Holy Crap

I hate to entitle a post like that, but what else do you call crap that’s presented as fact by those who deem themselves holier than thou but “Holy Crap?”

You’ve probably heard of Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra, who has a documentary on HBO entitled Friends of God.  Crooks&Liars has a clip from that documentary regarding what they call the “Evangelical War On Science.”  This one’s a Must See

I’m no atheist.  But unless, as the novel Good Omens tells us, God laid down the fossil record just to mess with us, I highly doubt that “Behemoth was a Dinosaur.”

Hey, I’m all for faith.  It’s blind faith that I have a problem with. 

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21 thoughts on “Holy Crap

  1. if your underlying assumptions are that evolution is a fact, then of course you would say holy crap.

    but remember that there are many others with quite a divergent view from that. check out this site http://icr.org/. this is a site put out with scolarly articles from renowned scientists that are experts in their fields. you dont have to believe it. i am sure you wont.

    but i dare you. i dare you to question the theory of evolution just enough to have an unbiased viewpoint from which you can evaluate the facts. i have looked at both sides. i have read darwin and various other evolutionists. i have also read those who believe their are alternate theories that make much more sense.

  2. First, and let me get this out of the way: You meant “there are,” not “their are.”

    My underlying assumption is this:

    Carbon dating is inassailable in its capability to date artifacts, fossils, etc. Carbon dating irrefutably proves that the earth is millions of years old. The people in the video I linked to adamantly refuse to recognize this and state that the earth is only six thousand years old. And after reviewing two of the papers on the site you link, I can see why you would think there’s scientific validity to the creationist theory. Let me gently disillusion you. Use of scientific terms does not a valid scientific theory make. Not ONE of those papers appears to have been vetted by a Peer Academic Review. And why is that? Because they’re full of invalid assumptions and false reasoning.

    I’m not here to teach science, and I’ll make no attempt to disprove faith. I personally believe that God made the earth, and evolution was his method. But I believe there is room within faith for FACTS.

    I don’t go to a scientist to tend my soul, and I wouldn’t study astronomy in church. Render unto Caesar . . .

  3. Amen 🙂 Well said Jamie. It’s amazing what “beLIEvers” will accept as “scientific proof”.

    But then, when you have that big “bible” filter on your mind, you can never hear and understand the facts.

    Why is ist that they believe the bible to be inerrant, the voice of god? There isn’t a single scientific revelation in that book. It says that light came after the universe but before the sun , though! It couldn’t even get the value of Pi right! Something that was known since, well, since before the time the bible says the earth was created.

    Also, the agricultural revolution, and the domestication of dogs both happen well before the creation. Wait, this must be proof of the existence of god, only He could pull that one off!!! LMAO

  4. as far as carbon dating goes. maybe you should look at the other perspective. (ie many scientists have agreed that it is a problematic source of dating)

    but regardless, i wont convince you no matter what, because you are sure of what you believe. i credit you, because it takes a lot more faith than i have to believe random genetic mutations and selection led to what we see in the world today.

    BUT what i think is most important is for you to recognize the incompatibility of God and evolution. you say you believe in God, but in order to use evolution as His tool of creation, then you have to believe that God using death and killing (ie survival of the fittest) as part of His perfect plan. that’s a pretty mean God! i dont care whether you believe the Bible is correct in all its data, but certainly a mean God like that isnt the God of the Bible. and He isnt the God(s) of the q’ran or the bagavaghita either.

    so i credit you for having as much faith as you do in evolution. there are so many flaws with the theory.

    maybe God didnt do what He said through the Bible. maybe He used different means, but He certainly didnt use darwinian evolution. to be honest, maybe you should check out lamark, his stuff is a lot more compatible with a concept of God. (in fact there have been some new studies by evolutionist scientists who have seen some disturbingly lamarkian trends with labrats relating to traits acquired during the lifetime being passed to the children)

  5. Peter, could you please provide a link to the study regarding the Lamarkian model of inheritance? While the mechanics of Darwinian evolution may indeed be up for debate, I am unaware of any credible scientific evidence for the Lamarkian model.

    Even if Lamarkian models gain new credibility, this in no way invalidates a concurrent Darwinian model of evolution as the two general theories are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, an argument could be made that, unless this is a widespread event, a small scale punctuated adaptation event that might be mistaken for Lamarkian inheritance is no more than an extremely successful Darwinian genetic activation rather than the wholesale passing on of acquired characteristics.

    This is the exact reason why the word “theory” is still appended to “Evolution”. Not because evolution isn’t happening or is somehow “flawed”, but because the specifics, the mechanics, are still under scrutiny, undergoing reproducible testing, something which “Creation Science” has yet to be able to offer.

    Until you can make God perform parlor tricks, there is no way to apply the scientific method to Creationist thought and it is therefore, by definition, not science. Should you be able to figure out a way to make God sit up and beg, I would wager that you haven’t actually found god, or at least not a god worth worship.

    One only has to look at a viral level to see evolution occurring, not only in real time but faster than the eye can see. The idea of heritable traits that confer a selective reproductive advantage and therefore preferentially propagate through a population is irrefutable at this point. To do so is to remove the fundamental criteria of “what is” and basically declare the whole of existence up for grabs.

    You can add a dimension of faith or God to evolutionary mechanics if you like (personally, I do like to add it, but I also understand exactly where religion ends and science begins), but this is not a matter of science and it is inappropriate (and futile) to try and mix the two magisteria. Science seeks the How, not the Why, because Hows can be tested and independently verified whereas Whys tend to be more subjective. Until one approaches science (and, indeed, religion) with a better understanding of what it can do and tries to do, then one’s arguments are immediately suspect.

    As for the “meanness” of God, what an odd argument you present. God is love, love must never be cruel, therefore God must never be cruel. Leaving aside Biblical passages which might directly contradict the last part and real world experience which strongly contradicts the second part, one can immediately dip into a wealth of theological thought regarding the nature of suffering and the issue of bad things happening to good people to see this is still not as cut and dried an issue as you would have it be. Indeed, if one truly follows this idea of divinity to its logical conclusion, then one is forced to look at the Christian concept of God as no more than a death cult where the whole goal is to get through this life as quickly as possible so one can get closer to love/God in Heaven. In this view, suffering is immaterial as this world is unimportant, so why should God be bothered with the inherent “cruelty” of evolutionary mechanics? Indeed, why should the God you posit bother with the messy business of life at all, instead just creating us fully formed and perfect in Heaven right from the get go? It would seem to me that your God is the cruel one as He not only forces us to endure the the pain and misery that sometimes is life on His created world, but also threatens us with utter and irrevocable separation from Him and His love should we fall into sin.

    That seems far more mean than simply setting up a system where some animals are more attractive and get to have more sex than others.

    Of course, this all assumes that evolutionary mechanics are “cruel” in any real sense, which is doubtful as “cruelty” implies intent and evolutionary direction is not goal oriented, but keenly susceptible to environmental influence. It sounds as if you are working with a faulty understanding of Darwinian evolutionary mechanics. The defining characteristic of the Darwinian model is reproductive fitness. Evolution happens not on the individual, but on populations and generations. Thus idea of “randomness” in the arising of heritable traits that confer reproductive advantage is accurate, but incomplete due to the sheer scale of life and the nearly infinite multitude of things that can miscode. The notion of “cruelty” is nonsensical at this level unless one is talking about the casual cruelty of statistics.

    Your argument is also highly presumptuous in a religious sense. Who are you to attribute human motivation and morality to God? Who are you to judge His plan as either cruel or kind, mean or glorified? God’s ways are inscrutable and to presume to attach human understanding to them invalidates the very concept of divinity itself. We can only know deity through personification, through our own personal little “slice” of God, for by definition, the entirety of God, should it be visited on a human, would be both overwhelming and completely incomprehensible. Anything else is not God, but simply a more advanced life form.

  6. With that said, I also was rather shocked by the vitriol of your comments, TGA. While I am not exactly sure of the arguments you are referencing in regards to agriculture and domestication, I would wager you are falling into the same intellectual trap as Peter: using the terms and criteria of wholly unrelated things to judge and valuate each other.

    It is one thing to embrace atheism honestly after completing the personal spiritual journey that is perhaps they only inalienable right of humans. It is something else entirely to deny or deride the same journey of others and their conclusions. While Peter’s assumptions regarding the control of religion on the realm of science are incorrect, they in no way excuse an equally offensive outburst of “Everyone who has faith is stupid” thought. The conduct of A in no way, shape or form excuses similar conduct in B.

    Admittedly, right now there seems to be a wave of religious idolatry sweeping across the world and that should be met with firm resolve. But it must also be met with empathy in order to diffuse it, otherwise you perpetuate the same paradigm, just from an opposite ideological pole. Just as BushCo can’t “save Amurrica from terrorists” by fundamentally destroying and trampling on the freedoms that make the United States a unique experiment in civilization, neither can one save rationality by descending into name-calling and personal attack.

  7. One final thing about 14C Dating methodology, its infallibility and the absolute age of the Earth because this pisses me off to no end.

    The overall quality of any scientific measurement can be judged on the basis of two values: Accuracy and Precision. Accuracy is how close a particular measurement falls to true; how “spot on” any given measurement is. Precision is the repeatability of the measurement; how far a given measurement lies outside the mean of a series of similar measurements. Thus a given measurement may be highly accurate, but fairly imprecise and vice versa and any scientific measurement must be tempered with the consideration of these two values.

    14C Dating is based on the half-life value of the decay of carbon-14, which is indisputably 5730 years. Simple deductive math will thus show that 14C Dating is useless for fossils and geological material older than 70,000 years. For samples older than this, radiometric methods of dating must be employed which use isotopic series with much longer half-lives, ranging anywhere to upwards of 40 billion years.

    Now listen the fuck up because this shit’s key: The absolute dating of the Earth is not based on 14C methodology alone, but is instead confirmed by a wide spectrum of comparable isotopic series which show remarkable precision in relation to one another. It’s true that older samples show slightly more variation, although narrow bands of dating can be generated with high accuracy and precision and modern techniques have narrowed even these bands down to virtual singularities. However, more recent fossils and rocks are quite stable in their dates. For example, the initial absolute dating of the transition from the Cretaceous period to the Tertiary, the death of the dinosaurs, was determined by radiometric methodology in the 1960s to be 65 million years ago. Umpteen measurements since then have failed to significantly shift this date, thus giving a date accurate to within a few thousand years (insignificant pocket change in terms of geological timescales) and incredibly precise.

    14C dating is not infallible and certainly has its problems and limitations, but it is also not the only game in town and the prudent scientist is the scientist that measures the same thing multiple times in multiple ways and only then makes a statement. Only an array of measurements give a complete understanding of a quantity.

  8. My goodness. Look what happens when I leave the computer! Comments! (And to all, I do appreciate the honest discussion. There can be honest disagreement without vitriol.)

    As I said above, I’m not here to teach science. (And I certainly couldn’t have made the point better than QJ did by any means.) But I do find your statement, Peter, that God is somehow incompatible with evolution to be absolutist and illogical. Might I suggest that my concept of God is not so narrowly defined as yours?

    As for there being no evidence of a cruel God in the Bible–have you read the Old Testament at all? Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt wasn’t cruel? A flood wiping out the entire population of the earth except for a handful of people isn’t cruel? Asking a man to sacrifice his son on an altar isn’t cruel? Please actually READ the Bible before you attempt to tell me what is and isn’t in it. I’ve read it cover to cover many times. That’s part of why I’m so firm in my beliefs. I’ve learned the lessons, not just the quotes.

  9. quakerjono

    some good thoughts. i concur with most of your thoughts.

    here are some links to the new research in agouti mice and some related to retrogenes that seems to indicate some form of lamarckian adaptation:
    http://home.wxs.nl/~gkorthof/kortho39.htm which is about a book called lamarck’s signature that i have read
    and http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-08/dumc-cnf072903.php which is about the agouti mice

    with that said, if you look at the Biblical view of God, i think it is clear that He is a loving God. however, often love requires discipline (quakerjono i think that’s where you were headed with suffering leading to good, and i agree). and love also requires justice. (which addresses more of jamie’s response about lot’s wife, etc). so let me address them separately.

    jamie, i want to respond first to your talk about justice. justice is certainly a part of God’s nature and could (and often does) include death. with that said, why do justice require death (or punishment at all)? because there was a breach in contract. basically, God made a covenant with humans. (although i agree entirely with a garden of eden and an adam and eve, i am not going to presume they are true stories, so i will talk as if those stories in genesis arent completely true, but that the principles still apply) God told humans that that they had to follow His way (the way of life) or they could choose the other way (the way of death). by choosing the way of death, humans now were capable of dying. they also brought death to the whole world (which hitherto hadnt experienced death). death was merely a form of the justice of God. however, death wouldnt have ever happened from a loving God unless there was a need for justice. therefore, since we both agree (i assume) that animals were created/evolved before humans, if evolution happened there would by necessity (if you follow darwinian evolution) be death before the sin of humans. this would a pretty unloving God who decided just for the heck of it to destroy His own creation just because. this certainly isnt the God we see in the Bible. let me reiterate, i completely agree that God is just, which often requires death, BUT death (according to darwinian evolution) happened before the need for justice.

    quakerjono (by the way, are you a quaker?) i agree that God does often discipline/allow suffering for our good. so it is very possible that God created a world where suffering was necessary for our own good, which would actually make darwinian evolution loving, not cruel like i contend. however, this is not the God we see in the Bible (like i proposed to jamie, suppose that the garden of eden story isnt completely true, even then, the principles are). He created/evolved the world to be a paradise (eden being a metaphor for such even if not literal) and the actual word eden means “pleasure”. so from the beginning God didnt see it necessary to bring in suffering. how then did suffering enter the world? same way that punishment (a part of justice) entered, through sin. whether it was adam and eve or adam and steve, the principle is that humans brought sin into the world by disobeying God. this is when God banishes them from “pleasure” and makes them work the soil and have hard chilbirth, etc. even if not taken literally, then we still come up with a change in system. so suffering didnt enter until we chose to step outside of God’s will. let me reiterate, i completely agree that suffering can be a good thing, BUT it happened after sin took place. in God’s original plan it wasnt so.

    in conclusion, i understand why yall might not agree with my belief that the Bible is literal in the creation story, but i dont understand how darwinian evolution is consistent with the nature of God. i hope that i havent strawmanned your arguments. please let me know what you think.

    regards
    peter

  10. The simple response, Peter, is that I make no claim to know the nature of God or his “original plan.” You see, I actually DO believe God has an ineffable plan for us, and part of that plan is for us to not know what it is. It makes no sense to me to think that God wouldn’t already know Eve was going to bite that apple, or that we wouldn’t war amongst ourselves.

    Where you and I part ways, I believe, and this is fundamental to why we just won’t see eye to eye on this, is that I don’t believe the Bible was written by the hand of God through man. I believe it is more of a history book that evolved as man did over the ages. The creation story, for instance, has its own parallel within Egyptian history (as does much of the bible). Once man learned the written word, it would only make sense that those stories that had heretofore been orally passed down would be the ones transcribed for posterity.

    And that’s what I believe the Bible is. A book of lessons–many that were HARD learned by our ancestors–that have been written down so that we don’t make those same mistakes. I don’t, however, think the book itself is particularly Holy. Let us not forget that only the powerful had the gift of literacy, and only the messages they wished spread were transcribed. Witness the abandonment of the alternate Gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc. No, I think the word of God comes through those prophets he sends us, not a memo. After all, wouldn’t a loving God that “wrote the Bible” have left out the parts about dividing the races, the mark of Cain, etc, especially since he’s omniscient and knows that we’re going to fight because of those passages?
    That doesn’t mean that there’s no merit in the lessons of the Bible. Just that it needn’t be taken literally. (I for one want no slaves nor multiple wives.)

    Christ himself (according to that same Bible) said that he had not come to rewrite holy law. I believe Christ was sent to show us the lessons he did because by then we were ready–if not willing–to learn them, in God’s eyes. And when we learn to love one another, not cast stones, not judge and hate, and to exhalt and uphold the best in all of us–perhaps then we will see him again.

    I’m out of time for now, but I do appreciate the candor, Peter. Thank you.

  11. jamie

    i think that you are dead right. we wont ever agree because i believe that the Bible, (while not perfect free from error, because humans wrote it) was written by men as they were lead by God. this doesnt mean i believe everything is literal, but that it is true.

    however, with that aside, i would like to ask you about your comments about the Bible as a document. i think that your case against the Bible is one often used today. but i think we must separate the two testaments in this discussion.

    the old testament: i completely believe that the OT has the same validity as the new, but its much harder to prove. because the stories were written so long ago. but with that said, let me encourage you to check out the method by which rabbis copied the OT, and i think you will find that the OT may not be truth, but that it is very reliable as a historical document.

    the new testament: i dont agree with your take at all about the new testament. first, the new doesnt talk much about the creation/evolution question. but with that said, the new testament is probably the most historically accurate document that we have in modernity that comes from antiquity. there are over 20,000 manuscripts of the new testament and the next highest ranking document in the iliad with only 643. also, looking at the oldest fragments and codexs that we have found to date, we see they agree almost without change with the newest ones we have. so this doesnt say that the claims are true, but that the documents are reliable. also, the historical facts of the new testament have been confirmed again and again by archealogy and other documents.

    now, to the other “gospels”, etc. as far as those documents found in nag hammadi or any of the other so-called “gnostic gospels”, we find that all of these documents were written in the middle to late second century (at the earliest) and as late as the 4th-5th century for others. so not saying that they arent true, but they have much less historical credibility than the canonical gospels. also, if you have ever read them (which i have read most of the gnostic gospels) they have outlandish claims that are much more “scientifically” invalid than the new testament. they also include all kinds of messed up things, like in the gospel of thomas (which by the way, is the oldest of the gnostic texts)Jesus tells peter that mary will become a man and that all woman must become a man to go to heaven. that is very misogynistic and crazy scientifically to believe human gender must change for people to go to heaven.

    so with that said, i understand that many of the feats of Jesus’ life are scientifically incredible, but maybe we could use David Hume’s (devote atheist philosopher) argument against the miraculous, in this case for the possibility of Jesus’ miracles. i spent a good deal of space discussing this in the book i am writing at http://merehumanity.wordpress.com in part 1.

    i am glad to have been able to discuss these topics with you. thanks for your willingness to talk with a person “who believes unscientific stuff”.

    PS i think we also should examine the definition of scientific method. karl popper spoke of the scientific method. he made a great point. the method is a logical fallacy. google falsifiability and karl popper (or reference my discussion of this in part one of my book as well).

    regards
    peter

  12. I was brought up with the concept of the bible being unchanged over centuries through the meticulous work of generations of scribes. Recently, however, I heard an interview on the radio with an author – Bart Ehrman – undermining this idea. I haven’t researched the matter any further, although it seems that googling his book “Misquoting Jesus” brings up reams and reams of christian opinion attempting to debunk some of his claims. I was surprised to hear his statment that no two copies of the bible were the same, through error or even subtle manipulations of meanings. For instance, the story of the woman taken in adultery does not appear in the earliest copies of the gospel of John (and now I discover that this is outlined in wikipedia too). Whilst the differences do little to undermine the general principles of scripture they show that the bible has been altered over time. It’s also worth remembering that any translation will alter the meanings of the original.

  13. gunn

    i think that is certainly something i need to check out.

    but, let me just point out that i agree we dont have the texts as they were written exactly. i also have researched those “earliest” copies thing from another perspective. there are many scholars who believe that the oldest copies (that dont have john 8 and mark 16 sections) are actually the ones that changed the original. but either way, suppose those two passages werent in the originals. still there are only a very select few passages like that.

    overall, the new testament (especially in comparison with other texts of its day) is reliable as a text.

  14. Peter,

    To answer last questions first, yes, I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends. It has been a hard spiritual journey for me to finally find an embraceable faith, and certainly not one that is over, but I use the nick QuakerJono because I am both proud of my faith and the work it’s taken to get there.

    Thank you for the link to the book. It looks interesting and will go into my ever growing list of things to read. While I will freely admit that I haven’t read it, I see nothing there to invalidate Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms. Indeed, Lamarck and Darwin agreed on many points, with Darwin borrowing or transforming several of his predecessor. It is entirely feasible that both mechanisms are valid in different circumstances.

    As for the research on the effect of nutrition on the coat color of mice without affecting the specific gene which controls that color, it’s interesting, but I’m unclear how this in any way supports a wide-spread Lamarckian model. Indeed, it seems to offer support for Darwinian mechanisms involving genetic expression, giving a specific pathway for environmental regulation of gene expression. Darwinian evolution certainly doesn’t rule out environmental pressures having an effect on offspring. Indeed, it rests on that very notion. However, for this to in any way challenge the idea of Darwinian evolution, it would need to show that this trait is occurring independently of genes, which it clearly doesn’t. According to the article, the color change is effected by reducing the expression of the Agouti gene through DNA methylation. This methylation occurs because of one of four nutrients in the parental generation’s diet prompts it. The implications of this research are definitely exciting, pointing to in vivo genetic therapies many years down the road, but it does not imply any sort of Lamarckian inheritance.

    In regards to the Bible, one of the things I have always had trouble reconciling within my own faith is the notion of the “permanent” Bible and a living God, a central thesis of Judeo-Christian belief. One of the central tenets of Friends is that we tend to believe the revelation of God or deity is both personal and ongoing. That through quietude and listening, one can commune with God as all people have “that of God” within them. Thus, it seems paradoxical that a living God who’s revelation is ongoing would resemble a divine J.D. Salinger or Harper Lee, writing a single book many years ago and then retreating into uncommunicative, self-imposed obscurity. The answer to this simple: God didn’t. While the Bible is a good place to begin one’s journey to God, to accept it unquestioningly or as unchangeable fact is to, in a very real way, deny the existence of a living God as well as the hope of any real relationship with deity.

    Why is there this seeming assumption that men who lived anywhere from 2000 years or so ago (or even further back) are somehow inherently more “holy” that anyone living today, more deserving of hearing God’s word and being believed than any present day person? Perhaps God did lead these men to write this book, perhaps God even had a hand in helping decide which of his writings actually made it into the collection of books that we today call the Bible. Given these possibilities, why is it that believers balk at the idea of God having a hand even now, even today, in adjusting our understanding of that work? It seems, in a way, to be a denunciation of faith in a scramble for something concrete, something with “fact-iness”.

    With that understanding, there again seems to be no reason why the Bible should stand in any way opposed to Darwinian evolutionary mechanics or genetics. I will reiterate that I think it’s inappropriate to compare the two, however, as they are apples and oranges and seek to do completely different things. See Stephen Jay Gould’s wonderful book “Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life” for a wonderful explanation of this.

    I feel the problem here is you are mixing philosophy with science and not respecting the different levels of proof required of the two. While it is an interesting philosophical discussion to ponder if death existed before man’s fall, to use this as any sort of scientific basis is impossible for one simple reason: it can’t be tested. There is no way to form an hypothesis, set up an experimental protocol to test that hypothesis and then have that protocol repeated independently for verification. This is the level of rigor science requires where as philosophy and religion require something altogether different. This simply means one can not be used as a metric to judge the other. It is essentially meaningless to say, “Because Adam and Eve fell, God is not cruel and this means Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms are wrong.”

    We can certainly discuss philosophy and we can discuss religion and we can even discuss science, but we must give each of them their due. We must be respectful of the basis of each as well as the goals of each and not muddle them together. If we are discussing philosophy, I would point out that you seem to infer that all death is “justified” or “just” because of Original Sin. This seems to okay all death, even that by murder or other violence, as it is only in payment for the original broken contract. I would disagree wildly with this.

    It also seems that terms are being used without any real definition. What exactly do you mean by “loving” or “cruel”? What’s your metric for judgment?

    You certainly seem to attach a lot of importance to the story of the Fall. However, your “change in the system” seems needless as the system itself was created by God. It’s His system. He makes the rules. Even deeper than that, He makes the rules that the rules are based on. It’s all very well to blame suffering on mankind and say we broke a contract, but that strikes me as the same as blaming a baby for hurting itself when it’s been left unattended by a parent. What’s more, that baby’s then punished for breaking the rules, rules that were never explained to it and might not even be understood if it were. Or, to put it in semi-legal terms that you seem to be fond of, there is no evidence to show there was a meeting of the minds in that original agreement, therefore it’s arguable that there ever was a contract to break in the first place.

    All of this, however, has very little to do with the scientific exploration of the mechanism of evolution. So you haven’t really set up any strawmen (well, at least not any new ones), exactly. You’ve just not really explained your justification for relating one set of beliefs to another. I still don’t see where you can concretely say Darwinian evolutionary mechanics are “mean” or “cruel”, even with Biblical backing, without portraying God as mean and cruel. I also see no rationale for why Lamarckian inheritance is somehow more “godly” than Darwinian inheritance. Indeed, in his day, Lamarck was considered a huge heretic because his ideas supposedly edged God out of the picture.

  15. quakerjono

    thanks for the response. i am interested to here you are quaker, because i dont know much about it.

    anyway, you said a few things to which i would like to respond:

    one, in regards to the agouti mice, you said “However, for this to in any way challenge the idea of Darwinian evolution, it would need to show that this trait is occurring independently of genes, which it clearly doesn’t”

    this is exactly the point of the experiments. it wasnt a genetic change. the genes were the same. it was an epigenetic change. the whole research has pointed out the vast possibility of change occurring through epigenes rather than genes. and genes change require mutation (ie darwinian evolution) but epigenes only require environment (ie lamarck). i personally dont agree with lamarck in entirety. but i agree with adaptation of creatures within a species. i believedd God created species and let them evolve among their own kind.

    two, you said i was discussing philosophy more than science. i concur. but so is the darwinian evolutionist. a darwinian evolutionist cant see the creatures evolve. he cant run a test of mutation and find that the same creature evolves, etc. the only thing the evolutionist has is the records left from past generations. but the non-darwinian has the same records. the non-darwinian uses the same methods, etc. but they come up with radically different results (sometimes). if a person forces the darwinian structure onto data, it will show them what they want to discover. if a person force their legalistic christian beliefs on the data, they too will find what they want to in it. therefore, i think that one must presuppose what one believes before you analyze data. this requires then a philosophical argument, not scientific.

    anyway, i hope i have at least let you know that there are rational people who dont believe in fundamentalist christianity that still believe in creation.

    best wishes
    peter

  16. PS

    i thought this was an interesting article. yall might find it so too.

    Stalling over Transitional Forms (#218)
    by Frank Sherwin, M.A.*

    Skeptics of Mr. Darwin’s strange theory have for years used a truly remarkable book by evolutionist Barbara J. Stahl of Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. It is titled, Vertebrate History: Problems in Evolution, (1974).1 Sadly, this is now out of print. Dr. Stahl, anatomy professor and paleoichthyologist, is clearly no friend of the creationist. She was, however, intellectually honest enough to write this 604-page book documenting the many problems associated with alleged evolution of the vertebrates.

    Darwinists were understandably quick to downplay Dr. Stahl’s research. In recent years their only “valid” criticism is that the book is dated and anything found in its pages are now (thankfully) passé.

    I beg to disagree. In 2001 Edwin H. Colbert and his coauthors published their fifth edition of Colbert’s Evolution of the Vertebrates.2 Dr. Stahl’s detailed research has held up all these years when compared with Colbert’s more recent text.

    Bird origin: “In the absence of fossil evidence, paleontologists can say little about the date at which these |sixty-nine living families of Passeri-formes| . . . appeared” (Stahl, 386). “Of all the classes of vertebrates, the birds are least known from their fossil record” (Colbert, 236).

    Whale origin: “As with most tetrapods secondarily modified for aquatic living, ascertaining the terrestrial stock from which the whales came is exceedingly difficult” (Stahl, 486). “Like the bats, the whales (using this term in a general and inclusive sense) appear suddenly in early Tertiary times, fully adapted by profound modifications” (Colbert, 392).

    Amphibian origin: “Since the fossil material provides no evidence of other aspects of the transformation from fish to tetrapod, paleontologists have had to speculate how legs and aerial breathing evolved” (Stahl, 195).

    “This is certainly a logical explanation of the first stages in the change from an aquatic to a terrestrial mode of life. We can only speculate about this” (Colbert, 84-85).

    Snake origin: “The origin of the snakes is still an unsolved problem” (Stahl, 318). “Unfortunately, the fossil history of the snakes is very fragmentary, so that it is necessary to infer much of their evolution” (Colbert, 154).

    Fish origin: “The higher fishes, when they appear in the Devonian period, have already acquired the characteristics that identify them as belonging to one or another of the major assemblages of bony or cartilaginous forms” (Stahl, 126). “Both these groups |bony and cartilaginous| appeared in the late Silurian period, and it is possible that they may have originated at some earlier time, although there is no fossil evidence to prove this” (Colbert, 53).

    Contrast this lack of fossil evidence for evolution with the clear evidence for creation: the sudden appearance of fully formed vertebrates (and invertebrates) in the fossil record.

    Stahl, Barbara. 1974. Vertebrate history: Problems in evolution, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
    Colbert, E. H., M. Morales, and E. C. Minkoff. 2001. Evolution of the vertebrates: A history of the back-boned animals through time, 5th ed., New York: Wiley-Liss, Inc.

  17. Well, Peter, I’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have and that I know the answers to. I should probably put something on my blog because I’m being asked about this all the time. I don’t like proselytizing, but I sometimes wonder if I’m not a little too shy about the specifics of my faith. The nickname is a conscious choice to move in a more vibrantly open way.

    My point about the mice is that, for Lamarckian inheritance to exist, fully fledged traits must be not only be acquired through specific environmental pressure during the adult life of an individual, but they must then pass on as a unit independent of genetic assortment. Perhaps I’m reading the article wrong and should try and find an abstract of the paper itself, but it seems that a conclusion is being jumped to here that isn’t supported by the research. Epigenic research is an emerging field that is gaining some respect, but it does not support Lamarckian inheritance as it still acts on the DNA. From what I gathered in the article (which isn’t as good as an abstract in figuring out what the researchers were going for), the reason for the different coloration of the mice can be traced back to genetic activation and regulation. While the responses to environmental stimulus are evident, there is no compelling reason to believe that they are brought about by anything other than normal activator/promoter mechanics. All I saw in the article was evidence that the Agouti gene was unchanged, not that all other genes remained unchanged or switched off.

    At this time, the evidence isn’t compelling. That may change in the future and if so I’ll re-evaluate my stance then. At present, though, the strongest argument for Darwinian inheritance over Lamarckian inheritance is that it works. It’s verifiable, both in present day experimentation and also in examination of pedigree. Lamarckian inheritance, however, is not.

    You said that you can’t observe Darwinian evolutionary mechanics, but this is simply not true. You can see it in the evolution of viruses. Viral DNA in an infected cell miscodes one of the proteins for its outer shell. The mutated protein structure cuts down on intermolecular repulsion between the virus and a cell. The virus is therefore able to enter cells easier, hijack their reproduction mechanism faster and create more copies of itself which then infect more cells in a geometric progression. Soon, the most common wild type of the virus is the emergent mutated form. This is Darwinian mechanics on its most basic level. Heritable change, over time, produces reproductively advantageous parental generations which in turn produce more offspring. It’s happening all the time, in everything from the common cold to HIV and one of the greatest pending threats to our health and safety, antibiotic resistant bacteria. Indeed, bacteria provide an even better example than viruses in that they keep the functions in house, so to speak.

    So Darwinian evolution is not philosophy, although one might choose to discuss it in those terms for rather esoteric and non-scientific reasons. It is factual science, involving application of the scientific method. You’re right that the non-Darwinian evolutionist has access to the same facts and methods and that is in itself telling as all the research we have so far offers very little if any support for anything outside a Darwinian model, even though people have been looking for it for years. Perhaps it exists, but even if it does, countering the Darwinian mechanics that have been shown to exist will require more than mere existence.

    The data supports gradual change accruing through time. This is what Darwinian mechanics predict. Rarely if ever is there a punctuated evolutionary event causing significant change to spring up virtually overnight and a new species to emerge. This would be the prediction of Lamarckian and it simply doesn’t happen. No one is forcing the data to show them anything, it’s doing that all by itself.

    I would disagree strenuously that one “must presuppose what one believes” as this flies in the face of scientific methodology itself. One may have a notion or an idea, the famed scientific hypothesis. However, one can not presuppose belief in that hypothesis without testing and still be considered a good scientist for the exact reason you say. If one is looking for a certain outcome, one is more likely to incorrectly interpret data to achieve it. If one simply tests a hypothesis, though, then the data obtained , while perhaps disproving the original hypothesis, will provide clues on which way to go next.

    At the end, it’s certainly your right to believe what you will. It is perhaps wise, though, to consider where your first premises come from and make sure you are being true to them, both in ideal and in practice. One can believe in Creation and creation stories without having to sacrifice science or torture it into some sort of bastardized version of itself to justify that belief. Indeed, if we’re going to get strict here, belief and faith are at the root of any religious creation story and so to demand that science be used to justify faith seems irreligious somehow.

  18. quakerjono

    i think that the very fact that a virus is a good model for darwinian evolution is exactly my point. genetic mutation is almost never beneficial. it almost always creates infertility (or inability to grow normally, etc). etc etc etc.

    however, with a thing like a virus we see the opposite. a virus works counter to normal growth. so why would normal “evolution” work the same as a virus.

    bottomline: second LAW of thermodynamics, universe moving to more chaos and less order. for genetic mutation to have created more intelligent, more complex beings, it would have to have an outside source forcing the changes to benefit. but if this force was God, why would He have to use mutation. Didnt He create? not mutate? couldnt He have gotten it right the first time?

    or is God really that weak.

    ps i would love to find out more about being in the society of friends and will contact when i get a chance.

    peter

  19. Peter,

    I’m not sure I understand the crux of your argument here. While genetic mutation may not always be expressed and may actually produce inviable or infertile results, the sheer amount of it going on at any given moment balances these rates out so that, over time, change occurs.

    The same is true for viruses. However, in the case of viral mutation, there is so much reproduction going on in a viral incident, that the process is greatly speeded up. While people, for example, may only have one or two children, on average, over the course of their eighty-year lives, a virus from a single cell may produce millions of copies of itself which then burst from the cell, usually in a matter of hours or days, and then each one of these copies repeats the process on another cell. There is more opportunity for change to accumulate as there is more reproduction occurring, both in number of offspring and in gestation period.

    Again I believe the problem to be that you’re leaving the realm of science and statistics and entering the realm of philosophy in an attempt to personify evolutionary mechanics. You’re trying to make objective scientific judgments based on subjective moral foundations and that’s not good science. It may be interesting philosophy, but it’s not science.

    As for the second law, there is some question here regarding its application, but certainly inconsistencies may exist. Complexity exists in spite of the second law. When dealing with the second law, one must be keenly aware of what closed system one is referencing. Life as we know it does not exist in a closed system. There is external energy input from the Sun as well as other sources. So immediately it exists as a situation outside the the parameters of the second law, namely that the system be closed. The only way to possibly consider this a closed system is to evaluate the universe as a whole in relation to our little biosphere and that is not only a task fit for Sisyphus, but it is scientifically questionable.

    I’m more than happy to answer any questions about The Religious Society of Friends you might have. I can also provide informational links. It’s not for everyone and many find it to be quaint and outdated, but it’s allowed me to reconcile me sincere desire for faith with my rationality so it works for me. And, at the end of the day, that’s really the best any of us can hope for.

  20. quakerjono

    i think you make an admirable attempt to justify the “scientific” position, but i dont think that your data is correct. check out the statistics on beneficial mutations.

    here is a great article about the probability of “beneficial” mutations:

    The Mathematical Impossibility of Evolution
    by Henry Morris, Ph.D.

    According to the most-widely accepted theory of evolution today, the sole mechanism for producing evolution is that of random mutation combined with natural selection. Mutations are random changes in genetic systems. Natural selection is considered by evolutionists to be a sort of sieve, which retains the “good” mutations and allows the others to pass away.

    Since random changes in ordered systems almost always will decrease the amount of order in those systems, nearly all mutations are harmful to the organisms which experience them. Nevertheless, the evolutionist insists that each complex organism in the world today has arisen by a long string of gradually accumulated good mutations preserved by natural selection. No one has ever actually observed a genuine mutation occurring in the natural environment which was beneficial (that is, adding useful genetic information to an existing genetic code), and therefore, retained by the selection process. For some reason, however, the idea has a certain persuasive quality about it and seems eminently reasonable to many people—until it is examined quantitatively, that is!

    For example, consider a very simple putative organism composed of only 200 integrated and functioning parts, and the problem of deriving that organism by this type of process. The system presumably must have started with only one part and then gradually built itself up over many generations into its 200-part organization. The developing organism, at each successive stage, must itself be integrated and functioning in its environment in order to survive until the next stage. Each successive stage, of course, becomes statistically less likely than the preceding one, since it is far easier for a complex system to break down than to build itself up. A four-component integrated system can more easily “mutate” (that is, somehow suddenly change) into a three-component system (or even a four-component non-functioning system) than into a five-component integrated system. If, at any step in the chain, the system mutates “downward,” then it is either destroyed altogether or else moves backward, in an evolutionary sense.

    Therefore, the successful production of a 200-component functioning organism requires, at least, 200 successive, successful such “mutations,” each of which is highly unlikely. Even evolutionists recognize that true mutations are very rare, and beneficial mutations are extremely rare—not more than one out of a thousand mutations are beneficial, at the very most.

    But let us give the evolutionist the benefit of every consideration. Assume that, at each mutational step, there is equally as much chance for it to be good as bad. Thus, the probability for the success of each mutation is assumed to be one out of two, or one-half. Elementary statistical theory shows that the probability of 200 successive mutations being successful is then (½)200, or one chance out of 1060. The number 1060, if written out, would be “one” followed by sixty “zeros.” In other words, the chance that a 200-component organism could be formed by mutation and natural selection is less than one chance out of a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Lest anyone think that a 200-part system is unreasonably complex, it should be noted that even a one-celled plant or animal may have millions of molecular “parts.”

    The evolutionist might react by saying that even though any one such mutating organism might not be successful, surely some around the world would be, especially in the 10 billion years (or 1018 seconds) of assumed earth history. Therefore, let us imagine that every one of the earth’s 1014 square feet of surface harbors a billion (i.e., 109) mutating systems and that each mutation requires one-half second (actually it would take far more time than this). Each system can thus go through its 200 mutations in 100 seconds and then, if it is unsuccessful, start over for a new try. In 1018 seconds, there can, therefore, be 1018/102, or 1016, trials by each mutating system. Multiplying all these numbers together, there would be a total possible number of attempts to develop a 200-component system equal to 1014 (109) (1016), or 1039 attempts. Since the probability against the success of any one of them is 1060, it is obvious that the probability that just one of these 1039 attempts might be successful is only one out of 1060/1039, or 1021.

    All this means that the chance that any kind of a 200-component integrated functioning organism could be developed by mutation and natural selection just once, anywhere in the world, in all the assumed expanse of geologic time, is less than one chance out of a billion trillion. What possible conclusion, therefore, can we derive from such considerations as this except that evolution by mutation and natural selection is mathematically and logically indefensible!

    Discussion
    There have been many other ways in which creationist writers have used probability arguments to refute evolutionism, especially the idea of random changes preserved, if beneficial, by natural selection. James Coppedge devoted almost an entire book, Evolution: Possible or Impossible (Zondervan, 1973, 276 pp.), to this type of approach. I have also used other probability-type arguments to the same end (see, e.g., Science and Creation, Master Books, pp. 161-201).

    The first such book, so far as I know, to use mathematics and probability in refuting evolution was written by a pastor, W. A. Williams, way back in 1928. Entitled, Evolution Disproved, it made a great impression on me when I first read it about 1943, at a time when I myself was still struggling with evolution.

    In fact, evolutionists themselves have attacked traditional Darwinism on the same basis (see the Wistar Institute Symposium, Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, 1967, 140 pp.). While these scientists did not reject evolution itself, they did insist that the Darwinian randomness postulate would never work.

    Furthermore, since the law of increasing entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics, is essentially a statement of probabilities, many writers have also used that law itself to show that evolution on any significant scale is essentially impossible. Evolutionists have usually ignored the arguments or else used vacuous arguments against them (“Anything can happen given enough time”; “The earth is an open system, so the second law doesn’t apply”; “Order can arise out of chaos through dissipative structures”; etc.).

    In the real world of scientific observation, as opposed to metaphysical speculation, however, no more complex system can ever “evolve” out of a less complex system, so the probability of the naturalistic origin of even the simplest imaginary form of life is zero.

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