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Revised 17 Apr 2006

Scientists and Fundamentalists Debate.

This hot issue has been boiling for a century and a half, over a moving target. The intellectual argument is: "Where does logos leave off and mythos begin?" Emotionality blurs the issue on both sides.

"Every step in human progress, from the first feeble stirrings in the abyss of time, has been opposed by the great majority of men. Every valuable thing that has been added to the store of man's possessions has been derided by them when it was new, and destroyed by them when they had the power. They have fought every new truth ever heard of, and they have killed every truth-seeker who got into their hands. The so-called religious organizations who now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters." H. L Mencken, Baltimore Sun

We have been asked why this page is on our site. The answer is that the most basic roots of terror reside in our genes and our environmentally-influenced psyches.

Resistance to the very fact of evolution clearly illustrates the power of the psyche as well as its aversion to new ideas. Potential for extreme and fundamental views reside in all of us, whether we like it or not. Creationism (or Intelligent Design), however popular in certain quarters, is such an extreme view; it takes a beautiful allegory literally to the exclusion of factual information to the contrary.

Next time you read about or hear a "debate" on evolution, try to follow the way the conversation is framed.
    Who is attacking? Often both are.
  • Who has logic on their side? Sometimes neither. Is anyone asking questions? Only in their own defense.
  • Where is the dialogue? Usually there is none.

The typical creationist argument is that of the missing link, no string of fossils has been found showing imperceptible gradations between us and our concestor with chimpanzees. The typical Scientist response is hogwash; the fossil record consists of samples from extremely rare burial sites and cannot be expected to show continuity.

Where is the understanding? Does either even hear the other? Of the many branches of modern science, biological evolution is the most threatening to those who must have an anthropomorphic God to guide their lives and justify their existence. The issue is ages old, mythos vs. logos, faith vs. evidence, belief vs. logic, in other words.

While there is no fossil proof that one species evolved from another, yet all species have a common ancestor. Nevertheless there are such things as "ring Species" that provide living evidence of continuity between species. For example, the herring and black-backed gulls of northern Europe are different species they never mate. But if you collect specimens of each as you proceed east and west you will find that each of these species gradually come to look a little like the other. All the way around, you can no longer tell the difference; only that what you are looking at tends to look like the opposite you started to follow. Everywhere around thr globe there is just one species that merges gradually in different directions. This is a "living missing link." Mating and reproduction occurs naturally everywhere along the ring -- except at the point where they meet again and differ most--in Europe. In migrating around the earth, they became different species! There is no missing link between them. But where along the ring is the common ancestor? No one knows. Neither is there any evidence that either end member evolved from the other, though it is likely that the prevailing winds played a role.

In the Central Valley of California, salamanders, Ensatina eschscholaltzii and Ensatina klauberi, similarly will not mate, yet they too are linked by a continuous series of neighbors who do mate. As we proceed north along either side of the San Joaquin river to find the origin of each species, we find ourselves looking at a single species at the end of each trek.

In counterpoint, how many scientists, even great ones like Linus Pauling, hold onto outmoded, even crack-pot, ideas with the same tenacity? Most perhaps, for they are human. The great Albert Einstein said: "If an idea does not seem absurd, then there is no hope for it." Yet even he had trouble accepting the truth of his own science, the nature is problematic at the atomic level.

Though quite different in expression, mythos and logos do reside in the same brain, sometimes to wonderful effect.

One contributor to this debate is the mind set. The creationist demands first a transition fossil as if one sample could verify evolution as fact. Then the creationist resorts to the debating tactic that redefines the missing link (or fossil fallacy). Then, consider the creationist position in the face of 1) an immense fossil record, 2) observations of species divergence in nature in the here and now, 3) observations that evolution can occur in the laboratory, 4) illustrations of the connectedness of species via gene sharing, 5) re-creation of viruses in the laboratory from inert materials, and 6) mechanisms by which DNA is altered by natural means from one generation to the next. Proof of evolution is now beyond scientific doubt. That proof stems from the convergence of a mountain of evidence, from many different scientific disciplines.

On the other hand, to dismiss the mythical aspects of humanity is to deny the very humanity of scientists, who are entitled to have biases like the rest of us. Francis Collins, biologist, and director of the human genome project happens to be a "Born Again Christian." Quoting him:

"Science provides no answer to the question 'Why are we here anyway?' That is the role of philosophy and theology."

Collins has it right.

If we want to make so much of missing links, they and inconsistencies abound in the Old Testament, OT, just as they do in evolution. To study all the early literature, is to realize that much of the OT arose from earlier traditions, including of paganism. To research that statement see: " The Causes of Anti-Semitism" Arthur Blech (A Jew) For related issues see:

" Politicizing Science" Michael Cough, Editor
" The March of Unreason" Dick Taverne
" Terror in the name of God" Jessica Stern

Next time you hear a creationist demand evidence, remember s/he has no evidence at all for any alternative to evolution. Is this Authoritarian thinking or what?

Creationism (or Intelligent Design) is yet another expression of the Authoritarian Personality. Furthermore, Monotheism and Fundamentalism are strongly associated with terror in our times; in a couple of hours surfing the Internet, we verified the strong relationship between Monotheism and Violence observed by others. You can do it too.

This does not excuse the radical scientist. If his error is being too gung-ho for vitamin C, he may be forgiven, especially if he has two Nobel prizes in his pocket. But when he distributes nuclear technology to terrorists, it becomes quite another matter--multiples more serious than the argument over Evolution could ever be. Which was driven by mythos and which by logos? Both were mythos we think. See Education -- Science and Intelligent Design for more on that.

"The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."
Galileo Galilei

"False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness." Charles Darwin

"Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes man free."
Patrick Buchanan

The battle lines drawn by Buchanan are ancient, as ancient as human awareness itself. Galileo, Newton and Darwin all brushed dogma aside in their quest for observable truth. Buchanan would have us believe that Christianity provided the freedom that produced modernization, elements of which he detests. He conveniently overlooks the Inquisition and Witch Hunters as well as the Reformation that led to secular governance with constitutional separation of church and state in Western nations. Robert Bolton provides an incisive observation of the basic problem Buchanan exemplifies.

"A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses. It is an idea that possesses the mind."
Robert Bolton


Biology, the science of reproducing organisms, has at last come into its own. With their discovery of DNA, Watson and Crick have done for biology what Darwin did for the origins of species, what Mendeleyev did for chemistry, what Mendel did for genetics, and what Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Bohr, Fermi, and Feynman did for physics. Watson and Crick gave us the basic tool to investigate Darwin's codification of evolution ever more accurately. Each of these great scientists provided a common denominator that explains and codifies vast amounts of complex information. The discoveries of each of these great men enabled predictions well beyond their immediate observations.

    Galileo endured the Inquisition in proving the Copernicus theory that the earth does indeed orbit the sun instead of the other way around.

    Newton discovered why the sun is at the center of the solar system which Copernicus and Galileo well knew was true but did not know why.

    Charles Darwin convincingly codified natural history as evolving organisms over vast time scales.

    Mendel provided the first rules for inheritance of what later became known as genes--species of DNA that affect successive generations in their appearance and ability to function.

    Mendeleyev discovered that various substances exhibit certain periodicities in behavior that gave rise to rational chemistry and liberated mankind from the mystique that was alchemy which had accumulated a lot of information that could not be explained -- until Mendeleyev.

    Einstein gave mankind a new concept of space and time, and his arcane discovery has altered and deepened our knowledge of the universe in very fundamental ways. Einstein had trouble with the concept of probability in science even as he knew it is true.

    Bohr opened the door for descriptions of the universe on the smallest scale; it looks not at all like the one we see with our eyes; it is fraught with the uncertainty principle, probabilities akin to playing dice, and "spooky action at a distance," to use Einstein's words, where time seems to have no meaning--or is it distance?

    Fermi, a great engineer and manager as well as an insightful physicist created the age of atomic energy.

    Richard Feynman did for light and electron interactions what Einstein did for gravity--found new means to mathematically rationalize quantum behaviors.

    Watson and Crick decoded DNA and in one master stroke gave explanation and measurement to the works of Mendel and Darwin; various genes reside in our DNA that give rise to our very appearance and fitness for this world; DNA analysis of the many phyla and species provide full scientific credence to evolution.

Darwin's discovery immediately encountered strong opposition from the Christian clergy--opposition that continues to this day from the fundamentalist sectors of all monotheistic religions. Of course evolution undermines the concept of creationism exemplified in Genesis. Of course Creationism is an idea that possesses the mind. And of course, evolution, or any science, can be so fascinating that it captures the mind. And of course many scientists, often Authoritarian by nature, reply to the creationists in kind. And so the battle is joined, mythos vs. logos, though never the twain can wed.

Phillip Johnson observed that the two sides in this controversy often behave as polar opposites, gung-ho about their own "cause." For even science with all its formal discipline is after all a very human endeavor. The practice of science is as emotional as its results are the opposite. Controlling their emotions and their conduct in practice has led scientists to a variety of techniques to avoid their human frailties. Double blind studies of new medications, peer reviews of articles to be published, scientific meetings, Internet postings, and replication of results by second and third parties open avenues for questions. All come to mind as checks and balances on whether a given scientific result represents progress. There can be no such check-and-balance system for Intelligent Design--and this is precisely why there is no direct overlap. On a higher plane, Intelligent design is mythos incorporated while science is all logos in rendition. It is in creation of new science that mythos can play a role. New discoveries can be as much a result of instinct or faith as of rational deduction. But all such new discoveries must be testable to be science.

Good science also recognizes matters of ethics, particularly in medical and biological research. The supreme ethical questions came during WWII. The A-bomb was born out of fear that Hitler would develop it first. Einstein, among others, had second thoughts at later times, but the fact is history shows there was no choice to avoid the eventual boot of tyranny. If the US had not proceeded, others would have in due course. That too is nature's way.

Most basically, evolution operates through mutations of genes and the survival of the most "fit" of mutants. Adaptive organisms with desirable features and ability to reproduce their kind survive. Competition among and within species discards those with less desirable and less-adaptive features. The most "fit" organisms and their species tend to survive the jungle competition. Those that can compete most effectively leave their own kind. For how all this operates see Natural History.

Evolution continues to be affirmed in the laboratory, in the field, and in the fossil record as:

  • New fossil finds continue to fill out and verify its veracity.
  • New biological science continues to affirm and illuminate the fossil record.
  • DNA is the common denominator for all cellular organisms while clearly having an evolutionary character.
  • Point mutations that bring evolution about are now well documented and relate to precise positions in an organism's DNA; measurement has come to biology.
  • Other mutation mechanisms identified with certainty include gene splicing and accidental duplication. Symbiotic merger strongly supports mutation, but may not yet be generally accepted. Removing a gene, as can happen in nature, however can have a dramatic effect.
  • Species changes in response to environmental pressures are well described and these changes are consistent with the changes that must have occurred in the fossil record.
  • Genes, having only a single ancestor, simplify the search for the birth date of humanity. The POXP2 gene triangulates back over 100,000 years, consistent with the fossil record.
  • The genetic and fossil records are consistent that humanity originated in Africa.
  • DNA comparisons prove that all individuals in a species share common pools of genes.
  • DNA comparisons show the degrees of relatedness between species (Chimpanzees are our closest relative) are in agreement with species taxonomy.
  • A living virus has been reconstructed from inert fragments that demonstrate one step in the evolutionary process.

Acceptance of evolution as a factual occurrence and guiding principle is universal among biologists today. Creationists however, give ground only slowly, the fundamentalists not at all.

Scientific investigations have their own ways of revealing truth. Their convergence in the evolution story is one of the remarkable feats of our times. For a scholarly rendition, see " The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins. If there is a book that competes with prime time, it is Carl Zimmer's " Evolution, the Triumph of an Idea." Other notable texts include " Life Evolving" by Christian de Duve, and Daniel Dennet's " Darwin's Dangerous Idea." Each of these provides different, yet consistent and illuminating perspective.

We see here a basic dichotomy in philosophy. One arm is based on observation, logic, and information while the other arm is based on faith that the prophets had all things right and that there can be no other things. As definers and keepers of humankind's morals and need for faith, the prophets were indeed on track for their times, and most religions are successful because of this perceived usefulness. As a revealer of all the truth that can be known about nature a prophet could be no better than the science of his/her day. And science itself was an uncertain thing throughout most of recorded history.

Science as a discipline of discovery is mature and here to stay. It drives technology and technology drives modernization. Although many scientists involve themselves in moral issues, it was not until Freud that anyone had a glimpse of the psyche, the inner human being. Freud's deep insight is still in the area of "soft science" in that the psyche as such defies accurate measurement even as it reveals general and consistent truths about human behavior.

Societies made up of individuals are even more vague. Yet progress is being made there too. See Varshney for a contemporary example of progress in understanding what can be done to bring peace to humankind in spite of its jungle heritage.

The dichotomy between morals and science, of course, arose with ascendant science. For example, Galileo, by advocating the rightness of the Copernicus view of the earth incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church in the time of of Pope Paul V. A victim of the Roman Inquisition, Galileo was sentenced to house arrest with pension for the rest of his days--some 10 years. His heresy was to assert that the sun was the center of the solar system and that the earth moved around the sun. That the Catholic Church recanted the correctness of Galileo's sentence only in our time shows how grudgingly religious authority will move the stakes marking the boundary they draw between science and faith.

Philosophers operate in marked contrast. They relish giving up earlier views as soon as science confirms their incorrectness. They happily move on to new questions. It is no irony that Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are associated with peaceful living while monotheism is not. Monotheist continually butt heads over the issue of who's god is God. Leaders on each side of the terror issues invoke their god as they march into battle -- "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before...."

We believe that religion serves a vital moral purpose for mankind. As a moral directive religion reaches its highest purpose and usefulness. As a faith in a purpose for our existence, religion can provide comfort to otherwise "meaningless" lives for many.

It is equally true that the needs just mentioned can be met in other ways. Atheists as a group, for example, are demonstrably less violent than monotheists in the present world societies. The Buddhists, Confucians, and the Taoists, a large fraction of everyone, are multiples less violent than their monotheistic counterparts.

Where we have trouble is when a religion denies the rightness of factual observations, sound descriptions of observable relationships, and codification by theory. We have trouble when religion professes to have answers to everything thereby stifling the very questions that deepen our understanding of nature and of ourselves. We have trouble with the "Robertson view" that any one religion has the answers and that it is Christianity that led Western cultures to modernization. Rather, it is often the other way around. Monotheism stifles education, enlightenment and the finding of one's self. In fact, America became great, not because of religion, but in spite of it. A land of natural abundance, and with opportunity guaranteed by a constitution, attracted the oppressed of other lands to become a melting pot of races, genders and races alike. And thanks to Roosevelt and Truman, America became a world power. Yet Robertson would change all the foundations in a flash if he could.

We believe it is preferable to interpret natural phenomena by relationships we can prove by repeated experiments than to attribute these same phenomena as being supernatural (religious in effect). Of course there may be something we cannot even conceive that gave rise to the universe, and us along with it. Nature is what we can observe and only nature can speak to us on matters of fact. Religion, as Galileo said, tells us how to go to heaven--if there is one. Stephen Hawking goes one further. Nature, at once so marvelous, is understandable, and that understanding requires at least a higher definition of God than is available in scriptures descending from Abraham. we quote from his book "The Theory Of Everything."

    "...If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall be able to take part in the discussion of why the universe exists. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason. For then we would know the mind of God."

Until then, there will always be some uncertainty. But why can we not refocus the question of purpose from the external to the internal. Why can we not find our own purpose within what we are and can become. Your purpose does not have to be the same as mine. Why can we not rejoice in and celebrate our differences instead of resorting to violence. Handling our Authoritarian Personalities as individuals and as societies is the key. Many nations, many cities in otherwise violent societies, have already proved it can happen. the answers are mostly there already, as Varshney has shown.

Politicians, like those in control today are adept at redefining the issues, to divert "US" away from truth seeking to "ONLY I KNOW IT ALL--TRUST ME." Their purpose is to stay in power, not to save humankind, or even preserve American Democracy. It has always been so.

Until humanity has resolved Bolton's elegant conundrum ("A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses. It is an idea that possesses the mind.") religion will provide "purpose" in the here-and-now and a "life hereafter" in the minds of many (including especially the suicidal terrorist). One idea that possess the mind is the concept of God itself. Another is the beauty of nature itself and our role in it.

"Stands at the sea, wonders at wondering:
I, a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe."
Richard Feynman

Until science knows the ultimate that is knowable of nature, we cannot know the extent of "God's work" for God can only be known by God's work. Ironic? For sure. Don't hold your breath, for nature is still full of surprises.

The endless philosophical question arises, how did the fermions and bosons (and quarks) and the forces of nature come into existence? So philosophy will likely always exist, because mankind cannot know everything--nature itself tells us that. Unless we do indeed eventually find the mind of God, Science will always exist for the very same reason.

Looking at the history of science and religion, what sets them most distinctly apart is the moral directive of religion along side the need for observation, experimentation, and codification of information that enhances human life span and comfort. Religion is all about emotions. Science, except for the awe, even reverence, inspired by discovery, is unemotional. Science is largely silent about morality except in the context that certain higher life forms exhibit emotions that may or may not bear on moral behavior. At this writing, "behavior science" is still a fledgling.

Civilization could hardly exist without moral guidance. Most of our friends also want a purpose for it all. Without some moral guidance (religion, if you will) human societies cannot coalesce into civilization. Many people cannot find any meaning in their lives without religion. All this is not to say that morality cannot develop absent religion. It surely can and does all the time. Neither does it say that devotion to religion will confer morality. Most surely it will not as the Inquisition, witch hunters and Church scandals teach us again and again and yet again.

Nevertheless, religion is a fashionable and legitimate enterprise. In allowing, even fostering, extremism, it is not the appropriate answer to extremism in our times.

For those of you who have to deal with the issue of science vs creationism, John Rennie in the July 2002 issue of Scientific American lists 15 views held by Creationists. These views are summarized below with replies paraphrased from Renners's text. We have added a few additional issues and comments.

Common Beliefs of Creationists Refuted by evidence and logic to contrary.

    1 Evolution is only a theory, not a fact or scientific law.

    A fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as true. The fossil record is factual, and its sequences in terms of evolution are consistent; they repeat worldwide. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of natural phenomena. Evolution is both theory and fact. It is a law of nature -- from the Big Bang forward.

    2 Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest survive and those that survive are deemed fittest.

    Circular reasoning this statement is not, it is merely two ways of saying the same thing. Survival of the fittest is a conversational term that describes the mechanism of Evolution that arises from differential rates of survival and reproduction. Galapagos finches shows adaptive fitness can be independent of survival.

    3 Evolution is unscientific, because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created.

    This is simply not true. Point mutations related to precise positions in an organism's DNA are well documented and bring about evolution in single cell organisms, fruit flies, plants, and so on. The sequences in genetic expression are similar to those observed in the fossil records. Quarks cannot be observed, but we are sure they exist.

    Evolution, like Newton's gravity, is being refined. Evolution would have competition as an explanation of why we are here if just one higher life form could be proven to arise spontaneously from inanimate matter. Even that finding would not change the lab and field results. If an explanation comes along that does a better job of explaining everything than current evolution theory does, scientists worth their salt would conclude that evolution provides only a partial explanation, like Newton's explanation of gravity. In contrast, Creationism has not one shred of evidence to support it.

    4 Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.

    There is no evidence of this anywhere. In fact, since publications supporting or extending evolution are increasing, the opposite is true. In the mid 1990s, George Gilchrist of University of Washington surveyed hundreds of thousands of journal volumes in the primary literature looking for articles on intelligent design or creation science. He found none; not a single one. The assertion is propaganda.

    5 The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.

    Scientists of all \scientific disciplines passionately debate outstanding issues, biologists included. Rates of evolutionary change, punctuated equilibrium, and, speciation are current topics for discussion. There is no debate about the reality of evolution; speciation happens both in the lab and in the field. Genetic change is now routinely induced.

    Stephen Gould is among the most eloquent of evolutionary biologists. But creationists dissect phrases from his work out of context to support their view. Selective reading of text is what fundamentalism is all about. It shows the closed mind and is exactly what Bolton had in mind with his famous conundrum.

    6 If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

    First of all, man did not descend from monkeys. Monkeys and man have a common ancestor. But the logic is also flawed: If children descend from adults, why are there still adults? A species can descend from another species simply by becoming isolated for times long enough for evolution to remap some DNA and select the "most fit" genes (Allopatry). The parent population can remain unchanged.

    See Natural History for more on this.

    7 Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth.

    Evolution does not yet claim to account for the origin of life on earth, only that life has been evolving by chance mutation and selection of adaptive genes ever since. No one knows for sure yet how life first arose on this planet. But it did, and organisms complex enough to be visible to the human eye have been around for more than two billion years.

    See Natural History for more on this.

    8 Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up suddenly by chance alone.

    Evolution operates slowly over eons of time; it is never sudden in adding complexity. Natural selection preserves adaptive traits while eliminating non-adaptive ones. Moreover, the power of selection has in fact been demonstrated mathematically. See Rennie, pgs. 81-82. The key to the computer algorithm was in the term "selection." Evolution does not rely on complexity-by-chance to create all-new organisms; rather evolution operates to select one or a very few chance mutation(s) that is(are) adaptive. If this still seems inconceivable mathematically, consider the number of organisms alive in each of millions of species at any one moment, and the number of sperm and ova that are generated by each organism over its reproductive life time, and the vastness of geologic time over which chance events accumulate. This number is so vast that mathematical intuition says evolution has to happen, even at a mutation rate of only one in a billion, about the number of sperm cells a healthy young male human produces in a month!

    Scroll down to Comments on Critique for more on probabilities.

    9 The second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time; entropy increases. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals. And multi-cellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.

    This one sounds good until you realize the sleight-of-hand; it is a non sequitur. The second law of Thermodynamics applies to closed systems, and it states only that the total entropy (disorder, but not in the conversational sense) cannot decrease in closed systems. But the Earth is not a closed system. Our planet is free to grow more complex and disordered because the sun pours heat and light onto it continually. The nuclear fusion processes occurring in the sun more than balance the scales. When the sun burns out we will too, if we are not already long gone, have not found another home or have evolved into species still "higher."

    See Natural History for more on this.

    10 Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.

    On the contrary. While most mutations are indeed non-adaptive, the few that are adaptive survive because they are more fit; non-adaptive mutations are eliminated. Mechanisms by which adaptive mutations can occur are well known, verified as reproducible.

    11 Natural Selection might explain micro-evolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.

    Allopatry says otherwise. It not only has micro-evolution behind it, it is consistent with all known facts in the fossil record. What happens is this. A widespread species has part of its population cut off by continental drift, bolide impact, volcanism, mountain building (orogeny) or a competitive species. The two separate populations each continue to evolve in different directions by selection of random but adaptive mutations. Mutations are chance events, so the two populations evolve in different directions. This is how the ape and monkey progenitors split off from each other to give rise to new genera and species. in the same way, the progenitors of the great apes and man split apart. See Natural History for more on this.

    12 Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.

    Speciation is rare and evolutionary biology dates only from Darwin, some 150 years. Nevertheless, there are literature reports of contemporary speciation in plants, insects, and worms. Most such studies were controlled and carried to the point where populations of organisms could not breed with "outsiders" from which they sprang. By definition, then, new species have been created by applied allopatry. Allopatry is the process of separating populations physically such that one or both evolves in a new direction to the point of infertility with the other. The same has happened in the wild, a bird species spread steadily at high latitudes until it met itself again--but would not breed. A similar event happened with salamanders in the Central Valley of California. Evolution happens to be a fact.

    13 Evolutionary biologists cannot point to any transitional fossil creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.

    The fact is they can. Archaeopteryx combines feathers with skeletal features of some dinosaurs. There are many less well-know examples similar to Archaeopteryx with more or less avian features. Other taxonomic groups show similar ancestry. Mollusks, horses and whales have further examples in their taxonomic trees. Finally, some 20 species lie between us and Lucy, the australopithecine who likely belonged to the "mother species' of us all.

    14 Living things have fantastically intricate features at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels that could not function if they were any less sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are products of intelligent design, not evolution.

    This latest argument is a revival of one of the oldest. In fact, Darwin's "Origin of Species" was written as an answer to this statement. This argument from design was answered fully by Darwin and his position has been thoroughly vindicated many times over. Each organism has been shown to gradually assume their present shapes and functions in the biosphere. In other words there are organisms that cannot see, see a little, see well like humans do and see even much better than that hawks and eagles. So also for the other senses, bone structure, musculature, and the organs needed for metabolism. The discovery of DNA has given these observations an underlying substance. The degrees of relatedness among species in their appearance correlates with the degrees of relatedness in their DNA.

    See Natural History for more on this.

    15 Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.

    This one claims that an organism is so complex that it could not survive or perform its function without any one of its many pieces. That may well be true of mouse traps, but such logic does not apply to how an organism came into being. From the argument in 14 above, complexity can arise gradually, the only determiner is a mutation. If it is toward complexity while being adaptive it will survive and reproduce. Moreover, research at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere demonstrates that simple undirected processes can yield extraordinarily complex patterns.

    See Natural History for more on this.

    Adding statements from our own research.

    16 Evolution needs to explain above all, the first origin of organisms.

    Founders and practitioners define the scope of evolution, not its critics; origin of life is not in the purview of evolution. This critic seems to be saying that evolution theory must include origin of life before he can accept evolution as a natural event of nature put there by nature's maker. As a singular event, turning inanimate material into reproducing organisms would be an act of creation in itself, not evolution in the classical sense. If you look at the progress in biological knowledge, astronomy, and pharmacology between 1900 and 2000, you might come to the astonishing, and to many, frightening, possibility that mankind could well discover the conditions by which to create life and soon. A theologian might be horrified and crushed that mankind can create life that has always been God's domain, and God's alone. Like Darwin's religious pal Lyell, that theologian would have the option to amend his/her beliefs to conclude that generating and regenerating life in this way throughout the universe takes greater power than to do so directly. Or that person can simply believe God gave mankind the ability to create any "image" he chooses! That event would not make us God, because we still could not alter any law of nature. Nor would that eventuality make us any more moral or amoral than we are. But we might indeed create creatures of different "moralities." And we will soon be able to modify our own genetics.

    See Natural History for more on this.

    17 Before the Cambrian era, a "brief" 600 million years ago, very little is inscribed in the fossil record; but then, signaled by what one can imagine as a spectral puff of smoke and a deafening TA-DA!, an astonishing number of novel biological structures come into creation, and they come into creation at once. Thereafter, the major transitional sequences are incomplete and therefore Evolution is invalid.

    This explosion in fossil remains happened for sure as every student of historical geology knows. It happened in the Cambrian period, not era. (Era refers to far longer time spans, such as the Paleozoic era which the Cambrian period started.) The "Cambrian Explosion" is readily accounted for as a natural geologic pulse. Far from being a denial of evolution, a geologic pulse can in fact be an evolutionary accelerator. Punctuated equilibrium (a significant pulse) is now generally recognized as bringing about the end of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period some 60 million years ago when a bolide impact obliterated 90% or so of all species on earth. Like the end of the Archeozoic era (times before the Precambrian period), there was a new explosion of fauna and flora after the Cretaceous period as species found the world full of empty niches in which to go forth, multiply, and evolve. The relative paucity of fossils in Precambrian rocks does not mean there was no life, only that it had no shell or bone structures with which to leave extensive fossil records. But a geologic pulse need not be a destructive event, it can be the opposite as well. For example, once a gene mutates for making bone or shell and is selected, it then can move into genomes of many other species that could benefit. How that can happen has been demonstrated by biologists. This type of pulse would then have the appearance of an explosion of species when in fact their immediate ancestors could have already been in existence as non-shell, soft-bodied creatures in a wide variety of evolved forms.

    18 Biologists explain survival of an organism by its fitness and the fitness of an organism by its survival. There is nothing nothing more illuminating than the observation that some creatures have been around for a long time.

    The fact that fitness and survival go together can be stated in numerous ways and these are two. That some species have been around for a very long time should be no surprise according to evolution. If species evolve to the point where they are nearly perfectly adapted, then more-adaptive genes cannot logically change the species for the better. The lowly cockroach and coelacanth come to mind as longtime survivors. Adapted nearly perfect to their niches, they survived for eons since their niches were stable. Mutants on the fringes of their range, could move into new niches for which they were more fit and survive in a new environment.

    19 The theory of evolution is incapable of ruling anything out of court. That job must be done by nature. A theory that can confront any contingency with unflagging success cannot be falsified. Its control of the facts is therefore an illusion.

    This concept confuses possibilities with facts. If no combination of DNA can be selected to do something better, then that something is out of court. Organism size is but one example. Organisms can only be as large as their bodies will support against gravity. And organisms can live in very hot environments, but not so hot that their DNA is destroyed. Nor can organisms propagate at temperatures too low to permit metabolism. Birds must have body densities in a certain range to be able to fly in their competitive searches for food. Likewise fish and aquatic mammals must have body densities very near that of the water they live in.

    Evolution in fact rules out vastly more things than it permits.

    20. Discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the the study of the origin of the species by evolution or by creation. This has been claimed to foster critical thinking by certain school boards in Georgia and Kansas.

    Belief in creationism is a simple matter of faith. Belief in evolution is a matter of facts and logic (Critical Thinking!). These procedures are vastly different. The evidence for the efficacy of evolution continually gets more compelling. Evidence for the correctness of creationism is still lacking, after 150 years of controversy. [See number 4 above.]

    Critical thinking is all about how to interpret evidence. Rather than foster critical thinking, creationism could befuddle young impressionable minds, the very ones that need to learn critical thinking.

    21 Evolution simply denies the existence of God.

    The idea that evolution denies God may frighten the naive or impressionable minds, but it is an illusion. Evolution, along with all other sciences, merely reveals the Supreme work. In fact, to create humans via evolution over billions of years requires more energy (power) than doing so directly. Further, since it is amoral, evolution cannot serve as the moral directive mankind so badly needs. Religion could have something vital to say here. Evolution is similarly silent about the purpose of it all. Again, religion might have legitimate things to provide.

    22. The "Intelligent-Design," ID, folks have come up with what they consider to be a stopper: "A human being is simply too complex to have happened by chance."

    They are making an assumption here that goes something like this. Since there are something like ten to the 27th power atoms in a human body, it could never just come into being by chance. A further assumption is that all the evidence to the contrary means nothing--nothing at all. A further assumption is that the Creator meant something else by all the huge mass of evidence for evolution that actually ties all of life together in a code of just 64 "words", or codons, having 21 meanings--comprised of 20 amino acids and one all-purpose "punctuation mark." A codon is a combination of three amino acids that code for protein. A specific sequence of codons gives rise to a specific gene, an expression of a feature in an organism. A chromosome is a segment of DNA containing a large number of genes. A genome, a human for example, is the entire sequence of DNA giving expression to a human. All living things are made up of DNA in this same structure. This 64 word language is found to be universal, unchanging anywhere on earth.

    23 Further to the immediate above. Organisms exist that have lock-and-key complexity. Such organisms cannot evolve.

    To say that something cannot happen because one cannot envision it, does not mean it cannot happen. In fact this one too can happen. The key is to envision what is possible. Whereas each of two mutations can indeed reduce fitness, when they occur together, the opposite can happen -- fitness either returns to the original level or increases. The irreducibly complex notion at first glance, becomes reducible complexity upon deeper investigation.

Now for the punch line: Amino acids, codons, seem to be everywhere in the cool parts of the universe, wherever chemistry operates. Amino acids are found in all terrestrial life (microbes, star fish, pine trees, humans), in meteorites, in interstellar clouds. The twenty found in life comprise only 10 - 27 atoms. See page nine of Dr. Karen Kolehmainen's report NSCI 314 for more. In other words, the earth was seeded with the stuff of life as it formed! What seems impossible to the non-observant is reduced to a rather simple matter in concept--amino acid arrangements. It is their arrangements that define species. ID adherents will have a solid case only when they can demonstrate an exception to evolution that others can reproduce. For more, see Natural History and the excellent and fascinating book "The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins, Oxford University.

Like the politicians of our day, the anti-evolutionists continually try to re-frame the debate on their own terms, along precepts that are fashionable or easy for the vulnerable mind to accept. For an antidote see: Locus of Control.

Render governance unto the governors; render morality and purpose unto clerics, imams, lamas, priests, swamis "tribal elders", rabbis, and family units.

Science and religion are different things and meet different needs. See Natural History for some of the mechanics of evolution. See Homo sapiens for one product of evolution.

"...theologians have yet to learn that a physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle."
J. Louis Agassiz

Creationism is the belief system that holds that the story of the Garden of Eden basically has it right that man and his kind came into being in an instant (or over six days) as an act of God. This is the biblical story of the beginning. Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike make it part of their belief systems.

This simple and wondrous allegory was generally accepted as literal truth until the 19th Century when it became apparent to Charles Darwin and many others that the complex forms of life could not have been created in an instant but rather could only have evolved from other species of the distant past. That our planet itself is indeed very ancient was becoming apparent to other great thinkers.

A battle has been raging for a century and is now escalating as a danger to humankind. Fundamentalism and Nuclear Energy are on a collision course with Nuclear Terror in the offing. [Bush is right about the danger; wrong about the direction from which the danger is from.]

Whether you are talking with a scientist or faith-based person on this question, you will get farther if you can converse at the Dialogue level. You are in dialogue when each of you hears the other out, asks questions, extends the other's thinking, and has no fear of bringing anything up that might be pertinent. Too often discussions of evolution occur between people with closed minds.

Since evolution is amoral, it cannot provide any moral guidance humankind so badly needs. Religion has something vital to offer here. Evolution is similarly silent about the purpose of it all. Again philosophy and religion have legitimate things to think about and say.

Religions that cannot accommodate the natural world, and evolution is part of that, will not impress those who understand the natural world. Science has explanations for how nature works and those explanations are subject to test.

"Intelligent Design" provides no evidence that can be tested; it is therefore a myth the way it is presented. "Intelligent Design" cannot explain why there is a fossil record except through further myth. Indeed "Intelligent Design" is silent about the entire field of science. Science, and technology arising from nature, has given humankind a greater mastery over the environment, extended life expectancy, and added to the quality of life. "Intelligent Design" can make no equivalent claims. Physics, chemistry, and biology proceed with the same set of rules and each is valid.

It is hard to separate "Intelligent Design" thinking from extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, and religious war. Of the world monotheisms today, Islam is the most warlike, but it has no corner on myth, or violence and war for that matter. Nor does it have a monopoly on the potential for extremism. It is everywhere.

Morality and nature are two very different things. So why mix them up? For more on this see Carl Zimmer's Evolution, Chapter 13 especially.


Links are provided below for your perusal.

Compare: Darwin's life in his own words. with Intelligent Design Network. and Panda's Thumb

Introduction to Evolution. — This well-laid-out site ties the wholke field of Evolution together in a homgeneous whole.

Evolution and the Science and Religion Dialogue — AAAS. American Academy of Science.

National Academy of Sciences — Resources about evolution and the nature of science can be found on the web links listed.

National Center for Science Education"Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools."

Public Broadcasting System"Evolution plays a critical role in our daily lives, yet it is one of the most overlooked principles of life. It is the mechanism that determines who lives, who dies, and who gets the opportunity to pass traits on to the next generation, and the next, and the next ..." This is a marvelous site. PBS and its affiliated sites are under attack by fundamentalists and the religious right—apparently because they stand for honest reporting and equal opportunity for all of humankind.

Science and Faith Round Table "For many people of various faiths, support for the scientific theory of evolution has not supplanted their religious belief. And throughout the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, leaders have asserted that evolutionary science offers a valid perspective on the natural world. They say that evolution is consistent with religious doctrine and complements, rather than conflicts with, religion. There are, however, some Christians — in particular, fundamentalists and some evangelicals — who perceive a conflict between evolution and their literal interpretation of the Bible. In this panel, we hear personal perspectives from scientists and a historian of science — religious people who represent a range of faiths."

Statements from other Scientific Organizations — Links to other sites stating views on evolution and/or creationism.

Talk Origins "Usenet newsgroup devoted to the discussion and debate of biological and physical origins. Most discussions in the newsgroup center on the creation/evolution controversy, but other topics of discussion include the origin of life, geology, biology, catastrophism, cosmology and theology."

The Skeptic Society "A scientific and educational organization of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians, professors and teachers, and anyone curious about controversial ideas, extraordinary claims, revolutionary ideas and the promotion of science. Mission is to serve as an educational tool for those seeking clarification and viewpoints on those controversial ideas and claims."

Creation Myths — " Here are a large group of links to Creation Myths from a variety of cultures from around the world..." — Three proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) present their views of design in the natural world. Each view is immediately followed by a response from a proponent of evolution (EVO). The report, printed in its entirety, opens with an introduction by Natural History magazine and concludes with an overview of the ID movement."

Authors who works were relied upon for this page:

    Richard Milner and Vittorio Maestro, ed. (introduction)
    Michael J. Behe, Ph.D. (ID) and Kenneth R. Miller, Ph.D. (EVO)
    William A. Dembski, Ph.D. (ID) and Robert T. Pennock, Ph.D. (EVO)
    Jonathan Wells, Ph.D. (ID) and Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D. (EVO)
    Barbara Forrest, Ph.D. (overview)
    Christoph Adami, Science, Vol 312, 7 April 2006.


The study of evolution answers that question. The evolution of the universe is consistent with the evolution of human kind. The universe is dynamic. Therefore, evolution fundamentally depends on the existence and passage of time and is demonstrably dependent on chance over time. This evidence hardly equates to faith. In contrast, Intelligent Design can be none other than faith.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Monday, June 02, 2008 at 22:53:14

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