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July 07, 2005

Comments

Cranky Lawyer

Amy--

I have the same reaction you do. One quibble I have is with your terminology. There is not a single, unified theory of evolution--there are theories of evolution (as JPII noted).

Also, to refer to evolution as Darwinian is a bit misleading, as Darwin himself had serious misgivings about some of his work (or at least the implications some had ascribed to it) in his waning years.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my opposable thumbs are getting tired...

David W.

One of the realities of the theory of evolution which is often ignored is that it is indeed a theory. It is an attempt to explain phenomena which have been observed. However, unlike many theories that exist in science, evolution is one which really presents a problem for the scientist because much of the core assumptions of the theory simply are not subject to typical scientific investigation. Neither is really possible to observe today phenomena which either do or do not support the theory.

For example, it really is not possible to devise an experiment which either supports or does not support species change. The theory itself suggests that this is not a phenomena which could fit within the realm of observable phenomena. In other words, the scientist cannot go back and either observe this occur nor can he attempt to observe it today. The time frame suggested for a species change alone prevents that.

Now someone will argue that all manner of experiments have taken place which give support to the theory of evolution. Yes and no. There are many experiments, but few which can actually attempt to verify the core ideas such as natural selection simply because the time frames are too large. Searching for a fossil record is not the same as attempting to reproduce the results of another persons's study. Lest you think I am being overly strict on the biological sciences, I would suggest that there are all kinds of experiments that can be done in biology which other scientists can attempt to reproduce. For example, scientists can observe the migratory habits of birds or the hibernation patterns of certain mammals. These can be done once and another scientist can attempt to reproduce the same results.

There are many people who have shown the logical problems with evolution. You do not have to be a scientist to do so. That is because much of the "science" of this theory is really philosophy which is much more subject to logical examination than it is to scientific examination. That is where folks like Philip Johnson have been able to make keen critiques of the very logic of the theory. It is a failure to understand the nature of the theory when criticisms about evolution from laymen such as Johnson or even you or I are dismissed because we are not part of the scientific community. Anyone who is able to apply logic, is able to evaluate the claims of the theory of evolution.

However, none of this is taught in schools. Instead, evolution has been taught for decades as really a scientific fact which has mountains of evidence to prove that it is correct. The reality is that many scientists know that the theory is the best that we have had for some time, but it is a theory which has many problems. Consequently, you see scientists who are in no way religious looking into theories of intelligent design because they are continuing to look for a theory which covers some of the gaps of evolution.

Finally, I would like to note that is far as scientific theories go, evolution is a fairly young one. Throughout history, there have been many scientific theories which have reigned for far longer only to be shown to be incorrect. We are in the midst of this theory's dominance, but given a few more decades and certainly centuries, will evolution even been considered a viable option for explaining the development of species? Perhaps in this information age, we expect a shrinking of time frames, but when it comes to a theory which attempts to explain where everything came from, it is doubtful that it will occur in the short term.

Given these inherent assumptions about the theory of evolution, it makes me cringe when I see theologians who are ever so ready to do all kinds of damage to the Biblical account in order to have it "reconcile" with science. It is true that all truth is God's truth. In the final analysis, there will be no inconsistencies between the Biblical account and science. The problem is that many assume first from the scientific viewpoint which is in no way an absolute established fact. I would argue that the theory of evolution should be seen as science's best efforts which may or may not reconcile with the Biblical account. For a person of faith, the Biblical account is the place to start because it is far more established.

I am not arguing for a literal six days of creation interpretation. I am simply suggesting that the efforts to squeeze the Biblical account into evolution are going about it the wrong way. The Bible is not a scientific account. It uses various genres to convey God's truth. What I would regret is much effort to reconcile with a theory which in time might be shown to be incorrect. In the meantime you have dismissed the Biblical account by stripping it of any meaning or have modified it to teach something that is contrary to the Faith.

Ivan


There is a kulturkampf against organised religion going on and the dogmas of evolution undergird it. Those who support Intelligent Design, the Young Earth theory and other such creationist movements understand that they are opposing a theory whose logic inevitably leads to a loss of faith in the Christian God. This is apart from the fact that when the Darwinians are asked to show their money, they are hard pressed to account for the evolution and stability of any functionality without invoking final causes themselves.

Anne Elliot

Hmmm - in writing up ID/quoting Schoenborn/etc, NYT trying to be "relevant" and retain/attract "red-state" religious-type readers? Admittedly a wild and unlikely "theory" in itself, but articles on ID are everywhere these days. Usually not positive, but what does one expect? Generally presented as creationism for not-as-stupid Christians.

catholic

"The materialism and randomness at the heart of the theory must be dealt with by theists, who do their faith no credit by simply saying, "Oh, God could have started it all." "

To observe and describe the actions of materials created by God and to attempt to reverse engineer the rules God has determined matter shall obey, does not require the adoption of materialism.

peace

Kevin Miller

catholic:

I think the point is that there's more to "Darwinism" fully understood than an "attempt to reverse engineer the rules God has determined matter shall obey."

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

The whole Creationist/Evolution debate is a clash of absolutes. Fundamentalist six-day young earth creationists speak about evolution as though it were synonymous with godless atheism, because that's what they believe it to be. Materialist evolutionists speak about creationism as though it were rank superstition and blithering ignorance, because that's what they believe it to be. The prejudice runs deep on both sides, preventing either side from really listening to the other or viewing the other with anything but profound contempt.

But there is a whole middle ground which often gets ignored when the two extremes clash. Old-earth progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists may have a lot more in common with each other than six-day young earth creationists have with materialist evolutionists.

Just once, I'd like to see a debate between a progressive creationist and a theistic evolutionist. It might prove enlightening, and it's bound to be better than the bloody dogfight that ensues whenever a Fundamentalist creationist argues with an atheistic evolutionist.

In Jesu et Maria,

chris K

If you can catch the replay of the "Mother Angelica" program (Mitch Pacwa) of Wed. evening, it would prove quite interesting. The guest is the Jesuit good guy, Fr. Spitzer I believe (got in on the end of great discussion) of Gonzaga. Anyone up on the latest theories of "beginnings" would have to believe that the Darwin theories are quite antiquated. The "infinite" concept of the universe has given way to one that is finite with all the logic pointing to that Intelligent Designer on the outside. The way out of that, for those who won't hang it up, is to then posit "lots more universes" out there - way to get back to the infinite without the "outside influencer"! So, once again, in our schools we have lots of degreed folks in general "education" without the specific courses to really bring the kids up to date on this reality of science, and who can only parrot the old and worn debates - more predisposed prejudices due to upbringing than real science "evolving" into faith accompanied by "evolving" philosophies that come along for the ride.

Frank in Billerica

People of faith have nothing to fear from this endless debate. No definitive absolute answer will emerge to satisfy either protagonist camp. Our God given intellect should be able to peacefully resolve this apparent dilemma. Faith cannot eliminate science nor can science eliminate faith, for those who have it. So relax and think about it……

The God of all creation is boundless. The God of all creation is precisely this. Creationism, evolution, the arguments continue, but is there any difference in God’s mind? What has the creator revealed for our insignificant minds to understand? Perhaps too simple, but it might be just this. We are spiritual beings in a physical existence that cannot be fully understood. For all the expertise of science, which might eventually explain this universe we live in, will it ever determine where it is? Do other universes exist? Will science ever answer these questions? Mystery will always envelop us, as it always should, the nature of an all-knowing God and his created. The humble part for me then, is this.
The spiritual child in me embraces the wonder of a God who could create the universe, and all that it contains, in six days and rest on the seventh.
The spiritual adult in me, embraces the wonder of a God who could create this universe and all that it contains, reflecting with perfect magnificence His profound power, and that He is timeless.
To constrain God to either understanding attempts to place limits on God. The God of all creation is boundless! The God of all creation is precisely this!

Fr Matthew K

Two good resources in this discussion are the recent video and book "The Privileged Planet", and the new book "Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals who find Darwinism Unconvincing". There are many nuances to the debate, but discussion of Intelligent Design is here to stay, IMHO.

Jane M

Intelligent design is a *philosophic* endeavor which tries to show how we think about such things as watches and rainbows and say that the one is designed and the other is a product of natural processes. The confusion of philosophy and science is why intelligent design is scorned by some scientists (who of course began this by accepting the philosophical side of Darwinism and calling it science). People who think the universe had a beginning are called physicists when they think it was 15 billion years ago. The actual proponents of ID are very clear about what they are doing (philosophy not science).

Julia

"a theory whose logic inevitably leads to a loss of faith in the Christian God."

Depends on the exact definition of "evolution" you are talking about.

I will always remember the wonderful professor of Zoology I had at a Jesuit university in the 1960's when it was still Catholic. He spent the entire first day of class discussing this very thing. He explained that science and theology are two different things. He talked about the wonder of the universe and was so eloquent that many of us misted up. He tied the recent discovery of the helixes of DNA and RNA at the base of life forms to what he thought was the obvious hand of God in nature.
Then he ended by saying that next class we will begin to study animal life forms from a strictly scientific angle - which he hoped none of us would see as antithetical to a belief in divine creator.

I don't think his kind of speech should be done in a State school in exactly this way, but couldn't this be stressed to our young people in religious grade & high schools, CCD classes or in homilies or something? Publish and made available the Cardinal's opinion column.

Why bother arguing with materialists. It's a losing proposition. Innoculate our kids instead.

Mike Petrik

Cardinal S's NYT statement as quted by Amy seems absolutely right.

And I agree with the commentators above that the real casuse of the debate is not the ID proponents' unwarranted intrusion into science, but the proponents' of evolution frequent intrusions into philosophy.

John Farrell

I think Amy is right. The idea that evolution is a monolithic ediface of dogma among scientists is simply not true. Lynn Margulies, for example, has long challenged the view that--even on the microcellular scale--evolution is determined purely by random mutation and 'struggle.' The extent to which her work has been accepted (after first being vigorously attacked) is just one example.

I highly recommend the late Ernst Mayr's What Evolution Is for a great overview of Darwin's theory.

tcreek

Nothing can be decided about anything until all the facts are in. Mankind is, without question, increasing in consciousness and hence complexity. At term we will know the answer of our origins. Now we depend on Faith. No other option.

In a sense, the age of science (pre science?) is over as quantum theory has demonstrated. We are not smart enough, yet, to know why things do not act the way our math and our measurments say they should. Mankind somehow gets in the way by trying to observe the stuff at which we think we are looking. We are not as smart as once thought.

John Paul had it right when he commented on the question of our origin. . ."evolution is more than just a theory", but also right that "Faith must come to the aid Reason."

DarwinCatholic

I'd be curious to know what caused Schonborn to write this piece at this time, and which "neo-Darwinians" he is reacting against. Certainly, there are bozos out there like Richard Dawkins, but I don't have the impression that their intrusions into philosophy are given much credence in the scientific community beyond those who are already pre-disposed to share their conclusions. Other neo-Darwinists such as Stephen Jay Gould have actually gone to some lengths to demarkate the line between science on the one side and religion/philosophy on the other, as in this essay, where among other things he says:
I have some scientific colleagues, including a few prominent enough to wield influence by their writings, who view this rapprochement of the separate magisteria with dismay. To colleagues like me—agnostic scientists who welcome and celebrate the rapprochement, especially the pope's latest statement—they say: "C'mon, be honest; you know that religion is addle-pated, superstitious, old-fashioned b.s.; you're only making those welcoming noises because religion is so powerful, and we need to be diplomatic in order to assure public support and funding for science." I do not think that this attitude is common among scientists, but such a position fills me with dismay

The thing that strikes me reading Schonborn's essay, however, is that what he is propounding is not ID in the sense that I have normally encountered it, (say, in Dembski's books) but rather a re-affirmation that whatever evolution may tell us about the development in the physical world, that physical world owes its creation and continued existence to the creative will of God. If this is what ID is, then I'm all for it. But what I've read from the ID movement seems rather to be an attempt to take a specific system, creature or object and say "we have now proved that this specific system was intelligently designed, so stop studying it and go look at something else." It's this attempt to label and move on which I think scientists find so infuriating in a supposedly scientific discipline. ID diagnosis is treated as a "nothing to see here" conversation stopper.

Enthusiasts (both of the materialist and creationist variety) seem to forget the very nature of the scientific project: that is a discipline investigating the physical nature of the world. If something were directly, divinely created science could by definition say nothing about it's origins. It is only competant to investigate physical things and their physical causes. And because of its limited scope, science can never clearly point to the divine (though certainly some will look at the world that science reveals and see God's will therein) not can it prove that there is no divine.

ajb

As an aside, I was interested in the Cardinal's curt dismissal of the Pope's 1996 letter as "vague and unimportant".

Weren't we supposed to consider the Pope's single phrase during a short speech regarding the discontinuation of hydration and nutrition as absolute and binding? If so, I'd say that a document the Pope takes the time to draft, revise, finalize and actually publish ought to carry more weight than "vague and unimportant".

Sandra Miesel

Meanwhile, literal Six Days, Young Earth Creationism and the Geo-Centric Universe are spreading roots among RadTrads who think they're defending the inerrancy of Scripture.

Donald R. McClarey

It takes more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in transubstantiation.

Patrick Rothwell

"Now, if you'll excuse me, my opposable thumbs are getting tired..."

Oh, no. Not another "Crackberry" addicted lawyer!

hieronymus

The problem that arises when Catholics participate in this argument is that, at least in this country, we have let it be defined by materialists and fundamentalists. No matter what sort of nuanced position we take, one 'side' (or both) will accuse us of abandoning either our faith or our reason.

We cannot, in good faith, deny that mankind was intentionally created in the image of God, or that he fell through sin, or that he will be redeemed only through Christ (and not by simply evoloving his problems away). We cannot deny that all of history and prehistory is guided by Divine Providence. But we cannot reasonably ignore the evidence for the long and slow development of our world.

But this has never posed too much of a problem for Roman Catholics. At least since Augustine, and probably before, all truth - whether from revelation, greek philosophy, or natural observation - has been considered complimentary (the ugly and exceptional Galileo debacle notwithstanding). The scholastics acknowledged the four senses of scripture, and were perfectly willing to view the early chapters of Genesis as primarily metaphorical, moral, or anagogical - it was the Protestants who reduced scripture to mere literality.

And no other faith can claim such a scientific pedigree as Roman Catholicism - the Big Bang, geologic time, and genetic theory may be indispensible to the materialist argument, but they were all fist proposed by priests - one of them (Steno) beatified. The Jesuit order alone has probably contributed more to Science that every materialist who ever lived combined.

So I don't see why the Catholic Church need to make concessions in this debate, or even participate if those disagreeing with Her are uninterested in either the truth of revelation or the truth of science. She can let the Fundamentalists and the Materialists argue each other to exhaustion, until they realize that She's had the answer all along. Maybe the populatrity of ID is the first evidence of this happening....

DarwinCatholic

It takes more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in transubstantiation.

Huh? The two are totally different kinds of "belief".

On the one hand, transubstantiation is fairly easily understood (water and wine truly changed into the body and blood of Christ while maintianing their original appearance) and is attested to powerfully by the magisterium of the Church. However, there is no way in which one may collect physical "evidence" for transubstantiation nor explain _how_ it occurs. So in that sense, it is quite mysterious.

"Darwinian evolution" on the other hand may be supported by physical evidence (the fossil record) and explanations of how it might have occurred, and yet there is no infallible authority to attest to its truth or falsehood, nor is it readily understandable.

Donald R. McClarey

""Darwinian evolution" on the other hand may be supported by physical evidence (the fossil record) and explanations of how it might have occurred, and yet there is no infallible authority to attest to its truth or falsehood, nor is it readily understandable."

There is virtually no evidence in the fossil record to support Darwinian evolution. My point is that there is more evidence to support transubstantiation than there is to support evolution. In both cases the physical evidence is very slight. Transubstantiation has some fairly well documented miracles to support it, but they are far from conclusive. I believe in transubstantiation on the authority of Christ. I think many proponents of evolution also believe in it simply as an act of faith. Certainly the evidence for it is less than convincing otherwise.

Ed the Roman

This debate is detestable. It compels me to side in part with secular liberals against friends who are loving, pious and wonderful people.

DarwinCatholic

There is virtually no evidence in the fossil record to support Darwinian evolution...Transubstantiation has some fairly well documented miracles to support it, but they are far from conclusive.

Well, I suppose it all depends very much on what you are willing to grant is "evidence" for evolution, and "evidence" for transubstantiation.

While fully believing in transubstantiation, I would argue that science of it's nature could provide no evidence for it -- since science cannot speak to matters beyond the strictly physical, and those miracles in which the Eucharist displays the physical attritutes of Christ's flesh and blood by definition are unusual cases in which the consecrated species display the accidents of flesh and blood rather than of bread and wine.

As for the fossil record, I am sure we are destined to disagree, nor are comment boxes a very good way for carrying on a detailed debate thereon. But whether or not the current forumulations of evolutionary theory are correct, the are derived to a great extent from study of the fossil record, not from some abstract philosophising which is then imposed on what is found.

ajb

"There is virtually no evidence in the fossil record to support Darwinian evolution...Transubstantiation has some fairly well documented miracles to support it, but they are far from conclusive."

Sigh. When I see this kind of fundigelical nonsense creeping into the Church, I agree with the concept of the Church as a creative minority.

JonathanR.

"As an aside, I was interested in the Cardinal's curt dismissal of the Pope's 1996 letter as "vague and unimportant".

Weren't we supposed to consider the Pope's single phrase during a short speech regarding the discontinuation of hydration and nutrition as absolute and binding? If so, I'd say that a document the Pope takes the time to draft, revise, finalize and actually publish ought to carry more weight than "vague and unimportant"."

Its the topic, not the methodology involved. The piece on Evolution was a foray into a non-binding field of thought. The Schiavo statement was on something with far greater moral weight.

hieronymus

Transubstantiation has some fairly well documented miracles to support it, but they are far from conclusive.

Okay, I know that this is a tangent, but am I the only person here who finds the Eucharistic Miracles difficult to believe? It took a while for me to understand the subtle but important difference between transformation and transubstantiation - that the Eucharist doesn't become meat, exactly corresponding to a similarly sized piece of Christ's flesh - the "multiplication problem" alone reveals the impossibility of that - but rather the entirety of Christ's body, blood, soul , and divinity, not constrained by phyical attributes of volume or mass. This is what I tell Protestants who are understandably disturbed by the doctrine, and who see overtones of cannibalism. It isn't meat, it's Jesus.

But Lanciano and other such miracles, where the host becomes a piece of cardiac tissue, seem to offer a different doctrine altogether - of trasformation. I can understand that maybe God was making his point about the Real Presence in an over-the-top way, but I can't see these incidents as evidence of transubstantiation. In fact, when I first heard about them, they were a stumbling block to my understanding the Eucharist.

Is the cardiac flesh in Lanciano really considered part of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and thus worthy of adoration? If so, why hasn't it remained fresh? And since Jesus is corporeal, should we expect that bit to be missing if we meet him in heaven?
Sorry, but I don't buy it.

I've also seen medieval manuscripts illustrating other well-know (at the time) Eucharistic miracles. Most involving groups of conspiring Jews in pointy hats, purloining a host and nailing it to a cross, only to have blood splattered all over them. So this sort of miracle has been manufactured and exploited in the past - often for ignoble purposes.

But maybe I'm just a bad Catholic. I don't think that the Holy House of Nazareth was ever flown to Loreto, either.

Dave Mueller

Let's hear all the great fossil evidence then! There are tons of fossils out there, sure, but where are the intermediate forms between species?

It is this general lack of intermediate forms, and the fact that new species seem to appear rather SUDDENLY in the fossil record, that, in part, led SJ Gould to propose the idea of "punctuated equilibrium", no?

Donald R. McClarey

"Sigh. When I see this kind of fundigelical nonsense creeping into the Church, I agree with the concept of the Church as a creative minority."

Sigh. When I hear insult instead of reasoned argument I know my adversary has a weak case.

hieronymus

Let's hear all the great fossil evidence then! There are tons of fossils out there, sure, but where are the intermediate forms between species?

As my comments above should indicate, I'm no Darwinist, but this doesn't seem like a good argument. If rat-thingy evolved into bear-thingy, I'd fully expect rat-bear-thingy to be an exceptionally rare fossil - it was probably a species that could not survive in its present form in its present environment, which is the whole reason why it needed to evolve into bear-thingy. Fossils we find in abundance would be those able to thrive in an environment. Intermediate species, by definition, would be remnants, barely surviving until mutating into something new that could survive in a changed environment.

Donald R. McClarey

For those interested in an overview of current scientific arguments against Darwinian evolution a good recent book is James P. Hogan's Kicking the Sacred Cow published by Baen. Evolution is a question of science and should be approached as such. Theological faith in special creation or in the precepts of Darwin should play no role in an examination that should be governed strictly by the evidence.

Anon

hieronymus--

Cool story about the Holy Family's House in Loreto (supplied to me by a recent vistor there): Apparently, legend says the House was "flown" (or moved) by Angels, as you allude to. Well, the name of the family that had it moved to Loreto is . . . Angeli (Italian for angels). So, the house was moved by Angels!

Dunno whether the Angels had wings--I don't have their fossil record to know whether they had evolved sufficiently.

Paula R. McIntyre Robinson, MD

As a physician (and obviously before that a student of the sciences) when asked "Do you believe in evolution" I hear "Do you believe that certain strains of bacteria once exposed to certain antibiotics develop resistance which can be passed through subsequent generations genetically?" to which I have to answer "Yes". So what I want to hear from the ID people is, why wasn't the bacteria resistant to start with, or if that's a good thing, why is it resistant now? Because "evolution" just means mutation from some cause leading to adaptation followed by enhanced survival. It does not preclude an act of God, though why He would want resistant bacteria any more than He wants traffic jams is not a question on which I am prepared to speculate. I have faith and am prepared to accept that the system He has set in motion will, in this fallen world, occasionally work against us (though ultimately of course to His glory if only by teaching us to rely on Him in good and bad times).

Cranky Lawyer

I'm finding it interesting that Hieronymus is eager to cut the fossil record a ton of slack (basically reducing simply Darwinism from a theory to a "black box") but cuts none to the Real Presence.

I'm not saying that one must accept the Eucharistic miracles. I'm just saying that I'd rather give the benefit of the doubt to stories of the Real Presence than to stories of the Missing Link, which, it seems to me, have themselves gone missing.

Cranky Lawyer

I think Dr. Robinson is conflating natural selection with the theory of evolution. Natural selection plays a role in several of the theories of evolution and, I think, is not seriously in doubt--even by anti-Darwin Fundamentalists.

What I hear anti-Darwin Fundamentalists say is that natural selection cannot explain the descent of Man from the proteins in primordial soup.

Lawrence

"There is not a single, unified theory of evolution--there are theories of evolution (as JPII noted)."

Darwin, during his life, argued for 3 processes shaping evolution. The first process he argued for was natual selection, and that is what he best remembered for. He introduced the idea of natual selection in his 1859 book The Origin of Species. He said repeatedly in the book, and again in his other books, that natural selection was not the only, nor always the primary, force in evolution.

His ideas on pangensis, introduced in 1868, are currently out of fashion with many biologists, as it attempts to save Lamark's idea that acquired traits could be passed to a child.

His thoughts on sexual selection were published in 1871, in his book The Descent of Man. To quote Wikipedia: "Darwin (1871) divides sexual selection into 1) female sexual selection or female choice where the female in a species picks a male for a specific quality, for example colorful feathers or a beautiful song. 2) male combat sexual selection called male-male competition where males compete physically for the opportunity to mate with a female, for example by having larger antlers or a more massive bulk."

Since 1930, when R. A. Fisher published his work on feedback loops in evolution, its been widely thought that very rapid changes in a species are more likely to come about from sexual selection than from natural selection. Fisher wondered why some traits used for mating display, such as colorful tails on birds, became so exaggerated in some species, and hypothesized that a feedback loop lead to their exaggeration. As Wikipedia puts it: "such traits are the results of explosive positive feedback loops that have as their starting points particular sexual preferences for features that confer a survival advantage and thus "become established in the species." Fisher argued that such features advance in the direction of the preference even beyond the optimal level for survival, until the selection pressure of female choice is precisely counterbalanced by the resultant disadvantage for survival... if most females are looking for long-tailed males, then each female individually does better to select a long-tailed male, since then her male children are more likely to succeed. (The females do not actually have this thought process; this kind of decision is an evolutionarily stable strategy.)"


" much of the core assumptions of the theory simply are not subject to typical scientific investigation."

I'm not sure what you mean. Malthus suggested that populations often outrun their food supply and therefore members of the same species must compete over inadequte food sources. That much isn't in doubt. There are thousands of well-documented examples. Likewise, those individuals who gain access to enough food to live long enough to reproduce pass their genes to the next generation, whereas those who do not live long enough to reproduce do not pass their genes to the next generation. That much is a fact. That the next generation is shaped by what genes its inherits is well established. From these assumptions, Darwin put together his theory of natural selection. Which of these assumptions do you feel has gone uninvestigated?


"There are many experiments, but few which can actually attempt to verify the core ideas such as natural selection simply because the time frames are too large"

The time frames for house flies is short, and radical changes in house files have been accomplished in labs.


"Instead, evolution has been taught for decades as really a scientific fact which has mountains of evidence to prove that it is correct."

That's certainly not how any theory of evolution was presented to me in high school. I was taught Lamark's theories, Darwin's theories, and various other theories that flourished during the 1800s. We also went over some of the recent debates such as fast versus slow evolution, and we were shown how more of the existing problems facing biologists could be explained using some mix of Darwin's theories than, say, Lamark's theories.

From the point of view of a working biologist who is trying, say, to come up with an answer to the recent rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria Creationism sovles no problems, leads to no medicine and saves no lives. Darwin's theory of natural selection does save lives, it tells biologists where they should focus their efforts.


"There is a kulturkampf against organised religion going on and the dogmas of evolution undergird it."

I agree there is a kulturkampf against organised religion but my own experience is that the enemies of organized religion also tend to be the enemies of evolution. Within my own immediate circle of friends I know six people who describe themselves as highly spiritual but opposed to all organized religion. These six people are also, of all my friends, the most resistant to any theory of evolution. They oppose it because they feel it offers a purely materialistic view of the world which is incompatible with their views.

DarwinCatholic

Let's hear all the great fossil evidence then! There are tons of fossils out there, sure, but where are the intermediate forms between species?

It is this general lack of intermediate forms, and the fact that new species seem to appear rather SUDDENLY in the fossil record, that, in part, led SJ Gould to propose the idea of "punctuated equilibrium", no?

One hears this all the time, and yet it's based on a pretty basic mis-understanding of how fossils are classified. Remember, species of extinct creatures are assigned based on paleontologists' judgement that "yes, all of these seem pretty similar, I think that they must all belong to the same species, whereas this fossil over here looks pretty different, so we'll draw a distinction and call it a different species." Since the species are extinct, we can't put them in a room with soft music and see if they're capable of producing fertile offspring.

So even if a fossil appears to fill a gap between X species and Y species, the discoverer does not say, "Aha, this is an intermediate creature with no species" but rather classifies it as belonging to species Z, which appear to fall between X and Y in traits and time.

The most interesting sequences as far as being fairly unbroken are among "boring" types of creatures such a mollusks. Vertibrates such as early humans are much more rarely fossilized, and often found incomplete (plus the populations were much lower) and so present a much more broken record, though there is a pretty clear progression from australopithecines through various later forms down to modern man, with the occasional dead end branch off to one side.

Gould's theory, to which you refer, deals not so much with a lack of transitional forms between any two given species in a chain, but rather with the tendency for the many species to remain stable for long periods of time, and then for there to be a sudden burst of change in which many old species vanish and many new ones appear.

John Farrell

Just to give you an example of how even mainstream biologists have had enough of ultra-Darwinist types, here's H. Allen Orr giving it to Daniel C. Dennet in Boston Review:

"Our fundamental disagreement is simple: Dennett sees natural selection everywhere-in cosmology, in the spread of songs, and in the demise of architectural styles. Natural selection is the one Big Idea that explains, if not everything, next to everything. And I think this is silly. Natural selection explains a tremendous amount of biology. And, undoubtedly, it will occasionally explain facts outside of biology. But I cannot understand the nearly religious zeal that drives Dennett to conclude that
natural selection is the cardinal force governing the ebb and flow of every substance-from quarks to consciousness-in the universe. Indeed I find the notion that natural selection has much to tell us about, say, the origins and fate of political movements downright bizarre. It is, of course, an occupational hazard of the intellectual trade to think that there is some one great "-ism" that explains everything under the sun (take your pick: class struggle, sex, natural selection). But the voice of experience suggests that the world is not so tidy. And, as I'll argue below, the voice of science further suggests that Dennett's attempt to stamp everything from Planck's constant to Plato's Republic with Darwinism is flawed."

john c

hieronymus:Fossils we find in abundance would be those able to thrive in an environment. Intermediate species, by definition, would be remnants, barely surviving until mutating into something new that could survive in a changed environment.

Lack of Intermediate species is still a problem for evolution, even if you have sort of an explanation why we might not see them. The problem with the explanation is the natural thing for a species that really cannot survive to do is die, not mutate into something that can survive.

Cranky Lawyer:What I hear anti-Darwin Fundamentalists say is that natural selection cannot explain the descent of Man from the proteins in primordial soup.

I don't know much about history, but I always wondered where the all the proteins in the primordial soup came from. All the proteins I know were translated from RNA which was in turn transcribed from DNA. Proteins are REALLY complicated things.

DarwinCatholic

Ed the Roman,

I sympathize with your lament. It grieves me both to have to side with "secularism" against so many faithful (if incorrect) Christians, and also that so many Christians sully our common doctrine by tying it to a false set of scientific views. Scandal is given by both sides: secularizers who try to saddle theology with "evolutionary" add ons (for all that it seems to be evolution is probably correct in most aspects in its description of the development of biological species, I don't see how it has any relevance to Catholic theology, operating as it does on a lower plane) but also by our co-religionists who insist that Catholicism (or Christianity in general) rejects evolution, thus allowing for the possibility that some people will be led to believe Christianity is false when they discover the theory of evolution is in great part correct. I read one very sad book (have to look it up) critiquing creationism by a former evangelical protestant describing how after becoming a geologist in order to refute evolution, he gradually found that much of what he had read in creationist (strict six day) literature was intentionally misleading in how it represented it's geological evidence. As the case for creationism crumbled before him and the case for an old earth remained strong, he found himself on the outs with both his family and his faith. It's a danger that certain brands of Protestantism has built into it, but it grieves me to see Catholics fall into it.

catholic

"Let's hear all the great fossil evidence then! There are tons of fossils out there, sure, but where are the intermediate forms between species?"

Since Darwin's original worries about the lack of intermediate forms in the fossil record, many gaps have been filled in. To assert gaps in the fossil record call into question whether or not evolution occurs is quite naive at this point.

Is it significant that all of this argumentation is aimed at Darwian evolution? The more common working theories in evolution are syntheses of Darwin's work with ideas from work on DNA, population genetics, paleontology, biogeography, etc.

Evolution does not undermine faith in God. Evolution does not deny the existence of God. People who argue such things either do not understand evolution or have so little faith that they fear truth.

peace

Donald R. McClarey

"The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless. 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and `fully formed.'" (Gould, Stephen J. [Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University, USA], "Evolution's Erratic Pace," Natural History, Vol. 86, No. 5, May 1977, p.14)

Donald R. McClarey

"My own field of paleontology has strongly challenged the Darwinian premise that life's major transformations can be explained by adding up, through the immensity of geological time, the successive tiny changes produced generation after generation by natural selection. The extended stability of most species, and the branching off of new species in geological moments (however slow by the irrelevant scale of a human life)—the pattern known as punctuated equilibrium—requires that long-term evolutionary trends be explained as the distinctive success of some species versus others, and not as a gradual accumulation of adaptations generated by organisms within a continuously evolving population. A trend may be set by high rates of branching in certain species within a larger group. But individual organisms do not branch; only populations do—and the causes of a population's branching can rarely be reduced to the adaptive improvement of its individuals.

The study of mass extinction has also disturbed the ultra-Darwinian consensus. We now know, at least for the terminal Cretaceous event some 65 million years ago that wiped out dinosaurs along with about 50 percent of marine invertebrate species, that some episodes of mass extinction are both truly catastrophic and set off by extraterrestrial impact. The death of some groups (like dinosaurs) in mass extinctions and the survival of others (like mammals), while surely not random, probably bears little relationship to the evolved, adaptive reasons for success of lineages in normal Darwinian times dominated by competition. Perhaps mammals survived (and humans ultimately evolved) because small creatures are more resistant to catastrophic extinction. And perhaps Cretaceous mammals were small primarily because they could not compete successfully in the larger size ranges of dominant dinosaurs. Immediate adaptation may bear no relationship to success over immensely long periods of geological change.

Why then should Darwinian fundamentalism be expressing itself so stridently when most evolutionary biologists have become more pluralistic in the light of these new discoveries and theories? I am no psychologist, but I suppose that the devotees of any superficially attractive cult must dig in when a general threat arises. "That old time religion; it's good enough for me." There is something immensely beguiling about strict adaptationism—the dream of an underpinning simplicity for an enormously complex and various world. If evolution were powered by a single force producing one kind of result, and if life's long and messy history could therefore be explained by extending small and orderly increments of adaptation through the immensity of geological time, then an explanatory simplicity might descend upon evolution's overt richness. Evolution then might become "algorithmic," a surefire logical procedure, as in Daniel Dennett's reverie. But what is wrong with messy richness, so long as we can construct an equally rich texture of satisfying explanation?"

Stephen J. Gould, Darwinian Fundamentalism, June 12, 1997, The New York Review of Books

Donald R. McClarey

The Gorbachev of Darwinism

Phillip E. Johnson

Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 79 (January 1998): 14-16.

"Stephen Jay Gould is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more. Readers of the New York Review of Books learned that much in June 1997, when they read a lengthy, two-part tirade in which Gould attempted to settle scores with some of his more prominent enemies within the guild of Darwinists. The targets were Daniel Dennett, John Maynard Smith, Robert Wright, and especially, although largely in the background, Richard Dawkins. One cannot understand the controversy without sampling the level of vitriol, which may be judged by this salvo from Gould:

[Dennett’s] limited and superficial book reads like a caricature of a caricature—for if Richard Dawkins has trivialized Darwin’s richness by adhering to the strictest form of adaptationist argument in a maximally reductionist mode, then Dennett, as Dawkins’ publicist, manages to convert an already vitiated and improbable account into an even more simplistic and uncompromising doctrine. If history, as often noted, replays grandeurs as farces, and if T. H. Huxley truly acted as "Darwin’s bulldog," then it is hard to resist thinking of Dennett, in this book, as "Dawkins’ lapdog."

After going on in that vein for some pages, Gould responded with hurt feelings to Maynard Smith’s published comment that "the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed [Gould’s] work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists." To this Gould lamented that Maynard Smith used to say much nicer things about him and warned that "We will not win this most important of all battles [against the creationists] if we descend to the same tactics of backbiting and anathematization that characterize our true opponents." Tell that to Dawkins’ lapdog.

Gould’s decision to publish an all-out blast at the writers whom he calls "Darwinian Fundamentalists" escalated what his colleague Niles Eldredge has called the "high-table debate" among evolutionists. This is basically a struggle between the classical neo-Darwinists (represented most prominently by Dawkins) and the revisionists (headed by Gould himself), who follow the tradition of T. H. Huxley by advocating "evolution" while remaining cool towards Darwin’s distinctive mechanism. It’s a debate that has long been muted because of the mutual desire of the adversaries to avoid giving ammunition to the despised creationists, and even now the arguments are conducted in an obscure jargon worthy of Pravda in its heyday. But here’s what it’s all about.

In the early 1980s the British geneticist J. R. G. Turner remarked, with specific reference to the controversies swirling around Gould, that "Evolutionary biologists are all Darwinists, as all Christians follow Christ and all Communists, Karl Marx. The schisms are over which parts of the Master’s teaching shall be seen as central." The canonical text for fans of natural selection is Darwin’s eloquent statement in The Origin of Species that "natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life." Note the key elements: natural selection everywhere and at all times accepts or rejects all variations, however slight, and continually promotes the "improvement" of all organisms. Evolution of that kind, in the jargon of the trade, is called pan-selectionism.

The revisionist Gould calls that picture of ubiquitous selection "ultra-Darwinism" or "Darwinian fundamentalism," and he attributes it not to Darwin himself but to contemporary Darwinists like Dawkins and Dennett. Gould ignores Darwin’s own pan-selectionist affirmations and quotes instead a passage from the sixth and final (1872) edition of the Origin. There Darwin remarked with some bitterness that critics had, by "steady misrepresentation," overlooked his qualification that "natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification" (emphasis added). Whether the qualification amounts to much is hard to say, since a few exceptions to an otherwise pervasive pattern of selectionism would be consistent with the modest disclaimer that natural selection is not literally "exclusive."

In any event, Gould accuses the ultra-Darwinists of preaching that "natural selection regulates everything of any importance in evolution, and that adaptation emerges as a universal result and ultimate test of selection’s ubiquity." Against this fundamentalism Gould asserts his own "pluralism," which includes at least four non-adaptationist claims about evolution: (1) neutral genetic changes are a major aspect of evolution; (2) basic developmental pathways are highly conserved across otherwise disparate groups and hence impose constraints on adaptive change; (3) species remain unchanged for long periods and then branch apart in "geological moments" (a process Gould calls "punctuated equilibrium"); and (4) many or most extinctions have been due to catastrophic events rather than (as Darwin insisted) the gradual operation of ordinary selective pressures.

That’s where the name-calling starts, because the classical Darwinists consider Gould’s description of their position to be a preposterous caricature. Gould has a well-earned reputation for distorting the views of his rivals and adversaries, and it is not surprising to find that the complaints are justified. To my knowledge none of his targets disputes that neutral variations occur in plenty, that developmental pathways are conserved, that significant evolutionary change may occur in brief periods of time (geologically speaking) after longer periods of stasis, or that the dinosaurs were probably wiped out by a planetary catastrophe. Gould does deserve credit for advocating these sub-theories before they became popular, but nowadays everybody claims to be a pluralist.

For his own part, Gould does not deny the central tenet of the classicists—that adaptive complexity is due to the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection. In his own words, "Yes, eyes are for seeing and feet are for moving. And, yes again, I know of no scientific mechanism other than natural selection with the proven power to build structures of such eminently workable design." The creative power of natural selection is actually inferred from materialist philosophy, rather than proved by scientific evidence, but let that pass. If both sides agree that natural selection is responsible for adaptation, and also that natural selection isn’t the whole story of evolution, then where is their disagreement? It is little wonder that many observers have concluded that there is no substance behind this food fight at the high table, but only a clash of overgrown egos.

In fact, however, the disagreement is substantive. The key to understanding it is to recognize that being a true Darwinist requires more than just giving lip service to natural selection before going on to something else, which is what Gould typically does. If natural selection actually made all those marvels of biological complexity, certain conclusions about the pace and manner of evolution necessarily follow, and Gould frequently seems to be denying those necessary conclusions. The dinosaurs can be killed off as rapidly as you like, but all the dinosaurs that died and all the new mammals that replaced them had to have been built up in the first place through the gradual accumulation of random mutations by natural selection. Likewise, the problem with neutral gene substitutions is not that anyone doubts they occur, but that neutral changes by definition do not help with the overwhelming task of building up the complex adaptations. Natural selection had to do that whole job, if God didn’t do it, and that means natural selection had to be continuously active across vast stretches of geological time regardless of what the fossil record shows. That implies, among other things, that an enormous amount of evidence of the process has to be missing from the fossil record, but Gould frequently gives the impression that he thinks the evidence was never there.

One of the most notorious examples occurs in Gould’s discussion of the Cambrian Explosion in his 1989 book Wonderful Life. The "Cambrian Explosion" is the sudden appearance of the major animal groups (phyla) in the rocks of the Cambrian era, without apparent ancestors. As Dawkins himself has put it, "It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history." Of course, Dawkins and all other Darwinists believe that this appearance is an illusion caused by the incompleteness of the record, and that a complete fossil record would show a universe of transitional forms and side branches, all having evolved by tiny steps from a single common ancestor. Gould raises a radically different possibility. He explains that there are two possible explanations for the absence of Precambrian ancestors: "the artifact theory (they did exist, but the fossil record hasn’t preserved them), and the fast-transition theory (they really didn’t exist, at least as complex invertebrates easily linked to their descendants)."

That final qualifying clause is a typical example of Gould’s penchant for equivocation: of course the missing ancestors didn’t exist in a form "easily linked to their descendants." That is why there is a problem, and why the artifact theory has to be true if Darwinism is true. Hence when Gould went on to proclaim that new discoveries had sounded "the death knell of the artifact theory," some readers understandably took him to be saying that the phyla really were just planted there without any evolutionary history, which amounts to saying that they were specially created. Gould assuredly could not have meant that, but then what exactly did he mean? Remember that saving Darwinism in the teeth of the Cambrian evidence requires not just assuming a few missing ancestors, easily linked to their descendants or not, but assuming a vast quantity of vanished transitional forms between the hypothetical single-celled ancestors and the vastly different multicellular invertebrates. If you are a Darwinist you know the necessary ancestors and transitionals had to exist, regardless of the lack of fossil evidence. If you doubt that their absence is an artifact of the fossil record, you are not a Darwinist.

The difficulty of saying whether Gould really is a Darwinist or not stems from his habit of combining radically anti-Darwinian statements with qualifications that preserve a line of retreat. When Gould loudly proclaimed "the return of the hopeful monster," for example, he seemed to be endorsing the geneticist Richard Goldschmidt’s view that large mutations create new kinds of organisms in single-generation jumps—a heresy which Darwinists consider to be only a little better than outright creationism. If you read the fine print carefully, however, you’ll find that Gould surrounded his claims with qualifications that allow him to insist that he is at least somewhere in the neighborhood of orthodoxy. Even when Gould bluntly announced that neo-Darwinism is "effectively dead," it turns out that he only meant . . . well, nobody seems to know what he meant, but certainly not that neo-Darwinism is effectively dead.

For years Darwinists like Maynard Smith gave Gould the benefit of the doubt, appreciating his genuine flair and his willingness to fight the common enemy. At last they have become thoroughly exasperated with his "now you see it, now you don’t" practice of vaguely affirming Darwinism while specifically denying its necessary implications. Gould will only have exacerbated their disgust with his latest outburst.

Gould’s uncomfortable situation reminds me of the self-created predicament of Mikhail Gorbachev in the last years of the Soviet Empire. Gorbachev recognized that something had gone wrong with the Communist system, but thought that the system itself could be preserved if it was reformed. His democratic friends warned him that the Marxist fundamentalists would inevitably turn against him, but he was unwilling to endanger his position in the ruling elite by following his own logic to its necessary conclusion. Gould, like Gorbachev, deserves immense credit for bringing glasnost to a closed society of dogmatists. And, like Gorbachev, he lives on as a sad reminder of what happens to those who lack the nerve to make a clean break with a dying theory."

Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance, and Defeating Darwinism.

ajb

Donald, the Gould quotes above are commonly used by creationist quote-miners.

Gould responded to such out-of-context quotations directly:

"This quotation, although accurate as a partial citation, is dishonest in leaving out the following explanatory material showing my true purpose - to discuss rates of evolutionary change, not to deny the fact of evolution itself.” Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999) Page 28. NAS

Gould also said the following: “Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am—for I have become a major target of these practices.”

“Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” (1981)

James

The development of life as revealed by science is a violent and chaotic process, full of false starts and dead ends, with no sign of intelligent guidance or purpose, indifferent to suffering and all other moral concerns. It appears that human beings evolved at all only because of a series of accidents, including a massive impact event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

It is hard to see how this scientific picture of the world can plausibly be reconciled with the Christian doctrine that the world is the product of a benevolent and omnipotent creator God.

Yes, you can reconcile them if you make certain assumptions: that all the suffering is somehow necessary or good, that all the apparent chaos and randomness is actually part of a plan that we do not understand. But that takes a real leap of faith.

This is why there is and will continue to be a major conflict between science and Christianity.

Donald R. McClarey

You are correct AJB. My purpose in posting the Gould quotes was for setting up the Johnson article. My opinion is that the Darwinists can be every bit as "fundamentalist" as their adversaries.

DarwinCatholic

Donald,

I'm not sure exactly where you're headed with all the quotes. I already tend to follow Gould's synthesis rather than that of Dawkins and Co.

In the Phillip Johnson article, he appears to be picking Gould as the winning dog, and then arbitrarily insisting that evolution can only be correct if Gould is wrong. And yet Gould is clearly not asserting the evolution is incorrect, but rather reformulating how it appears to have happened.

Also, I think that people who come into these debates often forget the scale that's being spoken of. For instance the "instant" phyla of the Cambrian explosion are positted to have appeared over a "mere" 10+ million years. Now, that's perhaps not far in a geologic sense, but for creatures of this sort with a generation of a year or less, we talking about over 10-20 millions of generations during which these changes appeared. And a million (unless your a congressman on a spending spree) is quite a bit. That's more generations than separate me from Australopithecus.

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

>>>"natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life."

A fascinating anthropomorphism. Replace "natural selection" with "the Creator" and that might have been spoken by a theistic evolutionist.

In Jesu et Maria,

ajb

James,
Rightly speaking, and the way the Catholic Church has approached these matters (at least, I think, but the Schonburn op-ed raises questions) there is conflict between science and Christianity.

As you say, "you can reconcile them if you make certain assumptions . . . But that takes a real leap of faith." The Church would say (again perhaps with the exception of Schonburn now): EXACTLY.

We cannot test, validate and confirm, in a scientific sense, the assertion that life has progressed according to God's design.

As I understand it, the only position that we as Catholics are forbidden from holding is that life began as the result of an entirely random event.

Donald R. McClarey

"Donald,

I'm not sure exactly where you're headed with all the quotes"

I am heading in the direction of my belief that evolution has not been proven, not by a long shot. It is a subject that requires reasoned debate, close examination of the evidence and much research. I find the certitudes of the various sides in the evolution debate to be misplaced. I think there are very good arguments against evolution having occurred as portrayed by Darwin. I also think that too often short shrift is given to the arguments advanced by the anti-evolutionists.

DarwinCatholic

Donald,

Not to be a punk (honest ignorance here) but would you say that there are currently competing theories that explain the fossil/geologic record via other (non evolutionary) strictly physical processes? Everything I've read has been either creationist (clearly this means God created it) or ID (we don't know who created it, but someone must have) and as such falls outside the realm of mainstream science. I think the main reason that anti-evolution types get smacked around or ignored in academia is that they generally show up and say "Well, this over here doesn't make any sense" but fail to propose an alternate physical process by which species development (or the appearance of it) took place.

Donald R. McClarey

Darwin Catholic I don't believe there any theories, including evolution, that explain the fossil record. As to geology, I certainly accept that the earth is billions of years old. That makes it no easier for me to accept evolution, rather the reverse. Over the vast gulf of time involved fossils of transitional forms should be astoundingly common. The reverse is true. Gould understood the problem, hence his punctuated equilibria theory, which has a lot of virtue to it except, perhaps, the all-important one of being true.

Ivan


Darwinian hagiography is a major publishing industry all by itself. Darwin's sainted face looks pityingly at us out of so many book covers, imploring us to be brave and await the dawn of a new synthesis midwifed by Teilhard Chardin and Richard Dawkins. In the meantime there are other momentous questions : did Darwin have a deathbed conversion ? Did his daughter's death finally convince him that Man is all Alone ? Then again had he wanted the inhabitants of Tiera del Fuego exterminated ?
Did he in the end merely pilfered his ideas from Edward Blyth and Alfed Wallace ?
All these are way stations on the road to his canonisation as the greatest biologist of all time. For our betters assure us that "nothing
in biology make sense except in the light of
evolution", so that the next time you consult a doctor ask him for an evolutionary explanation of your disease. And if he is unable to come up with a just-so story, report him since he's clearly deficient in ideological training. And don't mention either that the mantle of "greatest biologist" properly belongs to Louis Pasteur, a man who prayed the Rosary regularly.

Fr Phil Bloom

Thank God that we have leaders like Cardinal Schoenborn.

DarwinCatholic

Hmm. Well I already made some attempt to address the "transitional forms" phantom...

However, it sounds to me like the reason you are destined to differ from full time paleontologists/biologists on this is that if one's field is the explanation of the fossil record, one may not simply sit around for decades saying, "Well, this is all very interesting, but we have no theory to explain it." Whatever pieces of evidence may still be lacking the current evolutionary synthesis propounded by those such as Gould does seem the best explanation going for the evidence at hand, and by the rules of the game of science, that evolutionary synthesis is thus the currently accepted theory. Until some other theory comes along that is more effective in explaining the evidence, one must expect scientists to present evolution as the best thing going.

Todd

Perhaps the consternation evolution-doubters feel is the gap between a pure scientific approach and a worldview formed in part or whole by faith.

Modern sciences draw on related (and at times, unrealted) fields to synthesize a better and more accurate understanding of the universe around us. But a discipline of any sort (scientific, philosophical, artistic, etc.) must be true to itself lest it become (evolve?) into something different. Maybe a musician can study botany to learn why certain wood makes better instruments. Or physics to understand the production of sound waves. Or theology to play or compose better church music. But when will the person get around to playing music? Or has she metamorphosed into something different (a crafter of instruments, or a theologians, etc.)?

Darwin Catholic is right: evolution is the only hard science on the table in this debate. ID is the political science of God, gods, or aliens. Creationism is mythology. Neither one is in the science game.

If you want to bring God into the picture, few people have a real problem with that. In fact, you can't live a real life without God. If we're talking science as a discipline based on experiment, observation, deduction, and other mental processes, neither creationism nor any of its buddies has anything to add. But if we're talking science and faith as being part of an integrated person's understanding of life, that's something beyond the realm of pure science, and as such, leaves the science textbook behind.

Donald R. McClarey

"and a worldview formed in part or whole by faith."

Such as Darwinian evolution.

James

ajb:

"As you say, "you can reconcile them if you make certain assumptions . . . But that takes a real leap of faith." The Church would say (again perhaps with the exception of Schonburn now): EXACTLY."

Yes, but why should the rest of us make that leap? Why should the rest of us make your assumptions? Those assumptions are not part of evolution or science. The implication of the science is that Christianity is false. The world as revealed to us by science, and evolution in particular, is not the world we would expect to see if it were the creation of a benevolent and omnipotent God. Darwin himself saw the conflict quite clearly.

Keith

James,

The world as seen in the light of evolution is not necessarily in conflict with the world as seen in the light of revelation. This is so especially if one considers (1) the historical and moral dualism of the Church Fathers (not to be confused with metaphysical dualism) and (2) the understanding, of at least some of them, that the world as we know it is the product of a dual fall and had progressively to awaken, first so that the fallen cosmos may be ready for the emergence of man (Adam), and then so that man might be properly ready for the emergence of the Definitive Man, the Word Incarnate (Christ).

The fact that this process of "reawakening" had a progressive character -- capable of taking into account the progressive emergence of species-forms -- is because God respects secondary causality. He doesn't just drop like a bombshell out of the sky compelling our assent to Him but enables us to freely accomodate Him.

The cruelty and violence in the world, as well as the mysterious goodness in it, are accounted for by the understanding of revelation, shared by all the Church Fathers, which sees the world to be, at root, the product of a conflict between creatures faithful to the Divine Word and creatures hostile to Him. Cosmic evil, as opposed to so-called "moral" evil, is understood, in this light, to reflect the conflict inherent in the hosts of angels themselves. They were called to be the governors of the world, freely giving themselves to it for the greater glory of God, but instead, at least in the case of Lucifer and his minions, sought dominance over it.

The discrepancy of views in this regard is not necessarily between an evolutionary view and a Christian one, but between a Christian view and a Victorian one. As the Structuralists long-ago noted, Darwin's account of evolution can sound strangely like a projection onto the screen of the whole universe of 19th century man (Darwinian man), who is organizing himself for victory in an industrial economy where only the fittest survive. Clearly, this view opposes a truly Christian one.

Unapologetic Catholic

The sad fact is that Intelligent design is to science as the Da Vinci Code is to Catholicism.

Catholics who espose intelligent design seriously damage the faith and I’m sorry that the cardinal wrote such an unimformed articlc.

I disagree with Amy that it is difficult to reconcile our Catholic religion with evolution. As one commenter pointed out, a number of evolutionary scientists were Catholic priests. Individuals may mor may not have difficulty but don't speak for me on this subject. I have no such difficulty.

Many of the claims made in the above posts such as "no transistional fossils" and "evolution is just a theory" are horrid old creationist scams just as valid agasint good science as the Protestant claims that Catholics worship Mary and statues--or that Jesus and Mary Magdalen were married and established the royal bloodline.

These canrds are spread by creationists so far and wide that scientists simply tire of re-addressing these lies over and over and over. Talk origins has a great FAQ:

http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-evolution.html

notice the thousands of intermediate fossils discussed, for just one example of a common creationist canard. Mr. McCleary is so fqar wrong it's difficult to understand why he would say something so obviously untrue.

It’s a fact:

There is no scientific research program for intelligent design. There are no intelligent design labs. There is no reserach money. Neither Behe nor Dembski are doing intelligent design research. there is no scientific alternative to evolution.

Meanwhile biological research based on evolution dominates all of science. Why? Because it works.

James

Keith:

As far as I can tell, you're attempting to reconcile Christianity and science by making assumptions of the kind I mentioned earlier. I'm not saying that science renders Christianity impossible; I'm saying that science renders Christianity implausible. I think the gulf between the world we would expect an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God to create and the world we actually observe around us is huge. You have to make the kind of extraordinary assumptions you describe to bridge that gulf. And I don't see why I should make those assumptions.

When young-earth creationists are confronted with evidence that the earth is very old, they sometimes make a similar kind of argument. They argue that a young earth can be reconciled with observed rates of radioactive decay if we assume that decay rates were faster in the past. Or that a young earth can be reconciled with the observed speed of light if we assume light travelled faster in the past. I don't see why your assumptions are any more justified than theirs.

Unapologetic Catholic

I don’t expect that very many peopele will actually check out the Talk origins FAQ. So, I’m quoting an excerpt dealing just with trasnitional fossils limited to vertebrates for brevity’s sake. Each numbered hotlink lists hundreds or thousands of transitionals more than enought to satisfy any resonably open minded person. If you don’t have too much time, just go to the FAQ and read just the two on horses and elephants. Thousands of transitionals are discussed. In short saying there are no transitionals is just as truthful as saying Jesus married Mary Magdalene.

-------------

"Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ

I wrote this FAQ as a reference for answering the "there aren't any transitional fossils" statement that pops up on talk.origins several times each year. I've tried to make it an accurate, though highly condensed, summary of known vertebrate fossil history in those lineages that led to familiar modern forms, with the known transitions and with the known major gaps both clearly mentioned. Version 6.0 of the FAQ has been almost entirely rewritten, with:

1. A completely rewritten introduction & conclusion, discussing what "transitional" means, why gaps occur, and what the fossil record shows.
2. A greatly expanded list of "chains of genera" for most groups, especially mammals.
3. References for documented species-to-species fossil transitions, mostly for mammals.
4. Explicit mention of the notable remaining gaps in the fossil record.


If you have questions about this FAQ or want to send email to the author, click here.

Contents
PART I has FISHES TO FIRST MAMMALS & BIRDS:

1. Introduction:
1. Types of transitions
2. Why are there gaps?
3. Predictions of creationism & evolution
4. What's in this FAQ
5. Timescale


2. Transitions from primitive fish to sharks, skates, rays
3. Transitions from primitive fish to bony fish
4. Transition from fishes to first amphibians
5. Transitions among amphibians
6. Transition from amphibians to first reptiles
7. Transitions among reptiles
8. Transition from reptiles to first mammals (long)
9. Transition from reptiles to first birds

PART 2 has transitions among mammals (starting with primates), including numerous species-to-species transitions, discussion, and references. If you're particularly interested in humans, skip to the primate section of part 2, and also look up the fossil hominid FAQ.

1. Overview of the Cenozoic
2. Primates
3. Bats
4. Carnivores
5. Rodents
6. Lagomorphs (rabbits & hares)
7. Condylarths (first hoofed animals)
8. Cetaceans (whales & dolphins)
9. Perissodactyls (horses, rhinos, tapirs)
10. Elephants
11. Sirenians (dugongs & manatees)
12. Artiodactyls (pigs, hippos, deer, giraffes, cows, etc.)
13. Species transitions from other miscellaneous mammal groups
14. Conclusion:
* A bit of historical background
* The major features of the fossil record
* Good models & bad models: which theories match the data best?
* The main point.


15. References"


John Farrell

UC,
There is no scientific research program for intelligent design. There are no intelligent design labs. There is no reserach money. Neither Behe nor Dembski are doing intelligent design research. there is no scientific alternative to evolution.

Very good point. Behe's book is almost ten years old. No follow up since. And considering how well it has sold, you would think there would have been.

Talk Origins is a great resource, by the way.

Anita Hendersen

I remember as a kid in CCD class being told by a priest with a thick Irish accent "it's okay to believe in evolution". This was in the 1970s. I always thought the church accepted evolution and most Catholics (at least in developed countries) assumed it was fact. Only those weirdo fundamentalists believed in creationism - that's what I thought growing up. I've been surprised to see several references recently to a 1996 interview in which the Pope said evolution was more than a hypothesis, as if this reflected a change in 1996.

And I'm really surprised to find people on this blog - apparently intelligent Catholics - entertaining the idea that evolution is wrong.


Nancy

I'm with you, Anita. They surprise me too.

I'm only a casual reader of the sciences, but the evidence for the basic premises of evolution is overwhelming, even though we don't understand a lot of the details very well.

And there's some problem with this? We're going to dictate how exactly God carried out His creative purpose?

Odd.

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

The following article from the EWTN Experts Forum makes a handy distinction between evolution as a scientific theory (which the Church does not disapprove of per se) and evolution as a naturalistic philosophy (which the Church does disapprove of because it denies the existence of God):

Evolution as Philosophy
http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/evolution_as_philosophy.htm

Of course, just because the Church allows Catholics to believe in the scientific theory of evolution (with a few caveats, which I will get to below) doesn't mean that all Catholics are required to believe in it. One can be a Catholic in good standing and be a six-day young earth creationist, even as a theistic evolutionist can also be a Catholic in good standing. If the Church tolerates such differences in opinion so should we: "In essentials, unity, in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity."

From my observation, it seems that creationism enjoys popularity among traditionalists, perhaps in part due to the influence of TAN Books, which publishes anti-evolution books. Creationism also seems to feature prominently in Catholic homeschooling materials, perhaps in part because the Catholic homeschooling movement used Evangelical Protestant homeschooling materials in the beginning, much of which is creationist. Finally, many converts from Evangelicalism tend to carry over their creationist views when they enter the Church.

That's not to say that Catholics who don't fit into either category can't be creationists; it's just a general observation which certainly allows for exceptions.

Now for the caveats. If a Catholic is going to be a theistic evolutionist, he still must believe that God created the universe out of nothing in the beginning (so we can't believe that the universe is eternal), and that God created the spiritual realm distinct from the material realm (so human souls did not somehow "evolve" out of our material nature).

In Jesu et Maria,

Todd

"One can be a Catholic in good standing and be a six-day young earth creationist, even as a theistic evolutionist can also be a Catholic in good standing. If the Church tolerates such differences in opinion so should we: "In essentials, unity, in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity."

Of course. If we're talking tolerance, a charitable Catholic must exercise charity in dealing with people of differing opinions. But in the realm of science, the evolution/ID/creationism debate is an essential point, at least for biology and geology. As with any entrenched system, it is difficult to challenge evolution from a scientific standpoint. Over the past several decades, challenges have led to the refinement of evolutionary theories, models, and understandings. Any authentic educator must concede evolution is the best model for describing what happened in the past. A person with an alternate idea would have a hard uphill to go, but prevailing scientific opinion has been changed in the past; it just takes what everyone else went through to gain a measure of acceptance.

In sum, just like you can't be an astronomer and believe in the crystal spheres any more, you can't really advocate ID or creationism as a paleontologist. You can be a good Catholic, yes. But not a good scientist.

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

The second-to last paragraph in my last post should read: "That's not to say that Catholics who don't fit into these categories can't be creationists..."

Plus, I was going to make a final point that Catholics also can't believe in human polygenism - that the human race descends from more than one pair of original humans. We still must believe in an original first parents of our race, whom Scripture calls Adam and Eve. But I forgot to type that before I posted; sorry.

In Jesu et Maria,

Rosemarie

Wow, I'm batting 1,000 with the syntax errors today; better go lie down now.

In Jesu et Maria,

Boniface McInnes

It seems the bulk of the friction comes, not from evolution properly so-called, but from the various atheistic philosophies which have sprung up as a result. And a large part of this friction results from modern man's schizophrenic classifications of knowledge, placing science as an entity outside philosophy, rather than recognising its place as a sub-discipline of natural philosophy. This sets up science and philosophy as competitors, rather than recognising the former as one way of approaching the latter.

Further, I find the synthesis proposed by Gould to be emminently reasonable, and a grand contribution toward honing and refining man's limited (let us be honest, very limited) scientific knowledge of life's origins.

All that said, I still enjoy nothing more than yanking the chains of average joes who rail against creationism and ID. For let us be honest, it is difficult to criticise the creationist as a gullible kite who takes his cleric's teachings on faith, when the average westerner takes his scientist's teachings on faith as well. I rarely meet "laymen" (non-biologists, -paleontologists, -&c.) who can defend any of the various evolutionary theories, but they know them to be true because men in white coats have said so. It takes a special kind of hypocrisy to decry faith, when most Americans have to take it on faith (in Rand-McNalley) that Africa even exists.

Keith

James,

I'm merely pointing out that Christianity posits an essentially historical character to the universe (an insight, by the way, which enabled the growth of modern science). Young-earth creationists are not necessarily so keen on this point.

My last assertion, regarding the Structuralist critique of Darwinism, gets at the point which you seem to be acknowledging regarding assumptions: the scientistic metanarrative (in this case, seeing reality as an essentially brutal conflict where only the fit and strong can carry-on) is itself an assumption stemming from a particular socialy reality and cultural-religous view of how the universe should be interacted with -- in this case, dominated and mastered by technology.

It is no accident that the Eugenics movement, which so inspired Hitler, was born in English-speaking countries, the center of both the industrial revolution and Darwinism.

Ivan


If as Todd says above evolution is simply treated as the best hypothesis around and therefore, paleontologists should get paid for spinning just so stories which no one can be verify then that is alright. After all we have women's studies departments doing work of similar worth without complaint.
These innocent activities alone are however not the basis on which the Darwinians drive out religion from the public square ; there the altercation goes somewhat like this:

Darwinian : You are aware that the great Kettlewell has demonstrated the selective advantage of industrial melanism even at the cost of fixing some moths himself ?

FlatEarther : Er Yes.

Darwinian: Also that Weiner has painstakingly documented speciation among the Galapagos finches, notwithstanding that the frisky finches often interbreed ?

FlatEarther : I guess so OK.

Darwinian : I ask you to consider one more compelling piece of evidence, the Malthusian dilemma of nature; viz that there are at any given time more mouths to feed than available resources. Consult Erlich's doom laden Club of Rome report from the 70's and tremble for mere flesh.

FlatEarther: Man I did say a prayer when it came out.

Darwinian : Prayer will not help. The mechanisms implicit in the work of Kettlewell, Weiner and Erlich accounts for all of biology including the evolution of the hand from the fin and in the case of the whale from hand back to the fin again across whimsically demarcated eras. Again the efficiency of heamoglobin transport, the stability of the Krebs cycle and kinship within species and everything else, can all be accounted for within the elastic time frames obligingly provided us by our cosmological colleagues . It follows that I have demostrated that your God if he exists is superflous, a Deus otiose, a profligate in no way concerned with you. So bud how about agreing to your daughter's abortion ?

FlatEarther : ?!!.


James

keith:

I have no idea what "the scientistic metanarrative" is supposed to mean.

The assumptions I am talking about are the ones that you need to make to reconcile all the suffering and violence and randomness and haphazardness we see in the world around us, and that evolution has brought into especially clear view, with the notion that the world was created by an all-powerful, all-loving God.

Why should anyone make these assumptions?

Todd

" ... evolution is simply treated as the best hypothesis around ..."

For the moment, it's the only one.

" ... therefore, paleontologists should get paid for spinning just so stories which no one can be verify then that is alright."

If by verification you mean eyewitness accounts, then yes: evolution cannot be verified by observation. Evolution is the only game because the scientific evidence points to it. Cosmologists theorize about the early universe not by poking outside of this particular bubble with Hubble, but from extrapolating backward with what is known about the behavior of particles, and from what we can observe billions of light years away.

Nobody will ever prove by observation how the universe inflated, but that doesn't mean the current model isn't the best one we have right now.

"After all we have women's studies departments doing work of similar worth without complaint."

Not sure I want to go there. "Women's studies" are an interdisciplinary blend of psychology, sociology, political science, and philosophy with a dollop of history and anthropology. As a man, I find it a relief that somebody is studying women. I can't say I've made any academic progress in my studies, but if someone else can take a better shot, more power to them.

That some evolutionists adopt philosophy antithetical to Christianity sinks the evolutionary model no more than Hitler's religion of upbringing sunk Christianity. When an evolutionist delves into philosophy, I would trust the individual has left the hard science building, as it were, and is either out of depth or dabbling with a minor degree of competence in the "soft" sciences. Either way, if I want science, I'll consult a scientist. If I want theology, a theologian. I'm sure the three of us could conduct some interesting cocktail conversation, and maybe we would have fascinating commentary outside of our respective fields. But that would be as far as it went.

Todd

" ... the average westerner takes his scientist's teachings on faith as well."

Not quite. More Kansans believe in ID or creationism than evolution. It would be ideal if rational adults would look at evidence and not dismiss or embrace the message because of the messenger.

Lawrence Krubner

"Dennett sees natural selection everywhere-in cosmology, in the spread of songs, and in the demise of architectural styles."

It's reasonable to assert this. Most economists have used metaphors derived from Darwin to describe the way ideas, products and companies compete in a free market. If you believe that a free market might play a role in the spread of a song or an architectural style, then you'll have no problem seeing why natural selection is an apt way of describing the process.

Lawrence Krubner

"The problem with the explanation is the natural thing for a species that really cannot survive to do is die, not mutate into something that can survive."

The species doesn't mutate. Those who are most fit to deal with changing circumstances have children that survive long enough to have children of their own. Those who lack those traits that facillitate survival die with no children, or with few. The individuals with those traits that best suited for dealing with environment that the individual faces end up having the most kids. Future generations only have those genes that derive from those individuals who adaptive enough to reproduce. Their adaptive traits, therefore, surivive and become enhanced in future generations, whereas the traits that belonged to those individuals who were maladaptive get eliminated from the species.

Lawrence Krubner

"If by verification you mean eyewitness accounts, then yes: evolution cannot be verified by observation."

Put some bacteria in a petri-dish with food for them to eat. Expose them to a semi-lethal dose of antibiotics that kills some but allows others to survive. Take the survivors and repeat the process a thousand times. Watch through a microscope if you don't mind being bored.

Viola! Before your eyes, you have witnessed bacteria evolve resistance to whatever antibiotic you gave them.

You've now established evolution as a fact in an experiment that most people could repeat at home, with some minor expenses and hassles.

But what caused the bacteria to evolve this defense? Did they, as per Lamark, develop a defense and pass it along to their children? Or was it a matter of the strongest surviving?

We can never know for sure.

Thus, evolution can easily be established as a fact, but the theory by which it happens can never be proven.

(This comment is mostly a paraphrase of what Gould has written.)

Todd

Lawrence, quite right. You can also consider the corn you eat and your pet dog or cat begging at the dinner table, too.

But I think the radical creationists want to see it happen naturally, as it were.

Donald R. McClarey

"These canrds are spread by creationists so far and wide that scientists simply tire of re-addressing these lies over and over and over. Talk origins has a great FAQ:

http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-evolution.html

notice the thousands of intermediate fossils discussed, for just one example of a common creationist canard. Mr. McCleary is so fqar wrong it's difficult to understand why he would say something so obviously untrue. "

Perhaps because UC what you cite as examples of transitional fossils are not, but merely examples of the type of speculation used by evolutionists to attempt to produce evidence where none exists. By the way, do you know how many of the 43 current existing orders of terrestrial vertebrates are found in the fossil record?

Another Steve

I have to admit to not having gone through all the comments but here goes anyway.

I can't understand (many things) but especially the fuss over evolution. What can't and never will be resolved by Darwin's 'desciples' is how they can be so dumb as to declare on the one hand that different organisms evolved by being better suited via "survival of the fittest/natural selection/Force" and then being so blind as not to be able to see that using their notion of evolution completely cuts the ground from under the Principle of Universal Justice. Does anyone really imagine Justice and Mercy could have evolved? If so are they (Justice and Mercy) must be genetic? in which case surely we must be on the verge of being able to clone Justice and Mercy and hey doesn't that mean the perfect society is just about upon us? i.e. we're about to achieved the Society where the nicest survive - Yeah, let's all celebrate Survival of the nicest or most just - it's here. Well History should make a laughing stock of that idea.

My advice for what it's worth is that arguing about evolutionary detail is pointless. Argue about Principles - now that has a point. Especially the fact that random evolution by natural forces will NEVER result in Justice and Mercy.

Lawrence Krubner

"being so blind as not to be able to see that using their notion of evolution completely cuts the ground from under the Principle of Universal Justice"

You're wrong. All our ideas about justice can be explained as an outgrowth of primate evolution. Frans de Waal goes over this in detail in his book "Good Natured".

Another Steve

Lawrence, grow up. Use the brain God gave you. Use it please don't just rely on what somebody else has cloaked in the majesty of print. "Good Natured" What a sick joke. Where you been all these years? Are you Rip Van Winkel or someone? All those hundreds of millions dying violent deaths in the last hundred years - and that represents Justice becoming more just I'm supposed to believe. The human race grinding inexorably onward on the path to perfection - the perfect society - the society of the most just. Not only are you blind Lawrence, you're also gullible.

Amy if you're still watching this thread I apologise for my outburst but what else can be said.
Pax

Rick Lugari

Put some bacteria in a petri-dish with food for them to eat. Expose them to a semi-lethal dose of antibiotics that kills some but allows others to survive. Take the survivors and repeat the process a thousand times. Watch through a microscope if you don't mind being bored.

Viola! Before your eyes, you have witnessed bacteria evolve resistance to whatever antibiotic you gave them.

True, but they will always remain bacteria. You won't wake up one morning to find your tadpoles swimming around in your petri dish.

I don't believe there is any dispute over microevolution (the bacteria example). The dispute is over macroevolution, which to the best of my knowledge still lacks any scientific evidence to support it. Yet proponents of evolution insist that we accept it as if it were fact just because "the legitimate scientific community says it has to be".


Boniface McInnes

"Not quite. More Kansans believe..."

Surely, Todd, you are not suggesting that "The West" and "Kansas" are synonymous?

Boniface McInnes

We have here a long-standing dispute regarding the validity of macroevolution.

And Lawrence Krubner intends to defend macroevolution by providing examples of microevolution?

Todd, I stand by my statement! :-P

paul schlereth

rick:

so the many different hominid fossils stretching over millions of years, lucy and so on, do not prove the evolution of hominids ? if not, what exactly was going on.

Captain Video

It's the Galileo controversy all over again! The Bishops, Cardinals and Pope of that time were convinced that belief in a heliocentric universe was incompatible with the Catholic faith and opposed it to the point of persecusion.

He who will not learn from history is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Captain Video

"Especially the fact that random evolution by natural forces will NEVER result in Justice and Mercy."

This is totally wrong. Random evolution will lead to justice and mercy among social animals. In social animals altruistic behavior toward members of one's group increases the rate of survival of the group's genes.

Donald R. McClarey

"This is totally wrong. Random evolution will lead to justice and mercy among social animals. In social animals altruistic behavior toward members of one's group increases the rate of survival of the group's genes."

The last century certainly had some stark examples directly contra to this argument among humans, the only species where concepts such as justice and mercy have any meaning.

catholic

"And Lawrence Krubner intends to defend macroevolution by providing examples of microevolution?"

Macroevolution (by which I'm assuming you mean speciation) proceeds by the same mechanisms as microevolution. The genetic code determines every biological trait of an animal. Reproduction is one of these traits. If you accept microevolution, but reject macroevolution, then you must show why reproduction is unique among all traits as to not be affected by microevolutionary changes.

On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence in the animal kingdom for speciation through microevolution. Biological taxonomy in general is your biggest clue to this. But, if you need to examine a few trees before you acknowledge existence of the forest, look at the genus Equus. In Equus we have animals such as horses, donkeys, and zebras. Many of these can interbreed even though they genetically dissimilar and, in fact, are separate species. Their offspring are infertile mules. This kind of interbreeding is one of the expected outcomes of modern theories of evolution. This same situation is seen with other genera as well.

It is sad to see members of the church afraid of the truths of Creation.

peace

Anatol Nim

" The dispute is over macroevolution, which to the best of my knowledge still lacks any scientific evidence to support it."

My $0.02: I am not an expert on macroevolution, but it seems to me that the unity of the genetic code and the close similarity of genes between, say, budding yeast, flies and humans -- are rather strong arguments for that most macro- of all evolutionary ideas, the idea of one common origin.

More generally speaking, the idea of evolution by natural selection is to biology what the notion of self-interested action is to economics. They don't explain everything, but without them, their respective fields become incoherent.

Interestingly, in both evolutionary biology and economics, the most exciting and thorny issues are concerning the existence of altruism. It's counterintuitive in the simple rational actor/survival-of-the-fittest paradigms, so plenty of creative theories were proposed. Some of them could even be right.

T. Chan

Check out The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories by Stephen Meyer: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2177

MDS

I've blogged about this on my blog.

Boniface McInnes

"It's the Galileo controversy all over again! The Bishops, Cardinals and Pope of that time were convinced that belief in a heliocentric universe was incompatible with the Catholic faith and opposed it to the point of persecusion.

He who will not learn from history is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again."

Or doomed to mistake what is for what is not.

You're statements regarding the positions taken by the clergy during Galileo's time are highly inaccurate.

On the other hand, it was a brilliant example of what extreme lengths jealous faculty members will go to in order to protect their own beliefs.

Do a broader reading of the Galileo incident, would you?

Boniface McInnes

catholic,

Please note I am not opposed to macroevolution, per se, as was stated earlier. I fall, somewhat, into Gould's camp, though I do not see that even he has managed to produce a fully coherent system. As such, your comments about "It is sad to see members of the church (Boniface McInnes, since it was my comment you were responding to) afraid of the truths of Creation" are unfounded and based on nothing but your own threatened little existence.

Krubner did indeed offer, as a demonstration of macroevolution, simple experiments which support microevolution, with none of the further explanation linking the one to the other that you so ably offered.

Perhaps you would do well to read the words of others, rather than assuming their positions? It would save you the sadness of beliefs which just aren't so (such as "Boniface McInnes is afraid of the truths of Creation").

I won't hold my breath waiting for any apology or acknowledgement, even if it might be welcomed. My experience has shown that cock-sure mouth-offs who make such reprehensible assumptions usually don't have the decency to acknowledge error.

Todd

"Surely, Todd, you are not suggesting that "The West" and "Kansas" are synonymous?"

No; I'm suggesting the recent Kansas poll is indicative, especially of the view of Americans, who tend to be more backward in their science knowledge than other Western countries.

"We have here a long-standing dispute regarding the validity of macroevolution."

To be more accurate, we have a mystery, namely the development of species. How did species proliferate? How do we read the geologic record? How do we move from clues to the formulation of a sound model of explanation.

Frankly, I see no scientific dispute. Evolution is the only explanation, and nothing else comes close.

The realm of faith is another matter, however. Science has nothing to say on the development of the soul.

Boniface McInnes

"We have here a long-standing dispute..."

"Frankly, I see no scientific dispute."

Luckily, as you were so gracious to quote, I don't either.

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