You Don't Need Faith to Believe The Principle of Evolution

Rev. 1. Added link to Evolution 101 podcast.
This is a recent comment in one of the previous articles. It is a frequently offered claim that I want to take a moment to address as an article instead of a comment.
"....when one considers the amount of atheist faith required to believe the scientific theories regarding evolution in light of the absence of any eyewitness, the sort of Christian faith regarding inspired writings shouldn't be all that bizarre....."

People don't need faith to believe the principle of evolution. Scientists are doing experiments using it in labs and observing it in real time in nature. Heres a link to TalkOrigins.org to explore it a little further. Our friend Benny highly recommends this site.

When you have a principle about how something works, you don't need faith, just logic and reasoning to make the inference that allows you to make reliable predictions about the outcome.

For example, I am sure you don't need faith to know that if you leave the bag in your cereal box open the cereal will get stale do you? No, because you know, in principle, that leaving the bag open will facilitate its going stale. In the case where you have a friend make a bowl of cereal for you and you find that it is stale, you can reasonably presume, based on principle, that the bag was left open. Furthermore, you don't need to believe god made them go stale because you know there is a natural mechanism that causes it. And you don't need to be able to describe in detail how the mechanism works to understand it, you just need to know the principle. In this way you can happily go about knowing this principle and using it to make decisions about other things like applying it to your triscuits or a birthday cake. It also helps you to understand with little extra information why you may find a little package of dessicant in something that is vulnerable to damage from moisture and you may even go so far as to properly infer that it is vulnerable to damage from moisture without anyone telling you. In this way you acquire knowledge and build on it to make decisions and acquire more knowledge. As you make inferences you need to watch to see if your inferences are correct, if they are then you can repeat the process of using them to make decisions and acquire more knowledge.

In my view this is just common sense, and basically, the scientific method is just common sense formalized.

If you use common sense on the Bible and try to make predictions or gain knowledge using the principles about God in the bible, or about the state of the world back in the day, there is a lot of room for doubt. If you don't believe it, just ask any theologian.

Recommended Resources
* Evolution 101 podcast, or you can find it in iTunes.

66 comments:

Jason said...

How can scientists carry out experiments and observe evolution in real time if there were no eyewitnesses present during the original event to verify if the models being used today are correct? In other words, there's no way to verify if these experiments are actually mimicking the original event because none of the original information is accessible. Scientists have faith that things happened the way they said they happened.

I could make an inference stating that life on earth began when a giant orange two-headed eagle swooped down, dropped a hundred small eggs containing single-celled creatures and then flew off again. Or, I could just as easily infer that a divine being created life as we know it. In the absence of hard evidence, both of these can just as easily be correct as the commonly held 'principle of evolution'. "Consequently, there is no scientific consensus on how life began..." (wiki)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
Evolution in real time is what the link was about. They forced evolution in worms.

as far as the rest,
what you are asking for is impossible precision. There comes a point when you have to take what information you have and call it good enough. If you want to say that principled reasoning is not good enough, then you've got a problem yourself in your position.

You could infer giant orange eagles if you want but good luck coming up with enough empirical evidence to support principled reasoning about it.

Btsai said...

Jason,

The theory of evolution is about how traits in a population changes from one generation to the next. It is not a theory about how life came into existence. That would be abiogenesis. We don't have a complete theory of abiogenesis, but that is not needed in order for evolution to be valid. The first sentence of the paragraph you snipped from Wiki says it all:

"The origin of life is a necessary precursor for biological evolution, but understanding that evolution has occurred and investigating how this happens does not depend on understanding exactly how life began."

Butch said...

Jason, it also sounds like your making the mistake of assuming evolution was some event that happened in the past. It’s an ongoing process that has been happening from the first day life reproduced and continues today. It’s slow, so we don’t see much of it in our lifetimes, but we do see it.

To answer your question specifically I’ll use an analogy (dare I say, a parable?). We see the sculptures that the classical artists like Michelangelo made. We see modern sculptors making new art today. Does it take faith to infer that these ancient pieces of art were made in basically the same way, even though we have no living eyewitnesses to the original event?

The key difference in the example you used was that you have no evidence for giant orange two-headed eagle. We have tons of independently verified, mutually buttressed evidence from many divergent fields of study that support the theory of evolution. So in short, we do have hard evidence for evolution. If your faith is strong enough to stand it, you can find this evidence yourself.

Michael said...

I don't have "faith" in evolution! I do not hold "strong belief" in it either. I think of it as a "Theory" and not a law. It is a plausible working model or system of the way life changes over time.
Like all theories, the theory of evolution is constantly being updated and has never claimed to hold absolutes.

"Only a Sith speaks in Absolutes."

Btsai said...

"Only a Sith speaks in Absolutes."

Which is kind of funny, right, because that's also an absolute statement :)

Jason said...

"They forced evolution in worms" And this is what, empircal evidence that grand scale evolution happened the way they say it did?

"There comes a point when you have to take what information you have and call it good enough." Precisely my point. At some point, the absence of information demands a level of faith in order to come to a basic conclusion of the matter. Hence, faith in the process of evolution.

This is why evolution is still just a 'theory'. Regardless of the "tons" of "verified" evidence.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
I think you are confusing faith with confidence in data that reveal a principle that supports or infers a conclusion.

Here is what faith is from answers.com. note this sentence in the definition
Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

faith (fāth) pronunciation
n.

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See synonyms at belief, trust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.

richdurrant said...

Theory, as used in science, is a much stronger term then for us common folk. Just because evolution is a theory, doesn't lesson the strength of evidence for evolution. Don't be so sure that evolution isn't a natural occurrence that God could use as part of the creative process.

richdurrant said...

Basically Jason using the term faith for science doesn't work.

Jennifer said...

I have confidence in the data I collect about the changed lives I observe as a result of accepting the teachings of Jesus.

Is that faith or science?

Jason said...

Oh I wouldn't say I'm confusing anything. This whole topic is in relation to proving whether or not the resurrection of Christ occured as based on the "eyewitnesses" in the Gospels. Christians have confidence that the Bible reveals a principle that supports the conclusion that Christ did in fact die and was raised three days later. A Christian uses Scripture as logical proof and material evidence that it occured. Whether or not this is satisfactory for an atheist is really beside the point - since the topic is a Biblical matter, the Christian, not the atheist, dictates the basis for belief.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
I'd say its a false dichotomy, its neither. Faith doesn't need evidence and science requires strict protocols and a big enough sample to be statistically significant.

I am all for christians setting up protocols and trying to show the principals and stories in the bible hold up to scrutiny. I am all for supporting the scientific scrutiny of religious claims. I'll help any way I can.

I think neuroscience is a good place to start. The mind-body-soul -conscience question is getting ripe for the picking. Recent advances in technology and nanotechnology hold a lot of promise in the coming years for breakthroughs.

Spirula said...

In the absence of hard evidence

You mean, like, fossils?

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Anyway, as others have pointed out, there is abundant evidence for evolution. Take your pick. Fossil record, biogeography, molecular biology, comparative anatomy and physiology...all support the evolution of life on earth. And epidemiology and populations genetics BOTH have accurately predicted the observed evolutionary changes in everything from microbes to insects.

Actually, if you evolution deniers would actually bother to read science writers like Carl Zimmer or David Quammen, whose target audience is the general public, you might bring a some actual working knowledge about the evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution.

But all you are reading are books dishonest pseudo-scientist like Behe and Dembski, don't expect to be taken seriously.

BTW Jason and Jennifer, are jury convictions a matter of faith or of evidence and logic? Because, similar to jury trials, that essentially is how peer-reviewed science works. As a zoologist, that is how my research works. That is what we deal with all the time. Every publication scrutinized and critiqued. Are mistakes made or data fudged? Sure. But repeatability is something critical to science (and notably absent in any creation account). And that is how frauds or dishonest scientist get exposed. And that is pretty much career ending. Just ask those "cold fusion" guys.

And if anyone were to come up with an explanation of the history of life on earth, based on the evidence from the disciplines listed above, DIFFERENT than the theory of evolution, I'd love to hear it. Problem is, you all run around making ridiculous claims about "absence of evidence", or "too improbable to happen" or "it takes more faith than religion", and then inject the Invisible Magic Fairy explanation (no witness to that explanation I should add, for those who feel the "no witness" thing is some sort of valid argument).
Sorry, but magical explanations for things one doesn't understand is something most of us abandoned during childhood.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
This topic is about not having to have faith to believe the principle of evolution.

getting back on topic discussing data, principles and conclusions, eyewitness testimony is a weak form of evidence in the first place then spread out over 100 years it becomes dubious. Thats not a lot to base a principle on. I wouldn't. I wouldn't base a principle on four stories that don't match without some form of corroborating evidence from, in a best case, a neutral party.

Here's an article I did on the resurrection and I'd be honored if you'd read it.

something i left out in the article is that there is no record at the nasa website of any eclipses anywhere near the time of Jesus crucifixion.

This is all I have to say about Jesus in this article. If you want I'd be happy to carry this over to the original article "eyewitness testimony and apologetics".

lowendaction said...

Disprove that God did not set in motion a design that includes the ability for nature to adapt and in some cases evolve (I'm no expert here, but I don't believe that EVERYTHING evolves...but I'd love to be corrected).

Btsai said...

lowendaction,

If I claim that David Hasselhoff made the universe in a Herculean act of creation, the onus is on me to prove that claim, not on you to disprove it. Similarly, if you wish to claim that God set evolution into motion, the onus is on you to prove it, not on the disbeliever to disprove it.

Jennifer said...

Lee,
I just read the article about the worms and I am surprised that it made the news.
That is not forced evolution, it's purposeful interference, or from the worm's perspective, supernatural.

I agree with this:

‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’

— Albert Einstein

Where does the intuitive mind fit into a scientific study?

Do people who strictly adhere to theories of origins that do not include God acknowlege the intuitive mind?

If you don't think it takes faith to believe in macro-evolution, watch the NOVA show about the evolution of whales and pay close attention to the wording they use and the way they came up with their hypothesis.

Can the evolution of a whale, they way they describe, by tested in a lab to become a working theory? How?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
from the worms perspective? I can't imagine how the worm sees it. But I do know what supernatural means and that is not it.
from answers.com
su·per·nat·u·ral (sū'pər-năch'ər-əl) pronunciation
adj.

1. Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.
3. Of or relating to a deity.
4. Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
5. Of or relating to the miraculous.

If you are not a biologist, then you are not even close to being an expert in evolution. I am not either, so I depend on the consensus of experts to tell me what is evolution and what isn't. So if you don't think its evolution, then maybe if you were an expert you would.

As I understand intuition it is the result of background processes in the mind that we aren't aware of. meaning we don't have to consciously be aware of any manipulation of data. For example, non-intuition is doing math, intuition is a feeling you get in a situation and you don't know why. I have read up on this a little and what you seem to be calling intuition is not what I think it is. You seem to think it is something mysterious, whereas I think it is mysterious but is all contained in our heads as the sum of our experiences and memories handled by background processing. Intuition, who's 'mystery' makes it romantically appealing to put a lot of value on, it is not very reliable. Just ask a Gambler.

About the NOVA show, you should find some other material that explains it better.

There was a study done on bacteria where they did evolve them in the lab to become a new species, but I can't, at the moment, find it. It was in a podcast I've heard in the past few months. As I understand it, a problem with macro-evolution in the lsb is determining where you demarcate one species from another. As I understand it, the differences between species can be so slight as to be debateable. You might want to hop on that wagon as an argument against evolution when the time comes.

Spirula, that was the cherry on the cake. Do you have anything to add to Jennifers comment here?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
here is one place talking about evolution in bacteria in the lab. If I can find that podcast, I provide the link. If you want to help me look it was likely on one of the following.
- Quirks and Quarks
- Science Friday
- Nature Journal
- Science Talk
- New Scientist
- Science magazine

here is a link to a podcast I highly recommend to you all (and I'll add it to the article) Evolution 101 or you can get it from iTunes.

Jason said...

Less said: "I wouldn't base a principle on four stories that don't match without some form of corroborating evidence from, in a best case, a neutral party."

Of course not, you're an atheist. And that's alright. But mankind's model for belief doesn't need to fit your model for belief. Not unless you're an global belief expert... ;) For many, the Gospel account doesn't need independent confirmation but for some strange reason, this is awfully hard for critics to accept.

BTW, who decides if a "neutral party" is really neutral?

Jennifer said...

Batting in the link game...

http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6068

...an article with a good example of how the new testament came to be in the form we have it now.

Lee, I will look up the article you suggest over the next couple of days. I still think the laboratory is not an ideal place for observing something that was supposed to have taken place with no guidance or design, but I'll read it with as open a mind as I can muster.

Spirula said...

Regarding whale evolution, Carl Zimmer does a nice summary in his book "At the Waters Edge". Here is his website

http://www.scienceblogs.com/loom/

"Parasite Rex", for the non-squeamish, is a fascinating book that includes perspectives on the role of parasites in driving the evolution of their hosts.

Regarding "laboratory evolution". Frankly, I don't know why anyone would consider this an arguement of merit. Evolution, which is a theory that explains the history and diversity of life on earth, is largely a descriptive discipline. So is archeology. So is history. So is any study that deals with events in the past and how to interpret what happened and why. Are those disciplines invalidated by the fact that archeology and history cannot be "tested" in a lab? Of course not.
So why would anyone expect a evolutionary biologist to "evolve a whale" in a laboratory? Think about it. Natural selection comprises all the forces that favor the reproductive success of some individuals in a population over the success of others. Populations are what evolve, not individuals. So what are these forces? Let's see...climate, sexual selection, predation, resource competition, parasites, pathogens etc.. What lab could duplicate that? Well, I know of only one...planet earth.

Are there predictive elements to evolutionary theory? You bet! Ask any epidemiologist, population biologist, microbiologist or entomologist. Evolutionary changes have been predicted and have observed in insects, mammals, bacteria etc.. Evolution is the best explanation for the diversity and history of life on earth. It is almost universially accepted by scientists around the world, not because of some conspiracy, but because it is so well supported by the evidence in numerous disciplines.

I know where these creationists are coming from. I used to be one. I'm an ex-born-again, conservative, Christian, inerrant, infallible Word of God, Christian school and college. Know what started me on my path of decoversion? The intellectually dishonesty I recognized in the "creation" science (Morris, Gish et. al.) I was taught my biology and biochemistry courses. That and the intentional distortion and misrepresentation of evolutionary theory. All I could think was "What are these people afraid of, that they would stoop to being so dishonest and deceitful?" Now I know. Once you've saddled yourself with a literal 6 day creation story that cannot be wrong, your "science" decays into bizarre assertions (global flood, Canopy Theory, Hydroplate Theory etc.) and playing "god of the gaps" games with the real science out there.

Okay. Done ranting.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Spirula,
You're my hero.
I quickly googled some successful predictions made possible by a sound evolutionary principle and listed them below.
- New Analyses Bolster Central Tenets of Evolution Theory. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they predicted the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species' DNA and the two animals' population sizes.
- Is evolution predictable? This is the bacteria experiment I was talking about.
- Using Computers, Scientists Successfully Predict Evolution of E. Coli Bacteria
- Evolution of Accelerated Senescence in Laboratory Populations of Drosophila The accelerated senescence exhibited by females from the r environment appears to be due to the accumulation of deleterious alleles whose effects are expressed late in life, which is consistent with the mutation accumulation hypothesis for the evolution of senescence.
- 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution from Talkorigins.org

I don't think you can make successful predictions unless you know how something works and that something has to work to be able to use it to make predictions. So if they are using principles of Evolution, then the principles of Evolution must work, right?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
I looked at your link and have some comments. I am going to post them in the Eyewitness Testimony and apologetics article because its more appropriate over there.

Spirula said...

Lee,
I particularly liked the bacterial/thermal experiment. Note how many generations are involved (in bacteria a generational time of 20min to 24hr is the range for most common strains). Then ask yourself "How long might I have to observe a population of elephants before I could detect an observable change in the species?" I like to point this out this generational-time issue to the (untrue, but commonly espoused) statement that speciation has not been observed, or "how come I can't see evolution happening now" sort of question.

lowendaction said...

Ok, then how about this...

How do you explain the gap between self-awareness in humans (notice: I didn't reference the soul, however this is regarding that "unknown" and non-tangible "human spirit" that even the most hard-nosed agnostic must admit exsists in some form or another) and the lack thereof in non-humans?

Did our brains evolve that much? Is that where "it" resides? Do you even acknowledge this "it", or are we are purely cerebral?

I'm not trying to be confrontational. Just curious and open minded to the thoughts, theories, and musings of others (preferrably ones that don't think like me...of which I hope, for societies sake, there is none!!)

bstai - my onus: I chalenge ANYONE to convince me that the awsome perfection of music, math, the human body, nature, the universe are products of random accidents! And that is not a God cop-out. Even if I knew nothing of God, as a musician, and a sentient human being with functioning eyes, ears and nose, these facts would still stand fast for me.

I wonder if there is a certain amount of insecurity that motivates the need to explain God away from our scientific attempts at understanding the world and all of its mysteries. In other words, is this a base need for control over our environment? Again, not attacking...just asking (because the obvious counter arguement is that weak-minded fear is what fuels the theists belief).

Jennifer said...

Lee and Spirula (neat name,by the way...appropriate to this discussion)

I don't think I'm communicating well.

I support the adaptaion of a species to the envirnoment but don't see where your evidence is for the transition of one species coming from another? I've been reading about mitochondrial dna studies for a while now and even that doesn't seem to me to be an argument for macro-evolution.

I'm still wondering how the evolution of a bacteria supports the possibility of a bacteria changing enough to begin a new species in the animal kingdom. It was a controlled study using forced processes.

Another thoughts on this is...if everything began with random processes, why would we need an immune system? Why not allow bacteria to thrive in order to change the genetic code more freely? There really isn't a need for a species to become more complex if there is no design.

I can't find any info. on this right now, so maybe one of you knows. Where did the first virus come from and how did it not destroy the living things of it's time?

Lee,
Sorry about the link to the site about new testament stuff...I was thinking about the other topic and posted in along with this one. Thanks.

Spirula said...

How do you explain the gap between self-awareness in humans (notice: I didn't reference the soul, however this is regarding that "unknown" and non-tangible "human spirit" that even the most hard-nosed agnostic must admit exsists in some form or another) and the lack thereof in non-humans?

Really? This is classic anthrocentrism. The evidence is just the opposite.

http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/14338

http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521441087

Did our brains evolve that much? Yes.

Is that where "it" resides?
Yes. I know, the bible says "heart" but hey, bronze age, what do you expect?

I chalenge ANYONE to convince me that the awsome perfection of music, math, the human body, nature, the universe are products of random accidents!

Awsome (sic) perfection? Ever heard of female hyena clitoris problem?
Anyway, evolution is not "random accidents". There is nothing random about natural selection. And that it provided us with brains that have the ability for vivid imagination and complex lanquage helps explain why Homo sapien became so successful a species. I'll leave it to you to figure out why this would eventuallty translate into arts and sciences.

I wonder if there is a certain amount of insecurity that motivates the need to explain God away from our scientific attempts at understanding the world and all of its mysteries.

No need to wonder. Those insecurties don't exist. However, I don't wonder that there is a certain amount of insecurity which motivates people to insist that some divine being is at work in the natural world, when no evidence for this being exists, and science can give simple and natural explanations to many of these concerns using evidence provided by the scientific method.

Spirula said...

I'm still wondering how the evolution of a bacteria supports the possibility of a bacteria changing enough to begin a new species in the animal kingdom. It was a controlled study using forced processes.

Okay. First it was "well you evolutionists have to show me evolution in the lab". Example given. Now it is "hey, you cheated! You used a controlled lab situation!" The goalposts are now, officially, off the field.

I mean, seriously. An experiment which used changes in the environmental temperature, demonstrated that more heat-resistant bacterial offspring would survive and continue to produce increasingly heat resistant overspring as the temperatures became more extreme. In other words, the bacteria better adapted to the environment survived. They were selected for. They evolved.

And forced process? What, changes in thermal clines don't occur naturally, like say, when a hot spring changes course and now dumps into another non-hot spring, creating a new thermal cline?

By the way, bacteria aren't in the kingdom Animalia.

Another thoughts on this is...if everything began with random processes, why would we need an immune system? Why not allow bacteria to thrive in order to change the genetic code more freely? There really isn't a need for a species to become more complex if there is no design.

I have no idea what is being asserted/asked here. It doesn't make sense actually. But let me reiterate, natural selection is not random, and the immune system technically referers only to B and T cell activity, but there are many other forms of cellular defenses out there at all levels of complexity. Some amazingly weird ones too. (For fun, google "alligator blood" and "bacterial growth").

Where did the first virus come from and how did it not destroy the living things of it's time?
First part, not sure. Most likely a prokarotic parasite on prokaryote cells. Second part, no virus is 100% efficacious. In fact, the less lethal a virus is, the more likely it is to survive. (Poorly adapted parasites rapidly kill their host. That means they'll run out of host and go extinct themselves.)

I support the adaptaion of a species to the envirnoment but don't see where your evidence is for the transition of one species coming from another?

It's out there. In fossil records. In genetic profiles. But let me ask you, what mechanism STOPS speciation if you accept species adaptation? You can't have microevolution but not macroevolution. Your line in the sand is completely arbitrary as the mechanisms that produce them are the same.

Jennifer said...

I'm responding on the fly...

Again, I do not think that evolution must be proved in a laboratory.

You got me on the kingdom, that was lazy of me.

I have seen interesting fossils that show mutations, I have not seen hundreds or thousands of fossils showing a surviving, thriving community of those same fossils that would support a real transition between species. Does that exist? Maybe I'm wrong.

Adaptation vs. speciation: I support a species adapting within it's own species.

Common descent. The thing I don't understand about this theory is that, according to what I read, it is just as likely that because God made the same material to form us all and there are basic elements to life, all living things would share common codes on some level. Understanding that the mitochondria in a cell is what "drives" the cell, it makes sense that there would be commonality among the mitochondrial DNA of all living things. Am I misunderstanding this?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
I think we can agree that it is easier to copy than to create. If we say that nothing is impossible for god, then what would be the need for commonality between organisms? If you want to say that all things were created in their kind, it seems to me to minimizing god to say that he had to borrow technology and share it between organisms. If we say god put all the material here and created the first batch of life then let it evolve macro-evolutionarily(?) then that would more plausible, but that's not your position. If we say that the precursors to RNA bumped together and started sharing molecules (excuse me I'm no scientist) and copying themselves, then whatever was more robust would continue, and whatever wasn't wouldn't. This doesn't sound very Godly Glorious, this sounds pretty haphazard, and would explain (in my mind) the similarties between organisms.

Another thing, I want to point out is that you and others are demanding a sort of precision on this topic that you wouldn't ordinarily on other more non-theistic topics. I don't even see you all demanding this sort of precision where the historicity of Jesus is concerned. I hear time and again that faith is all thats required to believe in God, but you keep playing the "why" game everytime you get a scientific principle explained to you.

As i state in my article, once you know the principle you don't need to know the details to work with it. You don't need god to make your cereal stale anymore than you need to god for evolution.

The kinds of answers you are demanding from us should be found in the university, and if you have such deep questions and it means so much to you, then get a degree in biology and start a christian research facility and start reproducing the work of the discovery institute or start your own research fresh. I don't think you would disagree that reproducability is important for the validation of a claim, so be the independent researchers to validate and give credence to the likes of the discovery institute.

As far as I'm concerned, the discussion about evoulution here is going beyond my expertise as layman and is getting into the realm of experts. Spirula seems to be the only expert here so I'm going to bow out and stick with my assertion that once something becomes the consensus of experts, and it has been shown independently in principle to work, then for all intents and purposes it has been figured out.

And I will point out as a parting shot that you who are christians and deny evolution are a minority even among your peers.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
case in point, over in the eyewitness testimony article, you are using EXCEPTIONS to refute me about the new testament.

At least we are not just giving you exceptions to the rule, we can show you how the rule works, is reproducable and predictable but reality prevents the ability to evolve one species to another in the lab.

Lee Randolph said...

oooops,
it should have been "circumstances prevent us" instead of "reality prevents us".....

puiwah37 said...

lowendaction - 'the awesome perfection of … the human body'.

I guess that perfection doesn’t include our useless but sometimes lethal appendix, our aching spines, the excess of teeth in our undersized jaws, the birth canal’s poor position for such a large brained species, our eyes with their nerve connections in front of the photo-receptors instead of behind, the conjunction of our food and air passageways which sometimes makes eating and talking a lethal combination.

Are these imperfections evidence of a benevolent and competent creator or the makeshift nature of evolution? Which explanation rests on faith, which on evidence?

Spirula said...

First, I agree with Lee that creationists(for what I consider illegitimate reasons, i.e. conflict with 6 day creationism) Evolution is held to a much more rigorous standard of "proof" than any other scientific theory. Additionally, when creationist objections are answered, the objection changes to some other predictably canned creationist canard (this is one reason TalkOrigins was created...the same refuted objections keep reappearing). If the creationists level of "proof" was expected of juries in criminal trials, no convictions would ever take place. Why? Because you would have to prove beyond a doubt, not a reasonable doubt. You would have to account for every point along the time-line of the suspects, every decision or action by the suspect, and account for everyone even tangentially related to the crime.

it is just as likely that because God made the same material to form us all and there are basic elements to life

Care to back that up with statistical analysis? Because that is what the word "likely" implies. Adding to Lee's point, commonality in organisms (anatomic, physiologic, molecular) is more in line with common descent than special creation. Nor can creationist get around the fossil record of species extinctions and emergence. No, a global flood doesn't do it. Even a basic understanding of hydrology and sedimentation debunks this right out of the starting gate. So does special creation continue to this day or not? Does the mechanism of evolution(natural selection) stop acting on a species once it approaches the speciation point or not, and thus allows microevolution but not macroevolution? Because the fossil record and comparative genetics say otherwise.

I have not seen hundreds or thousands of fossils showing a surviving, thriving community of those same fossils that would support a real transition between species.

I have. In both coal slag heaps and phosphate mines (there are not many phosphate mines, and the few that allow fossil collectors in usually have waiting lists. Worth the effort if you live near NC or FL. Bear in mind, you have to sort through tailings that have been discarded with no thought as to age, but with experts you can identify key species for a specific era, and you can definitely see the vanishing of some species and the emergence of others).

Understanding that the mitochondria in a cell is what "drives" the cell, it makes sense that there would be commonality among the mitochondrial DNA of all living things

Actually, only (most) eukaryotic organisms have mitochondria. Prokaryotic organisms and some eukaryotes (e.g. Giardia lambia, secondary loss) lack mitochondria. For what it is worth, mDNA analysis is good enough for forensic identification (check out the FBI) and "ancestry" matching, but, apparently for the creationist, unreliable for evolutionary "ancestry". Which then begs the obvious question for creationists, based solely on mDNA are you just "similar" to your grandmother, or she an ancestor, and how can you tell when someone (something) is no longer part of your ancestory?

Khebab said...

Very interesting thread, thanks!

Identifying a Scientific faith that would be the equivalent of a Christian faith is a very common argument that I have seen many times. Following this line of reasoning to the extreme, we may think that everything require an act of faith. Trusting what my eyes are seeing and my entire perception of the world is also an act of faith. But common sense suggests that we can trust our eyes because we have countless experiences where our visual stimulus enable us to predict our environment. Science is based on common sense, not faith.

Scientific reasoning enable us to explain past observations and predict future observations. Nothing less, nothing more. Darwin's Evolution hypothesis became a theory because it could explain 99% of the fluctuations among fossils, variations and links in DNAs among populations and species, the geographical repartition of the species, etc.. The evidence is just overwhelming. If tomorrow, an alternative theory is proposed, it will have to reach the same success.

Jennifer said...

Spirula,
How do you see the vanishing and emergence? My husband and I also enjoy fossil finding and we had the privilege of searching in the Tuttle Creek spillway off of the Blue River in Manhattan, KS back in 1993 after the midwest flooding. We were there before Kansas State sealed the area off for exploration. This is in a popular region for fossil digging and is also known for the ancient fish that swim in the deep lakes.

We have also been digging in Republic, WA where the Bishop Museum has a public site. My husband found an unknown plant species and that was thrilling!

While we did see thousands of early fossils, we did not see transitional fossils in the layers. What did you see?

Like Lee said, I am not an expert and I don't know which experts to trust so I try and find out as much as I can through reading and dialogue. The only difference between an expert and anyone else, in my opinion, is time devoted to hands on experience and the time to study. I am learning as much as throwing out ideas, I am not attacking your ideas and I actually don't have a strong postition on the evolution, creation debate other than believing that God DID create somehow.

Lee,
I didn't know there were boundaries for the level of discussion here. I'll drop this, but I would think it would be a good support for the efforts of this site to have this discussion here. A lot of people don't take the time to look at the links.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
there aren't any boundaries on discusssion here.
I bowed out because I can't answer technical questions and the article was about the principle of evolution, not the details.

have at it, you are always welcome here.

Spirula said...

How do you see the vanishing and emergence?

As you move through the layers you see changes in the species existing in that area, a vast majority never to be seen again. One could not possibly reconstruct every transitional step in every case(if you understand the fossilization process AND the accessibility of fossil areas, you know why this is difficult). I might add, that intermediates species predicted by evolutionary theory have later been found. (See here for a recent one)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiktaalik

But the fossil lineages of horses, whales and humans are quite filled in.

Based on the fossil record, it is extimated that 99% of all the species that ever existed are extinct. There is no way you could place all known species (living and extinct) on the planet at the same time. No ecosystem could support that. And it violates all we know about niche adaptation (ecology). This fact alone tells us that species are evolving to fill ecological niches which are, one way or another, made available by extinction.

Spirula said...

I forgot to mention, Jennifer, enjoy the fossil hunting. I find it interesting and also great way to "get away from it all".

Dennis said...

Lee,

You are making the same mistake that I see frequently made by people arguing in favor of pond-scum-to-human evolution.

There are different forms of evolution. Macro-evolution, which is the kind of evolution that creationists reject, and micro-evolution which most creationists accept.

Almost nobody rejects micro-evolution. We can personally witness this brilliantly designed God-given ability of life to adapt in our environment and in the lab.

I know a lot of people believe that evidence for micro-evolution can be extended to prove that macro-evolution can take place (i.e. small changes will accumulate to big changes without bounds) but I am not aware of any respected scientists who believe that. That would be as foolish as stating since my grass grows at a rate of one inch per week, if left unmowed for 3 years would engulf my house. There are limits to how much micro-evolution can change just like there are limits to how long my grass will grow. In my opinion, the biggest hurdle for micro-evolution accumulating to large scale change is the fact that changes occur in very small steps and natural selection weeds out any changes that are detrimental to a species. That means partially developed features generally don't linger waiting for the next change to make it useful. Imagine trying to evolve a common bicycle into motorcycle by only adding one part at a time in such a way that each additional part you add makes the bicycle more useful. It's easy to see that you become stuck pretty quickly with no way to evolve your bicycle. How much more complex is life.

Since you claim evolution doesn't require any faith, can you tell me exactly how a human eye can evolve one step at a time? Don't bother copying Dawkin's explanation. 20 steps or however many he uses doesn't cut it. If you can't give me a hypothetical path for the evolution of a human eye, how can you claim your belief that it happened via evolution doesn't require some kind of faith?

Khebab said...

There are different forms of evolution. Macro-evolution, which is the kind of evolution that creationists reject, and micro-evolution which most creationists accept.

Where do you put the frontier between the two kinds of evolution? I guess time scale?

It seems to me that DNA analysis is connecting Micro to Macro. Small mutations in DNA are almost routinely observed in labs, so this phenomenon may qualify as micro-evolution. At the same time, strong similarities in our DNA content across species belonging to the same evolutionary branch indicate that they have been subject to different Macro-evolutions from a common ancestor.

One can argue that climate/environment fluctuations (ice, etc.) or other dramatic events may have trigger radical evolution episodes (i.e. Macro-evolution).

Dennis said...

Based on the fossil record, it is extimated that 99% of all the species that ever existed are extinct. There is no way you could place all known species (living and extinct) on the planet at the same time. No ecosystem could support that. And it violates all we know about niche adaptation (ecology). This fact alone tells us that species are evolving to fill ecological niches which are, one way or another, made available by extinction.

This is a straw man argument. I don’t know of any creationist that total rejects micro-evolution and claims all known species were created at the same time.

B H said...

Dennis, the foundations of what you're asking for is available in the literature. Visit talkorigins.org for the basics on hominid evolution, the evolution of the eye, or evidence for "macroevolution" (and the difficulties in defining the concept in purely empirical terms).

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis,
I have to say that I see your argument as silly for three reasons.
1. Transitional fossils exist as listed below.
- mother of all tetrapods
- another one in a different place
- Dinosaur proteins in bone collagen similar to chickens, as Evolution predicts
2. Why would you trust me over Dawkins?
3. You are attempting to redefine my belief in evoulution principles based on a preponderance of evidence into faith.

Jennifer said...

Lee, I see what you are saying now; one does not need faith to believe in the observable adaptation of species or emergence of one species from another.
Is that what your are saying?, for someone like me who is being incredulous?

Does the principle of evolution also include abiogenesis?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
You should change your name to Juggernaut!
;-)
Why did you throw the word observable in there? I infer that if I was interested in picking a sample of species and was able to watch them for a couple of hundred thousand years then I would say yes. But as it stands I'll commit to the title of my article an thats all I got to say about that.

Abiogenesis? no, if you mean that stuff came together and poof it was alive.
But I tow the party line of scientists when they say that simpler atoms, begat more complicated molecules that begat more complicated molecular structures that eventually acquired the property of copying themselves and getting more complicated until one day there's us and we say, "Hey, I am different than you!" I am me! The Universe is my oyster, mine, mine, mine! It was made for me, me, me!"
It fits the data. Inferences that depend on those principles have borne themselves out most of the way to getting back to finding the original 'cocktail'. There are many theories on what the ingredients of that cocktail were, and they are being tested. It may take a couple of hundred thousand years to try all possible combinations or we may find it on Mars, or the Moon, or one of saturns moons. But the principles are sound all the way back.

On one hand its true that the universe has a tendency towards entropy, but that is true only insofar as there are no forces to counteract that. Atoms and molecule interact by nature, things are 'sticky'.

There are organisms that challenge the definition of Life and in fact I have heard that the definition of Life is in dispute. This is one reason why I find the idea that 150 cells in a womb are a human is dubious. The definition of life has more implications than the stem cell or abortion issue, it goes all the way out to astrobiology and back into philosophy.

So its not as simple as you'ens make it out to be.

Jennifer said...

Lee,
I hope you know that I know it's not as simple as these little snippits of conversation allow.

A Juggernaut huh? Are you trying to tell me something? Hmmm.. Be glad you didn't raise me. :o)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jennifer,
now, now, I know that you know but I hope that you know that I know that you know, ya know?
But you know there are others, that I don't know if they know what you now know that I know about what we both know. no?

Dennis said...

Khebab wrote:
Where do you put the frontier between the two kinds of evolution? I guess time scale?

I would place the frontier between what has been directly observed and what hasn't.

It seems to me that DNA analysis is connecting Micro to Macro. Small mutations in DNA are almost routinely observed in labs, so this phenomenon may qualify as micro-evolution. At the same time, strong similarities in our DNA content across species belonging to the same evolutionary branch indicate that they have been subject to different Macro-evolutions from a common ancestor.

I'm not sure how genetic similarities can lead you to only one possible conclusion, common descent. How could we digest a hamburger if we weren't genetically similar to the tomato, the cow that provided the meat, and the yeast in the bun? Genetic similarities also point to a design from a creator.

One can argue that climate/environment fluctuations (ice, etc.) or other dramatic events may have trigger radical evolution episodes (i.e. Macro-evolution).

I could also add fertilizer and water to my grass everyday to make it grow faster (see my analogy from my previous post) but this still doesn't overcome the boundaries of how tall grass can grow. I agree that changes to an environment can create pressure that cause evolutionary changes to occur faster. Faster mico-evolutuion doesn't equal macro-evolution.

B. H. wrote:
Dennis, the foundations of what you're asking for is available in the literature. Visit talkorigins.org for the basics on hominid evolution, the evolution of the eye, or evidence for "macroevolution" (and the difficulties in defining the concept in purely empirical terms).

I am not interested in foundations. I am interested in understanding why science can't explain how an organ like an eye with complex interdependencies can evolve one mutation at a time. Any supposed sequence of eye evolution I have ever seen takes huge leaps between the intermediate steps. I don't expect science to be able to retrace every single mutation that took place, that would be impossible. I am looking for even a hypothetical path that presents the details and shows how it could occur naturally without leaving the whole sequence up to blind faith in random processes.

Lee wrote:
I have to say that I see your argument as silly for three reasons.
1. Transitional fossils exist as listed below.

What’s the difference between a transitional fossil and non-transition fossil? If all fossil's represent some kind of transition, then what's the point?

- mother of all tetrapods
Do you mean this: Tiktaalik—a fishy ‘missing link’?

I don't understand how a fish with a few features similar to a tetrapod disproves creation. Yes, it's an important find if you accept that we evolved from fish and in my opinion the incredible lack of transitions between tetrapods and fish is still a problem. The fact that transistionals are celebrated instead of expected points to a problem with their lacking abundance.

- Dinosaur proteins in bone collagen similar to chickens, as Evolution predicts

Really? Evolution predicted that chickens would be the closest relative of the T-rex? Can you point me to when and where this prediction was made? Actually, scientists were originally very skeptical of claims of unfossilized dinosaur tissue. Since then many other examples have been found. This was a big surprise to people who accept that these fossils tens of millions years old but it wasn't a surprise to those who accept a young earth. Since the discovery of this soft tissue, many other examples have turned up. This discovery could have been made long ago if science wasn't so dogmatic in their belief that these fossils are too old to contain soft tissue.

Just to be clear, the protein in all living things have similarities. It is just the chicken that was most similar and it was only 58% similar. Why isn't this higher? Doesn't evolution predict that close relatives will be more similar? Human protein is 81% similar to a frog yet we aren't closely related. Does evolution predict these types of inconsistencies? I'll bet you weren't aware the human-frog similarity was much greater than the dino-chicken. Evolution looks pretty good when you only look at evidence that supports it and ignore the evidence that is inconsistent.

Anyway, how do these few points actually address the concerns I raised over how to extrapolate macro-evolution from micro-evolution? I pointed out the difficulties in trying to evolve a bicycle into a motorcycle, a non-living example used to make discussion a little easier. Science tells us mutations provide the change that natural selection picks and chooses from. Mutations can only provide very small changes. Mutation don't create limbs with interdependent bones, muscle, tendons in one step.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis,
Genetic similarities also point to a design from a creator.
Which creator would that be?

This presumes there is a creator. I deny that there is a creator, but I will stipulate that there is one just for the sake of argument so you can tell me which creator it is and what makes you think so.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis,
I'd like to see the data on that frog stat. you threw in there.
got any links?

and one piece of data don't disprove anything, but the overwhelming preponderance of evidence has convinced most of the world that evolution is true, and its even getting through to Behe.
Are you sure you want to keep your position when your experts are changing their minds?

Spirula said...

Lee,
I think your wasting your time. As soon as I saw this

I know a lot of people believe that evidence for micro-evolution can be extended to prove that macro-evolution can take place (i.e. small changes will accumulate to big changes without bounds) but I am not aware of any respected scientists who believe that.

(notice my bold...WTF, who makes THAT claim? And I'm accused of "strawmen" (which is funny if you read what he says and then go to Jennifer"s comment on 7/10 at 7:27) . Or if he is claiming no respected scientist believe macroevolution occurs...that's just delusional. Even the ID's Saint Behe concedes that point)

Anyway, I realized it was pointless to address him. The "frog protein" is a another good example of why. There are estimated to be on the order of around a trillion proteins produced by living things. Thus 'frog protein' matching at 81% is completely non-informative and disingenious. If it is not frog collagen vs human collagen compared to chicken vs T. rex it's apples and oranges and completely irrelevant to anything. Some proteins are highly conserved and others are not. Cladograms are usually constructed using fairly conserved proteins (such as hemaglobin).

Anyway, good luck.

Spirula said...

sorry..."I think you're"

Jennifer said...

Spirula,
(as I pound my fist against the desk) WHERE IS MY STRAWMAN?!!

:)

Lee Randolph said...

Spirula,
you're right. I avoided that 'macroevolution' comment using the 'charity principle'.

Thanks for the info on the frog.

I'm done with this article, and am about ready to publish another one that I expect will keep me busy defending for a week or so.

Thanks for the help.

Spirula said...

Jennifer,

I didn't accuse you of a creating a strawman. I was accused of creating a strawman in my comment that was dealing with evidence of speciation, which was directed to something you said.

So you can stop pounding the desk. We're cool.

Dennis said...

Lee and Spirula,

Please see this article from which the 81% similarity between human and frog collagen protein comes from.

Asara, J.M., Schweitzer, M.H., Freimark, L.M., Phillips, M., and Cantley, L.C., Protein sequences from mastodon and Tyrannosaurus rex revealed by mass spectrometry, Science 316(5822):280–285, 2007

It'll cost you $10 to access the article, but if you go to Google and do a search on "human frog collagen 81% similar", you'll see the first hit is a link to this article and the snippet: "For example, the sequence identity for collagen {alpha} 1 type 1 ( {alpha} 1t1) from human (Homo sapiens) to frog (Xenopus laevis) is 81%"

If this article looks familiar, it should because it is the same article from which you guys get your chicken protein being "similar" to t-rex protein.

It's funny, you guys call yourselves skeptics but you refuse to be skeptical of anything you've been brainwashed into believing. Somewhere, sometime, you read or heard that the chicken protein was similar to t-rex. Did you ever question it or ask to see information regarding the research that derived that? Of course not! Had you actually read the article, you would see that the chicken was only 58% similar which actually isn't very high relative to other comparisons. This article also tells you that the database they made the comparisons from is incomplete. There are a lot of other animals missing from the database that could generate a closer match than the chicken.

So my question directly to the both of you is this:

If you want to use this evidence to further bolster your belief that dinosaurs are closely related to birds, why don't you then use the same evidence to claim that frogs are even more closely related to humans? Of course, I don't actually expect an answer for this question.

Lee wrote:
This presumes there is a creator. I deny that there is a creator, but I will stipulate that there is one just for the sake of argument so you can tell me which creator it is and what makes you think so.

This is nothing more than a red herring and is silly as the following conversation:

Hunter 1: Do you see these deer tracks?
Hunter 2: I don't believe those are deer tracks. Unless you can tell me which deer made those tracks, I won't believe it.

Have I ever insisted that you tell me the exact path that evolution took? Heck, I'd be trilled if someone could just explain to me how mutations which can at best only introduce one simple change at a time can result in complex interdependent system, like the human eye. If that's too hard, then let's look at a simple limb with bones, joints, muscles, and tendons and explain how this can evolve one simple change at a time with each change producing an advantage.

Spirula wrote:
(notice my bold...WTF, who makes THAT claim? And I'm accused of "strawmen" (which is funny if you read what he says and then go to Jennifer"s comment on 7/10 at 7:27) . Or if he is claiming no respected scientist believe macroevolution occurs...that's just delusional. Even the ID's Saint Behe concedes that point)

The point I was trying to make is that I frequently see people use arguments that support micro-evolution to defend macro-evolution. Let's look at Lee's original post as one example. He quotes somebody stating something about belief in evolution requiring faith. Clearly he is talking about macro-evolution. I think most of us here on both sides understand that the principles of micro-evolution are testable and can be directly observed in our environment yet Lee's argument against his statement clearly is talking about evidence for micro-evolution. You can't extrapolate the macro from the micro. This is not a straw man argument unlike your argument which seemed to infer that creationists believe God created every species that has ever existed right from the beginning. I see this inferred extrapolation all the time. I'll see someone attacking macro-evolution and in response someone will list off evidence for the micro.

Dennis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis,
you caught me 'red handed' on the red herring!
;-)
Guilty as charged. I was just playing.
but anyway...

Lee's argument against his statement clearly is talking about evidence for micro-evolution
I don't see where you got that from, sorry if gave you the wrong impression. I was defending Macro-evolution. Ameoba to Man.

I am going to let you have the last word. I am going to move on to defend my latest article.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Spirula said...

First, you neglected to point out that the 81% sequence conservation was comparing two organisms in which the sequence has been fully identified including genomic and peptide. I should add that the sequence homolgy between human and bovine collagen was 97%, who would have shared a common ancestor far more recently than between humans and frogs.

Secondly, to test their predictive ability to identify alignments of fragments of the collagen protein (as the authors knew there would be degradation of mastadon and T. rex collagen due protelysis etc., so fragmentary sections is what they expected to be dealing with), they also tested against a living organism which had not been fully sequenced (Ostrich), as a control for the mastadon and T. rex sequences.

What were their conclusions? Well, for the mastadon fragments

The mastodon sequences obtained were more closely related to collagen sequences from dog, bovine, human, and elephant than to nonmammalian taxa, as expected.

What about T. rex fragments?

A BLAST alignment and similarity search (23) of the five T. rex peptides from collagen 1t1 as a group against the all-taxa protein database showed 58% sequence identity to chicken, followed by frog (51% identity) and newt (51% identity). The small group of peptide sequence data reported here support phylogenetic hypotheses suggesting that T. rex is most closely related to birds among living organisms whose collagen sequence is present in protein databases (24–26).

So, the 81% is a species comparison between data bases of both known genomic and full peptide sequences for collagen.

The 58% for chicken vs T.rex is based on fragmented peptide sequences of collagen. No genomic sequences, which can significantly increase your ability to "fill in" peptide sequence gaps, available or involved.

Anyway, that article doesn't support your assertion at all. In fact, it comes to a very different conclusions.

Dennis said...

Lee wrote:
I don't see where you got that from, sorry if gave you the wrong impression. I was defending Macro-evolution. Ameoba to Man.

I agree with you and this is the problem I am alluding too. You were "defending" macro-evolution and pointing to principles of micro-evolution. That's analogous to me making the specactular claim that my grass will grow taller than my house if left unmowed for 3 years and when asked for evidence, pointing to measurements of how fast it grows in a single week. Evidence for micro-evolution, which I agree happens and can be directly observed, doesn't prove macro-evolution can take place.

Spirula,

Thanks for the explaination. My claim still stands that the 81% similarity between frog and human is too high for what evolution predicts. Obviously you think so too because you original dismissed my 81% claim and your knee jerk reaction was to attack me for providing misleading information.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis,
You were "defending" macro-evolution and pointing to principles of micro-evolution.

The principle extends to macro-evolution necessarily. Along a continuum, it wouldn't be clear that a new species was forming until it was significantly different that it used be some time ago.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis, all,
here is a link to some crickets in hawaii that evolved under pressure from parasites.
The researcher that discovered it described it like this; "This is seeing evolution at work."

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dennis, all,
here is another link about butterflies
The researchers says "To my knowledge, this is the fastest evolutionary change that has ever been observed,"