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Finding Darwin's God OR Evolution and Christianity are Compatible
Brown Alumni Magazine ^ | November, 1999 | Kenneth Miller

Posted on 02/02/2005 6:19:41 PM PST by curiosity

The great hall of the Hynes Convention Center in Boston looks nothing like a church. And yet I sat there, smiling amid an audience of scientists, shaking my head and laughing to myself as I remembered another talk, given long ago, inside a church to an audience of children.

Without warning, I had experienced one of those moments in the present that connects with the scattered recollections of our past. Psychologists tell us that things happen all the time. Five thousand days of childhood are filed, not in chronological order, but as bits and pieces linked by words, or sounds, or even smells that cause us to retrieve them for no apparent reason when something "refreshes" our memory. And just like that, a few words in a symposium on developmental biology had brought me back to the day before my first communion. I was eight years old, sitting with the boys on the right side of our little church (the girls sat on the left), and our pastor was speaking.

Putting the finishing touches on a year of preparation for the sacrament, Father Murphy sought to impress us with the reality of God's power in the world. He pointed to the altar railing, its polished marble gleaming in sunlight, and firmly assured us that God himself had fashioned it. "Yeah, right," whispered the kid next to me. Worried that there might be the son or daughter of a stonecutter in the crowd, the good Father retreated a bit. "Now, he didn't carve the railing or bring it here or cement it in place. . . but God himself made the marble, long ago, and left it for someone to find and make into part of our church."

I don't know if our pastor sensed that his description of God as craftsman was meeting a certain tide of skepticism, but no matter. He had another trick up his sleeve, a can't-miss, sure-thing argument that, no doubt, had never failed him. He walked over to the altar and picked a flower from the vase.

"Look at the beauty of a flower," he began. "The Bible tells us that even Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed as one of these. And do you know what? Not a single person in the world can tell us what makes a flower bloom. All those scientists in their laboratories, the ones who can split the atom and build jet planes and televisions, well, not one of them can tell you how a plant makes flowers." And why should they be able to? "Flowers, just like you, are the work of God."

I was impressed. No one argued, no one wisecracked. We filed out of the church like good little boys and girls, ready for our first communion the next day. And I never thought of it again, until this symposium on developmental biology. Sandwiched between two speakers working on more fashionable topics in animal development was Elliot M. Meyerowitz, a plant scientist at Caltech. A few of my colleagues, uninterested in research dealing with plants, got up to stretch their legs before the final talk, but I sat there with an ear-to-ear grin on my face. I jotted notes furiously; I sketched the diagrams he projected on the screen and wrote additional speculations of my own in the margins. Meyerowitz, you see, had explained how plants make flowers.

The four principal parts of a flower - sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils - are actually modified leaves. This is one of the reasons why plants can produce reproductive cells just about anywhere, while animals are limited to a very specific set of reproductive organs. Your little finger isn't going to start shedding reproductive cells anytime soon. But in springtime, the tip of any branch on an apple tree may very well blossom and begin scattering pollen. Plants can produce new flowers anywhere they can grow new leaves. Somehow, however, the plant must find a way to "tell" an ordinary cluster of leaves that they should develop into floral parts. That's where Meyerowitz's lab took over.

Several years of patient genetic study had isolated a set of mutants that could only form two or three of the four parts. By crossing the various mutants, his team was able to identify four genes that had to be turned on or off in a specific pattern to produce a normal flower. Each of these genes, in turn, sets off a series of signals that "tell" the cells of a brand new bud to develop as sepals or petals rather than ordinary leaves. The details are remarkable, and the interactions between the genes are fascinating. To me, sitting in the crowd thirty-seven years after my first communion, the scientific details were just the icing on the cake. The real message was "Father Murphy, you were wrong." God doesn't make a flower. The floral induction genes do.

Our pastor's error, common and widely repeated, was to seek God in what science has not yet explained. His assumption was that God is best found in territory unknown, in the corners of darkness that have not yet seen the light of understanding. These, as it turns out, are exactly the wrong places to look.

By pointing to the process of making a flower as proof of the reality of God, Father Murphy was embracing the idea that God finds it necessary to cripple nature. In his view, the blooming of a daffodil requires not a self-sufficient material universe, but direct intervention by God. We can find God, therefore, in the things around us that lack material, scientific explanations. In nature, elusive and unexplored, we will find the Creator at work.

The creationist opponents of evolution make similar arguments. They claim that the existence of life, the appearance of new species, and, most especially, the origins of mankind have not and cannot be explained by evolution or any other natural process. By denying the self-sufficiency of nature, they look for God (or at least a "designer") in the deficiencies of science. The trouble is that science, given enough time, generally explains even the most baffling things. As a matter of strategy, creationists would be well-advised to avoid telling scientists what they will never be able to figure out. History is against them. In a general way, we really do understand how nature works.

And evolution forms a critical part of that understanding. Evolution really does explain the very things that its critics say it does not. Claims disputing the antiquity of the earth, the validity of the fossil record, and the sufficiency of evolutionary mechanisms vanish upon close inspection. Even to the most fervent anti-evolutionists, the pattern should be clear - their favorite "gaps" are filling up: the molecular mechanisms of evolution are now well-understood, and the historical record of evolution becomes more compelling with each passing season. This means that science can answer their challenges to evolution in an obvious way. Show the historical record, provide the data, reveal the mechanism, and highlight the convergence of theory and fact.

There is, however, a deeper problem caused by the opponents of evolution, a problem for religion. Like our priest, they have based their search for God on the premise that nature is not self-sufficient. By such logic, only God can make a species, just as Father Murphy believed only God could make a flower. Both assertions support the existence of God only so long as these assertions are true, but serious problems for religion emerge when they are shown to be false.

If we accept a lack of scientific explanation as proof for God's existence, simple logic would dictate that we would have to regard a successful scientific explanation as an argument against God. That's why creationist reasoning, ultimately, is much more dangerous to religion than to science. Elliot Meyerowitz's fine work on floral induction suddenly becomes a threat to the divine, even though common sense tells us it should be nothing of the sort. By arguing, as creationists do, that nature cannot be self-sufficient in the formation of new species, the creationists forge a logical link between the limits of natural processes to accomplish biological change and the existence of a designer (God). In other words, they show the proponents of atheism exactly how to disprove the existence of God - show that evolution works, and it's time to tear down the temple. This is an offer that the enemies of religion are all too happy to accept.

Putting it bluntly, the creationists have sought God in darkness. What we have not found and do not yet understand becomes their best - indeed their only - evidence for the divine. As a Christian, I find the flow of this logic particularly depressing. Not only does it teach us to fear the acquisition of knowledge (which might at any time disprove belief), but it suggests that God dwells only in the shadows of our understanding. I suggest that, if God is real, we should be able to find him somewhere else - in the bright light of human knowledge, spiritual and scientific.

Each of the great Western monotheistic traditions sees God as truth, love, and knowledge. This should mean that each and every increase in our understanding of the natural world is a step toward God and not, as many people assume, a step away. If faith and reason are both gifts from God, then they should play complementary, not conflicting, roles in our struggle to understand the world around us. As a scientist and as a Christian, that is exactly what I believe. True knowledge comes only from a combination of faith and reason.

A nonbeliever, of course, puts his or her trust in science and finds no value in faith. And I certainly agree that science allows believer and nonbeliever alike to investigate the natural world through a common lens of observation, experiment, and theory. The ability of science to transcend cultural, political, and even religious differences is part of its genius, part of its value as a way of knowing. What science cannot do is assign either meaning or purpose to the world it explores. This leads some to conclude that the world as seen by science is devoid of meaning and absent of purpose. It is not. What it does mean, I would suggest, is that our human tendency to assign meaning and value must transcend science and, ultimately, must come from outside it. The science that results can thus be enriched and informed from its contact with the values and principles of faith. The God of Abraham does not tell us which proteins control the cell cycle. But he does give us a reason to care, a reason to cherish that understanding, and above all, a reason to prefer the light of knowledge to the darkness of ignorance.

As more than one scientist has said, the truly remarkable thing about the world is that it actually does make sense. The parts fit, the molecules interact, the darn thing works. To people of faith, what evolution says is that nature is complete. Their God fashioned a material world in which truly free and independent beings could evolve. He got it right the very first time.

To some, the murderous reality of human nature is proof that God is absent or dead. The same reasoning would find God missing from the unpredictable branchings of an evolutionary tree. But the truth is deeper. In each case, a deity determined to establish a world that was truly independent of his whims, a world in which intelligent creatures would face authentic choices between good and evil, would have to fashion a distinct, material reality and then let his creation run. Neither the self-sufficiency of nature nor the reality of evil in the world mean God is absent. To a religious person, both signify something quite different - the strength of God's love and the reality of our freedom as his creatures.

As a species, we like to see ourselves as the best and brightest. We are the intended, special, primary creatures of creation. We sit at the apex of the evolutionary tree as the ultimate products of nature, self-proclaimed and self-aware. We like to think that evolution's goal was to produce us.

In a purely biological sense, this comforting view of our own position in nature is false, a product of self-inflating distortion induced by the imperfect mirrors we hold up to life. Yes, we are objectively among the most complex of animals, but not in every sense. Among the systems of the body, we are the hands-down winners for physiological complexity in just one place - the nervous system - and even there, a nonprimate (the dolphin) can lay down a claim that rivals our own.

More to the point, any accurate assessment of the evolutionary process shows that the notion of one form of life being more highly evolved than another is incorrect. Every organism, every cell that lives today, is the descendant of a long line of winners, of ancestors who used successful evolutionary strategies time and time again, and therefore lived to tell about it - or, at least, to reproduce. The bacterium perched on the lip of my coffee cup has been through as much evolution as I have. I've got the advantage of size and consciousness, which matter when I write about evolution, but the bacterium has the advantage of numbers, of flexibility, and most especially, of reproductive speed. That single bacterium, given the right conditions, could literally fill the world with its descendants in a matter of days. No human, no vertebrate, no animal could boast of anything remotely as impressive.

What evolution tells us is that life spreads out along endless branching pathways from any starting point. One of those tiny branches eventually led to us. We think it remarkable and wonder how it could have happened, but any fair assessment of the tree of life shows that our tiny branch is crowded into insignificance by those that bolted off in a thousand different directions. Our species, Homo sapiens, has not "triumphed" in the evolutionary struggle any more than has a squirrel, a dandelion, or a mosquito. We are all here, now, and that's what matters. We have all followed different pathways to find ourselves in the present. We are all winners in the game of natural selection. Current winners, we should be careful to say.

That, in the minds of many, is exactly the problem. In a thousand branching pathways, how can we be sure that one of them, historically and unavoidably, would lead for sure to us? Consider this: we mammals now occupy, in most ecosystems, the roles of large, dominant land animals. But for much of their history, mammals were restricted to habitats in which only very small creatures could survive. Why? Because another group of vertebrates dominated the earth - until, as Stephen Jay Gould has pointed out, the cataclysmic impact of a comet or asteroid drove those giants to extinction. "In an entirely literal sense," Gould has written, "we owe our existence, as large and reasoning animals, to our lucky stars."

So, what if the comet had missed? What if our ancestors, and not dinosaurs, had been the ones driven to extinction? What if, during the Devonian period, the small tribe of fish known as rhipidistians had been obliterated? Vanishing with them would have been the possibility of life for the first tetrapods. Vertebrates might never have struggled onto the land, leaving it, in Gould's words, forever "the unchallenged domain of insects and flowers."

Surely this means that mankind's appearance on this planet was not pre-ordained, that we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. What follows from this, to skeptic and true believer alike, is a conclusion whose logic is rarely challenged - that no God would ever have used such a process to fashion his prize creatures. How could he have been sure that leaving the job to evolution would lead things to working out the "right" way? If it was God's will to produce us, then by showing that we are the products of evolution, we would rule God as Creator. Therein lies the value or the danger of evolution.

Not so fast. The biological account of lucky historical contingencies that led to our own appearance on this planet is surely accurate. What does not follow is that a perceived lack of inevitability translates into something that we should regard as incompatibility with a divine will. To do so seriously underestimates God, even as this God is understood by the most conventional of Western religions.

Yes, the explosive diversification of life on this planet was an unpredictable process. But so were the rise of Western civilization, the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the winning number in last night's lottery. We do not regard the indeterminate nature of any of these events in human history as antithetical to the existence of a Creator; why should we regard similar events in natural history any differently? There is, I would submit, no reason at all. If we can view the contingent events in the families that produced our individual lives as consistent with a Creator, then certainly we can do the same for the chain of circumstances that produced our species.

The alternative is a world where all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free. To a believer, the particular history leading to us shows how truly remarkable we are, how rare is the gift of consciousness, and how precious is the chance to understand.

One would like to think that all scientific ideas, including evolution, would rise or fall purely on the basis of the evidence. If that were true, evolution would long since have passed, in the public mind, from controversy into common sense, which is exactly what has happened within the scientific community. This is, unfortunately, not the case - evolution remains, in the minds of much of the American public, a dangerous idea, and for biology educators, a source of never-ending strife.

I believe much of the problem is the fault of those in the scientific community who routinely enlist the findings of evolutionary biology in support their own philosophical pronouncements. Sometimes these take the form of stern, dispassionate pronouncements about the meaninglessness of life. Other times we are lectured that the contingency of our presence on this planet invalidates any sense of human purpose. And very often we are told that the raw reality of nature strips the authority from any human system of morality.

As creatures fashioned by evolution, we are filled, as the biologist E. O. Wilson has said, with instinctive behaviors important to the survival of our genes. Some of these behaviors, though favored by natural selection, can get us into trouble. Our desires for food, water, reproduction, and status, our willingness to fight, and our tendencies to band together into social groups, can all be seen as behaviors that help ensure evolutionary success. Sociobiology, which studies the biological basis of social behaviors, tells us that in some circumstances natural selection will favor cooperative and nurturing instincts - "nice" genes that help us get along together. Some circumstances, on the other had, will favor aggressive self-centered behaviors, ranging all the way from friendly competition to outright homicide. Could such Darwinian ruthlessness be part of the plan of a loving God?

Yes, it could. To survive on this planet, the genes of our ancestors, like those of any other organism, had to produce behaviors that protected, nurtured, defended, and ensured the reproductive successes of the individuals that bore them. It should be no surprise that we carry such passions within us, and Darwinian biology cannot be faulted for giving their presence a biological explanation. Indeed, the Bible itself gives ample documentation of such human tendencies, including pride, selfishness, lust, anger, aggression, and murder.

Darwin can hardly be criticized for pinpointing the biological origins of these drives. All too often, in finding the sources of our "original sins," in fixing the reasons why our species displays the tendencies it does, evolution is misconstrued as providing a kind of justification for the worst aspects of human nature. At best, this is a misreading of the scientific lessons of sociobiology. At worst, it is an attempt to misuse biology to abolish any meaningful system of morality. Evolution may explain the existence of our most basic biological drives and desires, but that does not tell us that it is always proper to act on them. Evolution has provided me with a sense of hunger when my nutritional resources are running low, but evolution does not justify my clubbing you over the head to swipe your lunch. Evolution explains our biology, but it does not tell us what is good, or right, or moral. For those answers, however informed we may be by biology, we must look somewhere else.

Like it or not, the values that any of us apply to our daily lives have been affected by the work of Charles Darwin. Religious people, however, have a special question to put to the reclusive naturalist of Down House. Did his work ultimately contribute to the greater glory of God, or did he deliver human nature and destiny into the hands of a professional scientific class, one profoundly hostile to religion? Does Darwin's work strengthen or weaken the idea of God?

The conventional wisdom is that whatever one may think of his science, having Mr. Darwin around certainly hasn't helped religion very much. The general thinking is that religion has been weakened by Darwinism and has been constrained to modify its view of the Creator in order to twist doctrine into conformity with the demands of evolution. As Stephen Jay Gould puts it, with obvious delight,"Now the conclusions of science must be accepted a priori, and religious interpretations must be finessed and adjusted to match unimpeachable results from the magisterium of natural knowledge!" Science calls the tune, and religion dances to its music.

This sad specter of a weakened and marginalized God drives the continuing opposition to evolution. This is why the God of the creationists requires, above all, that evolution be shown not to have functioned in the past and not to be working now. To free religion from the tyranny of Darwinism, creationists need a science that shows nature to be incomplete; they need a history of life whose events can only be explained as the result of supernatural processes. Put bluntly, the creationists are committed to finding permanent, intractable mystery in nature. To such minds, even the most perfect being we can imagine would not have been perfect enough to fashion a creation in which life would originate and evolve on its own. Nature must be flawed, static, and forever inadequate.

Science in general, and evolutionary science in particular, gives us something quite different. It reveals a universe that is dynamic, flexible, and logically complete. It presents a vision of life that spreads across the planet with endless variety and intricate beauty. It suggests a world in which our material existence is not an impossible illusion propped up by magic, but the genuine article, a world in which things are exactly what they seem. A world in which we were formed, as the Creator once told us, from the dust of the earth itself.

It is often said that a Darwinian universe is one whose randomness cannot be reconciled with meaning. I disagree. A world truly without meaning would be one in which a deity pulled the string of every human puppet, indeed of every material particle. In such a world, physical and biological events would be carefully controlled, evil and suffering could be minimized, and the outcome of historical processes strictly regulated. All things would move toward the Creator's clear, distinct, established goals. Such control and predictability, however, comes at the price of independence. Always in control, such a Creator would deny his creatures any real opportunity to know and worship him - authentic love requires freedom, not manipulation. Such freedom is best supplied by the open contingency of evolution.

One hundred and fifty years ago it might have been impossible not to couple Darwin to a grim and pointless determinism, but things look different today. Darwin's vision has expanded to encompass a new world of biology in which the links from molecule to cell and from cell to organism are becoming clear. Evolution prevails, but it does so with a richness and subtlety its original theorist may have found surprising and could not have anticipated.

We know from astronomy, for example, that the universe had a beginning, from physics that the future is both open and unpredictable, from geology and paleontology that the whole of life has been a process of change and transformation. From biology we know that our tissues are not impenetrable reservoirs of vital magic, but a stunning matrix of complex wonders, ultimately explicable in terms of biochemistry and molecular biology. With such knowledge we can see, perhaps for the first time, why a Creator would have allowed our species to be fashioned by the process of evolution.

If he so chose, the God whose presence is taught by most Western religions could have fashioned anything, ourselves included, ex nihilo, from his wish alone. In our childhood as a species, that might have been the only way in which we could imagine the fulfillment of a divine will. But we've grown up, and something remarkable has happened: we have begun to understand the physical basis of life itself. If a string of constant miracles were needed for each turn of the cell cycle or each flicker of a cilium, the hand of God would be written directly into every living thing - his presence at the edge of the human sandbox would be unmistakable. Such findings might confirm our faith, but they would also undermine our independence. How could we fairly choose between God and man when the presence and the power of the divine so obviously and so literally controlled our every breath? Our freedom as his creatures requires a little space and integrity. In the material world, it requires self-sufficiency and consistency with the laws of nature.

Evolution is neither more nor less than the result of respecting the reality and consistency of the physical world over time. To fashion material beings with an independent physical existence, any Creator would have had to produce an independent material universe in which our evolution over time was a contingent possibility. A believer in the divine accepts that God's love and gift of freedom are genuine - so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.

Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed. As a scientist I claim no new proofs, no revolutionary data, no stunning insight into nature that can tip the balance in one direction or another. But I do claim that to a believer, even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.

When I have the privilege of giving a series of lectures on evolutionary biology to my freshman students, I usually conclude those lectures with a few remarks about the impact of evolutionary theory on other fields, from economics to politics to religion. I find a way to make clear that I do not regard evolution, properly understood, as either antireligious or antispiritual. Most students seem to appreciate those sentiments. They probably figure that Professor Miller, trying to be a nice guy and doubtlessly an agnostic, is trying to find a way to be unequivocal about evolution without offending the University chaplain.

There are always a few who find me after class and want to pin me down. They ask me point-blank: "Do you believe in God?"

And I tell each of them, "Yes."

Puzzled, they ask: "What kind of God?"

Over the years I have struggled to come up with a simple but precise answer to that question. And, eventually I found it. I believe in Darwin's God.


TOPICS: Heated Discussion
KEYWORDS: creationism; crevolist; darwinism; evolution; intelligentdesign
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To: RaceBannon
I have enjoyed your posts and the Scriptural support used. Further showing that the Bible and evolution are not compatible.

I found it funny that the same people who argue against ID, do the very thing they despise when defending the theistic evolution. They use no evidence from the Bible to support their claim. None. All of their support is based on "reasoning", but none is based on Scripture as this article attests to. The Scriptural support is just not there for evolution.

JM
151 posted on 02/03/2005 6:36:26 AM PST by JohnnyM
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To: shubi
"Creationists love the KJV until it forces them to realize their interpretation of the Bible is wrong."

Im personally a fan of the NAS. I rarely use the KJV. However, any Christian who does not realize that these are TRANSLATIONS of Hebrew and Greek text will get themselves in trouble. There are things that get lost in translation or that get obscured or paraphrased. To say that one translation is the definitive one will get you in trouble. When there is an issue of translation it is best to go the original document.

JM
152 posted on 02/03/2005 6:52:24 AM PST by JohnnyM
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To: JohnnyM

Yep, but evolution is a fact no matter what you think the Bible says.


153 posted on 02/03/2005 7:04:15 AM PST by shubi (Peace through superior firepower.)
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To: RaceBannon
OK, it's the cold light of day and I have a bit of time. What's so funny about a Gish rant from 1989 against Archoepteryx? Take this sentence.

Recent fossil discoveries and recent research on Archaeopteryx argue strongly against the suggestion that it is transitional between reptiles and birds.

Even more recent fossil discoveries (late 90's) have found Archy's closest relative to be a Chinese Feathered Dinosaur, a species called Sinornithosaurus. It has a highly similar skeleton and some feathering, but not enough for flight.

Here's Archy's skeleton:

It's so saurian that Fred Hoyle claimed it simply was an ordinary dromaeosaur upon which someone had faked feather impressions. (Creationists still often cite that, although the standard mantra is that Archy is somehow indistinguishable from the robin in your back yard.) Here's one of the better fossils with feathers.

Now, here's a juvenile Sinornithosaurus, a superbly preserved specimen.

Note how the intro page of the American Museum of Natural History site blithely--with no sense that it is doing the impossible--describes this dinosaur as has having a bird for a close relative.

The entire skeleton is preserved on two counter slabs, in a pose much like that of its close relative the oldest bird (Archaeopteryx lithographica) from the Jurassic of Germany.
This is not a shock under evolution, you see. Archy's classification as a bird is the result of historical processes. When it was found, any specimen with feathers WAS a bird. No contest. Everybody knew that.

What Gish did in his 1989 article was to simply comb the literature for every citation he could find in which someone found a birdlike attribute on Archy *and he took only those for his paper.* That's the whole trick. That's creation science.

There are and already were in 1989 at least as many saurian features as avian on Archy. Tail! Teeth! Claws!

Events since 1989 have utterly undercut Gish's position, but he blithely sails on, his paper still up on the AiG website and still cited by creationists everywhere.

The sudden appearance, fully formed, of all the complex invertebrates (snails, clams, jellyfish, sponges, worms, sea urchins, brachiopods, trilobites, etc.) without a trace of ancestors, and the sudden appearance, fully formed, of every major kind of fish (supposedly the first vertebrates) without a trace of ancestors, proves beyond reasonable doubt that evolution has not occurred.

Never mind the funny segue from Jurassic birds to the Cambrian. I guess there's (irony alert!) more lack of evidence in the Cambrian, so he'd rather look there. What a science! Anyway, never mind that. We'll follow him and shift to fish. Why fish? Ask Gish!

The argument is still balderdash, on two counts. Holes in the historical evidence trail are evidence for holes in the history. There's evidence of phyla coming from other phyla.

In particular, there's evidence that fish emerged from simple chordates. The hatchling form of the most primitive modern fish, the lamprey, resembles a lancelet (simple chordate) just as a frog hatchling resembles a fish or an insect hatchling resembles a worm.

Then, when Gish was writing, the earliest known fish was something very like a lamprey from the early Ordovician. Now, the first fishes are from the early Cambrian. Guess what? They're even more primitive than the previously known earliest. They're not even like lampreys, more like a lancelet growing a head. Even God needs to practice with the simple stuff first. He spent a billion and a half years just playing with bacteria, after all.

Haikouella. From here. Some fish, huh?

His slightly more fishy cousin, Myllokunmingia fengjiaoa.

From here.

From here.

For comparison, here's a modern not-quite vertebrate, the lancelet Amphioxus/Branchiostoma, from the web page with his song.

I'll stop here. You don't have to eat a whole omelet to know it's got a bad egg.

154 posted on 02/03/2005 7:05:09 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: VadeRetro
Holes in the historical evidence trail are evidence for holes in the history.

If I was trying for sarcasm, it doesn't work. I think a "not" belongs in there.

Holes in the historical evidence trail are NOT evidence for holes in the history.

155 posted on 02/03/2005 7:09:57 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: RaceBannon
why dont you evos stop posting articles?

Uh, we don't need to stop because we haven't started posting whole articles within threads. We'll stick to posting relevant comments, relevant excerpts, and otherwise linking, and continue suggesting spamming is bad. How's that?

156 posted on 02/03/2005 7:13:20 AM PST by Stultis
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To: DannyTN
There is evidence that animals are degrading due to negative mutations as well.

There will always be certain species of animal that will be heading towards extinction. Cheetahs are a good example- they've been heading towards extinction for tens of thousands of years. Other species of animals go in the opposite direction. Manta Rays, for example.

This is not evidence of some "de-evolution" concept.

157 posted on 02/03/2005 7:34:57 AM PST by Modernman (What is moral is what you feel good after. - Ernest Hemingway)
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To: RaceBannon
Impossible to address your spam posting, but one point stood out:

Neanderthal Man was found in Neanderthal Valley in West Germany. Long accepted as a missing link, Neanderthal man has been proven to be human, very similar to Europeans today, yet with proven diseases such as rickets, syphilis, and arthritis

The first Neanderthal skeleton that was discovered was in fact that of an older Neanderthal suffering from a variety of ailments. Subsequently, additional (healthy) Neanderthal skeletons have been found. Several are on display at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum, for example.

The current debate is whether Neanderthals are a separate species of hominid or more akin to a subspecies of Homo Sapiens. However, no reputable scientist would argue that Neanderthals were just plain old Homo Sapiens.

158 posted on 02/03/2005 7:43:19 AM PST by Modernman (What is moral is what you feel good after. - Ernest Hemingway)
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To: Modernman

But...But..it was reputable scientists who first declared it to be human the day it was first examined!

It was only after the heathen evolutionists got ahold of it that the fairy tales began...


159 posted on 02/03/2005 7:52:41 AM PST by RaceBannon ((Prov 28:1 KJV) The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.)
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To: VadeRetro
(Creationists still often cite that, although the standard mantra is that Archy is somehow indistinguishable from the robin in your back yard.)
160 posted on 02/03/2005 7:54:08 AM PST by RaceBannon ((Prov 28:1 KJV) The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.)
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To: RaceBannon
But...But..it was reputable scientists who first declared it to be human the day it was first examined!

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. Some scientists may have originally concluded that Neanderthals were homo sapiens, but we now know that they're different from our species.

That's how science works- as new evidence comes to light, old conclusions get re-examined.

161 posted on 02/03/2005 7:55:48 AM PST by Modernman (What is moral is what you feel good after. - Ernest Hemingway)
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To: curiosity

I have decided to stick my nose in this.

I like what Miller has to say, generally, but I disagree with his conclusion that God and Evolution are compatible. His position is the classic one of trying to straddle a fence. A peacemaker of sorts, but the reality is that he's due for a major hurt.

He uses the argument of the priest and the professor. The priest says only God could make a flower. The professor explains how a flower is formed. By Miller's own logic now the priest looks "ignorant", "foolish" (it really doesn't matter what the word is) - he is wrong and will eventually have to backpeddle.

Following this line, sooner or later, the only place for God to stand is at the beginning, i.e. the Big Bang. But Miller's logic holds here too. Should astrophysicists find a convincing physical explanation for the Big Bang, then God is gone.

I used to hope that the universe was "closed", and Bang after Bang would occur. That was evading the question of where God should rightly be placed, but it made me feel more comfortable. But now it looks like the universe is "open" and those nagging questions about the appropriate place for God are back.

(Still hoping that there is enough undiscovered dark matter to close the universe, though).


162 posted on 02/03/2005 8:03:46 AM PST by furball4paws ("These are Microbes."... "You have crobes?" BC)
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To: RaceBannon
You zoom in, without comment, upon this from me:

(Creationists still often cite that, although the standard mantra is that Archy is somehow indistinguishable from the robin in your back yard.)

Do you need it explained to you that if your story is "It's a bird! Just a bird!" then you undercut yourself if you turn around and say "It's just a dinosaur with feathers chiseled into the rock?" After all, in your version of events a bird is a bird and a dinosaur is a dinosaur and never the twain have met.

163 posted on 02/03/2005 8:06:55 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: RaceBannon

Wonderful! You can always ask how many AGES did Christ stay in the tomb before He arose. They always respond 3 days!


164 posted on 02/03/2005 8:09:03 AM PST by 4CJ (Laissez les bon FReeps rouler - Quo Gladius de Veritas - Deo vindice!)
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To: Modernman
Manta Rays for example

Are you referring to the loss of the stinging barb on the Manta Ray? Which of course is again, loss of functionality. Or the curving of the fins, which only shows sorting within genetic potential.

165 posted on 02/03/2005 8:14:56 AM PST by DannyTN
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To: 4ConservativeJustices

He, he, he

Wishful thinking cannot alter reality. Sooner or later it will bite you on the butt.


166 posted on 02/03/2005 8:16:09 AM PST by furball4paws ("These are Microbes."... "You have crobes?" BC)
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To: shubi
"Right, so why would God create them (chimps, guinea pigs) with a design deficiency (inability to synthesize vitamin C)? "

There is no reason to believe it's a design deficiency.

There are two possibilities:

  1. They were designed that way for a reason that we have yet to discover, or
  2. They were designed with the ability to synthesize vitamin C and due to the curse on the earth have lost that ability due to mutations.

167 posted on 02/03/2005 8:24:52 AM PST by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN
They were designed that way for a reason that we have yet to discover...

There is no possible mess about which you cannot say the above. Thus, this is useless non-information.

168 posted on 02/03/2005 8:27:41 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: DannyTN
Are you referring to the loss of the stinging barb on the Manta Ray? Which of course is again, loss of functionality. Or the curving of the fins, which only shows sorting within genetic potential.

Nope. I'm referring to their warm-bloodedness and mammal-like brains.

169 posted on 02/03/2005 8:33:11 AM PST by Modernman (What is moral is what you feel good after. - Ernest Hemingway)
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To: shubi

"The Genesis text must be taken as symbolic in many cases."

I think this is the crux of the fight over evolution right there. There is a distinct clash of mindsets between those who believe the bible is the inerrant and literal word of god and those who believe it is symbolic, especially Genesis. Many subscribe to the former point of view, while many others find it patently ludicrous. I do not think there is any way that a literalist reading of the bible as an inerrant source can be made consistent with the current (or any) scientific understanding of the world. And so, if any scientific theory conflicts with such a literal reading of the bible, it must be wrong, even if that means going through some pretty bizarre contortions, to contend for example, that the earth is only 10,000 years old.


170 posted on 02/03/2005 8:40:37 AM PST by -YYZ-
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To: furball4paws
He uses the argument of the priest and the professor. The priest says only God could make a flower. The professor explains how a flower is formed. By Miller's own logic now the priest looks "ignorant", "foolish" (it really doesn't matter what the word is) - he is wrong and will eventually have to backpeddle.

Following this line, sooner or later, the only place for God to stand is at the beginning, i.e. the Big Bang. But Miller's logic holds here too. Should astrophysicists find a convincing physical explanation for the Big Bang, then God is gone.

You may wanna try reading the article again (or reading Miller's book). You take the position Miller is arguing against to be Miller's own view.

Miller agrees that God created the flower and makes it bloom. What he disagrees with is the priest's claim that scientific ignorance of the mechanism is evidence for this. It is according to the priest's logic that God would disappear as creator with an explanation of the Big Bang, not Miller's.

171 posted on 02/03/2005 8:55:25 AM PST by Stultis
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To: Modernman
"Nope. I'm referring to their warm-bloodedness and mammal-like brains."

And you have evidence that Manta's were originally cold blooded and did not have mammal-like brains?

Or are you simply ASSUMING that Manta's must have evolved from a completely different cold blooded fish. "Because Manta's exist, therefore they must have evolved." "Because Manta's have some similarities to Sharks they must have a common (yet unidentified) ancestor."

The only problem with that is that the fossil record indicates sharks have always been sharks and rays have always been rays.

"This idea of ‘parallel evolution’ is often invoked by evolutionists to explain amazing similarities which, for other reasons, could not have come about through sharing a common ancestor. The obvious explanation for such similarities, design by the same Designer, is ‘not allowed.’ However, it is difficult enough to accept that, through blind chance filtered by selection (ultimately in a chance succession of environments), a species could develop specialized features such as a skeleton of cartilage and the ability for young to hatch from eggs inside the female’s body. The concept that such features could independently evolve in species with no connection to each other—again relying on blind chance—is not only illogical, but without evidence. " From the link below...

Manta Rays - Common descent or Common Design?

172 posted on 02/03/2005 10:12:30 AM PST by DannyTN
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To: VadeRetro
"There is no possible mess about which you cannot say the above. Thus, this is useless non-information."

There is no possible scenario about which you cannot hypothesize, one thing evolved from another thing.


173 posted on 02/03/2005 10:43:24 AM PST by DannyTN
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To: furball4paws

If you have strong faith, it doesn't matter what makes you comfortable. Interpreting the Bible in a nonsensical way, as literalists do, gives them comfort that God did it the way they feel good about.

The sad thing is creation is not in the ToE, so it doesn't matter.


174 posted on 02/03/2005 11:02:30 AM PST by shubi (Peace through superior firepower.)
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To: -YYZ-
Good analysis! "If sound science appears to contradict the Bible, we may be sure that it is our interpretation of the Bible that is at fault." Christian Observer, 1832, pg. 437

Enlightened theologians have always recognized the problem with putting science into the Bible.

I have worked in the Hebrew in Genesis for 15 years and find no real incompatibilities between Gen 1 and modern science that can not be explained by ignorance in the bronze age.

On the other hand, because Adam & Eve are taken from a pagan story, there are a lot more problems reconciling them to reality.
175 posted on 02/03/2005 11:08:44 AM PST by shubi (Peace through superior firepower.)
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To: DannyTN

Danny, there are more than two possibilities.

This is the fallacy of False Dilemma, giving two options when there are more than two.


176 posted on 02/03/2005 11:27:03 AM PST by shubi (Peace through superior firepower.)
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To: VadeRetro

No, MY versionis that is is a funny bird looking ancient animal, might have been a reptile, but it sure didnt fly, and it aint a transitional form, and you have no PROOF to say it is.

Only an opinion.

The only proof you have is a dead animal buried in rock layers laid down by water...just like Noah's flood would present...if it was buried during the flood.


177 posted on 02/03/2005 11:31:27 AM PST by RaceBannon ((Prov 28:1 KJV) The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.)
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To: Modernman

They are not different, they are just like us.

Dress up a Neanderthal or a Cro-Magnon in a suit with a shave and you cant tell he is some predessor, he just looks different.

Dress up LUCY in a dress, and you have a monkey in a dress.

HUGE difference.


178 posted on 02/03/2005 11:32:53 AM PST by RaceBannon ((Prov 28:1 KJV) The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.)
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To: RaceBannon
They are not different, they are just like us.

Their bone structure is quite different. Neanderthals have thicker, stronger bones, a somewhat sloping brow and shorter limbs. Based on analysis of the connection points on their bones, the average Neanderthal would have been somewhat stronger than the average human. They are not "just like us."

Dress up a Neanderthal or a Cro-Magnon in a suit with a shave and you cant tell he is some predessor, he just looks different.

The statement was that you could give a Neanderthal a shave and a suit and put them on the subway in New York and he wouldn't be too out of place. This statement was sort of tongue-in-cheek, since there are plenty of stranger looking people on NYC's subways.

That being said, a Neanderthal wandering around today would be quite distinctive and would attract attention. And he would most certainly have his choice of seats at even the roughest bar around.

179 posted on 02/03/2005 11:40:06 AM PST by Modernman (What is moral is what you feel good after. - Ernest Hemingway)
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To: Stultis

You are correct. My dilemma, nenetheless, still stands.


180 posted on 02/03/2005 11:40:55 AM PST by furball4paws ("These are Microbes."... "You have crobes?" BC)
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To: RaceBannon
No, MY versionis that is is a funny bird looking ancient animal, might have been a reptile, but it sure didnt fly, and it aint a transitional form, and you have no PROOF to say it is.

What kind of proof would you accept that a certain fossil was a transitional species?

181 posted on 02/03/2005 11:41:43 AM PST by Modernman (What is moral is what you feel good after. - Ernest Hemingway)
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To: Logophile

Maybe we will find out exactly what is reading the instructions to build a flower. Where is the central processor? And where did the blueprint get constructed? People who think nature is just atoms and energy miss the third ingredient...information.


182 posted on 02/03/2005 11:44:56 AM PST by metacognative (follow the gravy...)
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To: PatrickHenry
The unfortunate antagonism between science and religion (or perhaps it's a one-sided antagonism) needs to be addressed.

I don't like to post on "deteriorating threads" (LOL!) but I agree with you there.

I believe the food fight is two-sided, as some prominent 19th Century biologists claimed Darwinism disproves religious belief, a view that is still pursued by some militant atheists today.

183 posted on 02/03/2005 11:50:50 AM PST by colorado tanker (The People Have Spoken)
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To: DannyTN
There is no possible scenario about which you cannot hypothesize, one thing evolved from another thing.

False. We have an established evolutionary scenario. Say, in the case of vertebrates it would be fish to amphibians to reptiles. One reptile branch (synapsids) gives rise to mammals. Another (diapsids) gives rise to dinosaurs and birds. Mammals and birds diversified along a certain scenario.

There are some uncertainties, some play, in the scenario, but there are things which evolution does not explain if they ever turned up. You can't have a seemingly direct amphibian-bird transitional, or amphibian-mammal, or bird-mammal, or fish-mammal. These things are flatly stated to have never existed.

Thus, for instance, we KNEW to look for land animal ancestors of whales even though they live in the water among fish and are basically shaped like fish. A separate mammalian evolution in water for cetaceans directly from fish was obviously false. Sounds trivial, now, but creationists scoffed right up until Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodocetus, etc. were found. Now they have to lie about what they're able to understand. Sad. God shouldn't tell people to behave badly in public. You'd expect the creator of Heaven and Earth to refrain from malicious mischief.

Evolution says some things (which further outline the tree of life) must once have lived. In fact, we make new finds of those and only those things.

Thus, evolution is potentially falsifiable but it's late in the game for the falsifications to turn up if evolution were indeed false. It should have happened a long time ago and it hasn't. Thus, the game is over in real science and evolution has been accepted for over a century.

Creationism scoffs "Where are the missing links?" but swears it means nothing every time we fill another one. This is trying to have it all ways.

So, yes, your "science" predicts everything and nothing and is as worthless as the effort of correcting the falsehoods of back-again-dumb-as-a-stump creationists. The same thing is NOT at all true of evolution.

184 posted on 02/03/2005 12:25:10 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: RaceBannon
No, MY versionis that is is a funny bird looking ancient animal, might have been a reptile, but it sure didnt fly, and it aint a transitional form, and you have no PROOF to say it is.

Even your beloved Duane Gish accepts that Archy could fly. Oddly enough, most people on both sides concede as much. (But not anyone married to Fred Hoyle's dead-in-the-water fraud charges which were extensively investigated and found baseless.)

The only proof you have is a dead animal buried in rock layers laid down by water...just like Noah's flood would present...if it was buried during the flood.

What about all the fossils buried in Pompeii-style volcanic ash? How does that happen while all the world is underwater?

185 posted on 02/03/2005 12:54:51 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: VadeRetro
"Sounds trivial, now, but creationists scoffed right up until Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodocetus, etc. were found."

SCOFF!!! We are still scoffing.

The overselling of whale evolution

186 posted on 02/03/2005 1:16:50 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: RaceBannon

Duane Gish has never lost a debate with the evos.
Darwin continues to lose with the advance of science.


187 posted on 02/03/2005 1:18:04 PM PST by metacognative (follow the gravy...)
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To: DannyTN
SCOFF!!! We are still scoffing.

Never doubted. A hole in the record is proof of something, but filling the hole proves nothing.

A science like this has nothing to teach us except that we know nothing and must never know anything.

188 posted on 02/03/2005 1:32:28 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: VadeRetro
"A hole in the record is proof of something, but filling the hole proves nothing."

Except that you didn't fill any of the holes. If you read the link, None of those were direct descendants of whales. All you have found are creatures that could not have been direct descendants which have cause you to theorize again that the hole still exists.

Y'all do the same thing with Humans and apes. Even though it's clear that ape fossil is not an ancestor of humans, it is still somehow supposed to be proof that a common ancestor existed. And it's simply isn't that proof.

All you have proved is that diversity in the past is a little different than diversity now. Some whole families have died out like dinosaurs. Some additional variation has occured like races of men or species of dog.

189 posted on 02/03/2005 1:55:11 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN
Except that you didn't fill any of the holes. If you read the link, None of those were direct descendants of whales. All you have found are creatures that could not have been direct descendants which have cause you to theorize again that the hole still exists.

You mean "ancestors," and Camp's assertions in dismissal are based on nothing except lawyering on error bars and more than a dash of his own personal incredulity. I've noted before that Camp's idea of advancing our knowledge is writing two paragraphs of rebuttal--containing anything, just fill up two paragraphs--for every paragraph of some article he doesn't like. There would seem to be no "peer review" at TrueOrigins except the dumb leading the dumb.

Darwin had almost nothing in his tree of life except the extant forms identified in his day. The one exception I can think of is Neanderthal Man. Archaeopteryx was identified as a species in 1861, two years after Origin. Almost everything we know of now came later.

We have the intermediate forms evolution predicts, not the ones it doesn't predict. Darwin wasn't just right, he was astoundingly right. Compared to which, after 150 years of being nothing but wrong, your suck-egg-dog non-science heckles from the sidelines. OK, it also lies about who it is and what it is up to. And let's not forget that in the last extremity it reserves the right to handle anything by saying, "He could have left it looking like that for purposes of his own."

No contest.

190 posted on 02/03/2005 2:11:31 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: RaceBannon

bump. Hey Race thanks for the cool links. Really good posts.


191 posted on 02/03/2005 2:18:17 PM PST by Captain Beyond (The Hammer of the gods! (Just a cool line from a Led Zep song))
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To: Thatcherite
"I don't know how you can come out with this stuff. Have you ever shared your life with a dog? "

Ok maybe they are a little more than food. They are also beasts of burden, fur coats, glue, ivory, medical test subjects, etc.

And they can be pets and friends and even examples of unconditional love and unwavering loyalty.

But they aren't human and man was given dominion over them. That dominion includes permission and authority to kill animals for food. And our Lord and God ate meat and served fish to others.

The fact is, we don't know what happens to animals when they die. I hope some dogs go to heaven, I hope mosquitos burn in Hell. (Not really, I just don't want them in Heaven.) But it doesn't matter. Our role is clear and we have authority over the animals.

Yes, We can misuse that authority that was given us. But it is clear God puts a higher value on man's life than animal life and that should always be a key consideration in our execution of that authority along with respect for God's creation.

And people have had cows, pigs, chickens and fish as pets. But we still eat them and use them as necessary. And that's what they are here for.

192 posted on 02/03/2005 2:18:39 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: Thatcherite
Get your head up out your Holy Book and look at the real world around you!

After six years of these threads on FR I am still stunned at the extent to which some people just can't do that. You can't throw them a line. You can't break through. They might as well be catatonic.

193 posted on 02/03/2005 2:23:49 PM PST by VadeRetro
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To: RaceBannon

Genesis 2. God found man (Adam) lonely and created animals to keep him confort.


194 posted on 02/03/2005 2:27:21 PM PST by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: DannyTN
But they aren't human and man was given dominion over them. That dominion includes permission and authority to kill animals for food.

No. That "dominion" did not include eating animals. That came later after God discovered that he had killed all the plants in the flood and Noah had nothing to eat except for the animals on the ark.

195 posted on 02/03/2005 2:29:51 PM PST by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: DannyTN
Yes, We can misuse that authority that was given us. But it is clear God puts a higher value on man's life than animal life and that should always be a key consideration in our execution of that authority along with respect for God's creation.

Didn't God say not to eat of certain animals? I hope you are obeying.

196 posted on 02/03/2005 2:31:34 PM PST by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: WildTurkey
"No. That "dominion" did not include eating animals. That came later after God discovered that he had killed all the plants in the flood and Noah had nothing to eat except for the animals on the ark."

ROFLMAO. The plants had regenerated as evidenced by the olive branch that the dove brought back to Noah long before they were allowed to exit the Ark.

Then again, maybe that's what happened to the Dinosaurs. A year on a boat caring for those animals and you work up a pretty big appetite for something different.

As the saying goes...If Noah had been wise, he would have swatted those two flies.

197 posted on 02/03/2005 2:34:46 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: WildTurkey
"Didn't God say not to eat of certain animals? I hope you are obeying."

He only said that to Israel and for the specific purpose of separating Israel from the rest of the world and keeping them separate. As a gentile Christian I can dine uninhibited with Thanksgiving.

198 posted on 02/03/2005 2:36:56 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN

God declared that snakes were to forever eat dust. I have never seen a snake eat dust. In fact, in HS I dissected a rattle snake that had a whole grey squirrel in his belly.


199 posted on 02/03/2005 2:37:09 PM PST by WildTurkey (When will CBS Retract and Apologize?)
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To: WildTurkey
"God declared that snakes were to forever eat dust. I have never seen a snake eat dust. In fact, in HS I dissected a rattle snake that had a whole grey squirrel in his belly."

Didn't say the snake would live on dust just that he would eat it. Do you really think you can burrow face first into the ground and not eat just a little bit of dirt? And now for a completely different view...

Snakes really do eat dust

200 posted on 02/03/2005 2:46:01 PM PST by DannyTN
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