4/14/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Evolution is full of holes

By Dave, the WM

Evolution is a favorite target of Christians. Evolution, say Christians, is being accepted as fact when in truth evolutionary theory is nothing but a belief that has numerous holes in it. Christians will then focus exclusively on one or two of of these so-called holes, expand upon them, magnify them, and stretch the points beyond all reasonable recognition with the hope of rousing the average believer's emotions. Scientists, who are really just people trying to understand the world we live in, and who have given us modern medicine, amazing inventions, comforts not available to royalty in the past, and even men on the moon, are painted as demonically influenced conspirators bent on eradicating religion from the world in order to usher in a millennial reign of perversity and debauchery.

Let me be honest. I don't have the education to explain how electricity works. I can't rebuild a car engine. Nuclear fusion is beyond my ability to comprehend. I don't really know how my laptop works. I realize all these things have a science behind them. I have a general knowledge about “science,” but if push came to shove, without electricians, mechanics, nuclear scientists and MAC technicians, my lifestyle would be significantly more primitive than it is now.

My guess is that most people, if they were to be honest, are equally at a loss as how to build a light bulb from scratch, construct a dynamo, carve iron ore into a Volvo, or put together a PC out of materials found around the house. We are all mutually dependent on others to understand how most things work.

Few people would trust a mechanic to perform an appendectomy. Surgeons are generally not solicited to install circuit breakers in newly constructed homes. And people don't usually seek out shirtless road crew members to officiate at weddings or administer communion. Yet, when it comes to evolutionary science, a bible-school-educated religious philosopher's observations are touted as equally as valid as someone with, for example, a doctorate degree in molecular biology? How does that happen?

If a molecular biologist gave authoritative talks on the various unresolved differences of interpretation in Christian eschatology, eventually concluding that Jesus really returned in 1611 in the form of the KJV Bible, would he or she somehow now be rightfully promoted as an expert on the topic?

It just doesn't make sense to give authoritative attention to a preacher's rantings on scientific theories.

Christians are under no obligation to “believe” in evolution any more than they are under obligation to “believe” that the earth is round, that the earth orbits the sun, or that the sun is orbiting the center of the Milkyway Galaxy. They are not obligated to “believe” that in a vacuum a feather and a rock fall to the ground at exactly the same speed. They are not obligated to “believe” that new stars are being born in the universe all the time. They are not obligated to believe that people actually walked on the moon, that computers exist, or that men can fly at amazing speeds in giant ships made of metal. Christians are not obligated to believe that disease is caused by small little creatures called bacteria, or by strange non-living/living things called viruses, or by odd genetic mutations, or that no demons are involved. If the evidence for these sciences don't seem compelling to a Christian, then the Christian is certainly free to his or her non-belief.

But religious belief in regards to these sciences is immaterial. Science is not dependent on anyone's religious belief. Science is self-correcting, always testing, re-examining, re-assessing, continually exploring, accumulating new information, adjusting theories, adding evidence... etc., etc., etc., and eventually applying what it learns to the human experience.

Christianity, on the other hand, believes there is nothing more to add to our knowledge, and more to the point, nothing can be added to our knowledge. Evolutionary scientists are digging into the ancient past to piece together the history of life. Christians say we can never know our past, because god did it – it is a mystery – we will (maybe) know the answers in heaven – we should all just have faith – don't shake the applecart.

Since the days of Copernicus, if any sliver of scientific discovery contradicted a favorite Christian belief, the discovery was denigrated by religious leaders as a plot of the devil. And in all honesty, Copernicus' theory did have a hole. He thought the orbits of the planets were circular. Planetary orbits are elliptical and the theory was corrected when better information was obtained. In Galileo's day the Catholics mercilessly persecuted scientific inquiry. Today, fundamental Christians attempt to crucify scientific inquiry in the media, in educational institutions, and in the forum of public opinion.

But why should anyone pay heed to what a religious preacher has to say about science? As someone said to me recently, "I have never understood how a minister can even be in the same debate with a scientist. I equate it to a dentist having a debate with someone arguing that the tooth fairy is the one that takes a child's tooth away and leaves a dollar."

I have no way to absolutely verify the truth of evolutionary science. I have neither the education, training, or mental acuity to make authoritative claims one way or the other on this science or any science. But I can look around my own lower-middle-class home and see the miracles of science crowding the place. Jesus purportedly said that those who came after him would do greater things than he ever did. His words have come true. Humanity has far surpassed any of his reported miracles, but the credit for our modern miracles lies at the feet of inquiring minds that refused to simply have faith in Christian dogma.

That I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the proliferation of life that we see around us in no way proves the science, any more than my rejection of the theory threatens the science. My opinion on the matter is worthless. I am not an expert. I am not a scientist. I am dependent on others for all my understanding. I benefit from what others are able to do. I am grateful for those who share their abilities in such a way that all of mankind is enhanced. As a member of the vast crowd of average humanity, my life is enlarged by the sacrifices, intelligence, and abilities of many, many others.

So, what about belief vs. non-belief?

Evolutionary scientists are making positive claims about life on planet earth – claims that need to be supported in order to be accepted. And it just so happens they have provided mountains of supporting evidence. And much of that evidence is freely available seemingly everywhere. There are some questions remaining, though, questions that seem confusing to the average Joe like me. Answering those questions might take some time and effort. However, Copernicus, even with the hole in his theory, was much closer to the truth than all the thousands of Christian leaders who maintained that the earth, based on numerous verses in the Bible, played a central role in the universe.

Scientists make positive claims about the world we live in. Faith is not required from me to accept these claims. Evidence supporting the claims is presented to me, and when better evidence is found, that is presented as well. In contrast, Christians make claims about the world – supernatural claims that a god magically popped adult life forms into existence. In support of those claims they offer no evidence. NONE. All they can and do offer is a Bible verse or two and a peek into some supposed holes in scientific theories.

Christians rant and rave about evolution, but rarely, if ever, do any of them actually do any significant study on the topic, outside perhaps reading an article or two by a Christian anti-evolutionary apologist. I know this, because I was once one of those Christians. I KNEW evolution was false, and yet had never read a single non-biased scientific book on the topic.

Why?

Because, all evolutionary scientists are in league, consciously or unconsciously, with the devil. Simple!

It's amazing to me that I was so easily duped. It's horrifically embarrassing to admit what a complete putz I was.

I'm still no expert on evolution, nor do I ever expect to be one. But at least now, when it comes to these kinds of topics, it's not about what I or anyone else believes that matters to me, what matters is the evidence available. And even if I personally find some small points of the evidence for evolution less than compelling, or more accurately, confusing, I've found NO evidence for the Christian supernatural alternative.

I guess I'll just have to stick with science.

What about you?

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34 comments:

kuroikaze said...

great article, I feel the same way, there is no way I'll ever understand biology at the level of a PHD in biology, but I can understand enough to know that there is a lot of evidence for evolution.

Anonymous said...

I think the evolution of the universe and/or earth,(from my limited education),is without dispute.

It's the complete evolution of biological lifeforms that is confusing and unproven to my understanding,.......freedy.

Anonymous said...

"Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof."

Micah Cowan said...

They are not obligated to “believe” that a feather and a rock fall to the ground at exactly the same speed.

Um... bad example. Unless you're trying it in a vacuum, or the rock is decidedly feather-shaped, they will not fall at the same speed (recall that the Galileo experiments were conducted with two identically-shaped, but not -weighted, balls).

Otherwise, excellent article, Dave.

Steven Bently said...

I have not been completely sold on the theory of evolution, mainly because I have only been around for a little over 50 years, so I've not been around long enough to observe different animals mutate into other species which I think would take millions or billions of years.

But considering the age of the earth, the Bible God and christianity has just recently been discovered.

Also by not having the ability to examine other galaxies, I cannot say for certain that we are the only living creatures, we may have been placed here as an experiment, or a bet between two or more genius species to see just how we destroy ouselves, it's obvious to me that we think we are the only people in the universe, but we can only be self-centered about ourselves because we are limited by our ability to explore the vastness of space.

I also think it is arrogant and maybe even foolish to think that we are the only planet in the universe to support life.

I personally think that we mean nothing to the rest of the universe, just as others on other galaxies right now, mean nothing to us because we are so far away from each other, either by accident or on purpose, we still have no way to tell, until that time, I reserve any assumptions to be unproven and to be just speculation, and nothing more, speculation is not proof of anything.

.:webmaster:. said...

Thanks, Mike. I was thinking about when they performed that experiment on the moon years ago. I'll add vacuum to the sentence.

Tim said...

"so I've not been around long enough to observe different animals mutate into other species which I think would take millions or billions of years."

Changes to species happen on a DAILY basis. Every time two of a species breed, there is change. This change can actually be sped up and "herded" or guided in a certain direction (dog breeds have been created artificially by folks doing selective breeding). Fruit flies have shown to mutate from generation to generation in a matter of months and it's this concept that seems to escape those who don't understand how evolution works. Small changes over long periods of time. Simple. Now, combine that with an environment that weeds out the weak and you have evolution. The strong survive and continue to adapt (uh, CHANGE/EVOLVE) and this is going on today. Just hard to document it since we personally don't live long enough and the study has only been going on for 150 years.

If you look at certain animals, you can see evidence of evolution. Some snakes have the remnants of legs. Small stubs that are actually connected to a hip/pelvis bone. Obviously, they were once related to lizards (perhaps the snake came first then they grew stronger legs with each generation). Some whales have 5 finger bones in their front flippers. Why? Sounds creepily like a hand to me. Some fish have eyes that can only detect light - no details. These things happen in small increments over millions of years and if you just look at this stuff critically you can see it.

If God created what we see today, he sure made it look as if it all evolved from a common ancestor. Why would he want to trick us like that? Why wouldn't he make a multitude of life that did NOT share 99% of their DNA? That'd do for starters. Why would he make a fish that can't see clearly? Why make any animal that is poorly adapted or in transition? Sounds like a cruel prankster to me rather than an omniscient and loving god.
Tim

resonate11 said...

Great essay, Dave. Thank you.

dano said...

The only amazing thing about the theory of evolution to me is, that people still call it a theory.

There is a lot more evidence for the "law" of evolution than there is for many other universally accepted scientific "facts," or laws.

Before anyone starts screaming that evolution is not a law, check out what eminent scientists around the world think about it.

I read an article by one of the leading scientists in England, who is of the opinion, that we need to stop calling it a theory, and start calling it a law of nature.
Dan

Anonymous said...

dano, i read the same thing, and have ben calling it the laws of evelution for some time now, everyone should

Susan (Ayame) said...

I was raised Catholic, but I went to public school and my mom was a biology major and used to teach biology. I always thought every reasonable person was able to reconcile evolution with faith. When I was still Catholic, I had no problem with evolution. It didn't shake my faith (other things led to me losing my faith.)

Kenneth R. Miller, who is a biologist writes about how he is able to have faith in god and still support evolution. His web page is really interesting.

Anonymous said...

Steven Bently:
Ever notice how the flu bug mutates year after year? That is evolution before your eyes. Need I say more?

Lorena said...

"When it comes to evolutionary science, a bible-school-educated religious philosopher's observations are touted as equally as valid as someone with, for example, a doctorate degree in molecular biology? How does that happen?"


I went to a Creation Science speech, where a high school science teacher explained why the big-bang can be scientifically proven. The guy pulled out a number of huge chemical formulas and came up with a number of "scientific" arguments.

It all went completely over my head, and I took a couple of chemistry classes in university. Others in attendance, whom I know don't even have post-secondary education, where talking about it after as if they had understood every word. Bullshit, I thought.

I agree with you. Any moron in a suit gets up there to pretend they're scientists and claim they know what they're talking about. They don't. All the other idiots just nod in agreement.

tigg13 said...

When asked if I believe or have faith in evolution, I always say no.

It's just the best explaination for how life came to exist that I've ever thought of or heard of.

Alien terraforming, temporal accident, contamination fron dimension X, the 'Great Giant Turtle" - none of them even begin to approach evolution in terms of rationality or reliability.

Now, should I happen upon a better explanation I would be willing to exchange evotion for it - assuming it truly is a better explanation.

Oh, and as for the biblical account of creation...That crap doesn't even make it into the top twenty.

Steven Bently said...

I've not been around long enough to observe different animals mutate into other species"

I was talking about my personal observance of animals not mutating into other species, not viruses!

So let talk viruses, if a virus is millions of years old, it (they) should had more than sufficient time to have mutated into a super-uncontrollable viruses by now, capable of overtaking every living organism on earth, resistant to all anti-biotics. (Maybe they are now called, human beings?)

.:webmaster:. said...

"An antibiotic is a drug that kills or prevents the growth of bacteria. They have no effect against viruses or fungal infections" -- Wikipedia

Viral evolution

Fortunately, viral mutation doesn't happen in a vacuum. The immune systems of viral hosts adjust to combat these rapidly changing viruses. Further, not all viruses kill their hosts. If all the hosts died, then the viruses would cease to exist, or become completely inactive. Finally, viruses are not exactly classified as alive.

I'm not exactly sure of your point, Steve, but I'm fairly certain someone here that is more conversant in this topic could better address your apparent concern, if they choose to do so.

boomSLANG said...

Kenneth R. Miller, who is a biologist writes about how he is able to have faith in god and still support evolution. His web page is really interesting.

Cool. Philip Morris and Co., who are cigarette manufacturers, are "able to have faith" that smoking won't kill too many people, but still support the overwhelming medical and scientific evidence that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers. Their website is really interesting.

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

Great piece Dave, you've covered a few great points I've never thought about. If anyone is interested in a most excellent series on evolution vs. creationism go to this site.

http://www.evolutionvscreationism.info/Evolution%20vs.%20Creationism/The%20Scientists.html

It's 24 video clips of several experts from different scientific specialties discussing evolution. One thing they do make abundantly clear is the fact that in reguards to the evolution debate, there is no debate.

Jim Arvo said...

Hello jfraysse,

I hope neither you nor Dave mind if I chime in here:

jfraysse: "I have never heard a satisfying explanation of exactly how or why plants and animals 'decide' to become a plant or an animal."

Evolution as a whole, as you probably know, is essentially directionless (that's why you put the word "decide" in quotes, right?). So, I'm guessing that your question is what causes a single species to diversify into multiple species. Is that close? If so, there are a number of causes: geographic isolation (aka allopatric speciation), reproductive isolation (aka sympatric speciation), genetic drift, and changing environmental conditions, which includes climate, predators, prey, and parasites.

jfraysse: "What evidence is there that this a happening today?"

Again, I may be misunderstanding your question. If you are asking whether there is any evidence that these factors are having an effect on existing organisms today, the answer is a resounding yes. Bacteria, for example, can respond very quickly to changing environmental conditions, such as the introduction of toxins (antibiotics) or novel food sources (nylon is a good example). Genetic shifts in fish have been observed over very short periods of time due to the introduction or removal of predators. Examples of speciation among plants and insects have been observed in the wild, and among microbes in the lab.

jfraysse: "Also evolution seems to move rapidly at times with certain species, or so the story goes, and then stands still at others times for different species. Why?"

Environmental pressures and population size. When there is a dramatic climate change, such as the advent of an ice age, it introduces new selective pressures, both directly and indirectly (e.g. by killing off predators or prey). Also, as a general rule, genetic changes can be expected to spread through small populations more rapidly than large ones. Hence, small populations that somehow become isolated can change much more rapidly than the main population (e.g. a few birds or reptiles that make it to a previously unpopulated island can begin a new population that undergoes a relatively rapid change). But even the "rapid" changes take on the order of a hundred thousand years.

Sharks, horseshoe crabs, coelacanths, and the like have remained stable for many millions of years, presumably because they have a stable niche and/or because the mechanisms for speciation have not been open to them. You'll notice that the most stable creatures are usually sea creatures. I know of no formal work done on this topic, but it's easy to speculate as to why this might be: their environment is much less subject to climatic change, and it is "connected", making geographic isolation much less likely.

jfraysse: "If we can't predict the speed or direction of evolution how can we tell how long it took or even if a certain species evolved into another, especially since evolution has also been described as a chaotic process? Statistical possibilities are what we get - not certainties."

I don't think anybody has claimed to be able to predict the direction of evolution, except in some very obvious cases (e.g. the eventual demise of a species, or the eventual return to the sea of the marine iguana). As you say, it's a chaotic process, so predicting speciation is almost impossible, not to mention difficult to verify, given the time spans involved (except under very controlled conditions). However, this type of prediction is not necessary in order to tell how long certain transitions took in retrospect. For example, from the fossil record it can be estimated how long it took for whales to return to the sea, and how long it took for mammals to arise from reptiles. There are also biological clocks. By looking at the accumulated random changes in junk DNA, we can get a rough estimate as to when two species split from a common ancestor. It's also possible to estimate when/where splits occurred through mitochondrial DNA, as mammals get their mitochondria exclusively from their mothers, which makes mutations far easier to track. The combination of the two (fossils + biochemistry) can produce a fairly broad picture of what took place when.

jfraysse: "Then we have 'punctuated evolution'. Ok, but what are the 'evolutionary triggers'? What causes the speed and direction of evolution to change or not change at all for maybe 100's of millions of years in complex animals such as sharks and horseshoe crabs?"

I've answered this above. In short, environmental pressures, which are varied. I should also point out that interdependent species also engage in "arms races" over the eons. Birds develop better eye sight while bugs develop better camouflage, frogs develop better poisons while predators increase their resistance, etc. Perhaps the most significant arms race of all is that between the sexes: Females become more discerning while males become better at deception, and for very solid biological reasons (when one takes the point of view of the gene).

jfraysse: "Darwin's' slow and gradual idea of evolution has a clear 'hole' that is not neatly plugged by 'punctuated evolution', because we don't know what causes the 'punctuation' to occur. I personally like sunspots, asteroids, comets, shifts in the earth's magnetic field and maybe even lightning, earthquakes and volcanoes as causative influences. But have any experiments with any of these (or others) provided evidence that they can cause 'punctuated evolution'? Not to my knowledge, yet the fossil record does support the idea."

When Darwin spoke of slow and gradual change, he never meant to imply that every species must change, nor that the rate would be the same among those that do, nor that the rate would remain constant for a given species. He simply meant that all change is slow (in that it requires geological time scales) and gradual (in that it requires many small steps). He was well aware of species that had been relatively stable for huge stretches of time, and others that apparently underwent comparatively rapid change. This does not contradict his theory in the least. In fact, this very point is what lead to the rift between Gould (one of the original proponents of "punctuated equilibrium") and Dawkins. Dawkins' position has always been "So what's new in that?", meaning that it ("punctuated equilibrium") had always been implicit in Darwin's theory. I'd have to agree (although I also see the benefit further elaborating the point, which is what Gould attempted to do).

As for not knowing what caused a certain "punctuation", I'm sure that is so in almost all cases. For example, physiology and biochemistry may clearly point to two species splitting from one another (e.g. humans and chimps), but without any indication as to why. I don't see this as a big problem. Not all answers come at once. Science is a slow and careful process. We may one day discover evidence for what caused a split. For now, we have extensive evidence that there was a split (say, among humans and chimps), we have many possible reasons, and a good deal of speculation as to which might be the culprit. Time will tell.

jfraysse: "And then there is the even more veiled subject of abiogenesis or how non-life forms actually became life forms. This subject is completely upstream of evolution and we understand even less about this science. Recently, accoding to the March 2007 addition of Scientfic American, Jeffrey Bada repeated the famous 1953 Stanley Miller experiment trying to produce simple life forms from a 'primordial soup' Bada got lots of the necessary amino acids but still no self-generating 'bugs'."

Yes, the topic of abiogenesis is one of the most mysterious in all of science. In a sense, this is the ultimate forensics case; trying to reconstruct what may have happened three billion years ago, in a "warm little pond", with scant physical evidence to go on. Talk about a cold case! But there are some very promising leads. I personally like the theories that life began in inorganic substances, only later being co-opted by organic processes. But these theories are in the very early stages with very little experimental evidence to support them.

Please don't read too much into Miller/Ury-type experiments (of which there have been hundreds, by the way). Nobody has ever suggested that such experiments would produce "bugs" of any kind. The question they seek to answer is simply this: Which organic compounds might we expect to see in a "primordial" environment, such as the pre-biotic Earth. The answer was and is quite surprising: a very long list of important compounds, including the amino acids that constitute DNA. No life forms found--but neither were they expected. Ahhh, should the quest be that simple!

jfraysse: "I have no reason to believe that the scienfic process will fail us in our quest to eventually uncover these 'mysteries', but for now all we know is that Life comes from Life."

I'd actually state that more cautiously. At present, we know very little. But from the pieces we have, it appears that life arose from non-living matter, right here on Earth, some three-and-a-half billion years ago, quite possibly from inorganic processes. To insist that life must have arisen from non-life by natural means is, in my opinion, a bit of reductionist chauvinism that is completely unnecessary. The honest answer is that we simply don't know (and neither do the theists).

jfraysse: "But the scientific journey is fasinating and perhaps, one day, we will be able to produce life itself. What will we do with this power?"

Indeed. Some day there will be science that makes the use to stem cells look as primitive as blood letting. Perhaps we (as a species) will be able to craft whatever cells we require, from scratch (if we don't wipe ourselves out long before then). Who knows.

jfraysse said...

This comment is reposted out of order to fix the page error caused by the extremely long link URL. -- WM

Great Article, Dave – Thanks!

I have never heard a satisfying explanation of exactly how or why plants and animals “decide” to become a plant or an animal. What evidence is there that this a happening today? Also evolution seems to move rapidly at times with certain species, or so the story goes, and then stands still at others times for different species. Why? If we can’t predict the speed or direction of evolution how can we tell how long it took or even if a certain species evolved into another, especially since evolution has also been described as a chaotic process? Statistical possibilities are what we get - not certainties.

Then we have “punctuated evolution”. Ok, but what are the “evolutionary triggers” ? What causes the speed and direction of evolution to change or not change at all for maybe 100’s of millions of years in complex animals such as sharks and horseshoe crabs? Darwin’s’ slow and gradual idea of evolution has a clear “hole” that is not neatly plugged by “punctuated evolution”, because we don’t know what causes the “punctuation” to occur. I personally like sunspots, asteroids, comets, shifts in the earth’s magnetic field and maybe even lightning, earthquakes and volcanoes as causative influences. But have any experiments with any of these (or others) provided evidence that they can cause “punctuated evolution”? Not to my knowledge, yet the fossil record does support the idea.

And then there is the even more veiled subject of abiogenesis or how non-life forms actually became life forms. This subject is completely upstream of evolution and we understand even less about this science. Recently, accoding to the March 2007 addition of Scientfic American, Jeffrey Bada repeated the famous 1953 Stanley Miller experiment trying to produce simple life forms from a ”primordial soup” Bada got lots of the necessary amino acids but still no self-generating “bugs”. LINK

I have no reason to believe that the scientific process will fail us in our quest to eventually uncover these “mysteries”, but for now all we know is that Life comes from Life. But the scientific journey is fascinating and perhaps, one day, we will be able to produce life itself. What will we do with this power? Hopefully our wisdom will have also increased so that we may employ it with high purpose.

jfraysse said...

Hey Jim:

I had very much hoped that you WOULD chime in as I perceive you have significant expertise in this intriguing area of science. You have challenged and improved my understanding. I’m going to copy your responses to my questions and paste them in my notes concerning the same for my reference and further refection. Thanks again! Hope you have a great week! Grace & Peace, John

jfraysse said...

Doh! I meant reflection, but refection kinda works too... refection (n) "food or drink taken to refresh oneself."

jfraysse said...

Hey Jim:
I really appreciate your time and I don't want to waste it or clog up this thread because I can't properly pose my questions, but there is one thing that I did not seem to ask correctly and it was concerning the evolutionary split between plants and animals. So, if you don't mind, here is my follow-on question.

I am fascinated by the quest for the so-called common ancestor of both plants and animals. I think the technical community calls it the "Last Universal Common Ancestor" or LUCA . If this organism can be identified, and it is living today, an experiment could be crafted to stimulate the LUCA in different ways, both externally and possibly even internally, to (hopefully) cause it to evolve into a plant or an animal, right?

Has this been done or tried? This question should be the very first one that any evolutionary scientist would want answered and would be directly on the heels of the abiogenesis question.

Do you have any good links for me to follow or any recommended reading? Thanks, man! G&P, John

Jim Arvo said...

Hi John,

I'm afraid I know nothing at all about the common ancestor between plants and animals, but I agree that evolution predicts the (one time) existence of such a creature, and it would truly be fascinating if it or something close to it existed today. I hesitate to guess what it might tell us about the divergence, but I'm sure it would have it's genes sequenced immediately.

You asked for some links. I was thinking I would post some for you anyway, and encourage you to do more investigation into the topics I wrote about earlier--so you don't need to take my word on any of it. Here are a few links I dredged up a while back that I think are quite good:

29+ Evidences for Macroevolution

Modern evolutionary synthesis

Evidence of Evolutionary Transitions

The Modern View of Evolution

I also highly recommend Ken Miller's Evolution Page. His books, papers, and lectures are a model of clarity. Don't let the fact that he's a Catholic put you off; he's a top-notch evolutionary biologist who is vocal about keeping theology out of science.

Finally, if you've never had the privilege of reading Darwin's Origin of Species, I highly recommend it; it's still a wonderful read. Darwin got a few things wrong (such as how heredity works), but over all he smacked the ball out of the park. It's still one of the best books on the subject. (Warning: the book is quite long, and very tedious in places. But the thoroughness, clarity, and insights are priceless.)

All the best.



(By the way, I misread one of your earlier comments, and consequently answered a bit strangely. I thought you had asserted as a fact that life had come from non-life, so I urged a slightly more cautious statement. Reading it again, you asserted nothing of the sort. My error.)

jfraysse said...

Hey Jim: Thanks for the links I appreciate this!

Yes, I have read parts of Darwin, but it was kinda like "War and Peace" in places and never studied much of it in detail. I was more impressed at the time with the pictures of all his specimens and I wondered if things would have been much different for Charles had it not been for the excellent marksmanship of his lowly manservant, Syms Covington. Sometimes the greatest accomplishments in Life are enabled by the uncomely. Thanks again! G&P,John

TheCapetonian said...

Great article Dave. I'll stick with science as well.

Spirula said...

webmaster Dave,

Well written and well thought out. As an Ex-Christian zoologist, I appreciate the effort.

Jim Arvo
As always, very thoughtful, well written and a comprehesive response. However, to this phrase

amino acids that constitute DNA.

I believe you meant to say 'nucleic acids that constitute DNA.'

Steve Bentley wrote:

I was talking about my personal observance of animals not mutating into other species, not viruses!
I'm curious as to why you single out animals? Regardless, the evolution of new bacterial, plant and animal species has been documented. See here for one source:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB910.html

Also, in regards to your 'supervirus' idea (and to expand on Dave's respone) a highly evolved parasite-host relationship can usually be demonstrated by the fact that the parasite typically shows little damage to it's host, thereby ensuring a greater longevity of the host to obvious benefit of the parasite.

If you look at viruses (classified as obligate intracellular parasites) that have been infecting humans for many generations versus those that have only recently done so, you can see how this works. Herpes simplex Type I is rarely more than an inconvenience (can be lethal to neonates) and also may infect a whopping 90% of the population (at least that is the number typically seropositive in the west). It's a lifelong infection too, by the way. Pretty successful strategy. We get cold sores (inconvenient) but the parasite has a living host that, for many decades, will shed millions of new viral particles into the human environment.
The Ebola virus, on the other hand, is a virus that only recently and occasionally parasitizes humans. It is typically from 50-90% fatal and it appears erratically and vanishes rapidly from a population. Bad strategy for an obligate parasite, but it probably doesn't do this to its normal host. We are just an unfortunate but incidental host. Given enough time, the natural selective force of this virus on the indigenous people would produce increasingly resistant populations, to the point where the virus could become fully adapted to humans, and humans to it.

madbuni said...

I too have little knowledge of scientific matters, but I have been trying to educate myself more about evoution and science.

Folks on this thread have had some good comments regarding the subject. It is so fascinating, and I feel so small, yet happy to be living in this world of discovery.

I go to this website often and marvel that scientists are brilliant enough to have invented technology that can get to Saturn and capture these pictures. If evolution is the accepted scientific answer at this time for these intelligent minds, it is good enough for me until Jesus or little green men land in my back yard. LOL

This photo is so telling of just where we are in the universe.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/pia08324.html

Jim Arvo said...

Spirula said "I believe you meant to say 'nucleic acids that constitute DNA.'"

Indeed! I've no doubt been sloppy about that in other places as well. Thanks for the correction.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian I would have to disagree with the implication that we see scientists as being in league with the devil, but I also believe in what established science shows us and I certainly believe in evolution as God's means for bringing about his creation. After all- if God is the author of both science and the scriptures then they should agree, the work lies in resolving the differences.

In fact, I think that the creation of a process like evolution takes more creative skill than just snapping your fingers as many Christians (but not all) may believe. The real issue is who designed and created the universe (e.g. initiated the big bang) and the extra-dimensional space in which it resides. I will be very interested to see what science has to show us on this issue.

.:webmaster:. said...

Anonymous Christian: Read here and this quote by a Dr. Burgess, author of "The Origin of Man."

16.5 The importance of origins

"The question of origins is crucially important because it determines whether humans are just animals or spiritual beings with an immortal soul.

There is every reason to believe that the origins debate is the latest stage in the war between Satan and God. History shows that Satan has tried to manipulate the beliefs of man from the beginning of the world.6 In the Garden of Eden Satan encouraged Eve to disbelieve God's warning about the forbidden fruit and to rebel against God.

The theory of evolution is the latest ploy that Satan is using to encourage man to rebel against God."


And how about this little tid-bit from an article entitled Deadly Mix: Darwin and Hitler

"I recommend the “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy” program for Christian families who want to teach their children how a belief system may be used in an evil way."

FULL ARTICLE

Apparently, anonymous, there are a considerable number of Christians who don't think like you.

eel_shepherd said...

Jim_Arvo wrote:
"...from the fossil record it can be estimated how long it took for whales to return to the sea, and how long it took for mammals to arise from reptiles. There are also biological clocks. By looking at the accumulated random changes in junk DNA, we can get a rough estimate as to when two species split from a common ancestor..."

Yes; quite so. This is the germ of the line of reason that I've been thinking of posting in the Science And Replies section, and haven't gotten around to (I'm so lazy).

Xtians cling like limpets to the fact that evolution operates (luckily for them) on time scales that don't lend themselves to experimentation, depending on which critters we're looking at, speciation wise.

But during the time of Darwin, there was no such thing as electron microscopes, and no technology for coating giant molecules with a platinum film, so that their shapes would reveal themselves to a cleverly devised experiment. And there hadn't been the discovery of the double helix model for DNA sequencing of a small number of base proteins.

To put it baldly, whole branches of science had not, and could not have, developed at the time when the evolution idea was in its early development. And yet people were making observations on what must have happened over the eons concerning the way life forms rose up and were modified to fit their circumstances.

Would it not be fair to say that when the contents of a black box (DNA science and electron microscopy) that wasn't even around during early evolution scientific theorising confirms many of the early ideas on evolution, that constitutes an experiment? An experiment conducted over the course of a hundred years or so? After all, all of the usual and necessary elements of a falsifiable theory, with an impartial (because there had been no way of knowing that it would some day come into being) testing mechanism capable of doing that falsifying of the various propositions are present. Doesn't this go beyond simple "later confirming evidence", and into the realm of at least a single-blind experiment?

This seems like a line of reason that Xtians should have to answer to.

Jim Arvo said...

eel_shepherd said "Would it not be fair to say that when the contents of a black box (DNA science and electron microscopy) that wasn't even around during early evolution scientific theorising confirms many of the early ideas on evolution, that constitutes an experiment? An experiment conducted over the course of a hundred years or so? After all, all of the usual and necessary elements of a falsifiable theory, with an impartial (because there had been no way of knowing that it would some day come into being) testing mechanism capable of doing that falsifying of the various propositions are present. Doesn't this go beyond simple "later confirming evidence", and into the realm of at least a single-blind experiment?"

Yes, absolutely. It's quite amazing when you stop to consider all the ways that evolution might have been falsified, particularly by entire scientific disciplines that did not even exist when the theory was originally articulated by Darwin and Wallace. Darwin himself points out many such instances: i.e. evolution predicts X, while special creation either predicts NOT X or is indifferent to X (i.e. it could have been virtually anything, as the creator could have chosen X, Y, Z,...). However, it always turns out to be X. Examples (some from Darwin):

1) Should all species be classifiable within a philogenetic tree?

Evolution says YES. Creation says DON'T CARE.
What we observe: YES!

2) Should geographical proximity correlate better with the similarity of two species than the similarity of their environments?

Evolution says YES, Creation says NO.
What we observe: YES!

3) Should the earliest strata bearing the imprint of life be devoid of "higher" forms such as mammals?

Evolution says YES. Creation says either NO or DON'T CARE (depending on who you ask).
What we observe: YES!

4) Should all life on Earth share very significant biochemical mechanisms (including DNA)?

Evolution says YES. Creation says DON'T CARE.
What we observe: YES!

5) Should there exist remnants of prior forms within each form of life (e.g. junk DNA, pseudo-genes, vestigial structures, etc.)?

Evolution says YES. Creation says NO.
What we observe: YES!

6) Should there exist extensive homologies between physiologically-corresponding organs/structures of different species?

Evolution says YES. Creation says either NO or DON'T CARE (depending on who you ask).
What we observe: YES!

7) Should one of the 23 chromosome pairs in humans indicate clear signs of being formed by collapsing two of the 24 pairs found in all other primates?

Evolution says YES. Creation says NO.
What we observe: YES!

8) Should there exist "transitional forms" linking different species?

Evolution says YES. Creation says NO.
What we observe: YES!

9) Should the accumulated copying errors in junk DNA correspond well with estimated times of divergence indicated in the fossil record?

Evolution says YES. Creation says DON'T CARE.
What we observe: YES!

10) Should some biological structures/mechanisms be "overly complex" or "convoluted", as if they had been formed by gradual opportunistic changes (similar to patching computer code with gotos and the like), rather than showing simplicity and elegance (as if designed with its current purpose in mind)?

Evolution says YES. Creation says ABSOLUTELY NO.
What we observe: YES!

Of course, this is only a small subset of the opportunities that have arisen to falsify evolution. For some reason, each such opportunity has (thus far) failed to falsify the theory. So, either "god" either chose evolution as her method, or she chose to make it look as if she had. But, to hard-core creationists, this evidence in support of evolution simply does not exist, so they don't see it that way.