate of the sum total beneficial mutations from proto human/chimp to modern human.
    Well, even that (rather wild) guess puts the Ben Mute rate at one selectable gene mutation per 5200 years.
    This is for a creature that reproduces only once per year.
    Well, each female Drosophila reproduces with 100 offspring every ten days! That’s a reproductive rate about 3500 times faster than human beings. – and we’ve been watching them closely and applying selective pressures on them for many decades.
    (Note how much faster we can alter species with our own breeding techniques!)

    How many beneficial additional information mutations have we found?

    Don’t get me started (again) on E-Coli.

  43. “There are 40-45 million nucleotide bases present in humans that are missing from chimps, as well as about the same number present in chimps that are absent from humans. This amounts to ~40 million separate mutation events that would need to occur to separate these two kinds. ”

    Um, no.

    Differences in genes do not occur 1 nucleotide at a time. There can be large-scale omissions, insertions, gene-swapping, ect. that takes place hundreds or thousands of nucleotide bases at a time. There would NOT be 40 million separate mutation events. Gordon is referred to as a “scientist”, but either he’s a scientist who knows very little about DNA, or he is purposely misleading people.

    There are plenty of other false assumptions here, such as the idea that every one of the mutation events or changes is beneficial, when in fact there are many nucleotide swaps that can occur without the resultant amino acids changing, as well as multitudes of changes to noncoding DNA that would not result in any change in the organism.

    The conversation about the number of genes that would need to change appears to be a more accurate one.

  44. @Will – according to Genesis, prior to the flood, man only ate plants (Gen 9:2-3). They did not eat meat, so it can be reasonable to assume that animals probably didnt eat each other prior to the fall and maybe not until later than that. Now, only men are made in the image of God, but the blood of animals was used to cover sins, so their death, their blood had value.

  45. Jay – one would need to check that. How many base pair changes before one could consider a gene to be a different gene? I’ll see what I can discover.

  46. I did not see Jonathan’s post above before replying to Jay. It seems Jay has made an error in his initial assumptions.

    Comments Jay?

  47. Josh McGee’s post (the 2nd comment) is quite insightful, and it is a major issue.

    Honestly, the majority of us don’t know enough in most subjects to be able to adequately evaluate differences in “experts” who are contradicting each other.

    Personally, I earned a degree in biophysics and did some research in microbiology and biological imaging. But when discussions of global warming come up, I honestly am mostly relying on the fact that a great number of experts appear to be coming to some of the same conclusions, with little credible opposition. Since I’ve never studied climate science myself, it is difficult for me to evaluate their conclusions on their own merits, even though I have a degree in a relevant field.

    In evolution, I’m on firmer ground, since I spent a decent amount of time specifically studying evolution, especially origins of life. I personally think evolution becomes obvious once you see the fossil record, and homologous structures. When you add in what we’ve learned from DNA, and how remarkably well it confirms things that we had thought were true from the previous evidence, it becomes obvious. I honestly think that it cannot be possible for someone who actually understands evolution to disbelieve it without playing serious mind games on themselves.

    But I understand how people don’t believe it. Because honestly, it takes a LOT of study in order to get evolution. It’s like studying Isaiah – for us regular people to understand it, first we have to trust someone who collects the manuscripts, then we have to trust the translators, and then we have to trust a lot of people who put it into historical context for us. If we were forced to do that work on our own, then learning ancient Hebrew alone would require more study than most people are willing to devote to it! But we trust the historians, translators, and theologians who put the first pieces together for us, and we’re given something in our own language and with a little bit of context that we can understand.

    Scientists have done the same thing for us with evolution. Evolution is explained in a manner that most people can understand. But since there’s a certain % of people who don’t believe the evaluators of the data, even though there are literally millions of them who all agree on the fundamental points. Like translators of Hebrew, there may be arguments here and there, but no one who understands the field disagrees on the big picture.

    But because certain people who don’t understand the field have a vested interest in saying that everyone in the field is wrong, dissent remains. And people like Josh McGee come here, and see the dissent, and don’t know what to do. I don’t blame him. To me, someone who has actually studied evolution at the academic and research level, seeing Doug make ridiculous false claims about evolutionary theory (from the really silly “The Genius of Ancient Man” to these Coyne posts) is like seeing someone who doesn’t know Hebrew going off about how the translation of Isaiah is all wrong.

    But how would I convince someone else of that? Like Josh says, if they never have the time to go through the data themselves, who are they to trust?

  48. “…, if they never have the time to go through the data themselves, who are they to trust?”

    Oh good, a question that I can answer: “…what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

  49. RFB (and Brian, while I am at it): Never mind that you are ignoring the context (not a promising start for anyone who professes to find the source of truth in the written word), but that text is not saying what you want it to say.

    “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” – so God can be understood by creation. Thus studying creation would lead you to Him – thus all truth is God’s truth, right? So an honest examination of creation should lead us to truth then, without a prior assumptions, right? But some do not want to hear any conclusions that clash with their presuppositions. Thus it would be logical to say that their presuppositions are more precious than truth? I’m sure you wouldn’t want that – so grant people that people who, based on honest study, and come to different conclusions are not necessarily the spawn of Satan. After all, being saved is not about getting every fact right, is it?

    So lets have a decent discussion about the issues, without all these subtle insinuations or outright accusation and trash talk (that’s you, Brian).

  50. Jonathan, please show us where we might find empirical proof of significant mutagenic beneficial additions to the genome.
    As stated several times, we have decades of research, human-guided selective pressures, thousands of generations and offspring in the millions, much simpler and more malleable genomes, etc. – All these must provide some evidence of new bio-complexity at the genetic level by now, right? I mean, there does have to be a minimum rate of Darwinian-caused bio-complexity change for the theory to maintain plausibility.
    We’ve got the tools, the talent, and the right kind of critters.
    Where’s the beef?

    Also, have you read Michael Behe’s “Edge of Evolution”? (He’s a real smart sciencey guy like you. Ph.D University Pennsylvania.)
    Stephen C Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell”? (Another smarty. Heck, some people might think that a Ph.D in the Philosophy of Science prawly makes him even smartier than you!)

    You could give this a gander if you don’t have time.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/199326-1

  51. Jonathan- I got my degree in Biochemistry before going on the medical school, so I too have (or at one point had :) a working knowledge of both biochemical systems as well as evolutionary perspectives on them. I have to say, I am far from convinced by anything that I have learned about biology, especially the biology of the cell, that evolution driven by matter alone could produce life of any sort. In fact the extreme complexity of the biochemical machines inside even the most simple cells is mind blowing, and makes a random process impossible to my estimation. I would point to the basic argument in Darwin’s Black Box as a good way of understanding the problem I see with evolution. (I am sure the biochemistry in the book is out of date, but then isn’t all our data constantly becoming out of date)

    What I came away from both my study of biochemistry and later medicine, from great teachers who nevertheless were 100% Darwinists, is that Evolution is in many ways similar to Religious beliefs about God. A person starts off assuming there is no God, that evolution must have happened (lets face it, there is no other materialistic theory that even comes close to being as believable as Darwinian Evolution) and then they interpret the data accordingly. A theist does the same thing but with different assumptions and fits the data to his theory. Due to a lack of complete data and the complexity of the issue, both theories are going to have some problems- even if true!, but the believer in each finds creative solutions to overlook those problems or at least make them reasonable (while squinting).

    Your two examples, though not touching the true difficulties of evolution, are good case studies of this:

    The fossil record- we have an estimate of 1% of total species that ever lived preserved in the fossil record, and the vast majority of these are small sea creatures. That is like looking at canvas on a wall with 3 or 4 colored dots scattered around it and trying to discern what the painting is of! An evolutionist will ask a YEC why men or other mammals are not found in the layers supposedly laid down by the Flood, and a YEC will mock an evolutionist because there are no transitional fossils in the record. Are you serious? We are all taking a Roschwartz test (ok I didn’t actually look up how to spell that :)

    Homologous structures- Similar example, an evolutionist sees evidence of common descent. A YEC sees the hand of the same Creator and Artist developing a “vocabulary” he likes and then improvising and having fun with His creation.

    Neither of these actually provide “evidence” for their theory vs. the other, though both systems have developed good explanations. I will admit that I believe the Bible primarily because of Jesus and His work in my life, so I don’t come to this argument as an “objective observer” but I will say that the biochemical holes in Evolution make it fairly laughable right now, especially the unsolvable problem of where all this DNA, RNA, and the needed protein machines to maintain and reproduce them come from. Answer that question, and then give some real evidence of actual addition of meaningful genetic information in fast reproducing organisms like bacteria (not just transfer from somewhere else via phage or loss of data and functionality to convey resistance) and evolutionists will then have a theory that deserves taking seriously.

  52. While I think that the statistics presented by Wilson are flawed because of the complexities of genome organization and issues like generation time and so forth, for the sake of argument let us accept them and ask the question: What are the implications for young earth creationism? I would submit that Wilson has done no favors to any form of your earth creationism and in effect makes it as implausible as he thinks evolution is. One quick illustration: take the horse “kind” including zebras, horses, donkeys etc plus numerous fossil species. All of these are considered to have “evolved” from a common ancestor pair on the ark by most creationists just a short time ago. But look at their genomes; hundreds of millions of individual base pair differences, thousands of fixed gene differences, different chromosome numbers etc.. If we apply Wilson’s stats to this particular example we will end up having to argue that these “horses” are diverged from a common ancestor 100 million years ago, far earlier than even evolutionists predict. The same would be true for many other groups of species like coyotes, dogs and wolves much less all foxes being represented by a single ancestral pair on Noah’s ark. Joel

  53. Klasie, regarding the number of base pairs that would be required to make a new gene, I doubt there is any single answer other than “it depends.” If we define a gene by function then the number would be any number that causes that strip of sequence to take on a new function. In some cases it could be one single bp out of thousands if it changes the active site of an enzyme. I work on the gene, leptin, in which the fish version and the human version are only 25% similar at the nucleotide (base pair) level but that sequence makes amino acids that fold up into the same structure and the active site where the hormone binds to the receptor fits exactly the same way. So the sequence can have massive numbers of differences but still retain the function and thus is the same gene. On the other hand, the same gene has duplicated in lizards and the version that sits in the same genome position as is found in all reptiles/mammals has a different sequence and computer modeling suggests probably doesn’t have the same function while the second copy not found in another part of the genome has conserved structure and now likely functions as the acting leptin hormone. It would be hard to use a formula to ask how many genes could be created by chance when different mutations have very different effects. Joel

  54. Jay, did you read the Biologos link I provided earlier? It discusses, and answers Behe’s criticism of the E Coli experiment. I presume you are channeling the Discovery Institute in your comments here.

  55. Klasie,

    A “plausible theory” is simply a stopgap that gets respect :) Even the idea of “plausibility” is on the table as far as this issue is concerned, so “plausible” begs the question.

    I often put it this way… The Creationist scheme isn’t quite a God-of-the-gaps as much as the contrary is an evolution-of-the-gaps. The difference is, while we certainly aren’t incorrect for appealing to God for any gap a scientific explanation cannot presently fill, the evolutionary scheme tends to preclude the possibility of the other. The neo-Darwinian evolutionary scheme explains what happened without (excepting punctuated equilibrium) appealing to the deus ex machina of miracle, or otherwise non-natural mechanism (which incidentally requires denial of the Bible’s, and hence God’s, account of supernatural mechanism). The theistic-evolutionist scheme takes the neo-Darwinian scheme for granted and says, “Goddidit.”

    And just so that I’m clear…are you a Christian? It doesn’t look like you’ve made the point to either affirm or deny it outright, but I’d rather not assume.

    Regards,
    Matthias

  56. Klasie, did you read Behe’s criticism of the criticism(s)?
    I read Behe before I knew what the Discovery Institute was; but yes, I think the gist of their arguments are sound.
    So did a respected public intellectual atheist by the name of Antony Flew, BTW.
    But hey, if you go to Wikipedia, you’ll find that every one of the DI’s scientists is actually a shrieking obscurantist – striving mightily to deconstruct the natural sciences and replace them with shrines in honor of Flat Earthers, Spontaneous Generation, and the Glorious Trials Of Salem, Massachusetts.

  57. Jay – not being a biomolecular scientist, I’ll leave them to duel it out :) I note thought hat there are several other criticisms of Behe as well, but since I acknowledge that my knowledge in this area is lacking I won’t pursue this. Maybe Joel and Jonathan has some more input here?

    As to name calling, I have been called several here already, so let’s not go down that road.

    Matthias – a plausible theory is one that explains the evidence. Speaking from a geological perspective, there is no way I can fir the earth’s geology in the time span the YEC crowd would like – I can stand on my head and squint really hard while revolving my legs, but some pegs just won’t fit into some holes. There is a big difference between theories that are incomplete, and ones that are non-starters.

  58. Klasie,

    Well, I absolutely have presuppositions, and so “I cannot choose but adhere to the word of God, which has possession of my conscience”…

    He clearly says that “what may be known of God is manifest in tehm, for God has shown it to them.” and in another place says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is”, and so in the instant issue, the judgement is called “men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”.

    Regarding the spawn of Satan: God clearly establishes that there is such a category of which all occupy absent turning in faith. “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil…”

    In another place He declares a “why” for such a judgment: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

    You are correct that being saved from falling into the hands of a living God is not about getting “every fact” right. But there is one “fact” that is required: “… we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    Klasie, this is not (only) about your presuppositions or winning in a discussion. This has eternal implications, and I as difficult as it may be for you, I sincerely implore you to bow the knee of your intellect to One far above you, the God who is.

    RFB out.

  59. Klasie,

    I’d say a “theory” is an explanation of the evidence. But “plausible” depends on what the theorist finds to be “possible.” For instance, what isn’t “possible” cannot in turn be “plausible.” As a Christian, I hold that God determines what is possible (as the sovereign Creator of everything in nature). Especially where God is concerned (which, really, is everywhere), there is no neutrality concerning “possibility.” Any explanation that doesn’t take God’s Word as truth cannot be “plausible.” You seemed to insinuate above that Adam and Eve did not have to literally exist in order for the theology to be true. But until a workable theory of evolution came about, exactly who in history could possibly have understood Genesis correctly, if what you’re saying is true?

    Also, are you a Christian? Thanks for the exchange, by the way.

    Regards,
    Matthias

  60. Ryan – as to your comments regarding the fossil record – it fits in with the geology. A 6000 year-old earth that experience a global flood would necessarily show a jumbled record. That is not what we see.

    One instance: The very first fossils we know of are stromatolites – algal mats captured in sediment. They had to be the first – because the early earth had an atmosphere with nothing like the current levels of oxygen (isotopic studies in ancient rocks confirm this). But the cyanobacteria making up the stromatolites merrily went on with photosynthesis – increasing the oxygen levels till it reached a tipping point – and we got the relatively abrupt occurrence of red beds across the planet – called red because of the formation of hematite (iron oxide – rust). This occurred in the Proterozoic, and made the planet friendlier to life.

    Here’s another: about 1200m below where I currently am is the Elk Point Group which stretches from Centre-East Alberta all the way to southern Manitoba (E-W), and from Central Saskatchewan all the way to North Dakota (N-S). One of the members in this group is the Prairie Evaporite Formation – which consists of salts (mostly halite, but very importantly, also the world’s biggest and most consistent sylvite deposits – potash). It is bounded by carbonates above and below – carbonates that form in a marine environment. During the Devonian, there were spells which the basin was cut-off from the open ocean, and in the relatively shallow water, salt deposition could take place. Examination of the rocks shows that this was a very complex process, with many cycles of salt deposition, with thin clay beds forming in between some of these cycles. Eventually, the evaporites were covered by carbonates, and later on, in a progressive cycle, by clastic sedimentary rocks, all the way up to the Cretaceous. But it was still low – lying – in Central Saskatchewan we have a big kimberlite field – small maar-diatreme volcanoes, that we can see erupted both sub-aerially and sub -aqueously. These erupted on an ancient shore line, during the Creaceous. They were eventually covered by other sediments – most of which were scraped off during the last glacial period, with 100m + of glacial till dumped on top of these.

    The evidence is all there. The fossil record fits. The radiometric dating fits. The sedimentology fits. The volcanology fits. And yes, some of this material is of vital economic importance, so you cannot go screw-up the data to fit any pet theories.

    I’m not even talking about other areas of the world I have some expertise in – like the geology of Southern Africa, from the Archean greenstone belts, through the ancient (Archean) delta’s that hosts the world’s biggest gold deposits, the carbonates that host massive iron and the largest Manganese deposits on the planet, the intrusive magmatic complex that follwed and hosts the world richest platinum mines, various other sedimentary successions, follwed by a glacial period, and a progression from wet to dry sediments, from great fluvial successions hosting coal fields, to dry aeloian seds that today form beautiful sandstone cliffs – capped off by a huge flood basalt that covered massive areas of Gondwanaland, and can still be seen in Southern Africa, Australia, Antarctica and South America. And I could go on – km and km of sediments, metamorphic rocks and igneous intrusions and extrusions – all still fitting in very nicely with various isotopic systems, with a progressive fossil record, etc etc.

    Now try and fit that into a 6000 year timespan. Good luck with that.

  61. Mattias – by plausible I mean something that is both possible, and fits the data. And no, seeing the condemnation that flows so easily here, I’m not going to say anything about my faith or otherwise.

    RFB – so, can a man go to heaven while believing that Genesis is figurative, and intended to set the stage for God’s dealings with man (and at the same time kick turn Babylonian / Egyptian origin stories on their heads), and that, on par with many ancient writings, truth and myth are thoroughly intertwined for pedagogical purposes? Don’t give me the nice “I want to save your soul” story – I am thoroughly familiar with all of it, with a background in Calvinism (including a stint as a Wilson-groupie :) ), Lutheranism and pelagian evangelicalism. And that is all I am going to say about the personal side here.

  62. Klasie,

    No need to be insulting by calling me nice.

    And by the way, since you insist on answers, here’s one:


    “Who is this who darkens counsel
    By words without knowledge?
    Now prepare yourself like a man;
    I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
    “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
    Tell Me, if you have understanding.
    Who determined its measurements?
    Surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
    To what were its foundations fastened?
    Or who laid its cornerstone,
    When the morning stars sang together,
    And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

    I think that that there is a possibility that: http://tinyurl.com/kj8dk2e

    ;)

  63. Klasie,

    Thanks for replying. I’m only wondering what level of agreement we have on other things. I don’t want to be speaking past you, and I want to determine whether there is a… well, language barrier of sorts.

    Does it not make sense that Christians and non-Christians would consider opposing things to be “possible,” given what the Bible says about reality? Further, what does it mean that a theory “fits the data”? Explains it “well”? Simply references the data? In the first case, it seems to beg the question. In the second, well, Creationism is perfectly plausible as far as you’re concerned. If neither, then what?

    Matthias

  64. Matthias – I don’t buy into presuppositionalism – especially the van Tilian sort. Furthermore, I was baptised in the Dutch Reformed faith, grew up evangelical/sectarian, returned to Calvinism because of Wilson, then left it for (Confessional) Lutheranism, based on theological study / contemplation. So I don’t really know which “language barriers” there can be – except that English is actually not my mother tongue.

    Creationism, of the YE variety is not plausible (and here I’m limiting myself to geology for the sake of the argument, since that is a subject I am well versed in), because it does not fit the facts / or be made to fit the acts, and has no explanatory power. See my post above for a glimpse into these issues.

  65. BTW, for those interested, Joel Duff here runs the excellent blog, Naturalis Historia, that specifically deals with these issues. Click on his name for a link.

    He is also much irenic than I am…

  66. Klasie,

    Alright, but regardless of the Christian apologetic efforts regarding presuppositions, does it not make sense that a person’s standard of “possible” will determine whether he considers any individual fact or theory to “possible”? And thereby plausible? I don’t think you have to hold to a reformed epistemology in order to admit that the color of glasses on a person’s nose will determine what color he sees everything beyond them to be tinted.

    The reason I bring up the difference in language (And I do mean philosophically) is that, for instance, those who are called “norm expressivists” with regard to morality consider any moral claim to be simply an expression of the individual’s personal feeling toward it (even, and especially, if the claim is framed to be “objective”). Their worldview with regard to morality has no provision whatsoever, no objective basis, for absolute moral claims, so they can only relegate objective-sounding claims to subjective taste. They translate it into their language, as it were. If you were not a Christian, there would be some terms requiring translation, in a sense.

    A plausible theory is one that fits the facts – which means it has explanatory power – which means it explains facts well – which is determined by… what? These all seem to be tautologies, and a vicious circle seems to be forming.

    Matthias

  67. Mattias – be careful though that you don’t get so tied to presuppositions that you fall into postmodernist malaise.

    So – here we have a series of tracks. An animal formed them, it seems. They are thin with 4 points – so a bird would fit. Then they are far apart and large – so a larger bird. They are flat, and there is no evidence for a claws – so it would be reasonable to assume they are from a crane. Do we have any other known crane tracks. Do they seem to fit. Yes? Ok – my theory is that these tracks were formed by a crane. Evidence to the contrary would be welcome

    Simple example, but no different to anything I do. What I mean to say is that assumption that the colour of one’s glasses are so extreme that the crane footprints (for me) look like a news report on baseball to you. Hmm – no. The serious consequence of taking worldview difference too far, is to effectively deny the possibility of knowledge – since how would you know if your glasses are same as mine, since the agreement in language doesn’t mean that they are the same etc etc. But then you also destroy the basis of understanding Scripture, for how do you know what you think you understand is what the Text actually says – and a nice reductio will show you where this is all headed – each of us captives of our own senses, worldviews and who knows what.

  68. Klasie,

    Well, I’m not saying that everyone is correct in their opposing worldviews, and I’m not saying dialogue is impossible between people of different worldviews. But, especially with a discussion such as evolution, “possibility” makes a huge difference. For one person it’s possible that God sent a worldwide flood which drastically altered the earth’s topography. Another person says it’s impossible. He doesn’t believe God exists. So a theory which takes the possibility of a flood into account would be “plausible” to the person who finds a flood “possible.” The other person obviously would not.

    The “facts” (or material observations) are never the issue. The *meaning* of facts necessarily is.

    So upon what basis of possibility are you arguing evolutionary theory, a theory which would force you to believe that no one rightly understood Genesis until a workable theory of evolution came about? What basis of “possibility” are you arguing from? It requires a deviation from most (and by that I mean a percentage in the upper 90s) people in church history, and their understanding of Genesis, in order to hold to it. Or let me ask you this way: what hazard do you see in taking Genesis literally? What hazard do you see in interpreting the physical data and evidence in a way that assumes a literal understanding of Genesis?

    Matthias

  69. Matthias – well, not all the Church fathers held to a literal Genesis either.

    But as to your question in your last paragraph – anyone who comes to the actual evidence – again, I’m limiting myself to geology, would realize that a literal reading of Genesis makes no sense given reality. If they are told it is either literal or nothing – well, then they will walk away from the faith (under those conditions).

    I don’t know if you saw my comment earlier that I was a YEC’ist, till I had to admit (kicking and screaming) that it simply is not possible.

  70. So, on what grounds do you believe that Genesis has to be literal?

    Do you think we should take the context (language, culture, mythology, understanding of nature and the cosmos) of the primary audience (ie Bronze Age Middle-Easterners, Iron Age Jews and Romans etc) into account when we read Scripture? Would it be ok to read these Texts as a modern person would?

  71. Klasie,

    I’ll answer in reverse order.

    I think reading them “how a modern person would” read them is resulting in holding to a non-literal view of Genesis. It is my opinion that the non-literal understanding of Genesis is the novel understanding. It’s difficult for me to suppose that reading a text where names are named, lineages are given, and no indication (“Then Moses spoke a parable…”) that it’s anything other than literal, should be taken figuratively. Absolutely the culture of the people at that time should be taken into account…but get this: the Bible describes the culture of the people at that time, doesn’t it?

    You say, “a literal reading of Genesis makes no sense given reality. ” I happen to think it makes perfect sense, go figure! Of course, I would alter it (in line with “taking every thought captive in making it obedient to Christ”) and say that, “modern evolutionary theory makes no sense given God’s word on reality.” It seems the difference is that you’re interpreting the Bible “given reality.” Instead of interpreting reality “given God’s word.”

    Matthias

  72. Matthias – ok, so you are interpreting reality though Scripture, right?

    But, you realise that you are interpreting Scripture already, aren’t you? You obviously came to Scripture with certain ideas, concepts, etc. You read text in English, that have been translated. You understand language in a certain way – you accept something is literal when it is written like this, or poetical when it is written like that. Youassume knowledge of the ancient world based on what exactly? Further to this, you assume many doctrines based on the decisions of the Early Church. A lot of things were up in the air till the Councils pinned them down. For a while, Arianism was the majority understanding.

    What I’m saying is that you take the baggage you approach Scripture as the supreme authority then – because you do not allow yourself to question that at all – actually, you choose to remain pretty oblivious to it. Reading, testing, correlating, re-interpreting, testing, correlating – that is what you should be doing. But you have chosen a very specific approach, and do not allow yourself to question. An unfalsifiable statement is bogus, and disingenuous, is it not?

    You are subtly assuming a blank slate, while that is most emphatically not the case.

    Before you choose to swing that around – I realize that I might very well have preconceptions. That is why I try to discover them, test them, refine/discard where possible/necessary, glance in my blind spots etc etc. That is also the reason I discarded YEC’ism. Maybe take a look at Denis Lamoureux’s presentations regarding the reading of Genesis (I gave a link on the previous post).

  73. Some of this has kind of been pointed out earlier in this thread, but I’d just like to reiterate that so far every claim calling evolution into question is

    a) subject to its own criticism: if things are too complex to have developed in a long period of time they are also too complex to have developed in a short period of time; if God can act in a short period of time — not just the 6 days but post-flood as well — then he can act similarly over a long period of time; if we cannot presuppose mathematics then we cannot criticize evolutionary theory using mathematics; if we’re dealing with a complex system, then judging its likelihood using linear models is completely inappropriate (note that a YECer *must* believe this); it’s always turtles all the way down, no matter what your starting point is (i.e smug presuppositionalism doesn’t actually get you where you think it does, in fact it doesn’t get you anywhere at all, but it does make you look like a jerk).

    b) question-begging in a way that misunderstands the scientific project: a scientific investigation is never fully over, meaning that a 100%-complete-no-questions-left scientific understanding is not possible, so playing “gotcha!” by pointing out things which have not yet been explained serves no purpose. It doesn’t seem like anyone in this thread believes scientific investigation is worthless, so we need to just accept what it can and cannot do as well as what it has and has not done. What it has done is build up an impressive body of evidence suggesting that evolution by natural selection occurring over a long period of time (much more than 6,000 years) has occurred; what it has not done is fill in all the blanks as to the precise mechanisms by which that has occurred. Note also that Christians generally don’t have an issue with “now I know in part…” which is why YECers generally don’t even bother trying to explain observed phenomena that don’t fit neatly into a YEC framework. The point is that in any tit-for-tat “gotcha!” game YECers are going to lose, so it’s probably better to just not play that game.

    c) that said, evolutionary science is able to explain much more now than it could 50 years ago — much less 150 — while YEC is able to explain less and less (where “able to explain” means “provide an explanation which is consistent with itself and with observable facts”). Casting some doubt on some particularity of present evolutionary theory is not the same as providing evidence in favor of YEC, and as more information is uncovered the knowledge trajectory is not in a direction which should make YEC folks comfortable. Evolutionary science is advancing and improving — quite rapidly, in fact — while YEC “science” remains at the level of assertion, and it’s just not possible to dispute that. Hence the reliance on presuppositionalism, “bottles fizzing” analogies, etc. But these are distractions. YEC does not answer any questions with evidence. YEC does not explain any observed phenomena other than that things do indeed exist (which is not the topic of discussion). YEC does not even *propose* an explanation which is consistent with basic facts, but they then attack those who not only propose explanations but use every means at their disposal to test them for not conducting tests which are rigorous enough. YECers would do well to reflect on their intellectual project; it demands a burden of proof from others that it is unwilling to demand of itself. This is not arguing in good faith (so to speak).

    d) God is not trying to trick you. If the observable evidence strongly suggests that the earth is > 6,000 years old — and it does, accordingly to something like 97-99% of polled natural scientists… even Behe believes in common descent — and the evidence that the earth is =< 6,000 years old rests solely on one particular inference from some passages which don't even say "6,000" in anything like plain terms, then my suggestion is to go with the evidence and adjust your textual inferences accordingly. The Bible is not the Whole History of Everything. It omits 80% of the life of its central figure… it may have omitted some stuff about the longue duree of evolution as well. It's possible to believe that without throwing anything else away (although the 6 day thing gets a bit trickier), as we learned when we cast aside geocentrism. Like geocentrism, the 6,000 year hypothesis may have been reasonable in the absence of disconfirming evidence, but it is not reasonable in the face of such evidence. We're facing that evidence. It is not holy to be unreasonable. The good Reverend Bayes tells us to update our priors when we receive new information.

  74. Remember Ben Stein’s docu-movie Expelled? Klasie here is offering arguments, not viruses, but some evolutionists defend their hypothesis by brute force, it seems, rather than by dialogue or even references to dialogue. Scientific American magazine, I’ve read, will not even take paid ads from creationists. That’s SA’s privilege, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem scientific. (Publish with disclaimers, refer to arguments elsewhere, but simply refuse?)
    Must YECs believe in massive, though not trans-kind, biological changes mostly in, say, the few hundred years after Noah’s flood? Then Pastor Wilson had better allow for SOME fast progress (or, movement).
    VanTileanism is certainly metaphysics–triune Jehovah is the source of love, knowledge, logic, language, etc., including for atheists (baby girl has to sit on daddy’s lap to slap him)–but when presented as the epistemological door all arguments must VERBALLY walk through, and this in lieu of answering the arguments as arguments, mmm, may be worth mentioning, and might be decisive in some senses, but not necessarily satisfying to people; it may not be the missing puzzle piece, the thing some people really need.

  75. Expelled has been debunked, quite thoroughly: A collection of half-truths, lies and political spin, al nicely wrapped up so that the guillible Evangelical crowd will lap it up as the latest salvo in the self-perpetuating culture war. See http://www.expelledexposed.com

  76. I’m confused by the people who use language like “believers accept the Bible because of X, but nonbelievers accept evolution because of Y.”

    Those of us who are speaking about evolution here are Christians.

    As far as believing that evolution could only exist if theologically guided – of course that’s true. The whole universe could only exist if theologically guided. I have no doubt of that. Now, I’m not sure if that means that God influences the process directly the whole way through, or if He just set up initial conditions in such a way that the results were preordained to some degree. But yes, I certainly believe that all natural processes are guided by God. But I also believe that’s not a fact that science could ever shed light on one way or the other.

    As far as the idea that the Church Fathers all believed in a literal 7-day creation, that’s not true. Of course they didn’t believe in evolution, no more than they believed in quantum physics. But even Augustine didn’t believe in a 7-day creation – he interpreted other portions of the Bible to imply that the whole world was created instantaneously, rather than in 7 days, but with the capacity to develop. Gregory of Nyssa also argued for a slowly developing creation rather than one in which all the forms were known from the beginning.

  77. Klasie- Why would things have to be heterogeneous and mixed or “jumbled” in a Global Flood scenario? Wouldn’t things tend to separate by their sizes and masses? One might guess they would be jumbled, but then seeing the evidence reexamine, try experiments, and then come up with a plausible explanation of why they are layered. I believe that is the proper scientific response. But you still base your experiments on your presuppositions about what you think happened, either millions of years or thousands with the Flood. Again, I didn’t say the fossil record didn’t “fit” the old earth evolutionary view, but rather that it is so spotty as to practically “fit” anything. A scientist is able to “fit” it to their theory just fine. I have read plenty of creationist theories that sound just as plausible to me.

    I won’t comment further on the geology as I don’t know as much about it. All I will say is that given the complete blindness to holes in the current scientific consensus in the areas I do know, biology and biochemistry, I have grave doubts about other fields as well that are dependent on trying to figure out what “happened” in the past rather than what is currently “happening” on the Earth. The conclusions are too dependent on presuppositions coming into the investigations and theory development, as well as what is allowed to be “plausible”. What happens when radioactive dating is inconsistent with other isotopes, or with the presumed geological ages of the fossils? An answer is decided based on what is most likely and the inconsistencies often filed away. (Take a look at Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it has some bearing on this perspective)

    Also, you mention that in order to be “plausible” something has to be possible and fit the data. I think our definition of what is considered possible is probably different (ie historical miracles). From a data standpoint, was early evolutionary theory and old earth geology “plausible” back when there was such limited data even to evaluate the theories. What if we didn’t have 200 years of thousands of scientists trying to fit the historical data to the theory. Does it become less plausible? I’m only asking, if we had a miracle of thousands of scientists suddenly becoming convinced of a young earth, might they not over the next 200 years form a seemingly impervious system of explanation that would be just as convincing for the data as the current consensus? Again, I am more applying my experience of how a scientific consensus works in one field to another I know much less about.

    As one commentator mentioned earlier none of us has the time to fully investigate all of these fields and questions, so I will stick to God’s Word which I judge to be trustworthy based on the testimony of Jesus and His Apostles. Though we may not always understand how our current information and data fits with this, it does help to not be swept from one wind of doctrine to another as the scientific consensus constantly shifts across the centuries.

  78. Jonathan-

    I assume you know that evolution was developed as a theory to explain how living things could exist without a creator? The whole reason for the theory is to explain how order could come about by chance. If God exists, there is no need for the theory. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t develop a theory about how things changed slowly over time, but that would not be biological evolution as currently used in common or scientific usage. This doesn’t say anything about its truth or not, but it does point out how careful you have to be when speaking about evolution, especially as a Christian. As commonly used and as used by most scientists it is the theory of how life came about by UNGUIDED PROCESSES. The theory is completely useless as a theory for where life came from if God is guiding it, unless by guiding you mean “standing back and watching what He made randomly produce life”, as the assumptions on which it is built fall apart. I don’t mean that the use of the theory hasn’t opened up some understanding about how previously created life might change over time through inherent variation as well as mutation leading to information loss or functional loss (ie bacterial antibiotic resistance through the loss or decrease in function of enzymes or transport structures necessary for the antibiotic to work). This gain in scientific knowledge is nice but doesn’t validate the theory, anymore than the development of velcro validates the desire to step on the moon. The basic premise of unguided development of complex creatures from non-living things is flawed and in and of itself useless for biological explanation.

    That doesn’t mean a Christian couldn’t believe in some sort of gradual creation (though I can’t get past the contradiction with the details in Genesis), but don’t call it evolution. And I would ask you seriously, why should we have such a theory? I suspect it is the pressure of an unbelieving world, as well as a scientific establishment that we don’t want to offend, and the suspicion at the back of our minds that for so many people to believe something it must have overwhelming evidence. However, there is only “evidence” for evolution if you assume there is no creator and that naturalistic explanations are the only valid theories. Then of course you have evidence… all these dang living things you have to explain somehow! I will stress again that as eloquent and flexible of a theory it is, it doesn’t actually solve the problem of life, no matter how much hand-waving.

    In Christ,
    Ryan

  79. Is there no middle way of caution, my friends? On the one hand, we had thousands of years where people understood the Bible to affirm the Geocentric universe. (The “Sun, stand ye still”, etc.) Eventually we came to understand that we are in a Heliocentric system.
    The verses that speak as though the Sun goes round the earth were thereafter understood to be the mere “language of appearance” by Christian Scholars.

    Genesis is obviously far more foundational and relevant to discussions about the nature of nature. But a strict and dogmatic adherence to the “Ordinary Day” YEC model in the teeth of, as far as I can understand, mountains of contrary evidence is dangerous. (I’m not talking about “Apparent Age” like a brand new full-grown Adam and Eve, but the sort of evidence that would be equivalent to wear on Adam’s teeth, graying hairs on Eve’s head, Crow’s Feet and wrinkles on their faces, and so on…)

    So, in the same manner, it may be that we have to revise our understanding of Genesis.

    On the other hand,
    Darwin’s elegant theory held extraordinary explanatory power. So much so that it had quickly dominated the biological sciences. So powerful was this theory, it even produced history’s most plausible excuse for the disbelief in God. As Dawkins famously put it, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. Now, full blown atheism should provide no intellectual fulfillment for anybody since it can always and only be a position of faith. But if we hold that Omni-Darwinism – unguided, non purposive, blind processes; along with interminable pressures of Predation, Disease, and Death upon creatures desperate to live and breed – explains all the APPARENT design of Bio-Complexity, we have effectively ruled out the God of Genesis.
    It may be that, as CS Lewis believed, that Gen.1-2 were written ” in the form of a folk tale”, and might thus be open to some interpretive leeway. But the idea of Omni-Darwinism simply contradicts the narrative.
    Where is there the slightest hint of a God that, for a time, Creates, RESTS(!), and calls His work very good?
    Death does not enter through sin – even for man alone. Rather, man is produced VIA the struggle of life with the power of death!
    How could Omni-Darwi possibly be reconciled with whole narrative of Eve: why she is made, THAT she is made FROM Adam, etc.?


    It is admitted by Darwinists that there are gaps and anomalies in the theory. Many of you do not find them insuperable; but there are many excellent accredited scientists that do.
    If God exists, there is not – and never shall be – any case beyond reasonable doubt that Omni-Darwinism is the cause of all life and bio-complexity due to the nature of the theory and the limitations of the data.
    So, with these considerations, and if the theory diverges so widely from the Biblical narrative, should we not give the narrative of Genesis more of the benefit of the doubt?

    And on the other hand, considering the reams of data that contradict the YEC – along with the history of geocentrism, etc. should we also not be ready to re-assess many aspects of our understanding of the Genesis Creation narrative?

    In short: Watch out for Babies in the Bathwater.

  80. A correction to my last post, if I may…
    “full blown atheism should provide no intellectual fulfillment for anybody since it can always and only be a position of faith”
    I should have added, “…in an unprovable Negative”

    Moor,
    I think a mouthful Forbidden Fruit had something to do with it. ;)

  81. For those who are citing Michael Behe as an example of an educated scientist who opposes evolution, I’m under the impression that even Behe believes the evidence points to the common descent of species. He just believes that it was too complex to have happened without an intelligent designer over the process. This is from Darwin’s Black Box:

    “Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin’s mechanism – natural selection working on variation – might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small.” Darwin’s Black Box, pp 5–6.

  82. Jay, since you referred to “The Edge of Evolution” as an example of a book in your favor, how do you feel about this quote?

    “For example, both humans and chimps have a broken copy of a gene that in other mammals helps make vitamin C. … It’s hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans. … Despite some remaining puzzles, there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earth are biological relatives.” The Edge of Evolution, pp 71–2.

    As I’ve been saying, the evidence here is really, really strong.

  83. To clarify, Behe believes in common descent, the interrelation of all species, the anatomical and genetic evidence for evolution, the old age of the Earth, etc. – he just believes that it was all too complex to have occurred via random mutation. Which is actually a belief that I agree with in several aspects too.

  84. Ryan – I think we agree on more than you know. My original statement to Pastor Wilson about evolution held some of the same points that you are saying. In short, the biological claims of evolution and the philosophical/theological claims of evolution are two different things. People who understand the biological claims of evolution and know how do investigate them definitely should. Some of those claims (such as the idea that random mutation of base pairs plus natural selection is how evolution came about) are false, and should be shown to be so.

    The problem comes about when people who don’t actually understand the science try to make or evaluate such claims, and end up saying ridiculous things. Pastor Wilson recently positively reviewed a book that said that because civilizations 1000-5000 years ago did complicated things, therefore evolution is shown to be a farce. To believe such a claim requires one to hold such a ridiculously ignorant view of the theory of evolution that I began strongly advising that Pastor Wilson NOT try to comment on evolution’s scientific merits anymore, to avoid leading other Christians astray and damaging the Christian witness. In doing so I am in line with Augustine, who wrote:

    “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

    The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

    Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

  85. Okay, to finally get to the point that we agree on. ;)

    The problem with evolution, apart from continued development of the science, is that many people who promote evolution have then abused the theory to make false philosophical or theological statements. The scientific theory of evolution does NOT support such statements. The people promoting such statements are often scientists who actually know little about philosophy or theology, and it shows.

    I very much believe that knowledgeable Christians, including Pastor Wilson, should engage the evolutionists who believe such things at this point and rebuke them. I wrote a lengthy paper about that in a graduate school course on Judeo-Christian Education. Saying that evolution is based on “chance”, or that it comes about via “unguided processes”, or that it is “random”,* or that it shows there is “no creator” or “no purpose”, are all unscientific, untrue statements. They have not been proven, most of them can’t be proven, and they are the result of people trying to overlay their own beliefs on top of scientific evidence. In all that you are completely correct.

    But saying that you oppose those theological and philosophical statements about evolution is different than saying you oppose the age of the earth, the common descent of species, etc. And most people here appear to be doing the later for the sake of the former.

    * I should note that the term “random” is often misused to the point that it is incredibly confusing. People often use the word “random” when they actually just mean “well-distributed” or “unpredictable” or with no clear pattern. But that doesn’t actually make it random – even random number generators aren’t actually random, they just appear close enough to random that they “look random” to us. Rolling a dice isn’t random – there are clear principles of physics that will determine which side the dice will end up on, it’s just that the variables are way too complex for us to predict. In the same manner, I don’t think anyone has shown any evidence that evolution is “random”, yet the word gets brought up all the time in an unhelpful manner.

  86. Ryan, I don’t have that much time, so some short responses: No, they would not sort by size, and that is also not what we see in the record. Essentially, you’ll have say rabbits and T-Rex’s and Elephants and velociraptors and hummingbirds all together – and we do not have that.

    As to the biological controversy – there is a difference between controversy over which caliber rifle a victim was shot with, or if he was killed by a gun or a T-50 tank.

    The nature of science is to constantly evaluate or understanding based on new evidence, new methods etc. A simple Bayesian analysis will show you how untenable a non-evolutionary / old earth approach is.

    Hope you had a great weekend.

    I you, or anyone else on this thread are ever in Saskatoon, we can have a beer and take the discussion to new levels :) (t h e s c y l d i n g at gmail…. is where you can find me.)

  87. Jay, did you see what I quoted from Michael Behe? I thought that shed quite a bit of light on the discussion we had been having.

Comments are closed.