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.

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jay niemeyer
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jay niemeyer

“… 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… Read more »

Josh McGee
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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,… Read more »

John Galt
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John Galt

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… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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… Read more »

Moor
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Moor

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),… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

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.

Arwen B
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Arwen B

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,

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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?

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

Arwen, here is another link, just for you: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB102.html

wtrsims
Member

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… Read more »

Moor
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Moor

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… Read more »

Brian
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Brian

1.The Bible is Gods word

2.God doesn’t lie

3.He explained how He did it in Gen 1

So I don’t think we are monkeys.

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

Brian – no, you interpret Genesis 1 as a literal explanation. If it is not, your argument collapses. To be a responsible reader of Scripture, you should read it within historical, socio-linguistic context. See my links to Denis Lamoreux’s work on Genesis 1 I gave yesterday. You might also consider the book discussed in this post: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-backstories-of-the-first-testament

wtrsims
Member

Well, who determines what’s good for the well-being of society? Who cares whether or not we pursue the well-being of society?

Charles C
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Charles C

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… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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,… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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.

Will
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Will

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… Read more »

r_smo
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r_smo

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… Read more »

Moor
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Moor

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?

Some1
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Some1

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… Read more »

Josh McGee
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“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… Read more »

Matthias
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Matthias

I feel like I’m hearing a lot of “evolutionary-argumentation-of-the-gaps.”

Brian
Guest
Brian

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… Read more »

Robert
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Robert

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?

wtrsims
Member

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… Read more »

Aaron
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Aaron

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.

Mark Taylor
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Mark Taylor

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.

David R
Guest
David R

@Will – if you hold to 5, then 2 cannot be correct.

wtrsims
Member

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.

wtrsims
Member

And I obviously can’t count… my second point 3 should have been point 4….

jay niemeyer
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jay niemeyer

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?)

jay niemeyer
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jay niemeyer

John Galt,
I stand (happily) corrected. But I really am trying to give Omni-Darwinists as much leeway as possible.
;)

JM
Guest
JM

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… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

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… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

All: I have a comment in moderation, so patience please!

jay niemeyer
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jay niemeyer

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… Read more »

Will
Guest
Will

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

David R
Guest
David R

@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.

Klasie Kraalogies
Guest
Klasie Kraalogies

David R – physical death or spiritual death?

Moor
Guest
Moor

Thank you for the explanation Jay, much appreciated.

David R
Guest
David R

@Klasie – both

Klasie Kraalogies
Guest
Klasie Kraalogies

Jay – it would seem that a discussion over at Panda’s thumb provides an answer to your and Doug’s argument. Care to comment?

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/07/haldanes-nondil.html

Josh McGee
Guest

“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… Read more »

Klasie Kraalogies
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Klasie Kraalogies

Josh, sure, if it was one thing. But what we have is evidence from various isotope systems, from fossils, from geological processes, from “genetic clocks”, geochemistry, and and and – and the mesh together quite well.

You remind me of James McGrath’s cartoon some months ago: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/11/think-outside-the-box-the-cutest-response-to-creationism-ever.html

Will
Guest
Will

Klasie, I think Enns lost his post at Westminster for being unorthdox. Not really a good source to look to in my opinion.

Brian
Guest
Brian

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

Will
Guest
Will

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… Read more »