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A sociologist’s perceptive look at “theistic evolution”

Recently, I have been reading Warwick U sociologist Steve Fuller’s Dissent over Descent: Intelligent Design’s Challenge to Darwinism, and was intrigued by his comments about “theistic evolution”, as understood by members of the American Scientific Affiliation and promoted by Francis Collins in The Language of God:

Theistic evolutionists … simply take what Collins calls ‘the existence of the moral law and the universal longing for God” as a feature of human nature that is entrenched enough to be self-validating. But is their dismissal anything more than an arbitrary theological intervention? If humans are indeed, as the Darwinists say, just one among many species, susceptible to the same general tendencies that can be studied in the same general terms, then findings derived from methods deemed appropriate to animals should apply to us as well. Collins’ own comprehensive but exclusive training in the hard sciences may explain why he believes in a God who communicates straightforwardly through the natural sciences but appears less willing to cooperate with the social sciences, including such biologically inflected fields as sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. Instead Collins finds intuition, anecdote, theology and sheer faith to be more reliable sources of evidence. Why God should have chosen not to rely on the usual standards of scientific rigour in these anthropocentric matters remains a mystery. (p. 104-5)

Collins is unlikely to understand the problem Fuller raises – why should anyone take Collins’s faith as anything more than an evolutionary glitch?

I am glad that a sociologist is researching the debate, because ASA-style theistic evolution makes sense only as sociology. It doesn’t make sense intellectually. As I have said elsewhere, it is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist (= how you can continue to believe in God even though the universe shows no evidence of design). But everyone realizes that the universe shows evidence of design. Design theorists must explain it, and materialists must explain it away.

The other, less benign role of theistic evolution is to confuse traditional religious people by implying that, for example, “you can believe in Darwin – and Jesus too!” Well, Darwin didn’t.

The way you believe in Jesus and Darwin too is by keeping yourself in a permanent state of confusion about the basic issues, or, Collins-style, not really understanding them. Some clergy are happy to help.

A friend alerted me to this article which nicely illustrates the muddle in progress. The article features the efforts of the Vatican to address the current Darwin cult. My friend asked me for a comment, and I replied,

Well, I hope the reason they are trying to play all sides of the table (except Dawkins’s) is that they know that “evolution” is in a state of meltdown.

If not, they will soon find out. I think the Church’s antiquity is partly the result of avoiding taking a position until necessary – and there is always the Galileo affair to remind us of what happens when we fail to adopt that course.

From the news article: “In his article, “Darwinism From Different Points of View,” he explained that Darwinian theories of natural selection are only completely unacceptable to the church when they are used to become the basis for justifying certain social policies and ethical choices.”

The main problem here would be instantly identified by ID godfather Phil Johnson: If Darwinian theories are a correct account of our origin and nature, then it is reasonable to use them to justify social policies and ethical choices.

To refuse to focus on whether the Darwinian account is true raises the possibility that we regard our own bases of action as a pleasant fiction and theirs as an unpleasant one. But that is a matter of taste, surely, and the subject should be put to a vote.

If, on the other hand, we can say Darwin was wrong about human nature (for that is the point at issue), we can reject the proposed social policies that depend on them without further consideration. More important, we can defend our own proposed policies as proceeding from a correct estimation of human worth, not merely our preference.

About that question, the most obscure backwoods six-day-creation crank is far more clued in than many a Jesuit prof, I fear.

Basically, I think Fuller is right. Theistic evolution is for people who find “intuition, anecdote, theology and sheer faith to be more reliable sources of evidence” when it comes to religion, and flee the implications of design in nature. No wonder the atheistic evolutionists use them but don’t respect them.

Also, just up at Post-Darwinist

Why the education system needs to inculcate materialism and Darwinism

Now that it’s all in ruins, they’re fighting over the rubble?

Another first for Canada? Intelligent comments about intelligent design?

So what has atheism done for science lately? Hint: a bunch of atheist books that use the word “science” a lot

Clergyman: Blame Darwin, not yourself, if you are unfaithful to your spouse!

Liberal fascism: A survival manual for non-fascists in Canada (and probably in Europe)

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69 Responses to A sociologist’s perceptive look at “theistic evolution”

  1. If, on the other hand, we can say Darwin was wrong about human nature (for that is the point at issue), we can reject the proposed social policies that depend on them without further consideration. More important, we can defend our own proposed policies as proceeding from a correct estimation of human worth, not merely our preference.

    Wait a minute — even if Darwin was “wrong about human nature,” how does that show that any other “estimation of human worth” is correct?

  2. If you want to have some real fun, ask a TE is he/she believes in the existence of a literal Adam and Eve.

  3. pubdef, that doesn’t show that any other “estimation of human worth” is correct. It shows that the estimator believes that it is correct.

    Contrast that, if you will, with rejecting the outcome in social policy of “certain Darwinian theories” without rejecting the theories themselves.

    Because a Darwinian account of the nature of humanity and the origin of religion, for example, is completely incompatible with that of the Catholic Church, there should be no hesitancy on the point.

    In fairness, I think that some Catholic clerics are merely confused at present. It is a highly confusing picture, after all, and the theistic evolutionists have done much to becloud it.

  4. I find there to be no theological advantage to ID over theistic evolution. I, like most IDers, no longer believe in a literal Adam and Eve. I, like many IDers believe that the line between human and pre-human is an extremely fuzzy one, that my direct ancestors were non-humans. Ie, I hold to common descent.

    As such, I have had to abandon my evangelical “the Bible is the word of God inerant, accurate to the jot and tittle.” Once one has done this, theistic evolution is not far away.

    What if God has decided that he would make himself undiscoverable by science. If he decided that, then science will not discover him. What if he decided that he would leave an implication of his presence, but nothing that would obliterate his faith model. Then concepts like ID will never become confirmed in science, but they will never be invalidated either.

    The biggest puzzle I have reguarding TE is why most theistic evolutionists do not recognize themselves as a variant of intelligent design. The one bright exception is Michael Denton. His last book, Nature’s Destiny, presents a TE model. Yet Denton sees himself as a descenter. If God set up a set of laws that would, of necessity, ultimately develop into intelligent beings, we are still designed. It only takes one design event to invoke design. The TEs that I know, like Miller, respect the strong anthropic principle. (Denton extends the principle well into the field of biology.) The strong anthropic principle, however, is a design argument — a strong one.

    I hold to an agency model, that there is evidence of multiple design events. Yet I do not do so for any theological reason. I would actually find the concept that God built us on law alone, and that God intentionally left himself masked to be more spiritually rewarding than believing that there are multiple acts of agency in the record, that God tweaked along the way.

    I hold to an agency model because of the evidence alone, not because of a religious opposition to TE.

  5. “The biggest puzzle I have reguarding TE is why most theistic evolutionists do not recognize themselves as a variant of intelligent design.”

    In my opinion? A mix of miscommunication (buying into the idea that ID = stealth YEC), legitimate theological/philosophical concerns (the TEs I see believe that there is evidence, even abundant evidence, for design in nature – but they don’t believe this is subject to scientific proof. ID popularly does not seem committed to mere apparent, even evident design, but out and out ‘scientific proof of design’), and frankly, a lot of petty hostility coming from both camps.

  6. bFast

    You made this comment #4:

    “I, like most IDers, no longer believe in a literal Adam and Eve”

    One of the shortcomings of this belief (and TE) if you still believe in a God, why would God make a covenant with anyone who didn’t exist – past, present and future?

    He made a covenant with Eve, then Noah, then…

  7. bFast, you write, “What if God has decided that he would make himself undiscoverable by science. If he decided that, then science will not discover him. What if he decided that he would leave an implication of his presence, but nothing that would obliterate his faith model. Then concepts like ID will never become confirmed in science, but they will never be invalidated either.”

    But my precise point is that he has apparently not done this (fine tuning, for example) nor has he said he would do it.

    Also, reason suggests that the creator of the universe must not be a part of it, for the same reasons as the novelist is not a character in her novel.

    The witness of Scripture urges us to know God in part through his works in nature.

    So we first have evidence from nature and reason to consider.

    There is also Scripture, understood as the works of people who – by their lives and witness – are assumed to have been in contact with God. They record many instances of God inviting us to know him in part through his works.

    The orthodox Christian tradition upheld this unity of witness – until the twentieth century when – along with so much else – it started to fall apart.

    A key moment for many Christians was the belief that they had to accommodate Darwin’s theory of evolution, especially as applied to humans. That meant muffling other more reliable witnesses, as above.

    The rest is, as they say, history.

    As for Adam and Eve, given that so few individual humans are our direct universal ancestors (if the conventional theory of our origins is correct), I do not know of a compelling reason to doubt their actual existence, but a variety of views on the matter may be held by orthodox Christians, so far as I know.

    The reason I think that orthodox Christians could not be Darwinists is that Darwin held that virtues were simply the qualties that evolved to help us survive. But Christians (and all monotheists, I should think) think that they are the qualities by which our minds best reflect or enact the will of the divine mind. In other words, either virtues are merely survival aids or else they are independently* given, as part of a our unique relationship with God.

    Attempting to make some compromise between the two views leads to the muddle that is current Anglo-American “theistic evolution”.

    *independently given – some might argue that God could so contrive matters that virtue “pays” and that it could thus be accounted for by Darwinian natural selection while still being given to us by God. But I don’t think the evidence (at least from the history of my own religion) offers any strong signal that virtue “pays” in a this-worldly sense. The evidence is that virtue pays in terms of a closer relationship with God, but that closer relationship normally means more trouble with local ungodly authorities, not less.

  8. bFast,

    1 Corinthians 15:45 (ESV)

    45Thus it is written,”The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

    How could Jesus be the “last Adam” if there were no first? How could the Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3 have any meaning if there were no Fall?

    A deeper question is “When did death enter the world?”. The Bible says death entered because of sin. How could there be death during common descent if there had been no sin yet?

    Because the prophecies in scripture are not refutable to me I must take it all as it is. These questions drive me to creationism.

  9. —–bfast: “I find there to be no theological advantage to ID over theistic evolution. I, like most IDers, no longer believe in a literal Adam and Eve. I, like many IDers believe that the line between human and pre-human is an extremely fuzzy one, that my direct ancestors were non-humans. Ie, I hold to common descent.”

    What do you mean by “theological advantage?” I am not sure that most IDers deny the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, although it would be an interesting sociological study.
    —–“As such, I have had to abandon my evangelical “the Bible is the word of God inerant, accurate to the jot and tittle.” Once one has done this, theistic evolution is not far away.”

    Yes, but at least you are intellectually honest. Unlike the typical TE, you don’t claim to be a “devout” believer in Christianity while denying the existence of our first parents and their “original” sin. Unlike the typical TE, you don’t subordinate your faith to Darwinist ideology while claiming to have reconciled the two.

    Still, while I personally don’t believe in universal common descent, I don’t understand why such a world view would rule out a literal Adam and Eve. As long as it is explained in God-intervening, non-Darwinian terms, what’s the problem?

  10. As for Adam and Eve, given that so few individual humans are our direct universal ancestors (if the conventional theory of our origins is correct), I do not know of a compelling reason to doubt their actual existence,

    The scientific establishment now says we are all descended from a single woman :-)

  11. Stephen B,

    If you would like some background material on the scientific problems associated with a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, please check this out:

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309051916

    “Tempo and Mode in Evolution: Genetics and Paleontology 50 Years After Simpson” (1995) by the National Academy of Sciences.
    The article shows that human ancestral populations could never have been smaller than two or three thousand individuals at any time over the last several million years. Click on the chapter entitled “Molecular Genetics of Speculation and Human Origins” (pp. 187-212).

    For an in-depth discussion (from a Catholic perspective) of how to reconcile the latest scientific findings with belief in Biblical inerrancy, please see the following:

    http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/d....._scie.html

    The post makes for interesting reading, but the controversy in the subsequent posts by readers gets rather heated.

    Happy hunting.

  12. For an alternative view of the data concerning man’s past:

    http://www.crev.info

    and click on “Early Man”.

  13. StephenB:

    Yes, but at least you are intellectually honest. Unlike the typical TE, you don’t claim to be a “devout” believer in Christianity while denying the existence of our first parents and their “original” sin.

    Actually, I am every bit as intellectually dishonest as the typical TE. Which is to say, though I deny the existance of a literal Adam and Eve, I would very much describe myself as a “devout” believer.

    StephenB, “What do you mean by “theological advantage?”” I mean that neither the UCD accepting variant of ID nor the TE position are more easily reconciled with Christian theology.

    I recognize that my current position is herasy to the usual evangelical, of which I am. Yet I cannot be so intellectually dishonest that I deny the scientific evidence. I therefore live with the tension that these two models of truth do not fit nicely together.

  14. bFast,

    I’m not trying to bash you at all. Just asking the some hard questions. Not expecting answers in this forum. Just brother to brother, something to chew on…

  15. I hit submit too quickly….

    Ultimately, we have to ask, is subjective science so good that it trumps what you believe to be God’s truth?

  16. I would actually find the concept that God built us on law alone, and that God intentionally left himself masked to be more spiritually rewarding than believing that there are multiple acts of agency in the record, that God tweaked along the way.

    I’ve never quite understood that. Whatever else might be said the Christian God is the gardening God that gets His hands “dirty” and takes on the humiliating experience of becoming human, almost just humus. If the Christian God exists then the purity of logic, form and law typical to Aristotle’s unmoved Mover or Plato’s demiurge is a myth.

    Given the Christian view a spiritual reality is not pure just because it never touches or “tinkers” with the physical except through logic and laws. The mechanistic tick tock view of Nature as a Clock may not be true anyway. The notion of a Blind Watchmaker is merely a reaction to the original notion of a Watchmaker, yet both views may be based on a false view which brings up the issue of an engineer “tinkering” or not.

    The apparent logic of a mechanistic view also avoids the issue of will. If humans are capable of choice then the whole supposed beauty of a programmed system which need not be tinkered with or “tweaked” dissolves into ripples of cause and effect that trace back to choices. If there is any real choice in the matter at all then the whole “programmed” system collapses. If we admit that people have the capacity for choice then one has to ask how far back in time did they have it and how did it shape an evolution that was supposedly programmed by law?

    It seems that the denial of agency has to be total in order to save the supposed purity of the mechanistic tick tock of Clockwork view, yet on the other hand a proponent of agency can admit both to general laws, mechanisms while also being open to the possibility of exceptions and limitations.

    A short story on the topic:
    http://mynym.blogspot.com/2005.....rayer.html

  17. elijacket:

    Ultimately, we have to ask, is subjective science so good that it trumps what you believe to be God’s truth?

    “The heavens declare the glory of God.”(PS 19:1) The truth of nature is as much “truth” as Biblical truth is. Both theologians and scientists are fallible interpreters of the truth. I see no reason to elevate the interpreters of Biblical truth (including myself) above the status of the interpreters of the truth of nature. In both cases the foundational evidence is presented. In both case an interpretation of the evidence is presented. The two interpretations are incompatible with each other. As such one of six possibilities exist:
    1 – The interpreters of the evidence of nature (the scientists) are all wrong.
    2 – The interpreters of the Bible (theologians) are all wrong.
    3 – Both the scientists and the theologians have it wrong.
    4 – Nature is not truth.
    5 – The Bible is not truth.
    6 – Neither Nature nore the Bible is truth.

    I personally go with number 3, above. I think that the scientists are wrong, that agency is a better explanation of the evidence than chance + necessity is. I think that the theologians are wrong, that at least everything pre-Abraham has a “ledgand passed down” qualitiy to it, and must be treated as such.

    mynym, I like your gardening analogy. What I see in the evidence is that life has been nurtured, like a gardener nurtures his crops.

  18. vjtorley,

    I read the paper you linked (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309051916) and it seems to build the case around a couple assumptions. (You can correct me if I misunderstood it.)

    They start by arguing that if you have three alleles (A,B,C), two from the same species (A,B) and one from a different species (allele C), and if A is more similar to C than it is to B (if interspecies divergence is greater than intraspecies divergence), then A and B must have split geneologically before A and C split. If two humans have A and B, yet chimpanzee allele C is closer to one of them than they are to eachother, the human ancestors must have split from each other before the human-chimp common ancestor did.

    Am I reading this right?

    If so, I find that assumption odd as well as not convincing.

    Also, given the fact that we’re just learning about what poly-functions DNA has (multiple layers of encoding), and how scientists have been repeatedly wrong about assuming lack of function (vestigial organs, junk DNA, etc), it seems premature at best to start building cases based on assumptions of DNA change mechanisms we barely understand. If there is some mechanism other than just random (unguided) variation causing new alleles to develop, then the conclusions reached in the paper don’t follow.

    Furthermore, what if I don’t begin with the assumption that Chimps and humans share a common ancestor? Does similarity always have to indicate common descent?

    Interesting paper, but I don’t know if it really presents a knock down argument. I could be wrong (I could have misunderstood it), so I’m open to your thoughts.

  19. “3 – Both the scientists and the theologians have it wrong.
    4 – Nature is not truth.
    5 – The Bible is not truth.
    6 – Neither Nature nore the Bible is truth.

    I personally go with number 3, above.”
    ——————–

    Let’s dump deep theology for the moment and just look at the basics.

    1. The Fall. If it didn’t happen then there is no need for Jesus. It cannot happen without Adam as the Bible makes no other provision for it. (Dawkin makes this point alot).

    2. Death before sin (as common descent would require) also gives us issue. If there was death before sin then sin didn’t bring death. This would eviscerate Christianity.

    If just these two, and we could go further, issues are in error then Christianity and the need for Christ are dead.

    I’m really curious how you get around this.

  20. ellijacket, be careful. It would be nice to avoid doctrinal disputes over whose religion is the truth and whose is false. This is supposed to be an ID blog.

    Denyse: “The way you believe in Jesus and Darwin too is by keeping yourself in a permanent state of confusion about the basic issues, or, Collins-style, not really understanding them. Some clergy are happy to help.”

    Brilliant. I would just make it “Jesus, God, or any notions of a spiritual reality”

  21. I wasn’t trying to make it anything. Just responding to an already theological comment.

    I hardly post here but felt the comments were useful to things stated about TE in posts 4, 6 and others.

  22. magnan: I don’t think ellijacket is plunging into a doctrinal dispute. The point he/she is making is that New Testament Christianity is inseparable from Old Testament typology. According to classical Christianity, the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Inasmuch as TEs claim to believe in Christian theology, it seems fair to ask them why they compromise it at every turn.

  23. ellijacket:

    If just these two, and we could go further, issues are in error then Christianity and the need for Christ are dead.

    I’m really curious how you get around this.

    bfast #13:

    I therefore live with the tension that these two models of truth do not fit nicely together.

    StephenB:

    Inasmuch as TEs claim to believe in Christian theology, it seems fair to ask them why they compromise it at every turn.

    TEs and many IDers “compromise at every turn” to account for the physical evidence brought forth by the scientific community. The other options that I can find are: turn a blind eye to the scientific evidence, radically conclude that the evidence is misinterpreted, or abandon Christianity. None of these options are the least bit ideal.

  24. bFast,

    you and I seem to be on a similar journey, and coming to similar conclusions.

    Ellijacket,

    please keep asking your questions. they are excellent, and force me to really examine how I re-understand theology.

    Just keep in mind that the quick solution is to “create a God you can live with”. That is a very two dimensional God. bFast is going through a major overhaul of his theology, in light of his understanding of nature. American evangelicalism doesn’t like to work like this :-) So, I am asking the same questions that Ellijacket is, but within the framework of what bFast is concluding.

    It may lead to a more rewarding faith. For example Ellijacket, why do you have to believe there is no death before the Fall? The passages in the NT always seem to focus on spiritual life/death. So, death and regeneration is a part of God’s creation. But, spiritual death is a part of the separation of man and God, that was reconciled by Jesus Christ. I now see them as 2 different things.

    Similarly, while God could create an Earth in 6 days, I find it much more glorious that he would sit back and enjoy the “unfolding” of his creation over billions of years. That seems more in line with a God who is really jazzed by the glorious nature of things.

  25. vjtorley: Thanks for the references. Ayala’s study was interesting, scholarly, and challenging to those who believe in a literal Adam and Eve. Just as Atom questions some of the assumptions in Ayala’s study, I question some of the extrapolations. My comments to bfast will be relevant.

    Bfast:

    Yes, many scientists do propose polygenism, but there are also a few, including the late great geneticist Jerome Lejeune, who can accept monogenism. This, it seems to me, is the problem. Our challenge is less about accepting the “findings” of science and more about choosing which scientists we find most credible. Mainstream science responds to belief in monogenism in the same way it responds to belief intelligent design. They discourage it because they don’t like it. Could it be that some advocates of polygenism are motivated by a desire to trump the doctrine of original sin just as Darwin was motivated to trump Paley’s principle of design?

    A clever researcher can often stack the deck and produce a desired outcome. Secularists and TEs continually seek an evolutionary pathway toward complexity in living organisms just as they continually seek a genetic pathway away from Adam and Eve. Quite often, the predispositions of the researcher and the source of the funding have more to do with the outcome of a study than do the methods employed.

    Also, it is important to remember that, in terms of scientific breakthroughs, a small minority of geniuses do most of the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, the herd, which has all of the institutional power, persecutes the genius— right up to the time that the genius is proven right. The most respected scientists of their day told Edison that electric lights can’t work and they told the Wright brothers that airplanes can’t fly. Today, their ideological successors indulge in their own brand of cynicism and skepticism, except for one thing—this time they use the academy not simply to discourage innovation (design thinking) but to expel anyone who would dare think about it.

    The broader point is that there is no substitute for coherent thinking. On the one hand, Truth is indivisible, though it can manifest itself in different ways. Theology, philosophy, and science each investigates some aspect of the truth. That means that sound Biblical exegesis will never contradict sound scientific research. On the other hand, many TEs and Darwinists believe that truth is either divisible or non attainable, clinging to one truth for theology and another truth for scientific research. That is a problem, because it breeds fragmented thinking and lost confidence in the usefulness of reason. Someone recently asked TE and ID critic Robert Russell this question: “George Gaylord Simpson said that evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind.” “Yes or no.” Russell responded, “from science, the answer is ‘yes’; from theology, the answer is ‘no’.”

    All the great scientists of the past did not judge the world this way. They insisted that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” The idea that God has one idea of teleology and that we have another idea of teleology would have been laughable. The whole idea behind science is that, even though our knowledge is finite and delicate, we are, nevertheless, on the same page with God. God reveals himself in Scripture and he reveals himself in nature. To suggest that thoes two revelations are incompatible is to militate against reason and court despair. We must begin every intellectual enterprise with the attitude that we live in a rational universe. That presents us with two complimentary principles: [A] We should never accept a religious belief system unless it passes the test of reason, but [B] If that religious belief system does pass the test of reason, we should then allow it to illuminate our reason. TEs do well with [A] but they have a real problem with [B].

  26. TomRiddle, I’ll hazard an answer to your question directed at ellijacket.

    “(Rom 5:12) Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–

    (Rom 5:13) for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.

    (Rom 5:14) Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”

    Paul makes it clear that sin entered through Adam, and death through sin. At face value, this means “no Adam, no sin, no death” or in historical order: Adam->sin->death.

    Only if we’re willing to conclude that Paul was either ignorant, or deceptive (irrespective of motive) can we conclude that death preceded Adam (and sin) unless we can live with the notion that the Bible just isn’t correct on these issues, or that the Holy Spirit saw fit to communicate something other than historical reality.

  27. Atom and Stephen B,

    Thanks for the comments. Atom, you’ve correctly grasped the key point, which is that family trees of genes may look nothing like those of the individuals who carry them. The genes in our MHC complex vary so much between individuals that their family tree is even more ancient than the human-chimp split. We can deduce this from the odd fact that I may be carrying a variant of a gene in my MHC complex which is closer to that of the corresponding gene in a chimp in the zoo than it is to that of the corresponding gene carried by my next door neighbor, even though my neighbor is a human being. The authors of the article I cited (Francisco J. Ayala, Anaias Escalante, Colm O’Huigin, and Jan Klein) argue that we can use the similarities in these genes between members of closely related species to draw up a family tree, and that the sheer number of variants of MHC genes that are shared in common between humans and chimps precludes the possibility of there ever having been a bottleneck of two individuals in the human line.

    I take your point that there is much we do not understand about the function of these genes, Atom. But for me the key question is: can similarities in these different versions be validly used to construct genetic family trees?

    The only alternative is that the similarities are due to some sort of convergence. Professor John Bloom of Biola University thinks not:

    “A common history of exposure to pathogens is a far cry from common ancestry It remains to be shown that the common chimpanzee human patterns arose without any external selection pressure. Otherwise, the data do not distinguish a common pathogen or other convergent pressure from a common ancestor” (see “On Human Origins: A Survey. Christian Scholar’s Review,” Winter 1997, at http://www.cccu.org/resourcece.....detail.asp).

    I am not a geneticist, but what impresses me is the additional fact that the NUMBER of different variants of these MHC genes is about the same in both chimps and humans. Common exposure to pathogens might explain the similarities between the variants in chimps and humans, but the fact that both species have the same-SIZED “genetic kit” in their MHC complex, coupled with the fact that they have both preserved the same VARIANTS (subject to the odd mutation or two over the course of history) of the different MHC genes, strikes me as too impressive a coincidence to be due to anything other than common ancestry. IF this is the case, then the problem of how the preservation of this diversity is to be reconciled with the theological datum of an original couple is a real one.

    My own comment here is that nothing in the genetic data can tell us when individuals in the human line acquired the ability to make a free and informed decision to reject God. Such an ability is God-given – it presupposes but is not explained by the possession of a brain of a certain size and complexity. It may well be that two individuals in the human line made the original and fateful decision that has “cut the communication lines” between us and our Maker. Afterwards, other individuals may have crossed the mental Rubicon, so to speak (i.e. acquired a human soul), but as they came into a world already spoiled by the choice of the first two people, they had to put up with the consequences. My guess is that those individuals who refused to acquiesce in the original act of wickedness may have been exterminated by their contemporaries, with the result that all currently living individuals are the descendants of Adam AND those individuals who were only later endowed with the gift of free will, but who nevertheless applauded Adam’s crime. That’s about as good a job as I can do of reconciling the genetic data with Romans 5. If anyone has a better proposal, I am all ears.

  28. vjtorley wrote:

    …but the fact that both species have the same-SIZED “genetic kit” in their MHC complex, coupled with the fact that they have both preserved the same VARIANTS (subject to the odd mutation or two over the course of history) of the different MHC genes, strikes me as too impressive a coincidence to be due to anything other than common ancestry

    How close is the alignment between the two species? (You say “same VARIANTS” etc, but I’ve been led astray by exaggeration before in the past. Not saying you would exaggerate, but perhaps your sources have.)

    If humans and chimps had all the same allele variations, then this could be for a reason…we shouldn’t just assume the variety serves no function and is itself the result of blind forces. Again, assuming “no function” has a very poor track record. The stronger the exactness of the match, the stronger I’d think there was a functional reason for the variety, and maybe even the particular varieties.

    Also, have we observed (not inferred) the rate of allele change in these loci? I think that would be a step towards quantitatively looking at the issue.

    I’ll be thinking about this. Thanks for giving us something interesting to discuss.

  29. Apollos,

    Why can’t there be hominids throughout the Earth, living and dying, and then God takes two and moves them out of the “general population” and into Eden where he breathes into them a spiritual awareness. “Adam”, in his unique relationship with God, rejects God’s gift of life in the Garden, and thus subjects all men to God’s punishment. Perhaps “all have sinned”, but God has held “Adam” accountable for that sin, or simply points to Adam as an example. Just as Abraham (and not his father) is father of the Jews, perhaps Adam is the “point-person” for spiritual accountability.

    Now, this is purely speculation, and I don’t know if it is sound. But, those are the kinds of questions (and I think the questions of bFast) that I am trying to grapple with.

    And, I think your interpretation, while valid, may not be a slam dunk, either. It is convenient, but it may be too one dimensional, and the actual truth is more robust.

  30. StephenB, what has monogenism and polygenism got to do with anything I said? If I understand correctly polygenism suggests that humanity arose multiple times, creating the primary races. Monogenism suggests that humanity arose only once. Have I got this wrong? What has that got to do with the question of common descent and of a literal adam.

  31. bfast: My use of the term monogenism refers to the theory of singular first parents (either nameless or referring specifically to Adam and Eve), which, as you know, is the official Christian world view. My use of polygenism refers to multiple first parents (perhaps thousands) as put forth by many anthropologists, geneticists, geologists, paleontologists, and other scientists.

    For all practical purposes, to posit monogenism is to argue for a literal Adam and Eve or something equivalent. To posit polygenism is to argue against that proposition, which, of course, complicates the problem of original sin and causes some to even question it. Most mainstream Christians accept monogenism, but some feel the need to accept polygenism as the best way to reconcile modern scientific claims with their faith.

  32. TomRiddle,

    “Why can’t there be hominids throughout the Earth, living and dying, and then God takes two and moves them out of the “general population” and into Eden where he breathes into them a spiritual awareness.”

    The problem I have here is the “dying” part. I definitely don’t view death as a creative force, nor as anything good. This is based on what little I know about scripture. It seems from the testimony of scripture that death — all death — came as a result of sin — Adam’s sin. Romans 5 strongly suggests no death prior to sin. If this is not the case, I would expect to find reasonable scriptural support for the notion.

    Certainly we can imagine things anyway we want, but as Christians we should be able to reconcile our views with Scripture, unless we demote the testimony, in which case it seems a weak thread to hang our faith on.

    (1Co 15:54) “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

    If death was not an enemy of life, why should it be swallowed up in victory? If death is a positive force prior to sin, then why not a positive force for the future of Christ’s Kingdom, and beyond, into eternity?

    (Rev 21:4) “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    “And, I think your interpretation, while valid, may not be a slam dunk, either. It is convenient, but it may be too one dimensional, and the actual truth is more robust.”

    I would agree in that our understanding of the truth is often but a shadow of it; however if we are to take scripture at its word, then we’re not talking about my interpretation so much as the meaning of Paul’s words in Romans 5, which appear unequivocal. Either death came through sin which came through Adam, or it didn’t.

    I think it’s fine to contemplate a spiritual history prior to Adam, I just wouldn’t be comfortable giving it credence over scripture, unless I had decided the Bible’s revelation was lacking, and my own imaginings were somehow comforting.

    By the way, I’m fine with believers taking an “I don’t know” view on how to reconcile scripture with a contemporary (and transitory, IMO) view of natural history. But when you’ve decided up front to make scripture subject to this same interpretation of unobserved natural history, it may very well place faith on shaky ground.

    If we can’t believe what the Bible says about our creation or about death, then on what basis do we accept the testimony regarding our destiny, or of eternal life? Once again I agree that a little humility is in order when positing what we think we know of scripture, but it’s far too tempting to place all of it’s meaning behind a shadowy veil of uncertainty.

    “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Co 3:16-18)

  33. The problem I have here is the “dying” part. I definitely don’t view death as a creative force, nor as anything good.

    and therein is my point. Notice how many times you said “I”. So, you don’t view death as a creative force, nor anything good. But, how about God? “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone”. This is my point of “a God you can live with”. Perhaps God doesn’t see it as such a problem.

    Do you think that grains of wheat did not die before the Fall? Did all ants, rabbits, and raccoons not die but keep multiplying?

    Well, in your case, you’ll make an exception because it fits with your predisposed worldview. I’m just saying that there is a lot more out there that we don’t know, and many more options might be open.

    I’m not criticizing you, because I come from the same tradition. I’m just trying to open up my mind to some broader ideas about God, and not try to shoehorn it into my 20th Century American evangelical background.

    So, I believe Romans is focusing on the spiritual condition of man. You have brought (like I used to) the physical condition in along with it – and that might not be the correct interpretation.

  34. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone”.
    —————-
    That is taking a spiritual truth and applying it to the physical. No where in this context does this point to physical death. Jesus was talking about dying to ourselves for His Kingdom.

    I guess the question here is if death was such a good thing and was ok before Adam (assuming a before Adam) then why was he instructed to eat only plants (plants not having blood are not considered to have a soul. The Hebrew shows this meaning in the use of the word soul).

    Also, the animals did not eat each other in the garden. We see a picture of no death, no physical death and no spiritual death. The Fall brought both.

    Only after the Fall do we see animals dying. The first as a sacrifice for Adam and Eve.

    I’ve been trying to play devil’s advocate in my mind and argue the other side from Scripture. There is no evidence in Scripture that there was death before Adam and/or that God has ever thought death was good.

  35. Apollos; you did an excellent job laying out the framework here, and I agree with what you are saying. The description of the peaceable kingdom, and our future, would also support no killing before the fall, as you point out.

    One point that I’ve always brought up and asked theistic evolutionists is; if God making Adam out of the ground is metaphor for evolution, then how was Eve really made? To be logically consistent, it has to be from a different mechanism than evolution. And, if they say that she was indeed made from Adam’s rib, then why couldn’t God really do what is described and make Adam directly from the earth?

    From a Christian perspective, any alternative POV than what is clearly laid out in scripture must also be logically consistent. Also, if the person is a Christian I assume they believe in the truth of the scripture (even if they think it metaphor), so any metaphor must be 100% accurate in its comparisons.

  36. This thread is frustrating. If all I knew about ID was in this thread, I would agree with those who claim that ID is just creationism (YEC) in a cheap tuxedo — that ID is not presenting the whole truth about what its position is, but lying to score a few points.

    ID’s motto is to follow the evidence where it leads. The majority of posters on this thread cherrypick evidence to fit their interpretation of an open Bible. This is no way to do science, folks!

    Any old-life model must include death prior to humanity’s arrival! Even the young earth model must explain why God would make a senseless thing — a biosphere that cannot thrive because there is no death. Why would God need Adam to sin so that his creation would finally make sense.

    StephenB — one Adam or a community of pre-humans that eventually became human. That is your question.

    I need not ask a scientist. I need only look at the data. The data shows that there are about 800 disease causing point mutations that are shared between humans and chimps. The data shows that there are many alleles that are shared between humans and chimps. The data shows evidence of retroviruses whose DNA was implanted in the genome — by the same retrovirus in the same location in both human and chimp DNA.

    Now, if humanity was at one point reduced to two humans, then all of these markings would have had to have passed throught that narrow point. In one man and one woman we would have to do some careful selecting to get all of this data through the filter of the 4 genomes that we have available. It could be that God intentionally preserved this data that for all the world looks like a community, rather than an individual, became human. Why would God do that?

    This evidence alone strongly supports the premise that a community became human, rather than a pair. In fact, the only other option that I can see is that God is a fooler, that God is trying to trick the scientific community into getting it wrong.

  37. bFast wrote:

    In fact, the only other option that I can see is that God is a fooler, that God is trying to trick the scientific community into getting it wrong.

    Or it could be that what we think are surely “retrovirus markers” are not that at all. (See P.Borger’s paper on evoinfo.org for his take on it.) Simply put, your dilemma may not be a dilemma at all once we understand DNA and its mechanisms fully.

    This reminds me of what I’m reading in Maimonides’ book on Aristotelian science/philosophy “The Guide for the Perplexed.” He argues that the stars MUST be made out of different substance than the earthly elements since they exist within the celestial sphere (that moves), yet they remain stationary. The stars did not move in circular motion (like the spheres), or in a straight line (like earthly elements), therefore they MUST have been composed of a different type of substance.

    Or the entire theory of celestial spheres could have been wrong and their understanding of the heavens mistaken. What was obvious and apparent and supported by all the best scientific evidence was completely wrong.

    In the same way, let’s not force false dilemmas based on processes we barely understand (DNA’s mechanisms) and questionable assumptions (molecular clocks, similarity is always a result of descent, etc), but let’s just keep a running tab of the data and try to think outside the box from time to time. The resolution may be that we’re wrong about our beginning framework and once we change the starting assumptions everything will harmonize rather nicely.

  38. “The majority of posters on this thread cherrypick evidence to fit their interpretation of an open Bible. This is no way to do science, folks!”
    ————————

    I’m not trying to frustrate you or anyone but I do think it’s the pot calling the kettle black though talking about cherry picking evidence.

    I’m not an ID’r. Never claimed to be. I am a YEC. I read everything here because I find it interesting that there is a groundswell against Darwinism. I like that and in that sense support it.

    I’m not here to cause trouble in any form. Just found a thread that was theological and commented on it. You were one of the first to bring up theological issues. Why ask others to keep to science if you don’t?

    Also, I respect your struggles. I have mine as well. I don’t think you’re not a Christian because you are trying to balance these two issues.

    I just come at this from a different angle. God’s Word can be trusted as written. Everything else is held up to it never the other way around.

  39. The data shows that there are about 800 disease causing point mutations that are shared between humans and chimps.

    Are you saying that diseases are beneficial and that is why these were kept over the eons?

    The data shows that there are many alleles that are shared between humans and chimps.

    Common design. Why would a designer re-invent a new gene for a similar functional protein?

    The data shows evidence of retroviruses whose DNA was implanted in the genome — by the same retrovirus in the same location in both human and chimp DNA.

    And humans share ERVs with hamsters and not chimps. So does that mean we evolved from hamsters?

  40. Joseph:

    And humans share ERVs with hamsters and not chimps. So does that mean we evolved from hamsters?

    Joseph — sounds like data. I like data.

    A few questions:
    1 – Are the ERVs in humans and hamsters “at the exact same place” (relative to known genes)? If not, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the same virus affected both humand and hamster. Remember that retroviruses are caused by the activity of a virus.

    2 – Could the ERV in humans and hamsters exist in most mammals that proportedly share a common ancestor with both humans and hamsters? This would suggest that the effect is caused by a deletion in chimps.

    3 – How many ERVs are known to be shared by humans and creatures farther separated than the proported chimp-human ancestor but not shared by the chimp? Are there any shared by chimp and hamster, but not by human? The more such events that can be found the greater the challenge they present to common descent.

    4 – What is your source of information on this? Ie, can you provide a citation?

    Joseph:

    Are you saying that diseases are beneficial and that is why these were kept over the eons?

    No. I am saying that in a recessive gene, the effect of these destructive mutations only shows up once in a million births. As such, it offers sufficiently little disadvantage to behave more like random drift than like a bad thing.

    ellijacket:

    I just come at this from a different angle. God’s Word can be trusted as written. Everything else is held up to it never the other way around.

    I see it as follows: 1, the Bible, a complex text, is interpreted by fallable humans. Even amongst those theologians that hold a literalist interpretation, there can be quite a broad range of interpretation. I therefore do not see it possible to say “the Bible says this, therefore …” rather “the Bible says this, by time we meld the Bible with all of the other things the Bible says, by time we factor in history, we come to interpret that the Bible means this.”

    The Bible says that nature itself reveals God. As such the evidence found in nature should be revelation of God on equal footing. The evidence of nature goes through a similar process of interpretation that the Bible does. Scientists say, “the evidence from nature is this, once we push compare the evidence with all of the other evidence, after we apply our philosophical filters, we conclude this.”

    So to me, both Biblical evidence and evidence from nature are on equal footing — pre-interpreted evidence. Both my understanding of the Bible and my understanding of nature are also on an equal footing — evidence that has been (to some extent, eroneously) interpreted. However, if both the truth of nature and the truth of the Bible are truth as I understand truth to be, then the two streams of knowledge should find a meeting point once both interpretations are correct.

    ellijacket:

    I do think it’s the pot calling the kettle black though talking about cherry picking evidence.

    I assure you that I try really hard to not through out evidence that I am aware of. I certainly am not aware of all evidence. I will say, however, that I have tested many lines of evidence presented by the YEC community and found the interpretation thereof to miserably fail the test of close examination.

  41. bFast- I like data too.

    Too bad there isn’t any which would demonstrate that any amount of accumulated mutations can account for all the differences observed between chimps and humans.

    As for the hamster/ humann ERV thing- it’s in “the Design of Life”- I am looking for the page…

  42. Oops- gunea pigs, not hamsters. And it is a “pseudo”gene, not and ERV- start on page 133 third paragraph.

    The SAME shared errors, which must have occurred in parallel.

    I would say read the entire chapter 5- it answers quite a bit pertaining to alleged shared mistakes.

  43. Joseph:

    Too bad there isn’t any which would demonstrate that any amount of accumulated mutations can account for all the differences observed between chimps and humans.

    Hold it. It appears that you have made a leap here. Just because I hold to common descent, that doesn’t mean that I hold to the neo-Darwinian belief that random variation, filtered by natural selection can account for the differences between human and chimp. Far from it. I see, for instance, the HAR1F gene which has taken on 18 non-contiguous point mutations. This particular gene is ultra-conserved in all quadrupeds — except humans. It seems to play a role in brain development. All good logic suggests that it cannot be accounted for by any reasonable random event. IE, I am an IDer!

  44. 44

    The Darwinists insist on using the term “intelligent design creationism.” But how about “ID common descent”? Or “ID changes with time”? Or “ID front-loaded evolution”? Why not just plain “intelligent design” — ID is compatible with all of these other ideas.

    We should give the Darwinists a taste of their own medicine by using the term “evolution atheism.”

  45. 45

    How odd, my last comment was in moderation and it disappeared. Shall I repost it?

  46. 46

    The HAR1F/GULO gene sequence in guinea pigs is a compelling argument against common descent, but I tend to see this as being beside the point anyway unless and until someone can posit an objective way of differentiating between ‘common descent’ and ‘common design’. In species which are similar in morphology and in gene sequence as a result of either, similar response to similar pathogens is hardly surprising under either view.

    As a former TE-er turned YEC-er, I found theological arguments of the sort put so eloquently by Apollos and Ellijacket ultimately convincing. I sympathize with bFast’s dilemma, though, and I think the answer is (as Hugh Akston in Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ would have stated it) – “check your premises”. As Atom has pointed out in a few places in this thread, the issues with reconciling biblical theology and current scientific orthodoxy simply disappear if the assumptions behind the latter are properly examined. Remove Lyell’s “principle of uniformitarianism”, an unproveable axiom if ever there was one, and the whole edifice of Darwinism comes crashing down without even a puff of wind.

    Speaking as a physicist, I have something of a problem with the whole concept of trying to use scientific means to establish what may or may not have happened in the distant past. The oft-disputed Second Law of Thermodynamics, whatever construction you put upon it, tells us at the very least that we cannot put “t=-t” and extrapolate current states backwards in time to previous states, as these previous states are by definition much less ‘probable’ than we could ever infer from contemporary observations. Add in the mere possibility of an intelligent designer outside the system, and all bets are off.

    The appeal of ID, then, as a scientific discipline is that unlike Darwinism OR ‘Creation Science’ (which are both as bad as each other in this respect) it seeks not to speculate about past events but to make inferences from contemporary observations. In other words, we can seek understanding of whether or not the natural world shows evidence of design by looking at the world as it is today. This places it on a much surer footing, while also comfortably accommodating the range of views about those past events that we have witnessed in this thread.

  47. Stephen Morris:

    Congratulations on an excellent post. You provided a great deal of substance with very few words.

    All:

    On matters relating to the origins of the human race, the issue is less about accepting the “findings” of science and more about choosing which scientist you care to believe. Polygenism is not a scientific slam dunk and not all scientists argue for it.

    In terms of reconciling science with the Bible, the real question is this: How good is the science and how fair are the scientists? Inasmuch as 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are agnostic/atheist, I am not about to give them the benefit of the doubt when they speculate about human origins. They may know a little something about how genetic diversity develops, but they know absolutely nothing about how genetic diversity came into being.

    I submit that the vast majority of biologists and geneticists have chosen to rule out monogenism in principle just as they have chosen to rule out intelligent design in principle. For many of them, the purpose of research is to create the desired outcome. With a misplaced assumption or an unjustified extrapolation here and there, they can make a scientific study say anything they want it to say.

    On the theological front, the Biblical teaching on monogenism is clear. Through one man, sin entered into the world. Polygenism creates serious theological difficulties when we consider the implications of original sin and its transference through all of humanity. If a group of people existed in the beginning of time and only two of them sinned, then God’s judgment against humanity would be unjust because not all human beings descended from the two that committed the offense. Also, the prospect of multiple first parents places Old Testament typology at variance with New Testament history. Among other discontinuities, it characterizes the old Adam as a group and the new Adam (Christ) as an individual. Why rewrite Scripture to accommodate a best guess scenario (polygenism) that is just as likely to be wrong as right?

  48. bfast: “This thread is frustrating. If all I knew about ID was in this thread, I would agree with those who claim that ID is just creationism (YEC) in a cheap tuxedo — that ID is not presenting the whole truth about what its position is, but lying to score a few points.”

    Why be frustrated. This thread is, or was supposed to be, about the sociology of theistic evolution. Not every discussion on UD is pure science. If anyone is frustrated it should be those who witnessed the subject matter morph from its original intent (TEs who flee the implications of design) to what it is now (a restricted discussion about data).

    ——”ID’s motto is to follow the evidence where it leads. The majority of posters on this thread cherrypick evidence to fit their interpretation of an open Bible. This is no way to do science, folks!?

    The original subject matter relates to theology at least as much as science. Those who are interested only in science are given plenty of threads to express themselves in that limited context.

  49. 49

    StephenB: that’s correct. All scientists are atheists, even the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu ones. You see, I studied physics at university, and one of the profs in the atheist tent approached me one day… he took me into a quiet room and asked me a lot of odd questions like ‘what did I know about radioactive decay’, ‘how good was I at keeping secrets’… I was suspicious, because he wouldn’t tell me what it was all about. I didn’t see him again after that… somehow I was dropped from courses he was teaching, while my classmates were getting into positions of power…

    … do tell me if this is any more ridiculous than what you’ve tried to imply. You’ve just called scientists a bunch of liars and frauds, and… what a surprise, no evidence and a whole lot of Bible talk. Funny how those go together.

  50. ellijacket,

    while I appreciate your wanting to fit “no death before the fall”, and “only vegetarians required”, I think once again, you are taking your presuppositions into the interpretation.

    you say:

    Also, the animals did not eat each other in the garden

    who says? There is no evidence either way. So, you take the silence, and insert your own interpretation so that it fits what you believe – but, the Bible doesn’t discuss it. Now, you may very well be right, but it is an assumption you are making.

    Spiders and many other animals CANNOT subsist on veggies. They are classic “meatasourises”. Do you think after the Fall, all these animals had their internal anatomies changed?

    What about canines in lion’s teeth? They are designed to rip flesh. Are you saying that they started to grow canines after the Fall?

    Now, you could say “God created canines because he knew the Fall was coming”. But, that is trying to twist theology to fit scientific evidence. That is what I am struggling with, and am trying to reconcile in my own mind. Also, you still have to deal with the anatomy of things like spiders, as I mentioned earlier.

    Perhaps (and I’m not certain), Earth was still a place where people could “walk with God”, and then when the time comes, join him in eternity. After all, we are eternal beings, so why have an Earth that gets over crowded, and is separated from God?

    Maybe God always intended for Adam to walk with him for hundreds of years, and then call him home. Where does it say that Earth was ever our true home.

  51. Stephen Morris, “The HAR1F/GULO gene sequence in guinea pigs is a compelling argument against common descent.”

    Wow, I missed something here! Even googling about, I can’t find the case that the HAR1F in guinea pigs challenges common descent. I can find a thread on panda’s thumb that argues exactly the opposite, but even they do not present the issue is a nice, clear, concise package. Can you present the “how on earth can common descent explain this” case re HAR1F and guinea pigs?

  52. 52

    bFast,

    A thought-provoking paper and a long thread that it stimulated can be found at:

    http://www.iscid.org/boards/ub.....00656.html

    I’m sure there are ways of shoe-horning this into common descent. Over at PT they seem to saying that primates and guinea pigs conserve the genes of the original common ancestor and other animals (rats in particular) that have diverged. I don’t find this terribly convincing.

  53. Venus Mousetrap

    Since I know you’re a sock puppet I want to ask you why of all the threads on Uncommon Descent you’d want to zero in on one with a theological topic? Interested in God are you? Or just gratuitous God bashing?

    Find a different thread or get lost.

  54. TomRiddle,
    ” Also, the animals did not eat each other in the garden

    who says? There is no evidence either way. So, you take the silence, and insert your own interpretation so that it fits whatyou believe – but, the Bible doesn’t discuss it. Now, you may very well be right, but it is an assumption you are making.”
    ————–
    Gen 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
    30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat: and it was so.

    I would not call the above verses “no evidence either way”, “silence” or “the Bible doesn’t discuss it”. It seems that the Bible not silent at all about this. God gave every green herb for meat “…to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life.”

    As far as spiders and lions go who says they were in their current form in the Garden? God says he created animals by their kinds. It’s very possible to have a kind or kinds of cats that do not eat meat and after the fall they could easily change through natural selection. Same for spiders.

  55. 55

    DaveScot: If I’m a sockpuppet I’m a pretty bad one, seeing as I go by this name here and elsewhere.

    I don’t post at UD much (hardly surprising, seeing as I have to wait anywhere from an hour to a day longer than everyone else for my comments to appear, if they don’t get deleted), so I’m not sure how you decide I’ve zeroed in on this one.

    And quite frankly, who are you to decide what I should be interested in? People are talking about science and religion, and in the process, misrepresenting one and not making the other look exactly wonderful either. I can correct them, a little at least, on the science.

    And it’s hardly God-bashing to point out when claims are made without evidence.

  56. Venus

    I go by this name here and elsewhere

    Really. Did your parents give you that name or did you change it yourself?

  57. TomRiddle,

    Let me say first off I’m not a scientist. I used NS as a catch all for the mechanisms we see that do cause changes in animals.

    Yes, I do think it’s possible that the mechanisms are there for those type changes. I don’t know a YEC’r who doesn’t but I don’t know them all.

    That’s the same type questions Edward Blythe was asking when he started formulating the ideas that became natural selection.

    Also, theologically, it’s not a stretch to say that God had already included this genetic diversity. Jesus is called “the Lamb that was slain before the creation of the world.” In His sovereignty God wasn’t surprised by the Fall. He had planned for it in Christ before the beginning and could easily have included the the genetic information needed for these animals to diversify after the Fall.

    Is this what happened? That I don’t know because the Bible is truly silent on that issue.

  58. B Fast in Four:

    I hold to an agency model, that there is evidence of multiple design events. Yet I do not do so for any theological reason. I would actually find the concept that God built us on law alone, and that God intentionally left himself masked to be more spiritually rewarding than believing that there are multiple acts of agency in the record, that God tweaked along the way.

    I hold to an agency model because of the evidence alone, not because of a religious opposition to TE.

    Now there’s an honest man.

    Though I’m not a YEC—I confess that my preferences lie in the opposite direction—a hands on God, us in his likeness and image, the Bible as a reliable guide (as per David Klinghoffer). But my opposition to TE is not just religious—it’s that I think TE illogical and driven by a desire to be accepted by the materialist Big Boys. If Materialism falls and ID becomes the Big Boy on the Block my guess is that the same TE folks will easily fall in line.

    But not you, B Fast. You appear more honest than ideological.

  59. 59

    DaveScot: you’re kidding, no? The verb ‘to go by’ means… well, the clue is kind of in the words.

    But you know what I’m talking about. Look at the people on this thread trying to decide which science agrees with Bible passages and which doesn’t. That’s not ID, and it’s not even theistic evolution, which is what this topic is about. It’s creationism, and in some cases, it’s YEC – the very same movement ID is trying to get away from.

  60. Stephen Morris, thanks to the link to PB’s paper. I chatted with him on ICSD’s brainstorms when he was writing it, but I never got a copy. I now have it, and will be reading it over the next day or two.

    I am a bit puzzled, however, because I searched the paper for HAR1F, and found nothing. Does PB’s paper discuss the HAR1F gene? If so, which page?

  61. …while I appreciate your wanting to fit “no death before the fall”, and “only vegetarians required”, I think once again, you are taking your presuppositions into the interpretation.
    …who says? There is no evidence either way.

    I’m not sure what has or hasn’t happened but it seems to me that there is a general pattern described by scribes in the “scripts” of Scripture. Anyone more familiar with it can correct me but the pattern seems to be that Adam and Eve were vegetarians and the only reason that blood was shed and animals were killed was to cover the resulting knowledge/scientia of their sin. The fact that the shedding of the blood of animals was the fault of mankind was to be represented in animal sacrifice but the first vegetarian and animal rights activist rejected the notion that a sacrifice can make the profane sacred and decided to kill his brother instead. Things went down hill from there. After the Flood then animals were given to people to eat. Later the metaphoric Lamb of God would claim to be the ultimate sacrifice and consequently people were supposed to eat Him and so on. Generally those who believe this become gluttons for grace and want to eat all there is. At any rate, at some point the lion will lay down with the lamb so I don’t know that you can say that “There is no evidence.” with respect to animals eating each other and so on.

    It’s always seemed to me that the Bible leads on back to the absence of knowledge/scientia. Philosophy properly understood is similar, so it’s little wonder that many reject both.

  62. —–Venus Mousetrap: “StephenB: that’s correct. All scientists are atheists, even the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu ones. You see, I studied physics at university, and one of the profs in the atheist tent approached me one day… he took me into a quiet room and asked me a lot of odd questions like ‘what did I know about radioactive decay’, ‘how good was I at keeping secrets’… I was suspicious, because he wouldn’t tell me what it was all about. I didn’t see him again after that… somehow I was dropped from courses he was teaching, while my classmates were getting into positions of power…”

    … “do tell me if this is any more ridiculous than what you’ve tried to imply. You’ve just called scientists a bunch of liars and frauds, and… what a surprise, no evidence and a whole lot of Bible talk. Funny how those go together.”

    Venus Mousetrap:

    That 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are agnostic/atheist is a documented fact. If you think that their ideology does not influence their objectivity, you have not been paying attention. If you dispute the fact that disinterested science is becoming a less common and partisan science is becoming more common you simply need to get out of the house more. What do you think the global warming farce is all about—its about ideology—it sure isn’t about good science.

    News flash—The academy does not like God. When scientists discovered the “big bang,” a majority of astronomers experienced an existential meltdown because God talk was now on the table. When scientists discovered design in living organisms, a majority of biologists closed ranks and began persecuting and “expelling” ID scientists. When a scientist confirmed the “privileged planet” hypothesis, his colleagues branded him as a religious fanatic, disowned him, and put him on a hit list.

    News flash—the academy’s distaste for God is not limited to scientists. When Mortimer Adler showed that Kant’s skepticism was unwarranted, meaning that we can have real knowledge of the world outside of our own mind, the majority of philosophers first ignored him, then lampooned him, and finally decided to follow Kant anyway because they prefer skepticism. So now you are scandalized because I suggest that evolutionary atheists might actually not be the best people to comment on the historicity of Adam and Eve. Please!

  63. mynym: The problem is that Biblical teaching is not always explicit, sometimes it needs to be interpreted. So, part (not all) of the challenge is in establishing the criteria for a trustworthy interpreter and then finding a church or exegete that meets that criteria.

    In any case, while there was no human death before the fall, it would appear that animal death was part of nature’s give and take process. It would seem that God protected man from this natural phenomenon as long as he was in the state of grace. After the original sin, then, like the animals, man was subject to this law of the physical world. This seems consistent with both Scripture and our knowledge of science and it requires no extrapolation or guess work. We can, after all, observe the phenomenon in action any time we choose.

    Some animals seem to have been created as predators. Others are equipped with features that appear designed as a defense against predators. Apparently, animals were not designed to be always and everywhere at total peace with one another.

    In any case, the topic of predatory animals is not realted to the topic of polygenism, so I don’t understand why it was introduced in the first place. Meat eating lions do not compromise Christian theology in the least, but polygenism wounds it fatally. From the standpoint of science, the former is an observable fact, the latter is an unwarranted speculation.

  64. 64

    StephenB:

    That 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are agnostic/atheist is a documented fact. If you think that their ideology does not influence their objectivity, you have not been paying attention. If you dispute the fact that disinterested science is becoming a less common and partisan science is becoming more common you simply need to get out of the house more.

    um… evidence? Once again, you’re accusing the vast majority of evolutionary biologists of faking their results AND covering for each other’s fakes. I’m sure these people would love to know where you get off on telling them they’re not doing their jobs (hint: science is about, well, NOT FAKING STUFF.)

    News flash—The academy does not like God. When scientists discovered the “big bang,” a majority of astronomers experienced an existential meltdown because God talk was now on the table.

    The big bang is surely a perfect example of how science is NOT atheistic. Why would these atheists NOT cover up evidence which destroyed the idea of an eternal, godless universe? Could it be that science is about the evidence, not the ideology?

    I’ll also bet that almost every pro-science atheist alive today accepts big bang theory. Could it be that, like scientists, atheists are also interested in evidence?

    When scientists discovered design in living organisms, a majority of biologists closed ranks and began persecuting and “expelling” ID scientists. When a scientist confirmed the “privileged planet” hypothesis, his colleagues branded him as a religious fanatic, disowned him, and put him on a hit list.

    Well, I’d love to talk with you about ID and why people may think it has something to do with religion, but my last comment here on that subject was deleted. Irony!

    So now you are scandalized because I suggest that evolutionary atheists might actually not be the best people to comment on the historicity of Adam and Eve. Please!

    No, I’m scandalised for the reason I said – because you’re throwing dirt at people without any clue as to whether it’s true or not.

    Scientists don’t care about the historicity of Adam and Eve when they’re doing science. They’re studying the universe, not a book. The chances are God put more of his efforts into the larger of the two.

  65. In any case, while there was no human death before the fall, it would appear that animal death was part of nature’s give and take process.

    There are many different views and I don’t know which one is correct but some are probably more biblical than others. After all, it is a “simple” matter of language whether or not a notion fits the scripts of Scripture as described by scribbling scribes throughout the millenia. Yet the issue for you doesn’t seem to be a matter of interpretation of actual Scripture or patterns specified by it but rather a focus on the appearance of creation. “…it would appear [a] part of nature’s give and take process.” Yet I don’t know that the Bible says that the appearance of Nature and its processes will naturally cause men to come to correct conclusions about the past. Not to mention that YECs would be quick to interpret appearances differently, perhaps noting that fossilization is generally an artifact of catastrophe. Yet on the other hand it doesn’t exactly say that people will come to correct conclusions as a result of studying the Bible either. An orthodox creationist argument seems to be that Scripture (i.e. the written word) should be studied first and then everything else (nature, history, life) interpreted by it, yet the Pharisees were the greatest scholars of the written word in their day and they were wrong.

    Given all that I would still tend to argue that your view empties some of the symbolism of animal sacrifice and so ultimately the singular significance of the Lamb of God.

  66. Others are equipped with features that appear designed as a defense against predators. Apparently, animals were not designed to be always and everywhere at total peace with one another.

    It seems to me that interpretations of Nature are significant with respect to Christian symbolism. Given the nature of symbolism I could easily be wrong, yet if you believe that the ground was always meant to grow plants with thorns then the Christ wearing a crown of thorns may lose some of its significance. Perhaps the gardening God claims that things like thorns are a perversion of creation even if they do protect from predators? If war comes about by God’s design rather than by its perversion then what’s the difference between the “Prince of peace” and the “Prince of this world”? Why should we pray that God’s will would be done by design on issues like disease, viruses and death if it already is? On the other hand, a typical creationist argument seems to be that God pronounced the creation “very good,” therefore animals didn’t die. Yet if the Lamb of God was slain before the creation of the world and predestined to happen within it then animals being sacrificed for the sake of a natural progression to man could be good, although a sacrifice is only good once it is finished. I simply don’t know.

    Perhaps the sole strength of modern creation myths rooted in naturalism and Darwinism is that competing worldviews have no established orthodoxy with a general narrative of origins that’s generally agreed on.

  67. —–mynym: “An orthodox creationist argument seems to be that Scripture (i.e. the written word) should be studied first and then everything else (nature, history, life) interpreted by it, yet the Pharisees were the greatest scholars of the written word in their day and they were wrong.”

    —–“Given all that I would still tend to argue that your view empties some of the symbolism of animal sacrifice and so ultimately the singular significance of the Lamb of God.”

    My take on it is that truth is indivisible, so, naturally I will look for ways to do justice to both science and theology. I have always been convinced that neither needs to be sacrificed for the other. Indeed, my main criticisms tend toward those who would subordinate Christian theology to evolutionary biology. That is another way of saying that good science will fine tune good theology and vice versa. I do have that much faith in the unity of truth. If I am wrong, then the only other option is that theology has one truth and science has another truth. If that were the case, then we would no longer live in a rational universe.

    So, I try to confront the challenge that each discipline imposes on the other. I assume that carnivores were always carnivores, but that is all it is—an assumption. If, on the other hand, all animals were at peace until the fall, I could happily accept that proposition. In fact, I would prefer to believe it. I would seem to mean, though, that after the fall, God changed some basic body plans and transformed some peaceful creatures into violent creatures. It seems like a stretch, but if that is the way it went down, it’s fine with me.

    I do get the significance of your point about symbolism. If there was no animal death before the fall, then the act of putting an animal to death in the form of a sacrifice is truly a dramatic event. As you suggest, it would seem that the animal or the person making the sacrifice is paying an exceedingly high price. The natural reaction would be, “what a tragedy, this was not “meant” to happen. If, on the other hand, the principle of death is already “built into nature,” then, at least in a symbolic sense, that same sacrifice seems less dramatic and more ordinary. It didn’t seem to cost as much as in the first instance.
    Indeed, I don’t think we can fully appreciate the sacrifice made by the “Lamb of God” unless we also think how much it costs when “God becomes man.” It would be like a man giving up his human nature and becoming a dog. He would eat with dogs, sleep with dogs, and communicate with dogs only in the end to have them turn on him and tear him apart. I submit that the key to understanding the sacrifice is to focus less on the symbol of the loss and more on the magnitude of the loss, and a God has a whole lot more to lose than an animal. I don’t think the term “lamb of God” is meant to characterize the price paid so much as it is meant to symbolize a man who willingly and passively lays down his life.

  68. 68

    bFast at 61;

    You’re right, this is a paper about the GULO pseudogene, not the HAR1F gene. I recalled it following on from your earlier correspondence with Joseph on the subject of ERVs. As it happens, Borger published two papers in J. Creation vol. 21, one on HAR1F and one on GULO, but I don’t have the HAR1F one.

  69. Venus Mousetrap: You wrote:
    —–”The big bang is surely a perfect example of how science is NOT atheistic. Why would these atheists NOT cover up evidence which destroyed the idea of an eternal, godless universe? Could it be that science is about the evidence, not the ideology?”

    The issue is that the majority of atheists scientists DID NOT LIKE THE DISCOVERY. If they were not motivated by ideology, they would not have cared.

    —–”I’ll also bet that almost every pro-science atheist alive today accepts big bang theory. Could it be that, like scientists, atheists are also interested in evidence?”

    Of course they accept it. What choice do they have. The point is that DID NOT WANT IT TO BE TRUE. Do you deny this?

    When scientists discovered design in living organisms, a majority of biologists closed ranks and began persecuting and “expelling” ID scientists. When a scientist confirmed the “privileged planet” hypothesis, his colleagues branded him as a religious fanatic, disowned him, and put him on a hit list.

    —–”Well, I’d love to talk with you about ID and why people may think it has something to do with religion, but my last comment here on that subject was deleted. Irony!”

    If your comments were deleted, it is because you said something irrelevant or got too personal. Give it another shot. What is your objection against the concept of functionally specified complex information? If you provide a reasonable answer, you will not be deleted. If, on the other hand, you say something like, “because Judge Jones didn’t agree,” that might not qualify as a thoughtful response.

    That 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are agnostic/atheist is a documented fact. If you dispute the fact that disinterested science is becoming a less common and partisan science is becoming more common you simply need to get out of the house more.

    —–”um… evidence? Once again, you’re accusing the vast majority of evolutionary biologists of faking their results AND covering for each other’s fakes.”

    That number comes from several sources—a Dartmouth study—Dave Scot on this website (Scot never fudges on facts)—Denyse O’Leary on her website citing the same study. I have also read similar studies that show 60% of mainstream scientists are agnostic atheist as opposed to 95.8% of evolutionary biologists. If you are hesitating to accept this fact because I cannot remember the link, then go ahead and console yourself that way.

    Scientists fake things all the time. Nick Matzke tried to devise a pathway to complexity a few years back and called it science. There was nothing to it. If there had been, ID would be out of business. Fortunately there are REAL scientists around who can evaluate this kind of stuff.

    —–”Scientists don’t care about the historicity of Adam and Eve when they’re doing science. They’re studying the universe, not a book. The chances are God put more of his efforts into the larger of the two.”

    Scientists care about everything. Some of them allow their cares to contaminate their studies; some don’t. The integrity of the scientist matters just as much as the reliability of his methodology. Where do you think the term “junk science” comes from.

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