following points have been addressed elsewhere, I'd
appreciate it if you'd refer me.
My main issues with your information are the following:
(1) The creation of a distinction between evolution and abiogenesis. Of course, I do not dispute that such a distinction exists; however, you cannot refute that evolution is touted by most people (and even many scientists) as a theory that "explains the origin of life." News reports often do not make the distinction. Since many people tend to assume that evolutionary biology is an atheist theory (just today I read a comment in the NY Times from a renowned scientist saying that evolution and theism are incompatible from a logical standpoint), I think this subject needs to be addressed more directly here. Are all of these scientists who tout evolution as an argument for atheism wrong? If so, this should be explicitly acknowledged.
(2) The page on "Chance and Evolution" is absolutely ridiculous. The article describing how we have to view chance in an evolutionary theory is important, but the article talking about God directing random events is silly. Yes, it could be true, but, once again, this goes against the grain of what the majority of the scientific community would say publicly. That needs to be acknowledged. I realize that the purpose of this forum is not to show what most scientists believe--but when you make statements that are in direct disagreement with what many scientists say publicly about evolution, this needs to be acknowledged.
(3) Any and all arguments addressing Michael Behe's book are misguided. Almost all criticisms I have read miss the point. Behe was trying to point out that the development of complex mechanisms are not well-understood. Yes, there are theories explaining how irreducibly complex systems CAN form according to evolution, but are these explanations PROBABLE? Can we actually apply these theories to the examples Behe gives and give moderately detailed proposed mechanisms that could possibly explain the systems? Are these mechanisms probable? Behe is not a moron. He understands that irreducible complexity can be explained by the theory of two components developing further from an initial one component system until they become dependent. What he wants, though, is someone to actually show how this theory works for real-world systems, and if anyone can point me to places where people have done a probabilistic analysis on a proposed mechanism that does this for a real fairly complex system that shows this can happen, I'd really be thrilled if you could point me to it.
(4) The previous argument goes for a lot of evolutionary theory with respect to probability. Are these explanations probable? Has anyone actually sat down and wrote a journal article saying, "OK, here are the assumptions, here are the estimates of how probable these events are, and now we apply them to the situation"?? The only detailed analysis of this kind I have seen in the pop literature (I admit I have not done extensive research in the academic journals for this) is in Spetner's "Not By Chance." His (obviously biased) conclusion is that even under optimal conditions, the chances of the horse sequence actually evolving the way it is postulated are very near zero. I know that you could probably refute his argument, but what I want is not a refutation, but a positive proof. I want to see a journal article that describes an evolutionary mechanism and does a probablistic analysis to determine whether it is possible. I want to SEE THE NUMBERS. I hate to make this statement, but I've seen everything from very decent webpages by bio post-docs to books by Richard Dawkins which give examples of how evolution is possible by saying, "Think of it this way--you think event X is improbable. However, take this over a very long time and a large population, and introduce favorable selection processes. Then won't you see that it can happen over time span Y in population Z?" Inevitably, almost every one of these "thought experiments" ends up being off by many orders of magnitude. The answer is almost always "No, it still can't happen according to your criteria." Why? Because Richard Dawkins, the savior of evolutionary biology, doesn't bother to plug in the numbers. I WANT TO SEE THE NUMBERS. Show me a journal article that shows me a real world case of evolution is probable. Because, I'll be honest, after reading these mathematical errors in Dawkins and many other sources, I've now stopped believing in evolution. I was not swayed by the Creationists, but rather by the stupidity of your own Evolutionists. Show me the data. Go against that stereotype that bio majors can't do math, and show me some stats. That's the only legitimate way to show whether a theory based on historical evidence is true. The theory can always mutate to fit the historical data that is discovered, but at each step we need to stop and say, "Is this probable?" I've seen a lot of stories that start off, "The Kingdom of Evolutionary Biology is like this: Imagine you are doing some improbable event, but imagine the favorable conditions...." This is a parable, more like something a religious group would give as an explanation. I want science. I want data. I want journals doing the stats on nearly real situations.
Show me the data, and I will believe.
P.S. The stupid Dawkins passage I'm referring to is on pp. 161-162 of "The Blind Watchmaker." After I read this page, I took out my calculator, determined that Dawkins was an idiot, and stopped believing in biologists claims about how evolution can be probable under the right circumstances. All your arguments show that, yes, evolution is MORE probable, but I need an ABSOLUTE scale. Showing something is a billion times more probable than a first estimate in 1 in 10^100 is great, but something that is 1 in 10^91 is still NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
|Author of:||Evolution and Chance|
|Response:||1. No matter
what comprehension difficulties journalists may have, or
lack of education, the fact remains that the theory of
evolution is devised to account for the way living things
change over time, and not the way that living thiings
developed from non-living things; although I happen to
think that it will do this as well in the future. And yes,
all those scientists who think that science and theism are
incompatible or mutually contradictory are wrong,
logically. It is explicitly acknowledged on this site in
the Evolution and
Philosophy - Metaphysics FAQ and the God and Evolution FAQ.
2. If God supports the existence of the physical world, then why is it ridiculous that he directs some seemingly random events? I grant that it adds nothing to a scientific explanation, but the author is trying to show that random events are not inconsistent with the existence of God, and I think this is correct. It is not a scientific point, but a theological one, and a properly theological point at that. It is in conflict with the religious views of some scientists and not in conflict with the religious views of other scientists, but that's not a scientific matter.
3. Dawkins' books are popularisations. If you want to deal with the actual calculations, you'll need to read technical literature after first mastering a good population genetics textbook. The literature is extensively mathematical, and only someone who is totally unaware of that literature could even make the statement "bio majors can't do math" come off their keyboard without grimacing. Here's a primer to get you going: Thompson, James N. 1997. Primer of genetic analysis: a problems approach. 2nd ed. Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Spetner's arguments are spurious at best. A general discussion of these things is found in Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations . A fuller review of Spetner's arguments, by a person who is open to anti-Darwinian arguments, can be found at Gert Korthof's site. His conclusion: "If Spetner demonstrated anything, it is that population genetics is the most falsifiable part of evolution theory."
|Comment:||I have studied your site a great deal, and have found many facts that I can now use in debates, but I have yet to find answers to a few of my questions. There does not seem to be anything about the actual origin of the universe. The only theories I have found came from other sites, and they all seem like nonsense: "The emptiness gathered together...then exploded and blew itself into hydrogen gas...the gas...exploded in super-nova explosions...Those explosions made all the heavier elements...which formed into planets and stars." As any logical person can see, this is nonsense. This was from a creationist site, and so is very biased, but how DID it happen? Any help would be very much appreciated.|
|Author of:||The Recession of the Moon and the Age of the Earth-Moon System|
of the Universe remains hidden in the unobservable past.
The best we can do is to theorize, to extrapolate from what
we know, as best we can, back to the origin itself. That
can actually be done with more attention to detail, and
more precision, than most people think. The result is what
we call "Big Bang cosmology". There are as yet no cosmology
articles in this archive. However, there are better places
on the net to find out about cosmology than creationists
can provide. Here are my favorites.
The common approach to science by creationists is to simplify everything as much as possible, usually too much. They treat cosmology in the same way, always presenting oversimplified caricatures of what scientists really think, and then ridiculing a cosmology that they invented to be ridiculous, rather than anything that resembles reality.
In a nutshell, Big Bang cosmology is nothing more sophisticated than noticing that if the universe is expanding (which it certainly appears to be doing), then if you take the expansion backwards, everything winds up in one spot. How it got that way is anybody's guess, but that it was that way (or close to it) is pretty hard to avoid. But we can create physical descriptions of the early universe, based on experiment & theory. That physical description constitutes the fundamentals of Big Bang cosmology; it "predicts" the relative abundance in the universe of hydrogen and helium, the presence of the ubiquitous cosmic background radiation (CBR), the fact that the CBR has a precisely thermal spectrum, and the present state of expansion of the universe. It predicts the creation of matter from energy, as a "phase transition"; matter "freezes" out of the energy in much the same way as ice freezes out of liquid water. It is neither as simple, nor as silly as creationists make it out to be. The websites I gave here will provide more detailed introductions & discussions.
I also recommend the book "The First Three Minutes" by Stephen Weinberg. Currently out of print once again, it is probably the best description for the early stages of Big Bang cosmology that you can fidn for lay readers.
for a very informative web site.
Something that I have not been able to understand is the attempt by some creationists to find one creature that can somehow be "proven" to have originated by special creation.
My puzzlement, I suppose, is in their expectation that God would have left "fingerprints" that give it all away. Especially when the fingerprints are missing everywhere else.
One example is the bombardier beetle. One can, in a moment of levity, imagine God saying, "Doh! I forgot about that dumb beetle!"
By the way, there was an article late last year in the magazine of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific ("Mercury", March/April, 1998, Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy, by Hector Avalos) that I found to be of interest in defining the basic conflict between science and religion and explaining why we continue to have these discussions. The article text doesn't appear to be available online, but the abstract is.
|Comment:||I just have a question. There are several examples of speciation that have been documented by evolution as is posted on talk origins. The creationists reply is usually that the definition of a species is not universally accepted, thus it cannot be taken as evidence of speciation. Do you have any comments?|
|Response:||It is true
that there are some number of species definitions. It is
also true that on all but a few archaic definitions,
speciation is still observed. No matter what scientific
definition is used, apart from purely conventional ones, we
have evidence of splits in those species either in the
recent past or during observable time. Some happen quickly,
It is also true that there are vague and uncertain cases where one species and another can interbreed or the process of speciation is incomplete or stalled. This, too, is independent of the definition used and is expected on evolutionary theoretic grounds.
It really doesn't matter what the definition is, speciation occurs. The different definitions merely draw different lines between them. The argument of creationists is wordplay, as so many of them are.
|Comment:||Well, I'm no
Quine scholar, so after writing my very recent Feedback, I
went and checked up on him.
It isn't scientific theories, like I said, that Quine compares with Homeric gods, but physical objects. This is in his "Two Dogmas of Empiricism". He avows that he does not believe in Homeric gods, and does believe in physical objects, because the latter are a more efficacious myth.
I think your correspondent takes Quine to imply that all sound judgments are scientific because Quine does have an idea (in the same paper) of a field of knowledge in which all manner of data and theories coincide, compete, disagree, and either support or destroy each other, or one or the other. Science is certainly a part of this "force-field", and Quine provides no boundary where science ends. I don't think, from the little I've read of him, that he is inclined to make such a distinction.
He's certainly not putting any pains into making the knowledge we glean from Homeric myth into science. Consider, though, that we might imagine a particle in terms of Homeric spirituality. Then it could impact science. If one is not inclined to cut off psychology and myth from the creative aspects of science, one probably does not have to do so. Quine might, I believe, put such ideas1 at the very periphery of science (at least as we see science), hardly in its midst.
My own disagreement with Quine is the "force-field" metaphor for the field of science. He thinks that facts at the periphery little disturb the "interior" of the field, and at least in the aforementioned piece, seemingly has some sort of idea of a mass of data at the periphery accumulating to affect interior theory and the like. I don't deny that this mass never has such an effect, but theories like relativity have few, and in the past have had rather fewer, data at the periphery, yet with a very good causal power in its effects.
So how could relativity make great predictions in the "force-field" of knowledge? It must have a relatively rigid internal structure, and not be "field-like" at all. It was because of this "force-field" view of science that I thought Quine might have been comparing scientific theories, instead of objects, to Greek gods. Facts and objects seem rather more defined than Quinian scientific theory (as I see it) and Greek gods. I apologize for the mistake. Good luck with the website.
John Wilkins for his fine response to my January Feedback.
As to the discussion of Occam's razor, I quite agree with Wilkins as far as he goes. Complex theories are infinite.
Yet simple theories eventually give way to complex theories in most cases, the world being complex. The issue of the razor is to isolate the relevant aspect of the theory, not to end up with simplicity. At least that's what I think. As long as the theory is kept as simple as possible, and assuming that it is a good model, we make our ideas correspond to something, rather than nothing. But the best theory of evolution will be extremely complex, and still meaningful, as long as we insist on maximum explanatory value of each aspect of the theory.
I think Wilkins is, or at least by rights should be, correct about Quine not saying that only scientific beliefs are justified. After all, he certainly believes in logic, not all of which is scientifically applied to life (unless one insists on such an expansion of science. I won't accept it). Besides, he said something to the effect that he believes scientific theories about like he believes in Greek gods--useful metaphors was his point, I think.
Which is why I agree with Jeremy Chappell that a priori philosophical assumptions (yes, I replaced "prescriptions" with "assumptions") do affect what scientists do. My own view of science is more on Wilkins' side than on Quine's, and it very much matters which I believe.
However, even Quine's ideas of science are very different than the context in which science and rationalism arose. I think it was National Review that reviewed a book which discussed the rather awesome accomplishments of Greek rationalism and science. A crucial debt we owe to the Greeks is their insistence on logic, and an uneven empiricism, when there was little evidence that the world was not the plaything of the gods.
We're descendents of this view, a set of beliefs so thoroughly accepted by now that although creationists will often argue that evolution rests on philosophical assumptions, they typically (not every single one) try to "scientize" their own beliefs, following the exact same philosophical assumptions. That they generally do it badly shows only ineptness, not a different philosophical or scientific viewpoint.
They argue natural laws, and they try to submit and interpret evidence, including, of course, the "evidence from the past" which many of them try to put off-limits at other times. All "flood geology" rests on blithely assumed uniformity of physical laws in the past. And this to claim a singularity, a miracle. When even discrepancies from the scientists' theories are claimed via scientific assumptions, creationists have lost all philosophical foundation for an attack on science.
So, yes science rests on (at very least, has an important relation with) philosophy, but creationists give us no alternative, or at least, an alternative with only ad hoc explanations to differentiate their beliefs from our own beliefs about science.
And I think the uniqueness of humanity can be defended, as Marina makes the case(sorry about picking on you Wilkins, but philosophy is my interest, and as much as I agree with you, there is little point in responding to areas of agreement, only to difference). To say that we're unique in our abilities only according to their "degree and constellation" denies the possibility that a certain threshold in the unity, and thus of capacity, of these abilities may have been reached in humans.
The most recent Nature (as of 3-10-00) has an article about syntax, how a certain number of sounds in a spoken form of communication is essential before syntactical language can evolve. Once that has been done, a finite number of sounds can convey an infinity (or thereabouts) of meanings. Has this not made all the difference?
There is one other vital difference to be made for human uniqueness. "...If there were orchid theologians or biologists, imagine them saying how special thery were because they could trick bees and wasps into fertilising them!" says Wilkins. Maybe. But they can't say that, and they can't think that. Most importantly, they can't value their abilities, only we do.
Some natural characteristics may be valued by chimps and other apes though. Yet there's a totality they miss. We even note their naturalistic observations--they notice our own empiricism very little. There's something unique about our own self-reflexivity, and it's as much (or more) cultural than it is biological, with biology making the culture possible, of course.
Our values coupled with our infinite horizons (at least relative to other organisms) makes us value human existence above other forms of existence. There's nothing to say that this valuation is actually right, but there are no competing valuations this side of intelligent aliens or the supernatural. We're oddly unique in our vast generalism.
Generalizing such valuations to orchids is sheer projection, on the other hand. Wilkins had to project human capabilities to the orchid in order to imagine them valuing themselves. Even chimps can make only barely comparable valuations, I believe, for even the question that they might not be the greatest things in the world probably does not arise, at least not in their usual environment.
Nietzsche, of course, wouldn't in most cases find our abilities to be anything special--just ways of falsifying and reducing the world to our grasp. His fable is that once upon a time there was a star, with a planet. Then some life-forms arose on it that had reason. It was the planet's most prideful, and dishonest time. Then the star went out, and the proud, deceitful beings died. The end.
Much as I like Nietzsche, I couldn't agree with his statement that flies would find their own abilities the greatest either. In later works he finds valuation to be what matters, and if our abilities help us to falsify and grasp the world, they also facilitate our reduction of the rest of existence to our valuations. It may not be true, but I do think it's the only honest treatment that rational, generally-knowing, and valuing organisms can give to the world.
The crux of the matter is that when we are assigning values to theories, beliefs, states of mind, and organisms, we cannot consistently value the complex entity that does the valuing as equal or less than the things it values. To do so is to undercut the valuing entity along with its evaluations. We may honestly be skeptical of this process. What we cannot do, however, is escape our function of valuing, for it gives us our drive to create works and theories, and even to be skeptical of how we evaluate. That is to say, we exalt one or more of our values any time that we make a judgment that our capacity for valuing and judging is matters less than the abilities of other organisms. This may be as false as Nietzsche thinks it is, or as false as we think that the judgments of the creationists are, but we cannot honestly believe that our capacities and valuations are not more exalted than the abilities of other organisms and still make that very judgment.
I thank you again for your excellent website, the fine responses of your volunteers, and the chance to debate what it is that constitutes science. I stress that I mostly agree with John Wilkins, but all philosophers disagree with each other, don't they? I hope that you don't consider these remarks to be outside of the purview of your site, but you must get bored with creationists. I'm trying to at least give a viewpoint beyond the scientism of most evolutionists and creationists, although it remains entirely compatible with science. Thanks.
|Author of:||Evolution and Philosophy|
motivation for studying philosophy is to find as many
intelligent people to disagree with as possible. Thanks for
your comments and criticisms.
As you noted in another response, Quine was saying that belief in physical objects is like belief in Homeric gods. I find this philosophical view rather distasteful and founded upon an arcane "language-first" approach to philosophy, which in recent decades borders on and leads to an unhealthy postmodernism. Science is the very antithesis to this linguistic turn, which is why postmodern critics go to such lengths to misunderstand and attack science, and in this respect they are blood-cousins to creationists.
That science developed historically from certain beliefs about the nature of the universe is not to say that modern science now rests upon them. The philosophy of the medieval scholastics is emphatically not the basis of current science, and indeed the modern work on biology and chemistry tends to lead sus away from an Aristotelian binary classification of things. Things achieve a threshold and then they have salient properties that we can recognise.
So humans, since they have evolved, must have reached some threshold (of language, neurological complexity, social structure, whatever) in order to exhibit the properties we now observe. But a continuing mistake in sciences that deal with anything in which we are both objects and subjects, like biology, is to think that our observational capabilities somehow endows those properties with a certain specialness. That we observe and evaluate ourselves is special to us, but if science is about delineating and understanding the natural world, then that is one fact among many. Very many. The capabilities of flowers are also facts in the world. Science should deal with them, and with us, on a par.
Certainly I must ascribe to flowers human abilities to make the point I made. But I do this only for rhetorical effect - like Dawkins and his selfish genes, I do not really think that flowers have theologies any more than he thought genes have selfish impulses. We are oddly unique, as are they, and only by adding the premise that self-evaluation is somehow a priviliged natural property can we then say that we are "uniquely unique" as opposed to the ordinary uniqueness every organism has, if you get my drift.
As a scientifically oriented philosopher, I do not think humans are all that special in the universe. As a human, I think I and my conspecifics are the single most important things around. Science is a mode of knowing the world, and how we come to a rapprochement between the scientific and human perspectives is a matter of personal choice and accommodation. But qua science, humans are just another large hairy mammal, with a weird sexual system and expensive brains that call for an evolutionary explanation.
Thanks for taking the time to disagree with me so well.
|Comment:||How convenient for Mr Merritt to not have to worry about Grammar and spelling, as did Veliskovsky. Another attempt to dissect, manipulate and vilify a great man. For Mr. Merritt to poke fun at Velikovsky's formal credentials in sciences is no more adult than the treatment by other "experts" afraid their career efforts may be at risk.|
|Author of:||Is the Planet Venus Young?|
|Response:||I presume you refer to "Velikovsky Critiqued", the text file copy of Jim Meritt's usenet FAQ? As to Velikovsky's formal credentials, the only reference I found was when Meritt called him a "Russian Psychiatrist". That is correct, isn't it? Merrit also says that Velikovsky seems to lack knowledge in chemistry, and in astrophysics. A critical review of Velikovsky's writing indicates that this is a valid criticism. Velikovksy's 1946 booklet "Cosmos Without Gravitation" shows an extreme lack of both knowledge & understanding, in the application of even the simplist scientific principles. The same lack of understanding propagated into Velikovsky's later works, and explains why Velikovsky's books have always been essentially ignored by anyone with minimal sophistication in science.|
|Comment:||A short word on transitional species: Are not ALL species by definition transitional, in as much as they invariably evolve into something else? Homo Habilis being an example from our own genus.|
|Response:||Yes. (Except species which become extinct, which may be the most common case.)|
|Comment:||Having read some of the debate about the age of the Earth I should be grateful for clarification on one point in particular. Some Creationist literature I have read (e.g M.Bowden) has stated that geologists find that radiometric modes of geochronometry OFTEN yield widely divergent dates for the same rock samples. IS THIS TRUE?? I am aware of some anomalies with radiometric dating, e.g Hawaiian basalts of 200 years age dated as 3 billion years old (!!) but if this is happening regularly then I should have to believe that there is some great conspiracy amongst professional geologists. And that I doubt. I should be grateful for information on just how much professional disquiet there is amongst geologists concerning these techniques. Yours appreciatively, James Plaskett.|
|Author of:||Isochron Dating|
dating methods can yield divergent results, and
often do in cases where the history of a formation is very
complex (for example, where there have been multiple
episodes of significant heating). But in cases like these,
geologists usually know from the field setting that they
have to be especially careful. Furthermore, this doesn't
change the fact that there are also a large number
of cases where the geological history is relatively
straightforward, the interpretation of the results is very
clear, and multiple isotopic methods agree on precisely the
same value. It would be an error in logic to imply that the
existence of some difficult-to-date formations
automatically means that there are no easily-dated
If you're interested in studies of correlations of isotopic dating methods, with each other and position in the geologic column, I'd recommend Harland et al.'s A Geologic Timescale 1989 or Odin et al.'s Numerical Dating in Stratigraphy (the latter isn't currently in print but should be found in any decent university's geology library).
Oh, and finally: if you look more closely at the the "Hawaiian basalts" argument, you'll find the creationists' claims on that topic to be highly misleading. The dating that they reference was actually performed on mantle rocks carried in the flow, and never expected to yield the age of the flow itself. See the lower half of an old talk.origins post of mine for more detail.
briefly scanned your message, I felt sure that you too
would necessarily be an anti-Darwinian - as least in terms
of its being any sort of scientific theory since the wide
range of views that are included under Darwinism cannot
possibly be all correct.
It all sounds more like a religion than science. Do you see it that way or do you confidently affirm that it is really a science?
|Author of:||Evolution and Philosophy|
|Response:||You need to
be a bit more explicit about "the range of views included
under Darwinism". Certainly there are competing hypotheses
in evolutionary biology, as there are in any science that
is not dead. This is insufficient to make it religion.
Indeed, religions, although they have their disagreements
over orthodoxy, tend very much to eschew competing
A science is roughly any human enterprise to know things as they are on the basis of evidence and experiment. Darwinism is definitely that, in every respect. See the Evolution and Philosophy FAQ on metaphysics
But beware: not everything that calls itself Darwinism is so. A good many wild philosophies go by that name. These things run in cycles - the current fashion is to use the term Darwinism for artificial life research a lot. Moreover, many religious writers use it as an ad hoc justification for their views, especially on the Internet. If you want to understand the range of views that go by the name "Darwinian", see the "So You Want to be an Anti-Darwinian: Varieties of Opposition to Darwinism" FAQ for a guide.
|Comment:||RE: God and Evolution by Warren
Kurt VonRoeschlaub ....... I will make this as concise as
possible. A cornerstone theological concept held by most
evangelical Christians today is the existence of sin and
its natural penalty of physical death. According to
Genesis, this death, pain, and natural, physical decay of
most of that which is in the creation was a result of the
sin of the first man, Adam. Prior to this act of sin, the
creation was supposedly in a state of perfection without
violence or death of any kind for any creature. The "curse"
of physical death for Adam, Eve, and the rest of the
creation was warned of by God in Gen 2:17...
"but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
Because the mechanisms of natural evolution (starting from the beginnings of the first appearence of life on earth) involve such processes and cycles as: death, decay, the struggle to survive, violent competition for resources, mutations, adaption difficulties for organisms, environment related stresses for organisms, and predator/prey relationships, there is a seeemingly irreconcilable contradiction here.
The first man's sin invoked a curse of death upon himself and the rest of the creation, and some processes of natural evolution (listed in previous paragraph) were the very forces which finally resulted in the production of a man.
The matter is further complicated by the evangelical theological understanding of a future paradise and kingdom of Christ on planet Earth-- wherein all death and violence will cease completely. This state of future perfection on planet earth is a result of the removal of the "death curse" brought on by Adam.
Do we, as evangelical christians, have a incorrect conception of natural perfection? Of death? of sin? What can be done with this contradiction?
I appreciate this website greatly. Thanks.
....... Background about myself... I am 24 yr old evangelical Christian who has a real love for learning and for the truth. I have always had interests in the historical and natural sciences esp. those of Geology, anthropolgy, paleontology, and archaeology. Up until recently, I have been a tentative believer in creationism, but now am undergoing a complete reanalysis of my both my theology and understanding of origins.
talkorigins archive has no consistent viewpoint on these
matters. Warren's FAQ deliberately does not present a
detailed theology, but rather addresses some implications
and non-implications of the findings of science with
respect to origins.
You ask some good questions, but unfortunately this is not a good place to look for answers.
There are, of course, a great many ways in which believers reconcile their faith with science. Here are some links which could be of interest. I have included links to a number of ex-creationists. For completeness, you may wish to look also at Christian traditions in which creationism is not even an issue. Good luck!
|Comment:||If all of the evolutionists who write to this site really beleive evolution is true and they have so much proof why don't they take Mr. Kent Hovind's offer of $250,000 for empirical evidence of evolution? I can tell you, It's because evolution is a publicly funded religion. It takes much faith to believe in evolution or creation.|
|Author of:||Punctuated Equilibria|
Kent Hovind's "challenge" is not about "evidence of evolution". I suggest the reader read it again. To win, someone must reproduce the Big Bang from scratch. I would tend to think that this project might cost more than $250,000 and also tend to make moot the entire challenge, not to mention our little planet.
Does Kent Hovind really have $250,000 ready for disbursal to a successful challenger? There is no evidence to support even the existence of such funds. Hovind is unlikely to have or hold on to such funds, given his record of income tax avoidance. Who makes up the judging committee? Hovind says "trained scientists", but provides no names.
Hovind's "challenge" is just another rhetorical device.
People have tried to correspond with Hovind about his "challenge".
There seem to be as many problems in taking Hovind's challenge seriously as in taking Hovind's "Ph.D." seriously.
|Comment:||What can you say about A Young Galaxy ?|
|Author of:||The Recession of the Moon and the Age of the Earth-Moon System|
think that creationists could at least give each other
credit for their work. The page you point to, "
A Young Galaxy" (from Creation
Online), is an unattributed abridgement of the much
larger article "Distribution
of Supernova Remnants in the Galaxy", by Canadian Keith
The argument severely digested in the Creation Online page is that if the galaxy were as old as a few billion years, then there should be a lot more supernova remnants (SNR) visible in our own galaxy. Davies goes to quite a lot of effort to show this, but his paper suffers from one major flaw. It's an entirely theoretical construction that probably does derive the actual number of physically existing SNR. However, his study all but ignores the problems encountered trying to observe such beasts. Davies, and the abridgement, both say that there are no "stage 3" SNR. That is not true, there are several known. Davies severely overestimates the observable lifetime of an SNR, and so naturally overestimates the number we would expect to see.
I spent a decade working in a radio astronomy group, and one of the projects I workeed on was looking for radio SNR. You might think it peculiar, but you can look right at an SNR and not see it at all. It is virtually impossible to distinguish a stage 3 SNR from the background clutter, so instead of expecting the exorbitant 5000 called for by Davies, I would expect to see anywhere from say 0 to 10, maybe. The same is true for stage 2 SNR; Davies assumes that they can be seen from much farther away than is in reality the case. There is no appreciable discrepancy between the observed distribution of Galactic SNR and the age of the Galaxy.
[Since Tim wrote the above a very detailed FAQ debunking the supernova claims of Mr. Davies was added to this Archive.]
|Comment:||I suggest that you who edit and choose items for this site do something you obviously have not yet done: Read Velikovsky's books.|
|Response:||How on Earth can you come to that conclusion? This archive contains an entire subsection on catastrophism, including a detailed critique of many of Immanuel Velikovsky's claims. A simple search for "Velikovsky" on our search facility turns up numerous articles mentioning him by name.|
Dave Matson on his rebuttal to many
young-earth "science" claims, but with one caution:
while the data supporting ages of around 12 billion years
for the universe and 5 billion for Earth are mounting, the
data in molecular biology are instead refuting most of the
predictions of the evolution hypothesis. Matson has a
superb statement (I'll quote it in a moment) that shows the
error of the young-earth advocates. It would be sad to see
many of us who honor the scientific method to fall into the
same kind of error:
Exactly right! But now, is it neo-Darwinism that may not be questioned? The fact that the camp is divided between Gradualists and Punctuated Equilibrium-ists shows that the data do not support the theory.
scientists espousing either viewpoint all agree that
evolution takes place and is responsible for the diversity
of life on Earth. Depending on the conditions, evolution
proceeds swiftly or slowly, in a widespread geographic
region or in a limited space. The debate in scientific
circles over punctuated equilibrium is one of degree and
emphasis, not one of fundamentals. It's like two basketball
fans arguing over the merits of the Los Angeles Lakers'
playbook versus the New York Knicks' playbook. (Or pick two
teams from your favorite sport.) The nuances of the
playbooks might give one team or the other an advantage at
any given time, but as to the basics of the game --
dribbling, shooting, free throws, the size of the court --
both teams agree. An argument over the nuances doesn't mean
one team has decided to play baseball instead.
In general, punctuated equilibrium is highly misunderstood and widely misquoted. See our article on Punctuated Equilibria for more details.
student at Imperial College London, one of the most
prominent science universities in the world. I am NOT a
layman. From an aesthetic point this site is well crafted.
There my praise must end unfortunately. I have agreed to
allow this message to be published fully aware that it will
never be published. My own view supports evolution, but
that is irrelevant. Want is relevant is the lack of good
debate on this site. The entire site does nothing but
dismiss creationism and anything different from the
principles of darwinism. Yet on your opening page you say
the aim is "devoted to the discussion and debate of
biological and physical origins". This states debate of
origin. Not proof of Darwins theories. This page to justify
that comment should put the arguments and beliefs of others
with no bias attached and should provide real argument not
just biased contradiction of what other say. At least the
full context should be added. Importantly nowhere on the
site is the evidence for Darwinism given. You have reports
of critical visits to the Creation Research Institute in
California. Where are the critical reports of institues
dedicated to Darwinism. The site demeans itself by having a
political base and not providing a tru forum of argument.
With much disappointment
is not, and was never intended to be, a debate forum. The
forum for debate is the usenet discussion group talk.origins.
If you had quoted the whole sentence from our opening page, it would be clear that the words refer to the usenet group. Our opening page introduction goes on to describe the difference between this FAQ website, and the newsgroup debate forum.
This archive presents the mainstream science perspective on the matters under dispute in the discussion group. Other websites provide contrary views, and we have many links to such sites. A few web sites are particularly directed to matters discussed in talk.origins. This is the oldest such site, but no website has an official connection with the usenet group.
We are of the opinion that the best information is from the perspective of mainstream science, and that is what we try to supply. This is spelt out in our home page and our more detailed welcome page. We have added a special note to the feedback page, asking people to read our welcome page before complaining of bias. We are biased, most definitely, and with good reason.
I am also happy to use this feedback area to help those of our readers who still have difficulty comprehending this simple point. Debate is great, and there is a newsgroup for that purpose. There are many recurring misconceptions in the newsgroup. We collect useful information addressing those misconceptions. We don't provide a hosting service for anyone who has a viewpoint. We are happy that people with alternative views also have advocacy web sites. We link extensively to those alternative views, but we do not attempt to speak for them.
Please go back and read that opening page again. Thank you.
|Comment:||I'm a 16
year old Home Schooler from Concrete, Wa. I've been reading
on your archives for a couple of days now and I really
enjoy your articles; Though I do dissagree with you on most
of the subjects that you cover, I have one question about
natural selection. For something to be, it had to begin
right? Correct me if I'm wrong but the key needs to turn
before the car drives down the street.
If the divercity of life on earth is the product of natural selection, and it all started from a cell in a warm pond, then the second generation of cells that were created by the first had to have had some diffrence from the parent cells. I believe you would agree with me, if I said that cells go trough the process of Mitosis. Mitosis, is the devision of a "Mother cell" into two identicle cells called "Daughter cells". Though they may not contain the same amount of organic material, the daughter cells will inherit the same DNA and genetic potential as the mother cell. If, Cells replicate exactly, how could there be room for divercity. Where did it start? I suppose that the warm little sess pool created more than a cell, but a organism with fully functional sex organs, and the senses to locate a mate. Not to mention the appendages to relocate to the mates location.
In Christ, James Lyon, Jr.
P.S. Love the Science fiction section!
replicate exactly - there are always some physical
differences. Genetic material may be replicated exactly,
but over time and a number of generations there must
inevitably be some mutations. Modern cells have developed
mechanisms for detecting these and "repairing" the damage,
but this is not itself an infallible mechanism. Mitosis is
incredibly accurate in modern organisms, but it is not 100%
Initially, it is thought, the original "protocells" divided due to mechanical instability, and so each daughter cell was a random sample of part of the parent cell's molecules. Moreover, it is also thought that primitive genetic material was not tightly restricted to parent-child lineages, but that it often escaped the cell walls and was incorporated into other cells. In this way, quite a lot of viable mutations were spread over many different cell types. It was something of a massive parallel experimental laboratory. Even today, asexual cells exchange genes in one of three ways: conjugation, where two cells attach to each other and exchange all or part of their genes; transformation, where free-floating genes are released from cells (which may be dying) and taken up into the genetic material of other viable cells; and transduction, where vectors such as viruses insert foreign genes into the genomes of cells as a byproduct of their trying to replicate themselves. Such viruses, called retroviruses, often take up some of the genetic material of their hosts and leave copies in the next host infected.
Selection acted on early organisms to tighten up the genetic replication process until a high degree of accuracy was attained. In asexual lineages like bacteria, this would have been important because random mutations would have tended to introduce deleterious errors, whereas in sexual and other gene-exchanging organisms, such errors could be overcome and lost in recombination (organisms that were heterozygotic - had both alleles or alternative genes - would be better off than homozygotes for the mutant gene).
A point to make is that processes such as mitosis are not identical in all cell types. The Tree of Life is divided roughly into three domains (eubacteria, archeabacteria and eukaryotes). Plants and animals are eukaryotes, and they are the result of a fusion between two distinct cell types. Their mode of cell division is different to the mode of, say archaebacteria, which are much closer in "design" to the original cells.
As to sexual modes of reproduction in multicellular organisms like us, note that for around the first two thirds of the existence of life on earth, all life was either single-celled, or colonial like an algal mat. Sexual reproduction evolved sometime before the Cambrian, say, around 600 million years ago. Life evolved, so far as we can tell, around 3.8 billion years ago. My guess is that sex evolved from the single cell gene exchanging processes that probably go back to the earliest cellular life, and that the organs evolved later to make it more efficient.
The driver of biodiversity is ecology. As you get organisms in different environments dealing with each other, they evolve to cope with the demands placed on them by their ecological interactions. A minimal ecology is three or more organisms. It wouldn't take a lot of diversity in the initial "pond" (more probably, in my view, an underground chamber through which organic molecules flowed) to kick off a process of increasing diversification, especially if the conditions living things found themselves in changed as they spread out.
|Comment:||Sorry, but I have to ask Which came first the Chicken or the Egg?|
|Response:||The egg, by a considerable margin.|
about the definition of "macroevolution". The Macroevolution FAQ
indicates that macroevolution is "evolutionary change at or
above the level of species". But my trusty old copy of
Futuyma's Evolutionary_Biology (2nd ed.) indicates
that macroevolution is "evolution above the species level",
and "a vague term for the evolution of great phenotypic
changes, usually great enough to allocate the changed
lineage and its descendants to a distinct genus or higher
taxon," which seems to me to be somewhat different.
If I'm reading this correctly, the FAQ definition would mean that the all speciation, including the splitting-off of sibling species, would be properly considered macroevolution; Futuyma's definition would not.
Has usage of the term changed in the 15-odd years since my edition of Futuyma was published? (Geez, I hope so - what a squishy and unsatisfying definition that is, imho.)
|Author of:||Macroevolution FAQ|
lot of loose talk about macroevolution even by evolutionary
biologists. Usage ranges from the "speciation and above"
definition of Dobzhansky referenced in the FAQ to "very big
evolution" usages, which can be traced back to Simpson in
1944. Recent authors, beginning about 1980, have tended to
mean by "macroevolution" any pattern of change that occurs
above the level of species, particularly at the level of
genera. In my opinion, this is an arbitrary use, and it
depends a lot on the fact that genera are listed in the
taxonomic literature, and so we can compare extinction
rate, as Raup does. But that's not to say macroevolution is
just at that level, and most higher taxa are purely
artificial (I allow that genera and species may be roughly
as natural as each other).
See also my comments in the October 1999 Feedback
|Comment:||Hello, This is for the cosmologist among you. Upfront I am a Christian and I do like to discuss many of these ideas as so set forth on the page. I just recently Talked with an evolutionist/cosmologist and what we did is, we went back as FAR as we can. now ...correct me if I'm wrong but I heard that cosmologist know as far back as like 10 to the 43 hundreths of a second.. Or so thought. (Am I right or a little off) Now I then asked the question , where did light come from and where did mass come from? His answer was as far back as cosmologists can tell is ENERGY. Plain and simple Energy. Now I then asked Where did this energy come from? And he said that they don't know ...it has just always been there. SO my comment to that is ..."ok so you have Energy as a base for the makeup of the universe, so which sounds more plausible to you enrgy with no intelligence whatsoever or energy with intelligence because maybe this energy that we are seeing here is God." What do you think about this. And please I would like a answer/comment not antoher site to check out. Sincerely, Eric Paoletti|
|Author of:||Creation Science and the Earth's Magnetic Field|
|Response:||It's 10 to
the -43 power (10-43) seconds. The time between
the Big Bang and roughly 10-43 seconds
afterwards remains an unknown frontier, so far. This is
likely to change, once we are able to derive quantum
physical models of gravity (such as superstring theory).
Matter freezes out of the energy of the Big Bang in much the same manner as ice freezes out of liquid or vapor water. AS the pure energy early universe expands & cools, it is eventually cool enough to allow matter ("frozen energy") to form. A series of similar steps changes that primordial matter into the forms we are used to seeing now.
And you ask " ... so which sounds more plausible to you energy with no intelligence whatsoever or energy with intelligence because maybe this energy that we are seeing here is God." The theory of evolution is quite indifferent to the answer, and works quite well in all of its forms, regardless of which you choose. I personally do not like the concept of God, and I find the Universe makes far more sense without such a useless complication. However, as you can see by the "God and Evolution" article, there are those who disagree.
Despite your request for no more websites, here's one anyway: Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial. If you want to learn more about cosmology, this is a good place to start.
|Comment:||I am having a hard time trying to locate information on the possiblity of the "canopy of water" existence. I know that creationist use this to explain the earth's tilt. It is said that a huge meteor hit the canopy, and thus caused the ice age. I don't quite understand how scientists are explaining the earth's tilt. What are your views on this really of been? I am looking for concrete information or studies. Please link me to some web site or information.|
|Response:||Walt Brown's "vapor canopy" hypothesis is usually advanced as a justification for a worldwide flood; I have not heard it used specifically as an explanation of the Earth's tilt. Creationist Michael Oard of the Institute for Creation Research has, however, hypothesized that a worldwide flood cause the precession, or wobble, in the axis of the Earth's rotation. See The Vapor Canopy Hypothesis Holds No Water and this account of the 1993 International Creation Conference in Beaverton, Oregon.|
|Comment:||I am a
college student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
and I am researching some of the main controversial issues
between creation and evolution. Your site is very
informative and has helped me gain more information about
the basis of evolution, but I have one question that
remains. You may have this already answered in your site,
but it is so large I could not find it. What is the basis
for macroevolution? I know this is an extremely basic
question and to you it may seem ridiculous. Is it
mutations? Because if mutations is the main proof for
macroevolution, I do not see how it is probable. Is there
other proof? Please email to me where to find answers.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Annie Spychalla
|Author of:||Macroevolution FAQ|
"macroevolution" to mean speciation - that is, all
evolution down to and including the division of a species
into two or more (see the Macroevolution FAQ) -
the basis for macroevolution is generally genetic drift, not
Most speciation occurs because a population of a certain species is isolated geographically (allopatry) or at the periphery of a species' range (peripatry). It therefore has its own sampling of the genes of the wider species, and since it is a smaller group than the whole species, it tends to have different genes (alleles) than the original species.
Over time, alleles that are rare in the main species but happen to end up in the small population have a better chance of being reproduced and becoming linked to other genes that may also be rare in the parental populations. Eventually, the "constellation" of genes in the isolated population are quite different to that in the parental ones.
Natural selection then is able to relatively optimise the gene combinations in the isolate to form apparently different traits and adapt the members of the isolate to their perhaps different local conditions. The end result is a new species.
This is called peripatric and allopatric speciation. Repeating it several hundred times is enough to give some radically distinct life forms. Most distinctive groups are formed only once, in a particular speciation event, from which they then radiate into many species and usually many different habitats.
The initial origin of genetic novelty - of the alleles in a population - is mutation, but mutation doesn't form new species; it is just the raw material from which new species get formed by drift and selection. There are exceptions, of course - almost everything in biology has exceptions. Some species (mainly in plants) are known to be formed by sudden mutations, by hybridisation, and by natural selection operating on a single population (sympatry) to separate slightly different forms to the point where they can't interbreed, but this is not the dominant mode.
|Comment:||I have a few
questions about the age of the Earth, though I personally
believe in evolution and an ancient Earth, creationists
have come up with some arguements that I have yet to see
anyone refute. Please bear with me here, I really am
curious as to the answers for these questions.
1)- A Young Galaxy The results of observations done by astronomers indicate that there are not enough supernovas to justify an old galaxy.
2)- "Oil and Gas Deposits When oil reservoirs are tapped by drilling, the immense pressure in the reservoir forces up a spouting geyser. The abnormally high pressures found in wells indicate that they are of recent formation in the order of thousands of years ago. Calculations of fluid flow through porous rock and sediment indicate that pressures would have dissipated in only thousands of years. If the reservoirs are young, then the sediments which contain them would also be of recent origin.
Studies show that any pressure built should be dissipated, bled off into surrounding rocks, within a few thousand years. The excessive pressures found in oil beds, therefore, refute the notion of their age being on the order of millions of years and argues for the youthful age (less than 10,000 years) of the rock formations and the entrapped oil. -- Dickey, P., "Abnormal Pressure in Deep Wells of Southwestern Louisiana", Science, p. 609.
The broader question might be asked: How can oil or gases remain under great pressure for millions of years without dispersing and leaking through to the surface?
3)-The oceans are getting saltier. If they were billions of years old, they would be much saltier than they are now.
4)-At the rate many star clusters are expanding, they could not have been traveling for more than a few thousand years.
5)-Saturn's rings are still unstable, indicating they are not millions of years old.
6)-Jupiter and Saturn are cooling off rather rapidly. They are losing heat twice as fast as they gain it from the sun. They cannot be billions of years old. Jupiter's moon "Io" is losing matter to Jupiter. It cannot be billions of years old.
7)-It appears that the stars in the centers of may galaxies are moving faster than the stars at the outer edges. This would make the galaxies lose their spiral shape and spin into a homogeneous mass if they were billions of years old.
I know that this is a long post,but please help me with this, I have nowhere else to turn!
Thank you for any and all help given.
questions like this should be submitted, for instance, to
the talk.origins newsgroup. This is supposed to be a
feedback page regarding this archive and the articles
I have edited the original question to cut down on the length of question 1, and point out that I have already answered that question in another response, on this page, with links to the original source. And it's not supernovas they are talking about, it's supernova remnants.
Question 2: It isn't the pressure that determines whether or not something will flow out of the rocks, it's the pressure gradient, or in other words, the difference in pressure across the rock. If one side of the gas or oil pocket feels the same pressure as the other side, it won't go anywhere, regardless of the total pressure. Gas & oil don't come flowing out in a hurry because there is not a sufficient pressure gradient to push them out. I also note that while there was a reference to a paper in Science, there was no indication as to which issue (it has been in publication for over 100 years).
Question 3: The saltiness of the oceans has nothing to do with the age of the Earth, and everything to do with the chemical residency time of sodium chloride (salt) in solution in the oceans. This argument comes originally from Henry Morris, and can be found in his small book The Scientific Case for Creation (1977). Table 1, pp 55-59 presents 70 "uniformitarian estimates" for the age of the Earth, and of those 32 are based on the influx into the ocean of one or the other material. The estimates on the age of the Earth run from 100 years (!!) for aluminum to 260,000,000 years for sodium. It's an entirely bogus trick, which should be fairly obvious. Who would suggest that this is a reasonable way to estimate the age of the Earth, when the result is 100 years?? The average and standard deviation of these 32 "uniformitarian estimates" on the age of the Earth works out to be about 17,600,000 ± 53,400,000 years, which looks like a not much worse than 50/50 bet that the Earth does not exist yet. I'm impressed.
Question 4: Star clusters are not expanding, so the genesis of the question is somewhat perplexing.
Question 5: The stability of Saturn's rings was settled in 1980 & 1981, when the Voyager I & II spacecraft passed through the Saturn System. The discovery of shepherd satellites solved the stabilty problem. The rings of Saturn are not unstable, because they are held in place by numerous small satellites in the ring system. This has proven to be the case as well for the rings of Jupiter, Uranus & Neptune.
Question 6: The characteristic cooling times of the outer planets are much longer than the age of the solar system, so the fact that they are losing heat faster than the sun puts in heat, is not a problem. They simply have not had time to cool off yet. Likewise, the mass loss rate of Io is trivial, and even if it has been going on for billions of years (which may not be the case), it would hardly have had a noticable effect on the mass of Io.
Question 7: A problem well known in the study of galaxy dynamics, and called the winding dilemma. It turns out that the dilemma pretty much vanishes once you recognize that the spiral arms are not made up of a spiral pattern of moving stars, but rather a spiral pattern that moves through the stars, as a density wave. It is also evident that spiral galaxies do not in fact retain the spiral shape over billions of years, which also dulls the edge of the creationist argument.
Another gaggle of creationst arguments put to rest.
|Comment:||I would like to congratulate you on this excellent website. As an undergraduate at a large university I come across creationists more often than I am comfortable with these days. As a biology major, I often can refute their claims with a very simple answer, which is easy but infuriating, since these simple answers are never enough to dislodge them from their position. In any event, my question is this: How can the idea of speed of light decay be a question at all? Hasn't relativity proven light to be a universal constant in a vacuum? I mean, E=mc^2 is just that, otherwise mass defect equations used in nuclear physics wouldn't work at all. Just a simple question. Thanks, Brad|
|Author of:||The Recession of the Moon and the Age of the Earth-Moon System|
certainly indicates that the speed of light in our universe
is a universal constant, and indeed this is what Einstein's
theory of relativity says. However, cosmological theories
today are more complex, and maybe more sophisticated than
they were in Einstein's day. It is not necessary for the
speed of light to be a constant throughout the history of
the universe. A few cosmologists, as a means of providing
an alternative to inflation theory, have proposed that the
speed of light could be a variable in the early stages of
the Big Bang. In relativity theory, the speed of light
serves as a "constant" of proportionality between space and
time. So if we allow it to vary, that proportionality
varies. Hence, a cosmologically variable speed of light
might (or might not) be a way around a number of
Creationists like a variable speed of light, because it would allow for higher rates of radioactive decay, and skew radiometric ages to look a lot older than they really are. in a standard cosmological framework, the variabilty of the speed of light lasted for only a short stretch early in the big bang, and came to an end long before it would ever be an isssue in radiometric dating. But creationists need the speed of light to be variable now, or at least during historical time. And therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would say. The only creationist attempt to argue this centers around the work of the Australian physicist & creationist Barry Setterfield [see Lambert Dolphin's "On the constancy of the speed of light". But the data analysis is extremely unconvincing. So much so that even arch-creationists like D. Russell Humphreys, who certainly is no friend to evolution, argues against the Setterfield hypothesis as well.
Here are webpages that feature abstracts of some of the real papers on the cosmological variability of the speed of light. They are all hosted by the same source, the Los Alamos preprint server. There are other papers, but these should serve to get the point across that there are legitimate reasons for considering a cosmologically variable speed of light, but not the way creationist do it.
|Comment:||I think your
web site is great!!
When you listed the Periods of the Paleozoic era you mentioned the jawless fishes as part of the Cambrian Period. But in reality the jawless fishes and other soft-body invertebrates are found in the Precambrian Era / Vendian period which took place 650 million - 544 million years ago (Time Magazine, Dec.4,1995) I hope you will find this information useful.
Thanks Again for the great web site,
the comment. While researching my response, I found the
text of the Time magazine article
When Life Exploded online.
Certainly soft-bodied invertebrates are found in the precambrian; but jawless fish are not. I think you may have mixed up the first ancestors of the chordates with their descendants. The article speaks of the progenitors of the chordate phylum, the phylum to which any "jawless fish" belongs. However the article does not imply the existence of such "fish" in the precambrian. They are a later development
wondering if anyone has yet published a plausible
explanation for how information can arise out of matter.
For example if I put a frog in a blender and push the "setting ten" button, I have the same DNA, RNA, and assortment of building blocks, but I don't have a live frog anymore. I'm wondering if there's any testable theory out there for how matter gives rise to new information.
That and whether its true that a mutation (in actual observation) is always a reduction in genetic material vs. an introduction of a new line of code so to speak.
|Response:||I'm not sure
what you by "matter giving rise to information."
Information theory is much more complex than the simplified
versions that some creationists espouse. A live frog almost
certainly has a different entropy state than a pureed frog,
for instance, and this relates to the information content
of the frog in ways far too complex to go into here.
But even according to a simplistic definition of information, mutations can give rise to new information. Mutations may cause a section of genetic material to be lengthened or shortened, for instance. See the articles Are Mutations Harmful?, The Evolution of Improved Fitness, Plagiarized Errors and Molecular Genetics, and the December 1998 Post of the Month.
|Comment:||A lot of your articles are very well written. Nevertheless, they fail to address the very essence of evolution, which is defined as increase in intelligence. May I have just one thing about evolution that you know to be an absolutely irrefutable fact. A fact that would stop creationist debaters cold. That is all I ask for. Thanks.|
|Author of:||Punctuated Equilibria|
No biological definition of evolution that I am aware of is cast in terms of intelligence. Given that a great many living species exist for which discussion of "intelligence" makes no sense (plants, fungi, etc.), it would be fairly silly to define evolutionary change in terms of intelligence.
Let's see... true things about evolution. That would make an overlong list. I'll just give some of my favorites.
|Comment:||You're wasting your time. You will not change anyone's mind. The creationist BELIEVE and the biologists know and there is little else to say.|
There are many cases where people change their minds. See
also a list of ex-creationists I provided in another
feedback this month; this is the tip of an iceberg.
More generally however, we are not simply trying to change the minds of creationists. We are trying to supply a useful information resource which can be used by anyone, from any background.
|From:||Michael S. Hopkins|
Febrary 2000 Feedback you told a creationist that on the
matter of the National Geographic dino-bird fossil
that turned out to be a composite that it "had not been
subjected to peer-review by other scientists."
Actually it had. But this is no help to the creationists.
A paper on the fossil had been submitted to Nature which was the journal that had published several feathered dinosaurs papers and other related stuff. The paper was rejected. The paper was then sent to Science and quickly failed peer-review and got a rejection. NG leaned of this rejection shortly after its publication deadline.
There is a lot of info on this matter in the news section of Nature. It was the Febrary 17 issue which is in volume 403. Its on pages 689-690 with a brief editorial on page 687. There is a lot of info which was not in the popular press accounts that I have read.
The main article mentions that one reviewer actually suggested that the fossil was "doctored" in his rejection.
Also because of this, NG has agreed in the future to not to publish a specimen name until it has been described.
Thus as you note, science actually did work. But I suspect that we will be hearing about this for years just as we have heard about other claims that were never accepted by the scientific community at-large. Nebraska Man being a prime example.
for that information and clarification. It points up that
for all its shortcomings, the peer-review system is still
streets ahead of commercial publishing and journalism as a
way to publish science.
it should also be noted that the original "chimera" (mixed organism) was made by a Chinese farmer who wanted to maximise the sale price - he knew that fossils with tails got more than those without. A few scientists were taken in by it, but not for long [thanks to Chris Brochu for this information].
|Comment:||I recently sent some questions on the "Evolution and Philosophy" article. Thanks for answering my questions. Mr. Wilkins said, in response to my questions, that you do not have to be an atheist to methodologically practice naturalism, and that the explanatory and methodological practices of naturalism in science, in reality, do not affect the everyday scientist. (Forgive me if I have oversimplified your response.) I think that the reason you state this is because you believe that empiricism and naturalism (in the methodological and explanatory sense)are the same thing. (Have I misunderstood you?) If you do believe this, I think you are mistaken - this is why: there are ways to empirically test Design. This is done practically every day in crime science, for instance - most notably in cases of arson. Detectives can tell if the fire was designed by looking at several characteristics of the scene and the evidence. I won't get all into it, because I'm not an expert (obviously), but the main way is this: if the objects that started the fire are arranged in a way that makes them function to a "higher purpose" then it was designed. In other words, its fairly obvious that if you see a gasoline can with a wick in it, the wick didn't get there by accident or chance. Now, this analogy is obviouly not perfect because we know that arsonists already exist, and that they are "natural". However, the IDENTITY of the designer is not testable by science, so that is irrelevant. What matters is only if traces of design can be found. I realize that certain aspects of life can be interpreted as "bad design", and would therefore go against the Design argument. But I would give a caution onthose arguments: 1). just because the certain aspect (say, the blind spot) is in existence today does not mean that it has always been that way (for even creationists believe in microevolution), and 2). how do we know that the Designer did not have a purpose in creating it that way? "Bad" is a completely subjective thing, and the argument of "bad design" is very much like saying that the world MUST have been created because the sunsets are soooo pretty! Now, after all that, I'll shut up with this: consider the implications if Design were able to be considered empirical, and, therefore, science. Would it change the scientists practice their everyday field? Probably not. But it would most definitely change education and court decisions and the like. So the box of naturalism that "science" is now placed in is definitely affecting many things. Sorry, I know this was long, and thanks for your time.|
|Author of:||Evolution and Philosophy|
|Response:||In order to
test a hypothesis of agency - which is what you are
discussing here - you need to know a few things about what
sorts of agents could be involved. We know a lot about
human agents, being them, so we can make inferences about
what they have done in forensic cases on the basis of prior
knowledge. But suppose we, a priori, know nothing about an
agent, as we are supposed to do in scientific intelligent
design (ID) claims. Could we distinguish between an
ID-caused event and a non-ID caused event? On what grounds?
It's all very well to cmake analogies based on watches or
fires, but suppose we had no way to distinguish between
naturally occurring gasoline and placed gasoline? Suppose
we could not tell between a watch and a naturally occurring
crystaline structure? Suppose we found a possible artefact
but had no idea what it could possibly be intended for?
What then could we say about design?
I contend that we are in exactly that situation with living things. For all we know they may very well be designed, but nothing in what we know about them requires that they are. We have no (scientific) background information that suggests that they need to be designed. In fact, we have a scientific background theory that explains why complex specified organisms exist - natural selection - and nothing in that theory requires agency or direction.
On the other hand, if we were to admit an unspecifiable and unknowable agent into the causal process, where would it stop? We could not even evaluate if the empirical evidence was giving us any information about the phenomena we observed at all. That way madness lies (recall Descartes' Evil Demon), and certainly the end of science.
If you say that you have nonscientific reasons to think things are designed, well neither I nor any scientific method can disprove it. But there are, by definition, no scientific reasons for thinking something is designed unless we have a (methodologically natural) knowledge of the agents that produced it.
As to "bad design", as Terry Pratchett once said, bad design is evidence of a blind watchmaker :-) There are subfunctional features or maladaptive features of many organisms, and it is not (just) a subjective assessment. A spine that fails to properly support the organs and weight of an animal is bad design no matter who looks at it. Any second year engineering student could compute the stresses and come up with a better solution.
|Comment:||I like your site and enjoy telling my creationist friends about it, but they have an argument that I cannot defeat. If homo sapiens have been around in our current form for 40,000 years or more, then why did civilization not arise sooner? Only about 10,000 years ago did civilization start appearing, sometimes completely isolated from each other. If this question is beyond the scope of talk.origins, then please tell me where I might look.|
discussion is Jared Diamond's book - basically, though, the
short answer is that culture has always been evolving but
that it is an incremental process - you can't establish a
city until you have agriculture, and you can't do that
until you have a certain population density, etc. See David
Rindos' book for a lively retelling of that story.
Diamond, Jared M. 1998. Guns, germs and steel: a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. London: Vintage.
Rindos, David. 1984. The origins of agriculture: an evolutionary perspective. Orlando: Academic Press.
|Comment:||I've said it before and I'll say it again: Talm.Origins is the most comprehensive and well-researched evolutionary science site on the web. It clarifies and advocates for a rational understanding of human descent. Thank you.|
|Comment:||This was all very interesting at best. It was at worst, a lie. I suggest that you go back to Genesis to find the truth. If you do not then you will find yourself in a very very hot place for eternity when you expire. I will pray for you. God bless.|
|Author of:||Punctuated Equilibria|
I started opposing anti-evolutionists in response to the manifold lies and distortions present in the Scientific Creationism literature. I work toward truth and keeping error out of science classrooms. If I indeed find myself in a very very hot place for eternity, I am confident that it will be because of a lapse in some other regard, not in taking the evidence as it appears to be.
creationists (Gish, Morris) ever provided a definition of
"kind" that does not 1) rely on examples, or 2) create a
circular argument (i.e. "kinds" are the divisions created
What criteria do I use to determine if mice, rats, bats, hamsters, guinea pigs, moles, aardvarks, or porcupines are the same "kind" or not?
|Response:||Short answer: no. For them, all insects in their amazing variety are one kind, while humans and chimps, with only minor physiological, anatomical and genetic differences are two kinds. The criterion is whether it is used in the book of Genesis or not and whether it creates problems for a literal account of creation in that book, or not.|
|Comment:||Living in Berlin, I recently had the opportunity to look at Archaeopteryx, or at least replicas as the original Berlin specimen is in the vault at the museum here. I found it an exciting and moving thing to actually see this fossil that stood the world on its head. The detailed article about Archaeopteryx in Talk.Origins by Chris Nedin has been extremely useful in helping me to understand the real significance of what the Germans call the Urvogel. In contrast, I checked out a creationist Website that used almost no almost in declaring simply that Archaeopteryx is simply a bird, nothing more. Darwin's ideas have, to me, enriched the world not by supposedly denying God but by showing us that the natural world is far more complex and exhilirating in its diversity than we have ever imagined. Keep up the good work!|
stems from romanticising the world at the expense of
everything else. Its adherents are endowed with a sense of
nobility and heroism in their own lives by identification
with an hyper-idealistic movement. This is the real
problem. Simply showing fault with the reasoning is not
nearly enough. People in the grips of this kind of very
powerfull and above all, natural brainwashing are quite
committed martyrs for whatever cause compells them
regardless. It is not really that they are shown the
logical problems with their thinking and can't grasp it; it
is that they are sort of beyond any sort of logic.
I think to address this there needs to be more in depth examination of the psycho-social facets of this controversy in the archive. You complete the logical half of the equation in this archive more than adequately, but I think there needs to be more here to compell people to see themselves for who they are in the personal, societal, familial and human psychological realities in which we all exist from birth to death.
I love your site and commend you for a job well done. Thank you for your perserverence.
|Response:||I agree that
a full understanding of creationism and other
antisciencemovements needs to be gained in this way. This
is not, perhaps, the site to do that. Creationism is part
of a series of religious and cultural movements that have
roots back to the beginnings of the scientific movement and
earlier, and apart from students of the history of ideas,
it is hard to think what such an analysis here would
Having said that, there are several books by Ronald Numbers and Robert Pennock that are illuminating on this topic. In my own opinion, and I am no expert on the history of (American) creationism, it arises from the conflict between three movements: the antimodernism of fundamentalism, which began around 1895; the increasing stress in the humanities on textual interpretation, which ironically derives from biblical hermeneutics; and the continually increasing reliance in science upon non-intentional mechanisms, which upsets folk biology, and folk psychology let alone religious beliefs.
Ammerman, Nancy Tatom. 1987. Bible believers: fundamentalists in the modern world. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Numbers, Ronald L. 1992. The creationists. New York: A. A. Knopf.
Numbers, Ronald L. 1998. Darwinism comes to America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Pennock, Robert T. 1999. Tower of Babel: the evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. First chapter is online at MIT Press
|Comment:||Great site! I haven't had a chance to look through most of it yet because of the sheer size of it, but from what I have seen, I like it. I am writing an essay about the religious/philosophical aspect of the debate. Is there any way I could e-mail it to you when I'm done?|
|Response:||We suggest that you submit your essay to the talk.origins Usenet newsgroup for discussion and commentary before you submit the essay to this Archive. See the Archive's submission guidelines for more details. Keep in mind too that the essay should fit with the Archive's philosophy as expressed in its Welcome message. The Archive welcomes such contributions from its readers.|